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

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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

You’re probably reading the Bible wrong; here’s why

The most important influential book in the world is the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. The Holy Bible is the top-selling book every year and the Youversion Bible app has been downloaded more than 3 million times.

The problem is that there are fundamental principles in reading the Scriptures that are lost to the average reader. It is not that there is a perfect reading that is attainable. We are all limited because we have been removed from the context by at least a thousand years. It doesn’t mean that God doesn’t use it. It doesn’t mean that His Spirit can’t reveal truths about life, struggle, strength, and the character of God. As N.T. Wright pens,

“It’s a big book, full of big stories with big characters. They have big ideas (not least about themselves) and make big mistakes. It’s about God and greed and grace; about life, lust, laughter, and loneliness. It’s about birth, beginnings, and betrayal; about siblings, squabbles, and sex; about power and prayer and prison and passion.” 

N.T. Wright Simply Christian.p.173

Keeping all of this in mind next time you read the Bible try and keep a few things in mind.

1) Think of it as one book

   Yes, the Bible is a collection of books. However, when we fragment the Scriptures from each other, not allowing them to tell a unified story. There is a larger story of who God is and how He interacts with His people that you will miss if you are only reading parts and not as a whole. Believe it or not the chapters and verse were not in the original text. They were added much much later. There were also no headings.

Next time you read it, try thinking of each book as a chapter (I know that makes for some long chapters). This enables you to hear the unified story in each book, as well as the whole of Scripture. Ignore the headings and think narratives. In Matthew, the lost sheep, coin and son go together. They cannot be appropriately understood unless they are understood together.

2) Remember it is not about you

 It may surprise you but the Bible is not about you. The Scriptures were written to groups of people in a very different time. In fact, the groups even represent different times. They related to a divine being differently. They had different hang-ups. They also had different struggles than many of us.

This is not to say there isn’t great power and might lessons to be learned. On the contrary, because it has great power and the wonderful lesson that can be learned we must approach with humility and listen to what is being said through the power of the Holy Spirit. As Greg Boyd points out,

“…Scripture is intended by God to be read as the word of God, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and with ‘the eyes of faith within the community of faith.'” 

Gregory Boyd The Crucifixion of the Warrior God.p.520

We need the Holy Spirit, we need faith, and we need the humility to hear each other’s interpretations of the Scripture and what the Holy Spirit is speaking to the community as a whole. 

3) There are different genres

 It is essential that we realize there are different genres. The is history, poetry, wisdom, allegory, metaphor, parable, apocalyptic. Further to the point, the way they told history 4000 years ago is not the same as we do now. Where nowadays we are concerned with facts rather than the overarching narrative, they viewed things the opposite. Facts, whether right or wrong, weren’t as important than communicating the lessons that can be learned.

 What can complicate things a bit more is that just because part of a book is written in one genre that doesn’t mean the whole book is. This is why it is so important to invite other voices into our interpretation. If you stay only within your tradition, whether that be Reformed, Catholic, Charismatic, or Orthodox and are listening only to interpretations from your tribe, you are handicapping yourself. Also, we must read outside of our time and ethnicity. We need to pull from the ancient and the near; we must learn literature from the east and west, it’s imperative we engage the voices of men, women, young, old, white, black, brown, and all the shades and cultures in between. As we engage all these voices, it helps us understand the nuances of genres.

4) Remembering it’s an interpretation is key

Finally, we must remember that as you read the Scripture that is your interpretation of someone’s interpretation, using a collection of interpretations (ancient manuscripts). Men and women have studied and are doing their best. As we learn, we understand better ways to interpret.

Whether we want to admit it or not, our biases influence everything we do. As a reader, we have a theological leaning. These leanings affect how we read and understand. Also, the translators have a theological leaning. They do the best they can with their understanding, but there are times when you have to make decisions when interpreting. Our biases play into how it is translated. While much is the same throughout different translations, there are slight variations.

It is for this reason why I have decided to read a different translation each year. From ESV, Message, TNIV, NLT, NRSV, NASB, Amplified. We need to leverage all we can to engage the text in new, vibrant, and beautiful ways.

My prayer is that this helps you see that we need to wrestle, challenge, struggle, search, yearn, cry, praise, study, and humbly apply the Scriptures. They are challenging and to see them as though they are not is not to take them seriously. As Matthew Kelly writes,

“The Bible isn’t like other books. It requires patience. Reading the Bible is like meeting a fascinating person: it takes time to get to know him or her.” 

Matthew Kelly The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity.p.100

So let’s read, ask, and explore, inviting the Holy Spirit to reveal truth through the Scriptures.

Check out the resources used in this post

#TBT Fire Falling

Here’s a song I wrote a few years ago called Fire Falling



Fire Falling by Joshua Trombley & Jesse Morin

Verse 1

Em                    D                       C                 Am

I can feel your fire falling, Your fire falling on me

Em                    D                         C                 Am

I can hear your spirit calling your spirit calling to me X2

Chorus

C                      Em                      G                                    D

Fire fall down, Spirit Breathe out, Consume me with your flame

C                       Em                      G                                    D

Move in Power, move this hour, Consume me with your flame

             C

Burn in me

Verse 2

Em               D                           C                      Am

I can feel chains are fallin’, the chains are fallin’ off me

Em                    D                                  C                               Am

I can hear your kingdom coming, Your Kingdom coming, my heart cries out

Verse 3

Em                    /D                     /C#                 /C

I can feel your fire falling, Your fire falling on me

Em                    /D                         /C#                  /C

I can hear your spirit calling your spirit calling to me

Bridge

C                       Em                       C                     Em

Fire fall down, Spirit Breathe out, Fire fall down, Spirit breathe out

Did the Supermarket wreck the Church?

Post world war two the world began to change, according to a recent Freakonomics episode, when it came to how you purchase food.

Post-war marked the supermarket age. Northern hemisphere countries, inspired by the “innovations” in the U.S.A., began to have one-stop shops. Mass-produced products started to be in demand.

For this mass-produced revolution to happen, it meant that our food needed to change. For food to be efficiently produced, harvester machines had to collect tomatoes. That meant the tomato had to be genetically modified. They needed to be harder–more resilient. Chicken also began to be modified. Bigger breasted and lighter feathers. This meant more meat that looks better in a package.

These advancements were necessary to have lots of food for a little cost. More bang per buck. The problem is, food isn’t as nutritious as it once was, some have argued it’s even dangerous. However, it is a necessary evil if we want maximum food for a minimum price.

If you are a Gen X’er or Xennial like myself, it was our grandparents who built the modern world, hence their generational name “builder.” While they did an excellent job giving us infrastructure in a post-war world, the development of mass-produced houses, cars, and as we have spoken of, food has dramatically affected our lives.

I believe something happened similar to this with the church within the same period. This is not to say that our grandparents intentionally stripped the church of nutrition, not in the slightest. What I believe is that well-meaning Christians began to do work that had a tremendous impact, but the cumulative side effects (just as in the agricultural world) have been detrimental.

To become more productive (mass-producing Christians) and make the product cheaper (buy-in costs less), we have modified what it means to follow Jesus. Discipleship became a program. It is not that the big box megachurch is bad. It is that as anything thing becomes larger the small things that make it what it is, become increasingly more difficult to accomplish. After all, the kind of discipleship that Jesus and other followers modelled for us is not mass-producing, nor is it cheap. One might even call it inefficient.

With the industrialization of everything, the builders changed the world, not excluding the church. The neighbourhood church, like the mom and pop stores, faded away as society moved toward more efficient forms of church–the big box one-stop-shop church. After all, we can preach to more people, more revenue is pooled together, and it is cheaper.

What I mean by cheaper is that you can have all the amenities, maybe even more, with less buy-in. You can have the best speaking, music, and Sunday experience while giving less money and time. It becomes a lot easier to pull off “church” because more people giving less is more than fewer people giving more (time, money, and resources).

While this model has been successful at gathering crowds and more so introducing the character of Jesus, more often than not, it has offered light feathered, large breasted chickens, so to speak. It’s not intentional, but merely the design.

Is the solution to go back to the neighbourhood church? Maybe, but there’s a problem.

The problem lies in this, just as in our store analogy where the local shop begins to lose business and thus begins to copy the big box stores to sell the same product, they never can at the same price. The local store offers compromised food at a higher cost. The local church begins to make following Jesus into a Sunday experience while still demanding the in-depth relational collateral and workload of local church ministry. The price simply starts to surpass the return.

Neither of these speaks of the vocation in which Jesus has called us and the Holy Spirit has empowered us. The church, both large and small, has got into the business of running efficient service rather than the painstaking work of disciple-making.

In recent years there has been a push back in the food industry. People have been demanding free-range meat and non-GMO products. What is interesting is that people can taste the difference. If you’re really paying attention, you can even see the difference. To get this kind of food, it does cost more. Yet, those who have chased the products of how food should be, say they have discovered that it is worth the extra cost.

People are beginning to seek the same thing when it comes to a relationship with God and the church. As some Christians have sought and found the free-range non-GMO church, they have noticed that though it makes a greater demand on their life, it is genuinely better. There is a greater buy-in, the processes of making other disciples take a lot longer, yet the end product is much better (for lack of better language).

There is a contingent of churches and church leaders who are striving to usher a new healthier church back into the mainstream. They are trying to manifest what it looks like when Jesus said: “Go tell of the good news of God…baptize,… and teach them to obey…”

The fix isn’t the big box nor the local church. The repair is to reencounter the King of Kings, Jesus. It is His Spirit, the Holy Spirit the will reinvigorate all our churches. We need to hear his demand on our hearts again. As far as de-industrializing our churches, I honestly don’t know the solution. How do you produce quantity and quality?

Maybe you know. I hope you do.

We need to seek the Holy Spirit’s wisdom. Our big and small GMO churches have left people wanting more and allowed our culture to become morally bankrupt. We need a free-range church. We need to seek what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

Check on your friends

I had an injury this year. I ruptured my Achilles tendon. Two weeks in a cast, ten weeks in a walking boot, and now months of physiotherapy so I can get back on the basketball court and dunk on the competition (I feel that my recovery will give me superpowers, because I certainly couldn’t dunk before).

I think the hardest part of this injury was psychological. Yes, there was pain, but the sleepless nights and the lack of mobility begins to play games with your mind. There were times when I was in a poor mental state. I didn’t tell anyone, and no one asked.

I’m thankful for the few people, some of which surprised me, who asked how I was doing. I also was surprised by those who didn’t. Some friends never checked in or even asked about the recovery process (which is twelve months, if you were wondering).

But here’s the thing, I can’t cast judgement. Why? Well, while there are times when I have reached out to those who were encountering hardships, it certainly was not all the time, nor was it even half of the time.

Here are a couple of things that I’ve learned from my experience.

1) Speak up
By this, I mean that I, as the person suffering, need to reach out. None of us can do life alone. It is especially true when we journey through the darker moments of life.

2) Reach over
Remember to check in with your friends. Whether they have had a significant injury, job loss, marriage problems, or even if life appears to be okay, you never know what they might be going through. If the name of a friend pops into your head out of nowhere, consider it the Holy Spirit telling to you send a text, DM, or pick up the phone (heaven forbid).

3) Grace
Remember that you don’t check in on everyone, so don’t assume others know to check in on you. Whatever the situation is that we feel slighted in, always extend grace, when you don’t you place yourself in a sinkhole of self-pity — allowing presuppositions to float around in your head.

You may feel alone. You may feel there is no hope. You may feel as though you’ve reached the end of your rope. If that is you, know that when all other friends have abandoned you “…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

If you are suffering, know that there is hope, and it has a name, Jesus. “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

There is no need for you to feel shame; Jesus has come to break that. I encourage you to open up your heart to and allow his love to pour into you and finally, don’t forget to check in on your friends.

The New International Version. (2011). (Pr 18:24). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

The New International Version. (2011). (Ro 5:5). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.