Joseph’s love story (Genesis 41:44-52)

Who was Asenath? Why did she marry Joseph? What do we learn from their story?

Did you know that Joseph married an Egyptian?

Genesis 41 (NIV)
45 Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. …
50 Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.

Joseph is an amazing character. Despite being catapulted to power from prison, Joseph is one of the few not corrupted by power. But his lifestyle choices in exile still present problems for observant Jews.

Continue reading “Joseph’s love story (Genesis 41:44-52)”

Living in grace and disgrace (Genesis 40)

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)”

Finding God in an unjust world (Genesis 39)

How did Joseph cope with treachery and accusations from a sexual predator?

Role-reversal stories help us break down our stereotypes and cultural bias. As a boy, I was warned against seductive females like Potiphar’s wife, but I don’t remember being warned against mistreating women as the men of Genesis did: Pharaoh (Genesis 12:15), Abimelek (20:2; 26:8), and Hamor (34:2).

Maybe the real issue is power rather than gender. Those three guys were all kings or princes. And Potiphar’s wife held all the power while Joseph was merely a slave.

Women are devalued in patriarchal society. Judah’s mistreatment of Tamar isn’t resolved until he realizes that, even though she used her sexuality against him, She is more righteous than I (38:26).

So, rather than treating gender as the problem in the conflict between male and female, could we make some progress by identifying abuse of power as the real issue? The role-reversal story of Genesis 39 suggests that might be a productive approach.

What happens when the woman has all the power, and the male is her slave?

Continue reading “Finding God in an unjust world (Genesis 39)”

Pastoral care case: Genesis 16

Here’s a practical exercise in pastoral care, hearing people in their pain.

Wherever you care for people — family, small groups, churches, counselling — you’ll feel the whole gamut of emotions. Empathy for their pain. Disappointment with how they treat each other. Hope that they’ll sort things out. Powerlessness to sort it out for them.

We’d love to have our churches full of mature people who have the faith of Abraham and Sarah, but sometimes our people feel more like the problem than the solution. So, here’s some honest pastoral encouragement for you. Your clients are Abraham and Sarah, as we meet them in Genesis 16.

They have this amazing call on their lives to establish a kingdom that will bless all nations. Ten years they’ve walked with God in the land of promise, but they still have their old names and they’re struggling to trust God.

We’re shocked to learn that Abram is sleeping with someone who isn’t his wife. Actually, that’s not what happened, and if that’s our judgement we won’t be able to listen to them.

So, here’s your pastoral care exercise. Read Genesis 16 carefully. Observe the three main characters. Identify what they’re feeling, and what they do in response. Jot down your observations.

Sarai: . . . . . . . . . . . .

Abram: . . . . . . . . . . . .

Hagar: . . . . . . . . . . . .

Continue reading “Pastoral care case: Genesis 16”

But his enemies are still here (Matthew 28:11-15)

If Christ is risen and reigning, why are we still suffering?

Why does Matthew interrupt the good news to tell us about a lie?

He was on a roll, describing Jesus’ victory over death. Risen. Reigning. Leading from the front like a shepherd. Authorizing angels to break death’s seal, to roll back the stone, to reveal the empty tomb. Then the risen king himself confirmed their commission and called them to the king’s council in Galilee.

So, why interrupt this climactic story of the Gospel to tell us the lie about the disciples stealing the body? There must be something here we really need to know.

Continue reading “But his enemies are still here (Matthew 28:11-15)”

What the mocking reveals (Matthew 27:27–31)

Why do the Gospel writers describe the mockery of Jesus if their aim is to promote him?

What makes a king? Is it the coronation event, that special day when people lead you to the palace, dress you in regal robes, place a crown on your head and a sceptre in your hand, and perform the formal speech act of declaring you to be king?

Matthew describes a mock enthronement where Roman soldiers crown a condemned man to parody the powerlessness of his people. What I want to know is why the evangelists include this scornful humiliation, this parody of worship, if they’re seeking to promote Jesus.

Is there something in this story that reframes how we view power?

Continue reading “What the mocking reveals (Matthew 27:27–31)”

Gospel encouragement (podcast) (2 Timothy 1)


The gospel will transform the world. The good news that God’s anointed (Christ) is our leader (Lord) changes everything.

So how do we live in a world that is not fully transformed yet? What’s our role? How do we participate in this big story? That’s what Paul discusses in his final letter to Timothy.

Continue reading “Gospel encouragement (podcast) (2 Timothy 1)”

Strike the shepherd (Zechariah 13:7-9)

Why was the shepherd of God’s people struck? Why did Jesus relate Zechariah’s message to himself and the scattering of his little flock?

Open Zechariah 13:7-9 and Matthew 26:31-32.

The night he was arrested, Jesus expected his friends to abandon him. He knew they would because the prophets said so.

Matthew 26:31 Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’” (NIV)

Reading Zechariah 13, it’s not immediately obvious why Jesus would apply this to himself. To make sense of how Jesus understood the text, we need to read the prophets in the context of the story they were telling.

Who was “my shepherd” in Zechariah 13:7?

Continue reading “Strike the shepherd (Zechariah 13:7-9)”

The tribulation and Jesus’ kingship (Matthew 24:9-30)

Good news! Jesus’ kingship resolves the oppressive pain in God’s world. See if Matthew 24 makes more sense as gospel rather than as charts for the end of the world.

I don’t know if you noticed, but our first two posts on Matthew 24 asked you to listen to the conversation Jesus had with his disciples about his kingship a few days before his crucifixion. It’s not always heard as a flowing conversation. Some readers treat it as if Jesus was using jargon to differentiate periods of future history.

Here’s what I mean by treating Jesus’ words as jargon:

Continue reading “The tribulation and Jesus’ kingship (Matthew 24:9-30)”

Are we worse off if we live unselfishly? (Matthew 18:7-10)

Enacting legislation doesn’t stop evil; enacting love does.

If you enjoy renovation projects, you’ll love the big one our king is working on. A complete global make-over, restoring the world to the glory of what it was designed to be: a kingdom of heaven. What will be different when he succeeds?

At its heart, it’s a change in how people use power. People do whatever it takes to eliminate their competition. Jesus experienced it (16:21; 17:22). He calls us to use our strength to support each other as we do for children, instead of taking advantage of each other and trying to trip each other up (18:3-6). But how?

Continue reading “Are we worse off if we live unselfishly? (Matthew 18:7-10)”

Trusting God’s love when life hurts

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”

Shaking the chains at Philippi (podcast) (Acts 16:16-40)

While you’re keeping healthy at home, here’s some good news. You can now find a podcast here each weekend.

These podcasts reframe familiar Bible passages as stories of the kingdom. Here’s the first one.

Remember that time Paul and Silas were singing at midnight and their chains fell off? What does that mean to you?

This podcast (18 minutes) describes the event as a clash of kingdoms.

 


Next podcast: Why I’m seeking the kingdom

Making sense of suffering when Christ is king (Ephesians 3:1)

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)”

Advancing forcefully or suffering violence? (Matthew 11:12)

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)”

The kingdom and personal power: more than conquerors?

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?”

Like our teacher (Matthew 10:24-25)

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

  1. Jesus suffered so we don’t have to.
  2. Jesus suffered because we suffer.
  3. 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)”