A crucified king introduces a different kind of power to the world.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel,” Paul told the Romans. Was he struggling as a Christian? Did he fear they’d find his faith embarrassing? Let me take you back to their world.
Continue reading “Power without shame (Romans 1:16)”
Joseph’s story shows us how God deals with injustice.
You’re in good company if you’ve noticed that life isn’t fair. Joseph had every reason to be bitter over how his brothers sold him out, and his boss falsely accused him. Prison walls offer no choices. Every morning Joseph wakes to this meaningless existence.
Others feel the same in this prison. Joseph finds meaning in caring for them. But one morning they’re more glum than usual, troubled by dreams.
Continue reading “Living in grace and disgrace (Genesis 40)”
How could Jesus be tried and condemned for the sin of blasphemy?
“Speak against me, and you speak against God!” That kind of manipulation is common from cults to Catholicism, from micromanagers to megachurches. That’s what motivated Caiaphas to tear his garments at Jesus’ trial with the accusation, He blasphemed! (26:65)
Continue reading “Why was Jesus accused of blasphemy? (Matthew 26:59–66)”
Little voices make a world of difference.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1 ESV)
The Psalms proclaim heaven’s sovereignty over the earth. In effusive joy and struggling lament, they declare the reality of God’s reign over us all.
The more we recognize God’s regal authority, the more it develops us. Witness the word of praise expanding as ripples on a pond:
Continue reading “How majestic! (Psalm 8)”
How do we receive Christ? For Catholics, it happens at the mass: eating Christ’s body is receiving him. For Baptists, it’s the moment of personal decision: inviting Christ into my heart is receiving him. For Jesus:
Matthew 18 5 Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me. (ESV)
Okay, that’ll mess up our theology. 🙂 What was Jesus saying? Continue reading “How to receive Christ (Matthew 18:1-5)”
Did Jesus make Peter pope, with power to justify people?
Matthew 16 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (NIV)
To understand Jesus’ words, we must deal with the elephant in the room, the superstructure Catholics have built on them. These verses are central to Catholicism. Visit Capernaum today and you’ll see a larger-than-life statue of Peter with the keys (above). Visit the Vatican, and it’s a crucial image in the Sistine Chapel. Continue reading “Peter as pope? (Matthew 16:18-19)”
What does it look like when Jesus unites humanity under his leadership as the kingdom of God? For the church today, that might be the most important question, because that’s our identity, and it defines our mission.
Firstly, this is a radically different kind of politics. We’re accustomed to the world of party politics. The Liberal Party seeks power from and for the business owners. The Labor Party seeks power for the workers. The Nationals seek power for the landowners, and so on. Within each party are factions (left, centre, right), each seeking to gain more control of the party, in the hope of their party controlling the country.
Then there’s the division of countries, with different political systems: democracy, socialism, monarchy, republic, and so on. On the world stage, countries fight for self-interest. Looking back, history looks like struggle of the species, a political “survival of the fittest.” The strongest beasts survive to rule the world, and the winners write history (compare Daniel 7).
The Bible describes an alternative story of politics. Earth’s true sovereign — the king we sideline when we grasp for power, fight wars, and subjugate each other — takes the side of the suffering, not those who cause their pain:
Continue reading “The powerful God who reigns in weakness”
What’s wrong with the world? What must God resolve to establish his kingdom with Jesus as ruler?
Remember the jubilation when World War II ended? Turns out Hitler’s defeat didn’t resolve our problems. SBS is running a documentary titled After Hitler, and episode 2 says:
In the five years that separated the end of the Second World War from the start of the Cold War, the world had hoped for a lasting peace, but instead found itself on the brink of apocalypse. Five years of chaos and hope for the people of a shattered Europe, who became pawns in the games of the major powers.
History keeps repeating. When people rise up against an oppressive ruler, the person who comes to power can turn out to be even more monstrous. How can we ever be delivered? Continue reading “How Jesus overcomes the world’s power problem”
Yesterday Steve McAlpine posted on the scandals that keep recurring in our mega-churches. He wants to help us break the cycle by recognizing the shape abusive leadership takes:
The recurring central theme to these scandals is the manner in which a concerned, godly eldership is first enervated by an increasingly toxic church leader, then replaced by that church leader, before finally being excoriated publicly by that church leader, with the new leadership on stage leading the tomato throwing exercise. …
That’s the pattern. It’s that simple. You could throw it in with the seven or so Hollywood standard movie scripts that exist and it wouldn’t look out of place, so step-by-step, formulaic it is.
Why does this keep happening? Steve offers two suggestions, and I’d like to take this further. Continue reading “Those mega-church scandals”
What you fear, you serve.
Open Exodus 1:12-22.
Exodus 1 provides real insight into what’s wrong with the powers in the world. To keep people under their control, rulers afflict them with heavy burdens (1:11 ESV). But you can’t squash people so easily: the heavy burdens Pharaoh placed on the Hebrews only made them stronger (1:12). And that’s why rulers become progressively more brutal (pě·rěḵ in 1:13, 14). Continue reading “What do you fear? (Exodus 1:12-22)”
Open Exodus 1:1-11.
By the end of Genesis, one of Abraham’s descendants was bringing divine wisdom to the greatest ruler of his day. In Joseph, Pharaoh saw the spirit of the heavenly sovereign (Genesis 41:38). He followed Joseph’s advice, and many lives were saved.
So is there hope in human rule? After all, human rulers are God’s servants, to limit violence on the earth.
Unfortunately, our human rulers always end up as self-serving. Four centuries later, Egypt has a new king, one who does not know Joseph (Ex 1:8). That means this Pharaoh does not know YHWH either.
The Exodus is not just about the heavenly ruler releasing his people from Pharaoh: it is about the heavenly ruler revealing himself to Pharaoh. The goal is that Pharaoh will know YHWH as earth’s true ruler (5:2; 6:7; 7:5, 17; 8:10 and so on). Exodus 1–15 is a confrontation between rulers, a kind of war—a challenge over who rules. It is a kingdom conflict—the paradigmatic kingdom confrontation of the Old Testament. Continue reading “How human rule goes bad (Exodus 1:1-11)”
How do we present Jesus as king, when he’s so different to the rulers appointed by this world?
Open Matthew 14:1-21.
Jesus’ regal authority can frighten people. We’ve all experienced power being abused. So how do we announce a king who cares for his people?
We’ll need to explain the contrast. Matthew shows us how by juxtaposing the stories of two kings. Continue reading “A tale of two kings (Matthew 14:1-21)”
How can justice ever come to our communities? Did Jesus have anything ideas?
Imagine you’re in a class on Training and Assessment. Everyone makes a presentation, and you choose your topic. What’s your passion?
Students chose everything from surfing to swords. I wanted something related to the kingdom of God that could be relevant, appropriate for a non-religious setting, and doable in 15 minutes.
You can read what I said below, and I’d be interested in your feedback. The group responded well, and the experience helped me think through this issue further.
Clearly this isn’t the whole story. But is this an approach that could help us present the good news in a way Aussies see as relevant and important?
Here’s the script: Continue reading “How does justice come?”
The kingdom of God doesn’t leave unjust kingdoms in place.
Open Matthew 10:17-23.
For too long, the church has spiritualized Jesus as if he was just a personal saviour and not the king of the kingdom. Our purpose on this blog is to swing the pendulum back by focusing on the sovereign authority of Jesus as Lord, as Messiah, as king of the kingdom. Continue reading “Clash of kingdoms (Matthew 10:17-23)”
What does it mean to call Jesus, “Lord”?
Open Matthew 7:21-23.
Matthew 7:21-23 (my translation):
21 Not all who call me “Lord! Lord!” will be part of heaven’s kingdom — only those who do what my Father wants. 22 There’ll be many who say to me at that time, “Lord! Lord! Didn’t we use your authority to speak for God? Didn’t we use your authority to cast out demons? Didn’t we use your authority to do many powerful things?” 23 Then I will confess to them, “But I never recognized you. Take your leave from me, you agents of lawlessness.”
The Good News of the kingdom is that Jesus is Lord. Sin and death no longer enslave humanity; our heavenly Father has brought us back under his reign through his appointed ruler, Jesus our Lord. Peter’s gospel was, “God has made him both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36). Paul called people to “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9). The hope of the world is that “every tongue confesses Jesus the Messiah is Lord” (Philippians 2:11). He is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16).
We’re a quarter of the way through Matthew’s account of the Good News, and this is the first time he has applied the word Lord (κύριος) to Jesus. Jesus is not exercising power the way kingdoms normally do: he has not been running around Galilee demanding that everyone call him Lord. Continue reading “Acknowledging Jesus as Lord (Matthew 7:21-23)”