We must speak our pain

One of the hardest things anyone could ever do is share the deepest struggle in our lives. Maybe it is the baggage you carry from childhood or something that happened to us. It could be lies that we believe about ourselves or insecurities over our inadequacies.

We all have a story of pain. Why? Because we are all human. We are all alive. To live is to experience pain. Though at times, I wish it wasn’t, it is.

I believe that the story of pain in our lives must be told. We must speak our pain. If not, we allow the pain to hold us captive. I love what Zora Neale Hurston says,

“There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.”

When we embrace the pain and speak of it in healthy ways, it holds us accountable. Our pain becomes like a wet cloth on a dirty window. As we move the cloth across the surface, the pain attaches to the cloth, slowly revealing the clear glass underneath. As our story escapes our lips, it begins to reveal our actual state. Are we broken, embittered, jaded, cynical, angry, apathetic? As Rob Bell writes,

“Pain has a way of making us more honest.”

He continues,

“The ache reminds us that things aren’t how they’re supposed to be. The ache cuts through all the static, all of the ways we avoid having to actually feel things. The ache reassures us that we’re not the only ones who feel this way.”

Here’s the thing…

We often do feel like we are doing it alone. I believe we all know that in the words of REM, everybody hurts, sometimes. The thing is that though we know, we don’t always believe it. The silence of pain has a way of tricking us into thinking we are alone. As we begin to speak our pain, others hear, and it helps them realize they aren’t alone. There is no need to suffer in silence. Bottling up and hiding away the pain that eats your heart and soul isn’t doing you or anyone else any good. It is not until we begin to speak what has happened or is happening that change can occur.

Society, families, cultures, organizations, governments, circles are all made of broken people acting in broken ways. If the wrong is never voiced, things continue as they once were. If your pain is never told, no one can help you put together the broken pieces. If it is never voiced, someone can’t confirm that what happened to you is wrong or speak words of truth into your life. If you don’t speak your pain, that status quo is allowed to continue.

Richard Rohr writes, “Pain that isn’t processed is passed on.” And that’s the kicker.

When we don’t speak our pain, we give it a life to continue and it continues through our life.

The passing on of pain is what we see in the life of Jacob found in the book of Genesis. The man has some serious baggage in his life through choices his parents have made, and the lies he has chosen to believe. Jacob has a choice to live out his pain or speak it. Jacob lives it out, and it affects his whole family.

Dysfunction doesn’t even begin to explain Jacob’s family. The pain is passed on and never spoken. After all, as Rohr also states, “Pain that isn’t transformed is transmitted.” The silent killer of pain that hides in your heart is there. More than likely, it’s there because someone else is transmitting theirs.

Now you have the choice.

The ball is in your court.

You now have the control.

Do you transmit the pain? Or speak the pain.

Speak, we must. Speak it to friends, family, perpetrators, spouses, children, parents, victims.

If we never speak the pain, we can never learn. If we never learn, we will never grow. If we never grow, we will continue to do what we have always done, not maturing into the people we are created to be.

Most importantly, we must speak our pain to God. The shortest verse in the Scriptures says, “Jesus wept.” Jesus didn’t weep because someone called Him a name or because He stepped on a piece of lego.

Jesus wept because He felt the pain of His friends.

And so He does with yours. God sees you. He hears you. You’re not alone in the fight. God is here, and so are others, but for us to bear the weight with you…

We must speak our pain.

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It’s O.K. to be ignorant… but don’t stop there.

In today’s polarized world, ignorance is one of the greatest crimes. Continually, someone is getting in trouble for saying something that offends someone. Sometimes these are words that are intentional in their direction of hurt. Other times they were phrases people grew up with that held no connotation to them. Historically some of these words did.

When I was in college, I remember one of my professors would always call the students a particular name. What it meant, I had no clue. He didn’t either. That is, until one of the students made a grievance. It turned out it was a racist phrase.

People continually are finding themselves in hot water because they have said or done something that has offended a person or group of people. The word ignorant has become a derogatory term to describe a person who is not, as the kids say, woke. The implication is that if you say certain things, do not know the history behind phrases or events, not understand the social impact regarding an incident or words spoken, you are evil in some way. We throw around words like racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, etc. not truly understanding what these words mean. The people on the opposing side of the table, calling out for rightness, fairness, and equality, end up missing the point of how our society works. Not to mention followers of Jesus who, when calling out these actions, end up in the mud they are accusing their counterpart of (whether they are or not—whether intentional or ignorance).

However, let’s think through the question, is it wrong to be ignorant?

If we look at this black and white—right or wrong—we miss all the gray that NEEDS to be explored. I believe that as we look at the acceptableness of ignorance, we cannot separate the topic from transparency and grace.

Let’s tackle these in order: Transparency. Ignorance. Grace.

We need to have transparency in our lives. That does not mean that you must tell every little dirty sin to every single person. It does, however, mean that we must be willing to express what we feel, think, and believe to others. We must share our experiences with those close to us. If not, both us and others cannot reclaim the cultural wisdom we once had. The past is broken, but we have tried to learn from our mistakes, moving forward with better understanding through hearing each other’s stories and feelings. We don’t always get it right. Even after the third, fourth, fifth, or hundredth time. Maybe I’m an optimist or too hopeful, but I like to think we try and move forward, which means silence is not an option.

The silence I speak isn’t on the part of the perpetrator or the accuser. We must dialogue. Not scream and shout — not blame and ridicule. As a professional speaker and writer, I roll with others who speak and write for a living. There is a growing fear of saying the wrong thing. 

Fear stifles communication. You cannot communicate to fear or in fear. All fear does is cause us to react. React seems to be the one skill our culture has down pact. We must be willing to reveal ourselves. As Jordan Peterson writes,

If you will not reveal yourself to others, you cannot reveal yourself to yourself.

Next is ignorance. It’s O.K. to be ignorant… but don’t stop there. You are not going to know everything about everything. Furthermore, we need to stop expecting others to know what we know. As Michael Wilbon, the sports commentator points out continually whenever there is, specifically, a race issue in sports is that he doesn’t know what that person knows, he doesn’t know how or where he grew up. Can I say yes to that?! We need to have this perspective about ourselves and others. 

You are ignorant. There are things you don’t know. You are going to offend someone at some point in your life. Again, it’s O.K. to be ignorant. But also, don’t stop there. What I mean is we are going to hurt others, but let’s have open ears of learning. Let’s do better as we move forward. 

I once used a term that I thought was the appropriate word to describe someone and a friend who fell into that category took exception. He didn’t hate me, slander me, accuse me. What my friend did was to be a friend to me and have compassion in my ignorance. I listened, and I no longer use that phrase, why, because I had no idea it was the wrong one. Up to that point in my life, I had never been corrected, educated, or whatever. It was O.K. that I was ignorant. What would not be O.K. is for me not to listen, sympathize, and think of my fellow human being.

Finally, there is grace. We need it. No matter the pigment of our skin, our ancestral culture, how we identify, our gender, we need grace. We need it for ourselves, and we need to extend it to each other.

We can continue our battle of words, but in the words of Dr. Phil, “How’s that working out for ya?” We need to level our tone, and despite how hurt by others or maligned we feel, extend grace. Maybe they are ignorant. Perhaps they’re even an ignoranus. We extend grace because we need it sometimes, and so do others. 

Heck, if Jesus while on the cross, can look at his crucifiers, insulters, and accusers and say, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.” I can choose to assume that when someone hurts me—saying something completely ignorant—that they do not know what they are saying. I can choose to respond in love. I can choose to inform in that same love. Most importantly, I can choose to model what repentance looks like by modelling it myself when I am called out.

Transparency will lead to ignorance, which means we must extend grace.

It’s O.K. to be ignorant… but don’t stop there.

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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.

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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

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.

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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

A Pastor’s Lament

I don’t know how to say how I feel.

Have you been there? It seems like I am there every day. Each day I find myself in a fog of emotions, not knowing whether I’m happy, sad, despondent, numb. Waves of joy, sadness, pride, anger seem to crash simultaneousness on all sides of my mind.

BANG!

At these times, I can’t help long to feel something–something other than the whirlpool of emotions. To feel something other than the physical pain from my injuries or the emotional pain from the internal wounds. To feel something other than the constant pressure of having to accomplish more and be successful. The force of merely surviving.

Have you been there?

More and more frequently, I find myself in this brokenness.

God can seem silent.

 I pray and nothing.

Have I lost God’s favour?

Have I done something wrong?

I long for the angel that visited Elijah to come and minister to me. But Elijah didn’t have four kids to keep him awake, nor did he have to worry about a paycheque to feed them.

It leaves me to wonder, what’s next?

For that, I do not know. What is next for me, for my family, for my church?

I don’t know.

I know to whom I belong.

I know what God has called me to.

Yet the waves keep crashing without and end in sight. Each wave pushing me deeper and deeper into a dark sea–clenching for something, finding nothing.

On Christ, the solid rock I stand. Does the fact that I feel like I’m sinking mean I find my feet somewhere else? Or is there more to the story. 

1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? 

How long will you hide your face from me? 

King David wrote,

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts 
and day after day have sorrow in my heart? 
How long will my enemy triumph over me? 

Psalms 13:1–2

Even Jesus cried out while on the cross,

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)

Matthew 27:46

Jesus knew–David knew–I know that though all feels lost, it isn’t. Tomorrow the sun will rise. There will be a new day.

 But I trust in your unfailing love; 
my heart rejoices in your salvation. 
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise, 
for he has been good to me. 

Psalms 13:5–6

So what do you do in moments like this?

Praise anyway. When we do, we remind ourselves and the enemy of whose we are. 

I heard and my heart pounded, 
my lips quivered at the sound; 
decay crept into my bones, 
and my legs trembled. 
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity 
to come on the nation invading us. 
17 Though the fig tree does not bud 
and there are no grapes on the vines, 
though the olive crop fails 
and the fields produce no food, 
though there are no sheep in the pen 
and no cattle in the stalls, 
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, 
I will be joyful in God my Savior. 
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; 
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, 
he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:16–19

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.

Jesus to me

This is a song I wrote while reflecting on who Jesus is to me.

Verse 1

                   A          D                   A

He is the strength when we are weak, 

                 F#m7       A/C#   D            Esus

He is the wholeness         that we seek, 

                     A      D    A            E

He is everything         that we need

      F#m7        D          Bm7         A

My rock, my fortress, Jesus-to me

Chorus

A              D     A               D                    A

Jesus to me         Is the freedom that I need

A                D    A              Bm7                   E

Jesus to me        fix this broken heart in me.

A              D     A               D                    A

Jesus to me         the only saviour that I need

                 D    A              Bm7                   E

Jesus to me        freedom that’s truly set me free.

      F#m7        D          Bm7         A

My rock, my fortress, Jesus-to me

Verse 1

                   A          D                   A

He is the calm when there’s a storm in me, 

                 F#m7  A/C#              D            Esus

He is redemption         when I need to be free, 

                              A      D                    A             E

He is the great peace         when my world is crumbling

      F#m7        D          Bm7         A

My healer, my freer, Jesus-to me

Chorus

A              D     A               D                    A

Jesus to me         Is the freedom that I need

A                D    A              Bm7                   E

Jesus to me        fix this broken heart in me.

               D     A               D                    A

Jesus to me         the only saviour that I need

A                D    A              Bm7                   E

Jesus to me        freedom that’s truly set me free.

      F#m7        D          Bm7         A

My healer, my freer, Jesus-to me