The powerful God who reigns in weakness

What does it look like when Jesus unites humanity under his leadership as the kingdom of God? For the church today, that might be the most important question, because that’s our identity, and it defines our mission.

Firstly, this is a radically different kind of politics. We’re accustomed to the world of party politics. The Liberal Party seeks power from and for the business owners. The Labor Party seeks power for the workers. The Nationals seek power for the landowners, and so on. Within each party are factions (left, centre, right), each seeking to gain more control of the party, in the hope of their party controlling the country.

Then there’s the division of countries, with different political systems: democracy, socialism, monarchy, republic, and so on. On the world stage, countries fight for self-interest. Looking back, history looks like struggle of the species, a political “survival of the fittest.” The strongest beasts survive to rule the world, and the winners write history (compare Daniel 7).

The Bible describes an alternative story of politics. Earth’s true sovereign — the king we sideline when we grasp for power, fight wars, and subjugate each other — takes the side of the suffering, not those who cause their pain:

Continue reading “The powerful God who reigns in weakness”

How Jesus overcomes the world’s power problem

What’s wrong with the world? What must God resolve to establish his kingdom with Jesus as ruler?

Remember the jubilation when World War II ended? Turns out Hitler’s defeat didn’t resolve our problems. SBS is running a documentary titled After Hitler, and episode 2 says:

In the five years that separated the end of the Second World War from the start of the Cold War, the world had hoped for a lasting peace, but instead found itself on the brink of apocalypse. Five years of chaos and hope for the people of a shattered Europe, who became pawns in the games of the major powers.

History keeps repeating. When people rise up against an oppressive ruler, the person who comes to power can turn out to be even more monstrous. How can we ever be delivered? Continue reading “How Jesus overcomes the world’s power problem”

Those mega-church scandals

Yesterday Steve McAlpine posted on the scandals that keep recurring in our mega-churches. He wants to help us break the cycle by recognizing the shape abusive leadership takes:

The recurring central theme to these scandals is the manner in which a concerned, godly eldership is first enervated by an increasingly toxic church leader, then replaced by that church leader, before finally being excoriated publicly by that church leader, with the new leadership on stage leading the tomato throwing exercise. …

That’s the pattern.  It’s that simple.  You could throw it in with the seven or so Hollywood standard movie scripts that exist and it wouldn’t look out of place, so step-by-step, formulaic it is.

Why does this keep happening? Steve offers two suggestions, and I’d like to take this further. Continue reading “Those mega-church scandals”

What do you fear? (Exodus 1:12-22)

What you fear, you serve.

Open Exodus 1:12-22.

Exodus 1 provides real insight into what’s wrong with the powers in the world. To keep people under their control, rulers afflict them with heavy burdens (1:11 ESV). But you can’t squash people so easily: the heavy burdens Pharaoh placed on the Hebrews only made them stronger (1:12). And that’s why rulers become progressively more brutal (pě·rěḵ in 1:13, 14). Continue reading “What do you fear? (Exodus 1:12-22)”

How human rule goes bad (Exodus 1:1-11)

Open Exodus 1:1-11.

By the end of Genesis, one of Abraham’s descendants was bringing divine wisdom to the greatest ruler of his day. In Joseph, Pharaoh saw the spirit of the heavenly sovereign (Genesis 41:38). He followed Joseph’s advice, and many lives were saved.

So is there hope in human rule? After all, human rulers are God’s servants, to limit violence on the earth.

Unfortunately, our human rulers always end up as self-serving. Four centuries later, Egypt has a new king, one who does not know Joseph (Ex 1:8). That means this Pharaoh does not know YHWH either.

The Exodus is not just about the heavenly ruler releasing his people from Pharaoh: it is about the heavenly ruler revealing himself to Pharaoh. The goal is that Pharaoh will know YHWH as earth’s true ruler (5:2; 6:7; 7:5, 17; 8:10 and so on). Exodus 1–15 is a confrontation between rulers, a kind of war—a challenge over who rules. It is a kingdom conflict—the paradigmatic kingdom confrontation of the Old Testament. Continue reading “How human rule goes bad (Exodus 1:1-11)”

A tale of two kings (Matthew 14:1-21)

How do we present Jesus as king, when he’s so different to the rulers appointed by this world?

Open Matthew 14:1-21.

Jesus’ regal authority can frighten people. We’ve all experienced power being abused. So how do we announce a king who cares for his people?

We’ll need to explain the contrast. Matthew shows us how by juxtaposing the stories of two kings. Continue reading “A tale of two kings (Matthew 14:1-21)”

How does justice come?

How can justice ever come to our communities? Did Jesus have anything ideas?

Imagine you’re in a class on Training and Assessment. Everyone makes a presentation, and you choose your topic. What’s your passion?

Students chose everything from surfing to swords. I wanted something related to the kingdom of God that could be relevant, appropriate for a non-religious setting, and doable in 15 minutes.

You can read what I said below, and I’d be interested in your feedback. The group responded well, and the experience helped me think through this issue further.

Clearly this isn’t the whole story. But is this an approach that could help us present the good news in a way Aussies see as relevant and important?

Here’s the script: Continue reading “How does justice come?”