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. 

yeast

During our monthly house church this last Sunday, I was pondering the power of yeast. Ryan was sharing out of Mark 8 where Jesus warned his disciples about the yeast, or leaven, of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod. Basically, a small amount of yeast can leaven an entire loaf of bread, just a touch can infect a much larger matter.

The yeast of Herod is that violent, overpowering political influence. You ever notice how someone will read one little online article or hear one thing in the news (that may or may not be accurate) and receive it into their psyche. All of a sudden they’re on a warpath with their political cause of choice and are taking out anyone and everyone that stands in their path? That’s the yeast of Herod. A small influence that has absolutely taken someone over and is now negatively affecting them and others around them. The political yeast of Herod doesn’t line up with one particular ideology either, those on the left and the right, however liberal or conservative, often allow this yeast in their lives.

The yeast of the pharisees is the overbearing, self-righteous religious influence. Jesus came into conflict with the religious elite more than any other group during his ministry. They used religion as means of oppressing others and maintaining their own status in society. For them, it wasn’t about honoring and loving God through His own directives in the Torah, it was about keeping their thumb on everyone else. In recent weeks, we’ve heard controversies from famous pastors that have established a level of control and influence, yet have clearly strayed from God’s word about truth, love and humility. You can be sure that the yeast of the Pharisees has had something to do with that.

As these things were running through my head concerning Jesus’ warning in Mark 8, I couldn’t help but think about Jesus words in Matthew 13:33 where He says that the Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast which a woman takes and hides in the meal until the whole thing becomes leavened.

So yeast isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Small things can make a big difference a lot of the time. We open ourselves to all sorts of yeast in our lives, those small influences that change the entire meal for us. We often have our passions become a bit misdirected because of this. It doesn’t have to be the political tirades or the religious power plays (though it often is). It can be the things that are good, but have taken precedence over the real important things, or over the most important thing.

Get the good yeast going in your life. The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast, just a small amount can profoundly change your entire life. Once your life is changed by the Kingdom of Heaven, there’s no telling the amount of good that’s going to flow through you from God.

Our ministry is on the precipice of expansion. We have five kids right now, but after we return from our upcoming baby furlough we’ll be adding more children into families. Melissa and I were discussing how that’s going to play out and I’d love for it to spread like wildfire if we can handle it, but if we just add one or two kids up front, I’m totally good with that. The reason is because one is a lot of people to receive the Kingdom of God. God does a whole lot through one person that is received by Him.

Just that small amount of one child among three million others in Tanzania, has the potential to do an immeasurable amount of good by the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s the kind of yeast, however small, I want to be influencing that child, that family and this nation.

What’s influencing you? What kind of yeast are you allowing in your life? The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast, just a small amount will take over everything.

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Photo Cred: https://www.flickr.com/photos/subseasniper/

A Chimp with a Soda Bottle

Several months ago during a time of worship in Moshi, a friend of mine gave me a prophetic picture that he felt impressed upon him from the Lord. In my approximate recollection, he saw me holding a soda bottle that I kept shaking up in an attempt to have the contents calm. It was of course a futile attempt, being as shaking up a soda bottle doesn’t calm the drink, but rather only further inflames it. As he was giving me the somewhat odd message, I was envisioning myself within that picture as a perplexed chimpanzee, not understanding how it all works. After the time of music was over, he asked me if the picture resonated with me at all, as he said, he wanted to be accountable for any prophetic word that he shared with someone. Appreciative of his humble approach and realizing that there was indeed resonance there, I bashfully acknowledged my prophetic chimp-like behavior.

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Sometimes we try to fix ourselves and in so doing, only perpetuate poor behavior and poor outcomes. Over the last couple years, I feel as though I’ve lost my head, my creativity and my gifting in an overpowering celebrity culture. Yesterday I read a review on Scott Stapp’s new memoir, yeah as in the greasy haired dude from Creed. The review was surprisingly candid and applauded Stapp for his transparency on the rock star life and fame. Interestingly, the guy that wrote the review felt as though the take-home for him from the book was for ministry leaders to not fall into the trap of fame: self-idolatry or self-infatuation, which happens on even the smallest of scales. That actually really rang true with me.

Coincidentally as I was driving to the church this morning for work, Beth Moore came on with a snippet on the Christian radio station talking about how we’ve formed social media to conform to our personal celebrity-hood. We can choose what we see from people, as easily as we ‘friend’ people, we can ‘unfriend’ them should they do something we deem improper. On our blogs, Twitter and Instagram we have ‘followers’, who are, in our minds, people that are just as enthralled by our thoughts and actions as we are. We can all be mini-celebrities.

I have indeed fallen into that trap of believing myself to be a mini-celebrity. Its now been three years since I first moved to Tanzania. Several months in, after the glimmer of that romantic missionary life wore off, I realized that I was addicted to social media that revolved around me. I had become the center of my universe, even as I was doing the Lord’s work in ministry. My personal time in worship, prayer and devotional Bible reading didn’t give me as much energy as ‘comments’ and ‘likes’ on Facebook or my blog did. I had become the greasy haired lead singer of my own mind.

Since realizing this in November 2010 or so, I have tried different things at different times to kick out the voices in my head and re-claim my creativity and my sanity. Nothing’s really worked. Every feeble attempt of mine to fix myself has only led to me shaking up that soda bottle some more; left in utter bewilderment. The problem is of course that I can’t fix myself, I wasn’t designed to. Its not a matter of going underground and disconnecting from all media outlets (which I just finished doing in December). Its not a matter of being more selective in choosing which voices you listen to. Its not a matter of ignoring your blog stats or refraining from updating my Facebook status every ten minutes.

Its a matter of allowing God to be the center of the universe, no matter what.

I hope to be more creative in 2013. I hope to be able to engage culture more effectively without being overwhelmed by it. But the only resolution that I can really manage is putting him in His rightful place and praying that God would grant me the sound mind that is promised as a bearer of His Holy Spirit.

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.

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.