At a wedding recently I used these symbols to illustrate the Great Mystery (Ephesians 5) of marriage.
First the triquetra, an old Celtic symbol for the Trinity, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It also illustrates how Christian marriages invite God into our marriages, he strengthens the relationship like a threefold cord (Ecclesiastes 4)
Yet The Mystery goes much deeper:
This is The Great Mystery and Mission of marriage:
not just that we invite God into our marriages,
but that God invites us into HIS!!!
Apocalypse. It actually means uncovering, revealing, as in the Biblical book of Revelation. But ironically we have smothered the word with such fearful connotations that we covered over the very thing that was meant to be uncovered! We fear the dangers so much we miss the main point.
Since we apparently live in such apocalyptic times... it’s well worth asking: what was meant to be uncovered? Answer: the Ending to The Big Story.
What Big Story?
The overall narrative from the beginning of time to end. The Biblical Story. The Story within which all our life stories are contained! Which begs the further question, what part will you play in it? Using the Olympic Rings, here’s a graphic summary of that Story:
Just like all great stories, there's an Author, Evil, Salvation, Freedom & Community.
Author - Blue reminds us of Creation and thus its Creator. God creates, creation is good, humans are made in God’s image, very good. But then...
Evil - Black, darkness, selfishness, the sin that damages creation. We try to take over from God, to run our own lives but only ruin our own lives. This sinful fallenness is shown from Adam and Eve to every story in the Bible...
Saviour - Red, blood, the Saviour’s mortal battle to make things right.
The Law and the Prophets (>>) foreshadow and predict the Salvation to come. The Old Testament repeats stories of sin and salvation: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Israelites, Judges, Kings, Writings and Prophets: we ruin life, God saves it, repeat. There are always warnings, and then judgement for the stubborn and salvation for the faithful. The cycles repeat through history even to the present day. But then comes The Saviour...
(X) Christmas reveals the Christ, the Messiah. 'Jesus' means Saviour. He is none other than the Creator become human, Immanuel, God-with-us.
Love summarises his message and his actions, love God first, and people as yourself.
On the cross, Jesus has DONE what we can’t DO for ourselves: he himself bore all our collective sin, guilt, shame, griefs, sorrows etc. for us, on our behalf. Separated from God, he then dies for all of it - in our stead. This means that sin is no longer held against us, we are made right with God! Amazing gift of mercy!
His resurrection overcomes death with life. This proves he has overcome our sin with his purity.
For 40 days he appears, explaining all Scripture to eyewitnesses, offering His salvation to all. Then…
Freedom - Gold, the Spirit of resurrection, in us to set us free from the law of sin & death. Jesus ascends, then 10 days later sends His own Spirit into His people, whoever trusts him, helping us to live like Him. Amazing gift of grace! And this gift is still being given and received today…
Community - Green, Grow in these relationships now and forever. Go share this Big Story. Loving God and people goes on now and forever (>>), in fact The Big Story ends with a divine marriage, Christ receiving his Bride - us! The Big Story turns out to be a Divine Romance.
So for now we are supposed to Grow in those relationships: turn from our sin, trust the Creator-Saviour-Spirit, and live life his way. This trust is what determines our part in the revealed ending: will we receive His amazing gifts and be in the marriage for the faithful? Or will we refuse, ru(i)n our own lives, and face the judgement for the stubborn? Go share this Big Story to anyone who will listen.
So I’m now sharing this Big Story with you. May God give you ears to hear it and pass it on.
I'm convinced this Big Story is actually a True Story, for good reason: it is uniquely coherent, uniquely comprehensive from the beginning of time to the end, and it uniquely accords with all the data we have available to us - including scientific, historical, experiential, relational and spiritual. Therefore it is reasonable to expect that the revealed ending will also come true.
Yes, the Apocalypse (the Revelation) contains frightening warnings and judgements, alarming events to come - wars, calamities, plagues, martyrdoms at the hands of evil economic and political ideologies. The warnings and judgements will cycle some more - exactly what we see in our day - little re-tellings of the Big Story of evil, salvation, freedom and community to come. But then The Big Story will end as revealed, with a final judgement for the stubborn, and a wedding for the Bride and Bridegroom who is the Creator-Saviour-Spirit.
But if we only focus on the calamities, we cover over the main revelation to be uncovered:
the Ending to The Big Story. Don’t miss the main point... What part will you play in The Divine Romance?
I'm not panicking because my worldview is not limited to Naturalism. COVID-19, bushfires, climate change, etc. merely remind me of our mortality, and the bigger view of life. But Naturalism, which dominates Western public discourse - news and entertainment media, social media, politics, law - across Australia, NZ, USA, UK and Western Europe, has no bigger perspective. As such it's a worldview that generates the very fear, depression, and hostility we see with every reminder of how fragile we are.
Naturalism in a nutshell:
Naturalism is both shallow and brittle.
It's shallow because it rules out other dimensions, and disregards all non-physical phenomena observed.
In contrast the Biblical meta-narrative is deep and robust.
Don’t be put off by the shallow dismissals on public broadcast. Examine the Bible properly without prejudice against spirituality, and you’ll see why it stands the test of time as uniquely reliable revelation from The Creator to us. Unique because no other volume or corpus of texts has anything close to the following qualities: Reliable because the archeological and manuscript historical evidence is peerless concerning the Bible's preserved transmission from eye-witnesses to us. Revelation from God, because the over-arching Saviour-centred story is uniquely coherent and comprehensive, despite the diversity of 40 contributing authors across at least a 1600 year period. Plus it contains hundreds, even thousands of specific prophecies, many of which were fulfilled in later parts of the Bible, some of which are yet to be fulfilled in the yet to be completed parts of the History. Plus it claims to contain, and be, God’s word around 3000 times. Plus the meta-narrative combines with the readers’ realities to change lives for the better, right up to the present day. (I mean people can relate with the God of the Bible in the present!)
The Biblical meta-narrative is deep in that it accepts other-dimensional realities and interacts meaningfully and substantially with them.
Naturalism is a shallow and brittle worldview that discords with reality, and fragments society.
The Bible gives a deep and robust worldview that accords with reality, and unifies humanity under God.
Our public discourse needs to break out of its shallow, brittle naturalistic worldview. Otherwise it will keep covering up the BIG Story that these apocalyptic events are meant to uncover for us:
- that we are mortal, sin/self/satanic forces are bad, we need a Saviour. Leaving God was not progress.
- and that we need to turn back, trust in, & tune in to the Creator, accept his salvation now and forever. In this true, deep and robust worldview, fear subsides, and we can live in courage & faith.
That’s why with all these fires, viruses, climate change... I'm neither panicking nor in denial. I know what to think when reminded of my mortality. Not only the creation, but we who have the first fruits of the Spirit also groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For we were saved with this hope in mind - Romans 8. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom - Proverbs 9.
My daughter is a 21-Pilots fan. Proof: today she bought pre-sales tickets to their December show, where they will play music she hasn’t even heard yet because their album isn’t due out until next month. What if their new album is a terrible disappointment? She might have to sit through a whole concert of terrible music...
But her purchase is an act of faith. The good kind: reasonable, not blind. The kind that makes for good relationships. There's not an iron-clad guarantee but there are enough reasons to make it worthy of trust.
Her faith is based on good reasons: their prior performances, the music she has already heard, the interactions she has already enjoyed in the fandom, their demonstrated trustworthiness as people to date. So she has good reasons to trust that the boys will deliver a concert worth the price of entry. So she bought in.
My faith is based on good reasons: God’s prior performances (in demonstrably reliable histories, writings and prophecies), the ‘music’ I have heard already in this life (the good, true, beautiful, life-giving ways that really work), the interactions with God I have already enjoyed alone and together with other believers, the demonstrated trustworthiness and wisdom of God’s character. I have plenty of good reasons to trust that God will deliver a Life worth whatever price he asks of me. So I bought in.
Some disparage “faith” per se as if it is blind, based on nothing. Some people seem to blindly believe cliches and assumptions, but these days I’d say that's far more likely among the agnostics of main-stream culture than among the Christians who go against the flow. Most Christians I know have had to challenge the mainstream cliches and assumptions, and have come to my daughter’s kind of faith, a reasonable and well-founded relationship.
When people actually examine the reasons for this kind of faith, they often become ready to buy in.
The Limits of Proof
The Phenomenal and the Noumenal - Noumenal realities are important and life-directing. Yet the more noumenal a reality is, the greater the need for good and sufficient reasons. Good reasons are there. Go get 'em.
Is the church better or worse than most people think?
The Centre for Public Christianity has produced a massive resource on that topic. It's hours of good stuff, more than enough.
But don't miss all the other material CPX has on other topics too. There's a search bar for libraries of articles, videos and podcasts on:
In my work I focus mostly on the Foundations. How we know that the basics of Christianity are true - that God exists, that the Bible is reliable, and that Jesus rose from the dead. And how these truths fit together to make a really solid and positive foundation for your life. Core Stuff and Boost. The bare minimum info, skills, and relationship that teens really need before they leave home.
I believe if you keep this Core Stuff central to your life, you'll be far less likely to distort good things into bad.
But then what comes next?
Good answers are there. Go get 'em!
I returned to Israel in March 2017 (having first visited in 2013) to personally show 18 Aussies the Core Sites of the Core Stuff - where the key events occurred that founded Christianity on solid, historical foundations.
As tour leader, I had less time to process the journey, but on the upside I could take the tour where I wanted to go in the time available. We squeezed a lot in - maybe too much if you count that one time I forgot lunch! But it was worth it!
It became a presentation, CSI: Christ Scene Investigation. We personally investigated how the sites agree with the texts of the Core Stuff. We saw for ourselves: