Of disciples and powers – or – Give to Caesar?

I’m going to take a risk at rambling here. I haven’t written on this site in over a year, I think. But this weighs heavy on my heart, and I want to get some thoughts out.

Christians debate round and around about politics, government and morality. It’s heartbreaking. It’s like the Accuser has us at one another’s throats to cut each other down and rip one another apart with our opinions and ideas.

First, let’s look at the calling of the church. We are the sons and daughters of God, the descendants of the “seed” mentioned in Hebrews. That seed being Christ, the seed of Abraham that was said to be a blessing to *all* the nations of the world.

We are meant to be a blessing to all of the nations.

Can we be a blessing if we’re busy cutting each other apart? Can we be any help if we’re at each others throats so much about how the world should be behaving that all they see is division, anger and hatred?

No, we cannot. And we will not should we choose to persist in our behavior.

We are behaving as those who do not believe in our King who intercedes for us before the throne of God. We are behaving as animals out for mere survival, thinking only of temporal nations and not the everlasting rule of the One True King that will never, ever end.

I think it is genuinely essential, crucial for us to look at the teachings of the early church, those who were mere generations after the apostles who walked and talked with our Lord and Messsiah. What did they have to say?

Origen quoted a prophecy of Isaiah:

Who among the believers does not know the words in Isaiah? “In the last days the mountain of the Lord shall be revealed, and the house of the Lord on the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills. All nations shall come to it. Many people shall go and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us his way, and we will walk in it.” For out of Zion shall go forth a law, and a word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people. They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more [Isa. 1:2-5]. (Letter from Origen to Africanus 15)

The nations are not, at this moment coming to the House of the God of Jacob because we are so divided against one another. We are of this or that affiliation. We are on the left. We are on the right. We are of our opinion.

The church is meant to be a beacon of hope, light and life. They will see our love for one another and be amazed and say, “Look! See how they love each other? Let’s go and ask them how we should live!”

And our humble reply is to obey the master.

But no, they are not coming to us. I believe that part of this is because we are beating down their doors to force them into submission to a master they do not have any interest in serving.

Paul, in 1 Thessalonians tells us to make it our ambition to lead a quiet life and work hard with our hands, that the outside world will see our work and glorify God. We don’t give them time to see us work hard and with love because we’re too busy NOT minding our own business and caring for the kingdom of God.

In 1 Corinthians Paul tells us in no uncertain terms that we are not to spend our time judging and assessing the world and their ways, but to focus instead on one another in the church. That we should watch out that we do not behave as the pagans, or those who are not following the King do. He says that we would have no one to speak to if we insist on judging the world. That’s not our domain. No, ours is the church, the Kingdom.

We are a transcendent nation meant to go beyond any borders, tribe, tongue or political affiliation. We are not of this world. We are citizens of the king who have BEEN RANSOMED FROM THE VERY SYSTEM WE INSIST ON BEING PART OF AND PROPPING UP.

I’m no socialist, communist or capitalist. Though my earthly citizenship is in the U.S., I have to acknowledge that my King, the Christ, Jesus, ransomed me with His very blood to rescue me from thinking like this earthly nation. And not just this nation, every nation. One of the many things he has ransomed us from is the idea that the nations could ever fix it all.

The scriptures make clear that the nations and powers are tools of God. God uses them for his wrath and to carry out justice. But Jesus never allowed his disciples to take up this task. In fact, when Peter drew his sword to stand up for Jesus (the way we so often do day to day, thinking we need to defend the author of all life) he was disarmed and only made more glorious work for Jesus to carry out in healing.

Jesus had to heal the man Peter saw as an enemy of God. Peter had good intentions, the same as so many of us, and Jesus disarmed him despite those good intentions.

Can you see this scenario in our daily lives? We see so many as a threat to God and his morality. We draw swords and work hard to control the powers of this world. But when we play by their rules, drawing the sword (whether by word or deed) we only wind up cutting off ears and making more work for the Father to do despite our actions.

As far as participating in violence goes, there’s not room here for me to list the many, many writings from the early church fathers regarding this. They are clear. For some meaty lists, Christian History for Everyman or go here for another list that is even longer.

In my opinion, there’s no disputing what they had to say. They were clear. Those in the first 3 centuries of what we call Christianity were forbidden to participate in the violence of the powers.

Personally, I would go even farther to simply look at the example of Jesus himself. He and the disciples stood, walked and talked in the midst of one of the most horrid, debased empires. The debauchery around them was intense. And yet, you don’t hear Jesus speaking out against the governing powers of Rome. Instead, he focused on those who were trying to follow his heavenly Father.

He even stood before the powers, innocent and blameless, and subverted them by submitting to death. He overthrew them by being still rather than overthrowing them with the very tactics that they used day in and out.

Our King rules with a power that submits and subverts, overthrowing with love, rather than force. There are no laws against the calling of Christ to love one another. The powers cannot stop us.

He taught us to pay our taxes without complaint.

Paul and Peter taught us to pray for our rulers, regardless their sin. It should be noted that they did this during the time of Nero, a disgusting man who would light Christians up as torches to light his garden. He enjoyed our torture. Yet Paul and Peter were still there telling us to submit, as our Lord did. To pray and beg God for mercy and grace on them.

Christ, Paul, Peter, John… they all stood before the horrid authorities over them knowing full well that God is our defender.

The martyrs throughout the centuries faced the beasts and executioners knowing full well that God is our defender.

We, however, live in fear of a nation falling apart in immorality.

God is still our defender. And fear IS NOT A FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT. 

The difference I see between us and the early church is that we have a government that seemingly asks and requires our participation. Rome did not do this. America, however, permits us to have a voice.

Therefore, we really should do what we can.

But, this does not mean that we should behave as though we are fighting for America. We are not, and it is imperative that we DO NOT.

The Kingdom of the Living God is the goal. His kingdom is eternal and will have no end.

The nations of this world will, without doubt, pass away and no trace of them remain in the scope of the rule of our King.

Don’t be afraid. Set your eyes on Christ, the king. He will defend. He does not need us to pick up swords, whether physical, emotional or the swords of our tongues. He needs us to live, love and move in Him and Him alone.

Do we hide our heads in the sand? No. Speak up as you are given right to for *actual* injustice. But do so in the Spirit of our King, not on the basis of opinion.

Our opinions and mindsets cannot be fueled by the talking heads of our age. We cannot allow the church to be shaped and molded and manipulated by Spirit of the age that keeps us fighting. The fighting and bickering is their culture, and not ours. 

We were never told that the world would know us because we fight, argue and scream louder. No, they will know us by our love. Our minds must be renewed to not get entangled with their logic that the cross has turned into foolishness.

Yes, the cross has turned their culture and political wars into foolishness.

We have to give ourselves over to this truth, the cross is foolishness to the wise of this world. Our minds must be given over to THE WAY of Christ to be renewed and saved from thinking about ruling the world the way the powers, people and cultures who war against one another.

There is no power that can go to war against the love presented in the Cross.

There is no power that can prevail against it.

If, however, we spend our time listening to the logic of the world rather than the teaching and instruction of our master, we will fall into the trap of compartmentalizing our faith. What we do is call ourselves Christians, but neglect to let the love and clear teaching of Jesus guide our actions, mindsets and even our voting.

Instead of weighing who to vote for or what causes is just against ideologies like Capitalism or Socialism, we should be weighing all things against the living, breathing WORD of God who walks and talks with his Church.

If we do not weigh all things this way, the cross, when presented, will look like nonsense. We will scoff at loving actions because they do not line up with our ideologies.

Make no mistake, the way of Christ, His love and self sacrifice *is* a threat to every power because, in the end, it will undermine all of them. But, if *all* submit to the Way, then the powers have nothing to do. The systems break down. The poor are cared for and the rich are generous.

Sure, the thought of those last few statements may make some bristle, but it *is* the picture painted by the scriptures, and it is the heart of God that all of his children live together, in harmony and generosity.

We are meant to be the salt of the earth. We are meant to be the Body of the Living Christ.

May we all ask ourselves, every morning and night, “Father, how is my mind overpowered by the culture around me? Teach me, loving Father to think like you think. Teach us to love as you love. Teach us to see what you see. Teach us, blessed King, teach us how to live.”

TOMORROWLAND, DESPAIR AND THE DISPOSABLE EARTH – OR – GIVING HOPE JUST ISN’T PROFITABLE

tomorrowland-trailer-analisi-75This is the sort of post that I used to post over here.

I saw this film with my kids the other night, and I absolutely loved it. There’s so many things about it to discuss… but, I wrote about it on my parenting/media blog.

Come over and take a look!

27 Seconds

How disheartened I was to find out that I had misquoted one of my favorite movies and solidified it on a recording.

I had this thought about a scene in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. It’s a wonderful scene where Molly is trying to show Mr. Magorium that he has much to live for. They’re in a clock shop, setting up all of the clocks in order to hear them all chime at one time.

You see, at this point in the film there’s a comment made about 37 seconds of time… I had always thought it was 27 seconds, so when I looked up the quote as I was writing a song, I googled 27 seconds, but apparently others have misquoted this as well… so I fed off of their misquote and immortalized it in my song… oh well, right?

Mr. Magorium: 37 seconds.
Molly Mahoney: Great. Well done. Now we wait.
Mr. Edward Magorium: No. We breathe. We pulse. We regenerate. Our hearts beat. Our minds create. Our souls ingest. 37 seconds, well used, is a lifetime.”

And it’s true. That moment always shook me. I’m an incessant worrier. I’m a worrying junkie. I have to get a fix. But one of the most oft ignored commands of Christ is to *not worry.* And yet, it’s the hardest one for me.

I believe that if I’m honest with myself, I love having the stress there as my excuse to have vices, as an excuse to escape and be selfish. Maybe that’s harsh, but I find it valid. There are valid reasons for stress, I’m not criticizing that, I’m merely saying that a lot of times we totally miss the beauty in front of us due to our worry and fretting.

We’re meant to be like Christ, to find him in every face, every moment… instead, we often seek comfort and pleasure, trying to escape our worry. We worry about finding ways to escape our worry.

So, I want to give you this song as a Christmas present. This is probably just about my favorite song I’ve ever gotten to bring to life… may you see the presents in front of you. May you see Christ in every moment, and find who to kneel down and wash. In my life, it’s often been my friends, kids; the people right there in front of me.

I used to pine for big ministries, but now, I see that my ministry is this minute. The small things that can give the world around us hope and life.

Merry Christmas.

In our weakness

Sometimes we need to outright declare, to tell the heavens that LIFE, LIFE with capital letters, will have its way. Life, the living breathing Word of God. The Logos. *THE* Truth with a capital T. It is going to set things right, and we get to join in. So, I wrote this song with a few friends in mind… some of them are embattled in the trenches of cancer and sickness. But they’re still crying out to the Father. They’re still clinging to the hope and truth that is, and always will be. _________________________

life takes over the sun in it cracks through the clouds to dry the sweat on our backs A breeze it blows to refresh and to revive we can’t keep this joy inside   Life takes over and the concrete breaks with flowers blooming that erase the hate of the daily life, and all its strife the mundane is swallowed by joy   life takes over bursting from the ground no death can keep the Father’s chosen down No bitter cold – nor getting old can keep us from singing these songs of old   We will sing Your praises in our weakness And we will sing Your praises in our strength   Life takes over hear the heavens sing They see through the lives of pain That the kingdom comes Hear their message as it echoes across the plains   life takes over bursting from the ground no death can keep the Father’s chosen down No bitter cold – nor getting old can keep us from singing these songs of old We will sing Your praises in our weakness And we will sing Your praises in our strength We will sing Your praises from our sick beds We will sing Your praises in our strength   We will sing Your praises in our weakness And we will sing Your praises in our strength

broken things

photo by Nichole Park Photography

photo by Nichole Park Photography, http://goo.gl/u7JJ90

I had a wonderful thing happen the other day, seriously, a heart-wrenching God-send.

I’m working on these songs, grappling with what I feel they’re saying to me. This may sound neurotic, but once I’ve gotten them out, it’s like a birth… they’re now their own separate thing and I have to honor whatever those emotions were trying to say.

In turn, the songs also have to honor what I’m trying to say. This is the first time I’ve genuinely had an overarching theme that is complete and concise. It makes me so glad. In the end, these songs are saying to me the things that I’ve been needing to hear. I’m getting a chance to write an album of songs that *I* want to listen to and spend time with God in.

Some of the songs get kicked out, because they’re not talking about what I’m wanting to convey… so they have to go, or wait for some other time before they get to exist.

Wednesday night I was driving to Memphis with my wife. She drove so I could write. (very kind of her) I wanted to listen to some of the songs that didn’t yet have lyrics. I pulled up one that I hadn’t messed with in a good 6 months, and to my surprise, I had already written lyrics.

I had completely forgotten. A while back, in a night of sadness I was praying and just trying to find the sorrowful feeling I was having inside… I had forgotten that there was a whole song that gushed out and I had recorded it really fast as a rough draft so that I wouldn’t forget it.

I cried. It really ministered to me the other day.

You see, we’re broken. We’re all broken. We all try to spend so much time pretending that we’re not but we are. The good news is that there’s a God who absolutely adores the broken things. He longs for our company… and in his presence, but by bit, he makes us whole.

Sometimes I’m amazed at the words that the Father will send us in our messes. He speaks so kindly, and his kindness certainly brings us to repentance.

____________________________

Broken Things

clear my mind – tell my soul to be still
So I can hear You whisper in the middle of my noise
Tell my waves to be still
be still

I just don’t get you sometimes
I see you sleeping in the boat when I’m terrified
Tell my waves to be still
be still

God of my anxiety
Lord of my rest
Author of my being
Messiah, saviour of all these broken things

We just don’t get it
We probably never will
Your perfection doesn’t make much sense to our minds
We argue about you all the time

We want to prove to you that we know what to do
But when we try we only prove that the opposite is true
We argue about it all the time

God of our anxiety
Lord of our rest
Author of our being
Messiah, saviour of all these broken things

Let us learn to let go of the ruins we call home

Song #1 – Making it right – not getting it right

So, right now I’m working on a new CD… and I’m very grateful because I’ve had a real writers block for the longest time. I’ve had music for these songs for a long time, roughly 1-2 years. The music expressed deeply what was brewing in my heart with God, life, love. But I just couldn’t find the courage to express it with words.

But things have been changing. My wife and I have been overwhelmed by the safety and shelter of the love of Christ and his people. Something cracked inside and now it’s all spilling out.

So, one by one I’m going to go through these songs, and what is on my heart with them. (You’ll have to just wait to hear them, however)

This first song is all about the fact that when Christ claims us, we’re his. He knows us. He’s not shocked by us. He’s not expecting us to perform like a perfect dancing toy for him to assess.

In fact, he knows far more deeply than we do what a mess we really are, and if we’re willing to follow along, he knows the path to take us on that will lead us to life.

This is a message that I cannot emphasize enough to myself.

We have an incredibly messed up idea of perfection. We look at performance, not progress… we look at looks, not the heart. We have the idea that things going smoothly, being just so, is perfection. But God seems to have a different idea.

The scriptures are a huge, massive tale of God showing us just what his perfection actually looks like. And it seemed to be a big deal to Christ as well, as he said that we should be perfect as he is perfect. Then, he proceeded to treat sinners, wretches, prostitutes, traitors… he treated them in ways that were so outside the box.

Our God is the restorer. He is creator, and recreator. He puts things right. Christ set people right. He restored them to being the children of God, made in the image of God.

If perfection was this messed up, performance based idea of getting it right and things going smoothly, then would God the father not be a horrid failure? He created this world, and allowed room for it to make the choice to hate him.

No, his perfection is inviting us into the dance of making restoration along with him. We get to join in as he makes all things new.

___________________

My Refuge

you don’t have to get it right to be mine

you don’t have to perform for me

you don’t have to get it right to be mine

set your eyes on me and you will see

 

Your perfection is nothing like mine

I am resurrection

your perfection is nothing like mine

I renew perception

 

Rise and face the dawn

 

Rise and face the dawn

be a harmony in the eternal song

rise and face the dawn

all creation will sing along

Movies and the Heart Behind Them

So, my kids and I love comic book movies. We love superheroes. We love the genre and imaginative fascination of it all. It’s simply great fun.

But, there’s more to it than this.

I’ve written before on how desperately our children need meaning in EVERYTHING THAT THEY DO. And I stand by that. Mere entertainment, on a daily basis, is like having pizza for every meal. It’s fun and just fine now and then, but as a steady diet, they won’t ever want the deeper, higher nutrient things.

No matter the budget of a movie, indie film or blockbuster, movies have immense cultural implications. The form is self perpetuating. We buy the neat new movie, they make new ones because we bought the last one, and in the midst of it, some of those writers grab hold of the pulse of our culture and they sell far more tickets because it touched our hearts, and, for that two hours, we had some amazing and tangible metaphor to grab hold of and take solace within or vent frustrations throughout.

Superhero stories are wrought with backbone and metaphor. The reality is, they’re filled with metaphor whether their creators like it or not.

Just as vampire movies, as they become increasingly shallow and sexual are a caricature of themselves: the immortal, insatiable quest  for satisfaction in the flesh… leaching blood (life) from the veins of victims. It’s a metaphor for life without God. You can’t dress it up and make it different… it just is. The art reflects the truth.

But on the positive side, right now we’re in a golden age of superhero stories that are both being cranked out and driven by creativity and greed. It’s funny… on one hand, you’ve got the movie companies wanting to make a buck. There’s nothing wrong with business, providing jobs and living wages for countless individuals. (did you know that the upcoming batman/superman movies are offering thousands and thousands of steady jobs to out of work folk in Michigan? Yeah, it’s worth noting) Some actors get paid wayyyy too much. I have no comment… they’ll have to account for themselves.

But the other side of this, that truly makes it a golden age of superhero cinema is that the bar is now set very, very high. Marvel Studios alone has truly set a standard for the craft that grabs the heart, is entertaining, and remains clean enough for the family to enjoy it together. (whether it will stay that way remains to be seen) But Marvel, as well as others are beginning to bring in more and more “little-guy” indie film-makers to make massive budget flicks.

Yes, they’re grabbing the small time artist and giving him a lot of cash and saying, “Make something seriously fun with a lot of heart!” I love it. We’re seeing more and more attention being given to the heart and soul of stories like this than ever before.

So, is this a big deal? Is it imperative to teach our kids?

I think it’s a big deal to teach our kids to dig in and connect their emotions, heart and conscience. Entertainment is great, but constant entertainment teaches our children to compartmentalize their lives. “We have thinking time and we have dumb time where we check out our brains”

This is a bad habit. Don’t teach your kids this habit. Have you taught them this? Then lets un-school them and get them thinking differently. (maybe you’ll unlearn it too!)

So, we’re going to grab a select amount of  superhero stories and dissect the art and heart behind them. Many of these are the creations of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Very seldom have these two just made up a character without emotional or social intent. They create with purpose.

So… here’s the rules for our venture: Before we watch a flick we look up and learn why and how that character was created, what incarnations has it taken over the years, and how did it end up on our screen now. We watch, stop, discuss, think about what we’re seeing.

Then we ask the questions. Was this a faithful telling? Did the authors/directors expound and expand the heart of the story, or did they rob it of its meaning and just try and make a buck? What did we walk away with from this story.

Honestly, we’ve never, ever had these conversations in our house without it transitioning into time with God and the scriptures. It always goes there.

It’d be fun if others were joining along with us. And this won’t stop with just the superhero stories, we’ll be interjecting in other works of animation and beauty as well.

We’ll hope to be sharing it with you along the way!