Refugees

Border protection is a big deal for both sides of politics in Australia. Stop the boats. Turn back the people-smugglers who put lives at risk with their leaky boats. Block the undesirables who don’t share our values. Don’t let the queue-jumpers in.

For more than a decade, we’ve heard these mantras from our rulers. Their polling assures them that the hard-line approach wins votes.

At times we’ve been shocked to see images of the off-shore detention centres. We wonder if we’re justified to lock people up for years as a deterrent. We’re concerned when they’re reduced to self-harm.

Now, don’t get scared about where this is going. I’m not suggesting we all march on Canberra to demand a change of policy. I’m not writing to Canberra. I’m writing to you, a follower of Jesus. I want you to consider how Jesus sees these issues. Surely that’s what defines how we respond.

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Activism: is it kingdom work?

Should Christians be activists?

Good news! Jesus is the Christ. That means he’s chosen by heaven and anointed with power to rule the earth. He is restoring heaven’s government to a world that has been terrorized by competing claims and civil war ever since humans tried to take God’s power into their own hands.

This is good news for the world because it’s how the violent hostilities are replaced by divine peace. Peace can never be achieved through force. The cross is the ultimate paradox for solving violence. The all-powerful God placed himself at the centre of the battle for power, giving himself for his people, reconciling us to himself and to one another.

This is how hostilities end. The cross is God confronting human power claims. It’s how God restores peace, by uniting us under his governance (Ephesians 2:14-17).

What does that mean for earthly kingdoms?

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Earth as God’s kingdom

When God is king, earth is his kingdom.

As I write, I’m looking into a green forest, with an ocean in the distance. I’m on holidays, enjoying my children and grandchildren. It feels like the kind of wild natural extravagance and intimate communal joy God always intended for his earthly realm.

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Fresh language for Jesus’ kingdom

With other commitments, I won’t be posting much in December/January. Rest assured, I’ll still be pursuing my life-goal, seeking his kingdom.

The more I pursue this perspective, the more definitive it becomes as the framework that makes sense of everything. The whole Bible narrative fits together as the integrated, laser-focused story of God’s faithful kingship over the earth. We need fresh language to express this, language that communicates in our culture.

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God’s kingdom and salvation

How does the kingdom of God relate to the message of salvation?

In my student days, I stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon. It’s embarrassing, but I remember saying, “That’s not a canyon; that’s a huge cliff.” I expected to see another cliff on the other side of the canyon. Eventually, somebody pointed it out: “See over there, 18 miles in the distance, that’s the other side.” I had totally failed to understand the scale of the canyon.

Salvation can be a bit like that. It’s so much more than we take in at first. For 500 years, we’ve stressed that it’s all of grace, nothing of human merit: by grace alone, by faith alone. We know it so well:

Ephesians 2:8–9 (NIV)
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.

How does salvation relate to the kingdom? That’s an important question if we are to understand the gospel Jesus preached, i.e. the good news of the kingdom (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Mark 1:15; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 16:16). Continue reading “God’s kingdom and salvation”

God’s kingdom and Israel today

How does the kingdom of God relate to the nation of Israel today?

Israel did not exist as an independent nation for more than 2,500 years (586 BC – AD 1947). What is the significance of Israel’s rebirth 70 years ago?

For many Jews, it means coming home to the home they never had. Some see it as the fulfilment (or re-fulfilment) of God’s promise to resurrect their nation (Ezekiel 37:14).

Some Christians also see Israel’s return as a significant fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy in our time. Is this so? To answer that question, we need to review the crucial role Israel played in the kingdom of God narrative. Continue reading “God’s kingdom and Israel today”

God’s kingdom and social justice

Social justice isn’t an angry fist; it’s a cross, bearing the injustice away.

Imagine a world without gender conflict, where males and females value each other as persons. Imagine a world where no one no one dies of preventable diseases, where no one starves while others horde wealth. Imagine a world without racism or slavery or war, a world where no leader forces themselves on people. Imagine a world where people shun violence and retribution, calling on God to bring justice instead.

Lofty ideals? It’s our future. This is the world we will know when it runs as our heavenly sovereign intends — as the kingdom of God. The big question is how do we get there?

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The kingdom and spiritual warfare

How can love survive against evil when evil has the weapons to destroy God’s people? (Spoiler alert)

Spiritual warfare is a kingdom matter. Ever since the coup in Eden’s Garden, earth has been at war with our heavenly sovereign. Unlike the evil emperor in Star Wars, God did not build a death star to destroy the planet and its rebels. Instead he called Abraham away from Babel, to build a family that would bring the world back into his care.

Predictably, Abraham’s family were enslaved by this world’s rulers. With ten “mighty acts” God demonstrated Pharaoh was a fraud. Egypt’s king could not even stop natural invaders like frogs, flies, or gnats. Pharaoh could not protect the families of Egypt, not even his own family, not even Egypt’s heir.

Pharaoh agreed to let God’s people go, but he still had the forces to recapture them. That’s the big question: How can love survive against evil when evil has the weapons to destroy God’s people? Continue reading “The kingdom and spiritual warfare”

God’s kingdom and the millennium

How is the kingdom of God connected to the 1000-year reign in Revelation 20? Does it help to ask who this vision is about, rather than when?

What comes to mind first when you hear the phrase kingdom of God? For some, it’s a future era of global peace with Christ reigning for 1000 years. Continue reading “God’s kingdom and the millennium”

God’s kingdom and politics

What’s the relationship between the kingdom of God and the power of the state?

Mixing religion and politics could start an argument, but we can’t avoid the gnarly question.

How should Christians interact with the power of the country we live in? Should we be politicians, law makers, advisors, ambassadors, judges? Should we lobby politicians over issues like same-sex marriage? Should we oppose institutional injustice like incarcerating people on Manus Island?

Should churches promote and fund activist agendas to challenge government policy? Or should we do those things only as individual citizens? Or is this whole thing diverting us from our calling? Continue reading “God’s kingdom and politics”