In this message, President Dr. Derek Voorhees of Boise Bible College kicks off the school year by introducing the theme for the 2021-22 year – upROAR.
The Greek word that is translated as “uproar” isἐκταράσσω (ektarassō),: to agitate, to disturb wholly, to exceedingly trouble. Although an uproar is “seen,” it is preceded with a subversive force. The church operates in a similar way, being subversive to the rhythm of the culture it exists within. It is the perpetuation of this subversive force that causes and creates an uproar that is seen and felt.
It is our goal this year to explore ways for us to participate in the subversive kingdom force that will create an uproar in the culture God calls us to.
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Audio Transcript for Subversive Kingdom Work by Dr. Derek Voorhees
Let me share with you a parable. Just to get into this idea [uproar]. Animals eat plants from the ground which are nourished by what comes out of the ground. I’m not personally experienced with farming, but Danny Harrod was a dairy farmer and we got talking about dirt, and as ancestors of Adam, we have roots in the dirt so to speak. Danny helped me understand how things kind of grow and work in the soil, and it wasn’t far along in the conversation, and we got to manure. There’s the parable.
Manure is a kind of miracle grow in the dirt. I mean, manure is awesome. Danny Harrod factoid. Danny doesn’t know I’m going to quote him here, but manure is pretty high in nitrogen. It’s so high in nitrogen that one of the best ways for manure to be used as fertilizer, one of the best ways is to blend it with compost because the manure kind of helps breaks down the bacteria in the compost. Actually, manure kind of spreads the decomposition of the stuff in the compost, and it kind of heats up the compost pile manure. It’s a pretty wonderful thing that it eliminates the possibility of burning the plants…So you combine it with compost and then you till it into the soil, into the fall you let it sit all winter, and it’s ready for the spring planting.
I guess you could say. God wastes nothing. You know what I mean? He wastes nothing to grow. Especially us. He wastes nothing to grow anything in us.
It was pretty challenging last year for some of us, for some of you, I’m guessing. I think we’re all kind of looking forward. Looking ahead to what this new school year is going to be like, it’s going to be a moment to reset our minds and to refocus on why in the world we’re here, and our role in restoring people, our role in restoring people to Jesus.
The reason that many of you have been able to hang in there through this past year. The reason many of you have endured is because you’ve been driven by that bigger idea, you have this passion, and that’s propelling us even though it’s a pressure cooker sometimes like we just were singing about. Let me illustrate this way, another parable, the parable of boiling water and coffee beans. Maybe you’ve heard about this. A daughter was complaining to her father about how her life was going. She said, “as soon as I solve one problem, another one comes up and it’s just I’m tired of the struggle.” Well her dad was a chef, and he took her into the kitchen, he pulled three pots out, put water in them, and put all three pots over a high flame on the stove. In one of the pots, he put carrots and in another pot ground coffee beans, finally, he put some eggs and the last pot and just let them boil.
The daughter teenage girl, patiently rather impatiently waited, wondering what in the world was this all about. And after a while, the father kind of turned to her and he turned the burners off just to make sure she was…
So in the kitchen, they kind of get to a boil, and the father looks at his daughter. She’s kind of rolling her eyes, wasting time looking at her phone, and turns the burners off and he fishes out the carrots, puts them in their own bowl. Fishes out, the eggs and puts them in their little dish and pours the coffee into another dish. Then he turns and asked her. “So what do you see?”
Now by this time, she’s a little frustrated and she goes, “Is this a trick dad?”
“No, no trick, honey. What do you see?”
Rolling her eyes, “carrots, eggs, and coffee of course.”
He brought her closer and he asked her to touch the carrots. And she did. And she saw or felt. I mean that the carrots were rather kind of soft. Then, he asked her to grab one of the eggs and break it and so she did and crack the egg, and well, it cracked a little differently than normal eggs because as she peeled the skin off she realized it was hard-boiled. And then he gave her an opportunity to sip some of the coffee, which brought a smile finally. The rich flavor of the coffee.
She asked him, “So dad, what’s the deal? What’s the point here?” And he explained that each of them faced the same adversity…boiling water, but each had reacted a little differently and he went on to kind of use this parable. The carrots they went in pretty strong, pretty firm, rigid, unrelenting. But after some time subjected to the boiling water, what happened in the carrots? They became soft, weak.
The eggs put in, you know, with its thin outer shell was used to protect the liquid interior of the egg, but over time, that egg, well it got hard on the inside through the boiling water.
Then the ground coffee beans were kind of unique. You know, being in the boiling water over time actually changed the water.
He asked a daughter, “So when adversity comes knocking at your door, darling. Which are you?”
Good question for us I think. Which are you? When adversity comes knocking, are you going to become soft? Are you going to become hard inside or are you going to be a transforming influence? Which of the three would you say?
You know, since no life is pain-free, may we be like ground coffee beans. May God grind us if necessary for us to be of use for God to influence our surroundings with flavor even through adversity.
One professor of psychiatry, retired professor, from Harvard, Armand Nicholi. He said this “how we react to it [talking about adversity or pain or boiling water] How we react to it determines how it influences the quality of our lives. If we believe that a supreme creator loves us. If we believe that he loves us and ultimately controls our destiny, we will endure. With patience and with endurance.”
So, we like coffee beans are kind of being strengthened for God’s Kingdom influence, but not by our own strength, not by our own doing, but by God’s internal dwelling, by His grace, by His truth, and therefore permeated through us.
I’m talking about being a subversive Kingdom influencer for Jesus, God’s Kingdom.
That’s the undercurrent for this theme. God’s Kingdom is subversive. It’s not of this earth. God’s Kingdom influence happens by His covert ability to transform, kind of in a paradoxical upside-down sort of way. God’s Kingdom is often not on display. God’s Kingdom is easily overlooked. God’s Kingdom is like roasted ground coffee beans changing its surrounding.
Like for example, 1 Kings Chapter 19,
“Behold, Lord is about to pass by. Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper…“
An uproar happening from a subversive action.
So, this idea of a subversive way of God, that’s how He likes to work. To lovingly, but subtly influence and to transform and change someone by engaging with them and wisely embedding oneself into the world. Therefore, for us to take on God-like character traits for us to be embedded into, be wisely engaging into the ecosystem of our culture, and our world so that over time change happens, the water changes, even though there might be some boiling or some pressure?
It’s not manipulation. I don’t think God manipulates it. I think He’s incarnating His grace, His truth for us so that we could live it out in a very genuine personal way.
It’s kind of like a missionary, you’ll hear this in Mr. Harrod’s classes about missionaries crossing cultures. The most successful missionaries are the ones that don’t take a Western idea and implant that, but the ones who sit patiently, he or she who learns the language, embedding themselves through learning the unspoken norms of the town and the village, by embedding oneself into that people groups way of life over years patiently…
God’s Kingdom influence is like that, it’s subtle. Sometimes it’s unnoticed.
God’s kingdom impact is seemingly slow and apparently, ineffective sometimes, and I would say dismissed oftentimes. God’s Kingdom, though, is actively subversive. Over time, we are used by God as a kind of fertilizer for a dynamic gospel transformation in the dirt of people’s lives.
We’re like compost and manure and we’re blended, like coffee being grounded into the boiling point of people’s day and there we are in a subversive way. That’s the force of God’s Kingdom by His grace at work through you and me on Earth. His rule, His reign, but in humility. Washing feet. Unnoticed as a servant-hearted human toward another human.
A subversive Kingdom, you know, it involves holiness. It involves forgiveness. Subversion requires a truth that’s grounded objectively in scripture. It requires a caring ear. Subversive kingdom towards another person. It’s not about your ego. It’s not about my ego. It’s just good deeds that have gone unnoticed by many. Subversion in our culture is kind of odd. It’s actually unusual. Subversion is abnormal in many ways.
So, in contrast to God’s subversive Kingdom, in contrast to God’s loving, subversive kingdom, is the kingdom of ourselves. The kingdom of self, which is heavily defended territory, isn’t it? People, even us, might give a nod to God, we might acknowledge him. In general, we might pay respects to him. Kind of like, “yeah, he’s sort of the big guy in the sky, but don’t really want him to be invading my turf.” Comforts over discipleship.
Can we just be transparent? Our pursuit of comfortable living, which is really easy in our nation. Our pursuit of that is doomed to destruction. Do you know why? Because another kingdom is right at the door knocking. Secretly forming its way, taking the place of the Kingdom. We have fallen deeply in love with comfort. I believe the kingdom of today will succumb to and be overwhelmed by the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Christ. I believe this new kingdom is actually already among us through the methods that make nations powerful. The methods that make somebody powerful and influential today like economic things or military or technology or information or wealth or even position are powerful things. But, those methods are not suited for God’s Kingdom.
The methods for God’s kingdom require subversion. Consider the subversive working of God, as recorded in the Bible. These things result in an uproar.
Listen to these couple of verses from Zechariah 4, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord.”
And Jesus said, in Matthew 5, “You are the salt”.
And He said later in Chapter 13, “the Kingdom of Heaven is like, It’s like a grain of mustard seed that a man took him through in his field. It’s the smallest of all seed…”
and finally, the apostle Paul picked us up for, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
That’s not a part of our natural culture today. Would you understand that that’s not our comfort level? He says I was with you in, here’s a subversive way, weakness. It’s upside down from the norm, isn’t it? That’s the subversive Kingdom.
So while at Boise Bible College for this year, the next four years, the faculty and the staff, we are not willing to help any of you become what you want to be. We’re going to help you and equip you to become what Jesus wants you to be.
And that may be subversive, and that may be challenging. [But we do it] so that you would in turn help others become what they are desired by God to be. How will that happen? By being subversive by keep being Kingdom-minded in a real subversive way. And if you let Jesus, he’s going to undermine the kingdom of yourself, if you let him. He will undermine your kingdom to establish his. And he’ll replace your kingdom with His kingdom so that you will become the servant subversive leader to help others become what God dreams them to become. Unfortunately, that biblical idea, that method of subversion is easily, frequently, discarded for the favor of self-promotion. Likely due to vanity.
We don’t like being wallflowers in the world society, we want to be noticed. Show me the man or the woman who is not looking for prestige and that person will make history subversively.
For example, Dwight L. Moody. It’s hard to overstate the influence of Moody in his heyday, but this late 19th-century evangelist in his preaching sparked multitudes of conversions and church revivals on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Moody’s visibility and popularity would be on par with our celebrities today, but Moody constantly ran from and fled from the trappings of vanity, of stardom, he knew it was fickle. He unselfishly counteracted it, he unselfishly pursued a path of servanthood.
So one example I’ve been told is that Moody hosted a large contingent of European pastures for a conference. He would hold it in Massachusetts every year and the pastors from Europe were housed in dormitories. And according to some European customs, they would put their shoes outside their door at night, expecting the servant boy to come and collect the shoes and shine them for the next morning. Except this is Massachusetts, not Manchester. There aren’t any serving boys here in the Boston area, so Moody noticed the shoes, and rather than embarrass those European pastors for their cultural ignorance of being in America or their assumption, Moody quietly gathered the shoes and he spent the early hours of the morning, shining them himself and then putting them out in front of the door. The next morning, Moody’s pastor friends collected their shine shoes none the wiser.
Of the selfless humble service that was rendered by Moody. Moody’s served in secret and that is subversive Kingdom work. Unnoticed. Servant leader’s real work is like what Ivan Illich called shadow work. The work nobody gets paid for and few get notice, but makes a world of difference.
That’s how God’s Kingdom works, and the best method to participate in God’s mission will be that kind of subversive work. Jesus was the master at this. He set the bar so high of what it means to be a subversive Kingdom servant leader. How did Jesus do it? He was subtle. With a motive to undermine the decadent world and the roots that had taken root into people’s lives to advance his Kingdom, God’s Kingdom, into each person beginning with you and me. So, Jesus was a master of subversive living, and there are a couple of expressions of subversion that we should look at. That I would encourage you to submit to as we start our semester. Here’s the first one. Jesus’ favorite spiritual exercise was subversive.
It was Kingdom prayers
Early in the morning, he went first. Directly to the Father before checking the Snapchat, before checking his Instagram, before checking his other media feeds before anything else. Often making space to be… just to be with Him, when his mental slate was clean and the ram of his computer was wiped clean, nothing was happening, just sitting still in his Father’s presence. Just sharing His thoughts, sharing His feelings, and listening to the Father’s thoughts. So this year, if you want to see God’s Kingdom be realized in you, and therefore on Earth, then take the spiritual discipline of prayer ultra seriously as Jesus did. Meet with him first. No other human interaction before the Father. Take it seriously. Do something to discipline yourselves. Whether you’re on campus or off, figure it out.
So if the first thing you don’t look at is your phone. Figure it out ’cause that is not first and that’s what Jesus was a master at. If you want to be like Him in this subversion work. So RA’s, raise the bar. Class leaders, seniors, freshmen, sophomores, faculty, and staff. May we set it up to be a key role in our life. For Kingdom expansion to happen, it’s it means we take prayer so seriously. Early in the morning when it’s all quiet and it’s still and we’re listening to God’s loving voice in scripture. Prayers are like manure added to compost. Prayers create heat in the compost, prayers work in the subterranean of that compost. Prayers are like inhaling and exhale in the presence of God himself. As we submit to His voice for Jesus. Prayer was something Jesus did often, and it was intense, it wasn’t soft. And He submitted to the Father and He allowed God, can I go so far as He allowed God to kind of grind Him as a coffee bean because the boiling water of His ministry was hard. So, consecrate yourself at the start. Consecrate yourself right here. Right now this week to be a praying disciple, to be God’s Kingdom servant leader for God’s Kingdom to come to earth through your subversive work.
Here’s another thing to consider. Another expression of Jesus’ life, Jesus’ favorite form of teaching was subversive.
It was Kingdom parables.
You’ll hear this a lot with Mr. Russell in his gospel classes, Life of Christ classes. If prayers are directed to God, then parables are actually directed to us from God. Jesus was a master at indirectly instructing through parables. It sounds kind of normal. It sounds kind of ordinary casual stories in the Bible about dirt and seed. About meals and coins or stories about sheep and bandits and victims and merchants and farmers. They were holy secular, you know of the 40+ parables recorded in the scriptures only a couple even mention the name of God in them.
As people heard Jesus tell stories they sensed that it was safe, they sensed there was there, was that nothing was threatening to their own sovereignty. So they heard the parables and they kind of relaxed their defenses. They kind of let their guard down. And some people kind of walked away perplexed, some people kind of wondered what they meant, but all those stories kind of got lodged in their imagination. In Jesus’ subtle way a Kingdom Seed was subversively planted. As Jesus told parables, and then like a time bomb, they went off at unplanned points in their life. Those subtle seeds of truth and grace and parabolic form exploded in their unprotected hearts in their minds, and all of a sudden the Kingdom seed was there in front of them to be allowed to take root.
Within using parables, they subversively slip past our defenses. So, consecrate yourself right here, right now at the start, consecrate yourself. Willingly letting Jesus teaching to penetrate, willingly submissive, lowering your guard to prepare you for Kingdom work. So Kingdom prayers, Kingdom parables.
I want to implore us as a group to submit to both. Submit to these. They don’t bully or are twisters. They don’t boss into action, they just quietly allow us to align with the king, as He takes residence here. United in prayers and parables. A little like manure and compost, so little like boiling water and coffee. When prayers and parables are united they are subversive ways for the Kingdom seed to get planted in and to take root so that you can be of use for his glory to introduce hope and to restore friends one person at a time.
So may we daily. May we daily. We have 15 weeks, weeks, 16 weeks of semester may we daily up to Christmas break work on our prayer life and work at submitting to the teachings of Jesus, even in a parabolic form so that we can be His subversive agents of Kingdom transformation purpose and hope. On this grand journey, it requires great discipline. Are we game for it? He wants to do something powerfully through you, but it won’t meet the world standards of power. It will be secret-like.
Pray with me.
We’re really challenged by that idea, Jesus, to be honest with you, we are challenged with ego inflation. In notoriety, we are challenged that our definition point is by people affirming things that we post. Those are not bad, we’re just really challenged by this idea of being known and our identity being anchored in what people think and say about us to their friends. So as we start this semester here we are and we’re submitting to you in prayer to hear your voice. We’re submitting it to you. That you would instruct us in a parabolic sort of way. We are submitting to you Jesus because we are wholeheartedly right here in this room. We’re all united in this idea of one want the roar and the heavens to be from you through us. In a servant leading sort of a way and so here we are. Thanks for working by Your grace and your truth in us. In your name Jesus, Amen.