The Illusion of Connection

When’s the last time you had a deep and honest conversation? I don’t mean a discussion about the existential, political, or decisions made in life. I also don’t mean an email, blog, or text message. 

When is the last time you had a meaningful conversation where you explored the depths of your heart? One where you wrestled with your past, hoped for the future, sorted through your brokenness?

I can honestly say, It’s been a long time. Yes, conversations with my wife from time to time when we are not working, cleaning, parenting. Unfortunately, even deep discussions with a spouse aren’t givens.

We create giant social circles. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TicToc, Reddit, and the list goes on with different platforms, all creating little communities. Groups in Facebook that provide support and connection. Social media has become a place where we can emotionally vomit (I don’t mean this negatively) and feel like just maybe someone is listening. We enter text conversation with the picture to whom we are talking to in our minds as we stare at screens with green and blue text bubbles.

These mediums are not wrong in themselves. All of these platforms can create pseudo-micro communities and allow us to connect with people we never dreamed of or at least a neighbour or long lost high school friend. 

However, we must not forsake a real conversation with a real person, where we can hear the inflection in their voice, and they can see the joy/pain/triumph/sorrow in our eyes. Jonathan Grant writes, 

…it raises the question of whether social media is stimulating genuine relationships or just simulating them. Are we sharing our lives with others, or are we just broadcasting them? Are we learning the rhythms of intimacy, or are we too busy pleasing the adoring crowd?

I fear it is the latter, yet we delude ourselves in believing the former. Perhaps we are innately aware of this delusion, and that’s why we are still such lonely people. The illusion of connection can be a devastating ailment. It is one that I fear has captured our current planet.

If connection is food, then Socials, text, and email are potato chips. Chips (as we like to call them in Canada) are delicious and are of the more healthy of the junk foods, after all, they are made from potatoes and potatoes are vegetables. Though they are delicious, you cannot have a diet of chips. We need actual food. 

We need an actual connection with each other.

When we don’t get it, we search in other places. Russell Brand writes, 

Think of it: the bliss of a hit or a drink or of sex or of gambling or eating, all legitimate drives gone awry, all a reach across the abyss, the separateness of ‘self’, all an attempt to redress this disconnect.

I believe this is why the writer of Hebrews told us not to forsake the gathering of believers. Just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit live in perfect community, so we, created in the image of the triune God, were created for community and connection. Mark Waltz points out,

“To be human is to be spiritual. To be spiritual is to be relational. We are connected, like it or not.”

We need each other. Whether we feel weak or strong, we are in this together. How can we speak to the deep recesses in others’ souls if we never have a conversation and never dare to be vulnerable enough to make a valued connection?

Your socials are fine but don’t be duped and trade for the illusion at the expense of a genuine human connection. It’s hard, but if you’re willing to invest, you’ll find it’s worth it.

Check out the resource used in this post

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Forget About What You Deserve

Have you ever felt you should be in a different place? I’m not talking country or even an emotional state. What I am speaking about is accomplishments.

You have dreams. You have skills. You were told you were going to be the best—a champ—and take the world by storm. Yet, here you are, what seems like miles away from where you thought you should be.

I wonder if you think we are all going to rise from obscurity because of the day and age we live in. It’s a world where Microsoft and Apple, companies started in garages, revolutionize the world. It’s an age of reality-show fame, where ordinary folks like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood can become big stars. It’s a world where Justin Beiber is discovered on Youtube, and a 6-year-old starts a media empire by reviewing toys.

This world has set us up to think that we all can be “more.”

Are they wrong? Well, maybe yes and maybe no. Sure, everyone deserves the opportunity to become great, whatever that means. Yes, you were created with purpose and intention. But no, there is nothing that promises you notoriety or fame. That’s what it means. We want someone to see us. For this, we need to define ourselves by who Christ says we are. For that topic, I’ll point you to my book.

The one thing you deserve, no matter who you are, is to work hard.

Not everyone is going to see your potential, and that’s okay. Everyone isn’t going to be your fan, which you better come to grips with pretty quickly.

Think of Albert Einstein for a moment. This man achieved great success in his field. He won the Noble prize for his law of photo electric effect and came up with arguably the most recognizable equation in theoretical physics, E=MC2. However, It is hindsight. Though he was a good student, he was the only one from his section of the graduating class not offered a job. He could have given up, but instead, he got a job with the Swiss patent office and continued to work hard.

Think of Moses. The man was raised to achieve greatness, yet it was squandered in a fit of righteous indignation. I wonder if while tending his Midianite flock if he was ever down on himself. I’m sure we wouldn’t look at a murdering shepherd and think, “Wow, there’s a revolutionary leader.”

Think also of Jesus’ disciple Peter? This is a man with chronic foot-in-mouth, who’s only moments of bravery was exercised when he was in a crowd, and who appeared to follow the crowd. We certainly wouldn’t have pegged him as the Christian revolutionary that he was.

More important than whether others see your potential or not is that you are the type of person who once that potential is seen, is worthy of the praise.

We need to become people of humility and love. We need to be ones who are quick to praise and slow to criticize. We need to be willing to see and lift up the potential of others and not be scared of being overshadowed.

Whether you achieve your goals, become successful, or miss the mark on it all, it is not the real prize. The real prize is the adventure you get to take while working hard and trying your best. It is the experiences you get to have along the way. It is about the people and the God you get to grow in a relationship with as you struggle and stretch alone this life.

You only have one. Don’t waste it in a sea of misery thinking you should be somewhere else than you are. Take a lesson from Einstein, work hard where you’re at. Take a lesson from Moses; be willing to go when you are called. Take a lesson from Peter and seize your opportunities when they are given.

Checkout the resources used in this blog

Remember, Kanye’s Still on Milk

Kanye says that he has encountered God. He has a new album called, “Jesus is King” (which is pretty solid). When you listen to his interviews, he proclaims that God saved his life, God is using him, and he is blessed to be a blessing.

Fantastic.

Then some comments make you say, “he doesn’t quite get it all yet.”

Guess what. THAT’S OKAY.

Hebrews 5 talks about followers of Jesus who are on milk and others are on solid food. Kanye is on the milk. He is new to walking in the steps of Jesus. It’s still fresh. However, from all appearances, Kanye wants to eat solid food, to use Paul’s terms.

You are not born an adult. YIKES! Every mother said AMEN to that one.

We grow and develop. We have different paths where God adds and subtracts from our lives. We make mistakes.

Just because Kanye is already famous, it doesn’t mean he is any different. God is shining the light on a man whose life appears to be changing before our eyes and using the gifts given to him by Almighty God, to bless the world and draw people closer to Christ.

Said I’m finna do a gospel album
What have you been hearin’ from the Christians?
They’ll be the first one to judge me
Make it feel like nobody love me
They’ll be the first one to judge me
Feelin’ like nobody love me
Told people God was my mission
What have you been hearin’ from the Christians?
They’ll be the first one to judge me
Make it feel like nobody love me

Hands on

While a healthy dose of skepticism is fine, we should be supporting this man. In one of the groups on Facebook that I’m in, someone shared a note from a mother. It said, “My son came to church today because of Kanye.”

God changes lives. It is not just a miraculous change when it happens to your parents, child, co-worker, friend. It is also miraculous when it happens to Kanye and Beiber. Just because they are in the public sphere, just because their mess-ups are blasted across the front of the tabloids doesn’t mean their faith is disingenuous. How would you like your baggage strewn across headlines.

TOM LOOKS AT PORN

SANDRA IS A GOSSIP AND A LIAR.

We all make mistakes. However, we need each other. The church has not been called to be agents of shame, but one’s of hope and liberty. John 3:17 states that Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world but to save it. If Jesus isn’t condemning but drawing in, shouldn’t we.

Yet we can become content to hold onto our self-righteousness—only allowing those we deem acceptable in. Years ago West rapped what would become his testimony,

To the hustlers, killers, murderers, drug dealers even the strippers
(Jesus walks for them)
To the victims of welfare for we living in hell here hell yeah
(Jesus walks for them)
Now hear ye hear ye want to see Thee more clearly
I know He hear me when my feet get weary
Cause we’re the almost nearly extinct
We rappers are role models we rap we don’t think
I ain’t here to argue about his facial features
Or here to convert atheists into believers
I’m just trying to say the way school need teachers
The way Kathie Lee needed Regis that’s the way I need Jesus

Jesus Walk

And don’t we all! We need Jesus.

Lord, fix our judgemental spirit. Help us to do as you instructed us, Love one another.

Church, let’s not tear down. Let’s not shoot our own. Let’s be a part of the journey. Not as a din in the background. Not as a people who elevate a man instead of Christ. Let’s see that we must journey together—that we, the church, including Kanye, are the church, and we must be the voice of faith, hope, and love.

Kanye’s still on milk. Let’s not poison the bottle, but let’s help him move on to solid food.

Checkout the resources used in this post

Think Humbly

I think we could all use a little more humility in our life. After all, we don’t have all the answers. We are not infallible. We’re not omniscient.

Hopefully, your mind changes a lot about a lot of different things.

It is because of this that when we look at real-life events, say when someone holds a belief you can’t get down with or there is a dramatic conversion of a public figure. We can be quick to judge.

Should we judge? I think accountability is a better word. That, however, is a subject saved for a different day.

The reality is we all hold opinions, much of which will change. Even some of the things that you hold onto as firm truths will probably shift if not completely flip within your lifetime.

This is why humility is so necessary.

We often stand in judgement of those who hold the opposite opinion of us. Whether it be political, theological, methodological, metaphysical, etc. and view those on the opposite side as the enemy. I hear things like, “I can’t believe someone would believe that” often. While there are some parameters, I can make the logical assumption I will never go there, many of the disagreements in the world are merely perspective.

I like how Russell Brand defines humility in his book Recovery,

“Humility is the acknowledgement of our relative insignificance—our insignificance when compared to the infinite, or even all the other people currently alive.”

We must always remember that our perspective is just that, our perspective. It holds as much value as anyone else’s. The Raniero Cantalamessa, the papal priest, points out that as Christians, we only have one posture,

“Humility reestablishes the truth about ourselves; it acknowledges that our place is not over others but under them.”

If we are to be servants first, it means that we are not to lord over others, forcing our opinions upon them. In humility and with the posture of a servant, we are to seek to understand where others are coming from. After all, isn’t that what Jesus did?

Jesus said,

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:45

If Jesus came to serve, how much more should we? The thing is, we cannot serve people we are judging. We cannot love people who we view as disrepute. We must humble ourselves and see others as humans. Not objectifying them to an opinion, side, or any other category we can conjure, but seeing them as children of God, who like us are broken, get some things wrong and get some things right.

We need to take the approach of High Middle Ages German-Dutch theologian Thomas von Kempis who penned,

“If you have any good qualities, believe that other people have better ones.”

If we had this approach, maybe there would be less fighting and more understanding. Maybe there would be less name-calling and more serving. Maybe we would cast others aside less and embrace more.

Humility is hard. It’s difficult to admit you don’t have all the answers, or at least all the right ones. When we see ourselves and others for what we are, children of God, not perfect but loved, every interaction will begin to change. If we let humility change our life, it can change the world.

Check out the resources used in this post

A Response to John MacArthur

The Christian world either cheered or booed as the most recent words from John MacArthur, rang. It wasn’t that long ago that MacArthur was throwing those in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement out of Christendom with his “Strange Fire” teachings.

Though the Pentecostal/Charismatic is a large contingent, it is nothing compared to the most recent victims of his vitriol. While aiming at Beth Moore, MacArthur spoke against all women who have some inkling to want a position that might have to do with teaching men, and further, wanting powerful positions.

MacArthur and I would fall on opposite ends of the theological spectrum. Though he may not consider me to be, I consider him a brother in Christ. We are both a part of the body.

And this is why I wanted to wait a few days after the uproar to respond to his comments. It is also why I will respond the way that I am. I feel that 99% of what I’ve seen in response is not Christ-like.

Name-calling has no place in the Kingdom of God. We must challenge and push each other–holding one another accountable, in love.

John MacArthur is Complementarian: This means that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere. It is because of this view that MacArther, while asked to comment about Beth Moore, a popular writer and teacher in and outside the Southern Baptist Convention, said, “Go home!” Both MacArthur and the other guest stated that she was arrogant, and MacArthur said something of the sort to her just “Hocking jewellery.”

Unlike MacArthur, I am on the other side of this view. To make a long story short, the prophet Joel in the Old Testament declared that when the Spirit of God dwells in God’s people, that it will equally be poured out on all.

I will pour out my Spirit on all people. 
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, 
your old men will dream dreams, 
your young men will see visions. 
Even on my servants, both men and women, 
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

Joel 2:28–29

Also, if Jesus’ death and resurrection have broken the curse of Genesis 3 (“Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. Ge 3:16), then why do we force women back under that curse?

Saying this, we are still brothers in Christ. Beth Moore is our sister.

Despite the deep chasm that lay between us theologically, I still love him (though he makes it really hard sometimes). I don’t want to get into a theological debate with him or anyone else over his comments. He is entitled to his interpretation. Though I think it is wrong, I do not believe that it is the main issue.

What troubles me the most is that MacArthur, a respected and important voice in some circles, was rude, dismissive, flippant, and frankly not in a tone, tenor, or word choice showed an ounce of love.

This is what disturbed me the most.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

John 13:34–35

This is what I would to say to you, John MacArther…

John, if I may call you that, I was disturbed by your lack of love. I was disturbed that those who do not know Christ heard such wrath directed toward another child of God, furthermore, a person who is also a follower of Christ. This is not how you speak to anyone, let alone a woman who longs to see people encounter the risen Christ, as you do.

I hope I am assuming correctly, John, when I say that I believe that you want to follow God with all that you are. I hope that you want to see God reign in your heart as well as this world. It is because of this I want to remind you of love.

God is love, as Jesus disciple, John tells us. We are to be known by that love. We must remember that the second greatest commandment, to love our neighbour, is like the first, loving God. As we love God, we love our neighbour, and as we love our neighbour, we love God. There was no love in your words. What is most troubling to me is that this is not the first time. You have allowed vehement words of hate spew from your lips without consideration of the destructive and demeaning nature of them. To quote U2, “Love’s the greater law.”

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

1 Co 13:1–3

We can disagree, but we are not to not love. Though there is disagreement in belief and function, we are to engage each other in love.

Love

Love

Love

Please, for the love of God, LOVE!

In the meantime, ladies, think, What Would Aimee Semple McPherson Do (minus the crazy stuff)?

Jesus For Prime Minister part 3

You do not have to wait until tomorrow to appoint your leader. You can do so right now, today. The leader I am talking about longs to improve your life. He wants your finances to be in working order, mainly so you can be a blessing. He wants you to be safe so that you will be willing to take risks. The leader I am talking about, has declared that all people, no matter who or what they are, have value. So that all would know that they are loved. However, you will not find him on any ballot. But, he is as close as the mention of his name. He has come to start a revolution that upsets the status quo.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Mt 6:9–10

As Jesus is teaching his disciples to pray, he points them to an essential theological truth, “Your kingdom come, you will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This kingdom isn’t meant to be ethereal. It doesn’t just include your spiritual life. Jesus is speaking of an all-encompassing kingdom that affects yours and everyone else’s everyday life. That is why the rest of the prayer talks about God providing our needs and forgiveness and temptation.

One problem is that we can separate earthly kingdoms and Jesus’ kingdom. After all, Jesus said,

“My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

Jn 18:36

Yes, the type of kingdom that Jesus speaks of is vastly different from our own personal and nationalistic kingdoms. But make no mistake, in the Old Testament God’s presence coming to the temple, in the Newt Testament Jesus being the full embodiment of God, and now the Holy Spirit residing in people is God’s establishing his kingdom here. 

Yes, it is foreign to us. However, we are made for it, and the world was made to house it. We must see the spiritual and the material intersect. It’s not just one. It’s not only the other. God’s kingdom has come, not in full, but we must do our part.

One of the questions we need to ask ourselves is, does this manifest in people or powers? When we look at Jesus’ teachings, it appears to point to the powers and systems of the day that helped oppress. N.T. Wright points out,

Jesus was addressing a Jewish world in which ‘kingdom of God’, ‘reign of God’, the notion that God must be king, was one of the most exciting and dangerous slogans. People had died in recent memory because of this slogan and the attempt to put it into practice. Galilee and Judea were full of your men who were eager to take upon themselves the yoke of the kingdom, that is, to work for the holy revolution against the western power, whatever it cost.

Jesus speaks in a language that people understand. As we move forward in time, the Apostle Paul is trying to convey who God is to a completely different audience. Wright further points out,

There would have been no point in Paul standing up in the market place in Philippi and saying, ‘I’ll tell you what the kingdom of God is really like.’ That wasn’t what people in Philippi were talking about.

I don’t want us to get lost in the kingdom language. We are very far removed from knowing what it’s like to live in a kingdom. However, we know what it looks like to have our personal lives revolutionized. We also know what it means for a group of people to stand up for injustice. We know what it is like to see people have a voice for those whose voices are stifled. Christ is our king, our Prime Minister, our President, our Messiah. Jesus the Christ is the living God who calls us his own.

This isn’t a one or the other–personal or communal. This is a, yes and. As Dr. Blizzard points out,

The gospel of the kingdom is not a message about getting to go to heaven. It is not a message for the hereafter or the world to come. It is a message for today. It is a message that men and women can come in contact with the power of the living God who breaks through the space time continuum to meet them at the point of their human need.

So, is Jesus salvation personal? Yes! Is Jesus communal? Again, Yes. Yoder writes,

What needs to be seen is rather that the primary social structure through which the gospel works to change other structures is that of the Christian community.

What Jesus came to do changes personal lives and the powers and he happens through people like us in gatherings like this. It changes it through subtle resistance that is bold and strong. It is because of this that we are to speak up for the oppressed. It is also why we need to pray for and bless our leaders, whether they be for us or against us.

To what end? The beginning of the Lord’s prayer. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” That word hallowed is not a word that is used too often these days. It means to make holy, to set it apart, to give it all the glory. As we think about what it means to be kingdom bringers it must always come back to this question, Does this exemplify God and declare that he is vastly superior and beyond our comprehension or not? The kingdom that Jesus has come to establish is one of grace, hope, and love and point us to the author of those things. It declares that people have value. As we look at a personal politic, it must always come back to this equation.

What this means is that it is God and God alone who gets the glory. Wright rightly writes,

“We treat our political leaders as heroes and demigods; they carry our dreams, our fantasies of how things should be. When we find out that they are only human after all, we turn on them, blaming them for the intractable problems that they, like their predecessors, haven’t been able to solve.”

The only hope that is secure is found in Christ. It is not a red kingdom, not a blue kingdom, not an orange kingdom, not a green kingdom, or any other parties kingdom. The only kingdom that will never let you down is Christ’s.

Here’s the thing, if what we want or think should happen, we are not to lose hope, nor are we to despair. Why? Because we know the end of the story. The book of Revelation tells us,

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 

Re 21:1–4

God will get his way. To me, this sounds like a beautiful picture. What is amazing is that God has invited us into the process. We can be kingdom bringers in the here and now. We can seek to establish a kingdom of love that draws people to the one who drys every tear, the one who has defeated death and abolished the old order of exploitation and selfishness to one os self-giving love.

We do this not in our strength but only with the power of God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit living in us. Matthew T. Lee points out,

“The world of the Holy Spirit ushering in the kingdom leads to spiritual transformations among individuals and within the church as a collective entity, inspiring action to make the kingdom appear on earth as it is in heaven… A series of spiritual transformations provides the motivation for action as well as a source of vision of the kingdom of God.”

To see this type of kingdom established, we must yield our selves to the working of the Holy Spirit. We must invite the transforming work of the Spirit of God. Was the World changes us it changes our relationships, it changes our actions, it changes the world. We need the flame of the spirit to purify and bless. Purify so that we reduce the amount of brokenness in the world. And bless so that we can pass the blessing on. The Spirit also comes to give us the power of witness. We become empowered to be witnesses for him.

As we head to the polls. Let’s remember who our true king is. A king who doesn’t restrict our vote, but encourages us to have a voice. A voice that isn’t just concerned with us but one that is concerned for God’s creation. A voice speaks for the earth, the oppressed, the broken, and the hurting. It is a voice that speaks truth to the proud, arrogant, power-hungry, and exploiters. Further, then a voice, we are called to action and to expect those we have entrusted with power to be held to account for what they do or do not do. We are to be kingdom bringers.

Check out the resources used in this blog

Jesus For Prime Minister part 2

They never had a thought about the environment. Education is handled within sub-communities. Health care was up to the individual and the individual alone. Military a presence in their everyday life, people to whom they hoped they would not have to interact. Men ruled and there were no social services service programs or anything, yet they had to pay their taxes.

In part 1 we discussed the political nature of Old Testament prophecy and Jesus’ birth and death. We discussed that though Jesus’ world was vastly different that there is overlap. Finally, we explored that Jesus came to establish a kingdom that is vastly different from our idea of a kingdom and clashes with the powers that be. It is Christ that is our hope, not a political party or politician.

To follow Jesus’ teachings that ultimately inform our politic, we must realize that Jesus speaks of a personal revolution within our hearts, a communal response to the action of God, and an eternal outlook when thinking about God’s kingdom. As followers of Christ we are called to life out a Christ centred Kingdom in the here and now, and one day, Jesus will return, bringing heaven to earth, restoring it to how it is meant to be. This means that when we hear Jesus’ teachings, we must hear that it isn’t just personal. Yes, there are personal aspects. However, if we stop there, we miss the hope. 

Bell and Golden write,

Jesus wants to save us from preaching a gospel that is only about individuals and not about the systems that enslave them. Jesus wants to save us from shrinking the gospel down to a transaction about the removal of sin and not about every single particle of creation being reconciled to its maker. 

It is so easy to personalize what Jesus came to do. After all, Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (Jn 10:10). It seems personal, which it is in one aspect. However, it is social. Community and relationship is an essential part of what Jesus says and does. Two aspects of Jesus’ teaching and ministry need to be known.

1) Jesus came to speak of an eternity with Him that goes beyond this life.

2) Jesus came to speak of a hope that begins in the here and now.

To understand Jesus’ teachings, we must realize that He speaks of salvation that starts in the here and now and carries us into eternity. Jesus isn’t just about eternity. Jesus isn’t just about now. Jesus is about an eternity that begins in the now. N.T. Wright says,

But he wasn’t teaching his followers how to rise above the mess of the world. He was training them to be kingdom bringers.

As we turn this to discuss politics, we can not remove the personal communal ethic Christ calls us to.

What a leader looks like

We begin looking at the type of leader whom Christ calls our leaders to be. The obvious point which we won’t discuss is one that they yield to Christ. God wants all people to yield to him. Hopefully, a leader who professes Christ as their king would live out that Godly lifestyle. However, just because you call yourself a Christian, it doesn’t you are a leader.

There is an aspect of biblical leadership, leadership that I believe we should demand from those in elected office.

Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.”

Lk 22:25–26

Jesus isn’t saying that we need to be young and servants by profession. Jesus calls leaders, and, all followers of him, to behave in such a way where they seek to raise others then have others raise them.

I believe that this is a vitally important aspect of how we should think about the leader we are electing. Is it a person who humbly serves those they lead or do they lord over them, forcing the agenda that best serves them?

Fiscal 

Jesus also talked about money a lot. Money was an issue then, and it is an issue today. There is the famous passage of spies sent from the teachers of the law to trap Jesus. But, Jesus ain’t no foo’.

“Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” He saw through their duplicity and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Lk 20:21–25

John Yoder explains this,

…the attribution’ to Caesar Caesar’s things and to God God’s things’ points rather to demands or prerogatives which somehow overlap or compete, needing to be disentangled. What is Caesar’s and what is God’s are not on different levels, so as never to clash; they are in the same arena.

It is not our money, nor is it the governments’. The money we have has been entrusted to us through the blessing and grace of God. Thus we must honour him with it. I spoke about money in a series inFebruary at my church, I encourage you to listen to that http://www.lifeboatchurch.ca/podcasts/media/2019-02-03-who-do-you-serve.

If these are our values, the party we vote for should reflect this.

There is an important aspect of the fiscal portfolio, and it is debt. We are in a debt crisis as a country. The baby boomers are the first generation that cannot retire until they receive their inheritance. That is not a way to live, and it is not how God wants us to live. For Jesus, he picks up on an Old Testament instruction from God regarding financial inequality. In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus says, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Yoder points out that,

“Jesus is not simply recommending vaguely that we might pardon those who have bothered us or made us trouble, but tells us purely and simply to erase the debts of those who owes us money; that is to say, practice the jubilee.”

Leviticus tells of the Jubilee,

Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan.

Le 25:10

There is much to this that we need to understand. Jesus isn’t calling us to communism.

While we can’t go into all it entails, the Jubilee meant they were to free their slaves, forgive each other’s debts, return family lands, and as the whole sabbath for a year, trusting God. This was to be a sabbatical year. This was meant in the words of Yoder, “to liberate people and not to enslave them.” Think of systemic poverty and how this would solve it. Yoder does clarify,

The honesty of the debtor should correspond to the generosity of the lender. the debtor should not hide behind the protection of the law of the sabbath to avoid keeping his commitments.

There are guidelines within the OT law that we need to make ourselves aware of before we use this as a blanket principle. If you’re looking for an OT principle on finance, this is it

Military 

When it comes to the military, it can be complicated whether you subscribe to complete pacifism vs. just war. No matter which end you find yourself on, Jesus is always freeing people from oppression, standing up for those who have no voice, ministering to those in need, and serving the least of these. Richard Rohr writes,

“Jesus told us to love our enemies because he saw his Father doing it all the time, and all spirituality is merely the ‘imitation of God’ (Ephesians 5:1)”

We are imitators of Christ. A Christ politic doesn’t take resources; it doesn’t exploit; it doesn’t oppress. Within this complicated matter, we must see that Jesus calls us to enemy love and to be givers of life.

Social Services 

As we mover to social services, I don’t think we need to spend too much time focused on this. I have included Scripture references in the notes. Of course, this connects to Jubilee, and what we see in the first church in Acts where they sold land to take care of each other and made sure no one was in need. Jesus stands up for the poor, for the social outcast, and determines people have value.

If people have value, it means that no matter who they are, what they have done, where they are, we are to care for them. As a nation where even the poorest has more than a lot of the world, we have the means to care for each other.

Equality 

Jesus also taught of a kingdom of equality. It didn’t matter the race, creed, social-economic place someone found themselves Jesus believed in equal opportunity. Greg Boyd writes,

Jesus inaugurated a kingdom that was to include all people and in which all nationalistic, economic, and gender distinctions as well as all the walls of division and all the power hierarchies that are based on those distinctions, would be torn down and rendered meaningless.”

Jesus’ idea of a kingdom had nothing to do with our borders, nationalism is pagan. It sets up racism, xenophobia, and stereotypes. The struggle is how this manifests within our structure we’ve have, and struggle we must. John 3:16 declares that “God so loved the world.” If God loves everyone, how do we reflect that? It means we must strive by all means necessary to see equality in both our nation and the world. Thus we must also seek policies that reflect. Further than policies, we must insist that our leaders act and live them out in their personal life.

What it Looks like – Beatitudes

Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t look at the most political statement Jesus makes that sums everything up. 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, 
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are those who mourn, 
for they will be comforted. 
Blessed are the meek, 
for they will inherit the earth. 
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 
for they will be filled. 
Blessed are the merciful, 
for they will be shown mercy. 
Blessed are the pure in heart, 
for they will see God. 
Blessed are the peacemakers, 
for they will be called children of God. 
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, 
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 

Mt 5:3–12

I will leave this to the words of someone much smarter than I.

“This is what it looks like, today, when Jesus is running the world. This is, after all, what he told us to expect. The poor in spirit will be making the kingdom of heaven happen. The meek will be taking over the earth, so gently that the powerful won’t notice until it’s too late. The peacemakers will be putting the arms manufacturers out of business. Those who are hungry and thirsty for God’s justice will be analyzing government policy and legal rulings and speaking up on behalf of those at the bottom of the pile. The merciful will be surprising everybody by showing that there is a different way to do human relations other than being judgemental, eager to put everyone else down.”

Jesus’ clear teaching is that the real kingdom is not one of power that lords over others. God’s kingdom is one of self-giving love. It is one that brings hope to the hopeless, life to the lifeless, and give worth to those who feel worthless. It is one that does not seek to take advantage of others. It is one of liberty. God’s kingdom, the one that Jesus taught us about, the one that our life should reflect is one of love. It’s a love that rises about social class, economic class, race, or nationalism. It is love that threatens the status quo. Love is the politic of Christ. 

Check out the resources used in this post

Jesus For Prime Minister Part 1

Churchill once said that politics is

“The ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen.”

Politics can be tricky. It’s very personal though it does not just affect you personally. For something that caries such huge ramifications, I believe it is essential to talk about it. We need constructive conversations and hear different opinions.

Just because you think you’re right, it doesn’t mean you are. Just because you have the most to benefit, it doesn’t mean that it’s the best for society.

While campaigning in 1900, someone exclaimed to Churchill: “Vote for you? Why, I’d rather vote for the Devil!” to which Churchill replied, “I understand,… But in case your friend is not running, may I count on your support?”

In this blog series, we are not looking at any political party. We will not be looking at specific platforms. I will not be telling you how to vote. What we will be doing is speaking of the principles in which Jesus came, lived, and how he told us to live. Though the political landscape is vastly different from now–incomparable even, that doesn’t mean that there are not very important principles.

Because politics can divisive, I’m going to leave you with one last story before we jump into things.

A newly elected Churchill had a moustache to show his dignity and maturity. One time a woman came up to him and said forthrightly: “There are two things I don’t like about you, Mr. Churchill–your politics and your moustache.” “My dear Madam,” he replied, “pray do not disturb yourself. You are not likely to come into contact with either.”

Is the Bible political? If it is, what does that look like, and what does it say about Jesus’ ministry?

To fully understand the political nature of the Scriptures, we must understand the culture and what was happening. Israel didn’t rule its self. They didn’t have a real king. They had no political power. Israel had bounced between Babylonia, Persian, Greek, and now in Jesus’ day, Roman forces. This type of rule was brutal. It was violent and built upon keeping the other group down, oppressing, and extreme taxation. Julius Caesar, through a brutal war, took control of the Roman Empire and spread the Good News of a newly united empire. There now would be peace on earth. Runners ran with this gospel to all corners of the empire. Later when Julius’ adopted son Augustus Caesar took over, he declared Julius to be divine thus making him the ‘son of god.'” Now let’s turn to three critical scriptures referring to what Jesus came to accomplish.

Understand this is an oppressed group of people reading about a Messiah. Hear what is being said through their ears.

The first is from Isaiah 9.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Is 9:6–7

Do you hear the trigger words that would cause hope to rise in the heart of an ancient Jew under Roman rule? This passage speaks of a Messiah long before Jesus lived. This passage helps to inform what the Jewish people in Jesus’ time would expect of their Messiah. Now let’s add the angels’ message about Jesus. Remember the trigger words.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Lk 2:10–14

Then in Matthew, Herod is scared to death about this coming king whom the wise men are saying they are visiting. This language doesn’t just have words that trigger something political these are political terms. In a world where there was no separation and fragmentation of life, Jewish people of the time cannot help but hear that Jesus has come to upheave the political system.

The disciples thought it was a physical kingdom, but Jesus was speaking of something much more powerful–a kingdom that rules the material, and that’s a spiritual kingdom. Though they begin and manifest themselves very differently, we must not see a separation in them. They were not separated for Isaiah, Luke, Matthew, or Jesus. These two kingdoms are intertwined. What we see is that even Herod and Pilot felt threatened.

If there were no political ramifications surrounding Jesus’ birth, then why was Herod fearful and start killing toddlers (Matthew 2:13)? If Jesus’ life wasn’t political, why was Roman threatened, and why did Jesus die the way he did?

We will be looking at the explicit teachings of Jesus in the next blog. Before we do, we must see how deeply

the declaration of a coming messiah and him establishing a new kingdom is not just an idea that affects our life regarding eternity. It affects how we live life in the now, and it is the type of life that is threatening to the powers that be.

John Yoder tells us of these terms Good News and kingdom,

“It hardly needs to be argued that ‘kingdom is a political term; the common Bible reader is less aware that ‘gospel’ as well means not just any old welcome report but the kind of publicly important proclamation that is worth sending with a runner and holding a celebration for when it is received.”

N.T. Wright further points out,

“The message was carved in stone, on monuments and in inscriptions, around the known world; ‘Good news! We have an Emperor! Justice, Peace, Security, and Prosperity are ours forever! The Song of God has become King of the World!”

It sounds like they are talking about Jesus. However, they are not. Imagine what the Romans and Jews would hear in Jesus and the New Testament writers’ language. Wright continues,

“The message of the gospel is the good news that Jesus is the one true ’emporer,’ ruling the world with his own brand of self-giving love.”

While Augustus and Herod took, Jesus came to give.

The generosity of Jesus is not just personal but a profoundly political statement on how His kingdom would operate.

The Disciples weren’t crazy for thinking Jesus had a political agenda, he did. When we speak of the disciples getting it wrong, it’s the nature of how the revolution that would take place that was wrong rather than that a revolution itself would happen.

The political nature of Jesus is further propelled by the question, why did Jesus die? Greg Boyd points out,

“In the political world of Jesus’s day, a crucified messiah’ was nothing short of an oxymoron.”

The crucifixion wasn’t something concocted by the first Christians to win people to their side. As much as the Jewish leaders influenced the process, they weren’t in charge. They were the occupied nation. Think of it as the black leaders in the height of apartheid rule in South Africa being able to force an execution, not very likely. As Yoder points out, this only leaves us with one option.

“Herod cannot be seeking to kill Jesus for heresy or prophecy; sedition would be the only possible charge.”

We know this further from how Jesus died. Crucifixion was meant to brutally humiliate a victim who threatened Rome while also acting as a warning to others of their insurrection. Jesus hung on the cross with the charges nailed above his head. What were they? Luke 23 tells us,

“There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.”

Lk 23:38

The sign stated Jesus’ political crime. He was a threat against Herod and Augustus. Jesus had to die because his kingdom was not compatible with theirs.

Even though the Roman rule is vastly different from our governing authorities, even though we choose our leader, that does not mean that it has no effect on us today. Any kingdom built upon a man or woman is a direct contrast to the kingdom of God. Why? Because we are imperfect. However, I don’t think that this means we retreat or not get involved in politics, or don’t vote.


On the contrary, let’s engage, get involved, and vote. We must vote with a Jesus conscience. We need to be asking ourselves these questions.

What policies would he make?
How would Jesus treat the poor?
How would Jesus use the military?
How would Jesus structure our economics?
How would Jesus deal with immigration?

These are important questions. How they manifest is not clear. As a follower of Jesus, we must think through these questions as we vote.

Jesus doesn’t tell you how to vote. He gave you a brain. We also have a community so you can wrestle with these questions. Most importantly, Jesus gave you the Holy Spirit to help you, in community, to explore the Scriptures, your heart and experiences, and in prayer to know where He is guiding you.

We need to have God’s kingdom mindset. That means it is not about voting, which is best for you, but voting for what is best for society — voting for who best represents God’s Kingdom.

What are some of your thoughts on the politic of Jesus?

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Spiritual Atrophy

It slowly dies. Laying there–not moving–stuck within the solid cast of what is comfortable. What was once vibrant becomes a gelatinous blob.

It is what happened to my leg when I ruptured my Achilles tendon. What was once a thriving muscle, strong, capable, and functional, today after nine months of recovery is weak. Yes, at one time, it was powerful (I hate to brag…), but now it is extremely weak. I’m thinking of starting a small group with John Wall and Keven Durrant so we can give each other moral support. 

The same thing happens to us spiritually. For many of us, when we begin to follow Jesus, we work hard and develop our faith. We passionately worship. We tell others of Christ. We study the Scriptures and open up our hearts to the Holy Spirit, revealing God to us in fuller ways.

Then something happens.

Whether it’s from a wound, fatigue, arrogance, or complacency…

We stop.

Our beliefs become cemented in time as though our current revelation is infallible, and we retain all knowledge.

Of course, we don’t say that. Our action, however, shows it.

We bunker down and get comfortable with our faith.

Life in Christ should never be comfortable.

Although I too find I sometimes am.

We get comfortable, and our spiritual life is stagnant — kind of like the lukewarm water in Revelation 3. Spiritually atrophy sets in. We think that we are supposed to be comfortable. As one T-shirt said, “If God wanted me to touch my toes, He would have put them on my knees.”

We no longer work it out. Stretching it is irrelevant. Our spiritual life doesn’t stay in stasis, though. Our relationship with God slowly wastes away. It needs to be used and worked.

As the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says,

“The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it.” 

Wilson & Cohen

Our relationship with God is not doctrine, dogma, or theory. It is not a service or even reading the Scriptures. While these things can help us connect with God, let’s not be fooled in thinking that they are the relationship.

Just as a marriage isn’t a piece of paper, a shared bank account, children, or even sex, but a relationship founded on love and discovery. Of course, these things help bind a couple together, but if we build our relationship upon these things alone, the cells of a relationship slowly begin to disintegrate.

As atrophy sets in, we begin to think it is normal. “Oh, yes, those new Christians are so on fire. Just wait, they will settle down.” 

WHY?

Why do we accept this?

It is time to work our spiritual muscles and reject apathy, arrogance, complacency, fatigue, or anything else that causes us to settle in and settle down. The Apostle Paul says to the church in Corinth,

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

1 Co 9:24–27

Let’s always continue to push, fight, stretch, work, and reach. Let’s follow God with intention and purpose, knowing that it is Christ and Christ alone who is the giver of life. God has called us to more than just settling in. We’ve been invited to live bigger, bolder, and better.

Checkout the resources used in this blog

What if we’re all just trying too hard

We were all from different backgrounds. White, black, male, female, middle-aged, young, theologically trained, laypersons–all from different denominations. There was something that united us and brought us together–we wanted to grow closer to God.

While we build our discussions around a book, like any group that’s worth going to, we digress to the issues of the heart. 

Hatred, family, struggle. 

These things arose in conversation. 

Boundaries, community, grace.

These were discussed as a solution.

They were important topics that flowed out of one question, what do we do with the Old Testament. Everyone in this group needed a new paradigm to understand. Looking at it through the lens of Christ is a great idea, but sometimes it is so tough to see Christ. Books like, What is the BibleCrucifixion of the Warrior God, and Cross Vision came up. We even discussed understanding the Scriptures as Midrash

The Bible is hard. Some passages don’t make sense.

What do you do with that?

It can be super stressful. Have you been there?

Here, our life is supposed to be built on the person of Jesus who we see primarily in the Scriptures, yet there is so much that doesn’t make sense. There is so much more. However, that is beautiful, life-giving, and challenges us to live a bigger and better way–that calls us to a higher standard.

As we talked, discussed, struggled, someone said something simple, yet, profound. “What if we’re all just trying too hard.”

Boom!

He referenced a scholar who said that studying Scripture is just something he does. It was fun. 

Maybe the reason we can’t have productive conversations around the Scriptures in cross-denominational circles without someone being offended, angry, and calling another a Heretic is because we take ourselves way too seriously.

Of course, church history doesn’t bode well in this light, either. Saint Nicolas once punched Arius in the face during a theological debate.

I believe the Scriptures are to be wrestled with. The story of Jacob makes that clear. But when we take ourselves too seriously, we cannot approach the Bible with humility.

When we take ourselves too seriously, whatever opinion we derive from the text becomes what the text is saying, and when that is challenged, that challenge is against us as a person.

We need the Holy Spirit to speak to us and allow the Spirit to speak through the Scriptures. We must know that whatever ideas, doctrines, concepts we extract from the Scriptures are not exhaustive. Why? Because we’re not God. We have fallible lives. We are not omniscient. 

We need the Holy Spirit to speak to us and through us. We need the community to challenge us, offering different perspectives that push our interpretive paradigm a little further–stretching us in how we interact with the text.

Humble hearts are what’s required with this text. The ancient words–this God-breathed text–these profound but sometimes archaic words, can change our life in radically good ways. First, we must realize we’re not God. We need community and humility. More importantly, though, we need the Holy Spirit to minister to us.

Check out the resources used in this post