Barth’s Church Dogmatics

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Karl Barth was one of the most influential theologians of last century. His Church Dogmatics is wordy and not easy reading, but I like the way he puts Jesus the centre of everything.

Continue reading “Barth’s Church Dogmatics”

Sheep among wolves (Matthew 10:16)

Wise as serpents and innocent as doves? How?

Open Matthew 10:16.

Jesus the shepherd, appointed twelve Jewish males to symbolize the restoration of Israel under his reign. This is dangerous work: others claim to be in control. If history teaches us anything, those in power will do anything to keep it. God’s people are his sheep, but the world is run by wolves: Continue reading “Sheep among wolves (Matthew 10:16)”

A grassroots kingdom (Matthew 10:9-15)

Working with the people who want the best for their community — that’s how Jesus’ kingdom vision works.

Open Matthew 10:9-15.

How did Jesus expect to run a kingdom? They’re expensive! Government in Australia costs us $450 billion dollars a year — $50 for every man, woman, and child, every day.

It’s always been like that. When Israel first asked for a king, Samuel warned them how taxing human rulers would be:

1 Samuel 8:11–17 (ESV)
11 These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons …  13 He will take your daughters … 14 He will take15 He will take16 He will take17 He will take … and you shall be his slaves.

David’s son Solomon charged taxes and required his citizens to work to build the temple in Jerusalem. He built stables and garrisons and public works, and a harem and wealth for himself. After 7 years of temple construction, he required the work teams to build him a palace — for the next 13 years! So heavy was Solomon’s yoke that it split the kingdom when he died (1 Kings 12:4, 11).

If Jesus was restoring the kingdom, how could he fund it? He’s just appointed his first government officials — twelve kingdom emissaries — but how could he fund them? You’re not going to believe what he did: he sent them out with no money, to fend for themselves!

Put yourself in their shoes: Continue reading “A grassroots kingdom (Matthew 10:9-15)”

Good News for God’s World (course)

You’re invited to a free training course in Perth, over the next six weeks.

If you’re in Perth, Western Australia, come and bathe in the good news of who Jesus is and the astounding difference he’s making to set everything right in his world.

We’ll talk about how we share his good news with people, by being good news people. When you have genuinely good news, it’s hard not to share it! Continue reading “Good News for God’s World (course)”

How the Shepherd gathers his sheep (Matthew 10:5-8)

Our Shepherd empowers us to care for his people.

Open Matthew 10:5-8.

“Sheep without a shepherd” — it’s a disturbing image for a ruler who cares for his people (9:36). One man cannot round up the scattered sheep (9:37-38), so Jesus commissions twelve undershepherds (10:1-4), sending them to the lost sheep to announce his kingship (10:5-8).

Continue reading “How the Shepherd gathers his sheep (Matthew 10:5-8)”

“Shepherds After My Own Heart”

What does it mean to be a leader in God’s kingdom? God desires “Shepherds After My Own Heart.”

The best study on Christian leadership I’ve ever read is Timothy Laniak’s book, Shepherds after My Own Heart: Pastoral Traditions and Leadership in the Bible (IVP, 2006). Where many leadership books derive principles from business or bureaucratic settings, Laniak derives his from the heart of God, as expressed in the Biblical narrative. Continue reading ““Shepherds After My Own Heart””

Mentoring is ministry (Matthew 10:2-4)

Overwhelmed? Focus on the few.

Open Matthew 10:2-4.

I was dying to try out all the things I’d learned in 5 years of Bible College. My first church was well-established, a mature-aged congregation willing to wait for me to get over my youthful excitement. I couldn’t move them, so in my second year I focused outside the church on reaching needy people in the wider community. In my third year, I realized there were some of the congregation who really did want to grow, so I prayerfully selected people to pour my life into. I’d stumbled on what Jesus knew — that discipling a few people was the most fruitful form of ministry.

Continue reading “Mentoring is ministry (Matthew 10:2-4)”

Why no women among Jesus’ apostles? (Matthew 10:1-4)

Should women be leading churches if Jesus appointed no women among his apostles?

Open Matthew 10:1-4.

Fact: All twelve apostles appointed by Jesus were male.

Question: Is that a pattern for the leadership of the church? Should the church follow Jesus in appointing only males to positions of authority? Continue reading “Why no women among Jesus’ apostles? (Matthew 10:1-4)”

Why did Jesus appoint 12 apostles? (Matthew 10:1)

The appointment of 12 apostles to Jesus’ government marks a significant step towards the restoration of God’s kingship over the earth.

Open Matthew 10:1.

Appointing twelve leaders would have had special significance in Jesus’ culture. Israel found their identity in the twelve tribes descended from Jacob. But Israel had been scattered all over the ancient world “like sheep without a shepherd” (9:36). The king felt an urgency to gather such a great harvest. He instructed his followers to entreat the harvest owner to appoint workers (9:38). Then he commissioned them: twelve Jewish men entrusted with the authority of the king, foundation stones for re-forming Israel. Continue reading “Why did Jesus appoint 12 apostles? (Matthew 10:1)”

Jesus our shepherd (Matthew 9:35-38)

We have a shepherd, so you have a place to belong.

Open Matthew 9:35-38.

Matthew 9:36 (my translation)
Seeing the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and thrown down like sheep with no shepherd.

What do we mean when we call Jesus our shepherd? Do you imagine yourself as a fuzzy little lamb being stroked by the shepherd? If so, you’ve missed the powerful metaphor.

For Israel, shepherd was a metaphor for a ruler, a leader of the nation. Occasionally a priest or prophet could be called a shepherd, but it was usually the king. David literally was a shepherd until God chose him to shepherd Israel: “You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler” (2 Samuel 5:2).

Sheep without a shepherd is therefore a picture of a nation that’s lost its ruler. As Moses reached the end of his life, he asked God to appoint a successor “so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd” (Numbers 27:17). When the prophet Micaiah saw a vision of Ahab dying in battle, he said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd” (1 Kings 22:17).

The last king of Judah was Zedekiah. The Babylonian invaders slaughtered his sons in front of him and then gouged out his eyes. From that moment in 586 BC, Israel had been sheep without a shepherd.

Among the scattered sheep in exile, Ezekiel explained that God had to remove the bad kings; yet he also promised that God would raise up a son of David to rule over them again: Continue reading “Jesus our shepherd (Matthew 9:35-38)”