Solving the world’s problems

What God is doing is effective: it will transform the world.

You might think it’s always off, but Eurovision really is off this year (2020).

That didn’t stop a Dutch team using a computer to generate a new Eurovision song. They fed it input from previous Eurovision hits and from social commentary site Reddit. Reportedly, it wrote a song “that crescendos as a robotic voice urges listeners to ‘kill the government, kill the system.’”

Artificial Intelligence (AI) doesn’t create those ideas. It reflects what people say. There must be quite a few anarchists reacting to the oppression and systemic injustice in the world for AI to produce that song.

Unfortunately, many of us in church don’t think of sin like that. I think of sin as my faults, the ones for which I need forgiveness, because that’s how I get saved. We lose the world-transforming power of the gospel when we reduce it to a story about me and how I can get my forgiveness. Sin isn’t just a problem in each individual. It’s the oppressive power that dominates the world, causing all the wars, all the social devastation, all the problems the anarchists react to.

Jesus acknowledged the oppressive power of sin, but offered a very different solution. The problem with “kill the government, kill the system” is that it adds fuel to the fire, feeding the cycle of violence. Jesus’ radical idea was to replace the cycle of violence (the power of sin) with God’s reign.

Jesus took no sword to Caesar. He took the cross from Caesar. Continue reading “Solving the world’s problems”

Jacob and the kingdom of God (podcast) (Genesis 25–36)

This podcast (27 minutes) discusses the significance of Jacob for the kingdom of God.

Jacob was Israel in the first generation. His life story is told in Genesis 25–36 in a way that his descendants could relate to, for the promises he received were being fulfilled through them.

 

Previous podcasts

Peace and grace: the greeting that can deliver (Ephesians 6:23-24)

More than a wish; this good news heals the world.

Ephesians closes with two brief blessings that pull together the main themes of the letter. Peace and grace were common greetings in both the Jewish and Asian communities, but these words are much more than well-wishes. The good news in this letter is the divine grace that brings peace to the world. Continue reading “Peace and grace: the greeting that can deliver (Ephesians 6:23-24)”

A courier for God’s house (Ephesians 6:21-22)

With no Fed Ex or postal service in the first century, letters like the one we’ve been reading (Ephesians) were carried by hand. That’s why we’re introduced to Tychicus, the courier tasked with personally delivering this letter. Continue reading “A courier for God’s house (Ephesians 6:21-22)”

Staying in touch with our king (Ephesians 6:18-20)

Got each other’s back?

Communication matters. Did you see Sam Mendes’ movie, 1917? Two soldiers were tasked with carrying a message across enemy lines, a message that could save the lives of many compatriots. Technology has come a long way in the last 100 years, but the movie reminds us how crucial communication is for saving lives. Continue reading “Staying in touch with our king (Ephesians 6:18-20)”

Abraham and the obstacles to God’s kingdom (podcast) (Genesis 12–25)

Abraham lived his entire life for the kingdom of God.

This podcast (28 minutes) surveys Genesis 12–25 as the foundational story of the kingdom of God.

God founded his human rescue project in Abraham and Sarah. They left the region of the Babel-builders to establish a nation under God — a representative kingdom of God among the nations. The obstacles they faced are the obstacles that threaten God’s kingdom project. They trusted God, even though restoring God’s kingdom would take many lifetimes.

When I first blogged these thoughts four years ago, it became my most popular post (downloaded more than 10,000 times). Enjoy this podcast version.

 


Previous podcast: The world is God’s kingdom (Gen. 1–11)

On grace: John Barclay, “Paul and the Gift” (book review)

“A gift can be unconditioned (free of prior conditions regarding the recipient) without also being unconditional (free of expectations that the recipient will offer some ‘return’).”

The word “grace” encapsulates so much of the gospel, so I was blown away by John Barclay’s masterful study of this word: Paul and the Gift, published by Eerdmans in 2015. It’s big (672 pages), pricey (US $55), and academic, though at the time of this review it was available on Kindle for US $4.50.

If you just want a concise summary, choose Barclay’s Paul and the Power of Grace (Eerdmans, 2020, 200 pages). For me, the larger book was worth the effort. It’s a superb example of how to pursue a word study: I learned as much from his method as his content. Continue reading “On grace: John Barclay, “Paul and the Gift” (book review)”