Into the Image of Zion

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Throughout its history Israel anticipated a coming Messianic government, a government called Zion that would shake the nations, restore Israel and establish God’s justice again.

The historic record tells us that in Israel the swords were ready, awaiting the battle cry.

Yet the government Jesus inaugurated wasn’t a mountain all aflame, like Sinai, that could be touched, seen and trembled before. It wasn’t a fearsome throne of fire to cow the world into submission, as many hoped. Nor a rally cry to violent revolution. It didn’t bring the overwhelming, sudden transformation that the disciples desired. Nope. Mount Zion in Christ’s new world was a company of believers serving each other.

“The gentiles use their power to lord it over each other,” Jesus said, “But it shall not be this way among you.”

The message: “My followers use their power to serve.”
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The Internal Architecture of The Heart

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6min read

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Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself. – CS Lewis

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Perhaps one of the most countercultural ideas that Christ introduced was that the Father, Our Heavenly Father, values our heart.

It certainly wasn’t what the Jews were expecting.

They expected their Messiah to come with flame and sword to break open the empire of Rome and restore Jerusalem’s former glory. Instead they received a Messiah who seemed much more interested in the state of their heart than their zeal for tradition.

We’d already seen hints of this in the old Covenant, “man looks at the outer things but God looks to the heart,” said Samuel, and Ezekiel prophesied, “I will give them a new heart.” But within the telescoping of history it’s easy to neglect how foreign the idea of the heart was to Judaism. Within the Jewish paradigm, the focus was on faithfulness to the law, temple tradition and outward purity. With His focus on the Spirit, the family of God and holiness, Jesus not only completely inverted this paradigm but redefined these terms to mean entirely different things.

If the Jewish worldview was oriented around outward appearance, the Christian worldview is oriented around our internal reality.

And in scripture the foremost image for the internal reality of the heart is that it is the house of the Father. “Don’t you know” wrote Paul, “that you are the dwelling place of God?” Continue reading

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Three Reasons Why Pursuing The Kingdom Made Me A Jesus Feminist

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20min read

Recovering the original women’s liberation movement.

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One of the most tenacious ideas within the church is the belief that God intended women to play a subservient role to men.

We’ve all heard it.

God created Adam first, it’s been argued, Eve was his helper.

It’s really the idea that patriarchy, the social structure where men rule over women, is the design of God. With that in mind, you could suggest that this idea is the foundational principle for every church culture that emphasises gender differences or cites biblical authority to support its position.

It was all God’s plan.

The problem is that we read scripture often with an inherent bias towards affirming our existing worldview. Changing your worldview is a costly and sometimes painful exercise as it requires us to change and often assume greater responsibility. Patriarchy has been a part of the Christian worldview for so long that it’s attracted a host of interpretations that comfortably affirm its existence. As long as we live and breath within a culture that carries a gender bias any biblical interpretation that affirms this worldview makes perfect sense.

The only problem is that it’s totally wrong.

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Jesus: The ‘Last Days’ To Injustice

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8min read

“Well,” He paused, “We’re in the Last Days after all.”

The phrase had a depressing air of finality and landed like a full stop in the conversation. For a moment there was nothing either of us could do but quietly reflect on our own immanent destruction.

We’d been discussing the unfortunate turn towards fundamentalism in the post-Arab Spring Middle-East but the conversation had now taken a sharp turn into apocalypticism.

“I suppose,” I said weakly, “We can hope that a centrist government would form.”

“No”, He replied, “The bible is clear. It’s only going to get worse and worse from here.”

If fear had the power to drive people to salvation then we’d probably be in full scale revival by now.

The film industry and a host of pop culture references have all imbued the term “Last Days” with the image of earthly destruction. And not just a thunderclap annihilation but a protracted apocalypse where the worst in everyone is brought out. When we talk of the Last Days most people’s minds instantly leap to governments collapsing, blood moons appearing and violent wars waged in suburbia.

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In The Image Of The Gardener

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18 min read.

Towards a Kingdom Worldview of Creation Care

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I’ve been passing my herb garden for the last couple of months now with a growing sense of helplessness.

The basil was the first to die out, swiftly followed by the mint, the rosemary and the dill.

From where I’m standing it looks as though my beloved Kaffir lime tree will survive, but I’m not giving the rest very good odds of survival. Sometimes, life is cruel.

Admittedly, I’m not a very good gardener.

It’s ironic, because I’m coming to realise that the Father is calling us all to be gardeners in His Kingdom.

Too often it seems parts of the church have adopted a narrative that not only ignores environmental destruction but also occasionally encourages it. This reasoning often seems to rest on the belief that if God will ultimately destroy the earth, then we can either assist Him by contributing or at least make a comfortable profit until He does. On the face of it, this belief seems to sit uneasily with the Genesis commission and peering a little deeper, arguably reflects a distorted image of the Father.

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Everything You Know About Justice is Probably Wrong.

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16 min read.

Towards a Kingdom Worldview of Justice.

As I pressed ‘submit’ on my last law assignment, and leaned back in my chair, the realisation hit me like a shelf full of legal texts.

There are two ways to think of justice, and we’ve been thinking all wrong.

I was finishing ‘Roman law’. The unit was a tour through Rome, with its elaborate courts and righteous pomp. It sketched an image of the system of justice that had reached across Israel in Christ’s time. The same system that Christ condemned standing before Pontius Pilate, and the same system that was so quickly compromised to see Him crucified.

This last unit of study had peeled back our western legal system to find its roots deep in in the heart of Rome. It traced an unbroken line of continuity between Rome and the justice system of every westernised nation.

I could see how deeply our idea of justice had been shaped by Rome.

The purpose of Christianity is to follow Christ, out of worldly ways of thinking, through the power of the Kingdom, and into the new heavens and the new earth. This means that along the way both the follower and the world will be radically transformed. For an earth full of injustice to begin to look like heaven; we’re going to need to see a lot of justice.

Yet as Christians, we have a complex relationship with justice.

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Celebrating Australia Day As An Exile

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13 min read.

How following Jesus out of our national identity will help us find it again.

It was one of those moments where all you could do was respond blankly.

Throw another shrimp on the Barbie…” –it wasn’t quite an Australian accent.

I stared back, still as blankly.

“You know; that’s not a knife…” -this time there was a mild note of desperation.

As an eight-year old with a light Australian lilt, growing up in America in the early nineties, this wasn’t the first time this had happened. At the time, I was cheerfully oblivious to Crocodile Dundee and a host of cultural references to Down Under.

That’s not me, I thought. At that age I still wasn’t even sure a shrimp belonged on the Barbie. Besides, we had always called them prawns.

Unbeknownst to me, I was experiencing a form of cultural dissonance; the uncomfortable feeling when your surroundings signal cultural values to you, that you aren’t convinced you share. In my eight-year old mind, I wasn’t quite sure what being an Australian meant, but I was pretty certain it didn’t mean that.

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