Category Archives: kingdom of God

How Did You Wake Up This Morning

I believe I’ve spoken about my neighbor, Bootsie, before.

She’s an older lady, 63, and has lived a hard life that’s included 15 years in an asylum, an 8th grade education, problems with alcohol, etc.

Her husband of 26 years is dying of prostate cancer, which made her drinking problem worse.

I talked to her and told her she needed to quit drinking, so she could be strong for James, her husband. Right after that, she went to the clinic and found out her kidneys were failing. The doctor said if she didn’t stop drinking, she die. They put a catheter on her with a bag, and said she might have to use that for 2 months until her kidneys clear up.

So she has, so far. Its been almost two weeks, and as far as I know, she hasn’t had a drop. She’s been much more lucid when she drops by my apartment to use the phone or to get some groceries. She doesn’t utilize all the social programs that are out there for her. She and her husbands combined monthly income is 1300 dollars, and they spend 600 a month on rent. Doesn’t leave much for food or clothing. So I help her out when I can.

Anyway, this morning, I get a knock on my door at 7:45 and hear Bootsie hollering that she needs my help. I’m thinking that James has passed, so I run to the door.  Luckily, that wasn’t the case. However, her bag had gotten full, and she asked if she could use my bathroom. I obliged, unsure why she hadn’t used the bathroom at her house, but nevertheless not minding helping her out at all.

Then, she called me to the bathroom. After emptying the bag (mostly in the toilet, but alot on the floor) she couldn’t reattach it to her leg.

Now there’s a reason that I never considered being a doctor. I can’t handle people being in pain looking to me to fix it. I would freeze. So when I hesitantly entered the bathroom, with her pants at her ankles and looking to me to strap that pee bag on her leg, I didn’t know what to do.

I was most certainly out of my comfort zone.

But I stepped up, got in there, and eventually got the velcro thing strapped tightly back around her leg.

And I have to tell you, it was God that got me in that bathroom. It wasn’t me. I didn’t do it on my own. I would have trouble doing that for a family member, much less, a lady I met two months ago that lives around the corner.

But its a testament to how messy (literally) the Kingdom of God is. And how he will empower you to step out of your comfort zone.


Otter Creek Sermon Series: Money

Tim’s sermons have been awesome the past couple weeks. He told us up front that he’s gonna be talking about money, but not about giving to church. Sounds like some toe steppin’ material to me.

In the first sermon, he basically gave an overview on what he was talking about, but the kicker, the part that really got me fired up, was when he straight up called the health and wealth gospel heresy. It’s what it is. And its probably one of the fastest growing movements among protestants in America, and abroad. I can understand why, it definitely affects the psyche in two distinct ways.

First, if you are poor, hearing a message that if you trust in Jesus and give what little money you have to the Pastor’s Pension church that you attend, that sounds like an easy way to remedy your situation. And it does “work” to an extent. For many in poverty, one of the main causes of poverty is bad choices. I’m not denying here that there is a cycle of poverty, and that some, no matter how hard they try, cannot ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps’, but for many in our country, if they can overcome some bad decisions they have made and are currently making, things will get better for them financially. This is a land of great opportunity. So this movement gains traction because it seems that by believing in Jesus and going to this church, you will be blessed materially and will be raised out of poverty and into riches.

Second, those that are all ready wealthy find this movement satisfying because it backs up their inner belief that they are wealthy because they are either Godly, or blessed by God. Hearing a sermon every morning is a big pat on the back for a job well done.

So I was really excited about this sermon series, after that introduction.

However, this week was kinda odd for me. I’m not quite sure how to explain it.

The sermon was about envy, covetousness, buying things that we can’t afford to keep up with the Joneses, etc. However, I didn’t feel like it really connected with me.

I mean, I understand wanting to buy things because of marketing. I definitely do that. But since I was young, I haven’t looked at something someone else had and decided I needed it to be in with them. For example, I used to only want to buy clothes that I thought other people would think were cool, thereby making them want to hang out with me. This didn’t really work, I found, and being cool in junior high apparently means, regardless of your clothes, that you have to be an asshole. That wasn’t my game, so I just decided I’m going to dress in what I think looks good, regardless of whether its what the cool people are wearing. Sure, I wore name brand things, but I bought and dressed how I liked.

I guess the point of this is that since middle school, I haven’t felt like I bought anything to keep up to the standard of my neighbors. That point didn’t resonate with me. And what bothered me the most, I think, is that Tim painted that with a pretty broad brush. Talking about buying houses so that you fit in with a crowd. Buying cars so that you fit in with certain people. My parents never did that when they didn’t have money, and they don’t do that now. I have an Acura, but it cost me 4300 dollars that I paid cash for, and its 11 years old. It looks cool, sure, but its a well built car that will last me for 100,000 miles or more.

Anyway, had I been Tim, I think I would have talked about judging those with more than you, along with what he talked about Sunday. The biggest issue I’ve seen with money in the church is not keeping up with the Joneses, but making judgement calls about people based on your own situation.  (and I will admit, this definitely comes from my life experience)

My parents have plenty of money. My Dad started his own business, and after several years of ups and downs, it finally went up pretty signifiacantly and stayed that way. We’ve been blessed immensely when it comes to finances.

I never knew how much my Dad made until I was in college. I knew we had a bigger house than most of the people I knew, but our cars were the same, or clothes were often cheaper, we had to pay for things on our own. I always had a summer job. The cars that were bought for us as a convenience so that we could transport ourselves (we lived 20 minutes from pretty much everything) we had to buy if we wanted to take them to college. Most of my friends, who had houses that were smaller than mine, and parents that made less than my dad, were often given more than me and my brothers.

But I’d hear the snide comments. The “Justin’s parents are loaded, why don’t they pay” or “if I didn’t send my kids to private school, we could afford a house this big” (back before I went to private school) or comments about how a 5000 sq ft house is unchristian, etc etc etc.

What I’m saying that I’ve noticed is that people often make the judgment of how much is enough based upon how much they have. What I have is “enough” and anyone with more than me, is not being a good steward. One of my really close friends even made comments about that behind my back with regularity, and it was hurtful.

But my Dad didn’t disclose his finances. He didn’t disclose that we lived on much less than he made, with a portion going to retirement and a large portion going to church and an AWESOME organization called HOPEWORKS . He shouldn’t. Anyone that’s making that judgment call on face value has other issues. And I’ll tell ya, most wealthy christians I know are the most benevolent, caring, and responsible people I’ve ever met. They are responsible with their money, because most of them didn’t start out that way, and being responsible is part of being a good steward. They often give large amounts of money away, because they know that the accumulation of more things isn’t going to make them happy. Yet, these people are demonized by those who think they are more righteous because their house is smaller.

I’m not really sure what the point of this rant was. Its something I’ve been meaning to get off my chest. And its something we need to talk about in the church.

Wealth is relative. If you live in this country, even if you’re the poorest person, you are better off than the majority of the world. Its that simple. Instead of trying to determine what amount of money is ok, just always be willing to give it all away if the need arises. And if you make a habit of living on less than you make and giving a large portion of it away (maybe increase your tithe every time you get a raise) I think you’re well on your way to the Kingdom of God. Cause we’re all rich.  And I haven’t seen any camels going through the eye of a needle recently.

How I Went From Card Carrying Republican to Libertarian to Christian Anarchist in 2 Short Years: Part 2

MTSU brought a new environment. First off, I was in a house instead of a dorm. I had the privacy of the upstairs, I had my first taste of alcohol (besides a warm beer that I tasted once), and I had a lot of spare time. I was only taking twelve hours of school and two of those classes were 3 hours in one sitting. Basically, I had a LOT of spare time. And for the first three months, I didn’t have a job. That meant plenty of time to think about everything under the sun. My philosophy of life had changed a little bit, but I was really just trying to reform it.

I’d been looking into Libertarianism and really liked what I saw. I’d always been distrustful of government and the Libertarian Party was about as skeptical of Government as any party (outside of anarchists, though Libertarians aren’t too far from that). I agreed with nearly every premise of the party, but I did have some issue with their position on the Iraq war (they are against it) and their position on drugs (they want to legalize most drugs). I eventually came to see their side on the war on drugs, but I didn’t quite agree witht he position on Iraq. I felt though, that my problems with the Republicans were resolved by Libertarianism.

I went back home for the summer and met a girl named Claire. She was from the Mississippi Gulf Coast and was a friend of my friend Daniel Wade. We talked for the summer which eventually led to a week long trip to Panama City Florida. After the trip, we both went back to our respective colleges, she to Searcy and me to Murfreesboro. We continued talking (and we were both still interested in each other). I ended up taking a job at Ezell Harding christian school so that I’d have the weekends free to see Claire. I never made it over to Searcy, but I did meet my fiancee at that job. Funny how things work out. But back to the story… a couple of weeks after our trip, Hurricane Katrina hit, and with the wind from the Gulf came winds of change in my theology.

In my life, I’d grown up with a pretty solid definition of who God was and how he worked. All of the sudden, this God that was always in control had let horrible things happen to so many people right here in my country. Its terrible that this Hurricane caused this shift of thought in me, and not the Tsunami in East Asia, but this is just how things happened.  I was near the end of my faith. It was if all the small questions that had been building inside since my last semester at Lipscomb came to a boil… and I didn’t know what to do.

So I emailed Brandon Scott Thomas and asked him for help. He invited me to lunch to share his story, and things started turning around from there…

Environmentalism vs Social Justice

Today I was thinking about a conundrum that befalls many of today’s progressive christians (as well as progressive secularists as well).

Many environmental reforms that have been, and are being, put into action today have a negative effect on the poorest here in America. What is more important in progressive circles? Is it protecting the poorest in our country, or is it making sure that the environment is safe?

Maybe you’ve never thought of this before, so I’ll give you an example. In many places in California, communities are enforcing environmental protection laws that prohibit housing development in many of the nicest areas to live. These laws are trying to protect green areas from encroaching suburban development. What they also do is create a concrete supply of housing, which, in essence, raises property values to levels that prohibit any middle and lower income level families from moving in. If you don’t believe me, check out average housing cost in the San Francisco area. In some places, a house with 2 bedrooms and 2 baths is 800,000 dollars . The same house in Nashville would not cost more than 150,000 dollars.

Another example is the ridiculous air pollution standards that liberals want to impose on industry end up costing companies lots of money. Money that doesn’t end up coming out of the pockets of the execs, but out of the pockets of the working guys and girls. Its the same situation with raising income taxes (or creating windfall profit taxes). Things that are designed to help the poor actually hurt them.

But that’s beside the point. The question is… if you know that environmental regulation is going to hurt the poor… do you choose the Earth or the Poor?

Caught a Kitten and Hannity v Yoakum

Today, I was going to the bank to deposit a check, and all the sudden a kitten runs underneath my feet an into the  undercarriage of my car.

I pulled it out from under there and took it home.

So, now I have a cat.

In other news, Cole Yoakum, a sophomore student at Harding University who stood toe to toe with Sean Hannity last week, has a blog and has something to say about the event. I respect this kid in a huge way. Its good to see that there are people at Harding who think outside the box and are willing to question things that they think go against the ideals of Christ.

And in that same vein, Greg Kendall-Ball is discussing why the argument that Hannity used against pacifism is not relevant.

Randy Harris

Last night at College Hills, Randy Harris spoke on the topic of being “Ordinary Radicals”.

He didn’t come up with this phrase on his own, its part of the subtitle of the Shane Claiborne book “Irresistable Revolution”. He spoke about how we’ve watered down Christianity and how younger people are going to have to show the adults, not just prove to them through sermons how we’re supposed to be living.

I thought it was a great topic. He made some great points (I wish I’d taken notes) but I really thought he shyed away from saying some stuff that needs to be said. He asked us to re read through the gospels and list all the things that Jesus says that we are uncomfortable with. I could think of a zillion right off the top of my head. Turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, give your undergarment as well as your cloak, as well as things that Paul said  that expound on these statements like ‘do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’.

Thing is though, what disappointed me, was that Randy used the situation of dealing with a crazy church of christ preacher as his enemy. Was Jesus talking about our response to people who speak ill of us? Yes. Absolutely. But I think we as a church have used these type of examples as the only means by which we are to forgive and turn the other cheek. While its not often easy to respond in a Christlike way to those people, how about the example of the would be suicide bomber, the communist, basically, the enemies of our nation? We are called to love those enemies just the same as the enemies who aren’t threatening our lives. This would have been a great opportunity for Randy to show the power of the ressurection. We do not fear death because of Christ. It frees us to love others, even when it is dangerous for us. It frees us from so many things when we don’t just look at the easy examples of loving. I don’t think anyone would disagree here in saying that it would be easier to love the guy who condemns you to hell for using instruments than it would be to love Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, or Kim Jong Il.

But over all, it was great to hear from Randy. He always brings a good message, and I’m glad that he’s more and more becoming a bigger voice in our movement.

Christian Nation?

I can’t begin to figure out what my response should be to the Jesus Camp movie.

Radical pentacostalism is not all like this. I know people who attend charasmatic churches that don’t believe what this camp does, but it is definitely a trend that is moving through charasmatic circles (especially premillienial groups) as well as parts of the Southern Baptist Church. This idea that we are supposed to bring America back to God is flawed. At what point was America God’s? Was it when we continually lied to the indians, stole their land, gave them blankets infected with small pox, and raped their women? Was it when we shipped Africans over on over crowded boats and sold them into slavery, splitting up wives and husbands and parents and children? Or was it during the years of segregation in the south where blacks were denied entrance to restaurants, hotels, buses and bathrooms that were used by whites? While we may have had Christians in our country, we were never a Christian nation and never will be. No nation can be Christian, because Christ’s teachings show us that we should exist from a power under structure of serving and loving rather than a power over structure that keeps order by threatening force.

Militant Christian Fundamentalists are just as dangerous as the terrorists that threaten the West.