Participating in the counter-cultural kingdom

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”

Discipleship in Philippians

“All I ask is that you live as his kingdom, honouring the good news that he is king” (Philippians 1:27)

Disciple is a kingdom word. A disciple is literally a trainee, an apprentice. Jesus trained disciples to proclaim the restoration of heaven’s reign arriving in him, sending them out to enact the kingdom.

Many books on discipleship don’t start from there, but here’s one that does: Living the King Jesus Gospel: Discipleship and Ministry Then and Now (Cascade Books, 2021). Seventeen pastors and scholars built on Scot McKnight’s work on the kingdom, covering discipleship in the New Testament, in Christian history, and in our shared life today. In this post we’ll just look at Nijay Gupta’s chapter on Philippians.

What would you see as the main theme of Philippians? Joy? Partnership? Jesus’ servant heart and ascension? These themes are present, and Michael Gorman is right to treat 2:5-11 as “Paul’s master story.” (Journal of Theological Interpretation, 1:1-2, 2007, 147– 170).

Nijay Gupta titled his chapter, “Living as Good Citizens of the Gospel Kingdom of Christ according to Philippians.” Why?

Continue reading “Discipleship in Philippians”

Building for a new Jerusalem (Nehemiah 5) (podcast)

Nehemiah revealed the core kingdom values. His insight is still challenging.

Nehemiah did more than rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. In Chapter 5 he’s discipling the community that will be the new Jerusalem.

Though appointed by the king of Persia, Nehemiah insists they treat each other as their heavenly king expects. More than any of the leaders who preceded him, Nehemiah has the revelation that lays the groundwork for Jesus’ approach to the kingdom of God.

This podcast (27 minutes) was recorded at Riverview Joondalup 2022-06-12.

Continue reading “Building for a new Jerusalem (Nehemiah 5) (podcast)”

The way of transformation (podcast) (2 Timothy 3)

2 Timothy 3 tracks the transformation that takes place through Christ, turning us inside out, from living for my own self-focused story to participating in God’s astounding story.

Continue reading “The way of transformation (podcast) (2 Timothy 3)”

Spiritual formation as belonging

Dallas Willard wondered, “Is salvation itself a new and active attachment with God that forms and transforms our identities?”

We teach Spiritual Formation because we want disciples developing character, not just downloading information. Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline has been a favourite text, along with several from the late Dallas Willard. If you enjoyed those, check out Jim Wilder, Renovated: God, Dallas Willard, and the Church That Transforms. Continue reading “Spiritual formation as belonging”

Spiritual formation (Ephesians 4:1–6)

What kind of “spiritual formation” does God desire for us?

Read Ephesians 4:1-6.

Here’s a confession. I’ve always been drawn to those parts of the Bible that spell out how I should live as a Christian. Ephesians 4–6 is so practical. I grew up in a church that emphasized personal piety and spiritual formation.

But obsessing about my spiritual development can be counter-productive if it makes me more focused on myself. In the end, I feel more convicted of my failings, more aware of my inadequacies, more critical of myself for falling short of God’s expectations. I end up critical of others too: “They’re no better, but at least I’m trying.”

It’s not easy to escape the cycle of the self. I can’t, until I engage with something beyond me. Continue reading “Spiritual formation (Ephesians 4:1–6)”

How a new mind transforms the world

Romans 12 (NIV) 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.

A wide-eyed country lad sat transfigured at the big camp meetings, while holiness preachers thundered against the wickedness of this world. The way I heard it, this planet was doomed, so I should set my mind on things above in the hope that God would take me to heaven.

Paul would be horrified to think we’ve used his words to threaten each other and damn the planet. He was giving a message of hope and human flourishing.

What is “this world”?

Continue reading “How a new mind transforms the world”

Worse off with Jesus? (Matthew 12:43-45)

Can a generation be worse off if it refuses to follow Jesus?

Open Matthew 12:43-45.

Jesus’ contemporaries called him Satan’s servant — one who pretended to release people, but actually made their oppression worse (12:24). After pointing out the flaws in their logic (12:25-29), he offered them a royal pardon for their insult. But he warned that they would have no release if they resisted God’s Holy Spirit (12:31-32).

He went on to describe how their situation would worsen if they rejected his leadership. Listen to this parable: Continue reading “Worse off with Jesus? (Matthew 12:43-45)”

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)”

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)”

The less obvious way (Matthew 7:13-14)

The narrow way is counter-intuitive for those who want power.

Open Matthew 7:13-14.

Matthew 7:13-14 (my translation)
13 Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction; many go that way. 14 How narrow is the constricted gate, the way leading into life; few are those who find it.

Many today assume these verses are about the doors to heaven and hell. According to this interpretation, only a few people find the way to heaven and the majority are doomed to hell. But that isn’t Jesus’ message. He’s talking about the kingdom of God — heaven reigning over earth, in contrast with the usual way that kingdoms operate here on earth. The wide way that everyone travels is the way kingdoms normally operate, and Jesus is calling us to recognize another less obvious way: the way of the kingdom of God.

Continue reading “The less obvious way (Matthew 7:13-14)”

The people of the kingdom (Matthew 4:18-22)

Who would you choose to help change the world?

Open Matthew 4:18-22.

The People’s Choice: How the Voter Makes Up His Mind in a Presidential Campaign. That was the book by Berelson and Lazarsfeld, published at the end of World War II. Most people are influenced by their friends, they said, so marketers should target the influencers. Continue reading “The people of the kingdom (Matthew 4:18-22)”