Genuine love

What does this mean to you?

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good (Romans 12:9 NIV).

It says I must resist the temptations that suck me in, so I don’t fall into sin, right? That’s what most of us hear, but that’s not what Paul said at all. It’s actually about loving people, not individual struggle.

Continue reading “Genuine love”

Finding it hard to believe? (John 3:16)

If you find it hard to believe, you’re not alone.

Forty-three years ago, a bulk ore carrier struck the pylons of a bridge in Hobart, and the central sections of the bridge fell into the Derwent. Some Tasmanians still refuse to drive over that bridge. You can show them the bridge is safe and they’ll believe you, but they can’t trust it with their lives. They want to believe, but after the trauma it’s not so easy. Continue reading “Finding it hard to believe? (John 3:16)”

God’s gift to the world (John 3:16)

The gift that’s exactly what we need.

We’re reading John 3:16 as the story of the kingdom of God, the lens Jesus used. God is sovereign. The world resists him. The sovereign persists in loving his resistant realm. He does so by sending the most amazing gift.

Queue the questions:

  1. What does it mean to say God gave his Son?

Continue reading “God’s gift to the world (John 3:16)”

God and his world (John 3:16)

What do we mean by “God loves the world”?

If Jesus made the kingdom of God the centre of everything, surely we can learn to hear Scripture as he did. This lens reframes everything, even familiar texts:

John 3:16 (NIV)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Let’s ask some fresh questions: Continue reading “God and his world (John 3:16)”

The king who heals creation (Exodus 15:22-27)

Open Exodus 15:22-27.

The euphoria of coming out from Pharaoh’s oppressive rule didn’t last long. The Hebrews soon discovered they were still in a broken world.

They had not returned to Eden’s Garden where the rivers of God’s presence gushed forth in all directions to water creation (Genesis 2:10-14). No, they were in parched wilderness, without water, for three days (15:22). Continue reading “The king who heals creation (Exodus 15:22-27)”

The significant song (Exodus 15)

Open Exodus 15:1-21.

What makes a great song? Lyrics that voice what you feel? Rhythm that moves you? Layers of rich harmony? Chord progressions that take you places?

A song rang out over the  MCG at the final siren on 29 September 2018. It was the song every Eagles fan wanted to hear. The right song in the right moment sweeps you up and carries you like a raft on a white-water stream.

The first song in the Bible was that kind of song — the greatest victory song you could imagine. We waited 65 chapters to hear it. There’s only been one mention of a song, a song Jacob turned down. After 20 difficult years, Jacob slipped away quietly, rejecting the party Laban offered with mirth and song pretending everything is okay  (Genesis 31:27). Our world is still full of escapist songs that don’t quite ring true.

Finally we get the true song, the authentic celebration. The song celebrates the moment they were released from serving Pharaoh to serve a new king. With his chariots on the sea floor, Pharaoh had no power to enslave them again. You can’t stop the music: Continue reading “The significant song (Exodus 15)”

When the threat of force sinks under its own weight (Exodus 14:15-31)

Open Exodus 14:15-31.

The Red Sea event proclaimed a definitive message: God made a way where there was no way — literally through the sea (14:21-23).

Even there, Egypt’s military power pursued them: “all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen” (14:23). In ancient warfare, chariots were the equivalent of tanks: a protective, fast moving vehicle, able to outrun an enemy.

But the pathway God provided did not support chariots. They bogged down in the sandy sea floor. That’s when the Egyptians realized they were up against a foe they could not defeat: “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.” (14:25).

When God’s people had passed through, Moses stretched out his hand again and the way through the sea closed. In this moment, the powerful chariots of Egypt’s mighty army become became junk on the sea floor.

Earth’s true ruler does have a way to release his world from the reign of evil and death. All the treacherous rulers and deadly weapons on earth cannot obstruct the purpose of the true sovereign, and his people.

The Red Sea event addresses the big justice question, “Can love defeat violence?” In YHWH versus Pharaoh, the power of love triumphs over the love of power.

The true ruler doesn’t need the power of an army to enforce his will. Nature itself responds to its true king. Even the sea. Even the uncontrolled places beyond human rule.

Continue reading “When the threat of force sinks under its own weight (Exodus 14:15-31)”

“Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord” (Exodus 14:13-15)

Open Exodus 14:13-15.

A friend was preparing to preach on this text: “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord!” He planned to say that salvation is the work of God. I can’t earn it. I can’t contribute to it. Regeneration is a work of the Holy Spirit.

Great ideas, but is that what this verse is saying? I cringed, knowing I’d misused this text too. Quietists love it: all we need do is stand still and let God act, “let go and let God.”

But the context won’t allow us to use the verse this way.

Who spoke these words? They’re not a promise from God. They’re from Moses’ mouth. In a difficult situation, Moses contradicted what God told the Israelites to do. That’s why he received this mild rebuke: Continue reading ““Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord” (Exodus 14:13-15)”

When it feels like a dead end (Exodus 14:1-9)

Pharaoh’s pursuing army

Open Exodus 14:1-9.

Freedom! The Israelites are no longer Pharaoh’s slaves. They’re marching out of Egypt with a new identity: the people of YHWH! Their king is present in cloud and fire. He leads them south towards the Sinai Peninsula. There they will discover his character, and covenant with him to be his people.

But … there’s a problem. See that dust rising into the northern sky? It’s gaining on them. At chariot speed. The Middle East’s most powerful army is coming to take them captive again. Continue reading “When it feels like a dead end (Exodus 14:1-9)”

The king in the cloud (Exodus 13:17-22)

You can’t see God, but you can see the effect of his presence.

Open Exodus 13:17-22.

National leaders love to be seen out in front of their nation, leading their people. But what if your king is invisible? Released from Pharaoh, Israel has a king who cannot be seen and cannot be represented by any visible carved image. How on earth do you follow a ruler like that? Continue reading “The king in the cloud (Exodus 13:17-22)”