A season to plant—A season to water, but God

And so the war begins. Maybe war is too strong of a word. There is however a clear distinction between two styles of churches and both think that they know the best way to do it.

Are you an attractional church? Maybe a church you can invite your friends to. After all, the church is the hope of the world. Or perhaps you’re a church that emphasizes the Word? Didn’t Jesus tell us to teach people to obey? Indeed, the Scriptures help reveal to us who God is, and if we can’t recognize who God is in the pantheon of gods, how can we have a relationship with him?

There often appears to be two types of healthy churches out there, churches that are good at planting seeds and ones that water well. Of course, there are the dysfunctional churches that keep seeds to themselves, and there is no water in sight, but that is for another blog.

What I have too often seen is that these two types of churches battle between which is the better/more-biblical model. What ends up is a reciprocal argument. “We want people to feel this is a safe place to discover Jesus.” “Yes, we need to communicate the Good News, but they need to know the whole of Scripture.” “But, you can’t disciple if there are no converts.”

It reminds me of the battle in Corinth. In 1 Corinthians, Paul addresses the discord in the church where the people were aligning themselves to one person of the Gospel or the other. The Apostle Paul was travelling around and telling people of the Good News that Jesus has come to be their Saviour. The other guy, Apollos, was in the teaching/discipleship vein. Sound familiar?

The Corinth Church began to argue on which was correct. They found themselves in camps. It is like modern-day people saying, “I’m a disciple of Billy Graham,” and another saying, “I’m a disciple of Wayne Grudem.” Or saying that one group are disciples of Nicky Gumble and another is a disciple of N.T. Wright, and allowing it to destroy the Christian fellowship between them. The argument is silly. They all want to point people to Christ. They do it in different ways and are for different points of the journey.

We have puffed out chests—inflated egos, rather than humility, and wanting to learn from each other. What ends up happening is that we create idols out of style, personality, models, and theology. Instead, we should be looking to God first and have the humility to learn from one another.

The Apostle Paul writes it like this, ” I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” 1 Corinthian 3:6

I don’t care what you have done, what you know, how charming, experienced, or connected you are, unless the Holy Spirit is working, your church will never grow.

Sure, we may be able to get people in a room by our marketing savvy, maybe even be able to close the “back door” with our groups and programs, but God requires more of us. On the flip side, there’s a tendency to be so engrossed in the Word, that we miss what it is saying. We can be so busy learning about what God is that we never enter into the relationship to know who God is—to know His heart.

We have planters. We have waterers. Maybe you are either or depending on the season. However, we must always always always remember that it is God who makes it grow.

Instead of the war of words—the whose doing it better—we need to seek how to learn from each other and accept the challenge from each other to do better in what Christ has called the church to be.

Yesterday I sat in Starbuck’s across the table from a colleague who used to pastor in the same town as me. We talked about ministry. We encouraged each other in where God has called us, and what God has called us to. We did it because we are united in Christ. He, a Reformed Presbyterian, and myself a (some would say more liberal in my theology) Pentecostal. Challenging and encouraging. A hardcore Calvinist and me, a hardcore non-Calvinist.

It’s not about who does what. It is about pointing people to Christ. It is about knowing the heart of God. It’s about being united because we are all a part of the same family, the family of God. Most importantly, it is about having the humility to know that we don’t have it all together and that no matter how good we think we are, God is bigger and greater and is the only one who can bring real lasting, life-changing growth.

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.

Check out the resources used in this blog

Books you need to read in 2020

The year isn’t done yet, but as the Christmas season rolls around the corner there might be some books that you would like to get for that special someone… or, let’s be honest, yourself. These are books I’ve read. Most of which are in the last years and a half. At the end I tag a couple on that I’m looking to read in 2020

Here’s a list, links, and a short reason why.

Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide To Money by Dave Ramsey

I read this book early on in 2019 in preparation for a series I was doing. I cannot say how much it changed my families approach to money. It helped us to be intentional and smart with our cash. I cannot recommend it enough. Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2Rz4vE9

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

At first, I must be honest, I thought “what have I got myself into?!” But just like most reviews of the book I read, I must echo that if you stick with it through the disjointed parts you will be rewarded. I find my emotions swirling constantly as Albom slowly unfolds the story of a boy and his guitar. You can grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/345sbmd

The Day The Revolution Began by N.T. Wright

The Day The Revolution Began is not for the faint of heart. It is heavy! Literally and figuratively. Wright begins be spelling out the history around the cross and the Jewish belief/practice of laying down one’s life for another. Wright then methodically unravels various Scriptures (mostly Paul’s letters) as he points us toward the true nature of the cross, thus revealing the character of God. If you have question on how a good God could kill His son (what we call cosmic child abuse) then this is a book for you. If you want to go deeper into understanding both the cross and Scripture in richer ways, I cannot recommend this book enough. Pick up your copy here: https://amzn.to/36hvg43

Purple Cow by Seth Godin

This book has been sitting on my shelf for a while and it was also published many years ago. Saying this Godin spells out some important principles are pretty universal when it comes to marketing. Be a Purple Cow… how? well, you’ll have to read the book for that. grab your copy here:https://amzn.to/2s8trYA

The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder

My country, Canada, just went through an election. this book help me immensely while thinking through, what would Jesus do? As my neighbours to the south begin to embark of an election also, I cannot recommend this book enough. Yoder looks at some very important principles in Jesus’ life and teachings and how they affect us here today. While things are the same, there are some general principles that are. Get your copy here: https://amzn.to/36kBhNg

Simply Jesus by N.T. Wright

Wright show up again, and in the same vein as Yoder, this book helped me navigate the complicated waters of Jesus and politics. Now, that is only one aspect of this book. Wright does an exemplary job of putting Jesus in His historical period and point us toward a kingdom life. Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2RxIh5u

Short Stories by Jesus by Amy-Jill Levine

Levin takes a fresh look at the parables of Jesus and pulls us into the mind of a Jewish person of that time. I’m not all the way through this book (I’m about half which you can track by connecting with me on Goodreads.) and have been reading as part of my devotions each morning. Levin as a way of poignantly, but humorously, pulling out insights that never crossed my white, male, western mind. We are captive to our experiences, Levin helps us expand those. Grab you copy here: https://amzn.to/2DWR1Kv

Hidden Faces by Josh Trombley

I am biased. However I really believe my book will enrich your life for the positive. I explore Biblical narratives in ways that will affect your life. Personal stories, humour, and yes, pictures, help convey the truth that God loves you with a deep passion, you are His child, and He is the one you defines your value. There is no need to put on masks (or faces) but we must strive to be who Christ has declares us to be. Grab your copy: https://amzn.to/38vo32q

Einstein by Walter Isaacson

A fascinating look at a fascinating man. Einstein overcame great trials, prejudice, and his own prideful self limitations to become the premier scientific mind of the 20th century. His story is encouraging, inspiring, and challenging. A fantastic read. Grab you copy: https://amzn.to/2Yuz4MA

On My Reading List For 2020

Inspired Imperfection by Greg Boyd

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis

Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

Eternity Is Now In Session by John Ortberg

History and Eschatology by N.T. Wright

What are some of your “must reads” of 2020? What books are on your “to-reads” for 2020?

Jesus For Prime Minister part 3

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

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

Mt 6:9–10

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

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

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

Jn 18:36

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re 21:1–4

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the resources used in this blog

Jesus For Prime Minister part 2

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

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

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

Bell and Golden write,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a leader looks like

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

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

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

Lk 22:25–26

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

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

Fiscal 

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

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

Lk 20:21–25

John Yoder explains this,

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

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

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

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

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

Leviticus tells of the Jubilee,

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

Le 25:10

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

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

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

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

Military 

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

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

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

Social Services 

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

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

Equality 

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

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

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

What it Looks like – Beatitudes

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

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

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

Mt 5:3–12

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

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

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

Check out the resources used in this post

Jesus For Prime Minister Part 1

Churchill once said that politics is

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first is from Isaiah 9.

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

Is 9:6–7

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

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

Lk 2:10–14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

N.T. Wright further points out,

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

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

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

While Augustus and Herod took, Jesus came to give.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lk 23:38

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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