Across cultures and religions, people pray. How is Christian prayer different? The question helps us clarify our faith.
Christian prayer has its roots in Judaism: one God, no idols, covenant relationship between the heavenly sovereign and his people on earth. We saw how the distinctive basis for prayer in Judaism is this reliance on God’s revelation of himself and his faithfulness towards the people who are called by his Name.
That’s the background for our Lord’s Prayer. In synagogues across Galilee, Jesus would have joined in this Aramaic prayer:
Continue reading “What makes Christian prayer distinctive?”
My father has been gone for many years, but I was having a conversation with him and my son when the alarm went off this morning. We were discussing how it feels when your child doesn’t trust you. The example we raised was how God might have felt when Abraham and Sarah decided to use a surrogate because God had not delivered their inheritance.
Family relationships hold a great deal of hurt. I wonder if Sarah’s parents felt rejected when she set off to start a new life and never come back. I wonder what mistrust Sarah felt for a husband who would trade her to someone else to save himself. How betrayed did Hagar feel when Abraham dumped her and their son in the desert to die? And what about Ishmael, a child who could not know what “mistrust” meant since he’d never known trust. What’s it like to grow up without trust, without love, without hope, shaped by an undefined anger at an absent father who left you to survive by shooting? (Genesis 21:20)
What’s your story? In the semi-final of The Voice 2020, one of the contestants was given a pen and asked to describe how she felt about herself coming into the competition. The words she chose were telling: “unworthy, broken, unlovable, lost.” What made a difference was that somebody cared. Someone asked. And listened. You’re no longer unworthy, broken, unlovable, lost when somebody sees you.
So how does our Heavenly Father see us? Why doesn’t he prevent our pain? Why does he allow us to be mistreated? Continue reading “Trusting God’s love when life hurts”
How do we respond to the news that God unites us as his family?
The gospel is the good news that God has restored peace to all the peoples of the earth through his anointed ruler (Ephesians 2). So what’s our response to this good news?
What people often do with the gospel today doesn’t match the response in Ephesians 3.
- Evangelicals try to convince individuals they’re sinners and get them saved.
- Justice warriors name and shame the regimes for their sins (systemic oppression).
But Paul doesn’t stand up to condemn individuals or regimes: Continue reading “God and the human family (Ephesians 3:14-19)”
If the king says so, you have a place in his family.
Joseph was absent from Jesus’ adult life, so responsibility for the family fell to the oldest son. Jesus was firstborn, but he’d been travelling instead of looking after his family.
Suddenly they turn up: Continue reading “Belonging to the royal family (Matthew 12:46-50)”
Why does Jesus invite us to call God our Father?
Jesus’ favourite word of God isn’t YHWH. It’s Father. That’s new. Why?
Continue reading “Why call God “Father”?”
If a little bird falls in the forest, does anybody hear?
Open Matthew 10:29-31.
What was your first pet? A puppy? A kitten? A budgie? Remember its name? What did it mean to you?
How deeply we feel responsibility for a creature in our care! It’s beyond commercial value: even if you paid for it with pocket money, its precious life depends on you. Where does this sense of responsibility come from?
Jesus believed this tenderness is a glimpse of something beyond, an echo of God’s heartbeat for the creatures in his care: Continue reading “The kingdom is God with his creatures (Matthew 10:29-31)”
Does God have a gender? Is he male?
“Does God have a gender? Like, is he male?” I’d already dismissed the class for the night, but her question was important. How would you have answered her? Continue reading “Is God male?”
Why did Jesus call God “Father”? Nobody else was doing that.
Open Matthew 5:43-48.
Did you notice that Jesus is using Father as his preferred word for God (5:16, 45, 48)? Father becomes the central core of his Sermon (6:1, 4, 6, 8, 9, 14, 15, 18, 26, 32). No one talked about God like this in Jesus’ world. Why did he make this radical and innovative move?
Jesus was the eternal Son of the Father, but he wasn’t talking about his own unique relationship. Check out the verses above: he consistently spoke of your Father. Where did that come from? Continue reading “God as Father (Matthew 5:43-48)”