Where’s God’s justice in an unjust world? (Matthew 10:26-31)

Your heavenly Father knows when even a sparrow falls.

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Open Matthew 10:26-31.

We all have filters that shape what we hear. That’s true of how we understand our closest friends. It’s even more significant when we want to understand what Jesus said 2000 years ago in a very different setting.

For example, we in the western church tend to think of souls as immortal. After your body dies, your soul lives on, either in heaven or hell. It would make no sense to us to talk about bodies going to hell. Yet that’s precisely what Jesus did to: he said it’s better to lose an eye than to lose your whole body in hell (Matthew 5:29-30, 22). Something that doesn’t make sense is a hint that we’re not hearing it right, that we need to reframe the way we think. Continue reading “Where’s God’s justice in an unjust world? (Matthew 10:26-31)”

What about Halloween?

How will you respond to children asking for a trick or treat?

Tomorrow is 31 October. Children from your neighbourhood may dress up as ghouls or superheros and knock on your door. How will you respond?

Some church-goers fear the demonic realm and worry that Halloween leads children into the occult through its focus on all things spooky. Horror, zombies, the undead, witches and ghosts — it all revolves around fear.

Some Australians object to Halloween as a foreign festival that doesn’t belong in our calendar or culture. They want to leave the pumpkins where they belong.

Or perhaps you’re more worried about what those sugar sweets are doing to the children.

So is Halloween evil? What do you make of it?

It may surprise you to know that Halloween was once a Christian festival. It’s the eve of All Saints’ Day. The “saints” literally means the holy ones, the people devoted to God. Some of those have already died, so they’re awaiting resurrection (according to 1 Corinthians 15:23). The church honoured particular saints on particular days (e.g. St Patrick’s Day), and they set aside 1 November to honour all the saints. The name Hallow’een means the eve of Saints’ Day.

As so often happens, popular culture corrupted this Christian festival. Imaginations ran riot on the evening before Saints’ Day as people pictured the ghostly forms of the dead saints they were to honour the next day. Pagan ideas were mixed with Christian beliefs.

How should Christians respond now? If you have children whose friends are into Halloween, take the opportunity to discuss what it means and how it’s so easy for something good to be corrupted. Ask them if they have noticed the commercialization and corruption of other Christian festivals too. (Hint: Santa Claus, Easter bunny.)  If it’s appropriate to your children’s age, talk about the authority of Christ over evil in all of its forms.

Whether you have children or not, what do you do when those little ones approach you for a trick or treat? Before you turn them away with your self-righteous indignation against all things evil, ask yourself this: how often do the people of your neighbourhood come to your door? Is opportunity knocking here?

A few years ago, we started stocking up for Halloween by buying two things: individually wrapped sweets, and pencils with “Jesus loves you” on the side. Okay, that’s pretty corny: you can probably think of something better. Each child who knocked on our door was offered something from the sweets bag and something from the stationery box. We asked their names, and spoke to their parents if they were watching from the road.

We wanted them to know Christians as people who cared for their precious lives. Is that better than rejecting them because of their ignorance or our fear?

 

What others are saying

Ben Witherington III: The Origins of Halloween (3 minute video on YouTube).

John S. Leonard, Get Real: Sharing Your Everyday Faith Every Day electronic edition (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2013):

In my opinion, if you’re interested in reaching your neighbors, one of the most important holidays to participate in, for Christ’s sake, is Halloween. One reason is that it’s the one night of the year that you can go and knock on all your neighbors’ doors, and they will be happy to see you!

A disarmed kingdom (Matthew 10:34-39)

How can Jesus establish his kingdom with an unarmed army?

Open Matthew 10:34-39.

A military career in the ancient world meant heading off with your regiment in search of fame and glory. Unworthy of the empire was any milksop who couldn’t leave his father and mother. A soldier marched where the army needed him, even if it meant his children grew up without him. Real soldiers didn’t run for cover to save themselves! They grasped their swords and gave their lives for the sake of the empire.

What about the kingdom of God? Do its people face struggles like the kingdoms of the world? Or is it an idyllic life of shalom: no life-threatening situations, no dilemmas of family versus kingdom, no conflicting priorities, no need to run to save your own life? Continue reading “A disarmed kingdom (Matthew 10:34-39)”

Tim Healy, “What is the gospel?” (reprise)

What is the gospel? Tim Healy explains.

Tim Healy has just been appointed Senior Minister of Riverview Church in Perth, Western Australia.

Almost twelve months ago, Tim preached a rich message on What is the Gospel? We tend to focus on one little aspect. As Tim explained, it’s so much more than we think.

Check it out.

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)”

Clash of kingdoms (Matthew 10:17-23)

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)”

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)”