According to Ephesians, the good news of King Jesus is transforming the world:
But, if Jesus is running the world, why do we suffer? Why was Paul locked up in Caesar’s prison when he wrote this? Doesn’t it feel incongruous?
Rather than complain that he’s starved of food and sleep in these oppressive conditions, Paul flipped the script — the humour of incongruity.
Continue reading “Making sense of suffering when Christ is king (Ephesians 3:1)”
The world’s religions provide different responses to our sufferings.
This term I’ve been teaching World Religions. I was fascinated to see how different faiths deal with suffering. Continue reading “Why suffering?”
Does Matthew 11:12 say God’s kingdom is forcefully advancing, or that it’s subjected to violence?
Open Matthew 11:12.
Matthew 11:12 is a puzzle for translators. The NIV from 1984 reads like this:
- From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.
But the same verse from the 2011 NIV reads:
- From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it.
So which one is right? “Forcefully advancing” would be a good thing. “Subjected to violence” sounds bad. What did Jesus mean? Continue reading “Advancing forcefully or suffering violence? (Matthew 11:12)”
Does “the kingdom of God” mean I have a life of health and prosperity because I’m reigning with Christ?
Following E. W. Kenyon, Kenneth Copeland and others proclaimed that God has given the kingdom to his little flock (Luke 12:32). We are seated with Christ on the throne, with everything under our feet (Ephesians 1:20-23). If we maintain this positive confession, nothing can touch us. Sickness is gone: it was part of the curse from which we’re redeemed (Galatians 3:13). Wealth is guaranteed: it all belongs to our Father who is pleased to give it to his children. Because Jesus conquered, we’re more than conquerors (Romans 8:37)..
Is this what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God? Continue reading “The kingdom and personal power: more than conquerors?”
Becoming like our teacher is every disciple’s joy. Does it mean we suffer too?
Open Matthew 10:24-25.
It’s the hope that motivates every disciple: as we follow Jesus we become like him. Wow!
Does being like Jesus mean suffering too? Which statement represents what you believe
- Jesus suffered so we don’t have to.
- Jesus suffered because we suffer.
- Jesus suffered, so we must suffer too.
Perhaps we should listen to Jesus’ promise in context: Continue reading “Like our teacher (Matthew 10:24-25)”
The baby of Bethlehem becomes the nobody of Nazareth. The rescued becomes the rescuer.
Open Matthew 2:17-23 and Jeremiah 31:15.
Grief had always been at home in Bethlehem. Rachel died there, giving birth to Israel’s final son (Genesis 35:19). Maybe a parent would give her life so her children could live. But Rachel’s hopes were dashed as empires invaded, killing her children. Assyria decimated the tribes of her older son Joseph. Babylon crushed the remnant of Benjamin.
Jeremiah imagined Rachel weeping inconsolably as God’s promises fell apart:
Jeremiah 31:15 (NIV)
This is what the Lord says: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
Continue reading “An unknown from nowhere (Matthew 2:17-23)”
How can God’s kingdom ever be established when rulers like Herod will do anything go keep their power?
Open Matthew 2:16.
Beautiful. Tender. Vulnerable. Helpless. Disarming. How can anyone hate a newborn? How can an infant seem like a threat? You’d have to be power-crazed to kill a baby. Herod is. He executes all the baby boys in Bethlehem. There can be no rival “king of the Jews” (2:16).
Herod’s acts are treason: he attempts to assassinate of the heavenly king’s heir. It’s part of the long-standing war over who rules the earth. On one side of this battle is the oppressor of God’s people, bearing down on them with the military might of Rome. On the other side is an infant bearing the promise of restoring heaven’s rule on earth. But how can a toddler stand up to a tyrant? Continue reading “God as asylum seeker (Matthew 2:16)”
If God doesn’t prevent bad things happening, how do we cope?
Now that Israel is in the land with the sons who will form the tribes of Israel, how will they represent the heavenly king in the presence of people who do not submit to him? The nations do not submit to God’s laws. Driven by their own passions, they take whatever they want by force.
We’ve seen this picture ever since Nimrod the warrior of Genesis 10. It’s devastating:
Genesis 34:1–2 (ESV)
1 Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land. 2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her.
Are you tempted to stop reading, to skip to something more pleasant? You really need this text if you think, “God’s running the world, so he’ll never let anything bad happen to me.” That belief will fail you. Neither can you blame Dinah, as if she must have been doing something wrong or it wouldn’t have happened to her. Verse 1 explicitly sets up the story by saying she was behaving well in her culture. Don’t blame the victim. Continue reading “When you get hurt (Genesis 34:1-2)”
How can we talk about the kingdom of God when everything has gone wrong?
God reigns? What does that mean? Does it mean I’m a conqueror who can defeat any enemy and no evil can touch me?
This morning I woke to news that cut deep into my being. Someone I’d met briefly, a servant of King Jesus from our own city here in Perth, had died. Geoff Freind from Morley Salvation Army had gone to Malawi to proclaim “Good News!” He was attacked on the streets, and died in hospital. His wife and four sons are trying to come to terms with the tragedy. Continue reading “How can you say God reigns?”
In the story of the binding of Isaac, is there a hint of the suffering God’s people would endure in the years ahead?
There are times when life is good, when you feel you have God’s provision, his blessing. There are also times when you don’t receive what you prayed for, or you lose what’s most precious to you. It’s in the difficult moment that you discover the basis of your faith. Do you love God for the benefits he gives? Or do you love God for who he is, holding onto him even when you lose everything else? Continue reading “The binding of Isaac (Genesis 22:3-9)”