I Want a King

In Tanzania we don’t have a TV, we don’t have cable, or the normal shows on Hulu and definitely don’t have my personal favorite, ESPN. Naturally, I’ve enjoyed getting to watch a little bit as we’ve been staying at Melissa’s parents house the last couple weeks. If you watch football, you know that they cut to commercial break every chance they get and in this particular season that means a lot of political ads. ‘Incessant’ would be a word that I’d use.

I’m not a fan of most of them. Some of them seem on-point and might have some sway, but the ones that I dislike the most are the negative ads. Twenty-eight seconds of dark footage, dreary music and a foreboding voice telling you how a particular politician is going to single-handedly destroy the country if elected to office. Two seconds of a video with a happy multi-racial, multi-generational group and the opposing politician saying “I’m so and so and I approve this message.” If anything it makes me want to vote against the person that approves the message. The whole deal kind of makes me sick.

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Source – https://www.flickr.com/photos/truthout/

I asked Melissa’s stepdad if he had the voter information packet that they send out and he gave it to me. I try to be an informed voter as best I can and had a bit to catch up on having been in Tanzania the last year. I was going through the different propositions and the pro’s and con’s list that they have for each one. These three big important people are for it and these three big important people are against it. Again, the balance of the entire state rests on this one ballot measure, or so it seems. As I was flipping through and having a hard time deciding between all the different options, I had this thought come to mind, “I don’t want to do this. I want someone to decide for me.”

I know what you might be thinking. Brandon isn’t going to vote and he’s going to tell us we shouldn’t bother either. That’s not the case, I will vote tomorrow and you should too.

The thing is, I want a king. I want a good King that knows my heart, would give His life for me and wants to put me on the right path. I want Jesus to rule.

I have been on a political journey over the last ten years. I turned 18 in 2004 and was so happy that I got to vote in the major elections that year. I had my elephant badge on quite straight and cast my vote for W. at the San Miguel Community Center. I had plans to study history and political science at university and potentially try my hand in the political arena after college. When I think back to that and realize that was actually in my head at any point in my life, I’m astonished.

I did go off to school at Vanguard and did enter as a history and political science major, that plan started to change as I realized I wanted to teach little kids. Then I had professors that actually challenged me to think critically about what I believed and why. More importantly, they challenged me to compare planks in my political platform (or the Republican platform which I identified with) to that of the Bible.

As a Republican, for example, I supported the death penalty. I would quip that the people deserved to die for what they had done – those heinous and evil crimes. I then started to think about Jesus and what He did when presented with the woman in John’s gospel who was caught in the act of adultery, a crime that by law was punishable by death. He didn’t condemn her, but showed her grace and told her to go and sin no more. I also started to consider within this political framework some of Paul’s most famous words from Romans. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (3:23). “For the wages of sin is death” (6:23a). According to the Bible, it’s not just those bad people on death row, actually I am also deserving of death. But Paul continues on that we can be “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (3:24) and that the “gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:23b). God showed grace to people on death row.

All of a sudden I lose the plank in my platform. Then I started to read Shane Claiborne. Yes, I was one of those. I still am, kind of. Over a couple years, I was so moved that I actually wrote in “Jesus of Nazareth” on my 2008 presidential ballot. Granted, he’s not an American citizen but I felt pretty confident that God knew what I meant by that. It was worth the heat that I caught from one friend on Facebook that I was wasting my vote and not taking this seriously enough. No biggie. I resolved that my vote for president didn’t matter anyway by virtue of living in California. I just couldn’t bring myself to vote for McCain or Obama as they both had huge deal breakers for me.

Time continued to pass along. I lived in Tanzania, got married, had a kid and when the 2012 elections rolled around I had settled down a little bit and decided I would vote for an eligible person for president this time around. That man was Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party. He wasn’t on the ballot in CA (was only on the ballot in 17 states), but he was the candidate that I identified most with and I have grown to really dislike the two-party system. The only way to change something is if people decide to start doing something different. What a novel idea.

In living in Tanzania, I’ve experienced another government that is more overtly corrupt than ours and that is also a bit disheartening. The opposition party is strong in Kilimanjaro, but the same party has, nonetheless, ruled since independence 50 years ago. I have friends that support ChaDema and put their hope that if they took office in Dodoma things would be different. Then I realize that my friends in the states are the same way. So much of their hope is in the Republicans or the Democrats or this person or that cause.

But I want a king. My hope, all of my hope, is in Jesus. If the people that are elected tomorrow or in 2016 aren’t the people that I voted for, I will not bat an eye. They aren’t the ones that are in charge of my life. Jesus is. Jesus is on the throne and we cannot thwart that. I am not going to be one of those that after an election or supreme court decision writes of America as going to hell in hand basket. That would almost assume that America was in heaven at some point which I don’t buy in the least bit.

Interestingly, Jesus’ foremost message was about the Kingdom of God. A Kingdom is a form of government where one guy makes all the decisions. Furthermore He says that this Kingdom is at hand – as in it’s within reach. He tells us to repent and believe in the Gospel (Mark 1:15). We have to repent, we have to humble ourselves and change the destructive patterns that we’ve been working in. We have to believe that the Gospel message is true and should be central to our lives, our families, our homes, our societies and our Facebook posts.

You should vote tomorrow and you should utilize the political capability that you have as an American citizen. We should also pray tomorrow. We should pray for God’s hand over the elections and even more so over the problems that this state, this country and this world face. If things don’t go the way you’d like tomorrow, don’t fret. If Jesus is your King, you’re already on the winning side and nothing could ever change that. 

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The Day After The Sky Fell

I don’t know why Marcus started playing that movie. It seemed so random. I’ve been staking out in his office in Los Osos for the last few weeks doing stuff for the church before settling into my own office in Morro Bay. I was just going about my own business with my headphones on when he returned to his computer. Next thing I know, I look up and there on the screen a movie is playing. “What are you watching, dude?”

That morning my wife and I had gone out to coffee to study the Bible together. I asked her if she had any passages that were particularly on her heart that morning. She didn’t. So I turned to Psalm 146. A couple verses there had been stuck in my head since the elections the previous night. “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish.”

The night before my Facebook feed had been buzzing as the re-election of President Obama flooded every media outlet known to man. It seemed to me that for every elated Facebook friend there were two that were outraged. The sky was falling and half the population was moving to Canada. I wondered what my life would look like, not only with Obama getting another four years, but with so many friends and family moving out of country.

So much doom was being spoken over this country in the form of status updates and tweets. I had to consciously decide if I would scroll through them and hear my friends bicker among themselves.

As I sat there over coffee with Melissa, I likened Psalm 146 to something like God’s political platform. He made heaven, the earth and the sea. He keeps the truth forever. Executes justice for the oppressed. Feeds the hungry. Frees prisoners. Heals the blind. Watches over strangers. Relieves the orphaned and widowed. Turns the wicked’s ways on their head.

Now that’s the truth. That’s hope I can believe in. I thought that was a good place to leave it as far as the political atmosphere goes. Kumbaya, my Lord, kumbaya.

But then Marcus put on that movie. ” Really? Who just randomly decides to watch The Passion of the Christ?” I thought to myself. I decided that I would only remain for a couple scenes, then relocate to the sanctuary with my laptop. As I watched Jesus being beaten, I decided that it would be wrong to leave during such a scene. As a Christian I ought to stay with Him through this painful scene. The only problem with that is, the whole movie is filled with Him being beat, scene after scene, it doesn’t let up. Just like it didn’t let up when it actually happened. I sat through the whole movie for the first time since it was in theaters.

If the story of Jesus being crucified doesn’t shake us to the core, I don’t know what will. Marcus and I just sat in silence after the movie ended. Our hearts afforded few words.

The cross ought to change our perspective about everything. Everything compared to the cross of Christ is trivial. All of history hinges around a three day period where Jesus died, was buried and resurrected. I don’t mean to make light of the election, other historical events or anything else going on, but in a way I do mean to make light of them, because it is infinitely less significant to what happened on Calvary. And for us to get so wrapped up in that which is trivial is sin. “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man.” Do not put your trust in Obama or Romney or any other person. Their plans will perish.

As I watched that movie yesterday, I had a new revelation of God’s love for us. A love that knows no limits. A love that will go to the gates of hell and back for each of us. As a new father, I couldn’t help but be moved by Mary, but even more by Jesus’ Father, who allowed that atrocious event to take place on His beloved Son. I always thought about if I would be able to follow Jesus in an actual crucifixion, but what struck me more during the movie was would I allow my daughter, Promise, to be beaten and crucified in order for any other person to come to know the Lord. That’s His love for us.

In light of that love, that unrelenting, sacrificial to the extreme kind of love, what on earth could we be worried about?

Whatever your views are on the election or whatever is going on in your life that has you disheartened or tired, know that the Father’s love for you is real and enormous and you have nothing to fear. Beyond that, know that Jesus has overcome everything. The price has been paid! The tomb is empty!

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If you’re like me and have had worries regarding the election, other world events or other personal events, or you have friends that have those worries, I’d encourage you with the love of God poured out for you and your friends. Share that with them, even share this post if you think it appropriate.

The Promises We Make

Over the last nearly six weeks, one of mine and Melissa’s favorite questions has been “what’s the name of your baby?” We are fully aware of the uniqueness of the name that we chose for our daughter and we love it. I was actually surprised when one of our mid-wives told us that in all her years of delivering children, she’d only had one other little girl named Promise. ‘Really?’ I thought. ‘That’s one more than I’ve ever met.’

As people have asked not only what her name is, they most certainly follow up with asking what led us to that name. Melissa’s first reason, “We chose it as a constant proclamation of God’s promises over her life.” My first reason, ” We chose it as a reminder of God’s faithfulness to keep His promises.” Both of which are absolutely true.

In the days following my daughter’s birth, I began to think about a third meaning behind Promise’s name.

I started thinking about the Old Testament prophets, Isaiah and Hosea, who received instruction from the Lord as to what they were to name their children. In Isaiah 7, we’re introduced to Isaiah’s son Shear-Jashub. The literal meaning of his name is meant to be a reminder, an encouragement to the Judeans as Shear-Jashub means “a remnant shall return.” This didn’t only serve to encourage Judah as Syria and Israel were approaching to make war, but even more so when the Judeans would eventually be led away into captivity. Personally I prefer his second son’s name, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, which is found in the following chapter. Not because its such a mouth full, but rather because I respect a man who names his son, “speed the spoil, hasten the booty.”

The point of the names is that they are a prophetic declaration to the culture; a culture that was under threat from outside forces, a culture that in its own right was walking away from God. As I thought on the name Promise and what that says to the society around her, I was hit with the overwhelming reality that we are a society that largely doesn’t keep their promises to one another.

“For better or worse, till death do us part.” What do these words mean to you? Do they reflect an emotion? Are they an action? A decision? Does it institute a contract? A covenant? When Melissa and I got married we decided that we would use traditional vows as opposed to writing our own. We wanted to join with the choir of voices of past husbands and wives that made the exact same marital commitment to one another and fulfilled it till death did them part. Its a beautiful covenant and the clearest picture of our relationship to Christ.

Yet, how many people that said those words, weeks, months or years down the road decide through actions, words and eventually legal papers, that they will not be keeping that ever important promise to their spouse. Its sad. I would never say this to shame someone that’s had a divorce, I realize the pain and heartache of them. But I would be remiss to not scream at the top of my blog that God has something better for us when we keep the marriage promise.

Beyond that, what about the promises that we make to our children. In my view, no matter the situation, if two people make a baby, they are responsible to fulfill the role of a father or mother to that child. And yet, so many children are abandoned by one or both parents. This hits close to home for me as so many of the kids that I’ve lived with and served at Treasures of Africa were just that, abandoned. Awadhi, for one, had a father who abandoned him. Diamond was found abandoned in a heap of garbage at two weeks old.

When we break our promises to one another, we break one another.

I dream that my daughter will be someone that keeps her promises, even the difficult ones, even the ‘for better or worse’ ones. Beyond that, I want her to be someone that inspires honesty, faithfulness and loyalty in a world that so desperately needs it. May we all be as such.

“What I have to Offer”

This video speaks to so much in our culture. The man that put this together is a friend of a friend and I think his films evoke such emotion and speak to some very deep places in our soul. I highly suggest checking out his work on Vimeo (Eliot Rausch), its inspiring creatively and even philosophically.

What I have to Offer from Eliot Rausch on Vimeo.

the Gospel of Christ a midst the gendercide of baby girls

I have been quite reflective lately, the complexities of life and the reality of sin and evil throughout the world has wracked my mind at times. It can be so evident at times and yet, I can feel crippled to really do something about what it is that I see. I believe in the gospel of Christ that says there’s something better, something that the majority of the people in the world aren‘t recognizing. In that midst, along with my own failings, I can become discouraged.

Discouraged by the injustice that is everyday before me. Discouraged that I see myself making stupid, sinful mistakes myself. Discouraged by the futile thought patterns that we often hold. Discouraged that people remain homeless and hopeless, hungry and without love, lost and confused, thirsty and not coming to the Living Water of Christ.

But I believe in a gospel that speaks otherwise. A gospel that speaks life and truth in a world that sometimes seems bent towards death and deception.

I just read an article on the gospel coalition that talked about the worldwide gendercide of little girls. In other countries this sometimes looks like straight up infanticide, but most prominently through abortion of baby girls that are identified through an ultrasound. We aren’t just talking about China and India here, though we are, but we are talking about the United States. I watched a chilling video where a woman makes it abundantly clear to a Planned Parenthood employee that she is going to have an abortion through them if she finds out that it is a girl. I felt sick to my stomach.

I recalled our prenatal appointment in Tanzania where we found out the sex of our baby. In preparation for a gender reveal on my birthday, we had the doctor write the gender in a card that we would give to a friend to make either pink or blue cupcakes. After our doctor became the first person to know the sex of our child, she asked us if we were hoping for a boy or a girl, I replied, “we just want a healthy child.” She smiled and said she believed that was the best response. She then told me that other families will have her do an ultrasound and will cry if they find out they’re having a girl.

That weekend we found out that we were having a girl. We celebrated, we rejoiced over her life and what we believe God is going to do through her.

What’s a father to feel when he realizes that had this precious little girl been placed in the womb of a woman other than his wife, she may have been aborted? Sadness, that’s what he feels. He grieves how far we’ve all fallen.

But I believe in a gospel that speaks otherwise. A gospel that says every person regardless of gender has value and a purpose to be fulfilled according their God-given calling. And that’s what I will teach my daughter and every child after that, that’s what I teach the Tanzanian orphans that call me “baba.”

It can be a scary thing to be an adult and realize the complexities of our existence, the ways that people hurt one another and furthermore that sin even comes through our own hands, then to decide that we are going to bring another life into this world. But the gospel of Christ is about redeeming those things, about calling life out of death, bringing light into the darkness, salt into blandness and loving in the face of hate and evil.

I am bringing my daughter into that higher reality: God’s Kingdom, Jesus’ Gospel.

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From TGC: “The House began debate Wednesday on a bill that would ban abortions based on the sex of a child. According to the Washington Post, the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) would punish doctors up to five years in prison for performing abortions because parents are seeking a child of the other sex.” You can sign a petition in support of this movement at www.protectourgirls.com

Jesus Wins: A Blog about Trains, Tozer and the Fame of Every Person Who Ever Lived

So A.W. Tozer wrote the Pursuit of God on a train, or so I hear. I read that book when I was in college and thought it was ingenious however I don’t remember much about now six years down the road. Nonetheless, if he can write something like that on a train ride void of spotty WiFi and a power outlet for his lap top, I thought that I could throw on some Amos Lee and forge at least a blog for the stint between Chatsworth and Fullerton, where I’ll disembark.

It’s a bit of a trip to ride along the coast and watch the water from San Luis Obispo gradually turn into the ocean water in Southern Claifornia. It all looks the same, but I’ve been in that water and I’ll tell you that water from SLO is a lot colder, but to me even Orange County waters are still largely unbearable. Stranger still to realize that this Pacific Ocean is going to stretch all the way across to Oceania and Indonesia where it meets that warm Indian Ocean that I fell in love with as we swam off the coast of northern Tanzania last month.

It makes you realize just how big this world is. I’m passing a parking lot near Van Nuys right now that has hundreds of cars. Each of those cars have an owner that was drives it and I’m just in one city in the metropolis of LA. We’re talking a lot of people.

It makes me wonder about being known, fame, notoriety, the whole deal. There’s this desire in my flesh to be famous. I’m not necessarily saying like Kobe Bryant or Jennifer Aniston famous, but just to have a few thousand subscribers to my Facebook feed or blog that will pad my ego and tell me that I’m important. They could do it because of the ministry in Tanzania or because of my stand-out blog in the sea of virtual voices (reaching? Entirely), but just so long as people validate me and know me.

That’s a bit of a vain pursuit though. About a hour ago I was looking out over the water before the scenery turned urban and I just realized yet again that its not about me. None of us are going to leave a substantial enough legacy worth much more than the next person. I don’t say this to get down on myself or other people. I’m comfortable with who I am and those that I’m important to: my wife, my family, certain friends. I’m just trying to be level-headed and you probably already realize where I’m going with this.

Take Tozer for example, a man of God, an accomplished preacher and author. For our Moody friends, you probably have a special affinity for him. Realistically though, is my daughter ever going to read him twenty years from now when she’s in college. Maybe. Would her children? Have you ever read Tozer? Somewhere along the line, his work will be replaced by somebody else’s and the world as we know it will continue.

I don’t know much about my great grandfathers. Of the four of them, I know two of their names. Of those two, one of them that’s all I know. This says nothing about their worth, what they accomplished in their lives or what they meant to those in their lives. But it goes to show that the fame and legacy of each person is severely limited.

Unless that person is Jesus. As I looked out over the water and realized that my legacy is limited, in the same thought I realize that His is infinite. It isn’t merely that He has been the most influential person of the last 2,000 years, its that His glory, His fame exist eternally before the creation of the world and on to the forever future. That’s a lot of fame, immeasurably so.

It really is not about us, its not about me and its not about you. The only way to ensure our purpose and our very lives is to attach them to His purpose and His life. He is worth living for. He is the Lord, the famous One.

so many voices

I teach English to a couple employees at Treasures of Africa and one of them has been my student and friend for over two years now. Arnold is always listening to his radio and I’ve noticed that he has actually become one of my main sources of news for what’s going on in the world. For whatever reason, I think its quite easy for us here in Moshi to just get caught up in our own little bubble and ministry and not have much idea what’s going on in the world.

Therefore, I’ve been trying lately to go beyond my rural-living Masai friend for news and have found myself poking around Christian news on websites like www.conversantlife.com and www.thegospelcoalition.org as well as national and international news on sites like CNN and BBC. Its all very interesting and I want to be as best informed as possible, especially as we near our return to the states.

As I’ve been perusing news articles, blogs and the like, I’m getting a bit blown away by the way that the internet has totally transformed the way that people interact. I realize that I sound like an eighty year old that just found out about Facebook (and probably started an account), but its really mind-boggling and a bit dizzying at times. Ten years ago this wasn’t happening.

Everybody has a Facebook, everybody has a blog, everybody has an opinion and everybody has an opinion about somebody else’s opinion. Furthermore, most people want a larger platform in which they can share their opinion. Its hard not to get sideswiped in the constant barrage of what everybody else thinks out in cyber-land.

Have you ever read YouTube comments?

My friend Lauren who lives out here had a video made about her project of a girl’s home made up of former prostitutes out here in Tanzania. Sounds all positive right? Well it is. I’ve been to the home, I’ve met the girls and let me tell you that God is doing something good there. Well, this video that the filmmaker made won some award and was hence showcased on the front page of YouTube. My friend and her organization that are doing something wonderful got ripped up by a grip load different anonymous individuals who just spewed nothing but vile from their keyboards. Its terrible.

It can be terribly disheartening.

And here I am trying to have a blog to talk about who knows what and I’m just wondering my place in all of it. I want to believe that there’s something special and unique about my blog, my opinion, my public cyber persona, but I start to realize that I’m just a distant face in a large crowd of people writing about who knows what.

I started writing because I liked it and wanted to share stories. Over time that evolved into me writing because I wanted other people to like my writing and agree with my opinions. That kind of killed it for me and I didn’t know how to right the ship. If people had ripped me like they had my friend, I don’t know what I would’ve done.

I think in light of the way that internet culture has impacted the culture at large, its important at times to really step back and evaluate our lives. I remember the first time, I fasted Facebook. I was the overly religious idiot that only considered fasting food to be real fasting. Yet, I was noticing the grip that Facebook had on my thought life. So I took a week off and came to this realization that that profile is not me. At best it is a minute representation of who I am, but it is most certainly not me. Its sounds like a stupid epiphany, but for me it was quite profound and something that I have to remind myself of at times. My Facebook is not me, my blog is not me, and my opinions are what I hold not who I am.

I am a human being with a wife, a dog, twenty-six wonderful kids I help look after and another very special child on the way. How I speak to them really matters. Being a man of integrity and character to them and other people that I meet, really matters.

How I love God by loving other people is all that matters.