Hope in the brokenness

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 4 – Deforming the intended direction for creation

[Bible references: Genesis 2:16-17; 3:14-15, 23; Psalm 4; Hebrews 1:1-4]

Everything was broken and separated from God. Spiritual death, the impaired relation between God and His image-bearers was immediate and would be mirrored by the physical death caused by separation of the people who would no longer have access to the Tree of Life. This was a great tragedy that could not be undone, not by the image bearers. But as we look around us, we can see that, despite the tragedy around us, things aren’t totally bad. Even though evil is very evident around us, goodness is also evident. It is in that observation that we can glimpse the possibility of hope.

God had ordained the penalty of death, spiritual and physical, to be the consequence of turning away from him. Spiritual death, the separation God’s image-bearers from God happened immediately, but physical death, the separation of soul and body, did not happen right away. What God did, was to apply discipline to his image-bearers. He also gave a hint of the solution to the problem created by sin, the first of many other hints that were to come.

There was also evidence for hope in the continued creation by God, as he continued to sustain the universe he created, and within that universe He continued to create new living things, plants, and animals alike. Related to that hope, was that the mandate given to the image-bearers was still in force, although there would now be suffering involved in the fulfillment of the mandate.

There was also hope hidden in God’s very name. The name given to us, which was given to Moses and first revealed in Genesis 2, is “Yahweh” (Hebrew, יהוה). In the ancient Hebrew, the characters would have looked a little different and each character would represent an object or action.[1] In Hebrew, the characters are read from right to left. The first character (י) represents a hand or arm and could also represent work or worship. The character (ה) represents a man with arms raised and could also represent displaying or revealing something. The (ו) character represents a nail or tent peg and could also represent fastening something together. So, embedded in the name יהוה is the message “hand revealed nail revealed” – a foretelling of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

The sacrifice of Jesus followed a life in which Jesus successfully waited to receive those things that His Father intended to give, resisting the temptation to grab those things for himself. In his life and death, Jesus successfully accomplished what Adam and all those who came after Adam had not.

In the beginning, we were eager to grasp for ourselves wisdom and the knowledge of good and evil on our own terms. What we didn’t plan on the consequences that would follow. Sometimes God gives us what we think we want even though it would bring us the suffering that God was trying to steer us from. It’s a continuing pattern we see from the beginning until now, that it is not always a good thing when we get what we think we want.

[1] Benner, Jeff A. “Hebrew Alphabet Chart”


It’s not hard to see signs of brokenness around us. Are there any signs of hope that can be seen?


Read Galatians 3:13-14; Ephesians 1:11-12; Jeremiah 29:11; Isaiah 1:26; Matthew 17:11; Acts 3:18-26. Throughout the Bible, God has chosen to share his future plans in pieces at a time. Because of that, what exactly those plans are, have been the subject of much debate within the church. What is your understanding of God’s plans for the future?

Confronting our freedom

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 4 – Deforming the intended direction for creation

[Bible references: Gen 3:1-7]

To be creatures designed in the image of the transcendent creative, loving God, we needed the kind of independence that could allow us to choose who or what to love – or not love – and to be free to imagine and create wildly new and different things as proper for God’s image-bearing creatures. We were free to do this in a place where everything was very good and designed so that we could flourish. However, that very freedom which gave image bearers the possibilities of independent thoughts, also gave those image-bearers the opportunity to also confront temptation.

While the image-bearers were given the opportunity to meet with God and to walk with him in a specially designed garden, they were also allowed the opportunity for questions. They could even question the motives of the God who made them: 

  • Was something good being withheld from them?
  • Were they being deprived of some power?
  • What would be available to them if they violated the restriction?
  • Would they actually die?
  • What special knowledge were they being deprived of – particularly this knowledge of good and evil?
  • Everything they had encountered had been good, why would their thinking about violating this one restriction not be good?
  • Was the Creator so good anyway?”


It seems to be part of human nature, to be suspicious of those things or those people who are different than us. The question is, when does doubting someone else’s motives become an act of sin?


Read Genesis 3:1-7.

What did the woman choose to trust when she chose to eat the forbidden fruit?

Sins consequences

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 4 – Deforming the intended direction for creation

[Bible references: Genesis 3; 6:5; Romans 8:19-22; Ephesians 2:10]

And so, it happened. The one thing that could create the ultimate catastrophe did happen. The good Creator, who only intended good things, allowed his image-bearers to give into their temptation, to put their own authority above His and violate the one restriction placed before them. This violation by the stewards of His creation broke everything: the relationship between themselves, the relation between them and Him, the relation between them and creation. All of creation was affected and is even now waiting for things to be made right again.

Everything in creation had been designed to be good, to reflect the good character of the good God. Creation was designed to be a place where God and his image-bearers could keep on creating good things and bring increasing glory to God. But now, although the ultimate structure of creation was still good, it was headed in the wrong direction. The broken universe would now cause things to move away from God’s glory.

“Anything in creation can be directed either toward or away from God – that is, directed either in obedience or disobedience to his law. This double direction applies not only to individual human beings but also to such cultural phenomena such as technology, art, and scholarship, to such societal institutions as labor unions, schools, and corporations. and to such human functions as emotionality, sexuality, and rationality. To the degree that these realities fail to live up to God’s creational design for them, they are misdirected, abnormal, distorted. To the degree that they still conform to God’s design, they are in the grip of a countervailing force that curbs or counteracts the distortion. Direction therefore involves two tendencies moving either for or against God.” [1]

The brokenness started with the decision that would be repeated again and again. Even in a time like now, where we can get things so quickly and easily compared to times in the past, we want what we want, and we want it now. And the desire to get what we want now overwhelms our capacity to think of others, as we put ourselves at the center of our part of the universe, replacing God with ourselves. In the case of the first humans, they wanted to grab knowledge and wisdom for themselves instead of waiting to receive it from God.

The failure to resist the temptation to grab what we want instead of waiting to receive what we want from God would only be successfully resisted by Jesus. So, after the rebellion occurred, the earth would remain separated from the Kingdom of God until Jesus began His restoration of the Kingdom. So, until that time the place of human habitation would be separate from the place where God’s good rule and reign is absolute. And it will not be until heaven and earth will be fully reunited, that we will fully experience the overflowing shalom that God has intended for us. Until that time, the broken earth will be separated from heaven and allowed to sink into disorder and chaos. Until that time, the overflowing goodness and shalom that God had provided will be masked by the brokenness of not just Creation but also by the brokenness of the co-creators. Look at what we have done!

We were meant to be in communion with each other and with God. We were meant to be “gardening” with God to make our place, a place of thriving and abundance in concord with the type of thriving and abundance with which God originally made the universe. God intended for us to be connected to Him and filled with His Spirit so that we would be fully enabled and prepared to be co-creators with Him of good works. But our rebellion has separated us from the one who is the source of goodness. In that sense, since the time of Adam, we are less human than we should be.

[1] Wolters, Albert M. Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview (Locations 685-689)


In what ways do we replace God’s authority with something else?


Read Gen 3:14-15, 20-21; Psalm 4:1, 8. The world around us is filled with problems. What signs of hope do we have?

Living Temples

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 3 – The Image-bearers

[Bible references: Genesis 3:6; Isaiah 54:10; Jeremiah 29:1-23; John 2:19-21; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21; Revelations 15:8; 21:22]

Although God’s first image-bearers had close, unhindered, intimate contact with their Creator, there was enough space given them to think freely, as if they were not being watched all the time. It was in this space that they – and we – were given several mandates: procreation (be fruitful and multiply), stewardship (subdue the earth and have dominion over its creatures), and a cultural mandate (work it and take care of it).[1] We were given the assignment to be fruitful, to fill all the earth, discover its possibilities and care for the world in the same way that God would care for the world.[2] Just as God continues to create more living things and sustain all that he has created, we as his co-regents[3], can join him in sustaining and creating those things entrusted to our care.

  “There are two ways in which God imposes his law on the cosmos, two ways in which his will is done on earth as in heaven. He does it either directly, without mediation, or indirectly, through the involvement of human responsibility. Just as a human sovereign does certain things himself, but gives orders to his subordinates for other things, so with God himself. He put the planets in their orbits, bits, makes the seasons come and go at the proper time, makes seeds grow and animals reproduce, but entrusts to mankind the tasks of making tools, doing justice, producing art, and pursuing scholarship. In other words, God’s rule of law is immediate in the nonhuman realm but mediate in culture and society. In the human realm men and women become coworkers with God; as creatures made in God’s image they too have a kind of lordship over the earth, are God’s viceroys in creation.” [4]

We were also given the responsibility to subdue the earth and have dominion over its creatures. When there is resistance, we still have the responsibility to bring the rule of God to the world. Then we are given the responsibility to work and take care of the earth, this will expand from taking care of the garden to taking care of all of God’s creations. Implied in all these things is that we should do everything in context of God’s love, to care for each other and to care for the earth and its creatures with the mind of the God who created us for love.

The work that we were designed to do was more than just tending the garden. In Genesis 2:15, we were given a mandate to “work” and “take care of” the garden God had created. These tasks in light of Ancient Near East culture, were more of a priestly nature, taking care of this temple where we reside with God.

“The verbs ʿbd and šmr (NIV: “work” and “take care of”) are terms most frequently encountered in discussions of human service to God rather than descriptions of agricultural tasks… ‘bd can refer to … work connected with one’s vocation, to religious service deemed worship … šmr is used in the contexts of the Levitical responsibility of guarding sacred space, as well as in the sense of observing religious commands and responsibilities … it is likely that the tasks given to Adam are of a priestly nature: caring for sacred space. In ancient thinking, caring for sacred space was a way of upholding creation.”[5]

We were to take care of this place which was designed to be a “very good” place for us to flourish in, creating whatever structures we needed to “increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.” This task, this mandate, meant that we would eventually go beyond the capacity of gardening and create not just a bigger garden but cities, a flourishing civilization as pictured in Revelation 21 and 22.[6]

When examined closely, we can see the breadth of what was committed to Adam and Eve. Subduing the earth would entail many physical, social, and intellectual activities. In the gardening we can see cultivation and farming; in taking care of the animals, we can see shepherding and domestication; in the naming of the animals, we can see a cultural and scientific activity which required understanding the nature and attributes of the animals and establishing authority over them. We can see that God had created things to be beautiful and as his image-bearers we would be expected to also create beautiful things.

In the new earth, nature’s comeliness will reach its pinnacle; the wilderness itself will burst into blossom, and streams will gush in the desert (Is 35). To complement all this natural beauty, human culture will flourish. All the great creativity of humankind-artistry in music, dance, painting, woodcrafts, sculpture, architecture and more-will be brought into the New Jerusalem (Is 60).[7]

There is a sense in which we, as members of the Kingdom of God, now seem to be living in a foreign land. This puts us in a similar position as the Israelites were when they were taken in exile into Babylonia. During their stay in Babylonia, God’s instructions were to settle down, build houses, get married, have children and to seek the prosperity of the city they were sent to, for “if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

But above all these things we can do, we should not lose focus on who we are. We are creatures designed by God to be like God to be in relationship with Him, the God who is a community in Himself: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Everything we do should be done in context of who we are. We should remember that we were designed to be human “beings,” not human “doings.” This viewpoint become clear when we compare the Biblical view of creation to the view of other Ancient Near East cultures. For the surrounding cultures humans beings were created to feed the gods and serve the gods who created them, whereas the Biblical viewpoint sees God being the provider for the people.[8]

Originally, we see Creation designed as a temple, a place for us to “be” with God. Later on, Jesus refers to himself as the temple, a human in whom God resides. Later on, Paul declares that our own bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. So here again, we see the mystery of perichoresis, where we are distinct from the Holy Spirit, yet the Holy Spirit becomes a part of who we are. In this we see the mystery of perichoresis unifying the persons within God, unifying the body, soul and spirit within humans, and unifying God and humans.

[1] Jacobsen, Eric O. The Space Between: A Christian Engagement with the Built Environment, Baker Academic, 2012, Page 20.

[2] Crouch, Andy. “What is the Cultural Mandate,” The Village Church, 6 Jan 2017 http://www.tvcresources.net/resource-library/talks/what-is-the-cultural-mandate

[3] Walton, John H. “The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate (Proposition 4) InterVarsity Press. 2015 Kindle Edition.

[4] Albert M. Wolters. Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview (Locations 203-208) Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2005 Kindle Edition.

[5] Walton, John H. The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate (p. 105-106). InterVarsity Press. 2015 Kindle Edition.

[6] Busenitz, Nathan. “The New Jerusalem” Cripplegate, 8 April 2017 thecripplegate.com/the-new-jerusalem-2/

[7] Sherman, Amy L. Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good. Intervarsity Press, 2011 eBook location 291

[8] Walton, John. “The Lost World of Adam and Eve,” I “Proposition 12: Adam is Assigned as Priest in Sacred Space, with Eve to Help” (p.104) InterVarsity Press. 2015 Kindle Edition.


If the universe is God’s temple and we are now living in the 7th day, that is, the Sabbath, how are we supposed to live?


Read Genesis 1; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 6:16. What difference does it make if the universe is God’s temple or that our bodies are God’s temple?

Self-sacrificing and Forgiving

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 3 – The Image-bearers

[Bible references: Romans 6:4-5; 12:1-3; James 2:12-14; 1 Peter 2:10-12]

Our life in God does not begin with anything we have done but rather with the sacrifice made by Christ Jesus, the perfect sacrifice that was made on our behalf to reconcile us to God. When by baptism we join him in his death, we can also be united with him in his resurrection. It is that resurrection power that enables us to present ourselves as living sacrifices, to worship him by continually dying to our sins[1] and offering ourselves to the service of God and to others. And just as the mercies of God flow into our lives, so those mercies should flow over into the mercy we extend to others on God’s behalf.

[1] Piper, John, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice,” Desiring God, 13 June 2004, http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/present-your-bodies-as-a-living-sacrifice-to-god; Wayne, Luke. “What does it mean to be a living sacrifice;” Gidley, James S. “A Living Sacrifice,” Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry 31 Aug 2016, carm.org/what-does-it-mean-to-be-a-living-sacrifice


God did not need to rescue us, but He did, even though it required great sacrifice. As you ponder that, think of how you can show love to those around you?


Read Romans 12:1-21. Christ’s sacrifice for us included his death on the cross. What kind of sacrifice are we expected to make?

Trustworthy and Faithful

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 3 – The Image-bearers

[Bible references: Exodus 18:21; Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 93:5; 86:15; 111:7; 117:2; Proverbs 20:6; Luke 16:10-12; 1 Timothy 1:15; Hebrews 11:1-40; Revelation 21:5]

We can’t seem to avoid breaking promises; whether it’s the one’s others make to us or the ones that we make to others. We usually expect broken promises from some people because we know they lack sincerity. Then sometimes we experience broken promises because things happen beyond our control, circumstances change, priorities are changed, or other things happen. Yet, in the midst of all that, we are called as God’s ambassadors to reflect his faithfulness to us. We are called to faithfulness in all things, whether it’s in truth-telling, in love, in doing good, in prayer, in doing the work of the Lord, in confirming our calling, to mention a few. As we attempt to be faithful and trustworthy in all things and when we fall short – as we surely will – we can still point to the trustworthiness and faithfulness of the Lord. The point must always be to not point to ourselves but to the Lord – we are called to trust Him, be dependent on Him, put our confidence in His faithfulness and His sacrifice on our behalf.


In what ways can we be challenged to be more faithful?


Read Exodus 18:21; Luke 16:10-12. In what ways can we be challenged to be more faithful?

Generous and overflowing Shalom

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 3 – The Image-bearers

[Bible references: Deuteronomy 30:9; Psalm 37; 65; 72; 92; Isaiah 9:6; John 10:10; 14:25-31; 20:19-23; Philippians 4:4-9]

The church has a stake in human flourishing. The challenge for the church is to define and promote human flourishing (which we might otherwise describe as human well-being, human happiness) in accordance with biblical teaching, to present and commend its alternative approach to human flourishing in the face of competing cultural visions, and to embody human flourishing in the presence of God amid a culture of death and destruction. Christian theology has a role to play in assisting the church to meet this challenge.[1]

“God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself because it is not there.”[2]

Goodness, generosity and shalom all fit together. We begin with the premise that we are representatives of the Prince of Peace. Scripture is full of encouragement for us to live in peace because it is through shalom that much else flows, including goodness and generosity. Goodness flows out of the shalom which is concerned with the overall well-being of others and is necessarily linked to justice, mercy, and humility – and we are not to be content with helping God to usher in only the minimal amounts of justice, mercy into the world but the fullness that stems from the overflowing goodness of God.

Our Creator and Temple-maker intended for us to enjoy his overflowing love and goodness. He provided us a place of abundance where all our needs could be met, where He had a purpose for us as His stewards and His co-creators and where we could enjoy him and enjoy each other. This overflowing can actually be overwhelming when we consider the breadth, the beauty, the abundance, and the complexity of this temple he has provided. And we can marvel at the breadth, the beauty, the abundance and the complexity of the skills and abilities He has provided for us as his stewards and co-creators. Just look at what He has done and what we have done with what He has given us!

[1] Swain, Scott. “Psalm 19 and human flourishing” Reformation21 http://www.reformation21.org/blogs/psalm-19-and-human-flourishing.php

[2] Lewis, C.S. “Mere Christianity” Samizdat 2014 p. 31


In what ways can the shalom of God flow over from our lives to the lives of others?


Read John 14:25-31; 20:19-23. What are the conditions of the disciples when Jesus offers them His peace?

Playful and Orderly

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 3 – The Image-bearers

[Bible references: Deuteronomy 12:1-33:18; Exodus 35:30-38; 2 Kings 17:1-41; Nehemiah 8:1-9:38; Psalm 100; John 4:23-24; Acts 6:1-7; 15:1-35; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 14:1-40]

There is much that is wrong in the world. People endure pain and suffering sometimes from natural happenings and sometimes from the actions of others. Evil seems persistent and never-ending. When we are called to serve God in this world, we can become overwhelmed by all the work that is to be done. Playfulness can seem out of place. Particularly, any playfulness that emerges from self-centeredness or obsessiveness.

Actually, that is the point we need to assert. Playfulness can be out of place in a world of sin and evil. But playfulness can also be a reminder that the reality in front of us is not the total reality. Our playfulness arises out of the relationship we have with God, the one who has overcome the evil in the world, who will end the suffering and who will restore us and world to be what he intended from the beginning. Playfulness arises out of the hope and joy we have in knowing that reality in front of us is not the whole reality.

Our imagination can be helpful in this play. As children, we can pretend there is another world and do something like taking a cardboard box and imagining it to be a spaceship and accepting the rules of living in that spaceship. Family traditions (or even community or national traditions) are a form of play, they do not serve a utilitarian purpose, but stem from the creative ways we wish to remember our unique heritage.

This same imaginative playfulness can be useful reminding us of the reality that lies behind our current reality. Our traditions of worship are a form of play, albeit a more serious play. Our worship traditions represent ways for us to remember our spiritual heritage or to provide imaginative ways to perform biblical sacraments about which we have sparse details on how to perform them. These traditions and liturgies help us point to that other reality, a new Kingdom that began breaking into this world with the incarnation of Jesus.

Christian worship was in fact and from the beginning a festival:  the festival of Christ’s resurrection from the dead … Easter begins with a feast, for Easter is a feast and makes the life of those who celebrate it a festal life … Jesus himself compared the presence of God, which he proclaimed and lived, with the rejoicing over a marriage.  His earthly life was a festal life, even if it ended in suffering and death … the early Christians have understood his raising from the dead and the presence of the now-exalted Christ as the beginning of an unending joy and a happiness without end … the risen Christ as ‘the first among those who had fallen asleep’ and as the leader of life; as the leader in the mystic dance and himself as the bride who dances with the others, as the church father Hippolytus put it.  Long before the somber dances of death were painted in medieval times of plague, the figure of the resurrection dance can be seen in the old churches.  The modern Shaker song ‘The Lord of the Dance’ brings out very well the dancing Christ:

I am the life that’ll never, never die;

I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me,

I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.[1]

We hope to participate in the inbreaking of the new Kingdom by living according to its rules. When we pray or worship, we are participating in the rules of that new Kingdom. When we come to others and share with them the hope that we have, we are asking them to use their imagination to look beyond the current reality and envision the new Kingdom that is already here and is yet to come. When we accept contentment in all situations, when we trust in God, when we comfort others with the hope we have, we are living according to the rules of the new Kingdom.[2]

It is also true, that In this present life there are endless encounters with grief. Although we acknowledge the pain and suffering of that grief, whether that grief is ours or others, we can encompass that grief with hope. Even amid grief we can choose to cling to God and to the hope He brings us. If we can live into the rules of the new Kingdom, we can have assurance that the current grief will pass and will be replaced by future joy and laughter and that every tear that we have cried and will cry and even now cry will be wiped away.

Our hope of the new Kingdom allows us to endure the current pain and suffering knowing that the hard experiences can be redeemed and to be used for good. God can take the pain and suffering we endure to transform us to be more like Christ, who himself suffered for us, transforming the very evil intended for him into the final victory that shall ultimately also make us victorious. This hopeful living then is also a form of play, accepting the rules of a reality we cannot see and choosing to live according to the rules of a Kingdom that we can only realize in part.

That playfulness also emerges in our creativity, which erupts early on in our lives as our desire as children to play and also in the desire we have as parents to play with our children.[3] There is no doubt about how uniquely creative we are in the way we express ourselves, not only in all the various art forms we use but in the ways we can solve all sorts of problems[4] – even to the creative ways we try to cover up our sins.[5] No other creature can come close to expressing creativity the way we can.

Our ability to create and even detect order is also unmatched.[6] Our ability to detect order is evident in the way we can detect patterns in sight or sound. The sense of order is evident in our ability to recognize faces, our ability to recognize the voices of our mothers or fathers as infants and even before we are born.[7] Our sense of order is seen as we grow in our ability to recognize the patterns of letters and sounds and to recognize and respond to language – even languages.

Our sense of order becomes more evident in our ability to create order out of many abstract concepts such as math, science, philosophy and many other areas.[8] It is our sense of order that allows us to create businesses, governments and civic organizations to make society productive. When we bring order to farmland, we increase the productivity of the farm.

The visible order within Creation inspired Christians in the past to study Creation. Order within Scripture helps the Bible to be meaningfully used as meditative literature. In the same way, order during worship also helps us to avoid confusion and to focus on God.

[1] Moltmann, Jürgen. “The Living God and the Fullness of Life” ,” trans. Margaret Kohl Westminster John Knox Press, 2015, p.192; Carter, Sydney. Lyrics “Lord of the Dance” (1963),

Tune “Simple Gifts” Brackett Jr., Joseph. (1848)

[2] Edgar, Brian. “The God Who Plays: A Playful Approach to Theology and Spirituality” Cascade Books 2017 (e-book)

[3] Gowman, Vince. “Playful quotes for the child in your heart” Vince Gowman http://www.vincegowmon.com/playful-quotes-for-the-child-in-your-heart/

[4] Baumgartner, Jeffrey. “The Basics of Creative Problem Solving – CPS”  ” Innovation Management, innovationmanagement.se/imtool-articles/the-basics-of-creative-problem-solving-cps/

[5] Brister, Tim. “6 Destructive Ways We Minimize Our Own Sin” Bible Study Tools http://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/6-destructive-ways-we-minimize-our-own-sin.html.

[6] Basulto, Dominic. “Humans Are the World’s Best Pattern-Recognition Machines, But for How Long?” Big Think 24 July 2013 bigthink.com/endless-innovation/humans-are-the-worlds-best-pattern-recognition-machines-but-for-how-long.

[7] Pfaff, Leslie Garisto. “6 things you may not know your baby can do” Parents http://www.parents.com/baby/development/intellectual/6-things-you-may-not-know-your-baby-can-do/

[8] Armstrong, David. “Christianity Absolutely Critical to Origin of Science” Patheos, 18 Oct 2015, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2015/10/christianity-crucial-to-the-origin-of-science.html


Our ability to play arises out of how we bear the image of God. How does our playfulness persist even in the midst of all the problems in the world?


Read Deuteronomy 12; 1 Corinthians 14. These chapters contain explicit instructions about how and how not to worship.  Since we do not yet experience the fullness of the new Kingdom, how can our imagination help us more actively engage in worship?

Co-Sovereigns and Servants

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 3 – The Image-bearers

[Bible references: Genesis 1:26-28; Exodus 18:4; 19:6; Leviticus 26:17; Numbers 24:19; Deuteronomy 33:7, 26, 29; 1 Kings 4:24; Psalm 33:20, 115:9–11, 124:8, 146:5; Ezekiel 34:1-10; Matthew 3:16-17; 20:27-28; 23:11; Luke 22:26-27; Acts 2; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; 1 Peter 2:9]

God is the master of all creation, yet he has given to us the responsibility to take care of the earth. It is out of that mastery that we have managed to use the resources of the earth to create all the technological advances that we have. Unfortunately, in many cases we have abused our abilities; abusing not just the resources of the earth but often abusing each other.

In our sinfulness, we typically appeal to our call to sovereignty while forgetting our call to service. This very issue Jesus took care to remind us of on many occasions. If we mistreat the earth that we are placed in or if we mistreat others, then we dishonor not only the one in whose image we are made but even the other image-bearers of God. In fact, it is out of our call to sovereignty and service that we are called to love, to willingly give of ourselves to the service of God just as God gave of himself to us.

It is under the constraint of God’s love that he tells us to “subdue” and “have dominion” over his creation. As God’s stewards, our sovereignty means we have the responsibility to maintain the good in God’s creation, to bring order to it and to help his creatures flourish and fill the earth.

There are two dimensions to our responsibility to subdue and have dominion.

When Genesis 1 was written, it was hard work to cultivate the rocky soil and people had little control of the elements; people were more powerless than powerful. In that context we see the forceful aspect of radah (ruling the earth) that is evident in other instances in the Bible when that word is used. That is one dimension of our responsibility.

But another dimension of our responsibility to have “dominion” is tempered by gentleness, such as when God spoke through Ezekiel’s to the “shepherds of Israel” and reprimanded them for using cruelty and violence and caring more about themselves than the people they were responsible for, serving themselves instead of the people.

In our service, we are dependent one another. We were not made to be self-sufficient; we not only need to have a relationship with God but also with each other. God allowed the first man to see that he needed another human before God presented the man with a woman to be his ‘ezer kegnedo. In Hebrew, ‘ezer is usually translated as “helper” or “deliverer” and is most often used to describe God delivering his people; kegnedo is usually translated as “in front of” or “opposite” or “parallel to”.[1]

Later on, in scripture we see that we are called to be a nation of priests and a body where all the different parts have a purpose as they work together. We are called not just to a restored relationship with the one who made us but are called together as a people to serve each other and to serve the world around us.

[1] Blue Letter Bible “ezer”; Bible Hub “Neged” biblehub.com/hebrew/5048.htm


God provides the model of servant-leadership (see Chapter 2). What are some ways in which that should affect the way we take care of the earth and each other?


Read Mark 10:35-41. Think about how love relates both to sovereignty and service. What implications does that have for how we treat others?

Merciful and Just

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

[Bible references: Psalm 33:5; Proverbs 2:9; Isaiah 1:17; 56:1; Jeremiah 22:3; Micah 6:8; Matthew 18:21-35]

There is much in this world that is not just or righteous. As God’s servants, we are called to seek both. But just like the servant in the parable of the unmerciful servant we can forget the mercies shown to us when we are dealing with each other. There is much that makes us yearn for justice in a world filled with cruelty, but we need to remember that as God acted on his own demands of justice, he yet found a way to bestow great mercy on us.

The prophets of Israel, and even Jesus, condemned those people who acted in self-righteousness and did not seek justice and mercy for those around them. In our own search for justice, we should remember the entreaty in Micah 6:8, “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”[1]

[1] Owens, Nellie. “Four things everyone should know about humility” Activechristianity.com   activechristianity.org/4-things-everyone-should-know-about-humility; Britton, Doug. “The Bible shows the power in humility” http://www.dougbrittonbooks.com/onlinebiblestudies-selfworthandrespect/meaningofhumilityinthebible-humbleinbible/


In what ways have you received mercy in your life?


Isaiah 1:17; Micah 6:8. Think about how humility relates to both mercy and justice. What implications does that have for how we treat others?

In Time and In an Eternal Future

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 3 – The Image-bearers

[Bible references: Exodus 25-28; 1 Kings 5-6; Psalms 19; 37:4-5; Proverbs 3:5-6; 11:14; Ecclesiastes 3:1-27; John 10:27; Acts 16:6-10; Romans 1:8-10; 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10; 15:42-49; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Peter 4:10; 1 John 3:16] Gen 2:9; 1 Samuel 2:26; Ps 19:1-14; Ecc 3:-22; Matt 6:28; Romans 1:18-20; 1 Cor 3:7;15;42-49; 2 Cor 10:15; Eph 4:15; Col 1:6-10; 2 Thes 1:3; 2 Pet 3:18

Although we have not existed from all eternity, God created us with more than a mortal body. We are also endowed with a soul and a spirit that can be joined to God’s Spirit. In the present moment, our mortal bodies are created from the stuff of the earth, and we are born into particular times and places so that we may serve and enjoy God in those particular times and places.

… God made us as creatures. And the good part about being a creature is we were made to be dependent upon God and, by our very design, also dependent on other people and the earth … Often what we’re missing is the good of dependence. We need to cultivate an awareness of how our dependence and our needs open avenues of love … What if we stopped thinking of life as to-dos and started thinking of it as relationships? When we’re so task-driven, it’s very hard to appreciate love, because love is incredibly inefficient … 59

Our creatureliness which sets us in a particular place and time with a particular body is an opportunity to appreciate our finiteness and God’s infiniteness, to cultivate a sense of dependence on God’s provision and our dependence on each other and within the context of those relationships to truly learn how to love.

when we were younger, God didn’t expect us to be what we are now. He’s still taking his time, by his Spirit, to bring about order through developmental growth … Part of recognizing our limits is getting comfortable in God’s space and growing in dependance on him.59

Our creatureliness also forces us to deal with God’s ordering Creation through process. Everything, whether physical, social, emotional, intellectual or spiritual, is controlled by processes. Sometimes we desire to bypass those processes: we want to be instantly knowledgeable and wise and experts at what we do … and not dependent on anyone else. But it was precisely that kind of desire that led to our rebellion at the beginning of humanity.

Sometimes, I think we’re actually scared to death to pray, because if we actually take the time to get quiet, we might begin to fear that God’s not there or wonder whether he’s apathetic or just really angry. Only in prayer will we discover how compassionately God views us … cultivating the gift of encouraging and celebrating others. It’s a spiritual discipline, a healthy way of dying to yourself and encouraging others. We are all dying for someone to pay attention and notice our presence and being. When someone articulates that, it’s life-changing.[1]

As God’s image-bearing creatures, we not only have relationships with each other but also with our Creator. With other of God’s image-bearing creatures, our love can be expressed in our opportunities to support, uplift and encourage one other. God has no need of such support from us, but He offers us such support. When we recognize our dependence on Him, He gives us the ability to pray, to acknowledge our needs and to recognize His provision for us when He supplies our needs.

We think of prayer as mostly self-expressive—as a way to put words to our inner life … if we pray the prayers we’ve been given, regardless of how we feel about them or God at the time, we sometimes find, to our surprise, that they teach us how to believe … We sleep each night in our ordinary beds in our ordinary homes in our ordinary lives. And we do so in a universe filled to the brim with mystery and wonder. We always sleep in a crowded room in our crowded cosmos, so we ask for crazy things—that God send unimaginable supernatural beings to watch over us as we drool on our pillows … Sleep reminds us of how helpless we are, even merely to stay alive. In the Christian tradition, sleep has always been seen as a way we practice death. Both Jesus and Paul talk about death as a kind of sleep. Our nightly descent into unconsciousness is a daily memento mori, a reminder of our creatureliness, our limitations, and our weakness. [2]

As we pray in our mortal bodies, we remember that although our mortal bodies will return to the dust from which we are made, our bodies will be resurrected when heaven and earth are reunited so that we, with soul and spirit and new body, will be able to enjoy God forever into the future.

What is that phenomenon we call ‘beauty’ and why does it lie at the core of both collective civilisation and individual desire, even as we value it precisely for existing outside of practicality? In his essay The Weight of Glory [A sermon given in Oxford in 1942], C.S. Lewis explains it as an echo of eternity, imprinted upon humanity as an indication of our origin and destiny.[3]

Indeed, our God is a God of beauty, and he has created us to enjoy his beauty. Art and our appreciation of it are among the great gifts God has given to us. Sure, like anything, it can be turned into an idol. But art, beauty, and appreciation for the finer things of culture are all good gifts from a good God. [4]

In the meantime, while we await for our resurrection and to gaze on the beauty of the Lord (Psalm 27:4), we have reminders of our connection with our transcendent God in the beauty of His Creation and in our capacity to make things of beauty. Whether the beautiful things are of our creation or the Lord’s, they are a reflection of God’s own beauty.

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing … they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited … We do not want merely to see beauty … We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.

[1] Straza, Erin. “Learning How to Love Your Limits” Christianity Today 13 Dec 2021 http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2022/january-february/youre-only-human-kelly-kapic-limits-god-design.html Interview with Covenant College theologian Kelly M. Kapic’s about his latest book, “You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News.”

[2] Warren, Tish Harrison. “The Cosmos is More Crowded Than You Think” Christianity Today 14 Dec 2021 http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2022/january-february/prayer-night-tish-harrison-warren-angels-crowded-cosmos.html

[3] Wang, Irina “Beauty betrays eternity” Salt salt.london/articles/beauty-betrays-eternity/

[4] Meuhlenberg, Bill. “Art and the Christian”; Culture Watch 28 July 2011 billmuehlenberg.com/2011/07/28/art-and-the-christian/


How does having an eternal future help us live in the world today?


Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-22.  In the midst of meditating on the limitations of life on earth, verse 11 slides in a reference to beauty and eternity. How does that verse impact the rest of the chapter?

Transcendent and Immanent

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 3 – The Image-bearers

[Bible references: Exodus 19:6; Psalm 19; 37:4-5; 139:16; Proverbs 3:5-6; Ecclesiastes 3:1-22; Jeremiah 29:11; John 10:27; Acts 16:6-10; 17:24-28; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Peter 1:16; 2:9; 4:10]

Man appears in the visible world as the highest expression of the divine gift, because he bears within him the interior dimension of the gift. With it he brings into the world his particular likeness to God, with which he transcends and dominates also his “visibility” in the world, his corporality, his masculinity or femininity, his nakedness. A reflection of this likeness is also the primordial awareness of the nuptial meaning of the body, pervaded by the mystery of original innocence.

Thus, in this dimension, a primordial sacrament is constituted, understood as a sign that transmits effectively in the visible world the invisible mystery hidden in God from time immemorial. This is the mystery of truth and love, the mystery of divine life, in which man really participates. In the history of man, original innocence begins this participation and it is also a source of original happiness. The sacrament, as a visible sign, is constituted with man, as a body, by means of his visible masculinity and femininity. The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus be a sign of it.[1]

God has placed each one of us in a particular time and place and with particular people. Within that time and place and people he has plans for us. Each of us has a particular mind and body with which we need to discern God’s calling for us in our time and place. Such plans are revealed in many places in scripture.

And though we are called to particular times, places and people, there are ways in which God’s transcendent character spills over onto us. The mark of his transcendence is even placed in each of our hearts. The expressions of transcendence are impossible to avoid in our day and age: Although we were not born with the ability to fly, we can fly to the moon, although we were not born to live under water, we are able to spend months at a time under water even at incredible depths, although we were not born to run like a cheetah, we don’t even think about climbing into a vehicle and going more than 60 miles an hour for hours at a time, we can also create works of art that show places we have never been, we can use the resources of the earth to generate more power than we can imagine … and the list goes on.

With our gift of transcendence, God has shown that he has set us aside as his representatives, “to be holy as he is holy.” We are not to merely live as earthly creatures but as creatures who represent the living God. The challenge before us is to discern, as God’s image-bearers, to what end God can use our particular bodies, emotions and minds in the particular family and community into which we are placed, to fulfill the purpose he has intended for each of us.[2]

[1] Paul II, John. “The Redemption of the Body and Sacramentality of Marriage (Theology of the Body)” Man Enters the World As a Subject of Truth and Love, p. 49 28 Nov 1984

[2] Russell, Chris. “8 Steps to knowing God’s will for your life”; “How to Find God’s Plan” WEC International; Renner, Rick. “Discerning God’s Plan for your life”


List the ways in which we exhibit transcendence.


Read Ecclesiastes 3:9-15. How can we, within the finiteness of our lives and our intelligence, see how beauty points to eternity?

Body, Soul and Spirit

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 3 – The Image-bearers

[Bible references: Genesis 2; Matthew 3:16-17; 19:6; Acs 2:42-47; Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19-20; 12:4-30; 2 Corinthians 9:6-8; Colossians 1:18; Revelation 21-22]

The mystery of perichoresis which tries to describe the one person God consisting of the relation of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit may very well be the best approach to the mystery of God’s image-bearers. There are conflicting views on whether a person consists of a body and soul or body and spirit or body and soul and spirit. Are we two parts or three parts then which parts? A similar issue arises in the attempts to figure out the relation between the brain and consciousness.[1] Although some researchers reductionistically think that consciousness is all biology and that we will be able to eventually build a computer with a conscious, it is likely that the mystery of perichoresis will prevail.

As image-bearers, being created as community of male and female points one way to the community of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but also points in another way to their unity as represented by becoming “one flesh.” There is an element of equality with a difference between male and female as represented by the woman being created from, what has been commonly translated, a “rib” from Adam’s side. The equality becomes more apparent however, when we understand the word that has been translated as “rib” is more usually translated as “side” – as if Eve were constructed from a full half Adam’s side.[2]

Yet the Hebrew word צלע (tsela) does not mean “rib,” but rather “side.” … Adam’s own words clarify that Eve comes from one of his sides when he declares of his wife, “Finally, this is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!” (Gen 2:23). Had Eve been created from the man’s rib alone, Adam would only have been able to say that she was “bone of his bone.” As Adam’s bone and flesh, the woman is the man’s “other half.” When man and woman cleave to one another and return to being “one flesh” (2:24), the two equal halves of humanity are brought back together.[3]

Adam’s “deep sleep” (תרדמה, tardemah) connotes a hospital patient’s sleep via anesthesia. However, the practice of anesthesiology was unknown in ancient Israel; Genesis does not have modern medicine in mind. Rather than physical sleep, tardemah denotes a visionary trance … Instead of splitting Adam physically, God provides him with a vision to show him the meaning of the relationship that he will have with his wife: a fully equal partnership with a person who constitutes his “other half.”[4]

The mystery deepens further when we consider the sexual union of husband and wife. Our male and femaleness show us our human incompleteness without each other. In the joining of the male and female bodies we manifest a completeness. Humans are unlike all other creatures in that we are made in God’s image with body, soul and spirit, and our spirit is joined to God’s Spirit. Therefore, the sexual union of husband and wife, unlike other creatures, is described as becoming “one flesh.” The combination of spiritual union and physical union creates a living metaphor of the union of Christ with the Church. The love, intensity and passion of two different but complementary bodies united both in spirit and in “one flesh” is an extension of the perichoresis of the Trinity as the bodies of the image-bearers united in spirit with Christ become the body of Christ on earth, joined in love, intensity and passion, enjoying the overflowing goodness and shalom that God has intended for us.

We are created body, soul and spirit with the intention that when heaven and earth are rejoined, we will be restored body, soul and spirit (although it will be in resurrected bodies) in the new heaven and earth. It is also through our bodies that we are restored to Christ. When he took on flesh.

God created the flesh of man, which the Son assumes in the Incarnation, all so that he might save the flesh of man. Tertullian states this idea straightforwardly: caro salutis cardo, the flesh is the hinge of salvation …Thus, our bodies are not meat-suits to be discarded or clusters of atoms that will disintegrate and disappear. They are made to last, because God’s kingdom will last, taking up from this world all that is good and preserving it. All that is made in and through Christ – including the body – will find its ultimate meaning in him. “My soul longs, yea, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God” (Ps. 84:2 RSV).[5]

When fellow Christ-bearers assemble together, they are together the Body of Christ, with each person bringing different gifts to support and strengthen the others in the Body.

Paul’s marital imagery in describing the relationship between Christ and the church. By wedding himself to humanity, Christ truly becomes “one flesh” with them (Ephesians 5:30–32), making them his members, “the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27), with Christ as their Head (Colossians 1:18). Head and body are joined through the “bond of charity,” the love that has been “shed abroad in our hearts” by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). The union of love between Head and body is so close that “Head and body speak as one,” because they are “no longer two, but one flesh” (Matthew 19:6).[6]

[1] Tolson, Jay. “Is There Room for the Soul?” CBS News 15 Oct 2006 http://www.cbsnews.com/news/is-there-room-for-the-soul/

[2] Walton, John. “The Lost World of Adam and Eve” Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate”. InterVarsity Press. 2015 Kindle Edition. p. 78

[3] Schaser, Nicholas J. “Did Eve Come From Adam’s “Rib?” Israel Bible Weekly 8 May 2021 weekly.israelbiblecenter.com/eve-come-adams-rib/

[4] Schaser, Nicholas J. “Splitting the Adam” Israel Bible Weekly 23 July 2021 weekly.israelbiblecenter.com/splitting-the-adam/

[5] Franks, Angela. “What’s a Body For?” Plough Quarterly 6 Aug 2018 http://www.plough.com/en/topics/justice/culture-of-life/whats-a-body-for

[6] Colbrook, Niamh. “Inhabiting Our Feeling Bodies” Comment Essay 26 Aug 2021 comment.org/inhabiting-our-feeling-bodies


If God’s love is expressed through our current bodies which were used to shape our character, do you think that it is possible that our resurrected bodies will retain aspects of our current bodies which have shaped us in the same way that Jesus’ resurrection body still bore his scars?


Read Genesis 2. Unlike other creatures who were simply created male and female, Genesis 2 gives a story of a man being specifically made from the dust and a woman being created from the side of the man. What do think was God’s purpose for describing the origin of his image-bearers?

Dynamic Tension

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 3 – The Image-bearers

[Bible references: 1 Corinthians 3]

Just as there are tensions within the attributes of the living God that actively interact with each other, so also God’s image-bearers have to deal with similar tensions. But in addition to those good and healthy tensions, we also impose another tension due to our rebellion against God. Our rebellion has created tensions not only within us, but between us and also between us and God.


Do you have any relationships that do not have some unhealthy tension?


Read Genesis 3:11-19. What kind of tensions did our rebellion create between humans and between the humans and God?

Reflecting God’s Paradoxes

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 3 – The Image-bearers

[Bible references: Genesis 1:26-32; 2:4-7,15-25; Matthew 22:36-40; John 15:8-11; Romans 8:20-21; Galatians 5:22-23]

Understanding the character of God, can help us understand what he has intended for creatures that are made in his image. Image-bearing creatures are not gods or duplicates of God, but they are imbued with the character of the God that made them. In this chapter we will explore some of the ways God intends for us to reflect his image. In later chapters, we will expound on those characteristics in more detail.

It was into this good universe that God prepared beforehand that God created creatures to bear his image. Good creatures, image-bearers, who were given the task of taking care of the good creation that God blessed them with – and God declared it to be very good. The image-bearing creatures were created in the complex image of God – the one God who was a community within Himself, the God who was immensely creative, the God who was generous and loving beyond imagination, the God who is sovereign over the universe, the God who is above all things.

There was a danger in God creating image-bearers. To make creatures that were lovers – just as He was a lover – meant giving these image-bearers the freedom to choose whom or what to love. We are unable to choose to not love but only who or what to love. Because God’s image-bearers were the capstone of creation, the option to another love than God, risked an awful catastrophe, a catastrophe that could affect the entirety of creation itself. The good creation, all of it, would become not so good.

And so it was, after creation was prepared for God’s image-bearers, those creatures who were created in the image of the loving God were given instructions to be stewards of the world God had made. Everything was good, and the first human couple had free access to the provisions in garden prepared for them. Only one restriction was placed before them, a restriction not meant to deprive them of anything good but meant to provide the opportunity to test their love, by testing their obedience to the one who created them.

We all now know that those creatures failed their test, and we daily experience the consequences of that failure. We also daily experience our own incapacity to restore holiness on our own efforts, our inability to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and our inability to fully love God or to fully love our neighbors as ourselves.

The mystery of who we are has to worked out between all the goodness we are endowed with as creatures who bear the image of God and all the evil we are encumbered with as creatures who innately rebel against that same God. Traces of heaven and hell run through each of us and are manifested in our everyday lives. The tongues we praise God with also curse our neighbor. The selflessness we display to others is corrupted by the selfish desires that emerge from the same heart.


How is love dangerous?


Read Genesis 1:28; 2:15. What tasks did God provide for the humans?

The Temple Maker

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 2 – The God who created

[Bible references: Genesis 1; Exodus 26; 1 Kings 6; Job; Psalm 8; 95; 100; 104 and others; Proverbs 8:22-31; Isaiah 44-55; Matthew 26:61; I Corinthians 6:19-20; Revelation 21-22]

There has been much debate about how to interpret the creation account. There have been various attempts to understand creation as physical processes that had occurred (over shorter or longer periods, depending on your analysis) because in our current cultural context we default to thinking of creation in physical, scientific terms. But what if (surprise! surprise!) we consider the biblical text to be a theological text instead of a scientific one, about functional origins and not about material origins.[1]

In the last few decades, research has uncovered much more about the culture in the Ancient Near East than ever before. It has been discovered that in Ancient Near East cultures, the Genesis account would not have interpreted the creation account in terms of physical processes but rather in terms of assigning purpose. So as we read the Creation account in Genesis 1, on the first three days the spaces of light and dark, waters above and below, and the land are being assigned a purpose. The next three days the populations of those spaces are assigned a purpose: the sun and the moon and stars, the birds and fish, the land animals.

In this perspective, the story of creation is seen more as a story about the dedication of a temple, where the universe and the world were dedicated as a sacred space, a space where God would dwell with his people. Therefore, the seventh day, is when God rested from the act of dedicating the earth, which would now be the place where He would now live with his image-bearers within that space. If you read Genesis 1-2, you will see that, unlike the other days, there is no “there was evening and there was morning.” That is because we are living in the seventh day.

The seventh day would be later remembered by the celebration of the Sabbath. It was by the seventh day that God had finished the dedication of the “temple” but it was not a time where he ceased to do everything. Rather, it was the time where the “home” was now ready for God to live in, and for us as co-regents, to begin the settling into our “home” and doing the things that our home was designed for. Jesus in John 5:1-7 clarified this idea where he explained, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” Living into this sacred space would entail us taking part with God in his continual acts of creating and sustaining the universe. That is the perspective of Eve, when she gave birth to Cain, she recognized that “I’ve created a man with Yahweh.”[2]

In Genesis 2, the focus moves to the humans God created and how they were to function in that sacred space where the Garden of Eden is the center. Genesis 2 is also where God’s name, “Yahweh,” begins to be used. Genesis 1 introduces the God as the Creator of the universe whereas Genesis 2 introduces the God who in establishing a personal relationship with the people he created uses a personal name.[3]

The cosmos that God created was intended to be the place where He would meet with his people. Therefore, the Creation, the Cosmos, was intended to be a temple. The temple/creation imagery permeates and unites all of scripture from the first book, Genesis, to the last book, Revelation. The temple/creation theme shows up in places like in the stories of Noah and Moses and Abraham, in the construction of the Tabernacle and the Temple, in Job’s dialog with Yahweh, in the poetry of Psalms[4], in prophecies of Isaiah, in the body Jesus and in us as his Body and finally in the depiction of reuniting of heaven and earth. Each instance shows its own unique aspect of the temple, so that when combined with each other, they show a more complete picture of how God meets with us and provides for us and what he has intended for us. We see a complex picture of the temple as a physical place in Creation and at the same time the temple is within us, inside the bodies of all of those who call on his name. In both those cases we can see the provision of God who 1) abundantly fills all of Creation in ways that exceed our imagination and exceed the capacity of any book to tell and, 2) abundantly fills us with His strength and His Spirit so that we can fulfill the desire He has for us to “cultivate and keep” the abundant place He has provided for us. One of the benefits of considering only the theological aspects of the Creation accounts, or the why of creation, is that we don’t have to be as highly concerned about the how of creation, or the scientific/physical accounts of creation. When scientific creation accounts are proposed and are not perceived to be correct because they don’t seem to theologically fit, we don’t need to despair. It may be that the various proposed scientific explanations simply don’t theologically fit because they just don’t or because we just don’t understand just how they could theologically fit. We know that the sciences are limited and that theories will change as more discoveries are made. Sometimes those theories may seem to move closer or further from our limited theological understandings, but our theology is not constrained by whatever the current science may indicate. In the meanwhile, we are free to explore the science and wonder in awe and marvel at just how God managed to do it all while humbly admitting that we don’t have the mind of God and how much higher his ways are than our ways.

[1] Walton, John. “The Lost World of Adam and Eve,” Proposition 3, pp. 35-45; Driver, Cory. “Commentary on Genesis 1:1-5” Working Preacher 10 Jan 2021;  www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/baptism-of-our-lord-2/commentary-on-genesis-11-5-5 ; Carlson, Reed. “Commentary on Genesis 1:1-2:4a 12 Working Preacher Sept 2011www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/narrative-lectionary/creation-by-the-word/commentary-on-genesis-11-24a-5 ; Throntveit, Mark. “Commentary on Genesis 1:1-2:4a; or 1:1-5,26-2:4a 1 Working Preacher 1 Sept 2011www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/narrative-lectionary/creation/commentary-on-genesis-11-31-21-4

[2] Friedman, Richard Elliot, Commentary on the Torah, Location 6942 of 37412

[3] There will be more discussion on that name in “Hope in the Brokenness,” p 36

[4] Muran, Alexej. “The Creation Theme in Selected Psalms” Geoscience Research Institute 1 May 2015 http://www.grisda.org/the-creation-theme-in-selected-psalms


Does viewing the universe as a temple affect the way we look at it?


Read Genesis 1-2, Psalms 8 and 104, Proverbs 8.  Read the creation story as a temple dedication story, where a temple is a place for people to meet with God, a place for religious or spiritual rituals and activities as people engage with God. If the universe was designed as a temple, how should we respond?

Self-sacrificing and Forgiving

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 2 – The God who created

[Bible references: Acts 2:14-41: Hebrews 10:1-18; 1 John 2:1-14]

God’s faithfulness to us is sealed in the love he showed to us by the ultimate sacrifice he made on our behalf. His commitment of love towards us could not be made any more clearly than through the excruciating death he suffered when he allowed us to put him on the cross in order that he should bear the penalties of our sins. And it is through His suffering and dying that he can offer us forgiveness for the rebelliousness of our spirits and the sins we have committed.


In the world’s way of doing things, we overcome enemies by brute force and physical domination. We didn’t expect a God to overcome our enemies of sin and death by offering himself as a sacrifice. What is the most effective way for the Church to overcome opposition?


Read Acts 2. Picture yourself as a witness in the setting of this passage as one of the travelers from out of town. How would you respond?

Trustworthy and Faithful

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 2 – The God who created

[Bible references: Exodus 34:6; Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 38:5; 100; Hebrews 10:23]

God has continued to offer us lives of goodness, generosity and shalom despite our continued waywardness. Our opportunity to experience the faithfulness of God comes as we hold to his promises … even when we fail to hold to his promises. Scripture is full of passages of God’s commitment to faithfulness despite the lack of our own[1] and those examples are helpful for us to hold onto as we experience our own trials and difficulties in life.

The faithfulness of God is starkly evident in His relationship with the Hebrew/Jewish people. God made a land covenant with Abraham (patriarch of many nations) and has never withdrawn what He has promised. Though the Jewish people have been scattered around the world, God promised they would return to the land He promised Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all their descendants (Zechariah 8:7-8) …

More examples of God’s faithfulness … Noah … Ishmael … Moses … Jacob …

God’s faithful promise was fulfilled in the New Testament when He sent Jesus to atone for our sins. No matter what sins we have committed, no matter how “bad” we are, God is faithful to forgive us if we accept Jesus and repent of our sins. [2]

[1] Got Questions “How Can I Trust in the Faithfulness of God, Got Questions www.gotquestions.org/faithfulness-of-God.html ; ” Christiansen, Connie Ruth. “The Story Behind The Hymn: Great Is They Faithfulness” Independent Baptist http://www.independentbaptist.com/great-is-thy-faithfulness

[2] All About God “Faithfulness of God” allaboutgod.com/faithfulness-of-god.htm


Our current society reflects the costs of lack of trust, of broken promises, of a lack of mutual concern for each other. What are those costs?


Read Zechariah 8. Zechariah’s prophecies were written it the nation of Israel many years after the nation had been taken in exile. How do you think these promises of God would have had on the exiles?

Generous and Overflowing Shalom

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 2 – The God who created

[Bible references: Genesis 1; Psalm 69:16; Zechariah 8; Luke 15:11-32; Romans 1:20; 8:18-23; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Revelation 21-22] 

When God created the universe, he was creating order out of disorder, assigning purposes for everything in the universe. When he assigned purposes to the places and things in the universe, when things functioned according to how he created them … they were “good.”[1]  And when in the midst of all those good things he placed image-bearing creatures that also reflected his character, everything was “very good.”

God is good because he delights in the existence of something other than himself.[2]

However, when in the midst of that very good universe, those image-bearers rebelled, they and the world they inhabited suffered the consequences. Yet, in spite of that rebellion, God relentlessly pursued those image-bearers with the intent of restoring not only them but restoring all of creation as well to the good condition that He originally intended. The Bible is the story of how God’s original purposes will be carried out despite the constant rebellion of his image-bearing creatures – and how the good and very good, creation will endure the brokenness of the rebellion to be finally restored to the good and very good purpose that God had intended.

Within that story of creation and the relentless pursuit which followed, God’s character is revealed as he pours himself out even to the point of taking on the form of a man and the giving of himself to the humility and suffering of being tortured to death on a cross. Even though all of creation is now marred by the rebellion, it is possible to examine the character of God as it is revealed in this outpouring of himself into his creation and into his image-bearers.

Revisiting Genesis 1:1, we see God creating … everything in the heavens and the earth. The rest of that passage shows the orderliness in how the creation happened. We see that as God creates each set of creatures or things that God declares them to be good. Then after God creates humans, he declares “it was very good.” We will see later in Genesis those things got messed up, but at this point the core of everything in the universe, everything was good and beautiful and working as it should. Certainly, as we look around us now, it would be hard to say that everything is working as it should, but at the beginning, everything was good.

That goodness was further amplified when, despite the rebellion of his image-bearers, God tirelessly invited them over-and-over again to come back to him even though they would continue rebelling over-and-over again. The generous invitation and re-invitation would be highlighted by Jesus’ parable which has been commonly called the “Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:11-32) in reference to the wastefully spending son. But the parable could equally be called the “Prodigal God”[3] in reference to the father who represents extravagant giving of God.

These continuous and generous offers from God are meant to draw us to himself so that he could restore to us the good and generous life that God has intended from the beginning, life free from suffering and pain, life full of joy and peace, wholeness and health, contentment and completeness,[4] which is all captured by the Hebrew word, shalom.

“The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight — a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights.” [5]

[1] Walton, John, H. “The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate. (Proposition 5) “good” refers to a condition in which something is functioning optimally as it was designed to do in an ordered system – it is working the way God intended”

[2] Weil, Simone.

[3] Keller, Timothy, The Prodigal God

[4] Refiners Fire ‘Meaning of the word “Shalom;”’ Blue Letter Bible “Word search: Shalom” www.therefinersfire.org/meaning_of_shalom.htm

[5] Plantinga Jr., Cornelius. “Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin,” Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition p. 10


How do you define “good?”


Read 2 Corinthians 3:18. Discipleship is a process of “being transformed”. Ultimately it is something that happens to us – but it is something we can co-operate with by engaging is spiritual disciplines. What kinds of changes need to happen in our lives that would make it natural to invite someone else into discipleship?

Playful and Orderly

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 2 – The God who created

[Bible references: Genesis 1; 3:6; 51:6; Job 26:7-14; Psalm 102:25-28; 104:26; Proverbs 8:30-31; Jeremiah 9:24; Zechariah 8:4; Romans 1:20; 5:12-20]

It would be more conventional to title this section, “Creative and Orderly,” but the creativity is just a part of broader category of play. Although many experts disagree on how to define play[1], we may think of play as activity which is typically not productive and is done only because one wants to do it and is usually a fun activity involving other people and will typically help people bond together.

When it comes to the Creation, God did not have to create anything. God did not need the universe or anything in it – not the planets, nor the stars, nor the creatures. God created the heavens and the earth for the delight of it, and He did it because He wanted to share heaven and earth with his image-bearers. This spirit of playfulness is reflected in many of God’s creatures[2] including Leviathan and humans. God’s playfulness also shows up in other interesting places in the Bible.

When Job complains about the difficulties he is going through, God seems to admonish him by “putting Job in his place” and citing all the ways in which God’s ways are higher than Job’s ways. But God does not follow through with any discipline of Job but rather begins the process of restoring Job’s fortunes. In response, Job confesses, “I spoke of things I did not understand … I retract my words and I repent in dust and ashes.” … And yet, Job changes an interesting behavior – he no longer rose early in the morning to offer burnt offerings for all of his children, worrying that “perhaps they have sinned.” Job seems to have understood what Shams-ud-din Muhammed wrote later on:

the difference between our life and a saint’s is that the saint knows that the spiritual path is like a chess game with God and that God has made such a fantastic move that the saint trips over joy in surrender whereas we think we have a thousand serious moves.[3]

Another instance of playing occurs in Mark 6, when Jesus takes a late-night walk on a very windy lake, walking as if to go by his disciples. Of course, they were initially terrified, thinking they were seeing a ghost. But he got in the boat and the waters calmed down. He could have calmed the waters down before the disciples started to go on the lake. He could have chosen another way to make his point … but he decided to do it that way.

God’s creativity can be seen within the created world in the extremely diverse types of plants and animals: differences in colors and shapes; different ways of digesting food; different ways of moving and observing the environment to name a few. The creativity we see is awesome. From out of nothingness, from no previous model, God created a whole system of particles and energy fields that interact with each other to form the building blocks of subatomic particles which are used to form atoms, which are used to form molecules of all sorts of complexity, which are then used to form planets and stars (actually, the fusion reaction in stars is used to create larger molecules from smaller ones). And at least one planet was used to create living things like plants and animals in all their complexity and then those living things were used to create communities (ecosystems) that allowed living things to thrive and flourish.

Yet, within the overwhelming creativity displayed within all the diversity of living things there is an order that is controlled by a set of ordered processes, some of which we call scientific (natural) laws. Christians, like Francis Bacon, pursued these laws as an extension of God’s moral laws in the universe, which then led to the development of modern science.[4] It is within science that we examine orderly processes at work that we call the natural laws which describe how all physical things behave: like the forces of gravity, electrical forces, etc.

There is no disobeying these natural laws. If you think that you can try to violate them, you’d be wrong. For instance, if you are on earth and stand on the top of a table and then jump off with the assumption that you will not be subject to gravity but rather float around without falling to the floor, you’d be wrong. You can’t violate gravity. You can try to set up circumstances that will cause other forces to come into play – such as airplanes do when they use aerodynamic forces that counteract gravity – but you simply can’t violate gravity, and there will be consequences if you try.

By observing the laws of the created order, we can ascertain some aspects of the character of God. The natural laws that govern how things are supposed to behave reveals a God who expects things to behave, and that violations are not tolerated. But when image-bearers were brought into the world there was a new level of complexity added to this physical model constrained by natural, physical laws.

On the one hand, we image-bearers are physical creatures and are therefore subject to the natural laws, but on the other hand we image-bearers were created to reflect God’s transcendence and were even given dominion over the creation into which God had placed us. Within that capacity, we image-bearers were given a moral freedom, the freedom to choose between good and evil. This freedom could not be given without some risk, because in order for image-bearers to be able to reflect God’s character of being good and choosing to do good there must be the possibility for the image-bearers to be able to choose to not be good.

And just as there are natural, physical laws that govern how physical things behave with consequences for trying to violate those laws, God has also imposed spiritual, moral laws to govern how the image-bearers ought to behave in the good universe He created with consequences for violating those moral laws. Sometimes the sin of one generation is passed down to the next. But regardless of whether a particular sin is passed to from one generation to another, the penalty for sin is physical and spiritual death.

[1] Edgar, Brian. “The God Who Plays: A Playful Approach to Theology and Spirituality” Chapter 5: Theology: Ludic(rous) Thinking, Theories of Play

[2] Yu, Alan. “Which animals play, and why?” WHYY 15 Aug 2019 whyy.org/segments/which-animals-play-and-why/

[3] Hafiz (or Shams-ud-din Muhammad Tripping over Joy from reference Edgar, Brian “The God Who Plays: A Playful Approach to Theology and Spirituality” Chapter 4: Spirituality: Playing with friends, Competing with God

[4] Harrison, Peter, “Christianity and the rise of western science” ABC Religion and Ethics, 8 May 2012, www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2012/05/08/3498202.htm; Armstrong, David, “Christianity Crucial to the origin of science,” Patheos, 18 Oct 2015, www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2015/10/christianity-crucial-to-the-origin-of-science.html; Hannam, James. “How Christianity Led to the Rise of Modern Science” Equip.Org, 17 Jan 2017, http://www.equip.org/article/christianity-led-rise-modern-science


As you view the world, what seems more apparent to you, creativity or order?


Read Romans 1:18-32.  Reflect on how natural laws reflect the character of God. Based just on natural laws, what kind of character does that reveal about God?