Fun = Spiritual: The Wedding at Cana

You see it quite regularly, that a group of Christians would be laughing, mucking around, and enjoying themselves, and then a comment will be made that they would now be transitioning into doing “spiritual” things- such as prayer or scripture reading. I wonder though: if prayer and scripture reading are considered to be the spiritual stuff, does that mean the fun, laughter, and joy wasn’t spiritual? Let’s be honest: sometimes the fun, laugher, and joy feel so much better than the sitting still and praying part! Now, I am all in on corporate prayer, scripture reading, or what we might call the “explicit” spiritual practices. In fact, to not do those things ever would be deeply problematic and would go against the obvious rhythms and reoccurring practices you see in scripture and the life of the church. The problem then isn’t the explicit spiritual practices, the problem is when we see the laughter, joy, and the fun done prior to those activities as somehow not or at least significantly less spiritual. I am here to tell you that not only do I think joy, laughter, and fun are deeply spiritual, but that it is also central to our spiritual walk. 

Intuitively we know this already. Think about the times you have become most relaxed. Think about the conditions that lead to a depth in conversations afterwards. Think about the emotional high you had when you were part of a people having fun all together.  Here’s the thing though: it is not even just intuitively abundantly life giving…

Jesus himself is all about making a world of joyous, festive, fun and laughter.  And we primarily see this at the wedding in Cana. 

In John 2:1-11 it reads:

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” 4 “Woman,[a] why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.[b] 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” 11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

A couple of things stand out here. Firstly, it is interesting that the writer John uses an irregular word for miracle here. Instead of the normal greek word for “miracle” he uses the word “sign” (John 2:11). If I am driving to Perth, it would be strange if I saw a sign that said “10km to Perth”, and then decided to stop at the sign and say I had arrived. No. The point of the sign is that it points to something beyond itself. Likewise, when John says “This was the first sign of Jesus”, he is saying “Pay attention, because what Jesus has done here is speaking about something larger that God is up too. It will reveal His Glory, what He is all about”. On the surface, Jesus turning water into wine is saving the immediate family from shame (It would have been culturally shameful to run out of supplies at an ancient wedding), but it was also a sign speaking about something larger that God was up to. In the Hebrew scriptures, the scriptures speak of a future where God has defeated all evil, injustice, death, and sin, and speaks of festivity where there would be fine wine (See Amos 9:12-15, Isaiah 25:6-7, Jeremiah 31:10-14). Likewise, at the end of our Christian scriptures, we have John once again talking about a wedding, except this wedding is a festive celebration where the Bride of Christ and Christ come together in New Creation, and there is eternal and festive joy (Rev 19:7). So, when Jesus turns water into wine as His sign, it is likely that he doing a throwback to what the Hebrew scriptures were speaking about, in order to launch-in Himself- us forward unto the world the prophets spoke about: a world where the Kingdom of God is a Kingdom of Joy. And the point of Jesus turning water into wine was His way of saying “This Kingdom has come- now live God’s festive, joyous, future in the here and now! Unto Kingdom come! Drink up! Have fun! Have joy!”.

So, what does this mean for us? It means that to have joy, to have fun, to have laughter, is to actually live the Kingdom! In other words, joy, fun, laughter, is actually central to what it means to be a Kingdom, Jesus-centred people. To not have fun would be to live against one of the central mandates of the Kingdom. Or as Nehemiah says “The joy of the Lord is our strength”. For when Jesus comes back again, death will be defeated with no more need to be defeating, injustice will be done away with no more need to stop injustice, suffering and tears will cease with no more need for ongoing ceasing- but joy, love, laughter, fun…That will continue and will continue forever. No wonder why it was Jesus first miracle! Because joy is central to the gospel! 

Now, of course, we don’t celebrate in order to forget, or to numb ourselves, or to medicate our lives- or as the Apostle Paul hypothetically said if there is no resurrection, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”. That is to ‘celebrate’ because of a worldview of nihilism, of hopelessness, of despair. And sadly, that is the legacy of what a lot of fun is. We celebrate to forget. However, we are called to celebrate in order to remember: to bring more life to our bones, to stir hope- or as the Baptist ethicist Russell Moore says, “Let us Eat, Drink, and be Merry, for Yesterday We Were Dead”. That in fact when times do get hard, we have fun as a way to bring joy into those situations where joylessness is so strong- and that we do so because joylessness isn’t what defines human history. That joy becomes a revolt against the despair.

So practically, what are ways we can bring fun, laughter, and joy back? And how can we do it in hopeful, life giving ways, and ways that elevate and serve others? And how do we also do it in a way that is mindful to not be positive in toxic ways that minimise real pain and hurts- but rather to be joyous and have hope in ways that can co-exist with people’s pain as we wait for our future hope and joy to come full circle? And how can we do this all together and extravagantly (After all, Jesus got his disciples to fetch the water jugs that could fit a ridiculous amount of wine!)? How is God calling you to have communal joy? As we do this, it will bring life to our bones, which will bring life to each other- modelling to each other in love what holy fun looks like. For we have a Jesus who has defeated the kill-joys of the Earth when he died on the cross: defeating death, injustice, evil, and all that robs the world of genuine joy and festive fun. Who now, as the resurrected one, invites us into the life of God, which is joy, laughter, love, fun! For as we do this, we revolt against the killjoys of the world, all unto a day where God’s Kingdom will one day reign in full.

So next time we think that fun, laughter, and joy is just the smaller insignificant prelude to the “deeper” stuff- let us remind ourselves that…

Fun = Spiritual.

And that you are doing a holy thing.

Jesus and the Jubilee Kingdom: Seeking a Compassionate Coronavirus Economic Response

This is an essay I wrote late last year for uni. I am posting this in light of Western Australia entering into lockdown again, and how- though I am thankful for the government coordinating safe protocols- we nonetheless need to fill the economic gap caused by COVID19.

When COVID19 arrived in Australia, very few realised just what the economic implications would be. Nearly 9 months later and what do we have? Numerous loved one have lost work, lost a home, lost savings, in what has been a disaster of life and livelihood. Both federal and state governments have sought an economic recovery plan that included an increase in JobSeeker, yet now we face a fall again in that economic safety net. For some it might seem archaic to turn to scripture for economic support, and yet with those who have ears to hear and eyes to see, we see the words of Luke 4:17-21 as our support for the cries of those who long for jubilee. So, what did Jesus read out loud in the scroll of Isaiah when he spoke of what this good news kingdom would look like to those economically burdened? If certain gospel tracts are to be believed, one might think it would read that Isaiah’s good news would be that we are going to escape this world to go to another heavenly home called the Kingdom of God. However, this does not say much to our current struggles. To our surprise, we discover a very this-worldly depiction of a world of God’s liberating Kingdom and- in particular to this reading- we discover an economic reality to God’s Kingdom (Luke 4:19). In times of global economic strain in light of COVID19, followers of Jesus are forced to reckon with the questions of economics. With historic job losses and financial strain, economic hardships that were once swept into the dark and relegated corners of the Centrelink lines have now come into full view for many people. It is in times like these that Jesus’ reading of Isaiah might speak a fresh word to us. Luke 4:17-21 sets the tone of our theological exploration on the Kingdom of God and the intersection of economic political advocacy in light of the COVID19 crisis. In the pursuit of exploring this, this paper will set out to explain what the Kingdom of God, how we seek to explore the Kingdom of God contextually, and then finally generate a contextually driven economic response to COVID19 through the lens of the Kingdom of God.

What then is the Kingdom of God?

Broadly speaking, the Kingdom of God is God’s Jesus-shaped rule and reign on Earth as it is in Heaven. But what does this mean exactly? What has to be acknowledged first and foremost is that this Kingdom we are talking about primarily has to do with God. It is not someone else’s Kingdom that is being spoken about- it is God’s Kingdom and God’s alone. This seems obvious, however what has been less obvious in the discussion of God’s Kingdom is its location. Christians would generally agree that God’s will is to be done on Earth, yet what has happened is that the actual social location of God’s Kingdom is still seen as somewhere else. According to this view, God’s will is to be done on Earth insomuch that it eventually leads people to go somewhere else after they die- namely God’s Kingdom (or the Kingdom of Heaven). However, scripture itself does not support this view of God’s Kingdom. The Bible starts with God’s activity on Earth (Gen 1), The Bible ends with God’s rule and reign on Earth (Rev 21:1-5), and has Jesus announcing that God’s Kingdom had arrived with himself on Earth (Mark 1:15), with himself saying that this Kingdom would be “on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matt 6:9-13). Throughout the whole Bible, language around the future is very earthy- it depicts nations no longer fighting, the natural world being bountiful and beautiful, and suffering being done away with (Isaiah 2:4, 11:6-9). It appears then that the social location of God’s Kingdom is, ironically, less about one location and more about all locations longing to be ruled by God- with the hope being that all of creation be under the wise and loving rule of God.

Along with the location of the Kingdom of God comes a confusion of when the Kingdom of God will be. In the former view of God’s location, if the Kingdom of God was about going somewhere else after someone dies, then the time of the Kingdom of God would be after someone dies as well. One might say there are ‘glimpses’ of God’s Kingdom ‘down here’, or even some expressions of God’s Kingdom on Earth, yet, as with social location so with time, the Kingdom of God is ultimately about a future time. However, scripture appears to speak about the timing of God’s Kingdom in different ways depending on where one is along the entire scriptural story. You can see a future element to God’s Kingdom (1 Cor 15 24-26), however this future element is about God’s Kingdom being fully established on Earth (not somewhere else). There is a future to be had with God’s Kingdom, yet Jesus also depicts this Kingdom as having already arrived with Jesus himself (Mark 1:15). The tension of the Kingdom of God is that it is here, yet not fully implemted.

Once the location and times of the Kingdom has been considered, we have to take seriously the way of the Kingdom. What is meant by this? There was an expectation that when the Messiah comes to bring God’s Kingdom, that its establishment would bring about a violent end to the ruling empires that laud it over the people of God. When Jesus comes announcing the Kingdom, one could imagine there would have been an excitable expectation that Jesus would be this war-like messiah. Yet instead we have commands from Jesus saying things like “love your enemies” (Matt 5:44), and Jesus talking about power as serving each other (Matt 20:26). All in all, what we have is Jesus bringing a Kingdom, yet then showing us what it looks like for him to be King, and then what it would look like to be his Kingdom people. So not only is the Kingdom of God defined in terms of location and time, but also how it is practiced and implemented.

One final observation to make in exploring what the Kingdom of God is, is in relation to the coming of God’s Kingdom. Once we consider that God’s Kingdom comes on Earth (and in differing stages), this begs the question as to who is doing all of this work. This is where we have to say that God brings God’s own Kingdom. If we are to understand the grace of God in any way, it is to see that God’s Kingdom is an act of extravagant and unearned grace. God’s Kingdom saving work is ultimately done in Jesus’s death, vindicated in his resurrection and his accession, implemented through the work of the Spirit, and will be fully implemented one day over the entire creation at Jesus appearing again. Of course, we can rightly ask where we fit in all of God’s own saving work, and the answer to that is that we- by the power of God’s Spirit- partner in the implementation of God’s Kingdom work (1 Cor 15:58).

In today’s world we can often be sceptical of any talk of “Kingdom”- and this is understandable given the very bloody 20st century. The ultimate power move of speaking of sovereign rule is by evoking Kingdom language and equating it to God. We can easily think of malevolent political leaders invoking God to justify their agendas and thus deluding the masses. Yet the rightful postmodern scepticism of such claims to power can be critiqued by a better understanding of this doctrine- for once we see that is it Jesus gives us the definition and shape to the Kingdom of God, then we shall see that any such power that looks like a malevolent force is indeed not the work of the humble servant King. As it relates to our task today, we must then consider how we form a faithful Kingdom response to the times we find ourselves in- a response that can survive the postmodern critique of malevolent power, critiques the current powers, and stay true to what we see the Kingdom of God is.

Generating a Faithful Kingdom Response

Once we understand that the sphere of God’s rule is all of creation, then God Kingdom does not just inform one area of existence, but all spheres of existence. Once we understand that God’s Kingdom has been inaugurated, then God Kingdom does not just inform the past or future, but also in the present. Once we understand that God’s Kingdom is defined by Jesus and his ways, then God’s Kingdom does not just incorporate or implement any way of living as long as it has a “Christian” label on it, but only ways of living that can faithfully align with what is revealed in Jesus. And once we understand that God’s Kingdom has its victory in and through God’s own sovereign work- supremely seen in Jesus’ death, resurrection, accession, and eventual appearing again- then we cannot suppose we are doing the work of bringing God’s Kingdom alone, but that God’s Spirit is implementing-by-partnering with us unto the eventual day of God’s fully implemented Kingdom victory across the cosmos. God’s Kingdom is for this time, in this location, seeking to be implemented and modelled after Jesus, and enacted by God’s spirit through us unto an eventual hopeful victory. If this is all true, then we are faced with the contextual question at hand: what does it look like for God to be king in advocating for a compassionate coronavirus economic response?

Taking seriously this contextual question of God’s rule and reign is paramount if we are to be faithful disciples of the Kingdom for such a time as this. In seeking details of such explorations, we have to turn to scripture to see if any of Jesus’ teachings- in their socio-political context- can either specifically inform similar issues at hand in the here and now, or if the broader Kingdom principals can inform issues in the here and now. Also, we have to explore the Kingdom shaping events of Jesus’ death, resurrection, accession, and appearing again. This will help us generate a faithful theological improvisation for such a time as this.

A Kingdom Economics

Looking at the current crisis we find ourselves in, one cannot help but one if there is a better economic response. Speaking personally, I work with at-risk young people as a school counsellor. In these therapeutic spaces, I have heard first-hand the stories of how the economic response by both state and federal government has not gone far enough in providing economic support. As a result of these times, I have begun thinking theologically about what a Kingdom-shaped economics is, and how such an economics can inform a response to the times we find ourselves in. After all, if Jesus is Lord of all creation, would this not include economics as well? A lot of sermons and seminars have been given around personal finances, yet such sermons and seminars rarely talk about the wider economic inequities that exist in society. If the Kingdom of God could shape the common good for other social inequities in the past- such as the ending of the slave trade- why could not the Kingdom of God shape the common good for economics? Of course, it would be beyond the scope of this paper to explore in depth a Kingdom-shaped economic practice however we can nonetheless glean more broadly as we seek to explore a Kingdom shaped economics.

Turning our attention again to Luke 4:17-21, we see language around the socio-political reality of the Kingdom of God when we read that Jesus has come to fulfil the text that speaks of jubilee. Whilst there are different theories around how to enact the practices of jubilee in our time and culture, we can nonetheless take seriously that jubilee was a type of economic liberating practice for the poor in ancient Israel that God desired for God’s people to enact. Far from being tossed aside, Jesus- in reading Isaiah’s vision of the Kingdom of God- recaptured the economics of the Kingdom of God. In his book Shalom and the Community of Creation, Indigenous theologian Randy Woodley contends that jubilee serves as the basis of a social safety net for those more economically dispossessed people to be taken care of. He goes on to say that his was a mandated economic principle precisely because the sinfulness of the world would err society to greed, and as so having a mandated safety net meant that would be offset. Such an economic response should not surprise us- throughout the entire bible there is an emphasis on making sure the poor are looked after, and this is emphasised in Jesus’ ministry, and the early church demonstrates an economic redistributive ethos to make sure the community is taken care of (Acts 2:44-45).

Generating a faithful theological take on COVID19 and our economic response

Turning towards these times we find ourselves in, it is true that our secular nation cannot be equated with ancient Israel, and thus we do not have a type of ancient theocratic mandate to implement this jubilee economic reality in the same manner that they did. That said, one could argue that part of the role of the church is to advocate and seek the common good, especially for the poor, and that we do so in recognising that Jesus is Lord of all creation- including the Powers.15 Psalm 2:10-11 reminds is that part of the vision of the Psalms would be that the nations would learn wisdom from the Messiah- so perhaps part of our vocation then can be showing the nations the jubilee economic wisdom that seeks the common good. Debate can rage on about how we do this and what this looks like in exact detail- however I am nonetheless haunted by the fact that Israel was commanded to have a type of social safety net. Taking that economic reality seriously in our context could mean taking seriously the need for there to be a social safety net in our times in order to make sure gross economic inequity does not remain the norm.

Whilst some readers of this paper might contend that seeking a safety net is merely a socialist agenda, it is perhaps worth to noting two things. Firstly, such thinking puts the political cart before the theological horse, as people get too caught up in games of political ideological purity over the wellbeing of real people. Yes, we can have a lively and legitimate debate as to how to enact this well politically, and both sides of the spectrum can have that debate. Yet, if scripture calls for seeking the wellbeing of the poor, then we have to reckon with this- to simply deny such a political debate because any such mumblings of economic concern raises ideological alarm bells for some means that we are missing the deeper politics at work in our faith, namely the politics of Jesus. Secondly, it is worth noting that a number of conservative economists believe in some sort of universal safety net because- within their economic philosophy- such a safety net will actually free people up to not give so much energy to survival, but energy into a type of economic and innovative empowerment.16 Therefore, the case can be made that this is not some sort of partisan for partisan sake economic case- rather, this is about seeking how to integrate jubilee into the here and now as part of the economic dimension to the Kingdom of God.


Whatever the more precise policies details look like, we are faced with the daunting question: are we going to be among the nations who forget about the Christ who is revealed amongst “the least of these” (Matt 25:32-46)? The Kingdom of God is, economically speaking, the Jubilee Kingdom, and demands of us a compassionate coronavirus response for such a time as this. We are to face the reality of Luke 4:17-21, whether we find it convenient or not. Yet- if Jesus is Lord of all- we too cannot escape the economic questions of our communities and our own personal budgets. As communities and as individuals, COVID19 has revealed to us the deeper virus of malevolent capitalism. So how might we go forward in these times in exorcising the presence of this malevolent invisible hand of the market? These questions too we must face. Whatever it may be, what can be said of these times is that we all deep down long for a better world- and what better world can there be other than one ruled by the servant King Jesus, who brings a servant-shaped Kingdom.


Gordon, Noah. “The Conservative Case for a Guaranteed Basic Income” The Atlantic, 06 August 2014,

Om, Jason. “JobSeeker made them ‘feel human again’, but now the payment is winding down” ABC News, 26 September 2020,

Vanhoozer , Kevin. “Improvising Theology according to the Scriptures: An Evangelical Account of the Development of Doctrine” in Building on the Foundations of Evangelical Theology, ed. Gregg R. Allison and Stephen J. Wellum, 15-50. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2015.

Woodley, Randy. Shalom and the Community of Creation. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing, 2012.

Wright, N.T. “Cross and kingdom: Putting the Christian story together again”. ABC Religion and Ethics, 16 April 2019,

Wright, N.T. Surprised by Scripture. London, United Kingdom: SPCK, 2014.

Wright, N.T. Surprised by Hope. New York, New York: Harper Collins, 2007.

Wright, N.T. “The New Testament Doesn’t Say What Most People Think It Does About Heaven”. Time, 16 December 2019,

Wright, Tom. Simply Jesus. London, United Kingdom: SPCK, 2006.

Have Yourself a Very Cosmic Christmas

John 1:1-14

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.  6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.  10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.  14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

I have to admit it, I am an absolute sucker for Christmas. Just the other week, I brought a cheesy Christmas jumper, me and my family over-decorated the Christmas tree, and we listened to Christmas carols- both great and terrible- on repeat, eating and drinking to the point that we had to loosen our belts. It is by far my favourite time of year. And I know I am not alone. I too have seen the photos and videos on social media showing that we, generally speaking, enjoy the holiday season. And when you look at these photos and videos you notice that there is a heightened sense of joy, a heightened sense of connection. And this tells me that there really is more meaning in the air during this time of year- a sense of connection around this time of year, a sense of good will to all people, that life, that joy, that things really matter. Have you ever noticed that it doesn’t matter what you believe about the significance of this holiday- that people still long for connection, for good vibes, for nothing less than meaning itself? Even for those who struggle around Christmas time, the absence of the connection feels stronger because of the heightened sense of meaning all around us. So needless to say, around Christmas- whether for richer or poorer- the atmosphere becomes potent with a longing for meaning amongst nearly all people. It is this near universal longing for meaning, especially around Christmas, that we can turn to Johns gospel in chapter 1, what I call the cosmic origin story of meaning.

When it comes to speaking about Jesus’ origins, I picture the four writers of Jesus’ life- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John- sitting around talking about Jesus’ origins story, along with an eager listening audience. Mark starts the conversation saying, “Well in my origin story of Jesus, I start with a bang! An all grown up Jesus, lock and loaded, coming straight outta the waters of being ceremonial washed in the Jordan river. Jesus origins begin with his revolution kicking into gear with God affirming Jesus’ identity as God’s main man, and then Jesus going around and doing his revolutionary actions that reveal what it looks like for God to take charge of the world- that’s my origin story!”. Matthew and Luke then pike up and say to Mark “Oh that’s nothing! We go right back to the very birth of Jesus, and when we tell the origin story of Jesus, we show people through his birth that He is the long-awaited ruler of the world, and that his rulership will bring peace to the whole world- that’s how we start it. You Mark start with the beginning of the revolution when he is an adult, we show the birth of Jesus starts it then”. And then there’s John, just waiting, as the other three tell their origin stories of Jesus. He turns to someone and says “Hold my beer”, and then tell his grand origin story. “You think that’s good” John says, “How about this? In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth”. There is silence before the awe of this cosmic origin story. A story that goes back to before time itself, a story that links Jesus with God as Creator, as the very one who- as depicted in the creation story found in Genesis- created all things. John’s origin story doesn’t just launch with Jesus’ public career, it doesn’t just start with Jesus’ birth, rather, John’s origin story makes a bold claim. Jesus has been with God for all eternity, and Jesus is also God, and this God, this Jesus, is the one who created everything and who has now taken on human flesh. He has come to make his home amongst us in order to birth something new like he had done in the beginning- a world made new through what he came to do. And when we see Him, we see the full weight of who God is, and what God has always been like. We see Jesus, the one full of grace and truth. I can imagine John being like “You think Jesus is a big deal in how he starts his ministry, or in his birth. Great stuff, however, Jesus is a bigger deal then even that. In fact, he has been a big deal for literally forever. He is “the deal” itself. He is the person that the world has been trying to fully articulate- yet not fully grasping- when they say that there is a force, a spark, an engine, a mover & shaker behind the whole cosmos. Jesus is that that people have been trying to get at all along. Jesus is God, the ground of all Being. The Great I AM”.  

After saying this, John winks and nudges the Jewish people around Him through his choice of words. Jesus, John says, is “The Word”. When the Jewish people heard John call Jesus “the Word” they would of thought of the very Jewish concept of how God makes the world through his Word.  “The Word” in the Jewish sense, was God’s way of making or shaking things up. So when we say “I love you” to someone for the first time, it can light up someone’s world. Or when we say “You’re fired” it can rob a whole career. But in any case, something happens, something changes, a new reality is birthed when one had not previously existed. So to with the Jewish understandings of God’s “word”. So, when John chooses to call Jesus “The Word”, it was his way of saying to His Jewish audience that “God’s is creating, and He is creating through this Jesus. For Jesus is “The Word””. For this Jewish audience this would have been astounding on a cosmic level, and yet this cosmic level would have had a real-world effect in their lives. For a long time, their people were waiting for the day that God would do a shake up of their world, to renew their world. They had been under one bad empire under another, and now they are under the Roman Empire. They were longing for the promise that was made of old, that one day God will act in the world in a decisive way, to bring a new word of the Lord, that will shake things up. And not only shake things up for a time, but shake things up forever. To shake things up forever it would take a Forever event to occur. John says that it is nothing short of God himself coming into the flesh that changes the world for good and for the better. Their longings are fulfilled in the arrival of The Word made flesh. In our day and age, we look around and see the pain and the hurt of 2020. But it’s not just 2020- it’s a world where there has been so much pain, hurt, injustice, and suffering. We to can relate to the Jewish longing for a world made new. And John says that in Jesus, this has occurred. 

But in the same way the Jewish people were astounded hearing John speaking of Jesus as “The Word”, so were John’s non-Jewish audience being mind blown in their own way.  Because the concept of “The Word” also meant something to non-Jewish people listening to John tell his gospel. In the ancient world, philosophers spoke of the “Word”. For them, the “word” was about the underlying meaning behind the universe and within human people. They believed that to get in touch with this underlying principle that you would find the meaning behind all things. So, when John chooses to call Jesus “The Word”, it is also his way of saying “Your philosophers rightly believe that there is meaning behind the universe, behind the big questions of life- but the “Word” isn’t some sort of abstract principle or impersonal energy- it’s a Person, and guess what? You can get to know Him, and therefore gain the very meaning of your existence in Him”. This would of both offended and amazed people. Offended, because it is saying that their noble philosophers were on the right track but not fully there. Excited, because it is saying that which they were looking for and longing for in their philosophers has now come full circle in this Jesus. In our day and age, this same offence and excitement would likely be present. We are all looking for meaning, and especially during this time of year. Christmas shows that we are meaning making people in our prime. Maybe in the same way that that the philosophers of old were onto something, so is our culture when it comes to meaning making. We want there to be more to life, and so we have turned to certain philosophies, gurus, self-help books, and spiritual guides. John comes along, and, on one hand, affirms that- unlike those that believe that there is no real meaning to life- says “actually there is”. Yet, on the other hand, affirms that this meaning isn’t for our own making, but that actually our deepest intuitions need to have a form and a face.

At this point, we now have the whole audience asking John some questions. Everywhere from the person who doesn’t even believe in pre-existent meaning, to those who think that they can be the master of their own destiny. To those who are listening and saying “Actually, I believe we can make our own meaning without a belief in God” John might turn to us and say “Of course you can make meaning without a belief in God, because you believing in meaning is not predicated on whether or not you personally believe there is a God or not who gives meaning. However, my question is this: how long can you go on justifying that meaning is truly meaningful with intellectual integrity in a meaningless universe?”. You see, if there is no God, then all our meaning is what we make- for no one gave meaning, so logically we are only left with making it. Yet the universe came from meaninglessness, and billions of years from now everything will be gone and no one will be there to remember or observe. Now, we can still be thankful and perhaps make meaning. But John insists that meaning can be made precisely because we live in a universe that’s charged, that has baked into it, meaning in the first place. With a view of the universe that doesn’t have meaning, we are left to our own brain to make meaning, yet even the very thing we would use to create meaning- our brain- is itself a piece of meat that itself collectively emerges from a world with no meaning in it, at least from this view of a godless universe. From nothing to nothing, we can only make meaning like people using dried sand to make a sand castle in a windy world. We can do it, but really, what makes more sense of our deepest intuitions? John says “In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind”, that when God created all things, that this “word”, this “meaning” as the ancient philosophers used to say, has infused all things with meaning. If we believe that there no inherent meaning, we shouldn’t fathom a meaningless universe for too long because we wouldn’t cope, or at least if we do cope we are coping because we are ignoring the facts of our existence- but if we do that then we aren’t living with a worldview integrity or coherency. Unless we dare to change our worldview premise: maybe there is a meaning behind the universe. If we choose to change that premise, then we have to ask another question: not if there is meaning, but what is the meaning behind the universe? 

That brings us to the next question someone will ask John: “You say that this meaning is Jesus? What makes you say that?”. John would say, “Well, we have seen God in the flesh. For the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth”. Now, I am not going to give a message on how I think the gospels give us a very good enough picture of the very real Jesus they speak of, so good that we can trust these gospels as gospel, and therefore trust that this Jesus is historically real. If you’re interested in that, then there are books you can go to which will give the claim that these gospels make some street cred. So, for the sake of time and energy, let’s assume for a second that these Gospels are accurate. Do you realise the implications that has? If Jesus did the things that he did, then he shows the world that he is the God that has come to us. Why? He came as one where we can see the glory of God. In the Old Testament, glory was a way of speaking of the heavy weightiness of what God was up to. Like, we would say “Oh wow, God is here because things are happening”. Jesus comes, John says, and brings the glory of God as God himself. And with Jesus, a lot of heavy things go on. Jesus goes around healing people, rising people from the dead, and finally rising himself from the dead to never die again. This is the glory of God on display. This ain’t some dude saying that he is the glory of God, this is Jesus who shows us that He is the very glory of God through His actions. God with us. I know that sounds terribly narrow to speak about God being fully revealed in one person. I know in our culture that’s a super exclusive truth claim. But here is what ultimately has to be asked: is it true? And does it being true make it narrow for narrow sake? Or simply narrow because Jesus simply is true? I know some people will say that there are many pictures of God that are all equally accurate. I have often heard the metaphor that everybody and every religion are like blind people grabbing different parts of an elephant. Some people grab the tail only and so think that the creature they are grabbing is skinny and long, another person feels the long flat back of the elephant and think that’s what the creature is like, and another the trunk, and so on. The analogy goes that this is what God is like- that we are all blind people grabbing different parts of this one God but that no one has the correct whole picture. The problem with the metaphor is that it assumes that somebody is seeing the elephant and all the blind people grabbing the elephant- otherwise how would the metaphor be told? Another problem is that it assumes that everyone’s view of God is complimentary like the different parts of an elephant, but any philosopher of religion will easily breakdown for us that- once you start to ask the big questions of the world’s major religions, such as what’s wrong with the world, how do we fix the world, and what is the world ultimate destiny- that you start to discover divergence quite quickly. There is a lot of common ground amongst the world’s religions, yet there is also a lot of non-common ground. The truth is, we are all blind, and we can’t all be right. And yet, John insists that the Word has come, that the light has come, and that we can now behold God in the flesh. We are no longer blind, but see. Is that narrow? Or is that just simply true?  

But even if we grant John this, we are faced with another question for John. This time, it has to do with people we know who do live a life of meaning and purpose, and who don’t locate that meaning and purpose in Jesus. We say to John “I know plenty of people who have a real sense of meaning without Jesus- what do we say to that?”. Once again, we have John looking at his prologue saying “In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind”. In that verse, we discover that- if we are made by the Creator- then part of the Creator is enmeshed into our very being. And so, because we are made in God’s image, we should not be surprised that people stumble upon meaning no matter who they are. It’s in our DNA. However, like run away children, we might not have the whole picture of what our parental heritage is like until we go back to where it all begun. When speaking in Rome in Acts 17, the apostle Paul affirms that people have real meaning in their poets and philosophers, yet he then draws them further to the completion of their own meanings. Paul saw the people of Athens as like people who have reached into a foggy sky, truly stumbling upon some truth that they grab onto. Yet, without the complete picture, they gave their own interpretations and meanings to that in which they truly have grabbed. But because it’s not the whole picture, they can skew that which they grabbed but not fully known or understood. At some point, that which they grabbed can’t be interpreted forever in that way. And this is the same for us. With a cluster of different theories, interpretations of reality, and our susceptibility to misconceptions and misunderstandings, (even in the midst of perhaps some genuine meaning) we have to have John tell us not only what it is that we have stumbled upon, but what this we have stumbled upon looks like, sounds, like, and longs for, for the destiny, meaning, and direction of the human race. We can’t go on forever assuming these things, we have to have the answer come to us. And this is why Jesus as the word is so important, because John tells us that God has become grounded. We are no longer reaching our hands into a foggy sky, grabbing on genuine meaning, yet then misinterpreting what we are only feeling around in the air. Rather, the meaning we have been grasping- yet not fully grasping- is now seen. For we see and behold, God, full of grace and truth. And when this happens, we can put flesh on our longings and critique our misconceptions and misunderstandings that lead us down different paths and different ways of living, moving, and having our being. This both affirms our journey without leaving us where we are or pulling us down the interpretive rabbit hole. Like the people in Athens, God meets us in our meanings, but longs for us to follow Him to Jesus who will reveal to us the whole journey, along with everything else. There aren’t many roads to God- but God will go down any road and meet people there. Just as God did in Acts 17, and just as he did with the astrologer Magi in Matthew’s birth narrative. Matthew’s gospel is a great example, for it is astrologers studying the stars that learn of the new born King, and this God meets them in their own practice in order to take them all the way to Jesus. There are many many stories of people who have met Jesus in their own cultural, religious, and spiritual backgrounds, for God is not far from any one of us. God does not shame these backgrounds, rather, God calls us to have these backgrounds have a completed story in Jesus, and then for us to follow Jesus.  

But the final pushback might be that we really don’t need Jesus as the meaning of all things. People says “I am my own commander of my destiny- I just need myself”. But I can imagine John, looking rather perplexed, asking “And then what? How does that stop the darkness in the world?”. John then says that “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it”. It’s commendable to be held together by our own abilities, and it’s also a good thing that we do good in the world- but this doesn’t stop the darkness on a global & cosmic level. Heck, we are going to be dead one day, so the very lives we are commanding is- on a ultimate level- going to lose in the end, and we can’t stop that. John insists that Jesus is coming into the world to defeat all evil, suffering, sin, death, injustice, and all that is partnering with death. Our own abilities to have it all together can only takes us so far- but if the world will one day be filled with the love of God as the waters cover the sea, then how does this very individualistic spirituality create the cosmic victory that’s indefinite? It can’t. I am just a person, and you are just a person. We need to participate in something bigger than ourselves that will actually lead all of creation somewhere. And we need to be rightly guided by this Creator, and to be guided by this Creator isn’t just to assume our own ability to have the right direction based on our own intuitions. If someone is going to operate on me, I don’t just need intuition, I want someone who is explicitly trained and guided. In the same way, if we are going to know how the world is to be, then we need humility on our part, and instead be guided by the wise and loving creator who shows us the way to go in Jesus. Even the best self-help techniques (such as mindfulness) can only ground us- but that won’t solve the world’s problems. We can become very mindful people, but then mindfully commit evil things. It is the “Word” who shows us the life, and the life we are to live mindfully, unto a day where the Word will have the final victory that we ourselves can partner with, but cannot achieve on our own. 

And so, we ask these questions of John, and John pushes us forward to Jesus as the Word. He is the one we have been looking for all our lives. And John also says that this Word, this meaning of all life, is coming to birth new life into the world. Part of Johns opening words isn’t just that Jesus is the Word, part of Johns opening words is that this life saving word has come into the world to make all things new. Imagine that there are three different people in a forest, and that this forest suddenly captures on fire. The three people find themselves at a cross road. These three people are seeking to get out of the burning forest, and they each now find themselves at a cross road where there are two ways they can go. One says “I don’t believe there is a way out”, the other says “all roads lead to the way out”, and the third says “Actually I think there is only one way out”. Then, out comes the forest ranger from one of the pathways. Now what do you think happened next? You would think that this means they are to simply follow the ranger to safety, right? That maybe he’ll say to the one who said that there was only one way out that this person was correct and the others were wrong. Actually, the forest ranger brings a fire house, and extinguishes the fire. And instead of getting people out of the forest, he turns to them and says “Now it’s time to plant the seeds, and make this forest new again- who’s with me?”. And this is how that story ends- with an invitation to become co-labours with the ranger. My friends, this is what John is saying in his cosmic Christmas story. 

John could of simply said that- because Jesus is the only true God- that his story only affirms Jesus as correct (A bit like what we might of expected in the forest fire story- we know the path, so let’s just go down it). But- like the forest fire story ending with the forest ranger wanting to extinguish the fire, to then having people partner with him to make the forest new again- so too does John have Jesus coming into the world to make all things new again. Yes, there is only one God, yes this God is fully revealed in Jesus, yes all of history and meaning is about this God who is fully revealed in Jesus, and yes to live out the right side of history is to therefore follow this Jesus. And yet, the story isn’t “In the beginning the Word was with God and was God, and the Word stayed in heaven and got people to come to him by guessing correctly and saying to others “I told you so””. Rather, it is “In the beginning the Word was with God and was God, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. The cosmic Christmas story is that God has come among us, and that this God has come to defeat the darkness and make his home amongst us. And when God does come to us, Johns friends Matthew and Luke tell us that he comes so as a baby, in a dark mucky backwater joint, as the light of the world. And Johns mate Mark says that this baby becomes a man, and starts his ministry- that he comes healing people, cleansing people of evil spirits, feeding people- all in all showing us the new world that He is coming to birth in himself; showing us a world where he’ll be King, and all will one day be well. And Jesus calls people to follow him, and join him in his project of making all things new through Himself. And all four gospel writers- John, Matthew, Mark, and Luke- eventually tell us that Jesus, “The Word”, dies on a cross. And yet, it is in this death that Johns opening words of Jesus defeating darkness comes full circle. On the cross, Jesus defeats the darkness by taking on all the darkness of the world into Himself, and killing it in His death. We then see the victory that John alludes to when he sees Jesus rises again from the dead three days later, showing that indeed darkness does not win. Jesus took on the darkness, Jesus took on the dread, Jesus took on death- and won. We see his victory as truly true in that on the 3rd day when he rose again, birthing God’s New Creation. His death becomes the way the light destroys the darkness, how his life overcomes the powers of death, and Jesus- as the ever-making Word, the mover and shaker over reality, the meaning of life- makes a new world where the darkness will not overcome. And indeed, darkness will not overcome, for later John tell us in his final book in the Bible that, when Jesus appears again, that “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”. That Jesus will fully implement that which started on that third day, and that which continues with his church by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

As we step away from our time with John, he leaves us with an invitation. As I said at the beginning, this season we start to intuitively sense a deeper meaning to all things- from connection, to joy, to, ultimately, love. Perhaps behind these deepest longings is the longing for a world charged with the grandeur of God; with a God who is indeed full of grace and truth, who will wipe away all tears, whose light will conquer the darkness, and whose life has the final say over what often feels like a world of death. In John’s cosmic Christmas, we discover God’s dream for all creation. John makes it quite clear: anyone can come and embrace this dream by embracing their true identity as a child of God. You don’t have to have it all figured out, you don’t have to have it all together, you don’t have to dress a particular way, come from a particular family, or have a particular pedigree. Rather, you are only asked to trust- to trust that there is more to life than what’s currently on offer, to trust that their something bigger happening in the world, and that this happening and something bigger is Jesus. And as we do this together, we can become like another John that is described in these words of scripture: John the Baptist. John comes to testify to the light. And so, to in our summons in following Jesus this Christmas, may we testify to the true light, God’s true Word, and partner with God in God’s making of all things new, that we might have ourselves a very cosmic Christmas.  

A Q&A Response to Australian Christians who are unsure of what to make of Black Lives Matter

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“I see you went to the black lives matter protest and have been posting a lot of things related to racism in Australia, are you, as a Christian, supporting the push of what the Black Lives Matter movement are saying about the current state of race relations in this country?”

My response: “Yes. I think as a follower of Jesus, this movement has highlighted a problem that has been there for many years- the problem is that the legacy of the pains of dispossessing the peoples of these lands still continue to this very day. As a follower of Jesus, I feel compelled to do something about this. And I think the movement known as Black Lives Matter is bringing this to our attention in fresh ways”

So here I am, writing this response piece, to Christians who are asking questions around Black Lives Matter within Australia.  With the Black Lives Matter movement going on all throughout the world at the moment, I have had numerous conversations with different people sharing their differing responses to the movement itself- everything from overwhelming support, to supporting with qualifying nuances, to people saying “But dont all lives matter?”. Jesus said to “go into the world and make disciples” (Matt. 28:16-20); it’s important to recognise that he didn’t say to “Go and make converts” but disciples. The word basically means to “students”, and was used by Jesus to make students of Him & His Kingdom. And as students of Jesus learning the ways of the Kingdom, I believe it is an imperative to know how Christians should respond to things going on in the world in distinct Christlike ways. And so, I want people to know how to respond to this movement as disciples of Jesus.

First Things First

Now of course, you might ask why am I writing this? After all, there are resources out there already- and this is true. Yet there will be people specifically within my world that have been asking me questions- these people value my thoughts on things, and as such I want to use my platform to speak into these things. Also, I send these people resources so that they themselves learn to educate themselves in everything that’s happening. However, people still ask me how I respond to the questions raised by those who are suspicious or against the Black Lives Matter movement. So, I have decided to write this. That said, I don’t want to use this article to centre the conversation around me and how I am involved in these times. Rather I want this to be a gateway into other Christian voices speaking into these times- specifically voices of black and Indigenous Christians who have a visceral perspective on this. As such, I’ll be providing resource links for people to move beyond this written piece and into the important work that black & indigenous people of colour have been doing for many years.

So why Black Lives Matter?

My appeal towards this movements work of bringing to our attention racism in these lands (and abroad) is because I am a follower of Jesus. Now, this might shock a few readers, with responses like “But isn’t the movement a movement of the left?” or “But isn’t this movement just cultural Marxism?” or “But surely racism is a sin issue- why pin people against each other?”. Let me say right now that these are actually the type of questions I’ll be addressing, and more. In fact, this piece will be written up as a back-and-forth Q&A of the types of a responses I have heard from people of faith as it relates to the movement known as Black Lives Matter.

Sometimes people get the impression that I, and many others, are just being swept up in a movement of the ideological left- leaving behind any explicit affiliation with faith. People have spoken of the movement as “Cultural Marxism” for example. So, let’s set up the discussion for a second before launching into the questions that people have asked me and others by addressing this concern that this movement is only about being on the ideological left.

To start with, whilst the organisation known as Black Lives Matter appears to be a organisation that aligns with ideologies of the left (and does have a broader Foucault-like marxist ideology), I would say that the movement itself is not ideologically monolithic, and that it is possible to broaden ones engagement beyond questions of  “is this left or right?” but “Is this highlighting real concerns that need to be addressed?”.  Listening to the people of colour of Christian faith, I am learning that what they see of this movement is that it is doing the important task of raising our awareness of problems of systemic racism in society that have existed for millennia, and is motivating people to do the work of addressing racism in their societies.  That doesn’t mean such a movement doesn’t typically engage in left-wing politics (it certainly does), but it is uncharitable to assume that a follower of Jesus engaging with Black Lives Matter simply equates  full-fledge support of left-wing political thought & theory. If a follower of Jesus can pivot towards raising  awareness to systemic racism and calling people to mobilise for change, then this doesn’t have to be beholden to any particular political ideology. For thousands of years, before this modern movement existed, we have been commanded to heed the call of loving our neighbour- with particular emphasis on the wellbeing of those mistreated in society (In fact, one conservative estimate says there is about 3500 verses related to how we treat people in society who are having it tough, so this is not small thing). And such, a movement that brings awareness to the plight of our fellow human beings is not something to lightly dismiss. Now, I know some people might say “But there isn’t a problem” or “But we need to go about addressing racism in different ways” or “the language of ‘systemic’ is language that’s political”– let me say that we will be exploring these push backs later on. But give me the benefit for the doubt for a moment: suppose there is a problem in our society as it relates to people of colour more broadly, and our First Nations people more specifically, then seeking to love our neighbour will include wanting to address the things both in our hearts and society that holds back our neighbours from being the people God has made them to be.

But for those who are still concerned about this movement, firstly this article will be addressing those questions, but secondly let me just say for the record that there are parts of this very broad movement that that do have Christian undercurrents. For example, In Perth, at the protests, I heard from the stage Noongar elder Uncle Ben Taylor (who regularly speaks at Churches)- and this had set the spiritual undercurrent of the protest to the point that even those at the rally who don’t identify as Christian could sense that there was something special going on. And I would call that something special as the sacred, of being swept up in something larger than ourselves. Now of course that doesn’t mean every response coming out of the pain of deaths of people of colour (or racism more broadly) is of course Christlike, but should that downplay that which can have a deeply spiritual undercurrent? Now of course, the movement is diverse- and as such there will be different rhetoric, ideology, and practices within the movement itself that as a follower of Jesus I can’t get behind. For example, I was at a protest where there was a small minority of signs that incited murder against police officers. That would be an example of something I have seen at a protest that I cannot faithfully endorse as a follower of the nonviolent revolutionary messiah called Jesus- but the answer to that is to simply not be part of that specific part & approach to the otherwise diverse movement.  It doesn’t always have to be about the ideologies around you, but it can and must be about the proximity to peoples pain that shapes us in such ways that we don’t simply sit on the side-lines and remain silent and pretend everything is okay. As I have heard one Christian leader say in the past, “We can get so caught up in ideological purity then ending the suffering of others”. All that said, I want to go beyond political games of left vs right, and draw people into the only politics that challenge all, namely the politics of The King, that is, King Jesus1.

One last thing…

Now, before I formally begin on some of the questions people are raising, I want to say one final thing. I am also writing this as someone who wants to build bridges in having fellow followers of Jesus who would otherwise be part of the journey of seeing black lives matter, but only if they saw the connection in their faith. As such, I am writing with this audience in mind. So I will not be attacking followers of Jesus who aren’t at Black Lives Matter protests. That’s just not my jam. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be saying anything at all- as this piece will indeed be addressing doing the work of being one who pushes against the evils of racism. The truth of the matter is, I didn’t always say “Black Lives Matter”- but I do now. And it was because I did the reading and because people took the time to educate me. I needed to hear the stories of pain, anger, and hope, and read the theology and the stats- and the people who educated me on this journey were both kind and straight forward with the unsettling truths. And so, I ask myself “How would I want to speak to 2015 Nathan? Would I berate that kid? Or would I just give him niceties and not name whats going on in this world of racism?  Or would I come alongside him and journey with him with grace and unsettling truth?. I hope I would come alongside him with grace and the unsettling truths. I would come alongside him with the stories of pain, anger, and hope, and offer theological resources with such pain, anger, and hope. I am reminded of Jesus hanging from the cross and saying “father forgive them, they just dont know what they are doing”. In the same way, we honestly don’t know sometimes until we know, and yet in our not knowing we can crucify people unknowingly. Using “Father forgive them, they just dont know” as the paradigm of approaching this saves us from both, on one hand, the stoicism that seeks to approach this topic in the abstract ways, and, on the other hand, approaches this topic with a type of harshness that shames without setting us free. “father forgive them, they just know what they are doing” both faces the harsh realities of our crucifying beliefs, yet has our most merciful saviour offering us forgiveness in the process and bringing to us new ways of life as we turn from the old and towards the new.

So now, let’s start to address some of the questions people are asking:

The questions…..


1. “Do you really think there is a problem in Australia in the same way it’s spoken about in the rallies?

The short answer is yes. In Australia, the plight of how we treat our Aboriginal & Torres Strait brothers & sisters is shocking.

There have been 432 deaths in custody in Australia alone since 1990 with no legal convictions at all.  One recent whistle-blower news report says that senior members of WA Police – routinely referred to Aboriginals as “the lowest race on earth”, as “animals”, and as “cockroaches1. That there was constant bad mouthing about Aboriginals with no repercussions for anything racist said about Aboriginals. The Guardian reported in 2018 that “Almost 30 years after the royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody, only two-thirds of its recommendations have been fully implemented, and the rate of Indigenous incarceration has doubled2

Social Reinvestment WA says that “Aboriginal & Torres Strait islander are 3% of the population but 38% of Australia prison population in Western Australia. This the highest Incarceration rate in the world. Compared to other Australians they are 10 times more likely to have children taken into care, 2.1 times more likely to have poor health, 1.3 times for likely to experience mental health issues, 2 times for likely to suicide, & young people are 5 times more likely, earning $300 less a week, experiencing 30% more unemployment, 22% less likely to finish year 12, and living 13.4 years less than the average for men in Western Australia.3

In the last few weeks since this was written, an ancient sacred site was destroyed by Rio Tinto which brought about public outcry (Imagine if we found coal underneath the Opera house? Would we be willing to blow up that?). And this is nothing new.

Also, our constitution still doesn’t recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in their constitution, and we are still one of the only the only commonwealth country to lack an Indigenous treaty. For many many years, Indigenous leaders have been campaigning for changes to make a more just society, and yet over and over again their plight is ignored. This is just a handful of injustices. So, does Australia have a problem with how we treat our First Nations people? The short answer is: Yes.

But even with all this considered above, this all exists sits within a much larger problem. Historically, Europeans came into these lands over 230 years ago. Over the course of time, the population of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has decreased by 90%. This decrease in population is linked to the introduction of disease, and also systematic killings of particular First Nation people groups, as well as indiscriminate imprisonment. In their lands, those from overseas renamed everything as if it didn’t have names, continued the European settling project by going into lands that weren’t there’s and digging it up & building around it within their own worldview of domineering a land that was considered by the First Nations people as sacred (and in doing so displaced entire people groups), built statues that honoured people in a positive light despite the fact that a lot of these early ‘pioneers’ had a history of looking down and dismantling the already present peoples world, we flew a flag as if these were now lands of the people who came across from overseas (now claiming themselves as dominant culture), the implicit assumption that the western way of life was in the populations imagination of the peoples settling into these lands, and the history books were written in ways that significantly downplayed the effects of people from overseas coming to these lands. Ways of life emerged in the now dominant culture, and these ways of life centred on the people who had come to settle in these lands- such ways of life had the implicit belief that only if the First Nations people succumb to the western solutions that all would benefit (Because apparently it’s somehow all correct). All of this soaked into this now new dominant western society, and we have continued drinking the cool aid to this very day. The solution that we “just move on from our past” fails to take into account how the legacy of these lands being colonised has set up a way a society runs that still hasn’t been challenged to its core. Now someone might say “But things have changed! We have even made changes such as giving the Aboriginal people the right to vote”, yes, but the destiny of these lands is still in the hands of those who are the descendants of those who have come here, rather than re-centred onto the peoples who know how to live in their home of 60,000 years. Think about it: who decided that the First Nations people could vote? The Australian government. Which implies what? That they are the ones in charge now, and they set the status quo of how the peoples- whose home it is- will be treated. Despite the fact that these lands were not a free-for-all, we still believe that we are the ones who get to decide how things are run, how things are named, how the history is taught, what all the solutions are, over against people who know what it is to live here for 60,000 years in flourishment and who also never gave these lands over to the people coming here in the first place. We invite First Nations people to the table, yet don’t fess up and say that the table isn’t ours to start with. And that is the core problem. We are still soaked in a story of colonisation that subtlety guides how we go about the future of these lands. So instead of surrendering, we say “Well, that how history has played out, and we can’t change it now, we just have to move forward and get over it”. But to say “Let’s move forward” without the dominant culture re-centreing this movement forward unto the original inhabitants of this land, without the table being theirs, is all a slap in the face. A true movement forward would be to implement change that re-centres the First Nations people as the people who can lead the way of their home. Because to not do this would be to continue to carry the legacy of on-going colonisation that still harms to this very day. This is the much larger task of decolonisation.

Now, people freak out and assume that this means that when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people take their rightful place as the custodians of these lands in practice that they will kick anyone who isn’t them out, or seek revenge, or that peoples who are not Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander can now not have a say. But to think this assumes that our First Nations people are not ones to show hospitality, or care for those to whom they will let stay in their home, or would simply implement some sort of systemic revenge. Quite the contrary, there is a hospitality in our First Nations peoples. When Aboriginal and Torres Strait people talk about sovereignty, it’s not in the western way. The western way wants to take over and stomp out the current peoples & land, whereas a First Nation understanding of sovereignty is about leading the way in seeking the interconnectedness between all people and the land that we reside on. Far be it that this is about a ‘take back take over’ the way we understand it, the First Nations people are speaking of a different type of leading. Speaking specifically on the concern that we would be somehow kicked out- the problem isn’t so much that people have come to these lands, the problem is that these lands have been unfairly occupied by people who broke into these lands like a thief breaking into someone homes. Breaking into someone’s home and just changing everything, and then saying to the inhabitants of the home “Okay, we are going to decide how things go now, but hey, we’ll let you have a say of course- but only if we approve, only if we stay on top”. This cannot be. “From one man, he created the nations of the whole earth, he decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries” Paul says in Acts 175. There was a determining of boundaries, yet that doesn’t mean people wouldn’t travel and live in other lands (There is a clear biblical precedent across both the Hebrew and Christian scripture to look after the refugee in your land), but it would be done as a posture of hospitality from the custodians of these lands, rather than brute takeover from European settlers. The point wouldn’t be to go backwards to a time where people from other nations aren’t here- in his book Shalom and the Community of God, Indigenous theologian Randy Woodley says it like this “While I am not saying that we should all live in the past, that is, to say we should live in another time, I am saying that we should not live as if the past has no bearing or reference to the here and now”.  So, it would be that our First Nations people to be the ones who inform- out of their destiny as those placed in these lands by the Creator- what it means to now have many peoples in these lands. As Indigenous Christian leader Brooke Prentis herself has said, that this model of moving forward would be out of a place of friendship. And such friendship & welcome would be modelled after the First Nations people as our guide as the custodians of these lands. Yet once the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander rightful place has been restored, we should expect that these lands to have a make-over. Like any newly established friendship that once had animosity, if there has been hurt then there will have to be confession, there will have to be tears & truth telling, and there will have to be concrete change (and yes there would be collaboration to what this looks like, as long as this collaboration happens still with the ‘house’ being reinstated as their home). Things might not be the same, but things will be better for all people.

The problems that are happening today are just the symptoms of the much deeper disease of assuming that an attitude of Europeans settlement should still be dominant- despite the fact that these lands were never succeeded in the first place. Things like the demands of the Uluru statement- if put into place- would be like a good doctors scalpel that starts to remove the practices perpetuated by the legacy of colonisation that are still dominant to this very day. The legacy of such a colonisation took children away from their family, legacy of such a colonisation set up a government here and then told the First Nations people that they couldn’t be included, the legacy of such a colonisation has had stolen wages, the legacy of such a colonisation goes into lands and blows up sacred sites because we want to mine, the legacy of such a colonisation can’t even give a detailed & disturbing history told as part of the non-negotiable & mandated standard of education, the legacy of such a colonisation blames Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people for their incarceration rates- (t we won’t admit that we have caused collective trauma that has of course led to this), the legacy of such a colonisation wants to solve things- but do so whilst still being in charge of these stolen lands. As you can see, we have serious problems in these lands, and we need to cast out the spirit that harms and hurts.

2. So, whats actually the concrete goal of the black lives matter movement in Australia?”

Before we get to the concrete goals, let me start by saying that, as a follower of Jesus, the ultimate goal, the ultimate dream if you like, is a world that is ruled by the love of God as revealed in the person of Jesus. The end of the book of Revelation ends with what’s called a new heaven and a new earth (Or as some scholars would say is new creation) and this is basically a world that has been washed anew by Jesus. Now, this future world will have “many tribes, nations and tongues” (Rev. 7:9), meaning that neighbourly love of many cultures is part of God’s new world. The implication is that racism will no longer exist.

That then trickles down into the question: “how do we address racism in the world?”. Anything that doesn’t recognise the image of God in the other- whether it be a system, a worldview, a politics, or a human heart- has to be repented of (repentance means change, not just confession). And just to be clear: this repentance isn’t about creating black versus white, but rather everyone verses racism. Racism is that global zeitgeist that has affected us all, and we all need to be exorcised of it. So, this repentance isn’t about attacking people for being white, but rather dismantling the legacy of cultures effected by this zeitgeist of racism. In particular to this, I am thinking about the zeitgeists work that has generated the belief in the constant expansion of empires at the expense of other cultures- or what we call colonisation.

In Australia, colonisation disposed an entire culture. This has of course worked itself into Australian society, so much so that its effect has caused so much pain for our First Nations people. So, this makes the goal of racism being addressed in Australia even more particular: we must seek to have a society where- anything birthed out of colonisation and that doesn’t bring flourishment for all people- must be dismantled.

Now, that itself gets more specific when you see the concrete goals that are wanting to be addressed in the Black Lives Matter movement in Australia. As I have said, the movement is ideologically diverse. However, there is some brand consensus on certain goals, such as

-Law reform, which would look like implementing all the recommendations of the Royal Commission into deaths in custody

-Truth telling, to understand our shared history & combat racism, in every school, workplace, and household.

-Seek aboriginal community led solutions to social issues, such as the displacement of children

-And of course, sovereignty for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which is enshrined in the much more broader goal of the Uluru statement from the heart, which reads:

“We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country. We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution. Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination. We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history”.

Now, how that breaks down and trickles down further and further is beyond my expertise, but the goals are stated. Ultimately though, this is about God’s future breaking into the present, and that will include dismantling  the ongoing effects of colonisation, and having a world where all people (black, white, and many peoples) walking together- seeing our differences, yet walking together.

3. “But surely this is a sin problem, not a skin problem? Surely the way we deal with this is that way? Not getting involved in Black Lives Matter?

The thing is, is that there is a sin issue- but this sin issue is not less than my heart, but it certainly is more than just my heart. Often this is said as a way of minimising seeking reform in society that deals with laws & practices constructed out of a place of implicit and explicit racism. I want to say racism is sin- and dealing with sin is of course a matter of the heart, but that in no way means we don’t want to seek reform that also deals with the sins of unjust systems. Laws can curb & restrain the heart from acting on unjust impulses. Martin Luther King Jr says “Laws wont make people like me, but laws will keep people from nudging me“.

There is also a large biblical precedent of systems being sinful that needed reform. For example, Jesus turning over the tables at the temple was a way of overturning the religious economic structures of the temple6. Or the Hebrew people having economic jubilee laws in place that were good & holy safety nets, and in place precisely because peoples could be sinful and not look after their poor neighbour that therefore meant that the Hebrew people needed laws that would make such safety nets happen regardless of how they felt. Did the people at the temples heart change when Jesus overturned tables? Maybe, maybe not. But, the dismantling of the unjust structures was an overturning of the larger sins in society. If Jesus is Lord of all creation (and not just Lord of individual lives- though no less than that of course) then should we should not be surprised to find that Jesus would seek the repentance and reform of the systems that we prop up? Jesus bypasses the temple elite and goes to overthrow the temple- and we don’t batter an eyelid over this. Yet when we go after legislation in the here & now, all of a sudden, we only talk about the heart. We need both change of hearts and change of laws7. It is true that without heart change, law would still easily be broken. However, the impulses are curbed precisely because there are now more human laws, and it might actually save a life.

Laws will also set people up to live more whole lives. For example, if there was reform around unjust prosecution, then perhaps a person of colour unjustly convicted for a crime wouldn’t go to prison, and thus potentially lives are saved. Or if we implemented all the demands of the Uluru statement from the heart then we’ll have a voice in parliament that can gives us much needed additional perspectives. Not to mention that- if we didn’t have changed laws in the past- we wouldn’t even have Aboriginal people voting. Are we saying that we shouldn’t of changed that? I trust that we are not saying that, and as such I trust that we would want further change now.

All of this is to say, that seeking to “turn over the tables” in our society will take a systemic change. And because it will take systemic change, we need to engage these changes the very way Jesus engaged them: by actually doing concrete action that overturns the tables. Protests disturb and highlight how bad things really are like a Jesus turning over the tables. Uncomfortable conversations between family & friends overturn the tables in our thinking. Mass letting writing to MP’s turns over the tables by making it clear our demands. These are the ways we turn over the tables, and the movement that is happening around us is the communal momentum to do exactly this.

4. “Still though- I can’t help but think that Jesus didn’t talk about current affairs of his day. His concern was with getting people saved. Surely we are getting distracted by Jesus’ real mission and concern”

The underlying assumption here is that the good news of Jesus is about going somewhere else when you die. This almost needs a whole post of its own8, but let me just say this: the gospel is about the Kingdom of God coming on Earth as it is in heaven- and not just for a little while either so that way we get swooped up to go somewhere else later. Rather, the Kingdom of God is coming here, and will be here permanently. Our home isn’t going somewhere else, our home is this world one day being fully restored by Jesus. And if this is the endgame, if this is where all things are heading, then this changes how we are to engage in our world. If our endgame of the gospel is about “going to heaven” instead of  “heaven coming to Earth” then- whilst it doesn’t automatically mean you don’t care about things happening in this world- it does have the theological infrastructure to cause exactly that, because “why would I care about what’s going on around me when my real mission of eternal importance is getting people saved to go to heaven?”. See what happens there? But if it’s all about heaven coming to Earth, then to be heavenly minded is to be of all Earthly good. This is why anything that doesn’t align with God’s future for this world is a gospel issue, because the gospel isn’t about going somewhere else but that somewhere else coming here.

So, when Jesus went around feeding people, he wasn’t just doing that to show that he could do fancy miracles, but to show the world what it looks like when his Kingdom reigns on Earth as it is in heaven. Why? Because this was precisely the world Jesus was, is, and will one day make. So, when people want to seek the rule & reign of God in a particular area, we have to ask, “what would it look like if Jesus was king here?”. Of course, it would include individuals’ lives being changed by God, but it will also include communities, structures, and systems needing to change to match Jesus’ will of what it would look like if he was in charge. And so, in light of black lives matter, we have to ask ourselves this question: what does it look like when Jesus is king of the area of how people with different skin colour and cultures treat each other? It might look like many things, but it certainly looks like black lives mattering.

Now, if this is the more holistic gospel, and the more hopeful future, then making disciples doesn’t mean making converts, but making people to be the type of people who seek Jesus’ kingdom in all manners of life- the personal, communal, social, political.  And, in particular, it makes sense to ask, “How do we love our neighbours of colour?”.

And on the belief that Jesus didn’t engage issues of his day. Well once again, if Jesus is King, then his very presence is a direct affront to the issues of his day. Ultimately, it was a direct affront to both the Roman and religious leaders of his day, and that trickled down in many ways. I have already mentioned the turning over of tables in the temple- and that act was a direct confrontation with the very real social issue of religiously temple-controlled money lending. Jesus healing people was a dismantling of the social order, as it benefitted those in power to have people who were disempowered on the streets. Even Jesus’ calling of his disciples to “fish for people” was a discreet way of challenging the Roman state-controlled fishing industry9. Because Jesus is King, anything that challenges that will be challenged. And as it relates in the here & now to the plight of Indigenous peoples in Australia, if Creator God placed these people in these lands as the custodians of these lands, then to not honour that is a direct affront to the plans of the Creator10. So then, in the here and now, addressing the wider issue of racism, and the specific issue of australian Indigenous rights is part of the world of integral discipleship in the context of these lands now called australia.

5. “Well, thats all good, but certainly the world wont be fully healed until Jesus returns- so it all seems a bit much to even try to address these things

To that I want to say that, yes, of course the world won’t be fully healed till Jesus returns, but Jesus coming into the world and saying, “The Kingdom of God is at hand” tells us that his Kingdom rule has started already right now. When the apostle Paul wrote his great letter to the church of Corinth, and in (what we label) the 15th chapter he gives a detailed account of God’s future healing for the world, and he ends that letter by saying what? Does he say, “Since Gods going to sort it all out, sit back, relax, and do nothing”? No, Paul says “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain”. It works like this: because God’s future of the world is a world fully healed, we therefore live into that future in the here & now by the power of the Holy Spirit, in anticipation for that future world becoming one day fully true. So, with caring about our black brothers & sisters, we seek God’s healing justice now because it will have the final say in the future. Just look at Martin Luther King Jr in how his vision of the future world actually empowered people to fight for that future in the here & now. The future doesn’t make us passive towards injustice, but passionate towards seeking Jesus-shaped justice.

6. “But I know people who arent black who have it tough too”

Love of neighbour demands a unique response to wherever neighbourly love is not being shown in its particular way for that particular person. This works on both an individual level and also a level of people groups. In my role as a counsellor, when I navigate the contours of how the person before me is not being loved, I want to listen in order to know what the unique contours of how that particular person might need be loved. Likewise, when we navigate the contours of how a people group before us are not being loved, we ought to listen to know what the unique contours of how a particular people group might need be loved. Now, within the whole, there will then be individuals as well within the whole where this collective group love also needs to be outworked uniquely for that particular person.

So, with that as the primer, when it comes to this question, I want to say that of course there are people who have it tough who aren’t a person of colour. They might be part of a group of people who- for whatever reasons- are themselves part of a whole who are having it tough due to other systemic realities. For example, people in poverty could be a whole group on their own (And there can be cross overs in groups). And of course, the individual doesn’t need to be lost- for example someone could be upper class, have a great life, and then go through a terrible personal tragedy (such as a family member dying) and will need love and compassion. And as a Christian- who is called to love their neighbours each particularly- I must seek the contours of love no matter who is before me. Jesus loved all, yet he loved all differently. Heck, Jesus even loved the Pharisees (but their particular need of love was that they needed tough love to shock jock them out of their own self-inflicted soul crushing hypocrisy that failed to prioritise their own Jewish peoples hurt and pain to their own demise (they are becoming less human as they treat others as less human) and others demise).

However, does the fact that some people who aren’t a person of colour having it tough negate those who are of colour having it tough? These are just other peoples to be loved- no need to put the sharing of love for different people groups against each other as if there is somehow a scarcity of love to go around.

But since we talking about Black Lives Matter, can I repeat something I have heard many others say? That whilst people can have it tough, I nonetheless, in my Australian context, have never had my white skin colour as a factor in my plight being harder. Now there are places in the world where my skin colour might be a factor- but not in these times and places I find myself in, and certainly not in the context of the colonised world that defaults to white populations of European. This is just another reason that, yes, anyone can have it tough- and the contours of love must be sought for that person- but skin colour is not a factor in this for those in European and colonised contexts.

7. “Even if all of this is true, I still can’t help but think that all lives matter. Don’t all lives matter? Why make these distinctions?”

The thing is, this is theological correct. Yes, all lives matter, being that God has made us means that we are sacred. So, the theology behind “All lives matter” is of course, in a sense, correct. However, the rhetoric is often employed to downplay the emphasis on black lives out of a misunderstanding on how we are to love our neighbours. The phrase itself emerged as a response to black lives matter, and the people spouting the rhetoric didn’t name injustice towards people of colour- rather it appeared as if it was rhetoric with intended purpose of downplaying the need to take racism in our modern context seriously.

Now, we often think of universal love for all means that we never name the particular. However, when Jesus says that he goes after the one lost sheep we have particularity of the one within the universal love of the 99. Now, of course the parable talks about people who have strayed and not colour precisely, but to miss the broader scriptural principal of our Lord’s willingness to be particular is all throughout scripture.  Christian author and social activist Dave Andrews says it like this, that “God loves everyone equally, but he loves those who get left out especially“. Throughout the gospels, we see Jesus’ love for all, but such love doesn’t get so watered down that it doesn’t look different for others or emphasises particular groups who are especially affected in the society. In fact, that’s exactly how he does the loving. As Christians, I don’t think we can really take the dismissive  “all lives matter” response seriously since Jesus made it so clear that when someone has been downtrodden, we need to step in and ensure their safety. Think of the woman about to be stoned- Jesus went in and stood up for her because her life mattered and was at stake at that moment. Yes, we need to be compassionate and value all lives, and the way we do that is by helping those lives that are being treated unjustly, which are- in this particular case- black lives.

A helpful analogy I read today was that if someone says “save the rainforest” we don’t respond by saying “actually, save all forests“, because, just because we need to save the rainforest doesn’t mean other forests have no value, but rather that it’s just one needs our focus right now because the situation has gotten out of hand. So likewise, when people say “all lives matter” the right response is to say that, of course all lives matter, however black lives are being treated as expendable by the police and the government which is why we need to amplify the plight of those whose lives are being treated as if they don’t matter by saying “black lives matter“. All lives will truly matter in practice when black lives matter in practice too. As such, “Black Lives matter” is also a theologically true statement.

8. “I think, theologically, I cant help but think this movement pins oppressors on one side and the oppressed on the other? That sounds very Marxist to me. Surely, we are all sinners? Why make the distinctions that this movement is making?

I get the theological reasoning. After all, “we have all fallen short from the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). But I think we need a more robust theology of sin that doesn’t take a single verse, blow it up as our see-through balloon, and then view everything through this blown out of proportion verse. Yes, universal sinfulness is true. But what does it exactly mean?

Sin is to “miss the mark”, and I am with scholars who say that it is to miss the mark of who we were created to be. According to Genesis 2, we are created “In God’s Image and likeness” and marked out with the calling of looking after this world. This world includes the creation, others, and myself, and of course all of this is done under the wise, loving and relationship centred rule of God. To sin then is to “miss the mark” of being the human beings we were created to be. Humanity turning away from God’s wise & loving rule is turning away from our calling, our vocation, of being the people God has made us to be- and precisely because we fail to live up to our calling, our vocation, that things start to unravel. Shalom, the wholeness, the interconnectedness of our relationship to God, each other, ourselves, and creation, begins to unravel like a tight tapestry’s thread being cut. Sin is the hot universal mess that we are all deeply in. It is in that sense that we have all fallen short “of the glory of God”. It’s not rule breaking, but the unravelling of the relationship God has made between all things11. It’s not purely in an individual way that we have fallen short, but rather we as a human race have collectively fallen short. That doesn’t mean we don’t all fall short individually as well (we most certainly do), but we have all fallen short individually within the collective mess of universal human sinfulness, of the unravelling.

Such failure to be the people we were created to be towards each other means that we don’t love each other. And what do you think happens when such failure to love multiples itself overtime? It evolves, and it evolves into messy systems that sinfully benefit & profits others against the other. And when that happens enough, it becomes the norm. In scripture, the Hebrew words for righteousness and justice emerge, and these words had a social dimension that was about peoples and groups of people who weren’t being treated equally; in fact, the very imagery baked into these words is like that of scales not being weighed equally12. And as for people who benefit from others not having enough, of not being loved, of not being cared for, what happens is you are going to have those who are under the boot of those who are not doing the giving, the caring, the loving. Does this mean we aren’t all in the hot mess of universal sin? Of course not. Does it mean that people who are under the boot don’t sin? Of course not. But it does mean that- within universal sinfulness- a spectrum of oppressed and oppressor does emerge. And that’s found all throughout scripture. Just think of the psalms who categorically speak of people as either seeking righteousness (justice) or unrighteousness (injustice). Or just think of the key Jewish story of Exodus- which is a story of liberation of oppressed people against the backdrop of being oppressed. Or Jesus himself who- though he loved all- had a particular focus of lifting up those who were brought down by society, and whose gospel proclamation in Luke 4 spoke directly about oppressed people groups. So, as you can see, a more robust theology of sin accounts for oppression. Once again, it doesn’t mean oppressed people can do no wrong (everyone sins)- but it does mean that oppression as a theological truth is as clear as day in scripture.

But whilst we are on the topic of sin, let us make a healthy distinction of what it means to be a Christian in the days of the BLM movement. Because whilst universal sinfulness has been flattened out in ways that ignore oppression, I will say that yes, I have seen personal sin flattened out to some extent as well by those who are allies in BLM. Let me explain what I mean by this by giving a parable Jesus gave. “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: `God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’  “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, `God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’  “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”. Sometimes those who are allies of the movement can almost look to those who haven’t come to a protest or said anything and go “God, I thank you that I am not like those people…” rather than have the humility to recognise the racism in their own eyes first.  This is where I would be distinct and part ways of people who play moral (self)righteousness games of being more woke then the person next to them. But followers of Jesus should instead say “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner”, pray the Lord’s prayer as an act of confession and forgiveness, and see that they themselves are sinners in need of mercy and God’s healing love. Because it’s easy to be theological woke and say to others “How dare you discriminate” but it’s much harder to turn to my own heart and say, “God where do I discriminate“. This doesn’t mean a Christian can’t call out injustice, but we call out injustice in ways that don’t suppose a woke moral perfection.

Finally, when it comes to the categories of oppressor and oppressed in Christian faith, we need to understand that this isn’t social Marxism (as I have heard others say it) if the end goal isn’t annihilation of the oppressing group, but rather the dismantling of oppression as a reality in its own right. Yes, such oppression is manifested in humans, politics, and structures- but Jesus insists that the way we destroy these things isn’t by killing the people who are oppressing in these politics & structures, but rather setting them free from their oppressive work through dismantling the politics & structures and reconstructing better politics and structures in its wake. The insistence to love our enemy can’t mean killing our enemy, but it also doesn’t mean letting the enemy to continue do what they are doing, but rather freeing the enemy of their own oppressive work by dismantling the zeitgeist of racism & the on-going colonisation mindset that operates behind the enemies, and that work comes by the power of cross-shaped love. And of course, this include doing my inner work in myself as well (see above) whereby I love myself the same way God loves me, yet seek the liberation of the zeitgeist in my own life. Far be that this is a strict “us and them” mentality, but rather this the holistic work of casting out racism & the on-going colonisation mindset on a personal and social level.

So yes, let us confess and seek God’s healing in our life, and also see that there are people who- in the universal mess of sin in which we have all fallen short of God’s intensions- there are peoples who have it worse than others; where God’s liberating justice comes to set the oppressed free.

9. “But all of that just sounds a lot like identity politics to me”

It is true that identity politics can lack the nuance of peoples who might be hurting no matter what their skin colour, culture, or class is. But individualism also fails to see there is such thing as shared hurt that’s based around others responding in bad ways to something that a people group have in common. That said, this is where perhaps I want to be distinctly Christian and propose that the Kingdom of God does indeed offer us something better than either identity politics or individualism. I want to say that Jesus wants us to go higher then both identity politics and individualism. So, permit me to be bold and say what I think the gospel has to offer to the world when it comes to either identity politics or individualism.

I believe Christian ethics ought to see difference in people groups (e.g. colour, class etc.) but then not separate each group away from one another. Likewise, Christians ought to see how we are all equally made in God’s image, but then not take that belief and turn it into a shallow “we are all the same, so why talk about distinctions and the so-called problems in different groups?” individualism. Instead, we ought to hold Paul in one hand which says “There is neither jew or Greek, slave or free, for we are all one and the same in Jesus” and John’s revelation in the right which says “Then I saw a great multitudes- of many tribes, nations and tongues”- this will save us from either simplistic identity politics or shallow all-the-same-be-treated-the-same individualism.  This will create a more rounded Christian ethic that sees and honour the differences we have in people groups, and yet then join hands together as one. In joining hands, you still see the different colour hands, and we want to know how to heal each other’s hurt hands, yet then hold the hands together nonetheless. This is much better than an identity politics that, rightly, sees difference in hands, but then doesn’t hold hands- turning distinction into division. But also, this is much better than an individualism that, rightly, wants to hold hands, but then don’t recognise the difference in those hands who might be hurt- emphasising core humanity but in ways that end up diminishing the humanity of others. We ought to unashamedly be distinct as different people’s (and as such talk about hurts people groups have experienced as well) yet do the hard work that leads to us being together as one in the ongoing equal ebb and flow of holding hands and noticing the needs of those hands we hold. A great example of a movement that had this Christian ethical distinct-yet-learning-to-be-together ethic was the Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Movement rightly knew the distinction (the plight of African Americans), yet had a dream where “one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brother”. If we really value principles of not judging people by their race, gender, or sexuality, we must value them consistently- and consistency doesn’t mean sameness (i.e. being colour blind), as that will fail to see the particularities and wounds, though certainly it will mean we all made equally in God’s image. In doing so, we transcend both individualism, and also identity politics. We will find that, as Aboriginal activist Lilla Watson once said “if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Neither unity without diversity (Which is uniformity) or diversity without unity (which is disunity)- but unity within diversity. And such diversity of peoples all being treated as each created in God’s Image and thus deserving of empowerment, and perhaps needing empowerment if empowerment is not there. This is a vision bigger than individualism or identity politics- this is the vision of the gospel.

And this is something that Christians can offer to the Black Lives Matter movement. Whereas some people will seek a type of identity politics in the movement, and others will just naïvely ignore the movement all together in the name of being “colour-blind”, the gift from the gospel can be that we are all bound together in distinct yet connected ways unto something bigger than ourselves- a vision of the world where we see each other differences, yet see the differences as “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 149).

10. “Okay, but I can’t help but think this is still a movement of the political left”

It is true that, as an observation, the left does seem to be more convinced that mass systemic racism is more present than we first thought, and thus wanting to see the dismantling of racial injustices is a priority for the political left. However, that doesn’t mean that my aim is to pull people politically to the left- my aim is still to draw people deeper in Jesus’ kingdom.

Part of what makes even naming racism for some Christians hard is what I believe to be this implicit belief that to do that is an attempt to try and change one’s politics. However, the fact that seeing, naming, and addressing racism is a political question just tells me how much we have given our allegiance more to the commonwealth of australia government than to the Kingdom of God. Can we finally just say “Jesus is Lord over all creation” and allow that to actually challenge our political allegiances? I mean, what did we think “King” meant? If Jesus is King, then that is saying that other rulers don’t match His rule & reign- that’s not trying to make people go to the left, but making people go to the politics of King Jesus. For people who know me personally, let me just be clear: when I critique our government, it’s because they aren’t acting humanely with the “least of these” in mind in their politics (Matthew 25) in line with Jesus’ public priorities- it’s not because they are on one side of politics. Any government not prioritising the need of the hurting and the forgotten I will call out. That doesn’t mean I have no political leanings (That’s a whole other post on how I form my political theology & engagement) but it does mean that this is a matter of right and wrong in Jesus’ name, and not merely political ideology.

11.“But surely all these problems point out the need for the first nations people to pull themselves out of their plight rather than blaming society?

Martin Luther King Jr. once said “Its all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps”. When a whole people group have gone through the traumas of their land being taken from them, from their people being killed, from their lands being treated as commodity, from not being seen as human beings, from not being able to vote, to being stolen from their family, from wages being taken, from sacred sites being destroyed, to their history being whitewashed from the history books, then of course generational trauma can & does affect peoples. Theologically, should this really surprise us? I mean, we often look at the story of Adam & Eve and see their rebellion as an undoing of our relationship with God, others, ourselves, and the land, and that this effect continues to break things down till this very day.

Now, let’s be clear though: this is very different from saying that people don’t have strength and resilience. Our First Nations people have incredible strength & resilience. With nearly 90% of their population wiped out in the first 100 years of colonisation yet these peoples still being here today is a sign of that resilience. Likewise, this doesn’t mean people are incapable of making different choices that seek their wellbeing and the wellbeing of community even in the midst of societal trauma. But when the very structures of society are bent against you, it makes it hard to swim against the tides of imbedded racism. This is very different from endorsing a victim narrative. Rather, the inherent power in the Indigenous people is that- against the backdrop of a society that has systematically tried over and over again to wipe out their culture- we have a peoples & a culture that are still alive precisely because they refused to give up. But it is precisely that this is classed as an ongoing struggle for our Indigenous brothers and sisters that it should tell us that there is a problem, because Indigenous peoples should be able to thrive in a society that affirms them at all levels- from the political, to the social, to the communal, to the individual- not just seek to just survive in a society that has continued to ignore the legacy & racism of colonisation that exists. Right now, it is like society is set up in a running race, but those who are non-Indigenous have gotten a head start, so when our Indigenous brothers and sister are told they can run- they run! That’s the resilience! But no head start should have happened in the first place. Therefore, of course Indigenous peoples are behind- but to no fault of their own, and to no downplaying of the resilience of our First Nations people.

A question I often ask people is this: Do you think Indigenous people are more evil? Shocking question I know, and people rightly answer “Of course not!”. I then ask them back “then why is the incarceration rates higher?”. That question, and then the pushback question, forces us to reckon with the realities of collective trauma. Because if we agree (and I hope you agree) that Indigenous people aren’t more evil, then you have to have another reason (other than some sort of mass coincidence that it just so happens that Indigenous people are in prison) for why things are the way they are. This is neither a victim narrative, by neither is this some sort of simplistic “boot strap” mentality. Rather, this is seeking Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders peoples flourishment by undoing the structures that make for more of the struggle that doesn’t need to be in place. Trauma is of course no excuse for anyone-individually or as a people group- for engaging in wrongful actions, but one can have a degree of compassion in that trauma can made wrong decisions more susceptible due to the pressures that trauma can put on people. Mercy, not judgement, should be our first point of call.

12.“But surely if this is of God, it would had come from the people of God? I am just hesitate to be part of movements that aren’t explicitly about Jesus…”

Okay, so real talk here: my theory is that we in the church world often have implicit shame when something outside the church world is just & good, yet we weren’t the ones who did it first as those who have the commands to love God and neighbour. We deep down think we should of done better, and instead of admitting this, we dig our heels in further and say “No!” to movements like this because to admit that movements like this are good & holy is to fess up to the failure of the church not actually being the church in the world. That’s my theory at least. And I could be completely wrong.

But my theory aside, let me say this: loving our neighbour is the most ancient thing we can do, and it is not too late to heed to the call to love our people of colour neighbours by dismantling the things in society that hold people back from being fully empowered to be the people God has made them to be. And not to mention, when we do this, we will actually be joining the legacy of the church being the church in the world in specifically this area of race- because whilst  the church hasn’t always been great, there has also been movements that addressed racism in the past that did come from the body of Christ, such as The Civil Rights movement and the Abolitionist movement. And in today’s times, I can’t help but think the number of Christians in Australia who have been actively involved in dismantling racism for years. In Australia, movements such as Common Grace have been on the ground seeking to dismantle racism well and truly before #blacklivesmatter was trending. And even before then, the amount of Indigenous Christian leaders who have been fighting the good fight spans the decades. And in today’s movement, the amount of Christian indigenous leaders who are at the forefront of this movement is incredible.

But even with all of that, we got to challenge some of our theology here:

-Firstly, could not God’s spirit stir people up to justice even without explicit faith? That doesn’t mean that such movements would be exactly like Jesus in every single way, but it does mean that people can catch the sacred wind of the broader truths of Justice nonetheless and implement that which are good & holy.

-Secondly, if humans are made in God’s Image, then it shouldn’t surprise us that deep in people’s DNA is a sense of needing things to change in order to honour that deep sense that somehow we are to love each other? That doesn’t mean that we are perfectly a chip of the old block, but it does mean that we will sense something deep in our bones, something at the core of our God-made humanity, that wants things to change, and when we lean into that, we will discern things that which are good & holy.

-Thirdly, if it’s been 2000 years since Jesus has risen from the dead, then should it surprise us that Jesus’ underground mustard seed Kingdom has somewhat seeped into culture? That doesn’t mean all ethics & culture is now explicitly Christlike, but it does mean that things like human rights has emerged as part of the legacy/effect of the good news of Jesus slowly interweaving itself into the world; things like human rights, food banks, public hospitals, public schooling, the virtue of humility, can all be traced back to what the early church did- and so this Kingdom has advanced into popular culture. So really, people seeking human rights (even if they aren’t Christian) are leaning into something that’s a Christian invention.

-And finally, if we believe that God made all of creation, then we should be able to- like Paul describes in Romans 1- observe the rhythm of God’s good creation and discern what is good & true; that just as there is gentleness to this world that God made, so too are we taught to be gentle to one another. That doesn’t mean we know everything that there is to know about what is good & holy by observing the good & holy creation, however Christ is nonetheless soaked into creation in  such ways that when people observe the holy order of things, people might not only tread gently in creation, but also tenderly be gentle to others.

All in all- with the Spirit on the move, with being made in God’s Image, with the legacy of the gospel having seeped into things like human rights, and with us observing that which is good in the Christ soaked creation, we shouldn’t be surprised when good & holy things emerge outside the church world. Once again, that doesn’t mean everything will be explicitly Christlike in a movement, but we can discern its goodness nonetheless.

And perhaps this is where people who do indeed seek to explicitly centre their lives on Jesus’ way can offer these movements their deepest longings for all things to be made right- that we can offer good news that there is a God who care about injustice, and will make all things right, where no love is ever lost in the world, and who wants to empower them as people to be Jesus unto the day when all things are made new. This can be Good News for people in the movement who might otherwise feel burnt out, or who feel the injustice will never end, or that there is not ultimate hope. People who love Jesus can enter into these movements and honour the peoples deep down good & holy instincts to seek good in the world and pastoral & prophetically speak into the burnout & hopelessness that sometimes can be present in movements who have been fighting for so long. In doing this bring Good News like Paul did in Acts 17 by saying “I see that you are very just people- let me introduce you to the God to whom is the justice you deep down hunger for, and let God give you the ultimate dream & hope for the world, and let God empower your deepest instincts in Jesus shaped ways”. And in the  embrace of the Loving God of Justice comes into the lives of the weary, they too will be discipled into new ways of engaging the movement that challenge their previous methods and theories of social change and their previous end goals.

So, as it relates specifically to Black Lives Matter, how about in shying away from it, we be the people of God who can pivot it into Christlikeness by our involvement, rather than our removal or dismissal?

13. “What about those people of colour who themselves denounce Black Lives Matter?”

It’s worth noting that just because someone is a person of colour does not mean they won’t automatically be for Black Lives Matter or even see problems of racism in Australia. However, this where it’s worth noting that: whilst it is more likely that a person of colour will agree that racism is prevalent due to the prevalence of shared experiences by those of colour speaking about their experiences, it doesn’t mean that every single person of colour have an ongoing experience of racism, which means it is possible that even a person of colour will downplay racism. However, isolated lack of experiences with racism isn’t a reflection of the majority who document racism as alive and well.

14. “I know part of this movement says some things about cops, and I can’t help but think of the good cops who aren’t doing anything wrong though?”

I think this where we have to emphasis what exactly this movement is addressing in terms of the police. It isn’t about individual cops, but it is that- because of how the structure & rules of the policing is set up- that individuals who are more explicitly racist can get through the system and start to police. Yet even there, such cops are the symptom of the issue of the system itself- because it is set up in such a way that it harms certain people groups. Systemic racism doesn’t mean that there are lots of racists in the system, rather it means that- even if there were zero racists present- the system would still be set up in ways that harm. The focus is on the system, and the calling out of individuals is still important, and yet they are the symptom of something that’s structured to harm.

Now, because it is set up this way, it doesn’t surprise me that there are racists individuals who are police as well, yet remember what we are talking about here is the system itself. Now of course, a little boy or girl might want to grow up and be a cop of kind virtue, and then they eventually become a cop and maintain that kindness, and so in that way of course there can be good cops. I know a good cop who is so kind hearted- yet even he himself thinks there is a problem with the system itself, and he has even seen how this system makes it easy for racist cops to get in and police. Yet once again, the emphasis is on the system: even if there were zero racists present, the system would still be set up in ways that harm. That’s what needs to be addressed.

And of course, currently the policing system itself is also part of the much deeper symptom that I have been speaking about, and that is the legacy and ongoing harm of colonisation.

15. “What about forgiveness? What about unity? Everyone just seems angry

Now, as it relates to peace. I like it when Martin Luther King Jr said “True peace is not the absent of tension but the presence of justice”. And remember what justice is: justice is things being set right the way God intends things to be right. And is it right that racism in our world exists? No. I am reminded that Jesus felt very comfortable calling out the pharisees who failed to prioritise the care and concern of the poor and outcast. I am reminded of a Jesus who feels very comfortable turning over tables as an act of dismantling the economics structures of the temple. And why does he do these things? Because when there is injustice, the very things that cause injustice need to be shaken up & dismantled. And guess what? Jesus doesn’t do this passively. This is the difference between peacekeeping and peacemaking– one keeps the status quo because things are cool & calm (yet underneath there is so much pain), whereas as the other does what needs to be done in order for the real peace, the real shalom, God’s healing justice to be made true. This is the same with Black Lives Matter. Progress doesn’t “just happen”- Jesus shows us that some tables got to be turned over, and only then, on the far side of just action, does a new world of true unity emerge.

Now, as it relates to forgiveness, I once asked Brooke Prentis about the whole concept of forgiveness, and her words were profound: “I’m a Christian, I understand the concept of forgiveness, and I have to forgive every single day- because every day I walk upon the land, this land that was stolen from my people, of my people who became dispossessed, and who died… We are kneeling at the cross and praying for all the people on these lands, and we are waiting for our non-Indigenous brothers and sisters to pray with us and walk together in friendship”. And that strikes the tone of the society we find ourselves in. Our Indigenous brothers and sisters are always forgiving, but it is non-Indigenous peoples of these lands that are the ones who need to catch up. From non-Indigenous peoples there is often silence over past pain caused, there is little effort to want to seriously dismantle racism, and there is the failure of us walking in friendship with our Indigenous brothers and sisters. Our Indigenous brothers and sisters have to constantly forgive, and yet somehow, we have the audacity to insist that they must “get over” pain caused? In our society, we constantly perpetuate the pain every single day by not dismantling the things from the past that are still in place. And yes, there will be sadness and anger from our First Nations people- and rightfully so.  Prophetic anger & lament has a central role in faith. Jesus gets angry in the temple because of the injustice of the temple. The prophets get angry because of the pain that was caused upon the poorest of the poor when Israel failed to act justly. And the psalms are full of the lament and anger of peoples under oppression. Anger and sadness are the normal response to deep injustices. And yet, even in this space, the profound strength of the First Nations people is there is still the ongoing act of forgiveness, and an offer of friendship. That is a profound.  So perhaps we must turn it around on us: where does repentance on our end come to into place? The point of repentance is there is actually concrete change. We non-Indigenous people weaponise the otherwise good truth of forgiveness, but then we non-Indigenous people also don’t repent & dismantle racism- and that’s just downright unfair. Our Indigenous brothers and sisters are always forgiving and inviting us to walk together in friendship, but we are going in the other direction.  Rather, it is time that we non-Indigenous peoples turn around (repent) and walk together- such a walking together will mean things change in society.

16. “Surely protesting is going against Romans 13

Whatever we make of Paul’s statement in Romans 13, it can’t itself contradict the life of Paul himself, not to mention the life of Jesus. So, with this as the primer, what do we see in the life of Paul? He numerous times goes against public officials to preach the gospel and to seek the ways of the Kingdom in each place he goes to- this is a direct afront to both Romans Law who said there was one Lord called Caesar, and also the Jewish religious councils who saw this Jewish sect threatening to the current Jewish status quo. Likewise, Jesus himself is executed by the state by stirring up trouble in such a way that it leads to both the religious elite and Rome agreeing to execute Jesus. So, if that’s what we are working with, then whatever Paul is going on about in Romans 13 it can’t be that you never stand against governments that are oppressive. In their book Romans Disarmed scholars Sylvia Keesmaat and Brian Walsh do a good job at showing that Paul- in saying that the government was under God’s authority- is actually Paul being cheeky towards Rome in that, if Rome is under God, then it means that Caesar is under Jesus rules (and not the other way around!). If this is the tone, then Paul isn’t saying “give blind obedience to government” but “Oh government? Yep, that government, with all it’s so called ‘power’ only exists because Jesus lets it exist! Ha! That said, it wields the sword, so act wisely and- because we want to be good neighbours- be good citizens when you can be”. So, in terms of government, whatever we can faithfully say seeks the common good of all and whenever laws keep a type of order that’s seeks to benefit all we can- as followers of Jesus- follow, and when followers of Jesus do that then we are being good witnesses to the Kingdom of God of keeping peace where it is appropriate to do so. However, as soon as something doesn’t seek the common good of all, and as soon as a law doesn’t seek to benefit all, then followers of Jesus have a higher duty to King Jesus over against Prime Ministers or Presidents.

In this case, invoking Romans 13 is null & void as it fails the test of Pauls very actions as he pens the letter. Jesus came to bring the Kingdom, and if black lives aren’t being loved, then we need to do what we can do to stand for those who are under the boot of empire, in Jesus name.

17. “What about violence, such as riots?”

I like how Martin Luther King Jr. put it when he said “It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard”. The point he was making wasn’t that riots were a good means of change, but that he understands the instinct, the pain, that lead to such riots occurring. If we look at Jesus, we see that he never downplays the instinct of his first followers wanting social revolution- he just offers them a different way other than violence. He affirms their instinct of resistance- and offers them a way to do resistance without blood. The point here is that we ought not to judge revolution itself, but rather affirm the instinct to want change, and offer a new way. To say on the record: riots that are not the answer- after all, many people of colour in the USA (Where the rioting is happening) have pointed out that rioting in their neighbourhood has actually damaged some valuable social services and thus haven’t been ultimately unhelpful. However, it is not right to dismiss what the rioters are rioting about- for they are rightfully angry. Yet, there is another alternative to doing nothing. And the answer isn’t a type of pacifism that does nothing- it is rather Jesus offering us a full-blown resistance against evil… Just without us spilling blood. Now, this will be a stumbling block to both people with the Molotov cocktails and the people on the side lines.

But before I go on, I do want to say one thing: Jesus did turn tables over in the temple, which means he did do holy property damage. Now, the scholar Walter Wink seems to think that Jesus’ making a whip implies this was a deliberate and premeditated act- which mean that it wasn’t senseless property damage, but strategic property damage. Whilst most rioting does not fit this description, I do want to say that there is a place for prophetic and strategically planned property damage. I am reminded of the statue in Perth of  that recently got vandalised; Captain James Stirling statue being vandalised (A statue of a man who was involved in an attack known variously as the Pinjarra massacre and Battle of Pinjarra, in which an unknown number of of Noongar people were killed by an armed group of 25 police, soldiers and settlers led by this governor) might meet the criteria of a prophetic act of property damage.

18. “I have heard people say If you are not protesting then you are part of the problem, what do you think of that?

I think Martin Luther King Jr. was right when he said that “I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

I understand that for some people they might be on the learning journey of wanting to get sincerely involved but has questions about what it looks like to do that as a Christian. Like I said at the beginning of this written piece, it took me time to get educated. Yet, as I said before, in the meantime it is possible that our lack of engagement might be contributing to crucifying beliefs whilst Jesus says “Father forgive them”; he is forgiving us, yet such forgiveness should mobilise us to take the time to engage this movement seriously. So, there is a gentle yet nonetheless sense of priority when it comes to getting ourselves educated.

Now, to the specific question of protesting. The problem isn’t if we are not in a protest, but if absolutely nothing is being done. There might be valid reason to not be in a protest- such as being unwell, mobility difficulties, work & family commitments, mental health related reasons, and so on. Yet, if not in a protest what else? There are many ways to help. I envision a guy who works at a truck stop bar & who lives in a regional town, who may never go on social media, who works so far away from any protest- yet is having deep & meaningful conversations about race when he serves patrons, educating himself through reading books like Dark Emu, writing a letter to his local MP after work advocating for Indigenous rights, and supporting a local business in town that’s run by a family of colour. Is he at a protest? Sharing things on Facebook? No. But is he doing the work to dismantle racism? Yes. In that example, we see someone engaging on the personal level, on the level of social interaction, on a political level, and on an economic level. And by the way, I know many who went to the protests in Perth, who then went on and do nothing else. I know who I would rather do then change in the world- and it’s that hypothetical bar owner.

That said, protests can raise more and more awareness with greater number, and if you are able to get to one they are a conscious raising event. Yet, if you are that guy at a roadhouse, that is also good work. Once again, the more fundamental question is: are you doing something? And is that something only private, or does it have an onward effect (even if it’s letter writing to your MP)?

19. “How can I get more involved?

Firstly, listen. Listen to people stories of hurt & resilience. James, the brother of our Lord Jesus, said that we are to be “slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to become angry”. So listen. Listen to our First Nations people. Stories not only reveal, but heal, and the first act of healing is listening.

Secondly, question your resistance to the stories you hear. It is common that people who aren’t used to hearing stories that confront them to become defensive. I asked that you feel the resistance, but don’t react to the resistance with dismissal. Act yourself “why is what I am hearing so hard for me to hear? Why do I feel defensive?”. Rather than defend, feel it, and then choose to actively lean into the stories you are hearing, and then afterwards unpack your feelings through self-reflection. If you need to unpack this with someone, make sure the person you unpack this with is okay with you doing this. In such unpacking, don’t allow the resistance to have the final say, allow it to lead you to the next point, which is to get educated.

Thirdly, get educated. There are plenty of resources out there, and so here a starting place for people and resources to check out:

– Uncle Ray Minniecon: He is an internationally recognised Indigenous theologian and bible teacher, with a long history of working across Aboriginal justice issues in business and ministry. Check out this reflection he has done on the Easter story:–ray-minniecon/12134824

-Brooke Prentis: CEO of Common Grace and the Coordinator of the Grasstree Gathering and is a Wakka Wakka woman. She works ecumenically speaking on issues of Justice affecting Australia and sharing a message of Reconciliation as friendship. Check out her message she gave on her dream for the Australian church:

-Safina Stewart: She is a Christian Indigenous artist who incorporates both the stories of faith with the richness of her people, and show us visually a different way:

For specific works, check out….

-Two books of Indigenous theology that I would recommend are “Shalom and the Community of God” by Randy Woodley and Aunty Denise’s book “Yarta Wandatha”

-A book I would recommend on the experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people in Australia “Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia” that’s compiled by Anita Heiss

-A book I would also recommend is “Dark Emu” by Bruce Pascoe on exploring agricultural, economic, production in the pre-colonial society of the Aboriginal people

-The 7 part documentary “First Australians” is a must watch. The series chronicles the history of contemporary australia, from the perspective of Aboriginals.

More broadly…

-Engage in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander media by tuning into National Indigenous Television (NITV)

-Follow the work of The Grasstree Gathering, which is a national, inter-denominational and non-denominational event which brings together emerging and established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders from across Australia and from across denominations and churches.

-Also, the work of Common Grace that they have been doing for years is also a great place to start to see what reconciliation can look like in these lands:

-Also, I encourage you to read up on NAIDOC week celebrations coming up

-And to learn more about reconciliation between us and our First Nations people, visit:

Fourthly, do something, yet always in ways that decentre it away from yourself. Write a letter to your MP, don’t let racist comments in the workplace slide, go to a protest. And as you do these things, don’t make it about you- because it isn’t about you. It’s about your neighbour.

Finally, do not think you have arrived. The temptation with going through deep changes is that we are now “not racist”. A robust theology of salvation tells me we are always in need of saving- not in some sort of disempowering way, but in a real way nonetheless that acknowledges that we must always keep ourselves in check. This is one of the reasons why we pray the Lord’s prayer regularly, because part of the Lords prayer is a daily need to confess our sins and intentionally turn around. We might be more transformed than the day before, but we have not yet arrived. Quite the contrary, Paul in his letter to the Philippians would rather that we continue to press towards the goal of becoming the newly resurrected human beings we have always created to be, not thinking in folly that we have somehow arrived (Philippians 3:12-14). As such, I know that, to this very day, I have that zeitgeist of colonisation, of racism, of a tendency to locate myself as the better human being, and so I must confess, remain humble, repent, and say “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner”. 

“I can’t breath”

Before the shocking death of George Floyd- whose death reignited the black lives matter movement- we had David Dungay, an Dunghutti man from Kempsey, who died in custody in 2015 saying also “I can’t breath”.

I can’t help but see his death, as well as the many others, as the demonic opposite of force of the good God who instead gives us the breath of life. Now is the time that we must take off the boots and partner with the work of living in practice that black lives do indeed matter to God. The legacy of colonisation that has (and still does) strangled these lands and many other across the world- in what has been a global and ongoing colonising project- must stop in Jesus’ name. We worship the brown Jesus who is the messiah of all people, who himself was part of a people whose lands were colonised by an opposing force, and who died by the powers of the state that took his life breath from him as he hung from a cross. Jesus was lynched. Jesus was murdered under a crushing knee. And his life was taken from him. Yet in this crushing moment, we have the Christ who cries from the cross, and whose power as the victim unleashes a new force for change in the world: the life of the new creation. Defeating death through death, Jesus rises again from the dead, and with him unleashes God’s project of New Creation, the fresh breath of life, that moves out into the world, and moment by moment, people by people, changes the world unto the day where death with receive its final death blow. And in that moment of eternal redemption, where the last will finally become first, and the first finally become last, we shall see the like of George Floyd and David Dungay, whose lungs will one day be filled again with now the new resurrected life breath of God.

Yet, the audacity of the Christian hope, is that this new world that is a coming starts now. The Kingdom of God has arrived- so let us get off our knees, and live what we say when we now say- along with all those seeking God’s healing justice in the word- that indeed…Black Lives Matter.


  1. This doesn’t mean that I don’t think politics matter, but that rather we just aren’t to give ultimate allegiance to a side of politics. My political theology is extremely nuanced and as such is another post for another time.




  1. I can hear someone who might say “But Paul also said that he would determine the rise and fall of nations”. That is true, yet in scripture, often the rise and fall of nations happens when nations are in explicit rebellion against God. This wasn’t the case for our First Nations people- who there is a well documented phenomenon- of God moving in these lands before europeans came along (Or do we just believe that God couldn’t be here unless white people came? Hmmm?). If anything, colonisation is the act of rebellion that would bring down an ever expanding empire, just like it did Rome and the empires before it, and the empires after it (e.g. the Third Reich).
  1. For more on this, read my other post on this at
  1. This doesn’t mean that every single command of God or everything that we can faithfully discern as a Kingdom ethic must be legislated, but only those that Jesus has a public priority over with precedent in his peoples history, namely how societies treat the poor, the marginalised, the orphan, the widow (etc.). Case by case has to be given to how we approach each topic of ethics on the public sphere- but as a broad principle, legislation should use the prism of seeing how the “least of these” are treated in society.
  1. For more on this, listen to this interview with the worlds leading New Testament professor N.T Wright
  1. For more of this read Ched Myers on what “fishing for people” meant in light of the Hebrew scripture and also the Jewish fishing industry:
  1. I recommend reading “Shalom and the community of God” (by Randy Woodley to explore this further)
  1. For more on this, I recommend two books, Lisa Sharon Harpers book “The Very Good Gospel” and Randy Woodleys book “Shalom and the community of God”
  1. A great theological animation video that explains this well is The Bible Projects short animated video on justice

Devotion time? Having saving structures, redemptive rituals, and holy habits

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I wake up and the first thing I do is check my social media. Now, nothing wrong with social media, however, I wonder if there are better ways that I might start my day? I know of people who wake up early, and have what has often been called “devotion time”, a time where someone sets time aside for God in such a way that sets the tone for my day ahead.

But I’ll be honest with with, sometimes the whole concept of “making time for God” just makes me cringe. Why do I cringe? It just seems so sentimental, and surely if God is in me, why would I need to have some sort of special time set aside for God? So for a long time, I left my time with God up to the whim of spontaneity. And guess what? My relationship with God was dynamic! Rather than feeling like I had to have some sort of weird time set aside for a God I could speak to and debrief with in any moment, I instead merely just brought God into all my moments by drawing my attention to prayer and also seeking to see what God might be doing in the present moments I found myself in. And to this day, I still do exactly that, as I think there is something so powerful in just bringing my attention to what God is doing around me and having an open dialogue with God. Devotional time that felt forced seem so redundant to me because I could just pray to God when I wanted to- not to mention that having set time for God seemed to fall victim to the belief that one has to conjure up God in some sort of special set time.

But overtime, I realised that my spontaneity with God- as good as it was and still is- seemed to miss something as equally healthy that I saw around me.  That is, when I looked at the best relationships I knew, (whether they were friends, family, or lovers), they had set time aside to focus on one another in more intentional and mindful ways. Not only did I observe this as a healthy part of relationships, but I also learnt about it in my relationship therapy units when I was studying counselling. Often when a relationship goes through a rocky season, it needs that well nurtured and practiced set structure to help keep things going- this looks like date nights, or time set aside each day where you debrief the day to one another. Yes, spontaneity has that spice of life, yet structure also keeps the relationship grounded in faithfulness during any and all seasons. Any good relationship therapist will tell you that the long haul takes intensional time set aside such as “date nights”. It’s certainly isn’t an either/or, and certainly to not have some spontaneous spice can be harmful to a relationship. But likewise, too not have structure can equally harm a relationship. And so I learnt this was also like my relationship with God- yes it’s fine to have spontaneity in your relationship with God (In fact, to not have that is also equally unhealthy, as bringing God into all the moments of our life is keeping God in the forefronts of our moments) but if I don’t also have intensional time set aside then then it is also problematic.  And so, I realised that in my relationship with God, I needed to have both saving spontaneity, and develop saving structures has part of a normal part of my relationship with God. 

This got me rethinking devotion time again. Far from it’s caricature of being sentimental hallmark-card time with God, I started to learn of traditions within Christian history that did types of intentional times with God in ways that brought them things like deep inner peace, an ever growing awareness of God in each moment, an ability to face the world calm yet boldly, an with a more directed and intentional sense of God’s mission for their life. They also seemed to more grateful, go at a pace in life that seemed just right, and have a very healthy awareness of their mental & emotional life. Part of these devotional times would include a mix of spoken prayer, silence, scripture reading, listening. Other times it might be music, or other times in might be written prayers. So I started to take intentional time seriously again, and this looked like creating time aside for God. It wasn’t that the spontaneity went away, but that I also had saving structures that could ground me. Also, I didn’t start believing that we needed to conjure up God in a special time and place, but I did reframe devotion times as seeking to slow down to see what God was doing around me and in me. In time, I became more and more convinced that there was a need to have structured time for God as part of a more fuller and richer relationship with God.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. Surely having time set aside for God sounds like a ritual, right? We often think that the word “ritual” is a dirty word, and certainly it is treated like a dirty word within some Christian spaces. We often think that we are “quenching the Holy Spirit” if we have some sort of structure or ritual in the life of faith. However, I have learnt that the ancient Jews were very comfortable with set time for prayer, and the early church certainly continued with this tradition as they sought to worship Jesus. Not only that, but modern neuroscience speaks highly about developing habits that form our character. Finally, since when did structure = not Spirit inspired? “Quenching the spirit” simply means we are not being in step with what the Spirit wants- and whilst it is true people can use stricture to get in the way with how the Spirit might want to shake up a given moment, it is also possible that someone might be “quenching the Spirit” because they don’t follow the Spirits leading in creating set structured & intensional time for God. Because the truth is- whether we are aware of it or not- is that we all have habits and we all have rituals. In fact, if you are part of the few who don’t have either, than it might be possible that things could be a little chaotic & ungrounded for you- and that’s not sustainable in the long run. So the question than isn’t if we have habits or rituals (we all do), but are they life-giving habits that give you life and (through you) give life to others around you? In other words, are they holy habits and redemptive rituals?

So, do I now get up early at like 5:00 in the morning and pray? Well, I did experiment with that for a bit- but I learnt that it hindered (not improved) my relationship with God. If you are going to have a “date night” with your partner, you find a time where you both can be present. Now let me be clear: I must surrender my time to God in a different way than I would in a relationship, and as such it is very possible God might want to bring us out of our normal routine or comfort zone. That said, God is wanting to connect with us, and so finding a time that works best for us to connect is not just in our best interests, it’s what God would want for us if we to connect with Him. After all, humans weren’t made for this abstract thing call “devotional time” but devotional time was made for us to connect with God. So in terms of what might saving structure look like for you might vary from person to person and season to season- but typically time for prayer, time to be still, time to meditate on scripture, time to intensionally draw our attention to what God is doing in us or around us all seem to be important parts that make up time spent with God. In some seasons you might need structures within structures such as a set order to your time with God with things like pre-written prayers, and very concrete structure, postures, and things to do in an order (This type of structure is what  some church denominations call a “Liturgy”). In other seasons, you might just need to take note that- within your time devotional time- that you should confess, pray for others, read scripture (etc.). I once went through a period of time where I did the same prayers of thankfulness, confession, and declaration of my mission every day & night. And it was needed- for a season. I then felt like I need to change my routine to still include such things, but with less “structures within the structure”. Part of what sets me apart from some traditions within the church (Such as the Anglican tradition, which- even as a Pentecostal- I do love) is that I probably do think there is room for changing your daily structures and what you do depending on where you think the Spirit is leading you to restructure, but as long as you are still having intensional time set aside (like a date night) and it is spirit lead change then I think this is fine. That isn’t to say that we judge ourselves for not always getting to these intensional moments (for even lovers in a marriage relationship have to have wriggle room with their date nights sometimes, and to not judge each other in these seasons) but that rather we see these times as times that liberate us into a more richer and deeper relationship with God.

So, I encourage people to research into different ways you might have these times set aside for God. I encourage people to faithful experiment with things like traditional liturgies, or to look into different spiritual practices (such as different ways to prayer like centering prayer, or different ways to read scripture like lectio divina). But also you might sense the Spirit wanting you to have time to not just be still, but also to dance and sing. You might feel the Spirit draw you even into a season of structure-within-the -structures, or a season of loose-but-nonetheless-intenional-time. You might feel the Spirit draw you into intentional time of  contemplation, or the spirit draw you into intentional time of charisma. You might adopt and experiment with whole set structures like a “daily office” (Type this in Google), or something a little less tight. Sometimes you might devote more time to prayer, or more time to scripture reading. Sometimes you might need structure-within-the-structure (i.e liturgy) and sometimes you will just need basic structure. Sometimes sitting outside is what you need, and sometimes using your drive to work will suffice. In the end, the point is that saving structures, redemptive rituals, holy habits are being done in such ways that you are grounded and you are gifted the life of God. Have your spontaneity, and have your structured times. As long as, in discerning the season you are in, that what you have is giving you the life of God, and spreading that life out.

So, do I “make time for God” more intentionally now? Truth be told, God is always present in our time in our life- but I have times set aside to slow down, smile, invite the lover of soul in where he is already mysteriously present and have some structured time together- and my relationship with God has grown.

Turning Over Tables; Turning over the World: Temple, Economics, and COVID19

Matthew 21:12-17

12 Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.” 14 The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry 16 and said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself’? And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.”


This is the word of the Lord….


It is already broken…

I was travelling back home to Australia from the United States in late January. And I was on a plane- a Cathay pacific flight- flying to Perth via Hong Kong. As I landed in Hong Kong, I noticed that everyone was wearing medical masks, and all flights to this little known province called Wuhan simply said on the large screens throughout the airport “cancelled”. Upon returning to Australia, I returned to work. We had our school staff conference, and we anticipated an exciting year ahead. But, little did we all know, that by the end of the term, a virus- which started in the province of Wuhan- would send both staff and students packing and working from home.

Little did we know, that supermarkets would be emptied out of a state of panicked uncertainty.

Little did we know, that family & friends we love would be out of work amidst an unprecedented global economic shut down.

Little did we know, that toilet paper would become like a commodity worth its weight in gold.

Little did we know, that words like “social distancing” would enter our everyday speech and be put in practice.

Little did we know, the gatherings often done in person would be moved online as an alternative in what has become the new norm.

Little did we know.

When this virus came, we were told to bunker down, keep our heads low, and ride this one out. And I agree. Self -isolation is the most loving thing to do. It protects our most vulnerable neighbours in society by stopping potential spreading, and it in turn frees up space in our medical system to help others who might otherwise need desperate help in a system that, if we socially isolate, doesn’t become overwhelmed. We have seen the devastation when we don’t self-isolate.

My heart grieves over places like Iran & Italy where nameless mass graves are being dug for named family & friends who are dead.

My heart grieves for places like New York city, where you see refrigerator trucks being used on the streets to store the recent dead in a city overwhelmed by the sheer scale of coronavirus cases.

My heart grieves for lives lost when sleepy or naïve governments don’t act fast enough to stop the spread.

Yet, my heart has been in grief for a while now… Even before this virus came.

Some of the students I work with ration when they have dinner because they have such low income and little support.  It is too easy to walk the streets and notice the mother & child who have no roof over their head. And in the midst of this, it is too easy to look up at the billboards that are right above the rough sleepers and see an ad for the latest Mercedes about to come on the market. Now, I am not against owning a car- but the imagery is striking.

My heart has grieved for a while now, because nothing is new…

Rather, it is now that things have been merely exposed…

We are told to self-isolate, and that we must. It is loving too to do exactly that.

Yet, the cracks of society have always been there, and the virus has merely revealed the deep cracks. It’s easy to self-isolate when you have a roof over your head.

Yet, try telling that to the homeless man stuck in the rain who has no roof over his head.

It’s very easy to stock up in desperate times…

Yet, try telling this to the family who can barely get food and, when they go to the food banks, discover that even those shelves are emptied in a state of panic buying.

This virus isn’t breaking our system, it’s showing us that it was already broken. And this virus is just making the gaping hole bigger.


Economic Priorities

In the middle of all of this, some world leaders would rather that their economies re-open, even if it might lead to a spike in new COVID19 cases. The belief goes like this: if we don’t re-open and start getting back to business there will be unemployment into the long-term and that might even cause more deaths as a result. The logic might be sound- yet it’s quite telling, don’t you think? How our wellbeing depends on the daily bread of this mysterious force known as The Market. And that the only way to appease The Market into giving us its daily bread is in sacrificing ourselves on its alter. We don’t negotiate the terms of our wellbeing, The Market does.

Now, economics is complex, and I am no economist. And my point isn’t to say I have all the answers. But my point is to give an honest & frank observation of things- and one of the key observations that many of us have made, is that we live in a world where the only way we survive is by getting our daily bread from this force known as The Market. And apparently that’s just how it is. A dog eat dog world.

2000 years ago, things were very different. A much smaller world, less complexity. Yet, even 2000 years ago, this prevailing economic force was present…

In a part of the world there was a city called Jerusalem, and Jerusalem was also the main place for the Jewish people to go to, for it housed their temple.

Now, in the ancient world, a temple was considered to be the place where you would go and meet God. In particular to this temple situated on top of the city of Jerusalem, people would travel for miles to go to this very special temple, and offer sacrifices to God. You would go into the temple, buy your animal sacrifice, and a priest would come to help you sacrifice. The temple was a well-oiled religious machine. It’s interesting to note, that Jesus himself had a mixed relationship to the temple: As a good Jewish man, Jesus taught in the temple, he himself was taught in the temple as a child, and after his birth very wise men of the temple showed joy in his birth. And Jesus’ family & friends would have orientated their religiosity around the temple. Yet, Jesus himself, towards the end of his ministry, went into the temple courts, and declared judgement upon the temple (It’s worth noting that Jesus’ judgement on the temple isn’t because it was part of the Jewish way of life, and I want to say that because I don’t want people to run away with this message and make an anti-semitic case. Jesus’ was and is the Jewish messiah, and the temples judgement would be part of the vocation of being the throughly Jewish messiah, and I’ll be explaining the judgement in a bit). Yet, judgement nonetheless, and It is this very judgement that speaks into our world today.


Solomon & The Temple

In Jesus people’s history existed a well-known king called Solomon. King Solomon was famous for many things, though one of the things he was most well known for was building Jerusalem’s temple, and setting up its structure and usage. And when King Solomon built the temple, he used the temple as the centrepiece of his power. Yet what did the power of this king look like? Well, one of the things about Solomon’s rule & reign is what he did economically. In his rule & reign, he established a type of taxation that dismantled the powers of the tribes and clans, and instead centred the economic power around himself. Instead of the covenantal law based economic order that had concern for equitable distribution of economic resources, Solomon shifted the economic power in a way that begun to displace peoples- creating a sharp division of poor and the wealthy. And the temple was the central symbol that displayed this type power.

With this power play of the temple used by kings, the temple systems & religious orders developed around this oppressive use of the temple. Instead of the temple being the place where people would go and meet the untameable God of the tabernacle found in the wilderness years during the days of Moses, the temple became the domestication of God under state controlled order of the king, reserved for an elite class of Solomon serving priests. And the religious separation of the “holy” and “unholy” worked in their advantage financially as well. After all, if this was a temple became a place of prayer “for all nations” then all would have to seek to benefit financially from it- and they couldn’t have that.  Rather, it was a temple finished with jewels, gold, and fine cedar, further contrasting the poor & rich divide that this now state religion. From Torah people, to temple people, things had gone array, and this lasted all the way to Jesus’ day. Between Solomon and Jesus, the temple got destroyed, yet was later re-built and its function remained intact.

It’s worth noting that the temple- though often used as an oppressive function- did have prophetic hopes for its redeeming use. At its best, it served as a stake in the ground declaring the rule & reign of God on the Earth, being a marker place of central worship, and could be seen like a dam that held the presence of God, with the hope that the temple would be the place the presence of God would wash clean all who engaged in the sacrifices in the temple, with the bigger hope that God’s temple presence would flood out into the world. The tears of the prophets with their writings of decrying the way the temple was used, was met with the hope that the temple be transformed for the good of all. Yet, this was a hope differed, and the exact nature of the temple’s transformation largely mysterious.

Yet, Solomon’s use of the temple prevailed and became the norm. Later, In the time of Jesus, the temple still served as an economic centre functioning as a huge national bank. And the high priests had the final say on the use of the temple’s wealth.  A good deal of money was stored at the temple, where it could be loaned by the wealthy to the poor who were in danger of losing their land to debt. The Temple establishment therefore co-operated with the upperclass in the exploitation of the poor.


Jesus & The Temple

So, then along comes Jesus. The man who drew upon the tradition of Moses & the Prophets, and (in doing so) exposing the sickening structures that the temple had succumb to- violence, power, and ruthless economics. Now, like I said, Jesus taught in the temples, he was taught as a child in the temples, and in his birth very wise men of the temple showed joy in his birth, and Jesus’ family & friends would have orientated their religiosity around the temple. So Jesus has some neutral experiences around the temple. Yet he also sees the structures baked into the temple itself- and so Jesus, coming into the temple and turning over tables, becomes a direct affront to the temple’s powers & structures. So, when Jesus comes on the scene, he unveils that the problem with the temple is that it has failed to be “a house of prayer for all the nations.”  Instead, the temple had become a centre for religious exclusivity and economic exploitation. So, we have Jesus, coming in and turning over tables, drawing upon the prophets of Isaiah and Jeremiah.

With Isaiah, Jesus sees Isaiah’s dream for the world where he sees all nations & peoples coming to Jerusalem to pray & worship together; it’s an inclusive vision for all people despite race, creed, slave or free, coming together as equals before the living God in prayer…

In Jeremiah, Jesus sees the weeping prophet condemning the people of Judea for their assumption that God would keep the temple going despite their injustices…

In evoking these prophets inside what had become an economically, politically & religiously oppressive system, we have Jesus seeking to end the structures of the temple for good and forever…

Now remember, temples couldn’t function without money changers and sellers. So, if Jesus was merely “cleansing the temple” he should have left the money in there so it could still function afterwards. But he didn’t- he turned over the tables! This action wasn’t a “cleansing of the temple” (as it’s sometimes called) that otherwise keeps the structures of the temple in place. Rather, it’s about bringing down the very structures in place that enable the exploitation. As I said before, the temple ruling class ideology, instituted by Solomon, created the separation of the “holy” and “unholy”, and it worked in their advantage financially. But when Jesus says that a temple is being built “for all nations” then all seek to benefit from a new structure…


So, with Jesus bringing down the house, making a way for all people, ending the financial gain of buying sacrifices in its controlling of the masses through the ideology of animal sacrifice, what will be the new structure in its wake? What would be the new temple, and with it, a new way for the world? How would the prophetic dreams of the prophets of old be realised whereby a temple would be what it was always meant to be: a stake in the ground declaring the rule & reign of God on the Earth, a marker place of central worship, like a dam that held the presence of God, with the hope that out of this very presence  the world would be washed clean? What would this temple be that unleashes a new & healed world upon the world as it currently is?! My friends, Jesus says of his own body “Destroy this temple, and I’ll rebuild it in three days”. As Jesus turns over the tables- dismantling the dehumanising ways of how the temple became to function- in its wake Jesus will bring a new type of temple, a temple made of his body, that would unleash a new life giving power into the world for all people- economically, politically, and religiously.  In Jesus, we will see God’s rule & reign of love. In Jesus, we will see the worship of the revealed God. In Jesus, his kingdom will be a like a dam of water burst open, flooding the whole world & bringing healing waters that seek to restore and make all things well.

It says in verse 14 that after Jesus brought down the house, “the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them and the people outside. No longer an elitist, religious, economic club of the so-called “holy”. Indeed, in Jesus, the living temple, a place where the blind and the lame would come to him and be cured, and even the children would cry out “Hosanna!”.

Yet, this very action in the temple marked Jesus’ death sentence. The temple functioned as the trigger for Jesus’ death. It was social disruption that shook things so much so that that they killed him. Yet what did Jesus say? “Destroy this temple, and I’ll rebuild it in three days”. And when Jesus was executed by the threatened state- threatened by His rule & reign- what happened to the temple in Jerusalem? When Jesus’ dies, the temple curtain is torn in two. Now, this isn’t a nice way of saying “oh yay now we can go to heaven because the temple curtains was torn in two”; rather, the tearing of the temple curtain was a sign that, in Jesus’ death, the temple was done. God’s presence would not be seen as the exclusive club, but the liberating waters that flood the earth, where people are free to live, move, and have there being in a Jesus who invites all into participating in the life of God, and whose very Kingdom would be for all. And part of God’s vision for the world is that God’s economic ways would not be controlled by the powerful but would be a force of good for all of the world.


The Temple & The Economics of today

And so, my friends, we come full circle. Today, we have a temple-like political economic world. This virus has exposed the cracks that have always been there.

Now, economics is complex, and I am no economist. And my point isn’t to say I have all the answers. But my point is to give an honest & frank observation of things- and one of the key observations that many of us have made, is that we live in a world where the only way we survive is by getting our daily bread from this force known as The Market. And apparently that’s just how it is. A dog eat dog world.

2000 years ago, things were very different. A much smaller world, less complexity. Yet, even 2000 years ago, this prevailing economic force was present.

But I say to you today! That there was a new force unleashed upon the world! And it isn’t called The Market, and it isn’t the Jerusalem market temple- it’s the Kingdom of the God! And in this Kingdom, the walls are down, and the Kingdom is moving out, and it’s bringing a new world order- and it’s being lead by a King greater than the Kings & Kingdoms of the current world order. It’s a King with a Kingdom that will defy all nations, all empires, all leaders, all prime ministers, all presidents, and all CEO’s, and it will defy all their economic paradigms that they allow to be the economic norm under the false god known as The Market.

Remember when I said, that prior to Solomon’s economics, that there was already a system in place? Well, the economic system that was in place has be called scholars as “Jubilee”. It was an economic paradigm that made sure the poor was always looked after, and it functioned on the right belief that abundance was defined by God who brought manna and not defined by hoarding like that of the Egyptian empire who used the slaves to build store houses. And it was an economic reality that the early church caught wind of when it decided that, as its first act of community, it would share together as family, especially making sure the neediest were looked after. It is worth saying that their sharing all things in common came from a conviction of Jesus, not from outside government. And it didn’t say no one couldn’t own anything, but rather that their ownership ought to be seen communally for the common good of all. So, they weren’t proto socialists. Yet the psalms speak that the leaders of the world would look towards the Messiah and learn his wisdom- and so therefore part of the Christian vocation is both communal and political. Communal is that we are to be the first to model this new found economic reality that we see in the book of Acts, and yet also political in that we ought to remind the powers of the world who they ought to learn from in order to seek the common good for all people- which means there is a conversation to be had on how governments ought to act in the world, which I think should include greater governmental support that makes basic human rights basic. That is, that we all have shelter, access to medicine, and food on the table- no matter what. And so, part of the economic vocation of Christians, is that we do what Jesus did: turn over some tables! Dismantle the economic & political structures that hold the world ransom the temple Market powers! For when Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit, he was saying that, not only is he the true temple, but now we too are the living temples of God. Jesus is the cornerstone, and we his stones. The temples no longer have the power. So, let us turn over the tables and show the world whose really boss.


It’s time to turn over some tables!

So what does the turning over of tables look like for us? Well, if the turning of tables was the turning over of structures, then the question for us is: what does that look like?


Firstly, turning over tables can look like the practice of community…

Numerous people have said “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better”. And so, turning over tables is going to look like turning over how we do community. What if instead of using our homes only for us, we use our home to seek hospitality? What if instead of using our homes only for us, we make safe & wise space for those who need a place to stay? What if we shared things like a community? Community gardens, community wealth that for all who need help (not just for the elite). I am reminded of communities like “The Simple Way” in Philadelphia who we can learn from to be a better witness of doing community in the world. Such ways of living actually challenge the economic powers by not participating in the ways the world does economics.


Secondly, turning over tables can look like the practice of civil disobedience…

Jesus turning over tables was rebellious. And whatever Romans 13 means, it can’t contradict Jesus or Paul- who both got arrested by declaring in word and deed that there was a new king on the block who would bring a holy shake down. In other words, there is place for civil disobedience. Martin Luther King Jr. is a great example of the power of nonviolent Civil Disobedience to bring about change. When you shake up the system, it eventually forces the system to meet the demands of the shake-up. Now, I am not saying that as a guarantee, but I am saying that as the hope- that when we find creative ways to be a benevolent agitator for the common good.


Thirdly, turning over tables can look like reminding the powers of the worlds true Lord…

Often, when leaders have the power to change things for the better, I have written letters to leaders in the area I have lived. And if those leaders identify as Christian, I will appeal to their deeper baptismal identity as a way of appealing to their better self to seek the common good. If they aren’t a Christian, I will appeal to (the discreetly Christian ethic of…) human rights. Either way, I am bringing a fresh reminder to the powers that there is a better way to run the world, and it’s in seeking the common good for all people.  And that’s in seeking the ways of the Kingdom of God as revealed in Jesus. And in a democracy, I get to exercise the modern privilege of voting, so whilst I don’t think any political party captures the kingdom of God or runs the world like the Kingdom of God (Dying on a cross!), I can nonetheless vote for political parties that I think have soft spots for “the least of these” in our world.

Finally, turning over tables looks like having hope…


Jesus Turns over the world

When Jesus turned over tables, the poor, the lame, the blind came in and saw his healing. That, my friends, is hope right there. That there was something about Jesus’ actions that made people just outside the temple go “can it be?” and then slowly enter in, and find healing. So, can it be?

Can it be that the families at the school I work at always have food on the table?

Can it be that the homeless will have a shelter over their head?

Can it be that the societal cracks this virus has revealed can be mended?

Can it be that a new world is being birthed on the far side of the tables being turned over?

The answer is… Yes, it can.

This doesn’t mean that all the problems are now gone.

But it does mean that the turning over of tables lead to the turning over of the world.

On the cross, Jesus turned the world upside down.

On the cross, He defeated the powers of darkness of darkness.

And out of the tomb, He shows us world reborn.

He turned over the tables. He turned over the world. He turned over the tomb stone.

Can it be? Yes it can.

As the old saying goes “no stone will be left unturned”, well the hope is that no table will be left unturned. For when Jesus appears again, what temple do we find? John says this in Revelation, when describing the world having been restored says:

I saw no temple in the city, for its Temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.  The glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

Can it be? Yes it can. The end has been written, all that exists is the time between Jesus’ resurrection and his eventual appearing again to implement fully what started on Easter Sunday. The hope of the prophets of the true temple find their place in Jesus, and also find their place in us as Jesus’ body, all unto a world where the temple known as Jesus will find the final say.

So anyone or anything that never had the chance to fully experience the table turning ways of Jesus will not stayed unturned.

So, can it be? Yes it can.

A new day has dawned

The revolution has begun.

The tables have turned.


So, in the wake of what Jesus has done, is doing, and will one day do: may we allow the Holy Spirit to turn over the tables of our own greedy hearts, to make us new, so that we become table turners, all unto the day where all tables will be turned, where no stone will be left unturned…Or rather, no table will be left unturned.

Amen .





My (current) theology of environmental action



Before I begin, let me say that this is my current theology of environmental action. Things may change, and yet, this is my best attempt to state where I stand.

Despite what you may believe about the actual origins of the universe (another post for another time…) I would contend that the Genesis story is a story that used stock creation language- that was common at the time- in order to communicate the more central purpose of telling a people about who God is- and how, in light of God- who they are meant to be in the world. As such, this post about the environment uses this story to talk about our role as human beings as it relates to the climate (and, more specifically, to climate change). From there, it will branch out to talking about theology pertaining to the end-game of creation, and from there circle back to the here and now. I touch on the prophetic texts and their application in our discussion on climate change, and then I take sometime to unpack a wider theology of how the Spirit is speaking through many people about climate action. From there, I have a few sections the go into a range of topics- one on economics, us being of the dust, and on pulling the log out of our own eyes. Hope you enjoy!


Being Made in God’s Image as having baked into it a call to care for creation

God made this world and said “and it was good”. “Good” in the Hebrew doesn’t mean perfect- it means God made this world good, and part of the vocation of what it means to be human is to take creation forward under the wise & loving rule of God; creation is full of wild and wondrous creative potential, and we are commissioned to take it somewhere. God told us to look after the world- that’s the actual meaning of the word “dominion”. The word “dominion” is often associated in a negative way, and as such perhaps this English word isn’t a good word in its modern usage to match the actual Hebrew meaning. Nonetheless, we’ll stick to that word, but make it clear what is meant by it. Dominion isn’t about exploiting this world, but looking after this world in flourishing ways. If we wouldn’t exploit a human being that God made, then why exploit the Earth that God made? We are to be unto creation what God is to us.


This vocation of taking creation forward and of looking after the world under God’s wise & loving rule didn’t cease. To understand this, we have to see the end goal. The end goal of creation is embodied in Jesus’ resurrection. Christ’s resurrection is a way of affirming the goodness of creation. In the resurrection, Jesus defeats all that pertained to his crucifixion- he defeated death, evil, injustice, by rising again against the backdrop of death, evil, and injustice putting him on the cross and killing him. Thus, Jesus’ resurrection affirms the prophetic Jewish hope that one day death, evil, and injustice would be defeated, and this hope is fulfilled as is rushed forward in time to one person (Jesus). The prophet’s hopes are confirmed in Jesus, and the future is now made certain in Jesus as his resurrection is seen as an advanced sign of future hope for all of creation and all people. In other words, what we see in Jesus’ resurrection is a foretaste of what’s to come. As such, the resurrection then points the way further forward to the eventual day where death, evil, and injustice is defeated on a cosmic level. Such belief was a given for the New Testament writers, and John gives us poetic picture of a day where the world is made right. When the New Testament writers (And the prophets of old) speak of this eventual hopeful future, they speak not of escaping this world, but the restoration of it. Jesus’ own prayer is about God’s Kingdom coming Earth as in Heaven, and Johns revelation ends with God dwelling here, not us going somewhere else- this world is our home, not only now but also in the future (For me to make a full case for this is another post for another time). In addition, the word “new” as in “New Heavens and New Earth” is about something being made new (as opposed to “newly made”); this is the language of restoration. Even verses like in Peters letters that speak of destruction, it’s always said in the context of refinement of creation, and not final destruction (whereby something else has to be made in its place). In other words, there is a continuity between what creation is now, and what it will become. The only discontinuity of creation is that it will be transformed- but such a transformation is doing away with the ways  of the old, not of creation being completely and utterly destroyed. So, we had humanity in the beginning given this vocation of looking after the world, and we have a picture that ends with the world restored. The beginning and end is about what we do with this world (including all who are in it). As a matter of fact, there is even a mysterious verse in Paul’s letter to Rome that speaks of creation itself waiting in groaning for the children of God to be revealed, as if to say that creations own redemption is mysteriously connected to the people of God being the people of God for the world itself (Or perhaps herself? Groaning is in Paul’s letter was allegorical to childbirth). To summarise, God doesn’t make something and then throw it on a cosmic waste heap (is not our God a God of redemption? Is not Jesus’ own physical body a restoration of Himself (as opposed to completely new)?) God calls this world our home. Not just now, but also in our future. Heaven isn’t the end game, heaven on Earth is. And we are called to be a people who lean into that future. We have no other world, we have no other place to go.



Reconciling New Creation with the climate data

Now, a positive hope for the future that we think will just happen (i.e. new creation) is very difficult to believe in given our current ecological crisis, and I’ll be lying if I said that the crisis hasn’t got me questioning my own positive theology of the future of the world in the mean time as it goes unto New Creation. I used to be confident that the resurrection automatically assured that- despite how bad things had gotten- God’s sovereignty will inevitably lead to everything being okay ecologically in the long-run; that not only will Christ make new creation (something I still hold onto) but that because it’s coming- though creation as it currently is will still need to be looked after (as per our responsibility)-  that things would be fine in the interim between now and new creation. The part of that belief where I now struggle with, is part where I say that we won’t have to ultimately worry about creations demise in the meantime because – as the belief goes- God will carry creation forward no matter how we act, that part of this will indeed be God somehow kick us into responsibility however with no possibility that we can royally screw it permanently at all. Now, whilst I thought that it couldn’t possibly be screwed up, I didn’t weaponise such a belief- I allowed the sure & confident hopeful reality that God will carry creation through thick and thin, to empower me to work towards its healing in the here-and-now, knowing that it will all be alright. 1 Cor. 15 still speaks to my soul, whereby Paul paints this beautiful future of God restoring creation, and then ends the section with saying “Now, work for the Lord”- Paul could of said “now relax”, but he connected God’s healing future with us being the healing presence of God empowered by the Spirit. However, people have taken the good theology of new creation and have weaponised it, and as such have used it as a way to be lazy and do nothing about climate change, out of a lazy God-will-work-it-all-out-ism. In some sense I still think things will be okay between now and the restoration of all things, but what’s changed in me is our sense of greater urgency to be the people who are the hands and feet of God in making this future happen;  I want to allow the urgency to kick us into gear, and even allow for the theological possibility that maybe we can so screw this up that we can kill ourselves before New Creation occurs. Whilst I still hold onto the hope of new creation, I am starting to reckon with the possibility that it might be possible we can kill ourselves before new creation happens; that Christ might lament in resurrecting a dead planet that shouldn’t of died. I still think we can have an interim future that doesn’t have our demise in it, but I now want to take seriously that it might be either/or, and that we need to take seriously then what we are doing in creation. Me saying what I have just said opens up a theological can of worms on the whole topic of God’s sovereignty in creation- but just to set the record straight, whilst that comes into it, I am not actually making a case on God’s sovereignty in either direction- for the lens I am choosing to use in thinking critically through this is based on the scientific data we have, which brings me to my next point.


In the same way evolution (our past) brought about theological discussions pertaining to Genesis (origins), perhaps the climate crisis- with its scientific possibility revealing that we can actually cause our own extinction- has opened questions about the book of Revelation’s end game. With the current data emerging, perhaps this is the churches new theological-scientific wrestle (One I which we should overcome now, not later). What does theology do with the possibility that we can kill ourselves in a permanent way? One could say that we can indeed end creation through our neglect, but that God will still raise creation (and us with creation) on the last day, but that we should do all that is in our power so that Christ will not need to raise a dead creation (with a dead people). To use a human analogy, I might die before the return of Christ, but will be raised up on the last day, and yet I do all in my power to live a long life and life-giving life. Likewise, we might be able to destroy creation before Christ returns- and yet we do all that is in our power to have creation flourishing. If you won’t light a coal fire in your home, perhaps let’s not doing it over our earthy home. A genuine ‘pro-life’ ethic isn’t about being merely ‘pro-birth’ but about seeking the fullness of life, and if I want to do unto others what I want done unto myself (have a long life) then I must seek that out as part of the vocation of being a Kingdom person in the context of our environment; in other words, creation matters because life matters, no matter how long or short such a life of creation might be. And I still believe we can have creation, and have with creation more and more of the Kingdom realised in it up and all the way till the final restoration of all things. As such, to not look after creation- despite the possibility that it might have a temporal demise if we do nothing- is not seeking the life of all. We should recognise the data, and as such fight against our possible demise, seeing the possibility of demise as an enemy to be fought (after all, Christ speaks of death as being an enemy, so how much more death of all living things?!), with the urgency being that- if we don’t act- we are not being faithful  to God and thus will kill creation, and that if we do act we are being faithful and as such being God’s stewards. Truth be told, I am still very hopeful that we will wake up to the calling to look after creation, and that God’s leading of creation being taken care of will be the interwoven sovereignty that was always going to eventually be inevitable because of God’s hand over history- and yet, I don’t want to bank on that. Our responsibility to take care of creation is ours- given by God- and so we must act.



Prophetic urgency & Prophetic imagination  

With this taken into account, let me say something about prophetic urgency and prophetic imagination. In the prophets, the pattern is “If you continue to do this, this bad thing will happen because of your actions- woe to you! Let me paint a picture of your future demise if there isn’t a change in a new direction!”, followed by “And this is the future you can have- let me paint you an imagined future that’s hopeful and will happen- but only if you change your ways!” followed by “And yet, God will have the final word, and God’s final word is hope, and yet, change! Now! Save yourself! Because woe to to you if you don’t”. When these prophetic texts are taken seriously (and in context), they are about being a people of seeking to set things right in a societal level, and the societal level being how we treat those who are often forgotten in society. The prophetic texts are often tied to dehumanising power, exploitation of the poor, twisted economics, which in turn is tied to how the people have been formed by a particular worship (typically the worship of money, sex, and power, disguised as statues, or sacred object, or in our time, ideals & ideologies, or even politicians, all often perpetuated by a *particular* version of economics & power). Given the texts used in their context, a strong case can be made that our treatment of the planet is tied directly to how we see ourselves in relation to how we do power, how we do economics, and as such how we treat the poor, and that this is part of a worship of particular ideologies (such as money, or the myth of eternal economic growth). It is said that our current climate disaster will affect the poor first (think of the low-lying island nations). As such, I think we can draw upon these texts as part of our inspiration going forward. Perhaps we need prophets that speak both a prophetic urgency and also a prophetic vision of a world that can be changed for the better if we only change for the better. Within my own context, I am thinking of someone (and others) like Greta Thunberg who is (rightly in my opinion) painting a prophetic urgency, and then documentaries like 2040 which are (rightly in my opinion) painting a prophetic hope-if-we-change-our-ways. I am not surprised that it is the children who- being aware of their possible future- are the ones schooling us grownups in our complacently. The veracity of pushbacks (by Christians too I might add…) is astounding, despite the fact that our scriptures implore us to not despise the young (1 Tim. 4:12), and remember that our children will prophecy (Acts 2:17).


A more nuanced theological pushback might be that it’s often those who don’t identify as Christians who are doing this prophetic work. I grant that if they had the prophetic arc of history in mind, that their imagined futures will be grounded in a story of history that’s grounded in Jesus’ work in the world- and that this in turn will generate a new found hope, and as such a new found power & energy in these movements. However, sometimes I think God just wants to get things done, and that the Spirit will pour out on all flesh and partner with those who are doing the work of restoration in the world despite where they are at theologically. This isn’t to say “anything goes” in sort of lazy pragmatism that doesn’t care about the worldview of those speaking into these spaces (after all, some of their worldview can be problematic), rather, this is to say that God might be even bigger than the worldview they have- that God’s work is being done even if they don’t know that this is what God would desire for His good world. God’s Spirit at work in the work of the those who don’t identify as ones doing the work of a God, isn’t an endorsement of their whole life- all I am saying is, is that God is doing what God wants, and partnering with those people who have stumbled upon something that is true and worthwhile (e.g. working for climate justice), despite what they may or may not believe. And yes, I would love that such people embrace not only what they have stumbled upon, but the One who lies behind what they stumbled upon (i.e. The God-revealed-in-Jesus)- after all, to know the Kingdom in its fullest and revealed ways, is to know the King of the Kingdom, and thus bring a more explicitly particularised power (cross-shaped power). And yet I am thankful that there are at least people taking seriously things that are to be taken seriously and are responding to the echoes of a King they haven’t yet fully grasped, but nonetheless taking seriously these echoes. If anything, this is an opportunity for the church to be the church- not in a ‘us vs. them’ way, but in a way that brings a more fuller & complete prophetic imagination that’s grounded in the work and present ministry of Jesus, and to bring that to the world, which in turn will add more energy, more hope, more wisdom, and more solutions in these otherwise already very powerful spaces. Such a genuine faith permeating in these movements I think will be akin to that of Martin Luther King Jr’s ways of doing the Kingdom of God in public- both with Christians, and also with those who are sensitive to restorative justice without explicitly having relationship with the King of restorative justice. In the meantime, God is partnering with whoever has a sensitivity to the things of God- whether they know that it is something that a God cares about or not, and whether it’s only a part of what’s precious to God. It’s us who have the problem in not seeking out God’s will as it pertains to our climate emergency. Rather than being discreetly jaded by the fact that others are ‘beating us to it’ (which is often what I think is psychologically really going on when we can’t fathom that maybe people without faith are doing things better than those with faith…), we should get over ourselves, repent, and get on with the work that is an ancient as time itself- that is that we look after creation.



We are people of the dust- we are part of creation

We are, after all, people of the dust. We are made of dust (literally and figuratively). In the Genesis story, that is what is told of us. This to me is also profound. Often, we think of the world as if we are somehow part of it yet also separate from it. Whilst we are commissioned with looking after the world, such commission doesn’t make us the exception of the world itself. If we are made of the dust, then we are made of the material of the world. In other words, we are part of creation itself. We are not separate from creation. And the more we reflect on this, the more we will realise that how we treat creation is how we are treating ourselves. Self-care is creation care, and creation care is self-care, for we are of the dust of the Earth. To some, this might sound like pantheism or creation worship- but it’s not. It’s good theology, and just because other worldviews might have taken this train of thought and then do something else with it theologically, doesn’t mean we have to negate what is right there within our own rich tradition. When we destroy creation, we are destroying ourselves. A people’s who understand this ancient-as-time-itself wisdom are our First Nations people. I often think to myself that our First Nations people should be the ones we go too in order to gain wisdom of the way we look after creation. I know some people might be theologically triggered by that, as they might point out that some indigenous worldviews can be pantheistic. Whilst that may or may not be true depending on the First Nations people group, I know through my own experience that their wisdom is what we need. I know of Christian First Nation leaders who speak of their people as people whom God has used (and still use) as the people who have consistently wisely looked after the land. Considering that their connection to the land has not lead to the lands exploitation but to its wise ordering, I wonder what it would mean to let those who have seen themselves as God’s people for the land to lead the conversations on how we navigate this climate crisis.


“For the love of money…” and the care of creation

It would be too much to say that all our lack of care for creation comes as a result of our love of money, but it’s a heck of a lot of it, as the love of money certainly is the root of all kinds of evil. Our current crisis spiked around the time of the industrial revolution, that had baked into it a paradigm that connected the wellbeing of the world with economic growth, rather than the wellbeing of a people with the people’s wellbeing themselves. To be nuanced, I want to say that it’s not economics itself but the type of economics that have been problematic. I am for people becoming economically empowered, and good economics can (and does) bring people out of poverty. Profits that seek to profit the people is loving. Having money isn’t wrong, and as a matter of fact, I want people to have capital that seeks their wellbeing (i.e. a roof over their head, food on the table, and the ability to do what will align with how God wants them to be in the world, without having to worry about losing their homes and food on the table as they do that). Yet, our current economic narrative tells us that it is dangerous to get on board the healing the climate  because our national and corporate profits will be at risk, which (according to this narrative) in turn puts us at risk. If the only reason why we can’t do something is because of our economics, then perhaps our current way we run the world economically is wrong. Such an economics may have served a purpose for a particular time, yet surely there is a way of doing economics that isn’t dependent upon a make-or-break model for not only ourselves but the very world we live in. Once again, the wisdom of Jesus is to be drawn upon. Jesus offers a model of economics based in Jubilee (which is also another post for another time); it’s a model that through community removes the basic and legitimate fears of life (having a roof over our head and food on our table) which in turn empowers us to not live in fear, but in creativity. I understand that what I am saying is a lot to ask, but (as cheesy as it might sounds…) we serve a big God.



Log out of my own eye…

All this being said, I am aware that my faith asks of me to pull the log out of my own eye first- that any response to climate justice ought not to create a new ‘us vs them’ narrative that only seeks to vilify others without first recognising where I am contributing to climate change myself. As one theologian has said, “the fault lines of evil run through all our hearts”. I know that the way I eat, the way I spend, the way I consume, the way I transport, that some of these things are in my control, and that I have to point the finger to myself and seek to live differently first. I must have a narrative that seeks to take seriously how I am part of the problem (Not in some sort of self-hating way, I might add…). Daily confession, and daily ways to seek to live differently, must start with me. This is a hard pill to swallow. Yet, to be balanced, this isn’t to say that there aren’t structures, and principalities & powers of evil in our world that are themselves the vicious cycles that we are stuck in. I want to grant that some things are not in our control, and that will take us collectively seeking a new way- societal and structurally- to go about change. The truth of the matter is, I don’t have the money to get solar panels, and so it’s appropriate in such moments to name & shame the system that makes such change financially difficult for otherwise sincere people who do want to make the change, but can’t financially do it. At this point in time, being environmental mindful in the fullest extent can at times (though not in all things…) be very pricy, and that this cost is a result of the structures in society. This isn’t an either/or, but a both/and. We need to pull the log out of own eyes, and also name the systems (and seek the change the systems…) that can often cut down the ‘trees’ and produce the ‘logs’ in the first place.


In conclusion

All in all, we have a vocation to be the people of God for creation, which if we are made for creation is really about us being the people of God for ourselves- us who are creation herself. We will need to listen to those prophetic voices as we seek to be the voices as well. We need to listen to those who have always had the wisdom of caring the world and seeing ourselves as connected to the world, that being our First Nations people.  We will need to listen to the ways of Jesus & the Spirit, who is calling us further up and further in. We will need to question our current economics that’s based on love of money that perpetuates our felt need to continue our climate changing practices. We will need to question current model of living- both in how I contribute to the mess, and also how structures put us in the mess. And finally, despite my theology of our current climate times being in flux based on the current science, I still hope that our future ends in resurrection of a world that had with its history a God who guided all of us beyond the impasse of our current climate emergency. I base this hope in this scandalous dark-skinned Jewish man who rose again from the dead as a signpost pointing all of creation towards its eventual renewal- no matter what. When Jesus rose again from the dead, the Gospel of John called that faithful day the “new day of the week”. Dare I suggest (as many biblical scholars do…) that what is being ushered in Jesus’ resurrection is the first day of the new day of the week: new creation. We are called to be a people who take our vocation as image bearers seriously, to become a people re-made in the messiah, empowered by the Spirit unto new creation- where the leaves of the tree of life will be for the healing of the nations. And to be a people who allow such a future to work in our hearts in the here and now, as we follow the Spirit (regardless where the Spirit is, or who the Spirit is using), and as such go and be God’s good stewards as we take this current crisis seriously. As the renowned New Testament scholar N.T Wright once said, “Jesus is coming, so plant a tree!”.





Real Treasure & The Economic Vision of Jesus (Matthew 6:19-24; 1 Tim. 6:8-10, 18-19)

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Real Treasure (Matthew 6:19-24; 1 Tim. 6:8-10, 18-19)

 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.


If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.



For the love of money People will steal from their mother. 

For the love of money People will rob their own brother.

For the love of money People can’t even walk the street

Because they never know who in the world they’re gonna beat For that lean, mean, mean green Almighty dollar, money.

For the love of money People will lie, Lord, they will cheat

For the love of money

People don’t care who they hurt or beat

For the love of money A woman will sell her precious body For a small piece of paper

it carries a lot of weight Call it lean, mean, mean green, almightly dollar. 

For the love of money…

Those were the lyrics of The O’Jays’ 1970’s hit “For the love of money”


In our current state of relationship to money, materiality, and private goods and lands- both on a personal level and on a societal level- Paul was right when he said “For the love of money is indeed the roots of all kinds of evil”…

Why do we create new coal mines that we know damage the Earth? Because we get greater national GDP! Why are there 170 million children worldwide engaged in slave labour? Companies get to cut the costs in order to create a greater production-to-profit margin! Why have I been guilty of paying for such clothing? Because it’s cheap!

Lord have mercy on us all.

I don’t say this to shame people. I’m not one for shame. I am however one for honest assessment, and it appears to me that, when you really stop and reflect on it, a lot of evil done in the world is done because we want to cut costs, have efficiency, and not lose out on investments. So we are all in this hot mess together. It’s no wonder then, that Jesus- as well as the whole bible- speaks a lot about money. Dare I say, the sermon on the mount is a direct assault against the Capitalist mind.


A Few Qualifiers

Now some of you might be thinking “where he is going with all of this?”. Is he saying things like money, materiality, or private property are wrong?


Let me be clear: Christian faith does not prohibit having money, or having things, or having private property- but rather decries obsession with money, things, and private property, & the stinginess to how we use our money, material goods, and property (See the distinction?). Even as Paul’s instruction to Timothy where he famously says “the love of all money is the root of all kinds of evil” he goes onto say in the same letter later that more monetary well-to-do Christians are to “not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” and Paul says  “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share”. He assumes there would be Christians with money, and his critique isn’t that they have money, but of their relationship to money, and as such how they use it. And for those us who don’t have a lot of money and do need more of it- the desire for more money can be perfectly reasonable. There is an injustice if you don’t have enough money in order to eat, if you don’t have enough for shelter, if you don’t have enough for access to health & education. Wanting money in order to get those things is about moving out from poverty and into a just society- that is not the same as worship of mammon. The critique is against a very clear devotion to wealth (which by the way, includes me)- this is not to throw shade or shame those who have little money and desire more. That’s about desiring justice.


Likewise, the critique isn’t that someone might have private property, but that they don’t use it for the common good (See the distinction?). For example, First Home Project was a private property, but that was used to house Refugees coming into Australia- offering a place to live and a community to be apart of. This is in contrast to someone who has a mansion with 10 rooms and the place remains empty whilst a suburb over people are on the streets. The key is that private property is to be filtered through the deeper truth that God created the world for all people, and as such we are to steward our resources in such a manner for all people to wisely and justly share in.

And as it relates to material goods- God made a material universe, and Jesus has a material body, and so do you, and our future world is material as well (The New Creation)- so likewise, having material things isn’t wrong, but rather that we need to have a renegotiated relationship to materiality. If we don’t have certain material things- it is unjust! There’s a reason why justice-minded Christians fight for every person to have a physical roof over their head, food on the table, and access to things like school & education- because these are material things we ought to have. Why would Jesus himself feed people and heal people medically if those things were inherently wrong? After all, the opposite of poverty isn’t riches, but it is a society where people all equally don’t go without. And so, we are to work towards a type of materiality for all people.


The valleys will be filled in, and the mountains will be brought low”; The longing for a more equalised world under the rule of Jesus is a valid desire. But, for this to be the case, making for a more just society economically under the rule & reign of Jesus, will require a different relationship to all forms of material & financial wealth. For we have a skewed relationship to what Jesus calls our “treasures”- and the gospel invites us into have a newly formed and renegotiated relationship to our treasures.



The Treasures of Earth; The Treasures of Heaven

““Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

So what are our treasures? And are they of earth or heaven?

We can’t actually know the answers to such things until we understand what exactly is meant by the word “treasure”, and then (for that matter) what makes treasure “earthy” and one “heavenly”. In the Greek, the word for “treasure” denotes a collection of things which are of big importance or value, and to “store up” referred to the storing up of material goods- which basically means hoarding things. “Storing treasure” then, is hoarding things that are big importance or value to us. Now, notice Jesus does not say to stop storing things which are of big importance or value, but that we don’t store up earthly things which are of big importance or value- we are to store up heavenly that which are of big importance or value. So we are commanded to store that which are of big importance or value- as long that it is heavenly, not earthy.


But that begs the question: what makes treasure “earthy” and the other “heavenly”? To answer that, we have to know what Jesus meant by “earth” and “heaven”. So, how is Jesus using the words “earth” and “heaven”? Is one good and the other bad? Well we know God made the world and said “and it was good”, and that he indeed “loves” the world, so we can’t preclude that the physical world is bad just because this contrast of “earth” and “heaven” is used. So, if that’s not what’s going on when Jesus contrasts earthy treasure vs heavenly, then what?


To know this, we have to understand heaven. In Jewish thought, heaven wasn’t so much about a place as it was about a presence, namely the presence of God. So a place only becomes Heavenly if that’s is where God is- because God is what makes for Heaven, and Heaven is what makes for God. So, it’s interesting then that the Jewish prophets long for the presence of God to be made known (where?) all over the Earth- they speak of this longing & hope by describing a world where God’s presence has flooded the place which in turn makes everything different.  Swords are bent into ploughshares (Or rather our guns are turned into tools) and we make for war no more, great banquets are put before all people to share in and have joy in and no one goes hungry, even the trees dance & clap and the lion lies down with the lamb, those who were blind or couldn’t walk now walk and see, the injustices & the evils of the world are done away with- no one is dying, corruption cannot happen anymore, human trafficking ceases, being homeless is a thing of the past. Picture your city, but without anything that defaces it. What’s being described here? Heaven (the presence of God) on Earth. Jesus said “your kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven”. If Heaven on Earth is the will of Jesus, the prophets hope’s, and what is described in John’s trippy revelation… Then when Jesus says that we are storing up treasures for heaven, he cannot mean that it’s about storing up to go somewhere else, but to store up for sometime else- namely to store up for God’s future, where this world is restored & all things are made right as God presence floods this world fully. When you buy food to put in your fridge, you don’t then go and sit in the fridge to eat food- rather when the time for the feast is upon us, the food comes out of the fridge to make for a feast where the humans live- that’s what we are talking about here. So then, if the word treasure is defined as that “which is of importance and value” then to know what the “treasure” of heaven is we have to know what the ultimate grand, important, and valuable things that make for heaven on Earth are? Well, what’s Jesus doing in his ministry? Bringing the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth! If we want to know what the “heavenly treasures are” that we are to “store up”, the answer is found in Jesus: Jesus shows mercy to those whom society forgets, Jesus feeds the multitude of people, Jesus calls out any form of religious and political powers that keep the poor in their poverty, Jesus empowers his people to give shelter, Jesus brings medical healing, Jesus empowers the lowly to become functioning members of society, Jesus establishes friendship-centred communities, Jesus teaches us to be fully human again. These are the things that are of the most importance & value of heaven. That’s what we are to store up. Those are the things that, when we do them, we are making for Heaven, and Heaven precisely on Earth- and those things will last forever.

N.T Wright says it well when he says this:

“What you do in the Lord is not in vain. You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that’s about to roll over a cliff. You are not restoring a great painting that’s shortly going to be thrown on the fire. You are not planting roses in a garden that’s about to be dug up for a building site. You are—strange though it may seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection itself—accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God’s new world. Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world—all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make.”

When I counsel kids who have severe trauma to the point that they can function in society- that’s a treasure that will last forever.

When a church plants a community garden that offers sanctuary and feeds the community- that’s a treasure that will last forever.

When you open up your home and offer counsel, comfort, support, and even festive joy- that’s a treasure that will last forever.

When a Christian school decides to cover funeral costs for a student’s family who son died by suicide- that’s a treasure that will last forever.

When a group of rag-tag Jesus loving rebels do a peaceful protest against the treatment of refugees, or the treatment of creation- that’s a treasure that will last forever.

When the global church fights with love on behalf of countries under crippling debt- that’s a treasure that will last forever.

In all that we do, we are like the stone masons of old who would spend their entire lifetime focusing on one small section of a cathedral, only then to die and not see the end product. But then to imagine that they all came back to see in delight the fruit of their labour- a magnificent cathedral that communicates the grandeur and awe of God. Their labour wasn’t in vein. And neither is ours. If we are asking “well, what will this heavenly treasure tangibly look like?” then I think we are missing the point. The point isn’t getting a car in the next life, the point is that what we consider to be treasures are re-defined around God’s dream for all of creation, and baked into such a dream will be the reward of our labour transfigured into something beautiful that will go one forever. We will see the fruit one day, even if we cannot envision how- for no love is ever lost in the universe.


This is the choice we are faced with daily- both in the big decisions of life, in how we do our vocation, in our lifestyle choices, all down to the little mundane decisions we make- what will our treasures be? Because we could hoard for the treasures of the earth that won’t last forever and carry into God’s world that he is making. It’s very easy for us to believe that our treasure is what we find on the billboards in needing that bigger car, or that Facebook ad that is essentially telling you that that all your happiness boils down to having that new Gucci bag. The point isn’t to say that you can’t have a car or dress nice- the point is this: what do you think true treasure really is? What do our daydreams tell us they are? What do our choices tell us it is? If all of history is moving towards a Jesus-shaped heaven-on-earth, then what are the true treasures in life that will last forever? For when these things are our treasure- our heart is there. In the ancient world, thieves would dig holes through the walls of family homes and take the store boxes in these homes, and likewise, some families used to hide their belongings in caves or underground- but even then things like coins would eventually rust, and moths would eat through the clothes. Nothing is really new under the sun- today people break into homes, and there is a $38 billion storage industry globally. And even with our locks and keys and storage- eventually these things either get taken, and if they don’t get taken, they breakdown. These things don’t last forever. The point isn’t so much if an object goes bad or breaks down, but rather the question if there is an on-going-never-ending significance/impact in what is being seen as precious and of great importance? Are those things or can those things be used in such a way that it brings heaven on Earth? Things that are hoarded might indeed rust and break down- so how can we use such things for the common good?


Because the treasures of earth- that is, living in such a way that gets things for things sake…? Jim Carrey once said “I wish everyone could experience being rich and famous, so they’d see it wasn’t the answer to anything”. Someone like a Jim Carrey are the people who- by all societal definitions – have made it. But they speak of a view of life from the top whereby they realise through experience that this is not what life is about. These are not the true treasures. I think when it’s all said and done, no one will get to the end of life and wishes that they had more things. At the twilight of life- will fame hold our hands? will fortune tell us everything will be okay? Will knowledge pat our head down? It seems to me that in the end, it’s the treasures that make for heaven- that of the love, care, and compassion around us- that will matter, and that will matter & carry on eternally. Donald Miller once said in his book “Scary Close” that “when the story of earth is told, all that will be remembered is the truth we exchanged. The vulnerable moments. The terrifying risk of love and the care we took to cultivate it. And all the rest, the distracting noises of insecurity and the flattery and the flashbulbs will flicker out like a turned-off television”. Where are we dedicating our life, time, and daydreams? In following money, materiality, fame as both means and ends? Jesus invites us into something far better and far bigger, and that which will make us truly come alive. Because the simply truth is: no one can serve two masters.

Heart & Eyes: The Practical

So how might we actually live this out? Other than the obvious of prayer and community- what are some spiritual disciplines we can learn to live this out? Because believe it or not…But this text today is extremely practical.

Firstly, what we do with our treasures. Heart is about that drive, that direction, that full fontal will of the whole life, mind, and intension of a person. It’s the whole self. Okay, so now we have that, notice this: when Jesus talks, notice how he doesn’t say “where your heart is, there is your treasure is also”, rather it says, “where your treasure is, there your heart is also”. In other words, it’s where your treasure is first, that then pulls ourselves there. It’s not your heart that will control where you put your treasures- it’s the other way around. Your treasure, your stuff, will control your thoughts, your will, your direction. So, if you care about the poor give them some of your stuff, give them your precious space. But here’s the kicker: If you struggle to care for the poor- give them some of your stuff! Give them your precious space! And when you give enough over time you will come to care…Because your heart will follow where your treasure now is. And in time, that will even transfigure what your treasures are- because their usage will no longer be that which rusts, but that which will have changed lives forever.


Secondly, what we do with our eyes. Jesus says “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Here’s a question: what do lights do? They light up a room and as such make it easier for you to see, which means you can walk from one side to the other- obstacles and all. Jesus is saying that your eyes are like a torch that enables you to see in such a way that you can navigate. Without eyes, you are like someone in darkness, because you can’t see. Now, are they “good eyes” or “evil eyes”? The word “good”, as in “If your eyes are good” is the greek word “haplous”; and it can mean healthy but also “single” as in singular in one’s devotion. So if your torch-like eyes have that one healthy, singular, devotion-  if your eyes are like that of a torch  pointing in the good, singular, and devoted direction, you’ll be able to walk that way just fine. It’s about the focus of the torch-like-eyes. And this makes sense, because straight afterwards Jesus says “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other….”. It’s about devotion, singular torch-light lit devotion in a direction that either is about serving God or serving money. That’s why our “eyes being bad” will cause a walk in darkness- we might be shinning a light in a direction that illuminates a path, but that path is towards another type of devotion- and it isn’t towards the singular Christ- it’s towards a singular devotion and service towards serving money. One is a “good eye” that lights the way of generosity, whilst the “bad eye” is that of stinginess & greed. So, the question becomes practical: what are we looking at? What takes all our attention & focus & rumination? Is it towards service of God, or service of money? When you look at people, are you seeing how you can serve them and love them and see them as a child of God? Or is it how maybe that person will “profit” you, how they might be an “asset” (Notice even our language around such the ways we can speak of people is in terms of economics?)? In other words, what we look at and what we imagine in our minds eye does matter. As a spiritual practice, try to intentionally imagine scenarios where you use your treasures, your money, your time, your energy, in Christlike ways. If you, for example, are buying a home- see how that space can be used for the common good. Imagine what it would look like to use that space for hospitality, for love, for service- let that be what drives your final decision.

Conclusion: Jesus’ Economic Vision

I’ll finish with saying this…

These passages continue into another set of passages that tell us not to worry. And I’m not preaching of them today- and yet, there is a flow on effect with these passages, because the truth of the matter is this: when we start to live like this, the later call of “do not worry” makes sense- for if we become a people who focus on investing in God’s Kingdom and Justice, then all will have their basic needs met. We will be freed to no longer worry, because when we live generously as a community, we will all have the food on the table that frees us to not need to worry. An economic vision of Jesus’ Kingdom which dismantles hyper capitalism & transcends mere socialism, into something which we simply call Love.


And because it is precisely that which we call Love- that which comes from God- that it is God that needs to bring this. It is Jesus who brings His economic dream into the world, and thus into our lives both as individuals and as communities. In other words, don’t see this as some sort of moralising message about how to be better financially. Yes of course we learn from his sermon on the mount- but he brings the Kingdom of  the sermon on the mount. Living into this new world is precisely possible because Jesus is the one making this new world.

It is the work of Jesus- the true treasure of Heaven- that’s making all things new. In Jesus, we have one that set aside his privilege in order to come into solidarity with us- he forsook the riches afforded to him, and took on the form of one without a dime to his name. He was one who was a rough sleeping nomad without a place to lay his head. Jesus came from a part of town that would have been the financial backwater part of town, and it’s from that town that he brings an economic vision that shakes up the social structures of Rome and the religious elite, as well as shaking up our stingy hearts- so much so that they (and- mysteriously- we) eventually kill Him. Yet, in His death, he doesn’t repay theirs (and ours) economic evils in eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth, tit-for-tat ways. Rather, Jesus reveals the free-gift of God’s love to the whole world. And in doing so, exposes the economic forces of darkness that work behind the powers of these empires, and defeats the economic forces of darkness in the process- bringing instead to the world free, unearned, jubilee love. And on of the far side of this both the great defeat of evil economic forces and the unveiling of God’s freely self-giving economic love, is Jesus’ resurrection that assures us of his victory. Just when his first disciples thought that Jesus’ death signalled the defeat of Jesus’ Kingdom, we see his resurrection as a revelation to us that….No! Jesus has the final say! And so His ways, His Kingdom, His economic vision, has baked into it His inevitable victory! For the love of money couldn’t hold him down! Jesus, in coming into solidarity with us, has carried, is carrying, and will one day carry this world forward to the shores of heaven-on-earth, where all the true treasures that made for heaven on Earth will find their completion in a world made new.

… A world where the true treasures are found- where neighbourly love is what lights up our hearts and makes life all the more blessed… That which moth & rust cannot destroy.




Brad Jersak unveiling a better faith in “A More Christlike Way”

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Before I start this review, I need to make a confession. I arrogantly thought that this book would just re-hash what I thought I already knew. I came to this book thinking “okay, so I know God is perfectly revealed in Jesus, and so yep, that means that is God is love, and so then a faith modelled on love becomes how we embody our faith into the world- simple! And if this is what Brad is going to say (though only in a longer version) then he’ll be confirming what I generally already know”. Needless to say, the Spirit used this book to gently remind me, once again, that true knowing of Love (i.e. God) is not the type of knowing that you exhaust, or understand, or grasp (and it certainly isn’t “simple”). Rather, true knowing is relational knowing that you don’t grasp, but rather, grasps you. And when it’s the God who is Love that grasps you, you learn more and more from the Master of Love; and so you learn to love better and to love with more of oneself. And that can’t ever be exhausted or fully understood- rather that is something that we grow in over a lifetime (if only we keep our hearts open and teachable). And so, Brad’s book served as a means of God to bring about God’s gentle reminder (and my later act of repentance); for it was in Brad’s pages that I learnt more of what a more Christlike Way could be. So, as I started reading this book, Brad writings showed me again that I am (and always will be) a student in the ways of God’s abundant grace. As such, this book then immediately set the tone of it being a work that would gently rebuke and yet rebuild- and I honestly think it will serve to that ends for many…And here’s me hoping it’ll also do that to the wider church as we so desperately seek her on-going reformation.


And so with this, Brad sort to build on the good tone he had set for the book: that the Jesus Way is neither a call to a new form of moralism (whereby we think we bring the Kingdom, or for that matter think we have it all figured out) or us merely standing still and thus not be active in living the life of love. Instead, Brad reminds us that walking in a more Christlike way is an invitation into a graceful participation in what God is doing, has done, and will do. Brad reminds us that it is Jesus alone who perfectly walked his own walk, carving the path that we only later walk, and that following is called following– not standing still. Brad continues to return to these equal truth’s as I read this book, and as a reader I found this constant reminder a needed reminder- for it is easy to slip into the pattern of moralism that then makes one think that they have it all together (and as such have all the answers), or into a pattern of static & still faith that serves to no fresh action on our part in the world. As such, Brad is careful to avoid both the pits of moralism on one side, and a cheap grace on the other, and instead call us into the narrow Christlike way- whereby we participate in what God is doing, and to participate in this only by the power of the Spirit. So, with these good reminders throughout the pages of the book, Brad then calls us into a vision of what is a more Christlike Way.


Of course, we can’t start to speak of a more Christlike Way without talking about God being a Christlike God. And so, Brad is wise to set his book on good foundation by reminding us of his main thesis of his last book (A More Christlike God): that Jesus is the gateway to knowing who God is (and always has been), with the epicentre of this revelation of God being that of Christ crucified (God as self-giving and cross-shaped). However, Brad’s writing into showing us again a more Christlike God started to (by design?) lead unto the rest of the book that painted for us a more Christlike way. But here’s the question: how much have we let the true Image of the more Christlike God trickle down into a genuine and sincere Christlike way?


Brad reminds us that- in the post-2000 years of our faith- we have made such deviations from the central revelation of God being revealed perfectly in Jesus. And so, UnChristlike ways have sprung up with the Christian label put over the top of it like that of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Yet, even in Brad’s assessment of how we have got it so terribly wrong in our 2000 year history, Brad is once again balanced and pastoral in his assessment. He is aware that the church has indeed done wonderful things- that a rag-tag bunch of imperfect people have stumbled in doing tremendous good in the world. And so, Brad is quick not to mis-label the entire church & it’s history as pure evil. And yet, in the same quickness, he names evil’s done in church, so much so that he doesn’t merely sympathise with those who felt like they needed to leave as a result of hurts done to them, but emphathised with those who needed to leave. Brad hears & names their stories and hurts, acknowledging their need for a sojourning journey beyond the walls of the places that have caused them hurt. Brad’s balance is fair, theologically reflective, and also pastoral.


Our faith has been co-opted in many ways, and by many zeitgeists, that all in turn mass produce various ‘Christian’ faiths that are more made in the image of our rebellion than in the image of the God who is perfectly revealed in Christ. And we have all been baptised in those contaminated waters of these pseudo-Christian faiths. None of us come out of those waters unscathed. As such, it is with humility, that Brad’s thorough critique of these pseudo-Christian faiths is done as one pulling a log out of his own eyes first before he goes to pull the twig out of those who practice faith these ways. It was Brad’s confessional nature in these pages that helped me see that the problem isn’t merely “out there”, but also inside of me. Brad models for the readers this humility whereby he says “Lord have mercy” rather than saying “Well Thank God I am not like them”. This could have been a book about finger pointing elsewhere, but instead it was a book about humbly analysing our own hearts first in order to then be able to find the better way to be human in Jesus.


Brad continues to lead the humble charge of repentance as he carries the book forward into a needed section on how to actually go about this change. Change requires breaking down all the pseudo-ways we have practised UnChristlike ways. This breaking down is named by its popular term: deconstruction. Now, I can’t name too many Christian authors who tackle the topic of deconstruction by deconstructing deconstruction itself! And yet, in keeping with seeking a more Christlike way, Brad offers to his readers a more Christlike way to deconstruct in such a manner that doesn’t look like some versions of deconstruction. This to me was a real gem in the book. Such a ‘meta’ approach was welcomed by someone like me who, in being a qualified therapist, has seen the knee-jerk reactions people have had to their own painful situations (whereby in their knee-jerk reactions have caused more pain in the wake). Brad, being a qualified theologian, observes the same type of knee-jerk responses in some people’s versions of deconstruction. Brad offers a better way as he sets the navigating course of the book. One word Brad did want to question was that of the imagery of the word “deconstruction” itself, as Brad seems to think is often a violent metaphor. Whilst I see the angle he is getting at, I did wonder if Brad could see the deconstruction language as akin to like that of the un-doing of Christ on the cross? After all, Paul uses the metaphor of death & resurrection as it relates not only to coming to faith, but also that of the pattern of on-going life in faith, which to me might be a way of speaking of deconstruction and reconstruction…? Though maybe I am becoming caught up in the semantics game. Perhaps what I am trying to say then is that the words “deconstruction” and “reconstruction” don’t necessarily have to have the violent images attached to them when the words are used. That said, I understand Brad’s point too: that the underlying phenomenon behind the words can be that of violent, saddening, and painful tumbling process.


Out of the woods of a better way to deconstruct (reconstruct?), Brad leads his readers down an analysis on the very concept of “the way”. Way to what? Brad gives the readers a tour of scripture about how the texts gives us different ways of speaking of going down different paths. This is the next layer that Brad builds as he moves his readers further up and further into his book. Brad is careful to paint the outlines of a more Christlike Way before he fills us in with the colours. And so then, Brad is careful to make sure the reader knows that such paths aren’t about going somewhere else after death (i.e. heaven or hell) but rather frames these paths as about the wise counsel of a God that seeks the best for his children. This was important for Brad to do this, as approaching the texts he did, we can come with our minds & imaginations already baptised in toxic waters of a punitive God with either reward or punishment facing us. Brad seeks to make sure we know that- whenever we talk about paths, or ways- it’s in the context of a good Abba, not some sort of bad abusive sky dad. Brad is then quick to discern another thing a reader might bring up: isn’t all of this talk of Christlike way step into a type of pluralism (whereby those outside explicit affiliation of the Christian religion can follow in this Christlike way)? Brad- in remarkable anticipation as to how his readers would react to some of his claims- calms the theological storms by giving a precise account of what exactly he means when he speaks of someone following in The Way. To use theological language, Brad appears to be an inclusivist (Or, as one other theologian has put it- that Jesus is the way, but there are many ways to be in that one singular way). I too include myself in this camp. And yet Brad isn’t a pluralist- Brad thinks it is precisely Christ who carves this way. Brad seeks to provide an explanation on how one handles the relationship between orthopraxy and orthodoxy as one seeks to speak about The Way. Personally, I would have liked him to unpack this more (What role does orthodoxy play as it relates to being a Christ-follower?), however I understand that this might of gone beyond the scope of the book.


It is now that Brad adds the brick and mortar to the foundation that he has laid in his book. And it’s here that his book takes on its full force of a beautiful and gentle tour-de-grace. And is in these two main sections of the book that I found myself equally saying “amen” out loud, and also “Lord have mercy”.


As Brad continues with his book, he outlines some of the false faiths that have been generated in our time. He lists four major ones (Moralism, Partisan Amoralism, Retributive Factionalism and Nationalism & Civil Religion). Brad’s great analysis of what these ‘faiths’ look like was daunting. Each pseudo-faith spoke to my heart in one way or another. For moralism, the big thing that Brad brought to my attention for me was how easy it is for us to look at someone and say “thank God I am not like that person”, and that in doing so (i.e. not being honest about our own brokenness) we become self-righteous. For Partisan Amoralism, the big thing that Brad brought to my attention for me was how easy it is for us to allow our own morality- whether personal or political- to go so unchallenged by a Jesus, who wants us to give our full-fledged allegiance to Him, that it erodes Jesus into a label that we then slap onto our own agendas and coerce people into. Similarly, for Retributive Factionalism, the big thing that Brad brought to my attention for me was how we still- in our us vs. them minds- go and make political or group boxes, then go and live in those boxes, then think that the boxes of our political or group thought are always right, and as such we throw insults to those in those others boxes, and thus all-in-all missing the humanity of the political/group ‘other’. For Nationalism and Civil Religion, it was a more personal for me. Part of a family that has a history of military service, and so any talk against country can be seen as sacrilegious. And yet Brad reminds me of how Jesus himself calls us into a to a higher love– that we love Christ and His Kingdom, and then out of that place of love, seek to affirm and critique where a country is failing to be all it can be.


After Brad does the important task of naming such pseudo-faiths, he now draws his readers to what he sees as seven facets of a more Christlike Way: Radical Self-giving, Radical Hospitality, Radical Unity, Radical Recovery, Radical Peacemaking & Radical Forgiveness, Radical Surrender, Radical Compassion & Radical Justice. So far, the whole book has been wonderful, yet this section of the book really stood out for me. Now, I want you all to read this book, so I don’t want to spoil what Brad says by saying too much. However, I do want to leave you with a delightful taste in your mouths, and so let me just say a few words about how Brad goes about each facet:

-Radical Self-giving: To become a people who see and then embody Christ as one who set to the side his divine privilege. As Brad says, “Any privilege Jesus of Nazareth enjoyed as a Jew or a male or freeborn was offset by the scandal of his birth (in Bethlehem), his refugee status (in Egypt) and his blue-collar upbringing (in Nazareth)”. This is followed by Brad’s call to be a people who also set aside privilege and carry our cross.

-Radical Hospitality: To create space for all by calling everyone in, including those we think are out. And to do so by having the humility that we are all in this together. After all, as Brad says, “If we imagine we’re better than they are, we become exactly what we hate—it’s ironic”.

-Radical Unity: To become a people who are known by their love towards each other in mutually enriching ways.

-Radical Recovery: To become a people who follow in the way of the cross as spoken about in Jesus’ sermon on the mount, which is the way in which the Spirit transforms us.

-Radical Peacemaking; Radical Forgiveness: To become a people who, in staring into the eyes & the ways of the non-violent saviour (with his epicentre of revelation being the cross), we seek to embody the way of Jesus’ non-violence into an often so violent world.

-Radical Surrender: To become a people of a spirituality that seeks to rest in God; to be a giving-over people unto the trusting hands of a God who loves us. And so, we rest.

-Radical Compassion; Radical Justice: That as Christ so identifies with the poor, that we are to become a people whose heartbeat are for the poor.

I want to stress to readers of this review that I haven’t even scratched the surface of this section. This section of the book is richly dense. There is so much more I could say in each of these facets, but that’s what the book is for. What I can say about this section is this: my eyes were more freshly opened. I cannot stress enough how Brad’s confessional nature, storytelling form, his anticipation for pushback (and his subsequent responses to such pushbacks), his practical, and his pastoral yet deeply theological posture in this section, allowed for a rich and transforming read in how we can have for a more Christlike Way.


But it’s in Brad’s last chapter that made my heart rate climb as it leapt in joy for a vision of truly Good News. My knees buckled in gratitude to what God has, is, and will one day do, and I began to pray on bended and excitable knees. I couldn’t put this section of the book down. It was Brad’s wonderful articulation of Abba’s Dream for the world- and our beautiful invitation to participate in it- that was truly and powerfully poetic. Indeed, he utilised the poetry of scripture and also his own visions & dreams of God’s caring and climatic action in the world, and it was this well-crafted combination that proved this final section of his book so beautiful. It’s moments like this, that the writing grabs you in such a manner, that you are no longer just reading the text, but participating in it. And for that, I am deeply grateful.


Needless to say, overall this book was a wonderful read. It would be too shallow to say that it was merely intellectually stimulating, for it was certainly not the work of an ivory tower theologian, but of a theologian doing writing the way I (personally) think all theological work should be done: As part of our lived experience and on the ground. Brad’s confessional nature, his relationship with others in solidarity, and his reflected meditations on the God-who-is-Love, made for what I think is the best type of theological reflection and reading…Reading that is equally stimulating intellectually and emotionally, and in such a manner that it creates the deeper reservoir of meaning– moving the written work beyond the mere rationalism and emotionalism. Good theology must always outwork itself relationally & beautifully, and Brad has done this with great precision with this book. In reading this book, I hope that we can all learn A More Christlike Way.


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The Young Man and The Wise Cleric

There was once a regular gathering of Christian university students. These young Christians would come from their respective classes and huddle together into a hired-out library room that they rented for their fortnightly gatherings. There, in this space suited for tutorial presentations, they would come together to discuss about how their faith could impact their lives and also strategies about different ways to share their faith with their friends.


One week, they decided to learn about apologetics, and so one of the young enthusiastic men (an avid reader in all things to do with defending the faith) volunteered to lead the session on apologetics. He got up to the front desk, with a PowerPoint ready to go, and begun his presentation. “Tonight” he announced, “I would like to share with the group an analogy on how Jesus is the only way to God, and how to convince people of this one and only truth”. Just as he was about to continue with his message, the back door to the large room quietly opened, and an old man came quietly in. The young man- already on a roll- continued to speak as this stranger came in. The old wise man, fitted with a priestly clerical collar, sat quietly in the back row of the fitted-out room, and listened to the young man speak, looking on and listening intently.


“Have you ever heard the fire analogy before?” said the young man enthusiastically to he group. Most of them shook their heads and begun to listen more closely. “Well” he continued, “There was once three people who awoke to find themselves in the middle of a beautiful and yet mysterious maze-like forest. It was a late night, and they thought it would be better to find the way out of the maze in the morning. As it was a cold evening, they used some of the loose timber around them- and a lighter one of the people had- and made a camp fire. After they had huddled around the camp fire, each weary person went to sleep.  As they slept, the camp fire went beyond its bounds and lit a nearby bush on fire. Suddenly, all three of the people woke up to a blazing fire that had now started too spread to the maze’s forest walls. In a dash, these three people started to run through the maze. Thankfully, the maze turned out to be more like a labyrinth and so they became confident that they would all get out alive. All three of them were running through the maze together, but eventually they hit a cross road. There were two ways to go, but now they had to make a decision as to which way was the right way out of the maze. The first person said “Well, I don’t think there is a way out. This is all a sick joke. This is all we have got, so we might as well settle in and face our fate”. The second person pointed to the first path and said, “I believe this is the way out”. And the third person said, “Hey guys, I believe all paths lead to the way out”. But then, out of the blue, came a person out from the second path and said “I am the maker of the maze and sit on top of a tower with a bird eye view of the maze, I know this is the way out, so follow me””.


The young man telling his parable paused from speaking- as if to force a dramatic moment- and then continued, saying, “This is what we can say to people who think there are either no God and so no ways to God, or to people who believe their faith is right but have no proof of it, or to those who think it’s narrow minded to say that there is one way to God. We can say that Jesus, like the creator and bird-eye-viewer of the maze, has stepped down into human history and has shown us the way out. How can the atheist argue with God who has shown that he is real and has a way out? How can someone of a different faith say that their way is right when we have Jesus who has stepped in to show us the way. And to those new age people who think it’s narrow minded to say that there is only one way to God, we can say to them “who are you to say that your view of reality is correct?! We have Jesus who shows us that there is a God and therefore there is only one way”. If God Himself has become a person, and this God says He is the way, the truth, and the life, well, how can you argue with that!? We have the very creator become man and shown everyone He is legit!”. As the young enthusiastic man explained his parable, the young Christian students started to yell “Amen!” and “Yeah! That’s right!” and clapped away. But there was one person in the room whose demeanour was different. In the back corner sat the old man, looking gently forward, and only smiling- though not smiling in approval or disapproval- just smiling. The young man begun to conclude his speech, saying, “And so, with all these differing religions saying that their way to God and Heaven is right, or that they are all correct, or that there isn’t any. We can show them Jesus, who shows us how to get to God in heaven”. The young man said “thank you” to the crowd and sat down appeased.


As the formalities of the evening died down, and the meeting came to a formal close, the students went to shake the hand of their speaker, each one paying a compliment for the parable he had told. Once all the students had left, the old man came up to the young man. The old man took the young man’s hand warmly, looked gently into his eyes, and said in a wise, peaceful, and honest voice, “You have a gift for speaking young man, and I am thankful for such energy and enthusiasm”. The young man, aware of the sincerity of this old man, said “thank you” in response. “May I offer you though, something to reflect on?” said the wise old man. Curious, the young man consented to the wise man’s sharing; “Of course- what would like me to reflect on?”. “Well…Whilst there are some good truths that your parable touches on” the wise man said, “maybe there’s an even better way of looking at the deep truths of our faith”. He paused, as if to allow the reflection to already take root, and then continued. “Suppose we start the story the same way, three people in this beautiful maze-like forest, making a campfire, and then the fire gets out of hand. They are running through what appears to be more of a labyrinth, and then they hit this cross-road. And indeed, there might be sincere confusion as to where to go now- that would indeed be a big decision! A very hard one to make indeed” he paused again, and then continued to speak. “And yet, what if now, instead of this Jesus figure coming down and offering a way out, instead he brings with him a hose, a shovel, and a bag. And what if… Instead of offering a way out, this Jesus figure starts to put out the whole forest fire with his hose that he has. He turns on the hose, and, magic! The water spreads throughout the whole forest and puts out the fire. He then turns to the fellow maze dwellers, and says to them “Well, we got a whole forest to grow and make beautiful! I would like you to partner with me in doing this”. Then this Jesus figure offers them a bag filled with seeds, and a shovel for digging and says to the maze dwellers “Will you join me in making this maze beautiful again?”. The old man pauses again, smiles, warmly holds the young man’s hands, and says “My dear friend, you are right to say that Jesus shows us who God truly is, and this is indeed an eye-opening reality against the backdrop of many theories and faiths about God or the Gods. And yes, if there is a God, and only one God, revealed in a person called Jesus, then that is indeed a scandal to the modern mind… But my friend, I wonder what it would mean to see that Jesus has already put out the fire? To see that this broken world- this world burnt out by the flames of evil, injustices, sin, death, corruption- has a healer, a gardener, who wants us to sow the seeds of a new world right in the middle of this burnt one, and is actually calling all people to follow Him in partnering with that healing project in the world- would that not be a better story to be told?”.


The young man- feeling slightly perplexed and feeling somewhat affronted- said “But that makes it sound like it doesn’t matter what other people from other faiths believe, or lack of faith all together! Are you saying we shouldn’t worry about those things at all?? That it’s all leading to Heaven anyway?!”. The old man gently smiled. “My friend” responded the old man gently, “The story of this world that Jesus is telling… It’s even better than we have first thought. It’s not about going somewhere else after you die- though that might be part of it- rather… It’s about Heaven coming to Earth and God making this place His home. And if that’s what it’s about, then living a new life that’s aligned with Jesus’ future for this world is indeed a big shift for someone…For if you are going to trust that Jesus is making this world new, that’s a whole paradigm shift!… And if you’re going to partner with Jesus in doing this, that will indeed start a newfound relationship with Jesus…But don’t you see? Such a trust in a better vision for this world- a better vision launched in Jesus- is much more about being part of a revolution then it is about joining a religious club- or evening having some abstract doctrines neatly articulated- that gives you the ticket out of the maze, or perhaps into the sky… The Good News is, God loves this world, and loves you too, and wants everyone to be excited with this world-wide project and partner with what Jesus wants done in making this maze alive again, or, should we say, the world beautiful again”.


The young man, still somewhat startled, had a confused look on his face. He paused, then, more calmly this time, said “And what about hell? This talk about the fire being put out removes any real sense of urgency. Surely we need to be worried about hell, right?” “Well” responded the old man, “When Jesus talks about hell, he is talking about a real place- although the real place he was speaking about was Jerusalem’s local garbage dump called Gehenna, or what we translate in English called hell”. The old man smiled and gave a friendly chuckle. “Their local garbage dump certainly had bad vibes to it, a bit like a haunted house, because many years before Jesus was on the scene people did used to sacrifice children there to these other deities, and so by Jesus’ time, the place had, shall we say, a spookiness to it. Not to mention, with the wider Greek & Roman culture starting to come into Jerusalem, the locals, including even the religious elite of Jesus’ day started to use the local mythology of an underworld called Hades. And some people, maybe dovetailing from the spookiness of their local garbage dump called Gehenna- or hell- started to say things like that the garbage dump was a gateway to the underworld. It also didn’t help that their garbage dump was used to burn a lot of things. Some people even theorise that maybe this garbage dump had dogs go to it, who would fight over scraps, causing gnashing of teeth. Some others even say that the oil run off from the garbage would pile down into little ponds that would be lit up creating almost a lake of fire…So you could Imagine that with all this rich imagery, that Jesus would of course use some of the local language and rhetoric to make some serious points- and some pretty eye opening parables- about what happens when you live against the grain of God’s way of being human and against the grain of how God wants to run the world… To live like this might produce a garbage of a life! And of course, on a wider societal level, not living the ways Jesus commanded could lead to all sorts of hells breaking loose. Imagine being told to live non-violently, and then you had a whole people do the exact opposite! Or if you are told to live generously, but then they all live selfishly. That will ripple out and create whole societal unrest! Some scholars even say that’s what happened literally when Jerusalem didn’t follow in the ways of Jesus…Jerusalem, who had been under the occupation of the Roman Empire, revolted against Rome in 70 A.D by the ways of the sword rather than by Jesus’ way of love, and the city becomes an extension of their own lit up garbage dump. So sure, Jesus talks about hell a lot, but maybe not in the way we think- I think he has it more focused on this world then on something next. And yep, Jesus does indeed talk about final judgement, but even there we gotta remember that- like any good Jewish prophet- it’s about God judging the world in order to make something new on the far side of the judgement. So even his judgement, even when it appears harsh in scripture, is just a classic Jewish move about God fixing up this broken messy world. And yeah, there is even harsh language about final judgement as someone not living with the grain of being the human God wants to make us to be, but even that’s about God wanting us to become a better human rather than a human turned inward towards oneself- I think a loving God would want the best for us, don’t you think?”


“You know” the old man continued, “There is a lot of hell already around us, and sometimes inside of us in how we live and prioritise our life- after all, money, for example, being the reason for living won’t make a person feel good in the long-run, and such a life will just bring more hell out into the people around him or her. Imagine it: living life for money but it never fulfilling, and then, in living life for money, only seeing people in terms of how you can best “profit”- you might start using people for monetary gains, or cutting corners on a big business. I think of big companies who have slave labour to cut the cost of their goods and I think, surely, that’s the love of money causing such evil there! So there’s already hell around us, and little hell’s in us. And if people don’t want to turn away from that, that can indeed eat us up on the inside, in the here and in the now. And when Jesus appears again one day fully fill this world with God’s love everywhere- where this world is fully healed and evil is no more, when all the hells around us are fully extinguished- then it will be pretty hard for someone who still seeks to live their life against the grain of how God wants them to live their life when there will only be this new Jesus-shaped world. That would be like swimming upstream! I’m not sure what it means for them, but if there is only one new creation, and there ain’t room for evil anywhere in it, I can’t see how there would be a torture chamber. And I can’t fathom a reason why God would want one in the first place! I once sat in a sauna for 30 minutes as a dare- and it was very hot after a while; now imagine God doing that to people for not 30 minutes, or 30 days, or 30 years, or 300 years…But forever. I wonder what purpose or pleasure God would get out of that? If hell is anything for anyone, it’s something that they are making in their resistance against God’s love- not something God is actively wishing upon people. But it certainly ain’t a torture chamber that God makes- I can’t square that with a God we call love. God loves all people, and wants everyone to be part of God’s new world. So, I think, God isn’t sending people to this place called hell, but instead God is sending heaven to people, and maybe God will somehow create space within God’s all-in-all creation in order to make space for those who want to live their own way- but I’m not sure what that looks like exactly. Some even say that hell is the love of God badly received on their end- like, God’s love is all around them, but they stubbornly refuse it, and so it feels just like a nagging presence to them, whereas it’s actually God’s love not giving up. Who knows! But one thing I know for sure is this: God wants even them to join God in God’s New World, and God won’t stop wooing people into a better world, and with it, a better way to be human- not now, and surely not later? But that’s up to us to want that. I certainly know people in some rough spots who want someone to rescue them, and I trust that God can be what they have always wanted, even if they didn’t know how to articulate the faith we are so blessed to have a clear picture of- maybe the Spirit can move in the wilderness of the world, and show grace and mercy to many. And equally, I do know people who are terribly resistant to love, grace, peace, kindness, and all the goodies that come with being a person re-made by Love. But, maybe instead of being concerned how God is going to sort that out, we can instead partner with God with being concerned about the only hells we know for sure: that which is currently around us, and sometimes the ones within our own hearts. We got some mighty logs in our own eyes! And there are some heavy timber that’s crushing others that we are supposed to lift off our brothers and sister who are in pain”


The young man paused reflectively. “I see” the young man said. “There’s a lot in what you say, and honestly there’s a lot to think about”. The old man smiled. “Well, I hope I haven’t startled you too much with this different way of looking at faith” the old man chuckled. He put his hand on the young man’s shoulder and said, “Keep up the good work, my friend”. The old man begun to leave, and as he was just about to exit the room, he turned to the young man and said, “And don’t forget to help Jesus plant those new seeds for his new maze!…Or perhaps, don’t worry about the maze bit. Just plant a beautiful forest”. The old man smiled, and close the door behind him. The young man sat leaning against the table, attempting to comprehend what he had just heard. Quickly, he stood up and raced to the door, and walked briskly through the library. The young man saw the old man about to leave the building, and so he quickly caught up to him and asked, “Where do you pastor?”. The old stopped, turned to the young man smiled as he gently lifted his finger and pointed into the distance. Over, across the road, stood and old church quaint church building surrounded by trees. “I pastor there” he said. “And you are welcome anytime”.

Jesus- The Redefinition of Power in Servant Like Love

In my study. Overwhelmed by how Jesus does Love & Power… This is a short improvisation sermon I did on the spot and randomly decided to record on my iPhone (So don’t expect studio quality). “True power looks like getting on our knees and washing feet”. Yep…Smelly feet. Be blessed.

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The Lord’s Prayer

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”.


Setting the Scene

I’ve never mentored someone I haven’t had a dialogue with. Well, duh right? You kind of got to talk to the person you are mentoring- there seems to be no other way. You communicate. You talk. You write. You listen. So it should come to no surprise then that we are called to have dialogue with God. That’s one of the core aspects of prayer: communication. And like with my mentoring relationships, it’s been that open communicative relationship that the person is changed (hopefully for the better!). Likewise, we see throughout Jesus’ ministry the centrality of prayer as a communicating act whereby God transforms us and transforms the world. The Lord’s Prayer is actually a prayer that Jesus Himself taught his disciples to pray. And the legacy of the prayer has carried throughout generation to generation and from church community to church community. It’s also a prayer that, when you break it down, you can see the nooks and crannies of its amazing transformative power.


But let’s set the scene first.

The world is a broken place, and our hope is for someone to come in order to make all things right. In this light, we can take heart that the word “gospel” literally means “Good News”, and the Good News is, is that Jesus has come into this world to bring God’s rule & reign on Earth as it is in Heaven. Jesus’ whole ministry is working towards that reality.  Jesus makes this reality known in His life & ministry, Jesus gives this reality it’s decisive victory through His death & resurrection, Jesus weaves this victory slowly throughout this broken world through His Church empowered by the Holy Spirit, and will one day make this reality everywhere when He returns. In the gospels, we see Jesus on the move showing us what it looks like when Jesus reigns as King- there are healings, there are confrontations with the current ruling powers, and of course there is His teachings about what it means to be a restored human being in God’s restored world (After all, if all of history is heading towards Jesus & His Kingdom one day being everywhere, then we are to learn in the present how to be the people we are destined to become). This is where Jesus’ prayer comes in: it’s right in the middle of his sermon that he is giving. And this prayer really shouldn’t come as a surprise- after all, if we are going to live as followers of Jesus, then we will need open dialogue with the God who can empower us into the life He has called us into. For the Lord’s Prayer is not so much a command as an invitation: an invitation to share in the prayer-life of Jesus himself. And with this, His own relationship with The Father.


“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

We must understand that Jesus wanted his followers (and so us) to share what He had with God: that is, his own intimate approach to the Creator. He is “Our Father”. He is not just “A Father”- a somewhere off the distant deity, perhaps with a long white beard, that doesn’t really do much with Creation. Nor is there any sense that God is an impersonal force, or merely a metaphor. Any psychologist and anthropologist will tell you about the centrality of relationships within the world- it’s relationships that give us meaning, fulfillment, a life worth living. As it was said in the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, “To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, to draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”. We all know this- that relationship is the heartbeat of the universe. And so, is there really any wonder that the God Jesus reveals is called Father? It’s personal, it’s intimate.


Bad Fathers?

Now some people have crappy dads, and these bad fatherly relationships are sometimes projected onto the text; and so, unfortunately, we can be triggered by such words like “Father” because the image we get of Father isn’t good. Some, but not all, have fathers more like that of Scar from the Lion King rather than then a wise & loving Mufasa. In fact, we live in a time in history where fatherlessness is at an all-time high. In correlation to this, is the higher degree of social problems from those who fathers have abandoned them or left them astray emotionally. Perhaps more than ever it’s important then to recognise that Jesus offers us a counter to our culture’s lack of fathers. The answer to a world of crappy dad’s or none at all isn’t to ignore the God Jesus calls Father, but rather to re-capture what true Fatherhood means in light of Jesus. When a government official comes to another country, they are representing in themselves the values, the vision, and the moral character of their originating country, and often that countries leader. Likewise, when Jesus comes on the scene he insists over and over again that he is imaging the exact representation of what God is like. Jesus Himself says that when we see Him we see the Father. And so, what do we see in Jesus? We see Love. Love not defined by the standards of the world, or by own experiences, but love defined by Jesus’ words and actions. That the images we need we see in Jesus. And so Fatherhood is re-defined in Jesus. This might not solve our qualms about the word “Father” straight away, but it’s a starting place that locates the meaning of the word father not in our experiences, but in what we see in Jesus- the one who reveals to us true Fatherhood.


In A Place of Authority- So relax

Now, where is this Father? He is in Heaven. Now don’t automatically think harps or anything of the like. God being in Heaven is not so much about geographical location, but more about God’s power. This is what we see all over scripture, especially in the prophets and psalms- as Heaven being the over-and-above-awe-place of power & authority over creation. This should tell us something: that the God Jesus calls us to pray to is in a place of control (not manipulation, but control nonetheless). The picture is sometimes depicted as like a throne, and thrones (both now and then) tell us that the person on the thrown rules, has command, and get’s what needed to be done, well, done. In other words, with God, we are in good hands, because the one in which we pray to is in control. He has got it all covered. My point? How much comfort is that, that God has got it all covered. So relax.


“Hallow be your name” was a typical Jewish affirmation of God’s holiness and majesty. For something to be hallowed, means to treat it as holy, distinct, or unique. And a “name” within Judaism reflected not just a title but displayed a deeper meaning of the essence, the character the reputation of someone. In this part of the prayer, we are declaring God as Father, but as Father in His rightful, distinct and honoured place.


“Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven”

“On Earth” Not elsewhere

The precise place this Kingdom and will is to be done is on Earth. Some people, when they pray this prayer, implicitly have a view of faith that’s all about escaping this world when we die as the ultimate goal of faith (And bringing many people as we can with us). In this view, we say “Yeah, we do what we can on Earth to get people to Heaven; that must be God’s will on Earth”. It’s like God’s will on Earth then, is to be a giant net that’s all about collecting people, to be swooped up into the sky; the net comes down, temporarily, to then swoop people up. But we must be informed by a larger picture of faith that takes seriously God’s eventual renewal of creation to be the ultimate goal- as depicted in final chapters of Revelation. In that sense, asking for God’s will to be done on Earth is not like being a net that’s here for a moment and swooped back the next, but about being like someone who is preparing the way of the arrival of a new Kingdom, and so in his or her preparation, is seeing what can be done in the present that will work towards, and eventually match, what the area will be like when the Kingdom fully comes.

It’s on Earth that the will of Heaven wants to be done- because one-day Heaven and Earth will be one! It’s on Earth that we are called to match the will of Heaven because its Heaven and Earth that will one day be matched together! When we don’t take this seriously, we water down our rich, transformative, and beautiful faith- a faith that’s about renewing individual lives, renewing whole communities, renewing whole cultures, and eventually renewing the whole world- we water all that down into a “get out of jail free card”, and demote Jesus from Lord of Creation to Minister of Afterlife Affairs.

This vision of God’s Will being done on Earth as it is in Heaven should open us up into new exciting possibilities! Because if it’s about the eventual renewal of all creation, then all of a sudden everything matters. Faith doesn’t go in one box and then work in another, or relationships in another. Rather, this heaven-coming-on-earth faith is like a pair of glasses with which we look through; we can ask what it would look like for God’s Kingdom to be done in the area of work, of relationships, of, well, everything! If all of reality is heading towards the renewal of all things, then all of reality can be charged with the exciting call of seeking what it would then look like to anticipate, and then enact, God’s Kingdom & Will in xyz area.


Whose Kingdom?

This, of course, brings us to the obvious but much-needed point: It’s God’s Kingdom is the one we are asking to come. Now, why would I say that? Because let’s be honest, we can be so concerned with our little Kingdom of One, or we can be so entrenched with how our culture defines what life is all about (In other words, the world’s ‘kingdom’). In our little Kingdom-of-one, or in following in the drama of our culture, we then define good and evil (Their will). Praying for God’s Kingdom & Will then is about pleading for a different rule & reign, a different will to be done- God’s Kingdom…God’s Will. So don’t be surprised if our own agendas are challenged, and if our own priorities are challenged. Don’t be surprised if God leaves us going “Actually, I want you to live this way”.


Now let’s really focus this: what does it look like when Jesus’ Kingdom comes in ___ area? What does it look like when God’s will is done in ____ area? These questions deliberately bring Jesus into areas in our life that He desires to be (Which is in all areas); to be shaped by Jesus’ vision of God’s rule & reign and not our own or our culture’s standards. Once again, this is exciting! We are asking God to shape every area of our life into something much more bigger and expansive than ourselves- into a vision of reality that will lead all the way into an eternal Kingdom!

Now an important second point to this: those questions I have just said, shouldn’t just inform us of the end’s (what it will look like at the end when God’s will is done in xyz area) but also the ways by which we achieve our Kingdom inspired ends (in other words, how it is done). Without both the means and the ends informed by Jesus’ Kingdom & will, then both will be distorted in the long run. So let’s say someone feels compelled to spread the faith into a foreign country- okay that’s all well and good. But suppose then they go in there and destroy the entire culture, enforce the new religion by law & violence, and apply the death penalty to all those who attempt to stay within their old ways. My question is, is how that anything like the Kingdom?! It’s not. There’s an end, but a Satanic means, which of course then distorts & guides the original end goal into anything but genuine Christlike faith.  Now, these same questions are questions we should also ask as a community, and as a wider culture, as we seek the good for both our neighbourhood and for our world.


God Bring’s God’s Kingdom

But, of course, this isn’t about us conjuring up the Kingdom and God’s will on our own (As if we are like someone on a desert Island rubbing two sticks together to make fire!)- the whole point of this section of prayer is that we are pleading that God brings God’s Kingdom; that God brings God’s will. When God’s answers this pleading section of prayer, He unleashes the reality of this prayer.

All that said, let us not think even for a second that this leaves us dormant, with nothing we can do. God does the work, and yet we are called to be people who participate in the work God is doing. It’s like a symphony, having been composed by someone else, we nonetheless play our instrument. However, we nonetheless stress the work of God. It’s God who is doing the saving. We do what He wants us to do, as participates in His saving work in the world.


“Give us this day our daily bread”

Food is an occurring reality that happens throughout Jesus’ ministry. The wilderness feeding stories suggest both a literal feeding and a symbolic act that demonstrated God’s power to provide for the needs of the people. The sharing of food, both actually and symbolically, was a central feature of Jesus’ life. And of course, the climax to all of this, the last supper- where food is used as a symbol of Jesus’ saving work in His own body. Bread was a sign of God’s in-breaking Kingdom, where the world would be fed, both physically & spiritually (Without division of the two!). To ask for bread is to ask to be nourished, but nourished within the context of God’s Kingdom coming in- that He would provide because His Kingdom would be a providing Kingdom.


The Bread of Today and Tomorrow

Like a diamond, there is actually a few different angles to this richly diverse part of the prayer. One angle is this: Some commentators think the original Greek meaning here is “tomorrow’s bread”, not daily bread. When you read it as “Give us today, tomorrows bread”, then we see that the disciples are being told to pray for the “bread of tomorrow,” perhaps referring to the banquet feast planned for the day God’s Kingdom is fully established on the Earth. In other words, It is another way of asking for God’s rule to be established now. But there is also a purely present dimension to this. Daily bread was an Israeli throwback to the time in the wilderness where God met the daily needs of His people. In other words, daily bread is also about us trusting God to meet our daily needs right now. Perhaps just like there is the Kingdom now, and also a fully established Kingdom later, there is both a longing to say “Come Lord Jesus! Bring what the world needs!” and also a petition to say “God! Help us now! For we are in need!”


Daily Bread As Daily Needs

Some of us have it pretty well of, and some of us don’t and therefore live from pay check to pay check, but regardless it all comes from God. That breath you just took is a need God has just fulfilled, that food you ate earlier is a need God just fulfilled, and without food or breath you are dead. The mind you use for you to work and make your living- that’s also a need God has given you. Our daily needs are what we need essentially to live! That’s why it’s a need! Of course, a humbling and daunting task is to ask what is a “need” and what is a “want” and ask God for the wisdom to discern between the two.

(Something that must be acknowledged is that Job seasons and moments do exist- we might truly need something, and we might pray and not get it (And maybe for a variety of factors). Taking the Christian life seriously is taking seriously that this does happen. However, this is not to water down an equally true reality- that God does indeed supply.)


Being Bread

We all need daily bread- the basics of food, water, shelter. Maybe you’re in a season where you have particular needs, such as needing someone to listen to your struggles. Another thought that crossed my mind is that maybe, like that of asking for God’s Kingdom and will for your life, God wants you to be daily bread to someone- maybe you’re just the person someone needs in their life in a particular season? After all, God uses His people to do His will. Perhaps there is so much unmet ‘daily bread’ need in the world because sometimes we aren’t doing the “Your Kingdom come, your will be done” bit. To both ask for daily bread, and be daily bread to the world. That’s stretching beyond this context, but it’s a thought I want us to consider.


“and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”

The larger picture behind this section of the prayer is, of course, one of the main thrusts of Jesus’ Kingdom arrival: the forgiveness of sins. Part of the vision of God’s Kingdom, envisioned in the Prophets, was that of a coming time where God’s forgiveness would come to His people & to the world. Hand-in-hand with the longing for the “Forgiveness of sins” was the prophets linking “the forgiveness of sins” with the larger reality of God’s presence being over the land again. And such, Jesus’ Kingdom-coming was a way of saying “God’s forgiveness is here! And so His presence will be here!”. It’s the time of Jubilee!


Forgiveness: Something you need

When it comes to forgiveness, we have to remember that there is actually a need for forgiveness. God isn’t an impersonal force but a personal being- and we have been jerks to God. And if not to God, certainly to other people made by God, and to the way we hurt God’s creation, and ourselves.  We have, and do, break the fabric of our relationships with God, each other, ourselves, and creation all the time. Let’s not kid ourselves: we have screwed up. Thankfully, God is extremely gracious and forgiving. And so we need to pray this daily, as a reminder that we are not perfect, and as a reminder that our God is not an arsehole, but extremely gracious and willing to forgive us when we screw up. The whole point of being disciples of Jesus is that we are students of Jesus and His kingdom- Students fail; we fumble. But, In a world that’s often filled with tit-for-tat thinking, we have a God who eternally loves us and forgives us. We are like babies learning to walk for the first time, and learning to walk takes time, but walk we must, and the one teaching us to walk isn’t hitting us when we fall, but lifting us up and beckoning us forward.


“I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine!” is not how forgiveness works

“Forgive us as we forgive others” is not a type of quid pro quo declaration (A type of “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine”). Jesus is reminding the disciples of their need to forgive in the light of the Father’s forgiveness. Jesus is not teaching the disciples to ask God to condition and proportion his forgiveness on theirs. We often read the text like that because a lot of our theology has the undercurrents of influential theologians of Church history- and in particular to this reading- John Calvin and Tertullian. These two were theologians in church history who were also lawyers. Because of their profession, they read a lot of legal language into the texts, and then wrote a bunch of theology books that seeped into western theology (Interestingly, not eastern orthodox theology), that has been kept through history, preached upon, and carried up to today, and so we then read these texts, we sometimes read them with these legal-framework glasses discretely handed down to us, and as a result, we read what Jesus’ said as some sort of legal jargon. When our reading eyes read the Bible like a legal textbook manual you might get the impression that Jesus is saying that we won’t be forgiven if we don’t forgive- but if that was the case than it’s not real forgiveness! The whole point of forgiveness is that you don’t have to do anything to be forgiven- you are just, well, forgiven! (Now certainly forgiveness will be costly to the one forgiving us- just look at the cross! But nothing has to be done to be forgiven, rather you are just forgiven). We have to recognise scripture as the true & relational story of what God is up to in the world, and when we see it like that, then its easy to see that this section on forgiveness is deeply interconnected & flows, as opposed to sliced up and made ridged. Almost like waves at a beautiful beach is the flow of forgiveness that works too-and-fro: As we see God’s forgiveness for us, we forgive others. And as we forgive others, it opens us up more to see the beauty of God’s forgiveness for us more & more. So we go out into the world and forgive others more freely, and so our eyes open more to the beauty of God’s forgiveness for us. And so on… It just goes on, and it swells up into true life whereby we become the forgiving people God wants us to be, and the forgiving people who will match the life of heaven that Jesus is, and will, make on Earth when He returns when He renews the world by that same standard of forgiving love.


The Healing Power of Forgiveness

The challenge here, then, is that redeemed people live as redemption people; forgiven people live as forgiving people. Let me tell you story:

In America in 2006, a man by the name of Charles Roberts went into an Amish school and took 8 girl hostage, killed five of the eight, and then killed himself. This of course, devastated the Amish community and even the USA as a whole. However, this community responded in a powerful way: An Amish neighbour comforted the Robert’s family only hours after the shooting, and extended forgiveness to them. Amish community members visited and comforted Charles Robert’s widow and his parents. One Amish man held Roberts’ sobbing father in his arms, reportedly for as long as an hour, to comfort him. The Amish also made a charitable fund for the family of the shooter. About 30 members of the Amish community attended Roberts’ funeral, and Marie Roberts, the widow of the killer, was one of the few outsiders invited to the funeral of one of the victims. Marie Roberts wrote an open letter to her Amish neighbours thanking them for their forgiveness, grace, and mercy. She wrote, “Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need. Gifts you’ve given have touched our hearts in a way no words can describe. Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community, and is changing our world, and for this we sincerely thank you.” Some commentators criticized the quick and complete forgiveness with which the Amish responded, arguing that forgiveness is inappropriate when no remorse has been expressed, and that such an attitude runs the risk of denying the existence of evil. However, the community explained that their willingness to forgo vengeance does not undo the tragedy or pardon the wrong, but rather constitutes a first step towards a future that is more hopeful.

That’s the power when we embody forgiveness into the world, and it’s what we are called to do.


But of course…

Now, of course, a few pastoral caveats to be mindful of:

-your power for forgiveness should not be used as a badge of self-righteousness

(Beckoning someone towards forgiveness is an invitation to someone to become more fully who God wants them to be by setting them free from the dehumanising cycle of revenge & hatred, It should NOT be used as a way to show someone how much better you are)

-forgiveness doesn’t mean trusting a person again

(If someone has a track record of doing evil, forgiving them doesn’t mean that person will automatically change. It might never be appropriate to have that person in your life again. Healthy boundaries might need to be developed)

-forgiveness doesn’t mean that a perpetrator shouldn’t be called out to repent

(This varies from situation to situation, however, there will be times that forgiveness will be alongside a call to the person to change their ways i.e. repent. Forgiveness doesn’t equal silence, especially (for example) there is on-going abuse where others are being hurt by those in power. Too often, Christians can use God’s call to forgive as a weapon against survivors, whereas rather forgiveness & the call for accountability can go hand in hand)

-there is a legitimate place for anger and lament leading up to forgiveness

(We need to process our pain and emotions, and we see that, in the Psalms, there was no better place than to do it in the presence of God).

Also be mindful of other things:

-Forgiveness is not saying what happened didn’t matter

(It merely saying that we can’t be beholden to what happened forever)

-Forgiveness isn’t waiting till the other person or persons is sorry; that might never come

(And if Jesus waited until we were sorry he wouldn’t of come!)

-Forgiveness will be painful, yet it will also be the ultimate freedom for both yourself and for the greater healing of the world.


But nontheless!

With this said, it’s still important not to lose the full weight of meaning behind forgiveness: we set healing in motion when forgiveness is present. This healing is seen on both personal level (letting go of hurt, hatred, and the rest. After all, unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies) and this healing is of course seen on a social/communal level (Think, for example, the Truth & Reconciliation project in South Africa). The call to be both people who are acutely aware of our own need for forgiveness, to then be formed as forgiving people to the wider world- we cannot lose that. For forgiveness is the battle cry of the advancement of God’s Kingdom. If the forgiving love of God on the cross set in motion the saving of the world, how can we think forgiveness in our own context won’t be central? After all, if life is all about an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth than we’ll have a world full of blind toothless people.


“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

This fits with the Kingdom agenda. Asking for the Kingdom & Will of God to be done on Earth will have, on the other side of the same coin, a plea that we would not be lead into trials and that we would want to be delivered from evil. So this part: “do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one”. The Greek is difficult here; however, we can agree that Jesus is not asking his disciples to pray that God would not play the role of “the tempter,” which is something God doesn’t do. Jesus is, rather, telling his disciples to pray that God would protect them from hardships that accompany their kingdom work. From whom would they expect such hardships? The closing line of the prayer makes it explicit: “rescue us from the evil one.” Jesus knew that carrying out the Father’s kingdom work would evoke attacks from the Evil one.


Whose tempting? 

I am convinced that this isn’t talking about not being near trials or God never wanting us to be in the midst of evil (If that was the case then how are we a light in the darkness or a city on a hill if we are neither in the darkness or in the world? After all, we are not called to be hermits). It’s rather that, when we are in those places, we are asking for God to make us strong that we don’t give into doing life, and Kingdom, and power the way the world does it. We see Jesus’ trials in the wilderness, we see it in the garden, we see them from people throughout his ministry bringing accusations. Trials are a central reality of Jesus’ public life. Because if you are bringing the rule & reign of God, modelled after this same God, then, of course, you’re going to have people  (and also Spiritual forces) coming up against you. You are going to have trails when you follow Jesus.  So the prayer is not so much “God, don’t let this happen” (Clearly it will!) but rather “God, when this does happen, don’t leave me there, but help get me through it!”.  It’s like marching forward with conviction towards a chosen destination, but there are tempters on the side telling us to give up and give in- we are asking for God to help us to continue to go forward! To not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil


The Daily Battle

This is a daily battle- here are some examples: how will we choose to treat people (Such as people who annoy us to no end? Will we give in and show hatred?), how will we consume products (Such as if we are buying clothes made by slave labour or not. Will we be mindful of these things or not even care?), will we be people who blindly support any nation or government without question (In other words, will we forget that Jesus is Lord and that Ceaser is not? Will we, of course love the nation we are in, but let our love of nation be about appreciating it’s good gifts and wanting to see a country healed of hurt and purged of our societal sins, rather than being idolatrously nationalistic and say that “Everything’s fine, and how dare you say bad things about this country!”, that which our Ceaser wants us to do?). Now let’s be clear: we aren’t perfect- we know that. And because we are students and Jesus is the teacher, we don’t have to be over-obsessed with getting it right (And as such forget grace), however, we are nonetheless called to be God’s people in a dark world, and if we are to bring the light we have to be the light and not succumb to the darkness.


This is our prayer, both as a community and also in our own daily lives. It covers all that to which we need to pray, and like rain refreshes us and grows green & lively world.











A Sermon I did on Job 9/9/17

I find that there is nothing worse than someone trying to give you simple answers to life’s hardest struggles.

Think of a time that was the hardest of times for you

In those moments when you were going through the hardest of times…

When you were screaming out to God in agony and depth of pain…

Were you after someone to knock on your door, ignore your pain, and attempt to give you a theory behind why you were going through what you were going through?

Were you after that?

Or were you after a platitude like “Everything happens for a reason” or “God won’t give you more than you can handle”?

In life hardest times, when the shit hits the fan, and there are no simple answers.

What you need isn’t someone who gives you their two pence on your pain.

You need something more than that.

Sometimes those simple pseudo answers are the most condescending of them all.

A “scripture pill” where someone gives you a memory verse because what’s in front of them is too overwhelming.

A pill shoved into your mouth because they can’t deal with your pain, and they just want to shove it under the carpet.

They don’t want to be present in it.

The reality is sometimes life isn’t simple.

Sometimes there is no quick fix answer.

Sometimes we never know the reason why we grow through what we go through

We are left in a place. Left with no answers. In the hardest of times.


We live in a world addicted to knowing everything.

Now learning and perusing answers is not wrong- in fact, I would argue that that is part of our creative potential that God has put into us.

But when knowing becomes an addiction- where you have to know everything or else…The result is that you will never rest, you will never be at peace.

And this is especially true when we suffer.

When we take our addiction to knowing and then apply it to our pursuit of trying to work out the suffering we have gone through- we can become angry, we can become cynical, we can become people who are never at peace.


Here we have this book in the Bible called Job.

It’s part of a collection of books called the wisdom literature.

Part of this library is Proverbs, then Ecclestiaies, then Job

Proverb gives us a simple cause and effect universe, that says do x and then and then y will happen.

Proverbs is wisdom we can tap into, and it’s wisdom that is, generally speaking, pretty consistent. It’s Basic. It’s Simple. Do this, and then this will happen. That’s why it’s there- there’s a lot of truth in Proverbs.

But we forget the other two books in the wisdom literature.

We have Ecclestiaies that comes along and says “sometimes there is a glitch in the system; sometimes the strict ordering of cause and effect has hiccups, and as such life is a little bit more complicated than what it appears to be”.

And then you have Job.

A lot of Hebrew scholars think Job is an existential thought experiment written to the Hebrew people who knew all to well about suffering.

An existential thought experiment exploring the question about God’s running of the universe in the middle of suffering.

It explores this phenomenon through a story of a righteous man who- as it pertains to the story- has done nothing wrong.

But everything bad happens to him.

And in the middle of his pain, his grief, his loss, Job’s friends insist that Job must have done something wrong to deserve what he got.

They had a view of the universe of a strict rule of retributive justice: if something bad happened to you, then you did something wrong.

That was their worldview. For them, Job must have done something wrong, because they couldn’t conceive of his suffering any other way

But that’s the point: He hadn’t done anything wrong.

That’s the point.

He didn’t deserve this.

But then is God in the wrong?

The answer is also no.

Then what?

Life is a little bit more complex.


The book of Job was not written to give us clear cut answers for our suffering.

And if you come to this book expecting clear cut answers than you will be disappointed.

Because when Job finally cracks and questions God like a lawyer might question someone on the stand, God responds- but He doesn’t answer his question about his suffering.

Instead, God gives Job over 60 questions to him.

And these questions all relate to the minute running’s of this vast universe- from the small to the big.

It’s a masterpiece of a response on God’s behalf.

And as a result, Job is humbled.

The universe is infinitely complex- beyond any reason or comprehension to make sense of it in its totality- and in the end, Job sees that.

Job comes with questions to his suffering, but instead, God invites him into a vision of complexity, so to invite Job towards a humble posture towards reality and the running of the universe.

To lead him to a humble place in the midst of not knowing all the answers

And in the end, Job exclaims “My ears have heard you, but now I see you”

And finally, in his humility, he is lead to peace.

He realises that he doesn’t have to figure it all out

He doesn’t have to know all the answers.

And he is then at peace.

He never get’s the answers he wants.

He gets something else.

He gets peace in the midst of not knowing.


God doesn’t explain his justice, defend his justice, he doesn’t even talk about His justice.

And Job recognises that there is more going on in the universe than we can imagine, to the point we go “I don’t get it. I will instead trust”.


Now some people have turned to the Heavenly scene at the beginning of the book for answers.

Let me tell you: that’s not what it’s designed for.

It was designed to set up the thought experiment:

The point is simply that God in his decision making takes seriously an opposing point of view to Job’s gracefulness, and so the thought experiment is set up.

We aren’t to think that  everytime something bad happens to us it’s because God actually goes “Oh Bob is going great and he loves me, but the accuser thinks he only loves me because I am blessing Him, well I’ll show Him!”

That’s not how it’s meant to be read.

That’s how people have read it, but that’s not how it’s meant to be read.

This scene sets up the thought experiment. That’s all.


Other people have instead turned to the friends of Job to get answers on their suffering.

Likewise, let me tell you: that’s not what those conversations are there for.

They are there to show you just how bad their thought patterns were.

They were thinking rigidly about justice, and the point is that justice isn’t that straight forward sometimes.


The book doesn’t answer the question as to why you are suffering.

But, like Job meeting God, once we meet God in the whirlwind we are invited to trust….

We recognise that there is so much more going on in the universe than we can imagine, to the point you just go “I don’t get it, I’ll trust instead”

Now let me be clear: the fact that the universe is complicated is not the answer to suffering.

I am not saying that because the universe is complex you just can’t understand the reason why God allowed your suffering and you just got to deal with it because God is either busy or doesn’t have time to explain it you to.

That’s not what I am saying.

The whole point of God in the whirlwind is not to answer the question of suffering.

It’s the bring us to a place of humility (That reality is so vast!) that we trust (instead of painstakingly trying to work it all out).


And that’s the wisdom of the book that I believe we are to learn:

Wisdom is reaching a place of humility & trust before God in the midst of suffering, which in turn brings peace.

You stop trying to figure it all out, you stop pouring all your emotional energy into working out why you went through a bad time, and you trust instead.

Trust won’t give you the answers, it will transcend the need for them.

Trust will bring you to a place where you learn that knowing everything, including your suffering, just won’t cut it.

You release yourself from that burden; but not in an anti-rational way, but in a transrational way.

Trust steps in where knowledge fails.

Sometimes there are no explanations to be had.

Instead, we are called to trust instead of trying to figure it all out.

To stop the game, and be at peace in a posture of humble trust.


It’s interesting, the Hebrew word for faith has an image of being held. Think of a trust fall…

It’s not called a cognitive ‘I have all the answers coherently sorted out so now I can fall’ belief fall

It’s called a trust fall.

That’s faith.

We don’t have all the answers, and we certainly don’t have all our shit together, and we might even be angry at God.

Trust, then, is beyond knowing the answers.

And it’s okay: we can trust instead.

Trust doesn’t have it all figured out.

Trust goes “sometimes I just don’t know, but I am going to fall into you anyway”


Let’s ask the tough question for all of us (myself included)

What does not trusting in God in our suffering functionally & positively do for us?

The tough answer is nothing.

We just feel like crap 24/7, we are constantly bitter with God and others, and, if we never learn to trust, we end our life deeply cynical.

Is that the life we want?


Now can we be angry at God, scream at God, lament before God, and even have part of your journey where cynicism is present?

You bet we can!

For better or for worst, that’s part of the journey.

That’s a normal response to suffering.

Look at Job. Just read the psalms (Especially Psalm 88). Look at Jesus crying out on the cross!

Such things are part of the journey towards deeper trust.

We do have to wrestle with God, wrestle with our emotions, wrestle with our questions, wrestle with God like Job even did.

After all, the book of Job doesn’t open up at the end of the book- it takes a lot of chapters to get to where Job got.

In our suffering, there is a journey towards trust to be had- trust doesn’t happen overnight, and I certainly don’t think we are going to trust God in our suffering even because of this message.

It takes time. All I am saying is that taking the journey is worth it.

(If there was an overall point to the message that would be it: take the journey of trust that leads to peace)

And as we engage with God in our pain we will meet God there- like Job did in the whirlwind.

Not in a fluffy light hearted way, but in a deep way.


Trusting God is a journey, and yet it’s because of that journey we slowly become formed as people who are actually capable of this kind of trust.

The kind that says “My ears have heard you, but now I see you”


We start out like Job, wrestling, screaming, and finally taking our pain to God- and as we do that we are actually on the right track.

But though it starts there, it doesn’t end there.

Now can we be angry at God, scream at God, lament before God and even have part of your journey where cynicism is present?

Yes- but to live there forever? That’s a sign we aren’t journeying forward. That tells us that we are stuck.

And sometimes we will be stuck because we aren’t perfect.

But God doesn’t want you to be stuck forever; and trust me, you don’t want to be stuck forever either!

We are called to start the journey. And it will start messy, but we are called to walk it all the way to the far side that’s called humility & trust before God.

And it will start messy, but we are called to walk it all the way to the far side that’s called humility & trust before God.

Like I said- What does not trusting in God in our suffering functionally & positively do for us?


We start there, but God calls us to journey towards the place where we met God in the whirlwind and say

“My ears have heard you, but now I see you”


In the end, we don’t get answers, we are told to trust.

Trust goes beyond knowing.

Trust goes beyond trying to get all the answers.

Trust isn’t against trying to figure things out, but it does provide us a posture towards life.

And such a posture towards God is a place of humility.

And it becomes a place of peace.

Because you stop being angry and say instead “I don’t know, but you know…And that’s all that matters”


Does that mean we can’t pray for God to alleviate suffering or intervene?

Of course not. I pray that God would step in all the time!


Does that mean there aren’t moments of pure coherent clarity that make sense of our moments (When we clearly see the hand of God)?

Of course not. There are those moments and they are amazing.


Does that mean we can’t search for reasons behind why certain things happen?

Of course not. There are plenty of contexts & situations where searching the answers to our questions is perfectly fine, normal, and even right.


This message isn’t designed to cancel out those truths, but to exist alongside those truths. A bit like how this book exists alongside the neat and easy cause-and-effect Book of Proverbs

And the truth is that there will be times nothing makes sense, and in those times we will be called to trust God in the midst of unknowing.


And this posture of trust & humility will lead us to peace. A type of care-free peace, one that’s perfectly modelled in Jesus.

I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


life is messy, it can seem like suffering is absurd, meaningless, no rhythm. After all, Jesus ended on a cross.

But The bigger story is to trust in God in suffering. For to humbly trust will lead us to peace- because we stop trying to agonisingly figure it all out.

To humbly trust will lead us to live more like Jesus calls us to live in His sermon on the mount. A life of peace even when we don’t have all the answers. To not worry, to trust, and then to live likewise.


Now Job doesn’t talk about a bigger picture to suffering other than that the world is complex- and the point of that complexity wasn’t to give an answer but to humble us towards trust in the midst of suffering.


But as Christian’s we have a perspective that’s worth keeping in mind:

We have a Jesus, the One and Truly Innocent Sufferer.

The true & better Job,

For Jesus meets God in the whirlwind storm of the cross- and Jesus Himself questions: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”.

And He becomes for us the one who, in the midst of His suffering, saves us through His innocent death, and through His suffering brings to us and the world resurrecting power.

In Jesus- the true & better Job- we can see our story of suffering in light of His.

But like Jesus the cross, suffering won’t have the final say- resurrection will.

Now will Jesus’ suffering gives us comfort in our suffering? Sometimes, sometimes not.

But we trust anyway.

And will the resurrection of Jesus comfort us in the middle of pain? Sometimes, sometimes not.

But we trust anyway.


I’ll end with this quote from Anne Rice.

Anne Rice is a famous American author who wrote such books like “Interview With A Vampire” and “Queen of the Damned”.

She had a very strong atheistic worldview for a lot of her life, and was acutely aware of the suffering of the world. It was the idea of suffering that held her back from faith for so long. In one of her books she describes what she calls her moment of surrender. In this moment she came to faith in Jesus. I think her words capture the spirit of Job well after meeting God in the whirlwind. Anne Rice said this:

“In the moment of surrender, I let go of all the theological or social questions which had kept me from Him for countless years. I simply let them go. There was the sense, profound and wordless, that if He knew everything I did not have to know everything, and that, in seeking to know everything, I’d been, all of my life, missing the entire point. No social paradox, no historic disaster, no hideous record of injustice or misery should keep me from Him. I didn’t have to know why good people suffered agony or died in pain. He knew. And it was his knowing that overwhelmed me


May we journey towards trust. That we let the God of the Whirlwind- the One who knows all things more than we ever do- overwhelm us with His sense of knowing, to the point that we are humbled, to where we simply trust, and may that eventually lead us to peace.








The Great Irony of Pentecostalism

I identify with a Pentecostal denomination. And like with all denominations there is the Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. One thing I love about Pentecostalism is that its practice of the body is about an integrated whole- the mind, the body, the bits and bobs of our being, that are distinct yes but in no way separate or inherently against each other, but exist in an integrated ebb and flow. So we lift our hands, or move around, or lay hands. Because humans are a holistic being, and as such so is our faith. Humans are not just minds, and neither are we just our emotions, and neither are we just our bones and muscles- we are a whole human being. But here’s the great irony: Pentecostal theology still downplays the physical body because we say “it’s all about the Spirit”, because -when we say that phrase- we are saying it with a particular (false) understanding of the Spirit’s view of the physical world. When we say “it’s all about the Spirit” we think scripture means that the Spirit is anti-body or anti-material. But that’s not what the Bible means when it emphasises the Spirit. And so we move around with our bodies, but then- with our distorted theology- we divide out our bodily movement, and our emotions, and our spirit into categories that- in some ways- we believe go against each other. And when we Pente’s do this, it then turns around and distorts our good practice. All of a sudden things like candles, and smells, and nature, and food, and sex, are “bad” because they are physical and not (As the way a lot of people define “Spiritual”…) Spiritual enough. And that’s why it’s ironic. We are the movers and the groovers, the ones who lay hands, and yet we have such a low view of the physical world because it’s not- within our understanding of the term “spiritual”- spiritual enough.  


Now the scary thing is, is that it is exactly the false teaching that existed in the early church that Paul goes up against. The teachings of the greek stoics- who said the body and the physical world was “evil”- was what Paul was calling false teaching. And Paul, in response, said that the physical world was good and was going to be renewed (A physical world!) and that we will have physical resurrected bodies- like Jesus’- to inhabit this new world in. When Paul uses the language of “flesh” vs “Spirit” he is not saying “Physical” vs “Immaterial” but is saying “A world currently driven by corruption” vs “A world empowered by the very Spirit of God”. As a way of analogy, if you think of a boat, we are not talking about what the boat is made out of (“Is it metal or timber?”) but what it’s powered by (“Is it powered by oars or electricity?”). That’s what Paul is on about (And a side note- when Paul says in 1 Cor. 15 that we will have a “Spiritual body” he is saying the same thing- not that we have a non-physical body, but that we will have a body empowered and made new by the Spirit…I.e. A Spiritual body).


Now all of this isn’t just a theological rant with no pastoral implications.  It is a serious problem that we downplay the physical. Think about it. For example, with this wrong view of the Spirit, we stop having conversations about sex because it’s “dirty” (Even though God made sex!), because (In this way of defining “Spiritual”) it’s a body thing and our bodies are “bad” because they are not “Spiritual”. Gah! We as the church should be leading the way in these conversations in a world so distorted. And it’s not just the sex. That’s just one example. We start to roll our eyes at things like baptism, and foot washing, and communion because those things are physical things. Or we downplay feeding the homeless, or looking after creation, or taking medicine seriously because they are “just” physical things in a world that we will escape from one day. Oh, and let’s not care about our “secular” work because it’s not our “Spiritual” work….Sigh. And this also works in reverse as well: If it’s all about the “Spiritual” (As the way a lot of people define “Spiritual”) then why not do what we want with our bodies? Why not sleep around, or abuse our bodies- after all “it’s only the Spiritual things that matter”. Oh man the list goes on. Oh how we desperately need to see that God’s Kingdom is about the rule & reign of God over the whole world, whereby His Spirit is about shaking the world up, not about escaping it into an immaterial la la land. And seeing that “Spirit” doesn’t always equate to “immaterial”. Rather, Spiritual is more about the orientation & direction of the God who is making all things new. So when one feeds the homeless, that can be a spiritual task. Or when one makes love to their spouse in a way that honours and serves the other to the glory of God, that can be a Spiritual task.  It’s this Spirit that shakes and wakes us up to view everything differently (Our psychology, our physical world, our work, our relationships, our priorities, the dehumanising systems we support…Everything!) and get us moving & living in a new direction towards New Creation. Jesus rose again from the dead…In a physical body. (Need we say more?!). Every action, everything- in the sense of its effects- Is Spiritual. 


And in terms of very specific church service practice- as someone who affiliates with a Pentecostal denomination- I find it ironic that Pentecostalism isn’t more liturgical. That might sound strange to start with, but think about it. We pentes are all about movement and grove! We are the dancers, the movers, the shakers, the one who lay hands on people. So why on Earth don’t we have more emphasis on the physical elements of Eucharist? Or the intentional actions of foot washing, or baptism? Or take seriously our surroundings and how we set up for church? Or notions of creating sacred space? Why are we against candles, and sights, and smells and say that it’s all to “ritualistic”? Certainly these things can be done in wrong ways, and certainly, it can be done in weird legalistic ways. But I am not talking about its distortions here (Which there are many!), but the inherent practice of taking the physical seriously in church services as a way to awaken people to the reality of God. And so I think Its the great irony of Pentecostalism- that we are moving & grooving people (which is physical movement) but then in our theology downplay the physical to the point that it’s somehow bad. It makes no sense.

May we see that the Spirit is for the physical world, but as the physical world renewed by The Spirit Himself (Herself?) as it’s all heading towards New Creation, with a physical Jesus on the throne, and may that inform our present lives as we live and move in this world, empowered and inspired by God’s Spirit.  

The Overcoming God in the midst of The Suffering (John 16:33)

This is some writing that I did that inspired a sermon that I preached today..Enjoy! 

P.S…Ignore the typos!


It was 1:00 in the morning last Sunday that I awoke. And I became overwhelmed by this deep sense of suffering in the world. The cut to foreign aid in the budget. The famine in South Sudan. The homeless in the streets of Perth. News of friends going through tremendously hard times. And I got out of bed and I just starting writing on suffering, and as I was writing I had the verse from John’s gospel come to mind: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”


In that section of scripture, Jesus is speaking to His disciples. It’s the night before He is going to get crucified, and tensions are high.

He had shaken the very foundations of all the social and religious institution of His day- and the people behind those institutions wants Him dead because of it.  To them He was another rebel trying to start a resistant movement that sought to overthrow them politically and religiously. Now here’s the thing: this world is messed up, and we messed it up when we rebelled against God- and time has passed and the world has unravelled more and more. But the story goes that God has sent someone into the world to rescue this world from it’s own self-destruction- and His name is Jesus. And the people of Jesus’ day believed that God would sent someone to them- but they also thought that this someone would  shake this world up by violently overthrowing any nation that resisted Him, and that this person would turn to those hoping for Him and 110% affirm all their religious devotion to God. But along comes Jesus- and instead of challenging the foreign rulers in control of Israel He challenges the religious leaders of Israel. Instead of calling people to observe the Laws of God the way they came to understand them, He told them that the deeper Law of Love is what the Law was really all about, and that their skewed way of doing law observance was actually doing more damage than good. He did things like heal and touch people the religious elite considered unclean to touch- all in all completely sticking it to the man and pretty much saying “Yep, I am bringing God’s Kingdom on Earth…But it’s nothing like you think it is”. And He then tells the people that the way of God’s victory over the world won’t be through violence, but by enemy love. You can see why the religious and political powers wanted Him dead. And so Jesus is with His disciples on the night before He is killed and He is giving them His parting words before He heads to the cross. He starts speaking very clearly to His disciples: He says that the people who hated Him will also hate them, and that He will be going away for a bit and will grieve in this time, thinking that all hope is lost – but then He says these famous words: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.””.  


The disciples needed to hear these words, because Jesus knew how they would be between His death on Friday & His resurrection on Sunday. Filled with grief, pain, questions (How many of us at relate to that?). Believing that God can overcome all things, and then to bear witness to what looks like a failure. Imagine being one of those disiples-you devoted your whole life to this one person- and I mean you were literally all in…And then they die a violent death. Would you say “I think Jesus has overcome the world!” No! We would of felt like that all we had devoted ourselves to was a sham. Another failed Messiah who failed to bring God’s Kingdom to Earth. Now the story doesn’t end there. But the story was there- there was a Saturday.


How many of us can relate to the disciples Saturday experience? We look out into the world and into our own lives, and sometimes we think that things have failed. So much pain. So much grief. So much sorrow. And we ask God “Have you really overcome?”


I’ll be lying if I said to you that what happens in this world never get’s me questioning the goodness of God, or at least God as an overcoming God…It does. But I also know that such questioning doesn’t actually solve the problem of evil. I mean I could say God isn’t good, but then what? What does that functionally do? It does nothing. It certainly doesn’t create enduring hope in the world. At least if I believe God is ultimately good I can hope that one day God will one day make all things right- that when Jesus returns he’ll wipe away disease, pain, death, darkness, injustice, evil.

But we still experience the disciples Saturday. Just look out at the world. In times like this some of us cry “How long, oh Lord?!”. How long will famine destroy whole nations? How long will sickness destroy families? How long will the ideologies perpetuate terror? How long will our health- in whatever form- betray us? How long Lord will governments feel contempt in having a global annul budget of military arms of close to 1.2 trillion dollars in the midst of extreme poverty (Something we can end with about 30 billion dollars annually)? How long Lord will we turn a blind eye to the ways we contribute to this mess? Lord, how long? How long.


There’s these collection of ancient poems- called the psalms- that act like a space where you can just scream, cry, rant, praise, sing…whatever. You can just be your emotional self. And in some of these psalms there’s a space that allows us to grieve, to question, to doubt, to lament. And those despair-ridden psalms were written under similar circumstances to the disciples Saturday experience. They expected God to act one way, and then everything turns to crap- and so they essentially cry to God asking “What’s going on?” and then they spout how they feel. And I love the pslams because they show that even God’s people need to cry, to grieve, to vent, to have a space where they just be okay to not be okay. Oh and by the way… Imagine if more churches made it okay to be like this. Even if there’s a Resurrection Sunday, Saturday is still real.


And yet, at the same time we must recognise that Sunday is real too. That we can have our emotional processing space, but a space that exists in a much larger picture than just the present moment. Jesus says “you will have trouble”- He doesn’t ignore that or brush it aside or water it down. No you WILL have trouble- times will be hard.


We have our own long long Saturday- where Jesus has risen from the dead, but hasn’t yet returned to make all things new yet. And so- like the disciples- we can question everything when we look around us. But Jesus whispers to you & me: take heart, I have overcome the world. 


And what was God’s first step in this upside down and inside out way of overcoming the world? Dying on a cross. WHAT! That sounds stupid! And yet, if only we stop & stare long enough to see- do we see the victory of God.


The radical revolutionary of love, justice, and peace for the world was so controversial that they killed him. The one time God becomes man and we kill Him- we can’t handle Him. And evil does what evil does over and over again- bring death, pain, destruction, injustice, darkness, suffering. And Jesus dies a bloody death. But what the writers of the Bible tell us that this actually becomes the place of victory! That it’s this moment that Jesus is the overcoming God. The only weapon evil has is death, and if Jesus is going to overcome evil then He certainly can’t use the weapon of evil itself in a tit-for-tat, eye-for-an-eye, vengeful way. The way He overcomes the powers of evil is by allowing evil to do it’s worst to Him, exhausting it’s power, and in those moments responding with forgiving love towards His enemies as they crucify Him. The sacrifice of God is that He sacrifices His right to respond to what’s happening to Him by doing what He could of done, which is just killing the crucifiers and scoffers on the spot. We want God to overcome evil in the world? Well we can be evil people ourselves- So He has to find a way of destroying evil that doesn’t destroy us as well- and this is how He does it: He eternally separates sin from sinner and deals with sin in it’s own terms, and in order to do that He must exhaust the powers of sin, and in response show us forgiving love. And in doing so, He breaks the cycle.


But victory over evil cannot be victory over evil if evil had the final say. There is  a Sunday. Jesus rose again from the dead three days later and never dies again, to show us that this victory wasn’t just another crushing defeat! That actually evil cannot hold Him down! That the weapon of death is stupid! That evil, injustice, darkness, chaos, the powers, have lost! And that you & I can be caught up in that victory in the midst of our pain & hardship.


People have often criticised Christians saying that it’s all an emotional crutch. I just want to say that, firstly, we all rely on things in life to get us through- those who rely on approval will seek after it at all cost, those who rely on money will seek after money that all cost, those who rely on the next experience will seek after that thrill again and again, those who rely on themselves being successful will never ever slow down and will always be driven to the point of burn out- so everyone has a crutch. But here’s the thing with Jesus…A crutch implies two supporting crutches…But Jesus rose again on two solid resurrected legs! And Jesus burst forth out of the tomb as a sign to the world that He has overcome, and that He declares that what has happened to Him on resurrection day will happen to the whole world one day! That as He was restored and risen again so will this world be restored and made new- a new creation! And yes there is still work to do, and yes this creation isn’t fully renewed yet, and yes there is evil, and there is tough times, and we do need those times to lament and cry- but with Jesus’ resurrection, it’s a sure and true hope that it’s all heading to the renewal of all things at the return of Jesus. That evil, and pain, and injustice don’t have the final say. And that when we trust that Jesus’ resurrection has changed the default ending story to all of human history- one that doesn’t end in despair but ends in hope- then now we can say that Jesus has overcome the world!


Jesus tells us to take heart because there is a hope we can take hold of. We are to embrace this hope for our lives- that this hope shapes us during the saddest of times, during our long dark Saturdays. We embrace Jesus as the overcoming God. And now as Jesus’ disciples you & I- having embraced Jesus as the overcoming God- gives us His Spirit in order to embody Jesus as the overcoming God into a world that so desperately needs hope.   


We have been given the sacred task embodying Jesus’ resurrected-fuelled overcoming victory into the world.  That we can go out, energised, empowered, & inspired by God’s Spirit, to go out into the world and confront evil head on and say “No!” to evil. “No!” to injustice. “No!” to anything that defaces Gods good world or exploits God’s human creatures.  


Now embodying this hope isn’t about us having it all together, and neither is it saying that we can heal the world fully prior to Jesus’ return. No! Embodying this hope means that we follow the one who makes it possible to embody hope in the first place! Jesus has done the rescuing of the world (not us)- we just participate it as His ever-learning, ever-growing, ever stumbling, students, with Him as our ever-graceful, ever-merciful, and ever empowering teacher. And He does the saving, and He will do the final fresh act of restoration in the end- He just turns around and says you & I “Hey, wanna join in?”.  


we are all called into the rough & tough vocation of Jesus- who calls us into the dark places, who calls us into the slums, and into the pain- but in order to be a beacon of light. A beacon of hope. To be people who believe that there is a story to our reality that doesn’t end in meaninglessness, that doesn’t end in indifference, that doesn’t end in pain, that it doesn’t end in evil, or death, or injustice. But that end’s with an overcoming God who promises to make all things right. And that we can be people who have a vision towards that end.


So in your job, your relationships, your mundane- Ask God to reveal ways that God’s Spirit can creativily move through you to embody this “God-overcoming-the-world” reality.  I truly believe that you can find ways to- whether discretely or explicitly- bring forth a vision of this reality. Even in something as simple as a kind word or a smile that brightens someone’s day.   


But a word of caution: let us never think that we implement this victory of Jesus by any other means than the way Jesus does it. Jesus brings healing, He brings restoration, He brings strong words against the dehumanising systems. That’s how He does. And ultimately  Jesus overcome the world through a death & resurrection- It was a victory, not through the love of power, but by the power of love. The cross is the ultimate redefinition of what it looks like to have “victory” and do “power”. This means direct us to His ends. So If Jesus wouldn’t do it that way, then if you follow Jesus you ought not to do it that way either.


John Lennon once said “Imagine there is no heaven, it’s not easy if you do. People living for the day”. But here’s the thing: If there is no big picture, why the heck shouldn’t I live however I want? Some people say to help the next generation, and that’s a good motivation. And yet in a Godless universe one day a supanova is going to destroy our world and everything we worked towards will be wiped away anyway- in the ultimate sense of things nothing lasts forever and all that we do, even the best of things, will amount to nothing in the end. Unless there is a God who invites us to a bigger picture of the cosmos, of our universe, of our world- then every good endeavour you do- even the simplest ones- can last forever.


So what is Jesus speaking to you about right now- what is He challenging you to be shaken & stirred up in? What is He telling you to do?


Which story of reality do we trust in? Are we going to choose to believe that this Jesus is just another dead rabbi? Or are we going to trust in a bigger picture of our world- one with an overcoming God? Because depending on what story you lean into as the true story will determine how you face this world. Without this hope, during hard times, one might be able to find people of solace, but one won’t have an enduring hope that stretches for all of eternity. Without God, you might do good things, but that’s certainly not the same as being part of something bigger than yourself that’s heading towards a direction larger than yourself and larger than cosmos itself. And by the way, it’s very easy to forget the bigger story in our day-to-day. Jesus says that He said all those things to His disciples so that they may have peace- what words does Jesus want you to hear so that in Him you may have peace?


Jesus is inviting us to trust in His reality- that He is the overcoming God. So that in the middle of the pain- that’s real, and heavy, and horrible- He says to us: take heart! For I have overcome the world. And may we- by God’s Spirit- embody this Overcoming God into the world-that (as one preacher says) “In the face of injustice; lament, laugh, sing, dance & act like Love can raise the dead.



Sabbath is about ceasing, and yet it’s more than just stopping what you are doing. It’s about stopping the work underneath your work, the busyness underneath your busyness, the schedules & procedures underneath the schedules & procedures. You know what I mean. Your mind still races even when you “stop”. Your rest is really pseudo rest whereby we might not be moving but we certainly aren’t resting. And it’s certainly going to burn us to the ground one day. We need that deep Sabbath rest that truly is ceasing. However, that deeper Sabbath rest doesn’t occur because sometimes you are driven to succeed at any cost, or get that thing at any cost, or get to that place at any cost. And sometimes there’s a time and place for such moments (After all, maybe you have deadlines at the moment and as such it just is what it is). Or sometimes that thing you are chasing, or that thing you are doing more than you really need to do, is just flat out amped up to idolatrous levels (And so we think that getting that extra buck, or getting the extra approval of those people, is what will do it for us. But man is it just a form of working that never fulfils and never stops if we believe that those things is what we need to be whole). Or sometimes what you are doing is a Godly thing but it’s being done in such a way that leads to burnout in the longrun (You know what I mean. Those nonstop pastoral visits and conversations that never stop. As one friend of mine has said “Burnout doesn’t glorify God”). In any case, we must come to the place and see that sabbath rest is ultimately about looking at Jesus and going “Ooooh! You have done the Ultimate Work so that way I don’t need to work my arse off for your Kingdom come!” and/or “Oooooh! You are the one I need for wholeness, not these other pursuits! And the work that it takes to get you as my wholeness- as my King with your Kingdom- has already been accomplished because of your work!”. So rest. Enjoy the beauty of present, enjoy the gifts of God’s good God’s creation, bask in His glory, just have fun with friends and breath. Just stop. And Rest.

Reading Jesus into movies? Or discerning something deeper that’s always been there?

So sometimes I have been told that I force Jesus into movies when I point out God lessons in film. But I want to propose another way of looking at it: If we are all made in the image of God then at some level, even if someone is being super rebellious against God, some of God’s “DNA” will be reflected in a film. As a metaphor…If a child rebels against their family they will do a lot of things contrary to the will of their parents, but they still have their parents DNA, which means something will never change…

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Ethics of God’s New World Part I

This is a sermon based on Matthew 5:21-30. These are some of the most difficult passages to speak on, but when talked about in light of God’s Kingdom and the driving ethic of God’s Kingdom being about love, we can better make sense of what God so desires for us and why it’s liberating to follow Jesus in these areas.

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Wrapping Paper and the Death & Resurrection

I believe death & resurrection exist in three layers that each envelop the other (Like three layered wrapping paper, the bigger layers over the other layers).

The top layer refers to all of reality. The layer that covers all the other layers is THE DEATH & RESURRECTION (All Capitals)- That Jesus’ death & resurrection has moved the whole world forward, that on 5pm Good Friday the default mode of reality changed forever. Evil lost, all people were forgiven, Jesus’ Kingship became actualised, the world changed and to this day is no longer the same. And human beings, at all times and places, became home free from sin whether they knew it or not, feel it or not, believe it or not. But when people live as if this layer of death & resurrection isn’t true, they are asleep, living in un-reality, living under the defeated (even if they don’t realise it) slave master of sin. But when people “wake up” to the new world that God has already made among them, then we see the next layer…

THE DEATH & RESURRECTION contains and makes possible the next layer. The next layer is The Death & Resurrection (Capital “T”, “D”, and “R”), whereby God’s Spirit wakes people up to see & realise that the world is a place where Jesus is King, all are forgiven, sin is defeated, that evil & injustice in their midst- though very real- aren’t the default mode of reality anymore, and they realise that they are free from sin (Even if slavery to sin feels very real). Such a waking up is their Death & Resurrection; they become a “New Creation”, they have “died to their old selves”, and have become “resurrected people” into a new way of life within the DEATH & RESURRECTION world that’s already been made true. And of course, as we follow in the resurrected Messiah within this DEATH & RESURRECTION reality now as Death & Resurrected people, we must daily die to our old selves and rise again new- this is the daily death & resurrection we walk in (lower case “d” and “r”).

All those old habits, old behaviours, old ways, old idols that try to keep us in their defeated grip, we must crucify them daily and live new- we put down our old zombie self that always wants to make havoc and instead take on our new self. And this is an ongoing journey done only by the Power of God’s Spirit. But this journey takes place within the larger reality of our Death & Resurrection, that itself takes place within the ultimate reality of THE DEATH & RESURRECTION world that’s been made true.

This DEATH & RESURRECTION reality, though true now, will become fully actualised across the whole world when Jesus returns. The already-defeated powers of sin, death, injustice, evil will be executed, and God will be “all in all”. And those who have had their Death & Resurrection will literally rise again from the dead, and their daily death & resurrection journey will come to an end- for we know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. So see that the world is no longer the same, that Jesus is truly King, that you are free; in other words yield to God’s Spirit who brings forth your Death & Resurrection; and walk in the Spirit as you learn to live daily as the new human being God has already made you to be. Live all of this in anticipation for God’s final Victory over the whole world- where all things are made new, we are perfected, and God is “all in all”.

(John 3:16-20, Roms 5:12-17, Roms 6:1-23, 1 Cor 5:7, Col. 1:18-23, Col. 3:1-10,  1 John 3:2-5, Rev 21-22)









How “Jesus as Lord” and “Jesus as Saviour” are bound up together- not separate

This teaching podcast is about the relationship between these two truths: “Jesus as Saviour” and “Jesus as Lord”. My reflection is that seeing these two things as sharply divided is actually unhelpful, that rather, seeing these two truths bound up in each other brings fresh and lifegiving insights to how we view salvation, freedom, and what it means to follow Jesus. I hope it it the process changes the way you view your relationship with God.

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”We are only human” shouldn’t be about how we fail

When we fail we often say “Hey, I’m only human”. Whilst I understand that it’s normal to fail, I would argue that it’s wrong to label that as what our humanity is. No, our humanity isn’t defined by our failures- that’s missing the mark of our humanity. Our humanity is defined by being a person made in the Image of God.

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Persecution Complex

Sometimes people will get mad a us for following Jesus. That is true. But sometimes people will get mad at us and we’ll say “It’s because I’m following Jesus” but actually it will be because we are being an asshole and we are just using Jesus as an excuse. This short podcast explores this.

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Is it all about a relationship with God? Depends.

The phrase “It’s not about religion but about relationship” can either be a powerful statement or a really bad one depending on what we think Jesus came to do. Explore what I mean in this latest ‘thought’ podcast

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We address the common question “Why would a good and loving God allow evil & suffering?”. Of course, the question is always deeper and more personal. In this Podcast we go and see how Jesus, though He doesn’t give us the definitive answer, provides us with a way of looking through suffering through the lens of His own suffering.

The music is Androids Always Escape by Chris Zabriskie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (

One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism

<The following blog is based on a talk given to a multi-denominational church meeting held in Perth, Australia>


“One Lord, One faith, one baptism”


So there was a busy cosmopolitan port city by the name or Corinth. It was a city where east met west and many different nationalities resided there from various backgrounds. The Apostle Paul planted a church in this city, but it wasn’t long before there was division among them.


Some people had formed little clicks saying “Paul baptised me!” or “Well Apollos taught me!”- it was your classic popularity club. And it was dividing the church.

Some people had great and wonderful gifts given by God, but they were using their gifts to their own ends, and this would often lead to chaotic church life.

Some people were rich and affluent, and so when they did communion they would eat each other’s food that they bought but would make sure the poor wasn’t to join them at the table because they considered themselves more worth due to their social status.


The apostle Paul would have none of it.

To those boastfully priding themselves in their leaders, Paul came along and said “Well we are God’s servants, and its God who’s given the growth anyway, so why divide into popularity groups what God sees as one and His transformation?”

To those being used by God, Paul seeks for them to use their gift for each other and see themselves as a giant body that should function as one and be filled with one purpose: love leading to the building up of the church.

To those excluding others from the table of fellowship, Paul uses communion as the model of Christians being allowed to have the free and equal welcome of God at the table- all get the same food and drink equally (despite social class) because Jesus came to establish a society modelled on His table meal- the body broken and the blood poured out for all who want it.

In all instances, the Apostle Paul is drawing all people together in unity through “the one Lord, one faith and one baptism”.


You see here’s the thing.

We are not united on nationality (We come from many different nations)

We are not united on gender (We aren’t all male or all female)

We are not united on social class and wealth (For we all have a different status and income in society)

We are not united on all our doctrine (Whilst we do have to agree on Jesus, there’s a mystery of plurality in our faith, such as infant baptism vs adult baptism etc.)

But we are united one the One and only Jesus- the same Jesus that we all bend the knee to. The Jesus at which, at His name, every knee shall bow and tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord.  There are many denominations. Many backgrounds. Many people groups. But in Jesus we serve the One Lord.


If we are to put aside our differences of opinions and be united, there’s a lesson we are to learn from Paul. In the church of Corinth, they were also divided on food offering. Some Christians (Some scholars say Jewish Christians) didn’t eat food that had been sacrificed to pagan idols and thus firmly believed it was tainted, whilst other Christians firmly believed that since all food ultimately comes from God than one not to be to fussed if it was sacrificed to an idol (Which in itself has no power). Paul agrees that food sacrificed to idols isn’t a huge deal, but he doesn’t turn to the group that don’t hold onto that belief and rip into them. He doesn’t nastily tell them how wrong they are. He appeals to a higher ethic than just mere knowledge alone- He appeals to love. This isn’t to say that conversation over particular doctrines aren’t important, and it’s certainly not saying that there isn’t a time and place for straight truth telling. But, in discernment and wisdom, Paul saw this occasion as a matter of not telling people how wrong they are, but of recognising that if someone has a different opinion than you, that you are to seek the wellbeing of the other, which might involve being generous in allowing them to believe what they believe in what isn’t an essential to faith. And as churches come together for gathering where they too will have different opinions on things we must listen, we must be generous with our beliefs, we must love. By the way, that’s the context of the verse “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”.


Let’s apply that same ethic with our differing beliefs on particular matters.

Major on the majors, minor on the minors.

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love.”


And when we do this, If we are united, than the world will see more clearly that the Father sent the Son, and will see God’s love for them too. This is what is promised by Jesus Himself when He is praying to the Father about all believers:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

When we are one, the world will see more clearly that the Father sent the Son, and will see God’s love for them too


I’ll end on a story.

I heard this story on a podcast, about an African American couple in the midst of a racist part of the South in the USA. The town they lived in was divided by the colour of your skin. Black people only were allowed to go to certain spots. There were signs that said “whites only” to indicate that this place or that place of that thing were for white people only. Deep division. Any if there was a place that was mixed it was shamed by white people. In fact, to such people it was utterly disgusting. So here’s this couple- the wife is a Christian and the husband is not a Christian. But they both go to the church in town- the husband not participating in the service, and the wife participating in the service. They had the music and the preaching and the praying, but then came the time of communion. It was one of those traditional church services where you go down to the front and the pastor will break of a little piece of bread and you will eat it as he or she said “the body of Christ broken for you” and then the pastor would bring the cup around to the same people and then they would all drink from the same cup, saliva and all. The husband watched intently as the cup was given individually to each member as the pastor said the “the blood of Christ poured out for you”- as he watched he saw it being passed to a few white members of the church to drink. And then it was his wife’s turn to drink. This was America in the height of the civil rights movement, where the face of racism and segregation was at an all-time high. Will the cup pass from her? Will she have to drink from a different cup? Will racism and segregation win as it does everywhere else? And then the unthinkable. The husband watched as it went from the white man next to her to his wifes- and her lips touched the drink. She drank. “The blood of Christ poured out for you”. She reached the cup and drank just like everyone else from the one cup. And in that moment the husband knew, and he said “The outside world would have never done this. Only God Himself could do what I have seen”.

When the world see we are united than the world will know that the Father sent the Son and that God loves them to.


One Lord. One Faith. One Baptism.


May we go into the world in unity, by the power of the Spirit, declaring that God raised Jesus from the dead. May we be one as the Father and the Son are one, that we be united on Jesus and give ourselves room on the other things. And may God be glorified as we come together.


One Lord. One Faith. One Baptism.


What is Jesus wanting you to hear?

How might you and I grow deeper in unity?

Speak Lord….Your servant is listening.

TEACHING: Christians & swearing (cussing etc.)

WARNING: This podcast contains adult themes

Rather than talk about the big issues in the world (such as poverty, racism etc.)-which the Christian scriptures talks heaps on- I wanted to do a more light hearted topic…Swearing! (Or cussing). What does it mean to speak differently if you are a follower of Jesus? Is swearing really wrong? So let’s have fun in this teaching podcast!

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MESSAGE: The Arrival of the King

Author Becky Pippert once said “Whatever controls us is our lord. The person who seeks power is controlled by power. The person who seeks acceptance is controlled by acceptance. We do not control ourselves. We are controlled by the lord of our lives”. What if she is right? What would it mean than to have Jesus as a King? Another bad CEO or dictator? Or something completely different…

NOTE: This was recorded in two parts and sounds different at one point.

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MESSAGE: The King who has the Authority to Forgive

“Only God has the authority to forgive” said the Scribes. The question facing us today is whether Jesus is still the forgiving God we seek. Do we need forgiveness? Is their a cost to God’s forgiveness? How might one embody God’s forgiveness into the world?

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Holy Saturday

The disciples day between Jesus’ death & Jesus’ resurrection is often our story. Tragedy happens. We feel abandoned by God. We doubt. Saturday gave them no answers after Jesus’ death. What might Holy Saturday mean to you?

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Gethsemane: A Good Friday Poem

I went on a very early morning walk this morning, fitted with a head band with a light on it, and went to a spot in the middle of a rocky outcrop within the bushlands. I took out my Bible and started reading the Gethsemane stories as recorded in all four gospels. After doing this, I got inspired to write this poem…..


Pray, pray, pray, in the Garden He
He sweated blood & prayed His plea,
“Shall this cup pass from me?”

He hears no response, oh He knows,
His role, His mission,
To take on the worlds woes

Here prays the man of sorrow,
Knowing the Fathers will & the tomb He shall borrow.
…… …… …… …… …… …… …..

Betrayed, betrayed, betrayed, in the Garden He,
Judas & the arrest party arrive with haste & heed,
“Is this how you betray me?”

With the kiss of the betrayer that He receives free of will,
He knows now of His blood that He must spill

Here stands the man of sorrow,
Receiving the kiss leading toward to the tomb He shall borrow
…… …… …… …… …… …… …..

Grabbed, grabbed, grabbed, from the Garden He
To be taken to the courts for the people to make their plea,
“Have you come to take me?”

His Disciples respond with sword in order to kill,
The disciples cut off a servant’s ear out of their wrathful will

But here stands the man of sorrows,
Who heals the servant’s ear, and lets them take Him away to the tomb He shall borrow


(c) copyright 2016



May we, brother & sisters, see the man acquainted with sorrow- who bore the sins of the many, died a mockers death, so that we in Him we shall be partakers in the Age to come.

God is Love (But not the way you think it means)


It’s a good thing that our culture is catching onto the catchphrase “God is Love”; in fact, it’s a great thing. It used to be in the popular belief that- if there was a God- that He was an angry & detached being, kind of like that relative or that teacher if you get what I mean (the one with the angry face and the hot temper). But now the catch cry is that God is indeed love. And I like that. I like that because it’s a closer picture to what the ancient scriptures have been saying for centuries about The Divine.


However- and without diminishing the goodness of what people are saying about God- I do believe that the picture of “God is love” that the culture offers varies from the Christian vision of what we mean when we say “God is love”. And I think the variation is crucial. Our culture’s picture of God being love is that of a God who, more or less, has affections of love towards us and doesn’t expect anything from us; a bit like a hippy in the sky who has warm fuzzies and doesn’t care about how we live, and because God is like this we don’t have to care about how we live because it’s “all good”. Now, before I reveal what I am going to say about the Christian vision of God as love, I do want to affirm that God does have warm fuzzies about us, and there is nothing we can do that makes God stop loving us. But the Christian faith says there’s more, and also God does better, and also He is deeper.


First, the better.

What sounds like a better parent? The parent who let’s their child do anything with no boundaries and basically says “Just do whatever you want” or the parent who has good, positive, and self-worth instilling boundaries that protect the child from all that hinders them being truly well, where the parent says “I love you too much to let you destroy yourself on your own”. It’s pretty obvious isn’t it- it’s the second parent. Now question: if God was like the perfect parent whom would you rather have? The one who has the warm & fuzzies but is indifferent towards us or, the one who cares enough for us to say “I love you just the way you are, but I love you too much to leave you the way you are- I want to show you a better way to be human; will you let me show you a better way? Please let me show you, for I don’t want to see you go down a self-destructive road”. Isn’t that better? Such a God would seek the best for us and get angry at anything that defaces the people He loves. The only ‘problem’ we can envision with this better is that if this God is not totally indifferent to us then that means we can’t be indifferent to Him. Knowing that this is the God who is love- and then living a way that is directly opposed to His transformative love- is us not loving God back. It’s saying “Piss off!” to the perfect parent. Now I get why we would want God to piss off- it’s because we think, like any teenager, that we have ‘got it all together’. Our culture says “We don’t need that religion stuff”. Two things need to be said to that: God doesn’t like religion either, He prefers everything being done in the context of a relationship. And second, if you made a machine you would know exactly how it works best. Likewise, if God made you, He knows what’s best for your design.


Second, the more.

God being love can often sound very sentimental. A nice catchphrase. God being love is what you get. But behind such sayings there isn’t much more there. Christians believe that at the very centre of all of reality is the more. The more behind the catchphrase “God is love”, the more behind the very fabric & centre of reality itself. A pulsating beauty, a magnificent awe, a personal caring power, a dynamic dance. To Christians, the God who Is Love isn’t a static being who just has niceties’. Behind the veil of reality is the God who is somehow ultimately one & only one and yet somehow intertwined in an unexplainable three- and this one in three togetherness is how love is defined. We can’t even find language to describe this glimpse at the centre of reality: Christians use phrases like “God is one but three persons” or we use titles like “The Holy Trinity”. All are words trying to grasp something we can’t quite grasp. But what does this all mean? If there were two people who both said “You orbit around me!” and then proceeded to make each other orbit around the other as they stood still it would end badly. But if you had two people who said to each other “I will centre my whole being around you” then both people somehow become the object of love that both affirms the other and allows you, the receiver, to be fulfilled through the selfless orbit of the other. It almost looks like a dance. This dance is the famous analogy that’s given to paint but a faint picture of what’s happening in God Himself. This one but three God- who we call Father, Son, And Spirit- are like dancers who are selflessly seeking the love, the beauty, the glory of the other. And when this God made the universe He musn’t had made the universe to get love (He already had that!) but to give love. Love is self-replicating, Love is creative, Love is other centred.  Compare this dynamic reality to our world as we know it: we look out for number one, we are always attempting to build our little world of one, and even our relationships are about us not about the other, our countries are attempting to be bigger & better. We are the ones going “No! You orbit around me!”. Just imagine though if we all looked after each other at the same time, not to get but to give; it would be perfect.  But here’s the thing: The eternal God is a God who has always had always been love because other centred love has always been present. Other faiths might claim that their God is love but their very God’s don’t have the very structure built into their being to say that- for if love is about loving others then it means that god hasn’t always been love because before us who was he loving? Only a God who is one but is Himself a community of eternal intertwined persons can be love. This is the more. However if this is what love is the God who is love then the daring dive into the springboard of reality would look like us being loving as well to others; saying that number one isn’t the only one, and seeking to serve God and serve others.


Third, the deeper.

True love requires sacrifice. It’s so obvious that we don’t even observe this phenomenon until we stop and see that it is indeed true: the world’s most loving people sacrificed. Genuine love requires that one demonstrate love in action which of course will require sacrifice; there is no escaping it: it will cost your time, your money, your energy; your space; your capacity to be present. That what loves does. Are we really surprised? There once was a person who went up to a pastor and said to him “God loves me, I don’t think he needed to send Jesus to die for me, he just loves us!” and the pastor looked at him and responded and said “What did it cost your God to love you?”. If “God is love” then true love will also cost God something. And the Christian faith says that when humanity said “no” to God’s way of being human that, in our freewill, we created a world of violence, of anger, of hate, of injustice- systemic powers of evil emerged and has now become the norm. If God is going to embrace the world that has gone astray He must enter into this world of evil, injustice, suffering & death, and He must let the evils of the world do their worst to Him- evil has to converge in one place so that he can defeat evil by the way of love. What did it cost your God to love us? It cost God His life. This is the deeper: “that whilst we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. If God isn’t going to respond to evil with evil then he must let evil do its worst to him- but if evil isn’t to have the final say after doing its worst to Jesus then Jesus has to do something that makes his pathway to the cross victorious without using the methods of evil itself: And so He rises from the dead. His resurrection tells us that love wins: that evil won’t have the final say. God is Love; Love has won.


God is love…But His version of love is the better the more, and the deeper.

The Earth Shattering Gheto

Christmas and Jesus don’t really mix anymore. At least that’s what our culture says.

Jesus, the relic of cultures, has (like Elvis) mostly left the building.  And at Christmas time it is no different.  For a lot of people (But certainly not all) Christmas is our cultures favourite times of year, and it is that for many reasons: family, friends, the gift of giving, the humbling gift of receiving. When it comes to the religious symbolism in Christmas, some people gather to celebrate the birth of Jesus more explicitly then the greater population. However, for most people, Jesus is mostly a hallmark card and most people don’t find significance in Christmas as a celebration of Jesus’ birth.  Jesus is a relic, a nice story involving three wise men, a barn, and a baby all fitted into a clay nativity scene at the corner of your local shopping centre. Jesus (like Elvis) has left the building. After all, nice stories are just that aren’t they? Nice stories.


During Christmas family and friends will gather and have long conversations. Sometimes about the year, or about politics, or about pet peeves, maybe some will discuss their toys, or perhaps (this year especially) talk about new movie releases (The force is strong with that last conversation topic…). Whatever we talk about, we will gather around, eat & drink, make jokes, exchange gifts and have Christmas. And yet right in the middle of what seems to be the mundane, people will state their opinions or beliefs about whatever things, and whether they know it or not, there will be a whole stake of bias and assumptions that form their conversation. Even in the mundane there will be ‘philosophy’ going on. And if politics somehow comes up in conversation then the whole notion of power will be bought into the sphere of the somewhat mundane. And at some point someone will suggest how things could be ‘better’- in regards to absolutely anything! So there you have it. Mundane conversations are loaded with topics that we only shallowly talk about.


What does the talking about what we believe or our opinions over anything have to do with a story of little baby Jesus? What does the complaining of politics have anything to do with a Middle Eastern child? And if religion is bought up in conversation, what does a story based 2000 years ago have any relevance today? To most people the answer is that it doesn’t. “We live in a modern world” we say, “those stories and just nice stories; now let’s move on with life”. What if there was more and it’s that we aren’t willing to go there?


Now let’s set the scene: a poor neighbourhood (think of your local poor neighbourhood) and a teenage couple tell you that they have a baby who is literally from God and (at the same time) is God. Now let’s be honest, you’re going to think they are high. But suppose that somehow, in a magical way, what they are saying is all true. That God is becoming a human in the backwater through a poor and afraid teenage mum. “I have been told that this baby will change the world” she says, “He has come to make all things new”. Riiiight. But suppose it was all true- do you see how your family conversations would change? If God had rocked up into a world which largely didn’t even buy the whole God thing then what you believed about the nature of religion, truth, what it means for the world to be fixed, the notion of what true power is (etc.) would all change. Christmas wouldn’t be the same. Now if what happened to a Middle Eastern couple 2000 years ago was true; if the nativity scene was true, then everything does have the power to change. But why? And how?


Christians claim that the only God (And to the first hearers of the story, specifically the Only God known as the ancient Jewish people’s God, Yahweh) had become a human being. Christians  call that event of God becoming man the ‘incarnation’.Think about that: the creator of the stars, the nebulas, the galaxies, had poured his being into the fragile body of a baby boy in the low socioeconomic area of the town of Bethlehem unto a couple who were barely grown up. Crazy right? And yet, if true, changes everything- Including the underlying beliefs of our mundane Christmas conversations.


This event, if true, changes everything in four ways:

-Our understanding of God

What do we think when we think of God? Even if you don’t believe in Him, what images come to your end at the immediate thought? Old man with a beard? Boring? Detached? If Jesus is God come to us in a baby and in the ghetto, it tells us something about the very nature of the God of the Universe. He gets into the mess. He goes to the darkest allies & life’s messiest places and He becomes present in the mess in the here & now. God’s own self-understanding of holiness doesn’t mean some sort of clean and sparkly religious piety (which is what a lot of people think Christians mean when they spout phrases like “God is Holy”) but rather is that of a God who, though perfect, isn’t distant or indifference to the world that we are in. And this isn’t just exampled in His birth, even in His life He is accused as being a “drunkard and a glutton” because He actually goes to the places where the drunkards hangout. In His life He physically heals people that no one in society would have gone near (the lepers, the homeless). This isn’t the description of God you probably are used to hearing about, but it’s the God of the universe. Not bad for a baby in a manger. Imagine how that would change the way we do Christmas conversation.


-Our understanding of the very nature of truth

Truth is a complicated topic in our society. It’s statements like “science has proved…” or “History tells us…” or “I saw him do the crime” or “I believe this about spirituality and you believe that; it’s all a matter of our perspective” that reveal the complexity of how we go about truth in society. Generally speaking our experiences like education, up-bringing, culture (etc.) will inform how we choose to believe what we believe, and for some of us that includes religion.. No one is immune to this process of belief formation through life, and it’s in this on-going and ever active process that we constantly sway to and fro in the formation of our views of the universe. Even if we never articulate them, we have them. Now how do I know this? Easy: tell me your answer to these seven questions: What is prime reality—the really real? What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us? What is a human being? What happens to a person at death? Why is it possible to know anything at all? How do we know what is right and wrong? What is the meaning of human history? What personal, life-orienting core commitments are consistent with? Even if you say “I don’t know” to some of them it tells you about your view of the world (“I don’t know”….because? Bingo!). But what happens when we say something like “God has come to us”? If there is a God who created all things, then God would have to have the best view of all reality. As Creator, His understanding of truth, reality, and everything will be completely informed and created by Him. So what happens in this God-comes-to-us event? Think about it: people having been staring into the foggy sky for centuries and have discussed, if beyond the ‘fog’, whether there is a point of view of reality where one can interpret all things perfectly. Suppose there was, we are still stuck in our world with our narrow and subjective views of reality- our distance to the mysterious objective and our position (as the subjective) is the problem we have and will always have. But what if the mysterious objective came to us? What if the ultimate point of view came down to us? We would still be subjective and opinionated from our point of view of this objective-come-to-us, but we certainly couldn’t say whatever we wanted anymore with any real degree of integrity. Why? Because If Truth is becomes a person who we can then love- to seek to understand and remove our bias- then, whilst we will always be making opinions, the closeness of the objective is the game changer; for He is no longer a fuzzy idea but a person to hug, someone to know, someone to discover. The birth of Jesus tells us that the only Objective God has become a person. Now I know any crazy man can say they are a God, but not any crazy man can back this up, and in His life, Jesus takes basics elements and normaties of our reality (that no one challenges) and turns them upside down: He changes molecule structures of water to wine, instantly grows body parts out of nothing, controls the weather without a machine, and in His finally act dies & comes back to life but not with a normal body, but as a body which has reversed the laws of decay, a non-decaying physical body. Do you realise that, if this is true, than His claims to Divinity are legit. And if that’s true, then His point of view of reality is also legit. And if that’s true, then truth has come close to us in Person. That’s a game changer in the world of philosophy. All other philosophers and religious leaders say “I think I know the truth”, Jesus comes and says “I am the truth come to you”. Not bad for a baby in a manger. Imagine how that would change the way we do Christmas conversation.


-Our understanding of Politics

Central to the Baby story isn’t just that God has come to us, but very specific in the beliefs of Christians is this: that Jesus is also the King of Kings. Now the word “King” sounds very old but it’s simply conveying that the baby is considered the ultimate ruler of the Human race. Think “President of Presidents” or “Prime Minister of Prime Ministers”. Now we don’t like that do we? We don’t like the idea of someone ruling over us? We are naturally very sceptical of power today for we have seen a history of leaders ‘playing’ with us through their positions of power, and what some leaders have done have been very dehumanising (think of Hitler for example). But if you break that down carefully what you realise is that the problem isn’t power perse but the nature of the one in power. After all, a country could have an amazing and brilliant leader who is in power- but they use their power for good. It’s about the person in power not power itself. And Baby Jesus, as the proclaimed and arriving ruler of humanity- does power very differently. And we see this from the very moment of His birth. Jesus as a King isn’t born in a palace- He is born in the ghetto. Jesus as a King isn’t clearly portrayed as a King of the Kingdom- He is born as a King but under the rule of a foreign Kingdom (back then it was The Roman Empire). His title as ‘King of Kings’ was already widely in use and was exclusively used to describe the Roman Emperor Caesar. And yet He was (and Is) The King. In today’s world people rule through the love of power, but Jesus’ model of what true power is wasn’t “the love of power” but “the power of love”, and the way He did power wasn’t in getting people to serve Him but in first Him serving people. He is the mind boggling and contradicting Servant-King; a King who is a Servant, a Servant who is a King. He is the one who say that He won’t use violence to conquer the world, and He won’t only love His clan but His enemies as well. He won’t put the powerful on a pedestal but will make the weak ones of the world His most sought after. And later in His life we are told that, as a King, He gets recognised as the King of the World. But not through millions of dollars poured into winning an election, but through Him dying on an execution cross set up by the ruling Roman Government. We are told that this is the place of power. That this totally defeating event, we are told, is actually the upside down way God becomes King and defeats the powers of darkness, evil, sin, injustice and death; it’s how he defeats the powers of Rome and the Powers of the world. It’s how He wins the battle and becomes the King of Kings. He is a King who becomes a King by dying, but unlike other Kings, this death doesn’t signify the end of His reign but the beginning: He rises from the dead, and in His physical resurrection He shows just how much love & His way of doing Kingdom can wake up even the dead. Not bad for a baby in a manger. Imagine how that would change the way we do Christmas conversation.


-Our Understanding of rescue

We are in a world that is divided by what the problem(s) of the world is and therefore what the solution is. We have theories of what the ‘bottom line’ problem of the world is, and we have theories about how to finish this ‘bottom line’. Just before Jesus was born, the teenage mother Mary was told that Jesus would be the ‘God among them’ and that He would ‘rescue them of their sins’. Yep, that word sin. I’d recommend you read my other blogs about how our culture have the completely wrong image of that word, and that the word ‘sin’ from the Bible’s point of view is actually more illuminating, interesting, and relevant then what you think it means. But Him coming to ‘rescue us from sin’ tells us that the problem is sin and that He is coming to save us from it. Sin is that rebellious nature in us that says “my way of being human is better” and it has lead us down a spiral of evil in this world. The announcement of the angel that visited Jesus wasn’t based in the opinions of our cultures perception of what’s wrong with the world. The angel is telling you and me that our perception of what’s wrong with the world is to “shallow”- our problem is ‘deeper’ and so the solution must ‘reach down’ further. But the angel doesn’t do the religious thing and tell Mary (and you and I) that  “You must become pretty and clean so that you can reach up to Heaven and be whisked away” but rather the angel says that “This world is messy, so messy that only God-in-the flesh can fix it, and He will come down and fix this world- and I mean this world, oh and don’t think for a second that He will bring an escape plan to get you out of this world; no, He will bring the remedy to fix this one through His powerful & unique work that He will do in this world”. His message flies in the face against religion and against the cultures perception of problem & rescue.  Not bad for a baby in a manger. Imagine how that would change the way we do Christmas conversation.


Now I know all of this presupposes you chose to believe in this stuff (By the way, if you are interested from a purely historical point of view about Jesus’ life hit me up a message and I’ll recommend you further material to explore that…) but if this was all real then that nativity scene isn’t just a nice scene: it’s the story of a permanent change to the whole way we look at the universe & the present. The belief that this story marked the beginning of the true story about how God would change the world forever.

Imagine how our Christmas conversation would change….And imagine how you would change. This talk of faith being irrelevant would come to a close in your life if you believed all this was true- the way you talk & act out the reality of truth, the way you talk & act out the reality of what true power is, the way you talk & act out the reality of God not as a distance being but a present person, the way you talk & act out the reality of the problem of our world and the solution of it. But as I have hinted throughout this blog, this birth was only the beginning of the story, and to fully grasp this you do need to know the whole picture. Christians are looking back and remembering the beginning.  The middle, which I would say Jesus’ life & death, is central to the story of how God moved the world forward towards it’s glorious future ends. And the end of the story- Jesus resurrection, return to Heaven, and His eventual return to fully implement His finished victory achieved in the ‘middle’- is what’s coming. And the present is about Jesus followers who have decided to be part of His present project of implementing His already victory into the world whilst anticipating for Him to return and finish the job.  Not bad for a baby in a manger.


May you come to see that the Baby Jesus is one of the most powerful events of human history. May you come & see how this nativity scene can change your world. And may you be filled with the love of the one who saves.

The Dirty Word Part IV

So last week we explored all the ways humanity think it can rescue itself from the mess that is the world gone wild. On the big scale it’s war, famine, injustice, global prostitution, slavery, murder, ISIS, illegal drugs, indifferent goverments; and on the little scale it’s selfishness, doing good things as long as those things are meeting our needs, have false motives and intentions, turn good things like sex money and power into idols we need, not living even to our own standards (unless one has very low standards), we feed our addictions, turn people into objects, say we live to love as long as it doesn’t demand too much of a sacrifice for me, always looking out for number one, wanting to get my own way all the time, use things in order to met our ends, turn the blind eye, define what I think is right and wrong. And all this stuff effects each other in multiple ways in a convoluted mess. And as a result, on some level, we relate to some of these: we are sick, lonely, depressed, unsatisfied & unfulfilled, have broken families and broken lives, we have hidden issues that deep down affect us, we are anxious, we have hate, anger, revenge; we dress ourselves up to look okay  but deep down on both a personal level and global level we are in too deep. We think technology, or self-expression, or education (and perhaps psychology or law & order*) can save us. But those things, though not inherently wrong and make good means of transformation, aren’t the transformation itself as they don’t go deep enough into the depth of the human problem that is -the dirty little word- sin. As much as we hate this word, its original meaning (see ‘The Dirty Word Part II’) enlightens and confirms to us a reality we know is true.

I ended my last blog post saying that Jesus teaches us the right things that conform to who we are as a person made by God, and through Himself brings the ultimate progress of humanity by a execution cross and a change of hearts; He makes such a re-conforming to that image possible by destroying the things that hold back such a reality. And that’s what I want to introduce to you today.

So what does Jesus, a guy who was around 2000 years ago, have to do with us today in the here & now? We lump him into the other great thinkers of religion: Budda, Mohammed, and so on. We like his nice lessons he offers (along with other religious thinkers) and apply aspects of what he said (and others have said) today. But that’s it. However I believe this trivialises the deeper distinctions between faiths and also doesn’t take into account the deeper truth of what Jesus came to do (Truth’s of which, I will argue, are transformative in the here & now). The lack of deeper introspection into faith that gets beyond the similar morals is expressed in this following story of theologian Karl Barth as he is leaving church one day:

Karl Barth was coming out of church one day when an astronomer asks him “you know Karl isn’t true that all religions and morality and faith can really be summarised into one sentence?”. “There’s a sentence to sumerise all faith and all morality?” said Barth, “what’s the sentence?”. The astronomer says “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you, isn’t that the point? Why even have this religious stuff?”. Karl Barth thought for a little and said “Well, can’t all of astronomy be summarised in one sentence?”. The astronomer is clearly baffled and says “What are you talking about?? There are gravitational forces, there’s the study of weak forces, the way atoms started the sun and are now making us, you’re talking about space and time, and so much more- how can you summarise it in one sentence?”. “Well…” Karr Barth says “It’s ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are.'”.

The point of the story is this: don’t trivialise the faiths of the world- at deeper levels there are differences and things that radically distinct them out from each other; they might agree upon surface morality but at a deeper level are radically different- and it’s that deeper level difference that really matters; we might functionally all get along well on the surface but to suppose that all that life is about is being a good little person actually isn’t that deep. To say “All people can be moral based of particular religion” well that’s if what’s fundamental to a person is transformation in relation to morality of xyz system, however I would argue that a deeper change of personhood isn’t in relation to morality on the surface but in relation to the deeper beliefs behind that mere morality. And here’s the thing: Jesus did not come to bring good moral teachings but to make a new humanity and reverse the effects of sin in the world. I have heard it said by a world religions professor (who himself not a Christian) that if you take the teacher away from the world’s great faiths you are still left with the teachings, but if you take Christ away from Christianity then Christianity dies- why? Whilst Jesus isn’t less than a teacher He is indeed more than one.

In Christian circles the word ‘salvation’ is translated in people’s mind as “going to Heaven when you die”. However this is not what Jesus (or the prophets of the Hebrew scriptures, or the writers of the early church) meant when referring to salvation. Salvation isn’t “going to Heaven when you die” rather it’s “the eventual rescue & transformation of this world”- it’s that the God who loves this world loves it enough to rescue it from all the defaces His good world. It’s that this world is broken and this fault line runs down all of our hearts, and this fault line rattles the world in many personal, social and systemic ways- but the Good News is that, whilst we have lead the world down this broken pathway into chaos, God promises to fix the world one day. The Hebrew Scriptures speak of a Day where God will clean up this world once and for all-there will be no more death, sin, suffering, and love with glory will flood this world, and we will be given a new heart which is truly capable of loving God. And it will be a person, who will embody God’s very nature & purposes in Himself, which will move the world forward towards that glorious day. It’s in that person of which the world needs.


So how does Jesus be that person who moves this world forward and ultimately defeats evil? This isn’t just a question but the question is it not? What will bring the ultimate healing of the world?


Well I thought I’d answer that today but alas I feel that this will take a lot to explain…So perhaps next week will be my last blog on this then!


*I might advise my previous post to includes this beliefs as well.

The Dirty Word Part III

So last week I did my whole thing on sin. Yep- that dirty little word. Unfortunately it’s a misunderstood word in our culture and quite often seen as an archaic and dehumanising word that we ought to get rid of. However last week I discussed what the word actually meant. And what do we find? That the word does actually apply to our real world reality of what’s wrong with the world. And okay sure, people might want to use different words such as evil, selfishness, injustice to describe what’s wrong with the world- but the word sin brings out a different spin on the ways of the world that we might of missed: that if there is a God who is the author, the engineer, the maker of all of reality, then don’t you think the designer of life would know what’s best? Sin then is going against our God-given design as a human being. Of course if there is no God then we run into all sorts of problems: Who’s to say what’s harm or evil or unjust? Purpose is the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists, and unless an overarching purpose exists for the universe and humanity then no matter how much you attempt to justify the outworking of a foundation for moral reasoning, in a Godless universe you will always find your foundation crumbling. But that was last week. The question of “what’s wrong with the world” then ties into the follow on question: what’s the remedy?

Some people think the remedy is a technological one: that only through reason and technological advancement can we march on into a ‘brave new world’ where the problems of aging, disease, poverty are all solved and transformed. Now I love technology. It makes things so much easier and does lead to longer physical life (Who isn’t thankful for such things!) but have you seen the movies of a dystopian future? In some of those movies the world is worse, and in others the world is ‘better’ but one thing still remains: selfishness, wanting to get the world our own way, control, corrupt power- they are still the plotlines. As good as technology is we must admit that Western progress means is that we can send unarmed drones into Pakistan to kill people instead of people with swords. That as good as medical progress is, it also allows us to have sex with more people with less risk. Progress means we can now gamble more people’s money electronically. We might have progressed only in the sense that the quickness, durability and accessibility of tasks of life have grown (Which in of itself isn’t a bad thing) but we haven’t been saved from the real things that suck life dry: our pride, our selfishness, our need to consistently want, our need to have more power. The conditions change but the hearts do not- and as such people are hurt. Though the calendars tick over every year we still have more deaths, more injustice, and we are still as self-absorbed as ever; and we think we have progressed but we just find new ways to be selfish. Suppose one could extend their life to live for a thousand years then what? It’s an extra 920 years of living how you have already lived with the heart that’s bent towards a particular way. Underneath the technological salvation storyline is the assumption is that aging, disease, poverty are the core issues of what’s wrong with the world: but they are only the symptoms. And we might deal with the symptoms but not with the deeper disease; as such (like we see in the ‘utopian’ movies) the issues will bring back up in newer ways. This isn’t to say that technological advancement has no value, after all there is the Christian belief that God will one day fix aging, disease, and death. As such a Christian’s might rightly fight against such things in the present by using their technological advancement tools of the trade. But it’s the one wielding such things that have the technological power to save or destroy, and the direction of such use of these tools comes down to the only progress that has eternal significance: the progress of the users heart.

Some people think the remedy to fix the mess of the world is through being able to express oneself. Now in Christian scripture we are told that we are all made uniquely (Psalm 139) as such our personalities, gifting’s, our gender, our race are examples of things that are God-given and make us us and shouldn’t be diminished. There are many things I like about the movie Frozen, and it has that classic song “Let it Go”. In the song she sings that she is determined to no longer be what her family and society want her to be, there’s “No right, no wrong, no rules” for her. But if the movie ended after that song (and it would be a shame if it did!) what would had been the message? Just be yourself! And this is what culture is telling us will fix the world. But what if- whilst there is a core personality and inherent traits to who you are- not everything that’s inside of you is good? Doesn’t it make sense that a God would know what parts of you are who you are and what parts are distortions? And wouldn’t this loving God who created us have our best intensions at heart? There is many times that if I acted the way I felt I would of killed people! So who defines the limits of self-expression? If it’s you then what’s stopping you from having undefined limits? Back to the movie Frozen- the princess who is “true to herself” wreaks havoc on the world and leaves shattered relationships in her wake. How is that good? But that’s not how the movie ends: realizing love is the key to controlling her powers, Elsa reforms by thawing the kingdom. It’s only after the sacrificial love of her sister that saves her from the effects of the curse that the princess is free to redirect her passion and power – not in “turning away” and “slamming the door” and expressing herself – but in channelling her powers for the good of her people. Don’t you see? Self-expression can be both good and damaging depending if you are being yourself or actually letting those parts of yourself in you reign that shouldn’t reign and cause havoc. But unless we have a grid of understanding what’s inherently you and God-made and what’s part of you are actually distortions then we are left with either radical restraint or radical freedom rather than radical love. It’s not if you be yourself or supress yourself- but whether in who you are you love others the way God defines what it means to love others.

Some people think the remedy to fix the mess of the world is through education- that if you educate people away from what’s wrong then the world will be okay. The assumption behind the belief that “education can save the world” is that “the problem of the world is a lack of education”. There is some truth here which is so pure that it cannot be ignored- education indeed does enlighten and awake us up to what’s wrong with the world and teaches us remedies; education is incredibly powerful. But it’s a means of change. Education in of itself does nothing unless you’re teaching the right things- for you can educate a person how to save their marriage or educate a person on tips on how to cheat on their spouse. It’s all about the content. One could say then that to save the world you use the means of education to teach the right things- but that begs the question: what are the ‘right’ things? We might tackle each evil in the world topically but unless we ask ourselves the prior question of what’s the ultimate definer of what it looks like to have good in xyz area then we are left guessing. The human race can discern and observe and come up with some answers (and some answers have been very good!) but we still left wondering whether they are, in the ultimate sense, right. Unless there is a God who is the definer of right and wrong can we have an ultimate means of knowing.  The educational environment that is conditioning us to act a particular way (whether good content or bad content) is taking a heavy toll; but a better question to ask is “what human hearts are conditioning that educational content?”

There is a deeper problem behind these things: behind “a lack of education” as the problem or “lack of technological progress” as the problem or “lack of self-expression” as the problem is a deeper problem. Nature abhors vacuums; if you create a vacuum it will find a way to fill itself. It’s very much the same with God- you push him away then naturally something else will fill that vacuum. “It’s all about power” said Nitschke; “It’s all about money” says Marx; “It’s all about sex” says Freud. And it doesn’t take a long time observing society that we are indeed driven by these forces on both social and personal levels. We might think we are free to choose but when the vacuum is filled we are driven to live by some type of power. Postmodern author David Foster Wallace (himself not a Christian) put it like this: “In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already — it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on”. And that’s the problem: we all worship but we have pushed the only God who alone can satisfy us and conform us to who we are made to be (That is actually what Christian freedom is: being who God has designed you to be). In a Godless universe we will use what we worship to exploit others in order to get the gods who won’t satisfy- in the end the cycle of selfishness, sin, exploitation all continue as we look out for number one. Idolatry is the problem, our humanity is the problem, as such things like technology, education, self-expression are just means of either doing right or wrong- but it’s the heart that directs the rightness or the wrongness of such things, and it’s God who defines what “direction” and “rightness and wrongness” are.

As a Christian, I believe all people are made in God’s image which means that deep down there is a sense of what we must do to fix this world, but all of this is clouded by the fact that we as a human race have rebelled against God and so can twist even our instincts to our own end. We are a people left guessing- as if reaching up into a foggy sky trying to grasp for an ultimate validation of not only what is right, but (maybe more importantly?) what will make that rightness a reality. In Jesus we have a God who comes down in person and makes known to us our true identity as a human being (You don’t have that in other faiths- they would say “I am a prophet showing you a way to God” but Jesus says “I am God coming to find you”). Only in the Christian faith is the fog removed and God come down to our level; in the Christian faith we can have a deeper clarity than ever before, for we are not left guessing when God Himself is in our midst.

And what does Jesus do? He teaches us the right things that conform to who we are as a person made by God, and through Himself brings the ultimate progress of humanity that isn’t defined by test tubes and text books but by the cross and a change of hearts. Through Jesus we are taught about what it means to be a human made in God’s image. And through Jesus He makes such a re-conforming to that image possible by destroying the things that hold back such a reality…But I’ll discuss that next week!

The Dirty Word Part II

I wanna talk about a dirty word.

Yes, that old dirty word that we want to get rid of. We largely want to get rid of that word all together. Now, if you haven’t read last weeks blog I recommend you do or else you might just be angry with me talking about “sin”. Because as I said last week, words like “sin” can be a trigger word relating to a dehumanising experience in your life- a time when something hurt you or labelled you in a terrible way by using that word. Now I don’t want to minimise your experience- your experiences are real and for some readers quite painful- however I do want to shift to what the word actually means, because I believe the abuses of the use of this word shouldn’t take away it’s original meaning.But why even bother talking about the word sin (Whatever it’s definition is?)? What’s there to gain from such a discussion? Well perhaps in reading on you will connect the dots together that- if “sin” is what I am about to describe it as- then it relates to the deepest parts of our own humanity.

I want to talk about the Biblical definition of the word sin. Now I know some of you are rolling your eyes going “Oh your gonna talk about that outdated book are you?”. “What would that book have to offer for us in our modern day world?”. You see, in our world we are quite untrusting of ‘holy book’ sources because the modern world believes that we have moved beyond that ‘hocus pocus’ stuff; we have seen how years of using such books as a abusive power play that have been used to justify horrible things that have left us instantly skeptical of anything quoted from them to support anything. However despite what your personal misgivings are about the Bible might be, me and others have looked into the Biblical definition of “sin” and are seeing more and more that there is something about that word which really does confirm in our real time & space reality of what’s wrong with the world.

The Bible tells us that whilst God created this world & humanity good, we humans have screwed this world up (and consequently ourselves up as well). The “screwed this world up” bit of the story is where sin comes into the picture:

The Bible says that God made humanity in His likeness- the meaning of that phrase found in the opening chapters of the Bible has been debated, but the ancient language behind the phrase gives us the image that we are like a ‘photograph’ of God- we have that reflection of God though we ourselves are not God. And we were designed to be that ‘reflection’ of God into the world- since God is love, we are to too love others, God, and creation; since God is creative, we are to be creative beings that reflect His love and beauty into the world; since God is just, we are to live justly; since God is relational, we to are to be relational beings who seek the betterment and purpose of others; since God is selfless we too are designed to be selfless and not live to serve ourselves; since God is sustainer of the world we too are to sustain and take care of creation. However the problem though is that the Bible tells us that early on in human history, we in our free will we thought we could do the job of being human on our own terms and under our own rule. We’ll define what we mean by “good”, “love”, “relational”, “happiness”, “work” and we will run the world in rebellion against God. We gave God the finger, and went to live our own life.

Like any behaviour & social patterns that get passed down, this rebellious attitude is no different. The rebellious condition has been passed down to the generations and so what do we have in our world? War, famine, injustice, global prostitution, slavery, murder, ISIS, illegal drugs, indifferent goverments. But that’s just the ‘big’ things- on a small scale we are rude, selfish, even do good things as long as those things are meeting our needs, have false motives and intentions, turn good things like sex money and power into idols we need, don’t live even to our own standards (unless one has very low standards), we feed our addictions, turn people into objects, say we live to love as long as it doesn’t demand too much of a sacrifice for me, always looking out for number one, wanting to get my own way all the time, use things in order to met our ends, turn the blind eye, define what I think is right and wrong (and thus become so subjective that even “subjectivity” is subjective). And all of the ‘big stuff’ effects the ‘little stuff’ and at the same time the ‘little stuff’ effects the ‘big stuff’ and it all add up and create on-going issues that lead to such sicknesses like loneliness, depression, revenge, broken families and broken lives, literal death, bullying, terrorism (the list goes on), substance abuse, the perpetual addictive need to get our own way. And then all of that turns around and affects us and reinforces the cycle and we are back to square one. In other words we are all in this conglomerate mess of a world that’s messy on every level- and we are all pointing fingers at people (and sometimes we should) however we know that we are all humans in the mess we have made and we are also a victim of. We are all victims and perpetrators; some are the crushed more then they are the crushers- nonetheless we are all in the mess.

This isn’t to say there isn’t good things in this world- we are blessed with many good things, and we must remember that all things are inherently good (It’s when we take the good things like sex, or money, or power, and misuse them- they aren’t wrong just misused and thus distorted). However the stain of the mess is still everywhere. We might have technological advancement but we can use such things to make weapons of war or weapons of peace. We might get rid of evils in our world, but new and creative evils spring up from within us. And it all continues: we all affect each other and we are all affected by the very mess we have created and we too get bull dozed under the weight of terrible injustices in our own lives. The cancer of sin is in our world and has taken on a power of it’s own.

We know that injustice is wrong, we know at least at a very basic primal level that certain things and certain ways to live are dehumanising. We are rightly angry at injustice in the world, we are angry at all the dehumanising activities that occur in our world (and we should be!)- but what view of the world do we have to account for our deep down angst of the state of the world is in if we have followed a view of the world that says that we are just basically accidents with no ultimate meaning or purpose? If it’s true that, as Richard Dawkins says, that “In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice” then why get angry at injustice? If injustice is false then why get angry? A common response you might say is that “It doesn’t leave to human flourishment, that’s why it feels wrong”, but as many people have realised over time it really doesn’t account for what we are feeling in a deep and profound way, for such a view only makes certain things ‘impractical’ for the human race gene, but how does it make anything ‘absolutely wrong’? The thing is, it doesn’t*. And that leads us back to square one. As Jean-Paul Sartre says: “If God does not exist…there is no longer any possibility of an a priori good existing. It is nowhere written that one must be honest or must not lie, since we are now on the plane where there are only human beings. If God does not exist, we have neither behind us nor before us a luminous realm of values, nor any means of justification of any behavior whatever”.

If your view of reality can’t account for your deep rooted feelings of injustice then either your feelings are wrong or your view of the world is wrong. If your feelings are wrong then well there really is no justice, meaning, or purpose then your feelings are deceiving you and perhaps than we shut out that voice, and then what happens? How do we live with integrity upon deeper reflection of the absurdity that is reality? Some of us say we “create own own meaning”; However our self-made meaning we create is created on shaky foundations- for the very brains we use to create meaning are themselves part of the cosmic and absurd accident and so we are back to square one.

But what if it isn’t that your feelings are wrong but that your view of reality is wrong? What if there is a God who can account for your deeply held meanings in you? To live with integrity either live as if your feelings of injustice are real and re-root it in a worldview that accounts for such feelings, or throw away the feelings and live as if justice is not an inherent truth but a figment of your misplaced feelings. It’s in the Biblical account of reality that we are told that there is a God who  created a good world, but we messed it up- and it’s because of that violation of a purposed world that we feel the angst.  Such a view of the world gives us a foundation for the very things that, if we haven’t blocked out the voices of our heart, we still believe.

One Christian philosopher defines evil as “a violation of purpose”. So what’s our purpose as violated? How has it all affected the world around us? We were made in His likeness, and so sin/evil is going against that purpose and commission as human beings made in His image. And so this is what sin is: missing the mark of being the human being we are as designed by God to be. And in what God designed us to be in all areas of our life- God’s designed people financially, relationally, sexually, socially, emotionally (the list goes on). Sin isn’t mere “rule breaking”- I actually hate that notion of mere “rule breaking”. Sin is much deeper- it’s that I am breaking my own design as a human being as I live in rebellion against the wise & loving designer of life itself.

And the wrongness we feel in the world all comes back to that dirty little word which is of course an unfortunate dirty and huge reality that we (If we are honest with ourselves…) we live in. It’s what wrong with the world and it’s what needs to be removed. Deep down we know that there is a power for tremendous good in us- and God designed us like this. Deep down we know the world we live in isn’t what its meant to be- that it was designed with a purpose that’s being violated, a violation we feel in our alienation and our hurt. And we deep down know that we need to be rescued into the wise and loving rule of the God who sets us free into being who we were created to be. But how are we rescued into that reality? How is sin dealt with? How does God plan to save this world? That will be next weeks blog.

*There is a discussion on the subject of the relationship between subjective and objective morality that can be discussed, but I think at this point of time it’s too much of a rabbit hole.

The Dirty Word Part 1


Doesn’t sound very nice does it?

Most people in the world (and perhaps some of our readers) don’t like the word “sin” because of some of the things it brings up in us. Some of us have grown up in environments where when the word “sin” was used it was used to attack you in very dehumanising ways, others have been told they are “sinners” in hurtful ways because of what you do with your body sexually, and others even more have been told they are “sinning” so that the bigger person who is telling us that can have control over us.

I am reminded of a horrifying story of a mother burying her young sons lifeless body as a result of the tragedy of war. She is at a cemetery only barely holding herself together as she doing the unthinkable- and in a day where support for the mother and the family is absolutely critical something else happens. Strangers come into the funeral holding signs that say “God Hates Soldiers” and begin screaming into what is already emotional chaos with the words “God Hates who your son was!!”. And calling him “A sinner!”.

It’s no wonder that people hear the word “sin” sometimes and cringe. And if you have experiences were the word “sin” or “sinner” is thrown around in order to hurt you then you can relate to the convulsion that this word causes within you. Needless to say, the word “sin” has had a checkered career in the history of the world, and has meant a variety of things to many different people. The word has been thrown around in many dehumanising ways that seek to hurt, control, condemn or belittle people.

The word “sin” can symbolise abuse.

The word “sin” can mean “worthless”.

The word “sin” can mean “breaking the rules”

Should we not throw this word away? That since this word has been thrown around in such ways that the very word ought to be discarded all together? It’s a popular answer to say “yes”- for why would we want to keep such a word that’s been loaded with such meaning? However isn’t that point- that’s it’s been loaded with meaning? Remove the connotations that the word “sin” brings up in your mind. Put your experiences linked with this word on hold for a moment.

And Listen.

Perhaps our experiences have loaded more meaning onto this trigger word than ought to be loaded onto it. And perhaps as a result, the original meaning of this word has been lost in the confusion and chaos. Maybe this word doesn’t think what you think it means. Despite the abuses, despite the thrown around use of this word, maybe there is a deeper and comprehensive reality behind this word that actually captures something that’s truly wrong with the world, and also captures the deep need for someone we can hope in, someone who can heal us from whatever is going on around us and in us. The word sin does not have to mean what you think it has meant to you.

Over the next two weeks I want to explore exactly what the Bible defines sin as (Not what religion has defined it as, but what’s the Bible has).

And I actually think you will be surprised.

But I don’t want to leave you there either, once we define it I want to explore where we go from there in terms of being rescued by what’s happening in the world…

Sounds confusing? It’s because you don’t have next week’s blogs yet.

So stay tuned.

There is NO hierarchy of holiness in vocation.

*Before you start reading, just pre-warning that this article is very much aimed at people who already call themselves Christians- it’s a ‘in house’ article. Feel free to read regardless of what you believe; just thought I’ll tell you though that it’s Christians who would relate mostly to this.


So I have this picture to illustrate the simple fact: there is no ‘hierarchy of holiness’ in the places and vocations God has called you to. Here’s what I mean: I have often seen a huge divide between a pastor of a church and a “regular” church member when it comes to gifting’s and callings. The pastor is often seen as the ‘professional’ in the faith whilst everyone else is not, and the “everyone else” can be viewed as the people who aren’t called to the ‘higher’ calling of pastoring a church but are called into the ‘world’ whilst the pastor serves ‘the church’. It’s the whole “higher” and “professional Christian” language undertones that scare in me in church circles.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not inherently against being specifically someone who just so happens to also be a registered denominational pastor who co-leads a community. That’s okay. After all, Paul was an Apostle and didn’t hesitate to take seriously his very full on role in being someone who helps the specific church community in a more potent way than others. After all, you need those people who have that specific time to devote oneself to a community in such a way. So I am in no way ‘hating’ on those who are called to those specific roles. I have friends that I dearly appreciate who are in those roles and mean absolutely no disregard to the hard works that done. But what I am saying is this: that we must be careful that by these roles existing that they are professional Christians who, just because they are a pastor of a church,  somehow in an “elite” and “more sanctified” position because of what they do- whereas I want to say that there is no hierarchy of holiness.

You can be a plumber and have a gift of pastoring, or an accountant and be able to share your faith easily as an evangelist. You can even be all these things and discern a love and maturity sometimes beyond that of person who does have a church title. At the end of the day God has called all people who serve to Him to serve Him, and we have all be planted into the body of Christ, and every person has a gifting, whether they are an evangelist, a pastor, a prophet, a teacher, an apostle or whatever. These calling aren’t just for people who are planning to go into a church-denominational role.

We are all called to be the body. We have are all called to pastor, to evangelise, to prophecy, to have acts of mercy, to teach, to lead- but not all will be gifted to specifically have a  niches in all those things; you will have gifts that stand out as prominent in who you are made to be. So find your gift and serve were He has placed you. And yes, He might call you into a church-role whereby you also use your gift purely as your full time job (because I believe in that calling too), but if not, remember you are still the pastor, the evangelist, the prophet, the teacher, the mercy-giver the world so desperately needs, to be where God has put you in your specific vocation, location, and calling.

We are all called to the work of ministry. Because the work of ministry is exactly that…Ministering. And you can minister to the world in whatever title role or job you have. Bottom line I am trying to make is this: if someone has a pastoral role they are not better than you and it certainly doesn’t apply they are holier then you. You have the Holy Spirit working in you just as much as a denominational church leader role does. God has called both, but they are calling without elite distinction. Now lets love the world and one another.

Living in Freewill AND God’s Sovereignty

There a beautiful and profound mystery in the Bible, that if we can only grasp it, will provide an abundance of freedom and a gentle poise to the way we live our day to day life- from the mundane decisions to the cosmic life changing decisions we make. This truth is that God is both completely, all in all sovereign above all the decisions we make, even the little ones, and yet at the same, time we have 100% free-will in which we have the power to determine our roads we take. It’s a mystery indeed, because we humans don’t think in these categories. When we hear that “God is all sovereign” we often think it is at the expense of free-will choice, or, alternatively, if we hear that we have free-will, we often think God is somehow over ridden by the choices we make, squashed into a little box if you will, forced to stop His plan for our lives. But it is possible, that in the world of God, that somehow, the both can simultaneously exist?

We are perplexed about this profound mystery, and instead of resting in the ‘both/and’ possibility of a God who can do all things, we have more often than not, put Him in the ‘either/or’ box where He can only be either all-in-all in control or limited by our freewill. Where did this thinking come from? Perhaps the enlightenment? An attempt to rationalise everything we hear? Could it be that the God of the Bible might have a different perspective in mind? Perhaps the ‘both/and’ can work with a God. That as judge, God will judge all our freewill choices that were ever made that were for or against Him, and yet, as King of the universe, everything is going according to His plan. From our perspective it is as if, freewill and God’s sovereignty are like two parallel lines that run through time so closely, and never touch, but in Heaven they somehow met and it all makes sense. To us, it’s either everything is fixed or everything is free game, but to God it is both.

Turning to the scriptures now this truth does indeed come out clearly: in proverbs we have in chapter 16 verse 9 “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps”. There is a part in the book of Acts where Peter is preaching for the first time, and speaks of God’s plan for Jesus’ death and human being deliberate free will at the same time and I quote “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23). In other words “This was God’s plan, and you wicked men killed Jesus!”. Or take another example: Paul later in Acts is on a boat, and an angel of the Lord appears to Paul and says “No one will die tonight” and yet, knowing this, Paul acts tenaciously to protect his men from possible death. Is this Paul not trusting God? I don’t think so. I think holding both God’s sovereignty and our freewill; both God’s kingship and both God’s  judgement over our decisions are tremendously practical and very liberating.

Let me show you this by firstly taking the either paralysing or passive outcomes of holding to a ‘either/or’ view rather than the ‘both/and’ view: if God wasn’t all sovereign and all of human destiny, sovereignty so to speak, was placed all on our shoulders then we should be scared! Because we are so rebellious, we do the wrong things all the time, and I can’t hear God perfectly which means that I might get something wrong, and, even down to the mundane things, create a ripple effect which will cosmically effect not only the destiny of my life but the destiny of others, which- if we are being honest here- will probably lead to worse things not better things. But, what about just holding onto God’s sovereignty? Oh life wouldn’t even be colourful! There would be no point in existence! You see, in the first view we would be paralysed, but in the second view we would be passive. Because if God is just in control of everything, then I am a robot who, no matter what I do, it was meant to happen; my life is closed, no matter what I do or the ‘choice’ I make- its predetermined and so where the colour of even living. And what about that of love? C.S Lewis puts it like this:

Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.

Don’t you see? A universe where its just God’s sovereignty, we are not free, we are robots. But this is the western world’s ‘either/or’ teaching, either God’s sovereignty or our freewill, but see, that there is indeed liberty in holding onto The Bible (And God’s) ‘both/and’.

If God is 100% in control, I don’t need to be paralysed, and yet, because I have freewill choice, I don’t become passive! God’s in control and also, my choices do matter! I am neither paralysed with fear or passive with life. I should, ought and must, search for God’s will in all things and make conscience choices for God, and yet I can also rest that as big as the blue sky covers the world so too does God’s sovereignty cover all things. I can make conscience decisions to do right things for God, and yet know that if I do stuff up, God’s sovereign grace goes before. God works through our freewill, not in spite of, and with this, we are neither paralysed or passive about life, but free to make choices whilst recognising it will all be okay, whether we stuff up or not.

I love this. It reminds me of Romans 8:28 which says “ And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”. God is weaving a tapestry where He is taking both our good and bad choices, and in His grace, He is weaving a plan we often cannot see or understand- that in the end He will work it all out for our good and His glory. That in the end, even our stuff ups and bad choices, are being redeemed- that our freely chosen lives can have a lasting redeeming purpose.

Now I am not saying that makes everything ‘good’, certainly not! Instead, what am I talking about then? I am talking about this: that God’s saving grace is bigger even then our stuff ups, that God is even taking our terrible choices we have made, our choices which don’t-by any wild stretch of the imagine- please God what so ever, but He is taking even them and weaving it together as part of His plan. We have the ‘both/and’ God, and we need to hold these two things in tight tension we truly want to experience a great freedom. That when chaos is happening in your life, reflect on God’s control. And when you are just being down right lazy, reflect on your need to take action. But by and large, don’t settle for ‘either/or’ but ‘both/and’. “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling” Paul says (in context to growing in your faith) and straight after says “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose” (Phil 2:12-13). It’s Jesus who says “knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matt 7:7) and it’s Jesus who says “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:15).

On the cross, we see this beautifully. That the disciples would have been at the cross looking at it going “How could God allow this to happen! He was a good man! And now look!” and yet what they were looking at was the greatest act in redemptive history. At the time when everything looked like chaos because Jesus was, as a result of human beings hanging on a cross, God was indeed, fully in control. And so I say to you: what looks like chaos in your life might actually be control, even if you can’t comprehend it. And even if you played a part in the chaos occurring! God’s grace is bigger than even our biggest stuff ups. I shall end with this example given by my favourite preacher Tim Keller on the character Jacob found in the Old Testament:

Jacob lied to his father, Isaac, and wanted his birthright. He cheated his older brother out of it. Because he cheated, because he lied, he had to flee from his family. Was he guilty? Yes. Did he experience pain in his life because of that choice? Yes. Was he punished for it? Yes. But because he sinned he went and found his wife, Rachel, through whom the Messiah came. Was it all right then that he sinned?

No, but don’t you see because Jacob sinned, though God held him responsible for that choice, did that put him on an eternal plan B? Did he say, ‘I’ve ruined it from now on because of this sin it’s all over’ My friends, no. When he sinned he went into the best for him. God is far greater than your stupid choices.

Don’t, of course take that out of context. Strive to live a life pleasing to God, even if you fail, but recognize the life of the ‘both/and’ which will set you free from both being either paralyzed or passive, and see that God, in His grace, is bigger than you could of dreamed of. For those whose road of life are marked more by mistakes than selflessness, patience, and sound judgment, take hope in the God who truly and mysteriously redeems that broken road and works it for your good and His glory.

So I say from Proverbs 3:5-6:

 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your path straight”.

“Oh Sh*t!”: Christians and Swearing

For most people out there this is a nothing issue. “Words are just words, just don’t be a douche bag” would be a cultural mantra that I accept to a certain extent. But like with any area of life, whether it be big & cosmic or mundane &ordinary, Jesus’ Heaven-On-Earth reality does inform every area of our lives. We are called to be a passionate people of love with a whole new community in mind. And in communities people talk- so what about swearing?

I have found myself asking the questions: Is swearing rebellious against God? Is it ever okay to swear? I am not claiming to be an expert on the topic whatsoever, but just a Christian who is having a look at the scriptures. So let’s begin with the scriptures that specifically talk about swearing in the way the original writers talked about and go from there:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Eph 4:29)


Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech (1 Peter 3:10)


With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. (James 3:9-10)

By examining these scriptures in their context it is fair to say that God certainly is concerned by a type of swearing, but He isn’t concerned with what most Christians mean by swearing. When most people think of swearing they think of particular words such as sh*t of f*ck. But in their context, these verses talk about using words in a way that bring condemnation and belittlement of God, someone’s worth, or something God finds worthy (such as His beautiful creation or God-given sexuality).  That type of swearing is wrong, because were meant to build up each other in the faith and look at every person as someone to whom Christ died for, and we are to honour God and God’s good creations. So in this culture and time there are certain things we shouldn’t say because it will do exactly this: tear down what God has given worth too. Our words do have power, they do build up or destroy; they can have constructive power or destructive power (Jms 3:4-6).

Notice though that I have not referred to any words but rather the direction & intension of the words used. And that’s because, If by swearing we mean that isolated words are wrong and should never be used I can’t agree that that’s what the Bible means by swearing. I do think there is a world of a difference between calling someone a sh*t-head and using the word sh*t in a harmless joke between close friends- or perhaps even, using the word sh*t to describe a sh*t situation! The devil is a “sh*t-head”, sin really is a “Sh*t” thing, and sometimes there are moments in our life where when we are pouring out our heart to our best friend there might only be the words “I am really going through a sh*t time right now…”. There are also examples where the apostle Paul uses harsh blunt statements to make profound Godly points: “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” (Phil 3:7). It might not sound provocative on the surface however in that verse Paul uses the greek word “σκύβαλα“ (pronounced “skubala”) is a vulgar word. Paul would not have said it in mixed company unless he expected a reaction. So when there are moments we use strong language I don’t think God’s first instinct is looking down at us going “tut tut”, but firstly is rather looking at our intention and direction behind the words and statements we make and use, not the very words themselves.

However there are certain words that, given the culture we find ourselves in, might be wrong. You might be in a culture or sub-culture where particular words are damaging. Wisdom says “I might not swear simply because the people group I find myself in do not appreciate these words that they consider to be bad language”. And there are plenty of examples where this might be the case: around children or the elderly, around a professional workplace and more. Sometimes there really is no point or meaning behind using particular words you know that people simply don’t mesh with, so why use them?

(In saying that I once heard a preacher use the word sh*t in his sermon to make a provocative point to a conservative group of Christians: the preacher said “30,000 children died in Africa while you were sleeping last night, and none of you give a shit. What’s more amazing is that most of you are shocked I used the word sh*t but not shocked over the fact 30,000 kids are dead”. And of course Paul’s use of the that vulgar word in Philippians that I spoke about earlier would have been used as a shock-factor given the audience his letter would have been read out to. But it should be noted that this type of shock factor isn’t normative in every chapter of scripture and so we can’t use these rare examples as precedence for normative language whilst speaking to peoples who don’t respond well to swearing).

However there is the flip side: You or I might find yourself in a culture or sub-culture where words used in your culture, that are deemed as swearing in your culture, might be the appropriate and acceptable way to communicate to one another in the different culture. To say that their words are “wrong” because your culture deems them wrong is assuming your culture is somehow the measuring stick of all other cultures, but that’s (to put it bluntly) very arrogant. The only culture that stands above all cultures as the ultimate measuring stick is the Kingdom of God; and in His culture swearing is any word or phrase that’s demeaning to God, others, and creation, but it’s not the word themselves. It’s in these cultures we must echo the words of Paul when it comes to our engagement to those outside faith “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible…I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some…I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings” (1 Cor 9:19, 22-23). I can’t see a problem with swearing in this context (Or should I say, what our culture considers swearing), given we aren’t doing the life-sucking swearing God speaks of. It’s important that “To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.” (1 Cor 9:21) but not compromise and actually become ones without the law; to fulfil the age old tension of being in the world but not of the world.

In writing all of this I must say though that we must not be mastered by anything- anything that has mastered us other than God has become a god, an idol, in our lives. So it can be with the words we use: do we control our words or do our words control us? If it is the latter then we must change. In this context it might be healthy for some people to avoid words that had been associated with their sinful swearing from their past. What I mean is, by the way of example, if someone has been an alcoholic in the past they might refrain from drinking in the present, but not because drinking is inherently wrong, but because drinking for them might lead them back into alcoholism; that serving as an example it might be with someone whose had a ‘truckers mouth’. However that comes down to the individual of what’s wise for them to do in their given life journey with God.  In saying that, I do believe as a general principle we must keep a close eye on anything we say, simply because our tongues are very hard to control according to God’s word (Jms 3:4-6) so perhaps as believers we must caution the words we use more wisely.

In conclusion, like with any nuance and non-black and white issue that’s presented before us we have to ask ourselves the following: Does this action help me love myself and others more fully and freely, and does it allow me to love God more deeply and with more of myself? And with answering that question we must then live accordingly. Do our words we speak bring grace to a given situation or context? I pray that we be wise with our words no matter what the context and like with anything, whether it be eating or sleeping or talking, we do these things to the glory of God.

Christians being ‘Anti-Islam’ can become Anti-Christ

So lately I have been seeing a lot of ‘anti-Islam’ video’s, photos and articles over the internet. With the emergence of ISIS, a fresh movement of anti-Islam has started. I have seen a lot of Christian posting material over facebook that shows how passages in the Quran command people to kill non-Muslim, how the texts support violence etc. The aim of these postings is to show to people that they believe that Islam isn’t inherently peaceful but inherently violent, and that we are to be warned that Muslims have a worldview that could justify violence even amongst its most non-violent adherers.

Now, I am no expert in the Quran. I haven’t read the historical & literally context of the passages put on these video’s and articles. From what I see at the surface they do look pretty barbaric & violent. However, I know that there are passages taken out of the Bible that- when used out of context- make adherers to Christianity look pretty warped as well. The passages I see people use are taken out of context, and then we have to talk about these passages until we are blue in the face about how it isn’t what it looks like. I wonder to myself: are we (and I am speaking to my Christian audience at the moment) taking their passages out of context, just the same way people take passages out of the Bible out of context? That’s another question for another time. But I want to talk about the anti-Islam material I have seen online and talk about something else that hasn’t been spoken about near as much on social media. I’ve seen a lot of anti-Islam posts but I haven’t seen many posts about Christians loving adherents of Islam.

You see, it’s pretty easy to think your right and then just go around telling people that you are right and everyone else is wrong. It’s also pretty easy to never speak up against or for anything. Christians often swing into two extremes: either being vocal about their faith and the wrongness of others- but not being that loving, or the other extreme is befriending other person with different worldviews (which is a good thing) but treating their faith & worldview as equally right as theres.

But here’s the thing: a true Christian identity neither compromises on truth nor just rattle words out of their mouths against the other in unloving and non-connecting ways; Jesus transcends those extremes in one thing: Love. So where are the video posts on loving our neighbours? Where are our actions of love beyond words?

Love can both speak the truth but also serve our neighbours. And yet how many video’s do you see on Facebook that promote Christians to love Muslims? To love atheists? To love the GLBTQI community? To love anyone with a different belief than you? Those friends you have who always post these anti-Islam video’s- how many of them also post about how we are to love our Muslim neighbours in word and deed? How many of them post videos about how Jesus being a servant to all humanity?

Anyone can post an ‘anti-Islam’ video, but it’s harder to love.

Are we not called to the greater challenge of love?

Jesus makes it very clear: Love your enemies.

Jesus makes it very clear: Pray for your enemies.

Jesus makes it very clear: Love your neighbour.

And who is your neighbour? That’s the exact question Jesus is asked by one of His Jewish countrymen, and He responds with this story:

“A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he travelled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, ‘Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.’ Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbour to him who fell among the robbers?” He said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Now here’s the thing: Samaritans were hated by Jesus’ target audience. And yet Jesus uses a good Samaritan in the story. What does this tell us about neighbour love? A Samaritan, who considered the man on the ground to be an enemy, loves him. He shows kindness, compassion, and charity. He provides him safety, provides him shelter, goes the extra mile. And that man didn’t even come from Jesus’ people group. In fact, one might go as far as calling this story “The Good Muslim” in light of our cultural context.

So how are you loving today? How are you showing kindness, compassion, hospitality, friendship, giving of safety, of alms, of love, to the “other”? Whoever the “other” is in your world are.

Honestly, which one do you think will lead to the lasting change of love that Jesus called us into. A anti Islam video? Or good deeds of love?

I think the later suffices.

Now some people will say “But Nathan, the most loving thing we can do is tell people the truth as well”. Let me say right of the bat that there is a place for truth telling, absolutely. After all, this article here fits the category of truth telling (Because I am pointing people to the truth of Jesus to love everyone). But the truth telling done over social media: is it just words? Aren’t we called to both word and deed? Did not the Apostle James speak about the folly of loving people with words but not with deeds of love? And what about Paul- his chapter on love says that we can speak with tongues of angels but have not love; we can have the right words but an unloving heart expressed in our lack of deeds of love. Let me be clear: I am for truth, but truth without love means nothing, and love is expressed not through words only. Now we don’t need less than words either of course, but we do need more than words- because our words alone don’t mean a lot if that’s all we are doing…Posting video’s and photos. I think we can do better- myself included.

It’s here we can pray to our merciful Jesus and confess and turn us around to make us more radical lovers, to put people in our path in which we can enact neighbour love. True Christian identity is neither harshness nor mere tolerance, but benevolence- a benevolence that transcends & than transforms even the ways we do our truth telling as well as the ways we love those who don’t share our same faith. We love & speak truth as if those two things are not in opposition to another, and we do those things the way Jesus did- not be ruling it over people, but- in humility- serving others; winning not through the love of power over people, but through the power of love that affects people in life transforming ways.

Jesus’ movement of love is possibly the only movement that seeks to also benefit its non-adherence. At least, that’s what happens when His followers love their neighbours- despite who their neighbours are.

Sinners Anonymous

Sinners Anonymous

When it comes to church…I’d rather have a hospital for sinners like me who are taking the long grace-filled road of recovery that will be filled with messiness, pain, truth, and tears, but- as the journey goes forth- will produce freedom, love, acceptance, wholeness. I’d rather have that than a sanitised museum of saints who are caught up in pre-tense, deep down fear, and on-the-surface judgementalism coated in nice smiles of each other, and the deep down brokenness they have but are too sacred to share because they think people will judge them the same way they judge others. The first is messy but freeing in the long-run, the second is sanitised but will harden the heart until it can’t be broken and repaired.

Unfortunately, a lot fo churches opt for option 2. I mean who wouldn’t? It’s so easy! But you are robbed of the deep richness of both being known and loved. You see, a lot of us ‘love’ people, and by love, I mean that they love what they see- care free, easy going, nice person. But what if they saw the rest of you? Or worse: what if a whole community saw all of you? Your insecurities, your hurts, your addictions, your mess. That’s called being known. And people fear being known but not loved. But what truly liberates us, what truly sets us free, is being known and loved. It’s free us from pre-tense, humbles us out of cockiness and allows us grow from the dirt up. Now, imagined if a whole community knew and loved you, like truly? Liberation!

Now there is no such thing as the perfect church, I know that. But boy wouldn’t it be wonderful to be in an imperfect church full of people who know they are imperfect? As opposed to the second type of imperfect church, the ‘sanitised’  ones? What are your thoughts?

Christian growth

Christian growth

Sometimes I look at my walk with God and I think “What a mess! Have I really changed that much? What about this issue I have in my life! Oh gosh I am so up and down, up and down, up and down!”.

But here I was given a great analogy on Christian living…Look at this first graph of the stock exchange…

blog 6

This is the NY stock exchange over ten years. There is so much fluctuating! Looks bad doesn’t it? Up and down all the time…But that’s only the last 10 years…Often we focus on our Christian growth as a hear and now thing….But look…See the stock exchange over the last 100 years….

Blog 6b

We tend to focus on the green whereas Christian growth is the whole Christian life…You will look like a failure most of the time, but that’s pretty normal (See Paul’s life description in Romans 7!). Instead see the real growth in the long haul, and if you have the upward trend in the long haul, you can be sure that Jesus is a friend of yours.

So relax. As a friend once said to me “Be both okay with being not okay, and not okay with being not okay”. Why? Because Jesus has separated sin forever from us- for God determined to destroy the powers of sin and enable New Creation to flourish by separating sin from humanity and destroying it on the cross. In the words of Jesus on the cross: It is finished….Or as it says in the Greek “Debt paid in full”.

Now of course, if you have said “I am a Christian” for a very long time and you have seen no change ever since that day confession of faith, then I think it’s time to have a ‘DTR’ chat with God…A ‘define the relationship’ chat with God…Are you just a fan of Jesus? Or are you a follower of Jesus? Because that means a world of a difference.

Now, in the context of a sincere relationship with God, allow God’s Spirit to transform you over the lifetime and “Be both okay with being not okay, and not okay with being not okay”.

God Get’s Messy

We Serve One Dirty God. 

One thing I love about God is that He is not afraid to get his hands dirty. In our culture it’s pretty normal to picture a God who is distant and detached from the happenings of this world in sheer indifference, as if God was like “Oh look what’s happening in the world…Ewww! So icky.”  But here is some good news for …He is willing to get into the mess with us. You know that friend who is always there who is neither losing themselves in your mess but neither cold and distant? Yeah, that’s what God is like on a cosmic scope.

Now there is often a ‘theological pushback’ on everything I am saying, the pushback sounds like this:  “But Sin can’t be in the presence of God!”. But actually this pushback misunderstands the power of God’s love and holiness (Which aren’t opposed to each other by the way) and misunderstands sin (But that’s a blog for another time!). God is not like a pristine car upon which no one can touch it for fear of leaving a mark, but rather He is like a powerful but gentle ocean that washes away the mud from our bodies. And a little mud won’t taint the whole ocean, but it will wash it away. God is bigger than our mess & mud. God is bigger than our addictions & idols. And when God does come near He will rattle us yes, but it won’t compromise Him.

And then there’s Jesus. The very presence of God among man. He kind of dined with the sinners, healed the outcasts of society, ate with the tax collectors, spoke to all people who would have had various problems.

Jesus was in the dirt.

Jesus was in the mess.

Jesus was in the tears, the mud and the blood.

We don’t serve a Jesus who goes “Ewwww!” and runs away from the mess. He enter into it.

Jesus dives into the midst of the chaos. And yet He brings the calm.

That’s what I love about Jesus. He isn’t just afraid to get His hands dirty, but He brings Himself into the mess & darkness, and through who He is…He heals us.

Now some of my readers think Jesus is like what you see in some uber religious organisation. Priests in nice gold gown, a detached sense of high & mighty piety that doesn’t look at what’s going on in the street around the high church wall buildings,  or if you go in there you will have a lightning bolt thrown at you (Or as some people think). Now is there something wrong with wearing nice clothes if you so will, and good morals? No, but a sense of “better then you”, a sense of “we have our own little club that doesn’t get our hands dirty” this sense of “stay away from our holy place!”- well none of this exists in the life of Jesus.


I hope the true Jesus, the one who comes not with love for power but with power of love, is the Jesus you see afresh. Because Jesus goes into the darkness. There is nothing so dirty that Jesus’ love won’t enter into and heal.

And if you’re a Christian, let this challenge the way you do church. Are you the type who wants to keep calm & control so much that you don’t allow the mess & the muck in? This is not saying there is no legitimate control, but it’s a control that transcends what’s happening around you. It allows the mess but with Jesus in the middle. Without Jesus it is just mess and that’s it. With Jesus moving in the middle life can come through the dirt.

That is after all, how our ultimate healing was assured.

Jesus didn’t look at the powers of darkness, death, sin, oppressive rulers and go “ewww”. Rather, He to the cross and said “Not my will but your be done”. Jesus went to the cross to confront the mess of the world in one spot, and He won over it. The cross with blood & guts was the world’s messiest spot, but rather than the Roman execution cross winning by killing Jesus it became the very place where Jesus would win through love and confound the powers behind the nails in Jesus hands. But how? By rising from the dead. Jesus defeats the cross through the Cross & Resurrection. Jesus enters into darkness and wins against. He brings victory against darkness but first entering into it.

Might I suggest- that for the Christians who are reading this post- that that’s how we win. We go into darkness without becoming the darkness nor condoning it, but by bringing Jesus power of love into it.

Now THAT’S messy.

May you come and see the radical love of Jesus who can enter into the chaos at its worst and brings life. May you come and imitate your life after His as God awakens you and transforms you into Jesus through the power of His Spirit.

The Parable Explained Part II

The Parable Explained Part II

Read ‘The Parable of the Painter’ first then ‘The Parable of the Painter Explained Part I’…So this actually makes sense to you.

So a couple of weeks ago I made the case that we all believe in absolute truth, and that it depends on what the absolute truth is as to whether one is manipulative or not.

Okay, so what about the parable? When am I going to get there? And what’s it going to do with absolute truth? Now it’s time to explain the significance of the parable.

At some point we are going to come face to face with what reality is. There really is no denying it. At some point, a version of reality will be shown to be true over against the other. For instance, if we die and there’s nothing then that says atheism probably had it right, or if I come face to face with Allah then the Muslims have it right, or maybe I am reincarnated then…You get what I mean.  At some point, truth- whatever it is- will win out in way, shape or form.

But as a Christian, I am confident that what Christians perceive to be the truth is the truth. And like I said last week, that’s not a terrible statement to make that seems bigoted or narrow, and neither does that have to be dehumanising statement because a) we all make truth claims and b) it depends if you use the truth claim in dehumanising ways (And Jesus doesn’t allow His followers to do that- he says we love all people despite worldview, race etc.).

So looking at the parable of the painter:

In the parable you have a painter who is God. God creates a world and makes that world come to life. Now notice it is the painter who determines the meaning of the painting. Within the analogy there is no one else in his reality except for Himself, as such He is the soul interpreter of the meaning of His own self-made painting.

We have to wrap out heads around this. Because whilst this analogy is limited in scope it does tell us something very important at this point: If (And for many it’s still an If) there was a God who made you then doesn’t it make logical sense that this Being defines who you are (and not the other way around)? If a painter paints the painting in their own reality with no one around then that painter dictates the meaning of the painting not the painting dictating the meaning of the painter. Now listen: it’s okay to speculate what God is like- a lot of people do, however at some point you have to realise that whoever you think God is, at some point God Himself* (if He makes Himself clearly known) should trump your perception of His own being, not the other way around. After all, if God does exist I think He knows Himself better then we know Him.

This ties very closely to the other section of the parable, and that’s the section that speaks of having the character traits of the painter infused into the painting itself. If the painter symbolises God and His painted people us, then the part about the character traits being infused into the painting come into play. If there is a God and this God is the inventor of you & me then that means that deep within who we are is ‘DNA’ that matches His. This is a rather large topic that dives deep into the question “What does it mean to be human?” at which we can’t discuss at length here. However it is important to point out that if God is real it is worth considering His take on what it means to be human, because if (as the Christian faith says) we have rebelled against God then we are- in a sense- rebelling against our own God given nature. Within this paradigm then- True freedom then isn’t doing what you want but it’s being released from all that holds you back from who God created you to be; a unique human being infused with His ‘DNA’. So what does it mean to be a human made in God’s image? And what would it look like to follow Him again? These are big questions for another time, but one thing for sure: If God is real and designed us, then logically to return to His design again would be the most congruent and whole thing to do, and it gives ourselves the ultimate life changing favour that sets us free. Also, this means we can’t define ourselves the way we define ourselves but by how God defines us (Once again, we could talk for a long time the nuances of such a statement but don’t have the space to).

The third part of the parable is that of the painted people making up theories about the painter and then the painter revealing Himself in person. We all do it…We all have a theory about reality (Whether there is a God or not, what life is all about etc.) and we either have a shared theory of these things in groups (e.g. clubs, churches, religions, cults etc.) or we keep it to ourselves. It’s as if we are like people reaching up into a foggy sky and trying to make sense of what we can’t see or looking around us and making more guesses about reality still.

But what happened in the parable?

The painter becomes the painted one without ever ceasing to be the painter, and makes it very clear who He is. And this is where we arrive to Jesus. Jesus isn’t like other prophets or gurus who say things like “I am here to show you the way to God” Jesus comes in person and says “I am God coming to find you”. That’s radically different from all other faiths and worldviews. Our foggy reaching to the sky is over, because the one beyond the fog of reality has come near in person. Truth then isn’t a detached dehumanising concept: Truth is a person- a person to hug, a person to love and be loved by, and a person who frees us into who we were made to be.

That’s who Jesus is.

He comes into the world to restore us back to our true identity as people bearing the image of God, and Jesus comes to fix this mess of a world.

And Jesus isn’t like your average crazy man saying He is God, He actually does things to back this up**- healing people, casting out demons (all in all declaring His Kingdom was breaking in!). And ultimately Jesus dies & rises again from the dead (And not just to die later on…No according to the scriptures Jesus rose again from the dead and returned to Heaven in the body; He is still alive and has defeated death & decay forever- changing the whole structure of reality). So Jesus backs up His identity well.

But think about this. If Jesus is like the Painter of the Parable- the one who has revealed Himself as truth in a way that can touch us- then how can we say He isn’t the truth? If He is indeed the most revealing manifestation of truth there is then this raises a lot of questions for us as humans. Sure He isn’t without interpretation (After all, we all interpret), that doesn’t mean we should fall into the trap of culture that says we can make truth whatever we want it to be. If Jesus is the revealed truth of reality then we got thinking to do.

Now I understand there can still be a lot of push back against this- after all behind all of this is the assumption one believes the Jesus, as written in 4 books of the Bible, are actually reliable history. And of course there are other personal push backs such as bad experience in church etc. So there is still plenty of discussion to be had (And perhaps we need to talk about history in a separate post). But nonetheless I hope that exploring ‘The Parable of the Painter’ has given you a helpful paradigm for at least considering the implications if such a reality- a painter and His painting- exists and how, if real, it would challenge the way we attempt to interpret reality.

*I am going to use ‘He’ for the sake of simplicity, please don’t read sexist undertones into this for  that is not what I am doing


**It’s important to note that isn’t the reason why Jesus did miracles (He didn’t do miracles to prove He was divine) rather He did miracles to declare that the rule & reign of God was breaking into this world through Himself and that this reign was reversing the effects of our rebellion against Him (sickness, disease, disillusionment etc.). However one of the implications of Him doing this was that it would show He was indeed divine, something Jesus wouldn’t have argued against either.


Today instead of doing ‘The Parable of the Painter Explained Part II” I want to write a special blog post.

In the last two weeks I have had two people close to me die, and each in their own way have had an impact in my life, and it has left me absolutely gutted by the loss of both of these men. I have experienced a whole new level of grief I have never ever felt before; it feels like my guts have been taken out and the empty space is collapsing in on itself like a vacuum inside of me which has left me with tears and felt heartache. It has left me concluding that this year and this month is indeed the worst time in my entire life.

But even though this has been the worst two weeks of my life there is a very real sense that, in the middle of all this pain, Jesus is with me. And I am so grateful for this. It doesn’t explain the “Why” question (As John Stott once said: “There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross that symbolizes divine suffering. ‘The cross of Christ … is God’s only self-justification in such a world”) but He does give me comfort in and through the pain.

Now I know some of you don’t believe in the Jesus stuff (and that’s just part of the process of chewing faith for yourself, and part of the role of this blog site is to help you ‘chew’). However I do, and I faithfully write what I write from the point of view that Jesus is real, that He did die and rise again and through this launch His project of bringing Heaven on Earth, and that He will wrap that project up fully when He returns. My role isn’t going to convince you that it’s all real, but just to write.

And today I am talking about my personal take on what it means to grieve with Jesus.

Because right now that’s what I need in this time of grief.

[Because of the sensitive nature of this post I will be treating it purely as my thoughts; as such I will use words like “I” as opposed to “we”. However my prayer is that my process of pain can help others as well.]

There is this event that happened in Jesus’ life in the first century A.D that talks about a time Jesus confronted and entered into the heartache that death brings. The event is in the Gospel of John chapter 11 verses 17 to 43. The passage opens up with Jesus being called to visit a friend’s grave, a grave of a man named Lazarus… < >

There are two people Jesus comforts during their time of loss- Martha & Mary. However the way He addresses the same loss differ between Martha & Mary dramatically. With Mary He comforts her & weeps with her, and with Martha He confronts her:


He tells her that He is The Resurrection & The Life! Jesus tells Martha that, because He- as the Saviour of the World- has arrived, she doesn’t have to wait until end of time to see the power of God raise Lazarus from the dead, she could see his resurrection right there and then. Jesus can raise people from the dead!  And indeed part of Jesus’ whole mission was that of declaring in the form of the spoken word & in miracles that the reign of the good & loving God had arrived in Jesus. Now death, evil, suffering, injustice, chaos, would still exist until Jesus returned from Heaven a second time to this world, however (As seen later in this Gospel book) Jesus would defeat all death, evil, suffering, injustice, chaos in a unique way by dying on the cross & ultimately rising from the dead. Death would no longer have a grip on Him- because He would take on the agony & evil of death into Himself and win the battle against death through the blood & tears of the dark, twisted, and lonely cross. And so one of the ways Jesus shows His unique power over death in this event by confronting Martha in telling her that He has come to save the day. And save the day He did! He raises Lazarus from the dead! And as such for me, to know in my grief, that Jesus will raise my loved ones to glory at His coming is indeed beautiful (And to know that in the present “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”).

But then Mary:

Why did Jesus cry at the tomb when He knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead? There’s a very simple reason why. Because death is bad. Losing someone is worth crying over. It didn’t matter whether Jesus would raise him from the dead at the end time or in the next minute: Lazarus was worth crying over. Loss is worth crying over, mourning over, weeping over.

I need to process and sit in pain with a God who holds me together and weeps with me. And so it is that Jesus- the world’s perfect man & God in the flesh- cried. Jesus ain’t a stoic person who just tells me to “remove negative thoughts”; no rather He is the Great Psalmist who lives out and prays out his grief and agony as a man acquainted with sorrow. Between now & what Jesus will do for people who love Him there can be a time for sorrow, a time for tears, a time for processing. It matters that Jesus will raise my loved ones from the dead one day, but that doesn’t remove the processing of pain & loss.

All this tells me something about what it means to respond to loss with Jesus.

I need the big picture AND I need to allow Jesus as comforter during the pain of loss.

I need the big picture of knowing that- one day- all who love Jesus will welcome His return with joy because He will wipe every tear, and pain, injustice, suffering, and evil will be completely done away with.

“Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new.” (Rev 21:3-5 MSG)

Even death itself will die. And I can have confidence in this because of the unique way Jesus defeated death.

But I need Jesus as comforter as well, for He promises to be with the broken hearted. To mourn with those who mourn & weep with those who weep. To process through pain. He is my great Psalmist who, like the writers of the Psalms, uses psalms that speak of tears & agony over what is real heart ache.

But to only have the big picture without the comfort means it’s possible to become stoic and detached from real pain & suffering. I can’t simply brush off the pain by saying things like “He’s gone to a better place” or “There is a bigger plan” whilst I bite my quivering lips and squish the tears down. Now it’s true that the people who I lost have gone to a better place and that the best is yet to come, but times in the here & now are hard and need to be processed with family, friends, and faith.

But to only have the comfort without the big picture gives no meaning to life.

Without the big picture all that would be true is that all people simply take their first birth, live, and then take their last breath; all come from oblivion with no divine purpose and all go into oblivion with no divine purpose, thus existence is a joke in a universe will no purpose or meaning. That might sound heavy to say, however I do believe I am laying out the natural implications of a purposeless universe, which if people do take the belief in a purposeless universe to its logical implications does come out the other end as dismal. In a purposeless universe, bodies are just animated pieces of meat which exist in a blip of existence. People might think one can make their own meanings, but their own meanings they make would only be by-products of  random chemistry of the brain, and if that’s true (that people’s brains are only chemicals & muscles) then even people’s own self-made meaning collapse in on themselves into meaninglessness once again as the very building blocks of people’s self-made meanings turnout to mean very little as well. But deep down people know that isn’t true; people do believe in meaning, purpose, love, truth, even if their own worldview categories can’t make sense of it. There is more to life than living, breathing dying. There is a big picture.

And Jesus is the big picture.

I need the big picture and I need Jesus as comforter- and that’s the lesson of grief I learn from this passage (And pray you too learn).

Processing all of this loss will not be easy, however I’ll process with tears whilst having the big picture of knowing that those I have lost are now part of something bigger & better, and are both destined for even more when Jesus returns to defeat death and bring His Heaven fully on Earth…

And that the people I miss will, like Lazarus, rise again. And me, and others around me, are left processing through the pain.

And both are okay.

Both are needed.

The Parable of the Painter Explained Part I

The Parable Explained Part I

Before you even begin reading this make sure you read my previous post, or else nothing I say will make sense. See it here:

So it’s common in our society to say that if you have a particular set of beliefs about God, humanity, the universe, the afterlife (etc.) that what you believe is, well, what you believe: It’s true for you.

I have told people about what I believe (You know, the Jesus stuff) and I have had a variety of responses- further questions by some, awkward silence by others, and sometimes disdain towards me. But what often happens is that eventually an “It’s true for you” statement comes up:

“Oh you believe that, okay well that’s your truth. That’s not my truth, but good on you!”


Now I am all for people having the flexibility to believe what they want to believe about reality- after all we all have a mind of our own, observations of our own (etc.) to make an informed decision on one’s beliefs (In other words I am for freedom of religion or lack thereof). No one should be forced to believe anything unless they make the conscience choice to believe what they chose to believe and neither should people force their beliefs onto others.**

However there’s a difference between having the good flexibility in what people believe, and recognising that  behind the “it’s true for you” statement is a theory about reality that people adhere to whether they are aware they are doing it or not. This theory about reality goes like this:

We can’t fully know if there is a thing called truth that exists ‘out there’; we therefore construct our own truth, not the other way around. So your theory of truth is as valid as someone else’s theory of truth- but it’s only a theory: don’t you say it’s THE truth. Because 1) you don’t know that and 2) saying that can be a tool for manipulating people.

Now I understand where people’s reactions are coming from in reference to the above accounts because 1) Some people really are clutching at straws when they make truth statements and 2) some people who said they had the ‘absolute truth’ have used it to manipulate others (Just think about the crusades, jihads, genocides etc where people couldn’t think on their own two feet and just obeyed what they perceived to be the absolute truth). However there is also fragility in this theory about truth:

First, that very belief (“We can’t fully know if there is a thing called truth…”) is also itself an absolute truth claim. Too put it into conversational language I witnessed a Q&A once where- after the speaker made a claim about Jesus being the truth- an audience member stood up and said “Well I don’t believe in absolute truth!” the speaker looked at him and then responded “You don’t believe in absolute truth? Do you absolutely believe that you don’t believe in absolute truth?” The questioner realised what the very statement behind dis-believing absolute truth was an absolute truth. So let’s be humbled: we all believe in something we think is the absolute truth. And that’s okay. Even saying “Well I just don’t know” can take the shape of absolute truth. And once again, that is okay. Truth statements (Even truth statements about truth statements) are by their very function narrow (And ‘narrow’ doesn’t have to be a negative term. It’s just a fact of reality that what we believe will at some point conflict with others)***

Secondly (and we desperately have to wrap our head around this one really badly in our world) It’s not believing in absolute truth that leads to manipulation of people, it’s asking “how does what we believe lead us to treat people?”. Now I can’t speak on behalf of other faiths, but know that Jesus said to love people no matter what their race, beliefs, gender, or orientation is. And guess what, I believe Jesus is the absolute truth (surprise surprise!) but Jesus as the absolute truth demands that I love people, respect people’s freewill etc whilst still disagreeing with what others might believe. Our culture has bought into a lie: that if you disagree with someone you must hate them. That’s just not true. There are creative ways to love people that go beyond needing to agree with their take on things. When 9/11 happened a New York newspaper said “This is what fundamentalism does”, that same day a pastor from New York responded quite rightly by saying “Actually, it depends on what the fundamental is, and in the Christian faith the fundamental is of a man dying on a cross for His enemies”. Manipulation isn’t based on the belief in absolute truth but depends on what the content of that absolute truth is. After all, yelling at people saying “There is no absolute truth!” can possibly be said and practiced in such a way that the very absolute belief in no absolute truth can itself be manipulative.   Food for thought.

Okay, so what about the parable? When am I going to get there? And what’s it going to do with absolute truth? Well I feel that this blog post has already gotten way to long so I’m finally going to tease it out fully next week (Sorry! I didn’t anticipate this!). So stay tuned!

To give you a glimpse for next week…I do believe in absolute truth and I believe that absolute truth isn’t a detached concept but a person.

But until next week…


**Just to clarify though that’s different from someone asking me questions about my faith, in such case I will wear my heart on my sleeve- that is not forcing my beliefs on anyone that’s just answering a question. Also if I am speaking from a platform about my faith people have the choice to be there or not


***Some people think saying that one religion being right over the other is ‘narrow’ in a bad sense because, people will say, we should adopt the belief that says “It doesn’t matter what you believe, it’s all the same pathway to the divine just different routes”  because, people will say, “at least that doesn’t exclude any belief”. But here’s the thing: that in of itself is a belief, and that very belief (“It doesn’t matter… etc”) is narrow towards people who do in fact believe that there is only one way and that it’s their belief. So that very belief (which appears to capture every faith on Earth) actually denies people who take seriously their faith’s beliefs of their faith being the only right one.  

The Parable of the Painter

The parable of the Painter

Imagine that our world had no people in it except for a painter. One day this painter decided to create a painting like no other. He paints a world, and in this world he paints people. This painting has the painter’s creative energy immersed into the painted world- it’s as if a part of the painter’s personality has also been painted into the world (That’s how immersed he is into it). After the painter finishes the painting he clicks his fingers and all of a sudden the people in his painting come alive. They become aware of the world they find themselves in and go to live life within their painted world.


However these painted people have been painted by the painter who immersed all of who he was into the painting, and as such the ‘DNA’ (For lack of a better way to explain) of the painter people runs through the painted people’s veins. Their need to create and expand is innate in their DNA, and since the painter himself is kind and caring it’s innate in their DNA to also be kind and caring. But it doesn’t take too long before the painted people start to do what they want their own way. With their freewill they do whatever they want, even if it’s destructive. With their freewill, they start going against their innate sense (Their DNA if you will) of what it means to be a painted person. Their freewill against their DNA leads to breakdown of the painting itself. The painting starts to fall apart.


Over time the painted people start to wonder if there is a painter or not. Deep down it’s like they believe in a painter, but this deep down sense of being painted is clouded by the day to day life of the painted world they live in. Some painted people take the speculation of their being a painter seriously and so they create groups with other painted people who believe the theories about who the painter is, what the painter’s purpose and plans are etc, while other painted people don’t believe in a painter or really don’t care, while others still have their own individual theories of who the painter is (Some people in this group even mix and match ideas from the different theories of the painter  from the more established theory groups).


The painter is observing all of this, and he has especially noticed that the painted people have used their freewill to make destructive decisions in their world that are contrary to the purpose of the painting itself. The painter decides to set the record straight with the painted people. And so the painter grabs his paint brush and paints a door into his painted world, and armed only with paint and a brush, the painter steps into his painted world. As the painted people meet their painter some doubt thinking he is just a crazy man claiming to be the painter, and others celebrate, and others don’t care. In their midst of confusion and doubt the painter starts painting objects from within his painting which only confirms to the people more and more the signs that he is indeed the painter who has decided to break into his created world to put things back on track from the inside out. Through the painter they re-discover their purposes, and they also have a clear expression of who the true painter is.

^Sounds like a bizarre parable right? Well it’s only a parable. Parables were like short stories Jesus told back in his day. He told these parables as ways to get people thinking, and to eventually lead them into a new way of viewing the world. Parables like the one above and like the one’s Jesus told aren’t meant to be taken too literally as they are only stories to get you thinking about the bigger ideas that they are pointing to.  The parable I told above is meant to act like a story for the exact same purpose: to get you thinking, and to eventually lead the reader into a new way of viewing the world. So what’s the parable I told about pointing towards? What’s the bigger idea I am attempting to illustrate?

That’s for me to explain next week. As for now, don’t read too much into the parable (They aren’t there to be read too much into) but take some time to think about what the parable might mean. Until next week…Peace. (Still confused? That’s kind of the point this week. Sometimes Jesus told a parable and then explained it. That’s how I’ll be doing it: the explanation is next week).

Well here goes nothing…

So finally.

After months and months of holding off doing anything I am actually doing something.

I am writing my first blog.

I can’t really think of much to say to you all except to say welcome. So I’ll keep this short post sweet and simple.

My blogs will be pretty much centred around Jesus and the reality He came to bring. I am a firm believer that Jesus is much more real, revolutionary, relational, and relevant (And also anti-religious). There’s a lot of bad pictures people have of Jesus when they think of what He is all about. Some see him as a cute little baby Jesus that gives a great excuse to open presents, some see Jesus and ‘buddy Jesus’ (Think of that classic film ‘Dogma’ with a young Matt Damon), some see Jesus as this skinny white dude who died on a cross and somehow that means something to a bunch of devout conservative, boring, detached and awkward people, some do see Him as a great teacher or a philosopher. Now don’t get me wrong- presents are awesome, Jesus can be a friend, and their are a bunch of people who devout their lives to Him (Though the stereotyped of the ‘Ned Flanders’ catagory “Hi-di-ho-neighbour-reno” still makes me facepalm and ask “What lead us to that picture?!”), and yes He is a great teacher.

But Jesus is also more than those things.

And that’s what my blogs will be about- the more. Within my blogs I will also cover a range of sub-topics that fit all into Jesus agenda- I’ll be talking about the nature of church, what it means to be a Christian in the 21st Century, Can we even believe all this stuff. I’ll also be addressing any and every topic- from sex, to friendships, to random acts of kindness to anything- and I’ll do that through the lens of Jesus and His Heaven-on-Earth Kingdom He came to bring.

In terms of my audience I don’t want to just preach to the choir. I want to have an inclusive audience who may not believe in all this stuff and wants to learn anyway. So welcome all!

So this is what I hoping for. So join me and the blogging and videoing begins!