People of many religions pray. What makes Judeo-Christian prayer different?
Most people pray, whatever their religion. Prayer is a request to a deity. It may be a request to bring blessing and prosperity, or to remove anguish and struggle. It may be accompanied by a sacrifice or vow to demonstrate sincerity or convince the gods to act.
The practice of prayer predates Abraham. So, what is distinctive about prayer in the Judeo-Christian faith?
Let’s start with Judaism.
Continue reading “What made Israel’s prayers distinctive?”
Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32).
That’s a promise that’s worth exploring. How does our Father give us his kingdom? Who is the little flock? Why might it be scary?
The entire story of Scripture is held in these words. Continue reading “The kingdom as Father’s gift (Luke 12:32)”
The conflict we’re involved in is a rescue mission.
What is spiritual warfare? What are we fighting? How does God fight evil?
What is God’s armour? When did God use armour? How does that train us to use God’s armour?
This podcast (29 minutes) was recorded at Riverview Church (Burswood, Western Australia) 2023-02-12. It’s also on Youtube.
Continue reading “Spiritual warfare (podcast) (Ephesians 6:10–17)”
The kingdom matters because God’s anointed (Christ) has been raised up with all authority in the earthly and heavenly realms. In him, God’s reign has returned to earth. That’s the gospel.
Continue reading “Why does the kingdom of God matter?”
Disadvantaged or blessed?
You’re probably noticed the disconnect between what God intends and life as we know it. If not, ask a Ukrainian. Fighting and killing are not the Life-giver’s intentions. Stockpiling resources while others starve is not life as Providence intends.
So, how do we close the gap?
Continue reading “Participating in the counter-cultural kingdom”
How do you find the meaning to life? Meet the Author.
What’s life about? Its architect knows.
1 It all started with what the Author said.
What he wrote reflects the Author.
2 The Author was present in what he wrote.
3 The whole story came out of his being.
Not a single thing came from elsewhere.
Continue reading “Meet the author of life (John 1:1–14)”
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)”
We live because God does right out of his faithfulness to us. So, faithfulness to God leads us to do right as we live.
The opening verses of Paul’s letter to Rome contain the message the whole letter unpacks. By verse 17, the key theme comes into view:
Romans 1:17 (ESV)
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Questions? What is the righteousness of God? How is it revealed in the gospel? What does from faith for faith mean? And why include a quotation when he’s packing the message so densely?
Continue reading “Why the gospel calls for faith (Romans 1:17)”
The Crusades were one of the most damaging misrepresentations of God in church history. How can we avoid making the same mistake?
Good interpretation matters, because God’s word is life-giving. When we don’t receive Scripture well, we don’t live well. We make choices that seem right to us without the wisdom of God.
The Crusades are a stark reminder of how we can misrepresent God. In 1095, Pope Urban II called European Christians to take up arms and fight for the Byzantine Emperor to retake Jerusalem, particularly the site of Jesus’ temporary grave (Holy Sepulchre). “God wills it,” cried the conference he addressed.
Continue reading “Crusader, or living by faith? (Habakkuk 2:4)”
Jesus’ whole life is testimony to Habakkuk’s message, “The righteous one will live by faith(fulness).”
Jesus never mentioned Habakkuk 2:4, but his life embodied its message: the righteous one will live by faith(fulness). Faced with enemies who wanted to destroy the king of the Jews, Jesus did the right thing because he was trusting his Father to set everything right, to re-establish God’s kingdom.
Continue reading “How Jesus lived by faith (Habakkuk 2:4)”
How does God fulfil his promise that the righteous will live by faith?
Should good people stand up against the forces of evil in our world, so the whole thing doesn’t go down the drain? You’ve heard the proverb: All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
If we were looking to good men to save us, that approach might make sense. Habakkuk wasn’t. He was looking for God to save. But he didn’t see God intervening. We could summarize his complaint as: All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for a good God to do nothing.
God gave Habakkuk a lifeline. God does not act as we expect, but he is in charge of history and this is his promise: those who do right [even in the face of all the evil] will not die out; they will live by their faith(fulness).
The New Testament relates this promise to the gospel. In Romans and Galatians, Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4 to support his teaching that God’s goodness saves those who trust him. Before we discuss faith from a Christian perspective (a future post), we need to hear Habakkuk’s message in his context.
Habakkuk’s book is a two-sided conversation: the prophet’s concern, and God’s response.
Continue reading “Should the faithful fight evil? (Habakkuk 2:4)”
The righteousness of God, calling on the name of the Lord, salvation and judgement — we hear all these words on the messiah’s lips in Psalm 145.
New Testament theology begins in the Old, where God is revealed as the heavenly sovereign who faithfully loves his people and his earthly realm. So when the OT uses phrases that are crucial to Christian theology, they’re the seeds of what God was planting. The OT provides another dimension of insight into what those phrases mean for us.
Four of those phrases turn up on the lips of the messiah in Psalm 145. We’ve seen how the Davidic king announced the kingdom of God (145:1–8) and extended it beyond Israel to all people (145:9–16). Then he makes four statements about the character of God, statements that brilliantly illuminate the theology (words about God) in the Gospels and apostolic letters:
This Psalm is not quoted in the NT, but the messianic voice provides background for the hope these keywords hold as we read them in the NT.
Continue reading “David’s final Psalm: keywords for theology (145:17-21)”
Restoring a nation is marvellous news (Psalm 145:1–8), but in verses 9–16 the messiah goes on to extend God’s kingdom to all humanity.
Open Psalm 145:9-16.
We’re hearing the messiah’s voice in the final Davidic psalm. In the first eight verses he led his people to honour their heavenly king who (prophetically speaking) restored them as his kingdom. They celebrate God’s majesty and faithful character. What could be better?
Something extraordinary happens when we reach the heart of the psalm. The Davidic leader expands their vision of God’s kingship — beyond their nation, to all people:
Psalm 145 9 The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. 10 All your works praise you, Lord … 12 so all people may know of your acts … 13 through all generations. 14 The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. 15 The eyes of all look to you … 16 every living thing. 17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways, faithful in all he does. … 20 The Lord watches over all who love him but all the wicked he will destroy. … 21 Let every creature praise his holy name for all time.
Continue reading “David’s final Psalm: restored world (145:9–16)”
In the last Psalm of David, we hear the messiah’s voice declaring the restoration of God’s reign.
There’s nothing like Psalm 145, titled Praise; of David. No other psalm is called praise (tehil·lāh). This is the ultimate Davidic psalm in the Psalter.
Set among post-exile psalms, Psalm 145 is the voice of the David to come, the anticipated king who would restore God’s reign. That’s why it’s the most quoted psalm in the Jewish prayer book. It was referring to the world to come (Talmud, b Ber. 4B).
Christians believe the long-awaited Davidic king has come and brought his people back into God’s reign. He called it the kingdom of God. So does this Psalm. His kingship extends to all the people. The Psalm says that too. Phrases foundational for Christian theology are on the lips of the Davidic king in this Psalm.
Continue reading “David’s final Psalm: restored nation (145:1–8)”
Most popular posts on “Seeking the Kingdom” in 2022.
Looking for some holiday reading? See if you missed any of these, the top ten posts from Seeking the Kingdom in 2022:
Continue reading “Top ten posts of 2022”
What does it mean when you see “Of David” in the heading of a Psalm?
What does Of David mean in the heading of a psalm? Is it from David, or about David, or …? Or are these headings later additions that we should just ignore? Your answer affects how you hear the psalm.
Continue reading “Of David (Psalms)”
A gospelling angel is worth listening to.
What can we learn from how angels delivered the gospel to the shepherds? Luke 2:10 literally says they evangelized us:
And the heavenly messenger said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for I am evangelizing you of great joy which will be for all the people.”
I know that’s not what our English translations say. Evangelize means something different to us — something like converting an outsider to our faith.
What’s weird about that is that evangelize is not really an English word. We just took a Greek word and transliterated it into our language: euangelizō => evangelize. Then we modified the meaning to suit ourselves. So in recent centuries, evangelizing pagans became part of colonializing them. Some big businesses like Microsoft now employ evangelists to convert people to use their products.
Can we recover what evangelize meant in the New Testament? The angel who came to evangelize us could be a good example to follow.
Continue reading “The heavenly messenger’s gospel (Luke 2:9–12)”
John 3:16 says God loves the world, but what does that look like? How does the heavenly sovereign demonstrate his unfailing, faithful love for his earthly realm?
We anticipate the arrival of God’s love as we celebrate the Advent season. But what is God’s love? Since God is love, to understand God’s love is to perceive God.
This podcast (20 minutes) looks at the back-story for the claim that God loves his world (John 3:16). God’s faithful, unfailing, committed covenant love has been there since the beginning, and arrived in the person of the Christ.
Continue reading “How God loves the world (podcast)”
Each Psalm is set in Israel’s story, within the macro-story of God’s kingdom.
I love the Psalms. They help me voice my hopes and struggles to God. It’s so personal: the word I is there some 800 times, about 5 times a Psalm.
But there’s a bigger story in the Psalms too. I miss that global scope of God’s activity if I treat every I as me, the reader. The very first I in Psalms is God, and he says, I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain (2:6).
In the Psalms we discover ourselves as the human community in God’s care. We present our struggles to the sovereign Lord who leads us. We celebrate his power over us, his enduring sovereign authority. At the heart of the Psalms is the declaration, The Lord reigns!
Continue reading “Reading Psalms in context”
Why do we start with “original sin” when the Bible starts with “original good”?
There’s more than one way to tell a story. Theology has its jargon. It often starts with original sin, the result of the fall. These aren’t phrases from Scripture, though Paul does say that one person got us into trouble and one person can get us out (Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:21).
I love the Christological focus at the heart of everything Paul writes, but Genesis doesn’t use our theological language for Adam’s story. It doesn’t start with original sin. In fact, the first three chapters don’t mention sin at all. It talks about good. A lot. Fifteen times.
Genesis starts with original good. What would change if we told our story this way?
Let’s see how Genesis inspires us to understand the good world and our place in it.
Continue reading “Original good (Genesis 1–4)”