Bringing Heaven to Earth: You Don't Have to Wait for Eternity to Live the Good News

I'm fortunate that my preacher, Jonathan Storment, is also a dear friend. Jonathan and Josh Ross, who is also a friend, have a new book out entitled Bringing Heaven to Earth: You Don't Have to Wait For Eternity to Live the Good News.

Bringing Heaven to Earth is a great book and I was honored to endorse it. I asked Jonathan and Josh if I could share an excerpt from the book. Regular readers know I'm passionate about the local church, so I was excited that Jonathan and Josh chose to share this story from my own church here in Abilene.


Excerpt from Bringing Heaven to Earth:

My favorite hymn is “O Holy Night.” It’s easily one of the most profound, powerful songs ever sung. “Fall on your knees.” This was not written as a request, but as a mandate. In the light of the gospel and the power of God’s love and grace, we have no choice but to kneel in worship.

Heaven has entered earth in the form of a Baby, and now “the soul feels its worth.” What a great line! The chains are released because the slave is our brother, because the soul feels its worth. I think I understand why we keep this hymn in the “Christmas song” category. It conveys such power and insists on such a humble response, we can only handle it a couple of times a year. And from a historical standpoint it’s incredibly accurate.

When most of us think of human rights—when we think of equality and opportunity, justice and mercy—the biblical foundation for these things is entirely influenced by the Jesus story. Heaven has intersected earth and changed everything. The soul has felt its worth.

Jesus is God’s Way of letting the soul feel its worth. At its heart, the gospel is about a God who chooses to be among us.

God chooses to be among the people who ordinarily are overlooked. He paid special attention to shepherds and teenagers and fishermen and single moms and small children. Jesus showed special care to lepers, blind persons, those with physical disabilities, crooks, liars, hookers, and worse. That’s who God decided to be with.

Rene Girard was a French philosopher who taught at Stanford University. He was a brilliant anthropologist who was fascinated with one question: “Why, in modern times, does the marginalized person have moral authority?” This reality confused Girard because, outside of the movement of Jesus, there was nothing comparable to it in ancient culture or literature. The ancient world celebrated the strong and heroic, not the vulnerable and weak. Girard found this fascinating in light of greater attention being paid in the modern world to liberation movements and efforts to protect the rights of minorities and to combat human trafficking. What was motivating all these efforts to come to the aid of marginalized and powerless people?

Girard traced this social phenomenon back to the life of Jesus. He discovered that with His birth and death, Jesus introduced a new plot to human history. The victim mattered. The people who were oppressed mattered. And to the confusion of his peers at Stanford University, Girard, a man respected for being a great thinker and widely known as a secular humanist, started following Jesus.

Our world thinks the most important thing you can do is take the right position on the right issues. Jesus reminds us that the most important thing is to be standing in the right place. Girard’s great insight was that Jesus changed the world by standing in solidarity with all the “wrong” people.

Jesus created a new ethic, which His followers adopted and lived out. God in human flesh celebrated life among the least of these, until the outcasts and overlooked people on the margins of society started to realize that they mattered too. Gradually it took hold, so that a growing number of cultures adopted an ethic that insisted that everyone mattered. It sounds like such common sense to today’s Western mind. After all, we assume that these truths are “self evident.” But in Jesus’s day, this was a breath-taking, groundbreaking insight that no one had ever considered before.

Who would have thought that asking a Samaritan divorcee for water, or having a party with a corrupt tax collector, or touching lepers would have such far-reaching implications? Who would have thought that a Judean peasant who never wrote a word that was preserved, and who never traveled farther than forty miles from the village where He was born, would so radically alter the world? But centuries later, Jesus’s life slowly deconstructed an economy in the West, in a world that was unknown to the ancient near east. His life, example, and justice ethic overturned a system built on slave labor and slave trading. And he did it with parties. By choosing to socialize with those who were despised by the “acceptable” people, Jesus opened people’s eyes to the entrenched lie that some lives matter more than others.

God in human flesh partied with all the wrong people.

A few months ago, the church I serve had a party for Martha. Martha had been in prison for more than a decade, and after she was released she had to spend years on parole. On the day her parole finally ended, we threw a party to celebrate Martha’s freedom. She was re-entering society fully, and the church thought that was worth a celebrating with cake and punch.

For an evening, people celebrated something really significant. There were tears and hugs and high-fives and junk food. But Martha’s party really started a few years earlier.

When she first entered prison, she was incredibly lonely. The other inmates received letters from friends and family, but Martha didn’t have a support group. She was more than incarcerated, she was alone.

One day a prison chaplain suggested that she read the New Testament, mentioning that Paul’s letters could be considered God’s letters sent to Martha.

Then the chaplain gave Martha a Bible.

At first she ignored the chaplain’s advice. Two-thousand-year-old letters couldn’t replace notes from a friend. But eventually Martha picked up the Bible just to skim through it. When she did, one word caught her attention and eventually got her to read the whole Bible.

The word that stood out is found in the first verse of the first chapter of Paul’s letter to Christians in Ephesus:

“I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus.”

And the soul feels its worth.


Jonathan Storment is the preaching minister at the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, TX and is the author of How to Start a Riot.

Josh Ross is the preaching minister at the Sycamore View Church of Christ in Memphis, TN and is the author of Scarred Faith.

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13 thoughts on “Bringing Heaven to Earth: You Don't Have to Wait for Eternity to Live the Good News”

  1. Thanks for telling us about this book.

    By choosing to socialize with those who were despised by the
    “acceptable” people, Jesus opened people’s eyes to the entrenched lie
    that some lives matter more than others.

    I grew up in the Baptist tradition that told us that the despised were the ones going to hell and the "acceptable," of which I was one, had a ticket to heaven because we believed correctly. Now at 53, I see the opposite. I'm sure I'm still wrong, but I don't understand how we could be so far off base. I'm thrilled to see the Church beginning to recognize this.

  2. Wonderful post!

    "A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers in himself harms done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair". Abraham J. Heschel The Insecurity of Freedom: Essays on Human Existence. P. 183.

    Frankly, I am a bit tired of the mindset that, in its insistence that we cannot create a utopia here on earth, minimizes compassion and the effort to see God in each person. I believe that Fundamentalism and reactionary Atheism see the same small god. Love, on the other hand, sees God, eternity, in each moment, in the smallest of happenings, in those, whom some would brand, as the smallest of people.

  3. "God in human flesh partied with all the wrong people." Including Zacchaeus.

  4. "The word" of John 1 wielding power outside time and entropy. There is no other tradition wherein that one word of his has any real power or track record. Love, emergent through conscience, conscience possibly sewn into humans from the Pentecost forward. Check out the "feed my lambs" dialogue. No apparent conscience inside Peter! Nevertheless weeks later all that changed. The world was changed by the Jesus who often preached-I am sure-with somebody hanging from a cross in clear view, but his cause of Love Activated through human history was lent a huge hand by this supernatural, taken for granted, substance we call conscience that even King David lacked (ref. Nathan/Bathsheba exchange) and also which was never mentioned by Plato.

  5. I have found this discussion extremely enlightening! Too often within our cultures and subcultures we find traces of an, "I'm better than you", or "my view on "xyz" matters more than yours" mentality. The quote from your article summed it up nicely... "Jesus created a new ethic, which His followers adopted and lived out. God in human flesh celebrated life among the least of these, until the outcasts and overlooked people on the margins of society started to realize that they mattered too." This is something that many churches and Christians need to hear!! With rioting in our streets we need to take to the streets ourselves - in love... and begin allowing the "word to become flesh" (John 1:14) in our cities like only Christ's transforming and life-changing power can do... We are all of one race, and of one creator so let's start acting that way. .. I'm may be purchasing this book in the near future thanks to this dialogue.

  6. Pitch perfect to resonate in the heart of an honest seeker of spiritual truth. Forgive me, but I expected to be disappointed. If the rest of the book is even close, I have something to share...
    Thank you.

  7. jeffery! It seems like this post really touched your heart. I hear you!

  8. Yes! I esp struggle lately w this: 'fundamentalism & reactionary atheism see the same small god'. & why? Is it bc one is invested in the illusion that if one can define god one can feel one is in control and has found a belief that fills the core of one's emptyness?

  9. Derek, I'm so honored you've been reading that long. Truly, that means a lot. Especially on days when I get tired of blogging and keeping up an Internet presence. It makes it all worth it. I do hope our paths cross. I'm sure that'll happen at some point.

    I'm so glad Jonathan and Josh allowed me to share this chapter from their recent published book. It's such a powerful story from our church here in Abilene.


  10. hi derek! just went to your website & looked at your vid. you have a prob w that site: it isn't functioning. I can't acvess your blog nor can I contsct you on it tp let you know so i'm doing it here. I would like to subscribe. BEST!

  11. Thank you for letting me know. I'm having some trouble shooters looking into it as I'm not sure what has happened. The front page is loading fine but it seems all the other links are down.

    If you'd like, you can find a little more on my page on facebook: The Geekpreacher as well as Twitter.

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