The Shining Men

In shining cities made of gold, shining men were kings,They made the art, the songs, the shows, and dimmer men believed, That all was gold and shined quite bright, in citadels so strong, None could believe or dream that all gold would go wrong.

As time went by the gold grew faint, and needed fresh refinement, But refiners fire was difficult and cost much, some decided, So bit by bit the drossy gold was painted o'er instead, So shining men kept up the work on which the dim ones fed.

More gold grew dross, more paint was splashed, more citadels stood gleaming, Eventually refiner's fire became the stuff of nightmare's dreaming, No one remembered how to smelt, to forge, or beautify, They traded goldcraft for the art of candy making for the eye.

But what the shining kings forgot — or just failed to remember, Is that painted gold won't last for long, and must eventually dismember altogether — 'twill fall apart, and will need fresh refinement, And then refiner's fire will burn and burn all that was painted by it.

But ignorance was bliss enough, and kings continued making, Eyecraft for the masses which the dimmer men kept taking, But now, infrequently there was a shining man found out, For taking paint upon himself, exposing all to doubt.

"Nothing to fear," the others said, "That man's not one of us," "We'll take good care to quell you fear," so dimmer men would trust, The words of other shining men, the kings of citadels, But slowly creeping came the thought they might be painted hells.

"Of course not," they would tell themselves, to quiet inner sounds, Of wisdom, discord, and the truth that dross was all around, Refusing, unwilling to see the fact that golden city was, So painted, now so unrefined, that towers turned to dust.

And not just towers, once so bright, were touched with dross's plague, But more men now, and women too, were painting for the stage, Was no one now of solid gold? Was no one true to from? The dimmer men were now quite bold, though many just as torn.

The shining city's edifice, and the shining people, too, Now grew with greater discontent, until someone quite new, Said, "It's okay, all is well, you're painted gold, so what?!" "Refinement hurts, it's just the facts, be who you are," and such.

So slowly shining cities came to trade their kings for those, Who waxing philosophical spun foolishness in prose, Now they made art, and songs, and shows that dimmer men believed, Because all were painted, all were dim — shining was now a dream.

They laughed and played, these painted ones, covering the gold, But underneath the dross grew dark, and citadels grew cold. The city cracked and shook one day, as shows and songs were sold, The shining city rocked and reeled, the world now seemed so old.

The citadels were broken down, the truth now on display, The shining city and the kings were dross-filled, painted, fake. "We need refinement," shouted some — the few who still believed, But now the dross and paint was such that no one else agreed.

The cities now were haunts of old, broken and beleaguered, The shining people — men and women — were filled with rage and anger, Consumed with hatred for the ones who painted themselves first, They never saw what's true of all: we paint for what we thirst.

As cities fell and citadels which once held shining kings, Came tumbling down upon the ground, an older man was seen. He sang a song, lamentable, with dirge-like poetry, And this is what was heard that day, among the anarchy,

"In shining cities made of gold, shining men were kings, They made the art, the songs, the shows, and dimmer men believed, That all was gold and shined quite bright, in citadels so strong, None could believe or ever dream that all gold could go wrong."


5 Ways to Help Refugees Right Now

There's a lot of chatter on social media about President Trump's executive action. So, in an effort to turn passion into Kingdom action, I humbly submit for your consideration five steps we can take right now to be helpful toward this cause:


A lot of great, godly charities are funneling money and resources to those fleeing persecution. Because we live in the richest country on earth, our donations can make a huge impact. Consider partnering with them. Here's one, and here's anotherand here's another one.


If you belong to Jesus, you have at your disposal the most powerful, history-altering resource known to humanity — prayer. Pray for the refugees. Pray for the leaders of their broken countries. Pray for our own leaders, to practice compassion for the least of these while trying to secure our borders. Pray against a spirit of fear which foments our worst natures.


There are some great organizations that serve incoming refugees. Let's be known as those who welcome them, care for them, and serve them. We Christians are pro-life people. From conception to resurrection, people matter to God. Let's find ways to serve them.


After preaching yesterday on the refugee crisis and God's heart for the nations, I spoke with many internationals who were grateful to have found a place that welcomed them. While I know a thousand things our church can do better, I was glad for the little grace of foreigners feeling welcomed in our midst. When you meet your refugee neighbor, invite them into your community, your home, and your circle of friends, and yes, your church.


Part of the responsibility of God's people is to speak prophetically to our leaders when they go astray. Protest is a longstanding American tradition and a protected civil liberty. So, when appropriate, be present to be heard. Call your congressmen and senator. Advocate for godly, compassionate, and wise rule in our land. Just remember that as you do, God hears what you say and how you say it. In these gatherings there will always be temptation to give way to the worst parts of our common humanity. So often our enemy can turn righteous anger into sinful rage. So, as a mentor once told me, speak truth in a way that you'd want to hear it if you were the one in the wrong.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. (Lk. 10:27)

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:2-3)

7 Things Christians Must Not Do After the Election

My fellow Christian Americans, Last night, Donald Trump won the election and will become the 45th President of The United States of America. This mourning — I mean, morning — I saw a lot of sad, angry, rude, happy, anxious, fearful posts and faces.

I was disappointed months ago when the nominating process was over because both candidates embodied different anti-Kingdom values. The choice between a bullet and a noose isn't much of a choice, after all. I'll leave you to decide which one got elected.

We're Christians. We already have a King. He was King yesterday, and He's King today. Since we're citizens of a Kingdom that will never end, here's what we simply cannot do as we occupy this Republic that most certainly one day will:

  1. Do Not Panic Breathe. Neither Trump nor Clinton can destroy your reward. We elected a president, we did not install Emperor Palpatine. I understand that you may feel afraid, concerned, or upset. Grief is a perfectly acceptable and normal response. Panic is not — not for God's people.

    Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory... (Deut. 20:2-3)

  2. Do Not Gloat Half of you got what you wanted yesterday. Half of you did not. If you did, do not gloat. Spiking the ball and proudly declaring that "we got our country back," betrays your idolatrous allegiance to the wrong kingdom and the wrong king. If you voted for Donald Trump and you are happy today, act like a Christian. Seek to understand your brothers and sisters who did not.

    Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Pet 5:5)

  3. Do Not Judge Half of you did not get what you wanted yesterday. I've read your mean tweets ... "How could anyone who loves Jesus vote for this man." I understand your bewilderment, but these are your brothers and sisters. Jesus' injunction against judging them means that you can't allow their vote and your loss to break your fellowship. Love like a Christian.

    Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. (Matt 7:1-2)

  4. Do Not Hate Some of you are angry. Righteous anger only takes a little sin to turn into hate. You cannot hate those with whom you disagree. If you voted for Hilary, you cannot hate the Trump voter — not if you love Jesus. This is your opportunity to feel what they felt 4 and 8 years ago. If you voted for Trump, you cannot hate the Hilary voter. This is your opportunity to practice humility in your temporal electoral victory. Love like a Christian.

    "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)

  5. Do Not Fear Jesus doesn't want us to be afraid of anything we face in this life. We all must remember that King Jesus is King Jesus, and he's in charge of the world. Here are some words Paul wrote to a church ruled by tyrants:

    Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:4-7)

  6. Do Not Get Cynical Cynicism is just cowardice with sarcastic clothes on. Christian, you're called to engage the world, your neighbor, your political opponent, and even your political ally with the gospel of Jesus. Cynicism says, "There's no point" to gospel proclamation, acts of mercy, and social responsibility. Resist the temptation to get cynical.

    Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:8-10)

  7. Do Not Stop We are citizens of heaven, called to build the Kingdom of God and make disciples at all times, under any administration, with all our hearts, so that all the world can know King and Savior of all creation.Do. Not. Stop.Do not stop praying. Do not stop proclaiming. Do not stop repenting. Do not stop believing. Do not stop fellowshipping. Do not stop hoping. Do not stop giving. Do not stop loving.

    And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Gal 6:9-10)

Can a Christian Be Patriotic?

I remember the little church we would frequent had two flags: one American, one Christian. One Fourth of July weekend, I clearly remember singing the National Anthem and the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Church and State were partners in those days, and the patriotism seemed to go hand-in-hand with Christianity. And, in many churches today, this is still the case. But should it be? Some Christians believe quite strongly that we cannot be patriotic. With our citizenship in Heaven (Phil. 3:20) shouldn't be skip the fireworks on the Fourth and instead long for the country that is coming — the one without corruption, without injustice. The one ruled by the One great King?

Not Blind Patriotism

Both of these views are right, and both are wrong. Blind patriotism is clearly wrong. And, many American Christians are blindly patriotic. Believing only in the Christian America origins of our nation, this view utterly ignores the weeds of injustice which have grown up along the good stalk of the puritanical vision. The same weeds that today seem to be choking it out altogether in many quarters. Indeed, our citizenship is in Heaven, so we can never be blindly patriotic.

Worst of all, though, blind patriotism always devolves into a kind of syncretism. It muddies the clear, fresh water of the gospel, trading it for the mixed, brackish, and unhealthy false gospel of "America first."

Not Separate Kingdoms

So why not separate entirely? Why would Christians even bother engaging in an American that is wrought with so many problems? Well, the simple answer is, the Bible commands us to engage the world, not retreat from it. While we're not of it, we're still in it. (Jn 17:16) The very reason that God's people remain in the world is to engage it with the gospel, so that every nation might be present before God in worship for all time. (Rev 7:9)

Tragically, those who advocate the church as a completely different kingdom than the world devolve into a sub-Christian separatism. I'm just glad Jesus wasn't a separatist.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 7.15.58 AM

Patriotism as Resident Aliens

The Apostle Peter gives insight into this question in his epistle. He calls the church, “elect exiles of the Dispersion” (1 Peter 1:1). Christians are chosen by God to live as exiles in another country—resident aliens. The citizenship of the Christian is in heaven, but the residence of the Christian is in his city. The allegiance of God’s people is to the King of the Kingdom of God, Jesus Christ. But God’s people must love their city and their neighbors all the same. Keller notes:

Resident aliens will always live with both praise and misunderstanding. Jesus taught that Christians’ “good deeds” are to be visible to the pagans (Matt. 5:16), but he also warns his followers to expect misunderstanding and persecution (v. 10) ... Both Peter and Jesus indicate that these “good deeds” ... will lead at least some pagans to glorify God ... The church must also multiply and increase in the pagan city as God’s new humanity, but this happens especially through evangelism and discipling. (Keller, Center Church, 148.)

5 Practices of a Christian Patriot

It's not wrong to love your country, because you and I are commanded to love our neighbor. We shouldn't love it blindly, nor should we hate it blindly. Instead, consider these five practices of a Christian patriot:

  1. Pray for America -  The Scriptures command it. Pray for your leaders, your neighbors, and your city.
  2. Learn the Christian Foundation Story - I know it's not a perfect place, but it's got some good stuff in the foundations. For a refresher, I recommend this book.
  3. Vote Well - People have bled and died so you could participate in government. Quit complaining and use your vote with wisdom and the fear of the Lord.
  4. Be Prophetic - Love calls out injustice. When we Christians see what is not good in our country, we should say something about it.
  5. Make Disciples - Evangelism in our pluralistic society is hard, but it's right. The onus is on us to show how the gospel fares in the market place of ideas that is America.

This patriotic weekend, let us remember our call to love our country — to love it well enough to tell it the truth, and to love it well enough to love Jesus more.

Image of God over Issues

Once again, an act of terrible violence and evil has occurred. An unhinged Muslim man, motivated by a cocktail of false beliefs about God, hatred of LGBT people, and who knows how much personal brokenness, has injured or killed 100 people in Orlando. Sadly, it took approximately .0025 seconds for our political impulses to get the better of us and for everyone to take sides. As a pastor — heck, as a human — this was so grievous to me that I had to turn off the social media streams for a day just to get a little perspective. I think I've gotten some, and I'd like to share it with you.

Why Is This Wrong?

Why is this act wrong? Well, first let's figure out what aren't the reasons:

  • Killing or injuring 100 people isn't wrong because the victims were Americans.
  • Killing or injuring 100 people isn't wrong because the victims were gay.
  • Killing or injuring 100 people isn't wrong because the shooter was Muslim.
  • Killing or injuring 100 people isn't wrong because of guns.

Hear me clearly: Killing or injuring 100 people is wrong because the victims are people — they bear the image of God. Snuffing it out the image of God is always always always always wrong.

It's wrong to kill gay people, Muslim people, gun-owning people, unborn people, American people, conservative people, black people, poor people, the mentally infirm people — because it's wrong to kill people.

Do we have work to do with the way we love our LGBT neighbors? Absolutely. Do we have work to do with Muslim community? Absolutely. Do we have work to do with our gun laws? Absolutely. But this act was not wrong for any of those reasons — at least not primarily. And when any of us take a tragedy of this magnitude and make it about an issue (and isn't it fascinating that it's always about our pet issue) we ignore the importance of the image of God for the sake of an issue. That is wrong.

Don't Elevate Issues Over the Image

Now, let me go one step further: Using a tragedy as a fulcrum to gain leverage for your position is the worst kind of power mongering. It's literally the attempt to write law in the blood of victims about whom you care less than you do your issue. Their blood cries out to us from the streets of Orlando to remember that they are more than an issue. They are precious, image-bearing, God-made people. All of them. They are dead. That is wrong, and that reason is sufficient.

Some of you reading this will say, "Yeah, but our nation has really strange gun laws, those need to be dealt with." Others will say, "Yeah, but LGBT people have been systematically ignored or hurt by us for too long." Others will say, "Yeah, but we've got a big problem with radical Islam." And let me be give a big yes to all these related issues. Much is the work to do. But, that's my point exactly: these are related issues. By definition, therefore, they are not central. One issue is central: God's image was wiped off the earth 50 times over, and none of us seem to be more grieved by that fact than we are about issues.

The Image of God Unites Us.

This one issue which should unite us in our grief is the same issue which unites us in our humanity. We are image-bearers. But it does more still. It unites us in our hope.

Remembering that we are God's image bearers will quickly call one final reality to mind: The image has been marred. Twisted and bent, the image of God within us has a condition wrapped around it like a python around its prey — a condition called sin. Only one image-bearer has ever crushed the head of this ravenous snake. When tragedy comes, the people of God must resist the temptation to wriggle out of this serpent's grip by ranting and raving about issues, no matter how legitimate they may seem. The time will come for issues. First, we must be among those who look to the one who has vanquished this foe, and plead with him for the grace to help us do the same. If we did, we may just start to see His image in others again — even those with whom we disagree about the issues.


Trinitarian Politics and Trending Totalitarianism

As a pastor, a Christian, and an American, I'm feeling increasingly alienated from my country's political process. I'm probably not the only one. It may not surprise you that a pastor isn't happy with politics. But what may surprise you is why. It's not because I'm a shill for the Republican or Democratic parties. Neither is my greatest alienation over a particular policy (though books could be written about policies I dislike). I'm not even most disturbed about the petulant tone of the discourse (even if it happens to resemble a middle school student election I once participated in). No, my deepest problem with our politics is a theological one.

What disturbs me, perhaps more than everything else, is the way in which our political process has abandoned the most foundational doctrine of my faith: the doctrine of the Trinity.

Trinity is a word that described the tri-unity of God. He is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This fact about God's nature holds endless implications, but the one most important for our current political discourse is this: If God is trinity, we matter and you matter.

Trinity Means We Matter

Christian theologians (the good ones, anyway) derive their conclusions on human interactions from the nature of God. So, if God were a radical individual (one God, one person) we may reasonably conclude that individuals may exercise supreme authority over others. But, God is not a monad (radically one). God is three-in-one. He is unity and community — a tri-untiy. That means that, for God, three matters as much as one.

Because God is Trinity, we matter — communities of individuals matter. That's not a view that started with 19th century Liberalism. It's a view that starts with God. Vintage Trinitarianism.

Trinity Means You Matter

If you were to only read the first heading, you might begin feeling the Bern. Socialism FTW, right?

Slow your roll, comrades. It's not that simple.

Because God is one God, and the individual Persons of the Trinity are in fact individual persons, individuals matter. On the Christian view, individuals should own property, do work, and exercise authority as individuals. Oneness doesn't trump three-ness. Neither does three-ness trump oneness. I matter and we matter, because the Father (and the Son, and the Spirit) matters and the Godhead matters.

Without Trinity We Trend Totalitarian

In a world of political and social brokenness, we can easily see what happens when individuals are sacrificed for the good of the community or state. We only need look as far back as World War II to find out what happens when a society decides that a certain group of individuals is undesirable. The killing fields of Cambodia, the concentration camps of Dachau and Auschwitz — these stand as monuments to the idea of the supremacy of the society at the expense of the individual. If God is simply one without internal diversity, then we would have no way to justify the rights of individuals in communities.

However today we live in an age when the rights of individuals are so over-preferred that a single person's preferences, feelings, and proclivities can change the course of the entire society, because the individual is the basic unit of society, or so it is said. If there were three separate gods, then we would have no theology to support a strong community. But, because within God there is unity and diversity, and we are made in his image, we have a means to hold in balance the rights of individuals and needs of communities. God's very nature gives us a great resource to develop a proper understanding of the balance of a civilization and its parts. Without this, what anchor have we against tyranny of the state or the citizen?

Socialism in its various forms is the idea that the "we" matters more than the "you." As I Christian, I just can't feel the Bern, I'm afraid, because Socialism is simply anti-Trinitarian. But before you righties start cheering, the Truth cuts both ways. We can't prefer individual rights at the expense of the community — Trumpian triumphalism means certain people win, while a lot of others don't. The "You" doesn't matter more than the "we."

This basic understanding was, at one point, built into the fabric of our Republic. It seems to be absent now. One party seems poised to elect a totalitarian individualist while another is tilting toward the totalitarianism of the state. Without Trinity, I'm afraid the totalitarian trend is inevitable.

What to do (and how to vote) is, well, a post for the future. But until then, vote Jesus for King.