Considered Christmas from God’s perspective?
Santa hanging out of an inflatable caravan? Our neighbours in the next street had a sense of humour. At least, I hope they did, because the next morning Santa and his caravan were lying on the grass looking very deflated.
Maybe that happens to our childhood dreams too. My Dad would cut branches from the Athol trees and bring them inside for Christmas. Grandma’s house was filled with relatives, festive food, songs around the piano, presents under the tree. But it never feels quite the same when you grow up to find yourself making the preparations, cooking the food, and cleaning up the wrappings. Santa got lost in the transition from what you might get to what you might give.
Have you considered Christmas from the Giver’s perspective? What was it like for the Father of humanity? For unto us a son is given (Isaiah 9:6).
Continue reading “The gift of Christmas”
How will you respond when friends ask, “What are you doing for Christmas?”
This brief podcast (12 minutes) helps you navigate conversations about family gatherings, gift-giving, and why we do this at Christmas.
Continue reading “Christmas conversations (podcast)”
How does Jesus fulfil the promises of Zechariah 9 about dealing with their enemies and restoring divine kingship?
The humble king, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Zechariah 9:9 is an outstanding prophecy, worth exploring in context.
The previous eight verses say that God was opposed to their neighbours to the north (Syrians) and south (Philistines). How does that fit with Jesus? Didn’t the previous chapter promise that the nations would come to seek the Lord? (8:20-23) As always, we need to appreciate the wider context.
Continue reading “The king is coming (Zechariah 9)”
Zechariah uses the same name for God 18 times in one chapter. What was he saying? How does this help us understand Christ and our life in him?
What does it mean to call God the Lord of hosts? What are the hosts under his control? Angels? People? Armies? Israelites? Foreigners? How does this relate to Christ? And what is our role in relation to the Lord of hosts?
Continue reading “Lord of hosts (Zechariah 8)”
How does our culture shape what we hear?
The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Trouble is, I never do know the whole truth. God alone has that privilege. My fragmentary view is so partial that the best I can do is listen carefully and share humbly.
I even face this problem as I read the Bible. God didn’t give us an encyclopedia of absolute truth on all topics. He gave us a record of his involvement with human beings who often didn’t know or do right. Some practiced polygamy, or believed in other gods. To handle Scripture well, we need to discern between what they did and the revelation God gave them.
We face the same issue. We live in a culture that isn’t all that God intends, but we’re often unaware of how our culture distorts our understanding of God.
So, how can I be more mindful of my cultural bias? I need to hear people from other cultures, people from other eras, and people who understand how our worldview developed over time.
Continue reading “The king’s gospel”
I never considered myself the retiring type. But here is: I’ve retired.
After 49 years of training, pastoring churches, working in Christian radio, developing software, and teaching, I’m not looking back. I’m looking forward to pursuing my passion with the time I have left.
It took me decades to discover the question to ask. Finally, just nine years ago, I nailed it down. New Testament scholars often note that Jesus made the kingdom of God the centre of everything he did and said. My question: What difference does it make if we do too?
Talk about transformative! Everything — the narrative of Scripture, the topics for theology, the church as the embodiment of the king in his world — everything finds its place when King Jesus is the centre.
The gospel is the restoration of everything under Jesus as our God-appointed global leader:
Continue reading “I’m retiring”
Jesus’ kingship doesn’t match how people understand power.
The crowd certainly stirred up Jerusalem with their proclamation of Jesus as anointed king: Hosanna! The Son of David. Arriving in the name of the Lord, they proclaimed (21:9).
But these proclaimers were not residents of the city. They were country people who’d followed Jesus down the Jordan from Galilee to Jericho (20:29). There’s a twist.
The capital does not recognize her king. They ask, Who is this? (21:10).
A king? Seriously? He doesn’t look regal. It doesn’t help when they hear he’s a prophet from a place of no significance in Judah’s history, a town that wasn’t even part of Judah:
Continue reading “Who’s this? (Matthew 21:10-11)”
Why did the early church de-emphasize the message of the kingdom of God, and how do we recover it?
As we saw, even blind people could see Jesus was the son of David (Matthew 20:30-31) as he made his way to the capital where people would recognize him as the Son of David … arriving in the name of the Lord (21:9, 15). He challenged Jerusalem’s rulers to recognize the son of David as their Lord (22:42-45). It’s blindingly obvious that Matthew presents Jesus as the restoration of the Davidic kingship, the ruler God has anointed (Christ).
When Paul wanted to summarize the gospel at the start of his letter to Rome, he described Jesus as the physical descendant of King David, raised up as the reigning Son of God by his resurrection. “Jesus Christ the Lord” names Jesus as God’s anointed and our ruler. This gospel transforms the world by bringing the nations to trust his leadership (faith) in obedience to his governance (Romans 1:3-5).
Yet the church moved away from this good news of Jesus’ kingship. The early fathers focused on Jesus’ divinity (Son of God) rather than his descendancy (Son of David). We are unbalanced and the gospel is diminished when we emphasize one truth at the expense of the other.
By the early 200s, Origen thought the crowd was right to silence the blind men who called Jesus such a contemptible name:
Continue reading “Regaining the good news of Jesus’ kingship”
The “gospel of the kingdom” expects God to reveal who is king.
The biggest reason we struggle to understand what Jesus meant by “the kingdom of God” was the way he presented it. He kept on about the kingdom, without claiming to be king. And if you don’t see Jesus as the king, you don’t see the kingdom. Continue reading “The gospel revelation (Matthew 16:16-18)”
Did God announce the gospel? What does it sound like when he proclaims it? God’s gospel is a thing (Mark 1:14; Romans 1:1; 15:16; 2 Corinthians 11:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:2, 8-9; 1 Peter 4:17).
If you think the gospel is God making a statement about you (“I forgive your personal sins” or “I justify you”), then God didn’t. But if the good news is God’s appointment of Jesus as Lord, this is God proclaiming the gospel:
Matthew 17 5 And a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (NIV)
This is God’s gospel, his joyful announcement of rescuing the world from oppression under sin and death to be his kingdom, formed in the Son he loves, a world reunified in the leader God was pleased to appoint. Continue reading “The gospel of God (Matthew 17:5)”
The good news is a person.
“You are the king, the elect heir of the living God!” Is that the declaration you ask people to make when you share the gospel?
We explained this was Peter’s declaration. Understanding what he said will move us from theology about Jesus into his regal mission for global restoration.
Continue reading “Jesus as global leader (Matthew 16:13-17)”
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” — Apostle Peter, first century
“Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God?” It’s the question I often ask when baptizing believers. Our faith is in a person, and Peter nailed it with his declaration. So, what did Peter mean by this great confession?
There’s a temptation to invest Peter’s words with later theological meaning and miss what he said. His phrases have snowballed with significant theological freight:
- Christology is the study of the person and work of Christ. His person embodied two natures (fully God and fully human), so his work reconciled God and humans (atonement).
- Son of God is a term we associate with trinitarian theology: the relationship between Father and Son who, with the Spirit, exist eternally as one God (trinity).
All of that is true and important, but this developed theology was not in Peter’s mind. Rather than treat his words anachronistically, let’s hear them in their context.
Continue reading “Declaring Jesus king (Matthew 16:13-16)”
Our role: kneading or feeding?
Matthew 16 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (NIV)
If you want dough to rise, why punch it down? Who figured out you could aerate a loaf by punching the air out of it? Continue reading “How the kingdom rises (Matthew 16:5-12)”
My goal for this year is to find the language to express Jesus’ good news, the gospel of the kingdom. Can you help?
Continue reading “Can you help me find language for the gospel?”
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)”
How does seeking God’s kingdom affect the way we relate to existing rulers?
Some of my conservative friends worry about me. They fear that seeking the kingdom will make me a “leftie,” advocating for social change. They remind me Australia is a great place to live, with a Christian prime minister, who’s doing a good job with the Covid-19 lockdown. Surely, we all need to pray for him and support him as God’s man?
I’ve disappointed my radical friends too. I’m seeking the kingdom, but they don’t see me pushing for social change. They fear if we don’t call out the systemic injustice, nothing will change. They remind me how inhumanely Scott Morrison treated people seeking asylum when he was immigration minister. Surely, we must disrupt the way things are if we are to have a better society, a kingdom of God? Continue reading “Christ and the rulers of this world”
In our previous post (the apostles’ gospel), we surveyed 16 samples of the gospel in Acts. What phrases did you find recurring?
The heart of the apostolic gospel is a person: Jesus. They used these phrases to say Jesus is good news:
- Jesus is the Christ (Messiah)
- Jesus is Lord
- Jesus is resurrected
- Kingdom of God
Are those the phrases you would use to explain the gospel to someone? How are these four things the gospel?
Let’s enrich our understanding of the gospel by unpacking what the apostles said. It turns out to be the same gospel Jesus announced.
Continue reading “The apostles’ gospel explained”
A quick survey of the good news announced by the apostles in Acts.
Here’s an interactive study for you or your small group. We scan the Acts of the Apostles, asking “What was the gospel they proclaimed?”
Below are 16 texts that summarize their message. Print the list (or use a notes app) to jot down the key phrase in each one. We’re not asking how they asked people to respond; just the content of the good news the apostles proclaimed. Continue reading “The apostles’ gospel (Acts)”
Recently I was asked this in a text message:
Q: Why did God sacrifice his only Son to save us instead of killing Satan directly?
Love this question! It accumulates so many misunderstandings of the gospel. Truth is, God’s goal wasn’t to kill Satan. God didn’t need a blood sacrifice before he would save us. And God didn’t kill his Son. Continue reading “Why didn’t God kill the devil instead of his Son?”
Our previous post stirred up some discussion when I suggested that it is God who issues the gospel call, so we don’t need to devise mechanisms to get people to respond. Let’s clarify. Continue reading “God’s couriers”