Tag Archives: Jesus

Oh that my Ode was for You

15 Feb

Recently I’ve begun taking part in a series of writing challenges, Daily Prompts & Weekly Tasks. Unsurprisingly yesterday’s prompt was focused on love coming in the form of an encouragement to write an ode to someone or something you love. [Bonus points for poetry!]

Of course I had a few options open to me; I could write about my dear wife, my precious son, or even my darling cat. But I felt it most important to be honest and admit that the greatest love in my life is usually me. Left unattended my heart will always deviate back to itself. So I wrote about that…: Continue reading

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Learning lessons from teaching kids

5 Feb

Last week I enjoyed the dubious privilege of standing in for Jonathan to lead a fortnightly club he runs in the local comprehensive school.  I say dubious because perhaps my greatest struggles in ministry are a) picking games to play with kids and b) remaining enthusiastic during games. I say privilege because undoubtedly the opportunity to go and spend time with these kids and explain something of the gospel is too good to pass up.

Anyway, to my point. I decided I’d play hangman with them. Nice and easy, no accessories needed that a classroom doesn’t already offer…but what could I teach them? Something that’s been knocking around my brain for a long time now is how lucky we are that God doesn’t leave us to speculate about Him but reveals Himself to us through Scripture and ultimately through Christ.

So here’s what I did. I started off giving the kids no hints. Not even the usual dashes that give clues as to the length of words. They just had to guess with no help at all. Then as the game progressed I gave more and more away. Dashes to represent letters, clues revealing themes and buy the end more than half of the letters filled in already. The lesson is that when we aren’t told anything about God our own speculation can and does lead us anywhere we want. But God has revealed Himself, most brilliantly in His Son Jesus Christ.

…This then got me thinking about Christians, those who have had their blind eyes opened, and how we continue to speculate about God. How ridiculous! It’s worrying if you ever hear someone say, “I think God…” How precious is the revelation that we have in Jesus Christ. God has revealed Himself yet we default into speculation.

I need to remember that God isn’t who I make Him, He is who Christ reveals Him to be. Remind me of that if you get the chance.

Shepherds, Jesus, Church Leaders and Eternal Relevance

27 May

So, throughout Old and New, in fulfilment in Christ and perpetuation in the early church, by direct reference to elders and overseers as shepherds and indirect reference to Christians as sheep, the church as a flock, and false teachers as wolves, the Shepherd motif for leadership can at least be described as enduring.

Increasingly though, the contemporary church is depending on different metaphors in order to inform and describe church leadership. Many metaphors from the world of business, some from sports and even other biblical motifs seem to have taken the primacy of the ‘Shepherd’. An example of such a shift is the influential church Mars Hill, Seattle, where the emphasis in leadership tends not to be on the shepherd, but the three fold functions of leadership as prophet, priest and king. In contrast, there are those who are convinced of the shepherd motif’s on-going relevance and its place as the primary metaphor for ministry leadership.

Which perspective is correct? Does the shepherd motif have any lasting relevance or is it a metaphor, once profitable to an agricultural society but now utterly bankrupt? Two further passages are worth considering in depth in order to address these questions. Firstly, the reinstatement of Peter by the risen Jesus and secondly, Peter’s instruction to his ‘fellow elders’ in his first epistle.

John 21 recounts the time succeeding Jesus’ resurrection, when He dines with His disciples following a miraculous catch of fish. Jesus questions Peter 3 times regarding his continuing love for Him, “Do you truly love me more than these? Do you truly love me? Do you love me?” (John 21:15-17). Each time Peter responds positively, only to be instructed by Jesus to feed and care for His lambs and sheep. If Peter is to feed and care for Jesus’ lambs and sheep then he must be their shepherd. The flock remains Christ’s, as is seen by His calling them ‘my sheep’, yet He is commissioning another (in this case Peter) to perform certain functions while He is bodily absent.

Jesus deliberately continues the metaphor of shepherding by commissioning Peter as a shepherd who will take His place when He ascends. “Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the Chief Shepherd and Chief Teacher, but he commissions individuals to fulfil these functions on His behalf (John 21:15-27).”

These words no doubt had a great impact on Peter and it is no surprise that when Peter writes his first epistle, the metaphor of shepherd looms large in his mind. Peter, having received his mandate from the risen Christ, writes to the persecuted church to encourage and equip her.

In chapter 2 he plants in the minds of his readers the notion of Jesus as, “the shepherd and overseer of [their] souls” (1 Pet 2:25). Jesus performs, ultimately, both these functions. With this established he then specifically addresses the elders amongst the churches. His instruction is for them to be primarily, “Shepherds of God’s flock…serving as overseers“(1 Pet 5:2).

There are several points of note in this short passage (1 Pet 5:1-4). Firstly, Peter associates himself with the church leaders, calling himself a ‘fellow elder.’ This is important as it shows that in his leadership role, commissioned by Christ, he is not unique. It suggests that if Jesus’ instruction to Peter was to feed the sheep, Jesus’ instructions to all church leaders is to feed the sheep.

Secondly, Peter encourages the elders to principally be shepherds, not for their own benefit but for the benefit of the sheep. This is in stark contrast to the old shepherds of Israel’s history described in Ezekiel 34. Carnes concludes that, “Peter here suggests that the churches’ leaders are “to be servants, not bosses; ministers, not executives.” Walter Wright agrees as he writes, “Leadership is the use of power to serve the people…They [the Israelite leaders] had grown fat off the flock, but they had not used their power and authority to feed the flock, to care for and nurture the people for whom they were responsible.” Leadership according to Peter, described in terms of shepherding, is principally about service rather than position.

Thirdly, Peter reminds these elders that the flock over which they are to act as shepherds’ remains God’s flock. Furthermore it is a flock whose Chief Shepherd is Christ Himself. Peter is aware that a position of power, such as shepherding a flock, is open to abuse and so emphasises to the elders that their positions beneath Jesus.

What is most striking in this passage however is Peter’s description of the task of church leadership in the exact same terms as he has earlier referred to Christ. The job of shepherding or overseeing, far from being unique to Peter or even to the elders he writes to, is nothing more than a mimicking of the roles Jesus Himself performs. Furthermore in verse 4, Peter reminds them that, as they serve as shepherds and overseers, they wait for the coming of the ‘Chief Shepherd’, Jesus, at which time they will receive an appropriate reward for the level of care they have provided the flock.

What is Peter doing then? Is he simply continuing the old Shepherd metaphor which found it’s fulfilment in Jesus? No, he is beginning a new metaphor, one which basis itself not on the shepherds of the ancient near east or the bad rulers of Israel’s past, but on the Good Shepherd, Christ. Carnes suggests that this new metaphor is present even earlier, “In the good shepherd discourse of [John] chapter 10, Jesus proclaims himself the model, the ideal, of all shepherds.”

Peter’s reminder that Jesus is the Chief Shepherd is of vital importance to the question of whether or not the shepherd motif is still relevant. Peter is here pointing not to the shepherding history of Israel and her neighbours but to Christ, the Good Shepherd. He is encouraging the elders to shepherd not in a metaphorical sense but first and foremost by their imitation of Christ. C.J. Mahaney, in an address to pastors, traced the role of shepherding through Scripture and noted that, “…the elders inherit the shepherding function first assumed by God, then handed over to the Good Shepherd, and now entrusted to elders…”

Furthermore, Rogers sees the link between God as Israel’s shepherd being the template for Israel’s leaders and Christ as good Shepherd as the template for the Church’s leaders, “Through the motif of the shepherd, there are insights into the role and character of pastors as Shepherds under the ‘Chief Shepherd’ (1 Pet 5:1-4). When the image of Shepherd is understood to reveal the nature and character of God, those who would choose to join with God in His ministry may gain insight into pastoral ministry by observing and imitating the work of their God.”

Perhaps to say that this is a ‘new’ metaphor is an over statement. Rodgers rightly concludes from his study of Ezekiel 34, “When the image of Shepherd is understood to reveal the nature and character of God, those who would choose to join with God in His ministry may gain insight into pastoral ministry by observing and imitating the work of their God.” Yet in the person and work of Christ, the attributes and character of a good shepherd are brought into sharper focus than had previously been observable.

***This post is taken from a fuller paper written on the topic of the Shepherd Motif and Church Leadership. To view the whole paper, in which references appear and a complete bibliography, is given please click here.***

10 Reasons TO join a Church

27 Apr

Doctrine - What Christians Should Believe by Mark DriscollWell wouldn’t you know it? Hot of the heels of “Ten reason Not to join a Church” yesterday I stumble across a chapter in Mark Driscoll’s Doctrine book with a helpful section to close entitled, “Why should Christians join a Church?”

In it he helpfully breaks it down into 10 reasons. Beautiful symmetry.

So here, reproduced in an abridged format, are those 10 positive reasons to counter yesterdays 10 cautions:

  1. Because salvation isn’t merely about a new relationship with Christ, but a new relationship with the entire Church.
  2. Because disciples are part of a flock, and like sheep, will die alone but live together.
  3. To be helped by others to follow Jesus.
  4. Because the body needs all of its limbs.
  5. To be equipped for the task given to disciples.
  6. To be spiritually protected by godly leaders (shepherds).
  7. To be ‘at risk’ in loving relationships just like Jesus was.
  8. To serve the church for the benefit of others.
  9. Because, since the beginning, being alone has never been considered ‘good’.
  10. To acknowledge Jesus’ love for the Church as His bride.

Redeemed?

22 Apr Good Friday - Easter

Good Friday - EasterToday is Good Friday. What a curious day. To the world it should really be known as ‘morbid Friday’, as Christians far and wide celebrate the murder of one of histories most highly regarded humans.

To Christians, who see it as one of the most important events in human history, it should probably be called ‘great Friday’ or some other, far stronger adjective.

So which is it? Or should it be some 4th option? (a – Good Friday, b – Morbid Friday, c – Outstanding Friday or d – a.n.other)

Peter (the apostle, not your mate from school) saw it like this as he reminded the persecuted church exactly who they were:

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

For Peter at least, it should be called ‘Redemption Friday’. Let’s have a quick history lesson.

The most famous example of redemption in the OT is Israel’s redemption from Egypt. They were saved from being slaves to Pharaoh to being God’s own people. In a similar way we as Christians have been saved from being slaves to sin to being adopted children of God.

More than this though are the consequences of the various states. Israel, in captivity, were brutalised and mistreated. As God’s people they were blessed and given their own land. A complete change in circumstances. In a similar way we as Christians under sin, as slaves, were able to inherit only death. As adopted children of God we can have life. A complete change in circumstances.

One final comparison. Israel’s famous redemption wasn’t just conceptual, it was linked to an event, the Exodus. For as Christians our redemption isn’t just the shuffling of some papers, but an event, Jesus shedding his blood.

As Jesus, still nailed to the Cross, uttered those most compelling of words, “It is finished!” He confirmed for all creation to hear that He had redeemed His people.

I’m going to suggest a 5th name for today, Flippin’ Amazing Redemption Friday. How about it?

(Here’s the sermon audio that I preached on this topic in our recent Good Friday Service)

Taught to Teach

24 Jan

Taught to Teach LogoOn Sunday 23rd January, Ammanford Evangelical Church launched a new ministry. The ministry is intended to invest in those who invest in others and is called ‘Taught to Teach.’

What an encouragement it was to sit in a room with 20 people who regularly handle the Bible in our church to teach others from it. That’s approximately 1 in 5 adults including preachers, home group leaders, service leaders, Sunday school teachers and youth workers.

We kicked off the 3 year rolling curriculum with “Why the answer is always Jesus.” Not in a trite, Sunday school ‘I know the answer must be’ kind of way but a genuine, “He is the answer to all our questions” way. Whatever we teach, if Jesus is missing it is empty and worthless to those who hear. Without Jesus we teach moralism, legalism, condemnation or boredom. When we teach Jesus we teach life, joy and restoration.

Here’s to a church that’s committed to teaching Jesus pure and simple.

Christmas is a time for Family (Trees)

21 Dec

What things sum up Christmas for you? Could it be family? Hopefully you all enjoy(?) the festive period because it brings together family and friends. Maybe it’s trees? Trees are everywhere aren’t they?! Shopping centres, town squares (ruined by rank railings!) and even in our living rooms.

In fact you can learn a lot about someone by the tree they have. Is it a real tree? They love nature. Smells are important to them. Is it fake artificial? They are economic and practically minded.

Christmas is actually about family, trees and most importantly ‘Family Trees!’

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