Eminem, Joseph, and the Christmas story

Why? I truly don’t know. Somehow I stumbled across a music video by Nick Cannon, where he was doing a dis-rap of Eminem. To be honest, it was kind of like a gruesome car crash. You know you should look away, you know that you will be offended if you look, but you cannot look away. That was this song. It was so bad I couldn’t turn my ears away.

Within the song, Cannon dissed Eminem because he’s raising someone else kid. I’m not entirely sure why that’s a dis. In fact, I think it is honourable.

It may be surprising, but this caused me to think about Joseph, Mary’s husband and the Eminem of the Christmas story (not because he can spit rhymes).

While the Magi, Shepherds, Angels, and Mary are important side characters in the story, we also must not forget about Joseph. Just like Eminem, he was raising someone else’s child.

Joseph, who is betrothed to Mary, discovered that she was pregnant. He knew the baby wasn’t his, but out of love for her, he decided to divorce her quietly. Luckily Joseph had a dream, and while he didn’t believe Mary when she said that this child was conceived of the Holy Spirit, he did believe the Angel that appeared to him. As he slept, the Angel said,

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew 1:20-21

While rumours flew in later years that Mary might have been impregnated by a Roman soldier or some random man, Jesus grew up with a swirl around his head. It wasn’t some cutesie story. In John 8:19, the religious leaders picked up on this when they said to Jesus,

“Where’s your father.”

While the story of Mary speaks to us about important issues like teen pregnancy or children born out of wedlock and how we are to think of them as Mary, the lesson from the choice that Joseph makes is essential also. In a world where boys and girls are growing up not knowing their fathers—where men run away from responsibility, are unable to cope, don’t even know they have a child, whose visitation rights are taken away and cannot be apart of their kids lives, or are in the picture but are despondent toward their offspring—we need men like Joseph… and perhaps Eminem… to step into kids lives and be a father to the fatherless.

Though this child was not his own, Joseph stepped up to the plate. When he did, he demonstrated what God is all about. in Psalm 68, it declares,

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”

Psalm 68:5

Throughout the Scriptures God, the Prophets, Apostles and Christ himself implores us to care for one another and to be his Kingdom. I like how N.T. Wright puts it when he says we take on the vocation of the Kingdom. Christmas is about the beginning of a new kingdom. One where God is King. The message to us, live out this vocation by caring for one another.

love, joy, peace, hope; these things are celebrated themes at Christmas time. Why? Because it is what we see in the Christmas story—we see it in Joseph who didn’t abandon his wife to be when she was found to be scandalous. Instead of abandonment, Joseph exemplified the character of his Eternal Father and showed love, joy, peace, and hope.

Eminem, Joseph, and the Christmas story teach us something important.

We need men to step up, not just this Christmas season, but all year round and be fathers to those who have none.

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Is your church’s brand an idol?

Their signs were all along the road. The flags stood high in the air, letting me know I was in the right place. As I entered the parking lot, it was filled with cars with the church logo in their windows. Approaching the sanctuary, directly to the right of the door, was the merch table. I could buy a t-shirt with the church’s logo on it. 

No mention of Jesus. 

No mention of God.

No mention of the mission.

Just the logo.

Here’s the thing, minus the merch table, this could have described my church.

In the beginning, it was so important that people knew we were different from the other churches. I wanted the people in my community when they thought of church to have mine come to their mind first. After all, isn’t it about getting people in the door?

The point of the church is to proclaim that there is a better way. Jesus comes with love, hope, and liberty. Jesus’ Kingdom is being established in hearts and changing lives.

We want others to be a part of that.

Yet what I see, and what I have had to address in my own heart, is that we are creating organizational kingdoms and not Christ centred ones. Churches have become more concerned about branding their church and living out the mission of the church rather than proclaiming Christ and living out the life God is calling us too. Church’s do service projects in their community for the publicity rather than out of a heart of love. They love to broadcast all their good deeds, some are even God deeds, yet their self-praise ends up leaving them hollow.

I fear that we are treading too close to a Pharisaic mindset.

In the Scriptures, the book of Matthew takes the role of calling out the hypocrisy within the faith community. There were no “Christians” at the time. Thus, Jesus is speaking to the Jewish community, the one he was a part of. You see, the Jewish religious leaders of the time were more concerned about showing off the brand of their religion—holiness and piousness. In the book of Matthew, especially in chapter twenty-three, Jesus calls out the religious leaders tie to their religious brand, the promoting of themselves, and their lack of Integrity.

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honour at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.”

Matt 23:5-7

It is not about your brand. It is about the Kingdom of God. It’s about a God who loved us enough, that while we were still covered in the muck of our misdeeds, he comes to lifts us out.

I love what Neil Cole writes,

“There are many books, tapes, seminars, an CD’s made to help people build the church, but if you are building the church, it isn’t the church. Jesus did not say ‘And upon this rock you will build my church.’ Jesus, an only Jesus, builds the church. If we build a church that is based on a charismatic personality, an innovative methodology, or anything else, we have a church that is inferior to that which Jesus would build.”

Your church isn’t about you, your church name or logo, your pastor, system, style, or whatever else you can think of.

The Church of Christ is about one thing, Christ. He will build it. Not your savvy.

Sure, you can market people into the building. We can appeal and dazzle. Unfortunately, time and time again, what I see is that people are attracted by the brand and then commissioned to be spokespersons’ of the church rather than the cross.

The Church is called to more. Let’s set aside the idol of our brand and instead pursue hearts that align with what it means to be a Christ Kingdom builder.

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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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