The Church Where No One's Comfortable


Ever have those moments where you realize something is really broken inside you? 

I experienced it yet again this Sunday when I got the opportunity to worship with over a hundred followers of Jesus, from more than a dozen churches across the theological and denominational spectrum, in a nearly 200 year old Cathedral in the heart of our downtown. 

We began with a poetic call to worship, sang a beautiful old hymn, and then jumped into a very famous worship song called “What a Beautiful Name It Is” - a song about Jesus and how his name is quite lovely. Now I’m not the biggest fan of contemporary worship jams. I’m not a staunch traditionalist who is opposed to new praise music on a historical level or anything, I just don’t like breathy vocals or songs that sound too epic. But I wanted to have a good attitude so I sang along with every word… until the second chorus, which began with: “You didn’t want heaven without us, so Jesus you brought heaven down.” 

“What a stupid line. You didn’t want heaven without us? That’s so weird and awkward to say.” I thought to myself, growing more and more frustrated. “Furthermore it’s an eschatological mess! Christians are anticipating God’s Kingdom come and not an escape to paradise.” 

Then a simple sentence appeared in my mind with such clarity it must have been the very voice of God:

“Don’t be an asshole.”

Really. That’s what I heard. I looked around the room and saw multiple generations with their hands in the air, from countries all across the world, representing traditions that have often dismissed one another. Yet here they were, praying and praising together with joyful hearts and united spirits. 

And I was complaining about not liking a line in a song.

So I repented. I decided to change my mind, and when the chorus came back around I raised my hands high and sang every word like I meant it. “What a beautiful name it is.”

Over the last few days I’ve thought more about this moment, and wondered if a lack of comfort is one of the greatest gifts we can bring to worship. Whenever I’ve visited another culture I’ve been told to receive their food with gratitude and humility. Eating what someone offers you is an exchange of hospitality.
Perhaps we need to grow in exchanging spiritual hospitality across our church cultures? I want to pray with charismatics, to seek justice with the peacemakers, to sing in another congregations mother tongue… even if it’s Hillsong. 

To be fair, everyone had at least one moment of discomfort that evening.

In addition to the earnest praise songs there were Taize chants repeated over and over (and over). We sang a lot of old hymns and one song in Swahili. There was a land acknowledgement, prayers to break the teeth of the spiritual powers that ruled in our city, a confession of the ways we as a church have harmed LGTBQ+ people, and a surprising amount of people speaking in tongues. There were moments of formality and an African pastor who yelled at the room for being too formal.

No one felt comfortable the entire evening, but perhaps that is the point. Most of my day to day life is spent in place where I feel at home. I hang out with people who like what I like, visit websites that write articles I agree with, and hang out in coffee shops that make me feel hip.

But there is a unique power to being in a room where no one person is entirely comfortable, and instead we meet one another where we are at.

So here’s to the introverts that suffer through “passing the peace” and the kids who eat cheerios through a sermon that goes too long. Here’s to the charismatics who recite liturgy and the contemplative’s who raise their hands in worship. Here’s to the skeptics who pray anyways and the coffee-makers who prefer tea. 

May we continue to offer spiritual hospitality to one another, and create a church where no one feels comfortable, but everyone belongs.

Photo by Nina Drenth

Photo by Nina Drenth

Why Jesus Left - Ascension 2019


For most of my life I didn’t know what the “day of ascension” was or why it mattered. Now I think about it all the time.

A bit of context: After his resurrection Jesus stays with the disciples for forty days, reminding them of all he taught and getting a few last quality hang outs in. Then he takes them to a mountaintop, says goodbye, and “ascends.” Jesus literally rises up in the air and a cloud covers him from the disciples sight. It’s a bizarre way to go, but forget the practical questions around the miraculous disappearance. 

The real question for me is why he left at all.

Think about it: After the resurrection Jesus was walking around with a scarred body and holes in his hands. Presumably he could have scheduled a tour and showed the entire world his scars, just like he showed Thomas. And if Jesus’ goal was to get everyone to believe that he raised from the dead, then this would be a very effective method. Jesus could have walked town to town, convincing people he was the resurrected King, and he would have very solid evidence. If post-resurrection bodies aren’t corruptible, he could have continued to live longer than his disciples, parading his resurrected body for all time.

By 150 he’d be the new King of the Roman empire. By the 1500’s he’d have a book deal. In the 1970's he’d have a late night talk show. In 2019 he’d have the top podcast and youtube channel.

And we’d all believe he raised from the dead. We really would. It would be the sort of hard fact that no one could disprove.

And what would be the message of his resurrection to us? That he’s the strongest. The toughest. The most successful.

That he’s the King because he’s the top dog.

And how would that “good news" be any different from all the other kings and rulers? 

Jesus intended to launch a subversive Kingdom, a nation without borders, made up of servants who would love everyone, even their enemies. He called his disciples to trust the invisible power of God over chariots and swords. He was willing to suffer for what was right, even being nailed to a cross without a hint of victory. 

How could he continue to call his disciples to that if they had visible evidence he was also the most powerful person who ever lived? How could he get them to pledge allegiance, not just to the lion, but the lamb who was slain?

If “the medium is the message” then the medium of Jesus couldn’t just be another king who overcame his enemies through power. It wasn’t enough to overcome the cross with love.

Jesus needed a way to rule without ruling. 

Which brings us to the ascension.

He showed his disciples how to live like he lived, taught them to recognize the work of God all around them, promised he would empower them by his Spirit, and then he left.

The work is in their hands now. The good news can’t be proven in a lab, but must be experienced in community. The power his disciples receive will look radically unlike the power of the world around them.

The Kingdom of God will continue to grow slowly, below the surface, invisible to the powerful around us. And that can only happen because Jesus isn’t here anymore.

So go be Jesus today: Love your neighbours, pray with conviction, gather with other disciples, eat with friends and strangers, offer reckless grace, release your grip on all your possessions, sing songs of praise, and trust in the Lord. 

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

― Teresa of Avila

The image above is an Orthodox Icon, though I could not locate the authors name. 

Why I was removed from speaking at Pitch N Praise 2018



Many of you know that I was very excited to be the keynote speaker at this years Pitch N Praise.

In case you aren’t aware, Pitch N Praise is an incredible youth event where roughly 1500 teenagers camp out together and spend their days worshipping, dancing, eating together, and learning about Jesus. When the team approached me back in the fall I was honoured to be trusted with such a great responsibility, and even more thrilled that they wanted to shape the entire weekend around the themes present in my one-man-show Holy Shift. During our initial conversations we discussed the history of the event, what they were looking for, and I told them about my church community. Wanting to make sure they understood who they were inviting, I also talked through my beliefs around a range of controversial topics, including the inclusion and participation of LGTBQ+ people in the church. 

I shared that Eucharist Church does not have an official “position” about what it means to live faithfully as LGBTQ+ people, but that we have prioritized shaping a community in which people can wrestle with scripture, spirit, and community, and can ultimately land in different places. This has created a church of diversity on questions of gender and sexuality, as well as many other controversial and important topics. Rather than try and resolve these differences with a policy, we believe the Spirit calls us to bear with one another in love, and to sharpen one another through mutual submission (Ephesians 4:1-5). This means Eucharist doesn't use terms like “affirming” or “non-affirming” to describe our community, but instead would say there are a range of perspectives in our congregation, and we are called to love one another with a unity that is deeper than uniformity (if you would like more information about how this works in practice we have a document I can pass on by request). We value LGBTQ+ people in our community especially because of the pain and rejection they have often faced in Jesus name, but we do not consider ourselves “the gay church” or anything like that. We are just a church for all those on the margins of faith, many of whom have been shoved there by Christians. 

As a pastor my job is to shepherd people by pointing them to Jesus through scripture and community. Some gay and lesbian Christians come to a place where they believe God has called them to celibacy or spiritual friendship, and in those cases I bless their discernment. Others come to a place where they feel freedom to pursue a relationship with someone of the same-sex, and in those cases I also bless their discernment. I believe that God can bless same-sex Christian marriages, and while I do not perform any marriages as a civil servant (I am not ordained), I honour their discernment and we welcome those members of our community to participate fully in the life of the church. 

All of this was shared in the fall with the leadership team of PNP, but told them I would avoid talking about sexuality in my keynote session as I did not feel it was the right place to bring up something that can be so controversial. These conversations are always better held at a local level in smaller groups, with parents, and with youth leaders. They agreed it was best to focus on Jesus and how he can shift us forward in growth and discipleship, which was the very message I was so excited to share. 

To be perfectly clear: My only intent at PNP was to clearly communicate the radical love of God shown to us in Christ in a way that would help young people follow Jesus through college and young adult life.  

With all that said, here is what happened.

PNP is made up of youth groups from many denominations, but the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada (EMCC) is the sponsoring denomination. At some point in the last few weeks the EMCC president was sent an audio clip from a podcast I was on, in which I shared what I wrote above. The President decided that since I was out of line with their denominations official policy on same-sex marriage I was to be removed from the event and would not be permitted to speak at PNP. I received this news less than two weeks from the event itself. 

I want to be clear this is not about any other theological issue.  

I stand with the creeds as an orthodox, bible-believing Christian who is, in many ways, quite conservative theologically. However I personally believe, having carefully considered the scriptures, that we should make space in the church for a diversity of beliefs around same-sex marriage. 

There has been a great deal of confusion, discussion, and protest about the decision to remove me for holding this belief, especially when I was not consulted by the president before the decision was made (I was not even asked if this information was accurate or to explain how I arrived in this place biblically) and I had already made a commitment to avoid talking about sexual ethics. Beyond this, many Christians and church leaders attending have told me they hold a similar view to myself, and now wonder if they are also being told they are not welcome at PNP.  

To that end I offer a few reflections:

1) I want to be absolutely clear that I understand and can appreciate the tensions the EMCC President is feeling in this situation. Leading a large family of churches must be an incredibly difficult job, and one that I am not envious of. I truly believe he did not make this decision vindictively, nor did he do so with any malice or hate towards myself or LGTBQ+ people. I humbly request that anyone who is angry or frustrated with this decision hold him with all Christian charity as a brother in Christ who is in a difficult position. 

2) While the above is true I absolutely disagree with how he responded in this situation. There was no conversation with myself nor was there an attempt to understand what I actually believe or why. Furthermore, this decision was made entirely by one person (the EMCC President) in spite of the unanimous decision by the PNP team to have me at the event. PNP has been running since 1975 and has hosted many guests FAR more controversial and unorthodox than myself, and in no case has the EMCC president interfered with the team's decision. The precedent set in this situation is concerning. 

3) While I appreciate the outflow of support I have received, this is not persecution against me. This is the removal of an opportunity, and one that I was very excited to take part in, but I will survive. However this is a slammed door to every church leader, young Christian, and denomination who have come to a place different from the EMCC stated ethic. My heart breaks especially for those LGBTQ+ teens who will hear about this decision and, despite the intent of the EMCC, see it as a rejection of them from Christ’s table.  

Whatever theology you hold, this is not an “issue” - this is about people. People who Jesus loves. The kinds of people on the margins who Jesus regularly pulled into the centre. I know that the EMCC wants to love LGTBQ+ teens, but removing me for disagreeing theologically sends a very different message to them. 

4) If you disagree with the decision to remove a speaker for this reason I encourage you to write the team at Pitch N Praise with a request that this be heard by EMCC staff. You can use the email

Be respectful and direct in your comments, and pray that God will use this as an opportunity to shape a healthier way forward for PNP. 

5) Pitch N Praise 2018 is still going to be an incredible conference that your teens and youth groups should attend. My friend Leanne is still going to be speaking at the event (although the tandem bike we were going to use as a prop will now go to waste) and the weekend will be full of meaningful activities. Beyond that, the most important part of these events is the relationship building, and that is something that can't be taken away. 

6) Most importantly... LGBTQ+ kids who are, or were, planning to attending PNP this year, please hear me so clearly on this: You are near and dear to God’s heart. God loves you with a fierce and powerful love, like a grizzly bear roaring to protect her cubs. You don’t need to be straighter, or fit into gender stereotypes, or change in any way to be worthy of the love of God: It is a free gift to you simply because YOU BELONG TO GOD. As you are. Jesus came, died, and resurrected to show you that radical love, and if you trust it that love will guide you through all the difficult questions that come your way in life.  


I wish I could be there in person to tell you all that, but sometimes this is just how things go.  

I’m going to continue to pray and seek wisdom on how best to move forward from here, but if you are a young person who feels hurt or pushed out by this situation feel free to message me on Instagram and I’d be happy to talk more. My IG is @kevinmakins

I’ll leave you with this reflection from the letter 1 John, chapter 3: 

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.

And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us. 



My speech from the Hamilton Remembrance Day Ceremony earlier today.
You can hear the speech on Facebook:
Feel free to share:

Mayor Eisenberger, City Councillors, Hamilton Veterans, Silver Cross families, members of Government, ladies, gentlemen, children, and Hamiltonians;

I am very grateful, and humbled, to be invited to offer some reflections this Remembrance Day.

When I first received the invitation I assumed there was a miscommunication. When it comes to honouring our veterans, and remembering those we have lost, there are churches, mosques, and synagogues who have been far more directly affected than us. My community, Eucharist Church, is made up largely of younger people in their twenties and thirties, Millennials, few of whom have ever directly been affected by war, most of whom are separated from World War 1 and 2 by multiple generations.

When I mentioned this to the person inviting me, they said that was exactly why they had asked me; to help answer the question: “What does Remembrance Day mean to young people?”

To me, Remembrance Day is sitting on a cold gymnasium floor, gathered for assembly, or my mom helping me pin on a poppy on my shirt without stabbing my finger, or black and white movies with dramatic voice overs. It was the foreign and beautiful sound of the bagpipe, and “in Flanders Field where Poppies Grow,” and two minutes of silence in an otherwise loud world.

Even then, as a child, I knew there was something special about Remembrance Day.

There was something important, even sacred, about this annual rhythm that disrupted our classes, our tests, and even our talking. Once a year, for half an hour, we would look back on our shared history and vow to remember.

But to young, media saturated minds, it can also feel time-less; flat and two-dimensional. For my generation, the First and Second World War lived in the realm of movies, video games and comic books; along with stories of aliens invading Washington and Hobbits delivering the One Ring to Mount Doom. I don’t say this to be crude, or crass, but if I’m being entirely honest, for most of my life, that’s where it lived.

And while I knew that, unlike these other stories, there was a real world cost to the Wars, it was just too far removed from me for it to really take on flesh and blood.

My Grandma, Eileen, is charming, smart, and at 93 years old still regularly beats me in euchre. Five years ago, on Christmas afternoon, I got to sit down and listen to her tell stories of her life, and as she did it was like a whole new world opened up.

We talked about her parents, and how the first world war impacted their lives, and what it was like raising children in the forties and fifties, and how her and Grandpa fell in love.

They met at a dance, in the late thirties, back in the days where people went to dances to actually dance. She told me how he swept her off her feet, and how they started preparing for their future together, and how the war began and interrupted all their plans. For years their dreams were frozen in time; as soldiers, and sailors, air crew and nurses were sent overseas. Others, like my Grandpa, worked in repair shops or mess halls. My Grandma, and the others left behind, struggled to keep the world turning, raising and teaching children, stepping into the work force, rationing food; all the work that exhausts us today, picked up by fraction of the population.

And as Grandma shared these stories with me, something happened inside my heart; the story took on flesh and blood. It was sitting here, right in front of me. These were real men and women, just like you and I, who were swept up into an incredibly complicated and challenging situation; who’s present and future would be forever shaped by war.

Some of those people are standing here today.

This had a rolling effect on me. As her story took on flesh and blood, so did the stories of others; those who lost friend and family in the world wars, those who’s loved ones were sent to Korea, or Afghanistan; the stories of those in our city who have fled from places of war to the safety of Canada.

Real people who had violent conflict thrust on them.

And they responded with bravery, courage, and dignity; with hope and faith. Men and women who willingly picked up their responsibility; sacrificing their plans and future for others.

We need to remember that.

We need to remember loved ones leaving and not returning, we need to remember those who came back haunted by what they had experienced, we need to remember exhausted mothers putting their children to sleep alone, and we need to remember the men and women killed by our soldiers, who’s families and communities were also forever changed by war.

We need to remember how much war took from us. We need to hear the stories and ensure they are retold well. We must stand on guard.

We must continue to guard our memory.

One Christian group I deeply respect is the Mennonite Central Committee; who during this season say: “To remember is to work for peace.”

It would be far too easy for those of us who have not experienced war first hand to sit back and be passive, but true remembrance calls us to action.

“To remember is to work for peace.”

To remember is to guard the peace and health of our marriages, families, and friendships.
To remember is to teach our children that every single person is worthy of dignity and love.
To remember is to stand against bullying and harassment wherever we see it.
To remember is to practice forgiveness, especially when it costs us.
To remember is to be willing to serve our neighbours, even if it interrupts our plans.
To remember is to welcome into our city those who have fled places of war and conflict.
To remember is to continue the process of reconciliation with our First Nation brothers and sisters.
To remember is to ensure safe, affordable housing to those displaced by Hamilton’s revitalization.
To remember is to shape a city where all people can find home, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, economic standing, politics or religion.

To remember is to work for peace.

Today we honour and remember those who have sacrificed so that we might have peace. Today we honour and remember those who have faced the hell of war, whether this year or one hundred years ago. Today we honour and remember those who's hearts still grieve.

We stand with you. We thank you.

May we continue to sit on cold gymnasium floors for assembly, and pin poppies on our jackets, and read “in Flanders Field,” and stand in silence, and listen to the stories told by our loved ones.

May we continue to remember. May we continue to work for peace.


Christians: Stop Photoshopping Your Faith
Miracles, Witness, and Church Conferences


I’m not a conference person. In large part, I feel about church conferences the way I feel about getting travel vaccines: I avoid them at all costs, unless their going to get me somewhere exotic. If a conference is in Vancouver or Barbados, sign me up! If it’s in a suburban mega-church an hour down the highway, well, I’m probably a little busy those days.

Don’t get me wrong, everything AROUND a conference is great. Making new friends from across the country, connecting over coffee/lunch/beer with people you know from Twitter: It’s great stuff!

But the content is often… frustrating. Presentations are usually bloated, filled with the biggest successes, including larger than life stories, usually presented by American preachers who seem largely disconnected from our local context or lived experience. 

I found myself reflecting on this a lot last week while I was at a conference. I was sitting in the main sessions, listening to presenters tell stories of their church success, and feeling like my body was physically responding to something. 

Here’s my thesis, and don’t judge me if it seems overly skeptical: I just don’t know if I can believe them. I don’t know if the storyteller is trustworthy.

I want to be really clear it wasn’t a “this conference” thing (I actually really enjoyed the conference) but something I’ve noticed again and again, across multiple fields and disciplines: The stories we hear, especially “up front,” tend to feel a little fudged. Since I’m a pastor, I’m going to focus on church world, but you could apply it to any other field.

I get that our experiences are raw clay, which needs to be crafted and shaped into a good story. But there is a fine line between exaggerating stories for dramatic effect, and accidentally (or intentionally) deceiving the listener. ESPECIALLY when we are talking about God.

This is the testimony of how “100 people made a decision to follow Jesus,” without the caveat that they were all already professing Christians who were “recommitting” to the faith. Or it's the miracle story about how someones leg was healed after prayer, but failing to mention that the next day the injury was back and worse than ever. Or it’s the “church growth success story” that fails to mention the new church has a really great band, and a bunch of other churches across town have suddenly shrunk.

They are photoshopped. Not LIES, but exaggerations; some details airbrushed out, skin tones smoothed, pimples erased so that the whole thing is easy on the eyes and tickling to the ears.

But I think people are starting to notice.

Remember the first time you saw a photo that was OBVIOUSLY photoshopped? The model was missing a thumb, or the person appears to be floating over the rest of the image? You instinctually get a feeling that something is “off” in the picture; but once you see the photoshop it’s impossible to un-see it. 

You might start seeing bad photoshops everywhere. 

I think people in the church are starting to notice photoshopped faith stories. Their gut has told them something is wrong for a long time, but now they’re noticing the missing thumb in the story, and it’s ruining the trustworthiness of the presenter, preacher, or storyteller. If they don’t find the story honest, they’ll begin to distrust the church, the faith, or even God. 

Jesus’ followers are called to be “witnesses” to what they have experienced, and when a witnesses testimony is called into question, their credibility goes out the window. 

Ignorance is no excuse. I think that a lot of well-meaning Christians ignore or push away information in order to preserve the magic. This is the faith healing that receives no follow up (because what if they feel bad again tomorrow?), the new member at church that is welcomed in without questions (because what if they come from another church down the road?), and the street evangelist that praises how someone has “changed their mind” (when really the person was just sick of being harassed and bothered by the annoying preacher).

It’s photoshopped. The stories are kept in the shadows so that the full light of truth can’t shine on them; exposing what has been hidden. Willful ignorance is no excuse. Someday God will bring to light all that has been hiding in darkness, so why not bring it into the sun willingly?

Here’s my call to faith-leaders everywhere: Stop the photoshop. 

Stop making the stories slightly better then they were, stop fudging details, stop speaking vaguely, stop being willfully ignorant, and stop lying to yourself and others.

It’s ruining our witness.

A photoshopped picture presents what our culture assumes is “beautiful,” but I think most of us actually prefer an unedited photo.

To quote theologian Kendrick Lamar: 

“I'm so ****** sick and tired of the Photoshop
Show me somethin' natural like afro on Richard Pryor
Show me somethin' natural like ass with some stretchmarks"

… or something like that.

Show me something real! Tell me the story of what actually happened! It’s beautiful and worth celebrating for what it is.

I believe in miracles. I believe in revival, I believe in resurrection, I believe that God works in millions of massive ways.

But I also praise God for the small signs and wonders:

Praise God for churches that are fifteen people in a living room. Praise God for prayers that “only” offer inner peace. Praise God for people who recommit to their faith. Praise God for healing that lasts just an afternoon. Praise God for divine coincidence. Praise God for the mystery of unanswered prayer. Praise God for grace in the good fight.

It may not be flashy, and may not get you up front at the conference; but it will allow you to follow Jesus, keep your soul, and keep your witness.

Praise God for unedited faith: Messy, painful, honest, humble, and real.


What do you think? Is this photoshopping of faith stopping us from being honest? Have you attended any events or conferences that you felt were pushing against this culture? Do you spend time in a different culture that also struggles with this editing? 

Leave a comment below and let's have a good conversation!


A Pastor’s Reflection on Canada 150

It may be the fact that we experience seasonal affective disorder for half the year, or simply our proximity to a country quick to toot it’s own horn, but every Canadian knows one thing at a molecular level: you’re not supposed to be “proud” to be a Canadian.

When I was a kid there was a short-lived swell of Canadian pride, boosted by a particular beer commercial, declaring loudly on bumper stickers and billboards: I AM CANADIAN!

That’s us at our most boastful. We state facts.

For most of my life I never left “the true north strong and free,” which meant I assumed our normal was everyones normal. Sure we had a family trip to Montreal (where they spoke that language from the cereal boxes), and a few sport tournaments in Edmonton (where the big mall was), but all was more-or-less similar. I couldn’t understand what we would be PROUD of.

Recently my wife and I took a two month trip to Sri Lanka. An unexpected aspect of travel is you tend to meet a lot of other travellers. We made friends from Germany, Switzerland, Europe, Australia, Holland, America, Japan, and lots from Sri Lanka. All of them, when they heard we were Canadians, lit up.

“We heard your country is always welcoming refugees”
“You guys are so humble and polite”
“That’s where Drake is from, right?”

After a few of these conversations you begin to reflect on your country and it’s culture, and on just how LUCKY you were to be born there. You even feel a little bit of… pride!

This got me thinking about Jesus. Jesus had a fascinating relationship with his own country. He was an Israelite, and at the turn of the century the Israelites were being ruled by the Romans. Their land had been occupied by a military force, who were now taxing them, and putting pressure on them to break their religious devotion to their God. Jesus was proud to be an Israelite, constantly making reference to their cultural values and teachings; but he called his disciples to an even higher devotion, another country and kingdom:

The Kingdom of Heaven.


The Kingdom of God.

Depends on who is telling the story!

Either way, the idea is the same: “What if God was King here, in this particular place? What would that look like?”

Which, of course, is a big question that revolves around another big question: “What is this God like?” What God are we talking about here? A vindictive and violent God? A God of judgment and rage? A God of ethnic superiority?

Thankfully, Jesus defined his terms incredibly well. He told us that when we watch his life, we see what God is like. He said that he, in his body, would SHOW US what God is like. “If you see me, you’ve seen the Father.”

And what did Jesus do?

He ate with those who were rejected and beat down.
He healed those who were sick and socially outcast.
He spoke out against corruption and fear mongering. 
He cast out all the unclean spirits that haunted people.
He prayed and lived in full trust, believing God was only good.
He acted creatively and disarmed his enemies without the use of violence.
He forgave everyone, even those that persecuted and crucified him.

He told his own tribe, his own country, that to truly be an Israelite is to stretch out, beyond your own group, and bless those who are NOT a part of you.

He called them to be citizens of a higher Kingdom, not because being an Israelite is a bad thing, but because the only way to TRULY BE an Israelite is to, above all, commit yourself to living in a world where God is King.

Now if you have a hard time with God language, start with a translation: live according to the Highest Good you can imagine.

Pledge allegiance to Love, to Goodness, to Kindness and Mercy.
Pledge allegiance to Grace, to Truth, to Your Neighbour, to the Foreigner.
Pledge allegiance to Everyone Else You Meet, Even Your Enemy.
Pledge allegiance to Being Truly Human.

Pledge allegiance to the Sort of Life Jesus Lived.

If you’re a cook, which I’m not, I imagine you have an allegiance to the restaurant that hired you. That’s well and good, you have to belong somewhere! But above that you have a first love, a higher allegiance: you have given your life to the table. Your allegiance to your workplace can only exist if you have truly committed to being a chef.

If you’re a musician, which I’m definitely not, you have an allegiance to your record label and your band, but above that you have an allegiance to the music itself! You have to honour that first love. If you lose your love for music, you’ll never truly be able to serve the band or the label.

But here’s the kicker: if the label, or the restaurant, (the political party, the team, or the church) ever tempts you to break your first love, you will have to decide which allegiance is higher.

Now back to Canada.

I used to hate paying taxes. Then my friend had cancer in his mid-twenties. He’s a survivor today and not crippled by debt. Now I don’t groan when my bill is a few dollars higher. I meet people in our church, every week, who fled their country because of war, or prejudice, or corruption. They embrace me and say they love Canada because they are safe here. I’m currently writing a blog telling Canadian’s that their highest allegiance should NOT be to the flag, and no one from the government is going to drag me into an alleyway and beat me. We have freedom to criticize and challenge, to worship and pray.

There are many ways being Canadian fits within my allegiance to the Kingdom of God.

But scattered around our country are First Nations people, who are stuck in cycles of poverty and addiction, and largely ignored by our “progressive” country. There is a history of violence and racism that we still struggle to properly address and respond to. There is a certain self-righteousness that comes with our proud liberal identity, wielded like a sword against that OTHER country to the south, that we are SO MUCH better than. Our taxes contribute to a massive military budget. We have a bloated housing market, and serious gentrification problems, which are creating a larger gap between the rich and the poor.

There are places where my allegiance to Canada will be challenged by my greater allegiance.

Jesus talks a lot about love and acceptance, but he also said “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Before you freak out, this is a metaphor. Jesus was extremely non-violent.

But he’s not come to pursue the status quo. He’s not come to keep things conflict free. He’s not come to coddle us and make life cozy. He’s come to give us a better vision for humanity, and that might require us to use a sword: to cut ourselves off from our family, our culture, even our nationality.

If these allegiances are calling us to live in fear, hate, greed, lust, racism, or violence; then we take the sword and cut ourselves off, so that we honour our First Love.

This Canada Day Weekend, celebrate that our country, in so many ways, pushes us towards a life that looks like the Kingdom of God. Be grateful and joyful.

But before you stand for the national anthem, take a moment to ask where your loyalty fundamentally lies. What’s the highest authority you submit to?

Pledge allegiance to that authority, first, in your heart.

And with that business settled, proudly declare:




Hi, my name is Kevin, and I'm a gentrifier.

9 years ago my wife and I moved into the downtown of our city; an economically challenged place that was facing huge problems, including a life expectancy the same as many developing countries. We got to know our neighbours, started a local kids clothing store, got bike lanes across the downtown, helped other friends renovate their old homes, and even gathered people together to start a new church.

We've been a part of a lot of good things in this city.

We've changed it in other ways as well.

When we started a business, other businesses started, making the street busier, and increasing the cost of housing. The real estate market has responded to bike lanes and jacked up prices, which results in landlords selling their rental properties, and kicking established families out of their homes. Our values of local food and fair-trade coffee has lead to a boom of local coffee shops, but many of these places are too expensive for those who have lived in the city for a long time.

Gentrification is complicated.

(If you aren't familiar with the term, gentrification is the process of renovation of deteriorated urban neighborhoods by means of the influx of more affluent residents - see wiki:

Yes. It's very complicated stuff.

Was the city better when the storefronts were boarded up, and houses were falling apart from neglect, and the streets were impossible to navigate on bike?

But is it "better" because we have fifty new restaurants?
Is it "better" because we have nice lawns? 
Is it "better" because there are more people walking the streets?

Yes... and no... and maybe.

Here's an exercise to do with your friends, ask this question:

"What would a flourishing city look like? Who does it benefit? Who does it celebrate? What kinds of programs run? What kinds of businesses start? What do the parks look like? What does our street look like?"

And then ask this question:

"What would it look like to take ONE STEP FORWARD in that direction?"

We can't be ignorant to these changing realities.

But we also can't be overwhelmed.

Do not be overwhelmed.

Talk to your neighbours and listen well, walk and bike your hood, sit on your front porch (or stoop, or grass patch) and just be present and attentive.

Dream of a flourishing city for everyone, and take the next step.

Good will come of it.

Feel free to click "share" on this post. Hope it sparks good conversation about loving thy neighbour.




So this week a news story has been making the rounds. In Maryland, 18-year-old Maddi Runkles found herself pregnant, and has been banned from attending her own graduation ceremony at her Private Christian School.

Which brings to mind a conversation I regularly have with well intentioned Christians.

“You know, Jesus loved the sinner but was hard on sin!”

People say this all the time, and when I ask them where they see that in the bible, they usually go to the same scripture, reminding me what Jesus told the woman caught in adultery:

“Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Yes. To be clear, THIS is what people quote when they say Jesus was hard on sin. That’s it.

What’s most important is to remember this is the tail end of a story.

Jesus is teaching a group of people when the religious leaders of his day come forward with a woman who they caught in adultery. They claim God’s Law requires she die by stoning. But Jesus bends down and starts writing something (mysterious!) in the dirt with his finger.

The text reads (John 8):

[Jesus said] “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”


So let’s just walk through Jesus’ actions here:

Jesus stands between the woman and her accusers.
Jesus refuses to let her be punished for her actions.
Jesus defuses the crowd by reminding them of their own sin.
After risking his skin for a woman he doesn’t know, he speaks to her with compassion.

He asks “who condemns you?” and when she replies “no one” he responds:

“Then neither do I condemn you.”

And THEN, after all that, he says to her “go and sin no more.”

Hard on sin? That’s the best evidence we’ve got that Jesus took a hardline on sin?

When “NEITHER DO I CONDEMN YOU” is the harshest you’ve got, you’re not dealing with an angry dude. He pushes away any who would condemn her, and then tells her what she already knows: she shouldn’t continue in an adulterous relationship because, d’uh, it’s a bad idea.

But surely she did something to earn this compassion, right?

She must have admitted what she did.
Or said she was so sorry.
Or undergone church discipline.
Or done Hail Mary’s.

But read the text again. Just stick with the text on this one.


She’s made some unwise decisions, and violent men are trying to punish her for them. Jesus stops the judgement without her having done a thing to earn it.

Turns out grace is a far better teacher than judgement.

I’ve read the four accounts of Jesus’ life over and over looking for another example, and I might have missed it, but to my count this is the ONLY TIME Jesus says anything even remotely “hard on sin” to a regular person.

When he speaks with women, people from other religious backgrounds, the poor or the sick, he always gives them good news. Often he just eats with them. But he never condemns or judges.

You know who he condemns?

Religious leaders who keep others out of God’s Kingdom. 
Those who are meant to open the doors of God’s love for everyone.
Those who try to erase God’s endless grace.

Jesus FREAKS out on the Pharisees, the religious leaders of his day, calling them a brood of vipers, telling them they are children of hell, and accusing them of forgetting that mercy is what God is looking for. (Matthew 23)

He gives them hell because they know better. They are the ones that are meant to share good news, and instead they’ve created bad religion.

So this week a news story has been making the rounds. In Maryland, 18-year-old Maddi Runkles found herself pregnant, and has been banned from attending her own graduation ceremony at her Private Christian School.

A CBC article reveals the schools reason for banning her:

The school's administrator, David R. Hobbs, has defended the decision in an open letter to parents.

"Maddi is being disciplined, not because she's pregnant, but because she was immoral," Hobbs wrote before quoting from the school's student pledge.

"A wise man told me that discipline is not the absence of love, but the application of love. We love Maddi Runkles. The best way to love her right now is to hold her accountable for her immorality that began this situation."

A wise man may have said that…

But Jesus didn’t.

Jesus silences all those who sling shame on the vulnerable. Jesus says to David R. Hobbs and the school’s administration: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to ban her from graduation.”

I suspect Jesus would be giving hell to any pastor, administrator, or religious leader who shut the door in the face of a young woman who has been shamed.

Jesus says to this pregnant teen, who he loves with an endless love: “I do not condemn you.”

And probably follows it up with a smile: “Let’s go get lunch together… you’re eating for two now!”


CBC As It Happens has the whole story here:…/it-hurts-says-pregnant-maryland-teen-ba…