Coffee, Theology and Jesus

working out our messy faith over coffee

Category: Christ (page 1 of 2)

The Social Media Dilemma: Part One

I LOVE social media. I really do.

I use it daily, I use it to connect with old friends, see what my friends who are traveling are up to, I use it to promote this blog, use it to share my opinions on things, and I use it to keep in touch with people I don’t see often. Social media (especially Facebook) sure has its perks.

But, like any good thing, the abuse of it can lead to a major problem. Social media is not immune to its own problems….and it has quite a few when it is used to an extreme.

In the next two posts, Rob and I are going to be touching on the two big problems we see with social media when we begin to let it creep in to areas it really shouldn’t be. I (Tim) will be taking part one, and Rob will be taking part two. Onward to part 1.

What do I think is one of the biggest dangers of Facebook? The dreaded ‘like’ button. This little button says so much more than the word itself. This word ‘like’ also says approval, validation, popularity, cool, and pretty much any other word designed to inflate the self. When you get 30 likes on a status you can’t help but think “wow, I must be a popular guy”. You know how I know people think that? Because I think that.

The shift in our culture over the past decade regarding where we seek popularity has been immense. Specifically related to where and how we seek validation and approval. We used to seek most of our approval from actual human beings. These could include our peers, parents, immediate family, co-workers, or fans. But over the years we’ve shifted from people to digitized words and symbols. Now, we get our validation from how many people retweet our tweet, how many people ‘like’ our opinions, how many people share our photo, blog post (whoops), or self-made meme (so far no luck). We now view ourselves more highly when social media views us more highly.

Here’s the thing though, God has already approved of us. Yes, the one who designed every atom in our body, who knows us better than we know ourselves, has already approved us and validates us as lovely, brave and worth loving. The fact that Christ died on the cross to save a dying world from their own sin shows us that he approves of us. So much that He wants to set us up as co-heirs with His Son!

If we don’t find our approval from our Creator we will always be seeking our validation from somewhere else. For some it might not necessarily be social media, but for most that is where we seek it.

It’s a dead end.

A black hole.

And it’s not authentic.

It’s like eating junk food.

When we use social media as a validation tool, we essentially tell God that what he already says about us is not true. When we seek unhealthy approval from people, we become a slave to the cycle of thinking “man I hope people like this”.

God didn’t design us to live enslaved to other people and what they think of us, He designed us to live in freedom of who he says we already are.

Social media can be a great tool. In fact, you most likely found this post through Facebook or some other form of it. But when we use it to validate us as humans, as worthy, it falls short. Until you find it in the one who designed you, it will be an empty lifelong pursuit.

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What Mighty Ducks 2 and the Bible have in common.

This is a long post, just so your warned.

Community is one of the many buzz words in the Church community. It’s taken over like a plague. That usually is a good thing, but if we don’t really understand what that word implies then it becomes a dangerous thing. Dangerous because we start to redefine what community actually implies. When we start reading our culture into words, we sometimes tend to water down their meaning. For example many churches have community groups but all that means is a group who meets once a week for 3 hours to maybe eat some food, then go through a Bible study that the larger Church has already put together. This is not community, that’s Bible study with food.

Really community in Christianity boils down to a group of people pursuing The Lord together. Can this happen once a week in someone’s house? Of course, but when that’s all it is, a few meetings during the week, we lose the intimacy with each other. When we plan out the meeting every time, we don’t give much room for God to truly move. Why do I say this? Because sometimes we trick ourselves. We pray prayers like “God have your way tonight” but really what we’re saying is “hey God we have our format prepared, hope you fit in”. This is why I get frustrated with the Sunday service so often, because regardless of our prayers for the Holy Spirit to move, we don’t. We refuse to change too many things on a Sunday morning. I think we should be praying “God help us to be willing to change on a moments notice as your Spirit leads”.

Back to my point. About 6 years ago I met a group of people that became my community. We met once a week on Saturday nights as a group but the difference was that it didn’t stop there for us. We were always together throughout the week and it did not always have a “spiritual” emphasis. What i mean is that often times we got together for dinner, or to do homework together. We had common interests and we did a lot of them together. There is strength in Christian community because you’re able to let your guard down. People want to be there for you, not throw you out, people want to know you intimately in your life not in designated Christian times. This small group I was a part of was called 11th hour and it changed my life.

We really didn’t know what was happening. I would bring a friend out who never met anyone from 11th hour and they would say “I can’t believe this exists” and we would say “us either”. We knew early on that it had nothing to do with us and everything to do with God working among us. We got to a point in 11th hour where our prayer was “God, whatever you want to take away, take away, whatever you want to add, add” and it was completely genuine. We were willing to change anything that he wanted changed. We knew we wanted two things, the real presence of God continually and authentic, deep relationships with each other. God granted both of those to us and we would never be the same.

Our mindset was to be radically inclusive, it didn’t matter who you were, where you came from, you were welcome to join us, to be a part of our local group, to join us in pursuing The Lord together. We were set on fire with a desire to be together as much as possible with each other. One time a friend of ours got extremely sick and was put in the hospital for a week. Every day there were people in his room. Even past visitation hours. The nurses couldn’t believe how many people were with him all day and when they started asking questions we were more than happy to tell them what we were about. We even hacked in to the tv in the hospital room and hooked up a wii so we could play Mario Kart. We had 5-10 guys there day and night hanging out with him and being there for him the entire time he was in the hospital. It makes for a great story today. I mean c’mon, who hooks up a wii to a hospital tv? Our friend was sharing a room with someone else during his stay there so we had to keep quiet. Imagine 4 guys sitting on a hospital bed trying not to scream when they won or lost. It was quite the challenge.

Every day you could bet that some people somewhere from 11th hour were together doing something. We started a text loop dubbed “the loop” where people could send prayer requests to someone who would loop it out. Eventually it got so large that we had two loops. An announcement loop and a prayer loop. I was in charge of that and at one point I was sending about 10,000 texts out per month.

People were coming in to our midst and being set free from all sorts of garbage. We weren’t afraid to get in the mud with each other and work through our garbage. This was what changed my life. For the first time I had someone who knew every dark part of me, who knew all of my crap and helped me work through it. I’m still accountable to that person today and he has become one of my closest friends.

Community really is both/and. It’s all about pursuing The Lord together and it’s all about enjoying life together. When you have a group as large as 11th hour (at one point close to 35 people) you have a wide range of interests and passions. Because of that we tried to support people in doing what they loved. We went to hockey games, art exhibits, concerts, plays, and everything in between. Not because we were all passionate about these things, but because one of us was and we wanted to support that person as much as possible. The band that I play music with (Red Sea Affair) had some of the best fans. Why? Because our community was completely behind us and came to so many of our shows. When community is being fully lived out, it’s more like a unit then it is a group. It’s a living, God breathed commune that is working together in the Kingdom of God.

There’s a price though, and it’s a hefty one. You give up a lot of your individualism. It’s not just you or your family anymore, you gain a new family with new responsibilities and sometimes it gets tough. Sometimes, tough conversations have to be had, sometimes people don’t get along and you are sitting their trying to mediate between two people. This is why Biblical principles are so key. If a community isn’t practicing forgiveness, mercy, grace, patience, and ultimately love consistently, the group will fall apart. It reminds of one of my favorite scene in might ducks 2.

In this scene the hockey coach (coach Bombay) has 10 new hockey players from all over the country. So to get them to work together he ties them up on the ice so they are one big circle, then he says ok work together and skate. Of course the first time everyone tries to go their own way and they all fall. The second time someone yells “OK everyone move to your right now” to which someone else says “Who made you boss? Everyone to your left now” and of course everyone falls down. Finally, they start to work together and start to move in one direction as one group.

It’s a lighthearted scene but still a powerful lesson that can be applied here. Community only works when everyone is willing to work together, compromise, and give up some of their rights to move as a unit.

I’m not trying to paint a utopian picture here of some fantasy world where everyone floats around on clouds and never does stupid things. We’ve all had our moments throughout the years of stupid things and we’ve all either had to approach someone, or have been approach by someone and lovingly corrected. But overall, when a group of people is consistently together in life, and the common theme is pursuing the heart of Jesus together, you come out with a better way to do life. Let me sum this up.

Here’s the bottom line. When we make community a major priority in our life, and we put in the work that is necessary, ultimately we come out with a much fuller and better life. I often times look back and am so grateful for the people that i’ve had in my life and still have. People sometimes come and go as God directs them in His kingdom, and we’ve had to say goodbye to some amazing people as God moves them, but I often times sit back in a chair and remember the amazing times we had together. The other side of that coin is that I still have the most amazing people in my life. I don’t know how people do it alone, I couldn’t imagine not having people in my life that know me better than I know myself in a lot of ways. People that encourage me, allow me to encourage them, and that push me closer to Jesus.

I was with a good friend of mine a couple days ago and I introduced her to some of my community. She told me “These people are great, they just get it and I felt like I could just be myself.” Indeed my friend, indeed.

Homosexual Marriage and the Church (What Are We Doing?!)

Note: This post is solely Tim Whitaker’s opinion.

Our nation is sharply divided over the idea of legalizing some form of homosexual marriage/union.  Well it’s time for Tim Whitaker to throw his view in to the mix.  I realize there are a lot of angles to approach the subject from.  Because of that, I’m going to try and keep my post focused on one angle.  Let’s face it, you could write a book on this issue, there are so many different ways to approach this subject.  I’m coming at it from the perspective of a Christ follower and what I really see in Scripture and how we as Christians are to handle the situation.  Do I have the only right way? No, I don’t think so, however one of the benefits of having a blog is that I can post my opinion on subjects.  So agree or disagree, read along.

Let me get one thing clear right off the bat for my more conservative readers; I think homosexuality is contrary to God’s design.  There you go, I said it.  I think the Bible is pretty clear on this issue.  If we take the Genesis creation account literally, then we clearly see that God’s design since day one was for heterosexual marriage.  That being said, homosexuality is simply another symptom of a bigger problem, sin in the world.  Now, if you’re reading this and you are a homosexual hopefully you’re not ready to throw stones at me.  Sure I think that the lifestyle of homosexuality is wrong, but there are two things to keep in mind.  1. I think getting drunk is wrong, and I have and know plenty of friends who love to party.  They know right where I stand on the issue and we are still good friends.  Just because two people disagree on an issue doesn’t mean that I think that they are somehow less human.  2.  You have a freedom to live your life how you choose.  This is clear in Scripture, that if you’re not a Christian, or a follower of Christ, that it is completely unfair for us to put our beliefs on to you.  God gave Adam and Eve a choice and Paul writes over and over to be concerned with matters of the church, not of the world.

But enough of that, I want to get down to the nitty gritty.  This whole marriage debate is discouraging.  It’s discouraging to see how many Christians are ready to take up arms because a secular nation that they live in is considering giving homosexual couples the same benefits in our nation as heterosexual couples.   Yes, I said secular nation because contrary to popular belief, America is not God’s chosen nation, America is not a “christian” nation, America is a nation governed by a constitution and bill of rights, not by a Bible.  How can someone who claim to be a follower of Christ say such things?  Because it’s true.   The Bible is not a book that is supposed to be used to govern, it’s meant to speak to the individual and to the Church.  I can’t stress this enough.  Regardless if people live in sin, throwing the book at them doesn’t change their hearts! Only Christ does.

Speaking of sin, if there is one big gaping problem with the way Christians are treating this issue it’s this: We are blind to the heterosexual fornication, murder, and hosts of other things that are also immoral that America has either legalized, culturally supports, or allows that is equally against God’s moral law.  This is the irony of it all. We live in a culture that is full of people who live lives contrary to the way Jesus taught us to live and then we act shocked and surprised when things like this come up.    Paul planted a Church in Corinth, one of the most vile cities of the time and do you see paul writing letters to people outside the Church? Do you think Paul stood on a soapbox and made sure people knew that Corinth was a vile city that was going to be destroyed by the wrath of God one day?  No of course not, instead Paul instructs the CHURCH on how to live.  This is key to understand, the Bible is written to believers, to people are inside the faith.   Just like the Jewish Law applied to the Jews, the Bible (especially the New Testament) is written to God’s Church, to God’s called out ones.  Are we called to evangelize? Of course we are! But we have to ask ourselves this important question: Do we want people to know that they are wrong and we are right, or are we trying to introduce people to the person of Jesus?  If our motive is to show people Jesus and who He is and how He changes our lives, then how we express that will look much different than some of the ways I’m seeing.

I don’t know where this mindset of guilty by association came about, but it’s completely contrary to the life of Jesus.  Jesus was heavily associated with the culturally immoral of His time. He offered them restored and full life, some rejected, some accepted, either way Jesus was there with, what that society deemed, as the most immoral of all.

Look, here’s my bottom line, if homosexual marriage becomes legal, so what?  Does that change your mission here on earth as a Christ follower?  If you meet two people are legally married who are of the same sex, are they somehow beyond the saving grace of our Lord? No, they are not, so why are we treating them like they are?   The devil is tricky indeed, while we Christians are obsessing about this particular issue, millions of babies are being aborted, marriages are being torn apart by infidelity, our culture worships at the alter of money and stuff, teen suicide is at an all time high, military PTSD is at an all time high, but yes let’s rally behind the issue of two people who want the same rights in our nation that other people get.  Right or wrong, it’s not our job to tell people how to live! Remember, we are the ones in a foreign land, we are the ones who are just passing through.  People, wether it’s legal or not, are going to live how they want to live and we change hearts by personally showing them Jesus, not by legislating one part of God’s law in to a nation.  Last time we turned England into a Christian theocracy it got so corrupt that secularism was born.

Some of you might be saying that I just don’t want to stand up for the truth of God’s word to which I will leave you with a very popular Scripture verse.

 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6:10-17

Notice here that Paul points everything to individual and the devil.  I don’t see any of these weapons that Paul describes meant to be used against people, I don’t see Paul saying “Our struggle is against immoral people! ATTACK!”  In fact in 1 Corinthians 5 he says quite the opposite: What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

I’ll tell you what, why don’t we put the kind of effort we put in to stopping the homosexual agenda (an outside the Church issue) in to helping the millions of men in the Church addicted to pornography, or helping the Church lower it’s staggering divorce numbers, or infidelity in the Church? I could go on and on.  We have many things we can focus on ourselves with before we go about casting judgement on the world.  Judging the world is not our job, it’s God’s.

-TW

Denominations: A kingdom divided cannot stand.

Picture a mirror. Now picture that mirror with thousands of little cracks in it. Cracks that distort your reflection as look at yourself. This is what denominations do to the body of Christ. Extreme statement? Maybe, but Christ’s prayer was that we (His Church) were one as He and the Father were one. I think we dropped the ball on that.

There are thousands of denominations inside Christianity with their own set of of beliefs, principles, practices, and emphasis. They all like to think that they have church figured out more than the other denominations.

Here’s the glaring problem, we have made denominations walls that cut us off from other parts of the Church. Oh, disclaimer, when I say Church I’m not talking about your local Church body, I’m talking about THE Church, the big picture Church, the Church that we are all apart of. Anyway, as I was saying denominations have become walls, dividers, that have not joined us together but have segregated us. We are comfortable working with people who are inside our denomination, but working with Christians (your other brothers and sisters) outside your denomination? Now I’m just talking crazy. Here’s the crazy part, Christ, if he were here today would be heartbroken at how divided we are.

We have this mentality in the Church that our local Church we are a part of (or for most of us, attend) is the only Church that has it right. We are convinced that the only church body that matters is ours, or our parent/sister/brother/aunt/cousin church (meaning the other churches in our comfortable little circle that we say we partner with about once a year for something). I don’t understand it. I’m convinced that the Church is the only organization that not only is divided, but is literally cut off from itself. This is the kind of thing Paul warns the Corinthians about.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-21 ESV)

Paul hits it out of the park. If you’re a leader in a local Church reading this blog then take that Scripture to heart. Our identity is Christ, not our denomination, not our programs, or our ministries, or anything else. Our identity as a Christian is Christ! We ALL have the same identity, so why are we so DIVIDED! Forgive my use of capital letters, I am just so fired up that we can claim to be Christians and yet over look these parts of Scripture, or worse, we can take a section like I just posted and apply it only to our local Church that we serve in. Notice how Paul says we are in one Spirit baptized in one body, not a local body, not an individual body, one body. Do not apply this scripture only to your expression of the Church, Paul is talking big picture here.

Can we as Christians have different views on some issues? Absolutely. But should these things divide us as deep as they have? Absolutely not. It is in direct conflict with the heart of Christ. (See John 17).

Rob (the other writer for this blog) and I have some stark differences. In fact they are so stark that we probably won’t be planting a church together anytime soon. But these differences do nothing to sever our relationship as brothers in the same Kingdom worshipping the same God. We eat together, we share views together, we talk and hangout, we have great times together and we still have different views on things inside the faith.

America doesn’t need more church buildings, it doesn’t need more expressions of the local church, it needs a united Church. In New Jersey there are roughly 3 church buildings every square mile. We have plenty of church buildings, but a kingdom divided can’t stand. Until we are willing to bridge the denominational divide, we will continue to stifle Church growth, but more importantly we are stifling the growth of the Kingdom of God. We fight over things that are sometimes so ridiculous, our cultures look at it and says “seriously?”

What’s my solution? Here are a few.

1. Make every effort to connect with other local churches in your immediate area. Invite the pastors to lunch and talk about how to be more unified and then actually do things together with your congregations. For instance, what if the Churches in your area organized a park cleanup day? Or what if the Churches in your area went to the mayor’s office and asked what you could all do together to serve the community.

2. Take a week off from your Church service and go worship the same God with another local church body in your immediate area. I recommend doing this often. Not only does it give your pastor, worship band, and other people who help run the Sunday morning service a break, it starts to bridge the gap between local Churches. After all you are trying to reach the SAME community, why the heck would you not talk to each other?

If we are to be followers of the teachings of Christ, if we are to have His heart, then uniting the Church must be a top priority. But we are a prideful bunch, we don’t like to change and conform to someone’s [inferior] view. We don’t like to admit that we were wrong. We’d much rather be comfortable with our circle of believers, then to get uncomfortable and have some difficult conversations with other believers.

I’ll leave you with the words of Jesus. “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:20-23 ESV)

Beer, Beer, Beer! Christians and Alcohol.

This is Side 1:  See Side 2 here!

I know right? How can a person who claims to be a follower of Christ say such a terrible word! Beer is evil! So is anything else that contains alcohol! How dare Christians drink! If this is your mentality, buckle up.

Alcohol! Not many things are as controversial among Christians as alcohol. I grew up in churches where the consumption of alcohol was looked down upon. My parents never drank, their friends never drank, and the church body I grew up in preached drinking as a sin from the pulpit. I have known many other Christians who took the same strict stance.

There’s a problem though. Not only did Jesus drink wine (which was strong enough to get drunk off of), the Bible condones drinking. There was wine at the last supper. Paul tells Timothy that the elders should not be lovers of MUCH wine not any wine, and let’s not forget that Jesus’s first miracle was turning water in to wine. If Jesus did that miracle at a church meeting, there’s a good chance he’d get a talking to by the pastor or other Church leadership. Alcohol is Biblical and there is nothing wrong with drinking in moderation. However there are still Christians who look down on other Christians who have a beer or glass of wine over dinner. It’s completely unbiblical to cast judgment on Christians who enjoy such a beverage, if that’s you, you need to check your heart and get Biblical.

I personally don’t drink, it’s a personal conviction I’ve had for a very long time. My father’s family all had major alcohol problems. The Lord was very clear that I was not to drink casually, and that alcohol was not for me. However many of my friends do enjoy beer, wine, or a mixed drink, and they are followers of Christ. For me to look down on them as “less” of a Christian is wrong because the Bible is so crystal clear that drinking is not wrong, being drunk is.

It’s also interesting to me that I’ve met so many Christians that view any kind of drinking as wrong but they are either are unaware or forget that many of the people we look up to in the history of the faith had their own brewery’s for beer. In fact, I recently read that the founder of Guinness became a follower of Christ by listening to John Wesley preach. Guinness turned his company in to one of the most charitable companies in Ireland. He paid his staff extremely well, and took care of the poor all through his brewing company Guinness. Owning a brewery was common back in the earlier centuries, C.S Lewis (Author of Narnia), A.W Tozer, and many other titans of the faith all enjoyed their beer. It was not until the fundamentalist movement came along in the 19/20th/21st centuries that our view of alcohol changed as something dirty, unbiblical, and something that only party people do. This view is wrong and in the grand scheme of history is a very small view of any kind of alcoholic drink.

Now I know people will say “well Tim people who drink shouldn’t cause a brother to stumble” to which I agree. I’ve been blessed to have great friends who made sure to check with me before they drank in front of me. If I told them I found it to be a stumbling block they would never drink in front of me. There are Christians who drink who like to rub it in other people’s faces, this is a terrible approach. However, the opposite is true, Christians who don’t drink need to get off their high-horse mentality and realize that they are only going above and beyond what Scripture teaches and we call that legalism. If you choose not to drink you have that prerogative (not to mention you save a lot of money when you go out to eat), but to cast judgement on brothers and sisters who do is so out of line I think Jesus would look at you in the eye and say “Get the plank out of your own eye before you get the speck out of your brother’s eye”.

What’s my point? To the Christian who says “did you see so and so drinking tonight?!” check your heart. Alcohol is all throughout the Bible. The Jews drank it when they threw week long parties. Jesus drank wine, so many saints of the faith had their own breweries and enjoyed beer all throughout the centuries. I can give you example after example of people that loved The Lord, had thriving relationships with Him that enjoyed their adult beverages as well. I realize that our culture abuses alcohol, I realize that it’s seen as a party drink, I realized getting so drunk you black out is cool among people my age, but that shouldn’t make Christians view the actual beverage as sin when the Bible mentions it so often.

To Christians who enjoy a beer or glass of wine, be aware of who you do it in front of. Sometimes the drink isn’t worth your brother stumbling over it. Make sure if your around fellow brothers and sisters that you check with them to make sure it’s not a problem to anyone. Paul is so clear in this and it saves relationships. Be patient with those who have opposing views, speak in love and in humility when approaching this subject.

EDIT- I should mention here that by drinking I do not mean being drunk or getting tipsy. These things Scripture is also clear on. Just like anything, alcohol can be abused. I just wanted to make sure I was clear on this point that by drinking I mean simply enjoying a glass of wine or a drink, not drinking to the point of being impaired.

The Condescending Christian

Condescension: (n)
1: voluntary descent from one’s rank or dignity in relations with an inferior
2: patronizing attitude or behavior

I think this is a word we are all familiar with.  A word we are all disgusted with? Perhaps.  A word we are all plagued with.  More likely.

I’ve been discussing Christianity with various friends recently and we have all come to the same conclusion: Christians are not very Christ-like.  It reminds me of the first time the label “Christians” was used in the scripture.  We have all heard this before, but in Acts 11:26 we see that “in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.”  The ironic thing is that this is an adjective and was not word that the believers called themselves but was a description that the pagans in Antioch gave them because they were following Christ.  The term was most likely a derogatory term given in mockery but the pagan world looked and saw people following Christ.  I wonder if they were being mocked because they actually acted like Him who they were attempting to follow.  Jesus said “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first” (John 15:18).  Contempt and mockery comes along with bearing the image of Christ.

Why do I say image instead of name?  “Christian” has become a nominal claim that holds no value but bearing the image of Christ is what we are called to do; be a reflection of Christ.  I believe a major problem in Christendom is that we are trying to be too “Christian-like” and forgetting to be “Christ-like.”

Now, this is not 100% true in every local church but it is a trend I am noticing more and more that the Church is shutting their “doors” tighter and tighter.  Obviously by doors I mean their hearts.  The attitude in local churches is that if you are on the inside you have been blessed and are a select group of “God’s elect” but if you are on the outside then you are not worth our thoughts.  It is interesting that Christ was never holed up in a building with the religious leaders of the day and reminiscing on how much better He was than the rest of the population (for He very well was MUCH better).  He was mocked for sitting and eating with sinners, for talking to a woman at the well, for calling children, for rescuing prostitutes, and loving the “scum.”  However, modern Christianity has turned their face from all of these ones that desperately need our love because we want to be “Christian-like.”  Christians don’t talk with non-Christians! Christians don’t get their hands dirty! Christians don’t sit and eat with sinners!  We want to stay in our “Christian boxes” and remind ourselves how great we are compared to all the sinners!  Paul knew nothing of this attitude when he writes to Timothy “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I AM chief” (1:15).  Paul knew he never lost his nature as a sinner and it motivated him to reach other sinners!  I remember hearing Billy Graham tell an interviewer that the first step for a gospel preacher is to first love sinners for whom Christ died.  Gospel preaching becomes dry and lifeless when the motivation behind the message is not a sincere love for the lost!  Why are people leaving churches to never return?  Because Christians are not “Christ-like.”  Christ didn’t have to provide entertainment to get a following and He didn’t need fancy projectors and loud music.  He only needed His love for every single person.  What happened?  They CLUNG to Him.  The world knows very little of God’s love because we have been called to be the vessels of His love but instead we shut ourselves in and pat each other on the back for being such a good Christian while lives are being torn apart, people are hopeless, and the world is spiraling out of control.

When I was in California recently I was talking to my friend and he was sharing with me some of the various things he has gotten himself into out there.  Every other Wed he goes and gives out burgers and Bibles to homeless people in LA.  Two of the ones he has reached come to services regularly on Sunday because he takes time out of his day to just sit and talk with them and helps them in any way he can.  This was just one of the things he was into and I really looked up to him for that.  He surely isn’t being very “Christian-like” but he certainly is being very “Christ-like.”

I’m not sure when we lost sight of the fact that we are only sinners saved by grace but we have.  Let’s step out of the box of our condescension and back into the life of love for people around.  I don’t care what race, sexual orientation, religion, or social status our neighbor is, they should all be getting a glimpse at the love of Christ.  Would my neighbor be able to call me a follower of Christ or is it just a label I’ve slapped on myself because I go to a Christian church?  What about you?  Lord, change my heart and help me to love like Christ.

-RM

 

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My Story: Paths Colliding and God Directing (Rob)

Happy Valentines day everyone 🙂  I have especially been enjoying the thought of Christ’s love for us this week.  Think of Galatians 2:20
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Ok so Tim and I were at Starbucks the other day and he told me that he wanted us both to do a “story” post on our spiritual life.  I enjoyed Tim’s post and through my post I want to show how God moved in my life to bring me to where I am today (including meeting Tim and starting this blog with him).

So, much like Tim, I was raised in a pretty conservative church.  Except, ours went a little further than even Tim’s upbringing did.  Sure, we were a suit and tie type place, but women also wore head coverings and were silent.  We had no pastor because the priesthood of all believers was something we really believed in.  The requirements for church membership were clear salvation and full immersion baptism and only those in fellowship are allowed to partake in communion on Sunday morning.  I still attend this church and will  gladly discuss why I believe God has called me to be there with anyone.  Growing up this way though had its downsides.  I don’t blame this on the church at all or my parents but I developed an attitude that I was better than some people because of how I was raised and certainly the kids I went to school with weren’t as good as me because I was a REAL Christian!  I grew up listening to a very clear gospel ever Sunday night and usually in the summer we had special gospel meetings for an entire month every night except Saturday.  I made a profession of my faith in Christ at the age of 12 (in 1999) during one of these summer meetings and held onto that for many years.  Really I was only depending on my own faith to save me instead of the work of Jesus on the cross.  I knew the gospel enough to give a good story and convince others I was saved.  I even had myself convinced at one point.  But oh the lingering doubts.  I got baptized to try and suppress some doubts and then joined the local church because that is what Christians do (Forsake not the gathering of yourselves together)!  But it was all a facade.

As I started college in 2005 I began to date a girl who by no means was a Christian and was into all of the things I always stood against (drinking, smoking, etc).  To this day I’m still not sure why I dated her but I’m actually glad I did.  This was the beginning of my REAL encounter with God.  I truly believe God was using this relationship to show me what a fraud I was that I didn’t care about anything that I was claiming to believe.  That is when God was speaking clearly to me, showing me daily that I had never  been “born again” and I was still a sinner on my way to hell.  On spring break in 2006, I was down at my parents house in NC visiting.  My parents still go to a very similar church but just down there in NC.  Whenever I was around them they had a joy and peace that I knew I didn’t have.  I longed for it.  One night I was on the back porch with my friend Daniel and we were playing some guitar together.  He would play all these nice Christian songs and I would play all these secular songs I was into (this is not a sermon against secular music at all).  But that spoke to me loudly, that I had no interest in this Christian life and didn’t care about God or Jesus or anything to do with the Bible.

That night I reached out to my friend Jimmy and told him what had been going on inside my head for some time.  That I really had never been saved.  He read some verses with me and as I was reading 1 Peter 3:18 “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened” I realized two things.  First, was that I had been depending on my own belief to get me to heaven.  I had convinced myself that I had believed enough and that is what salvation really was; believing God.  Second, I saw that no matter how much I believe that he suffered for sins doesn’t change the fact that he did; just like I can believe that the sun will not rise in the morning but it will not change the suns rising.  I realized that the Bible says he suffered for me and if the Bible said it that it was enough for me.  It wasn’t depending on my faith to save me but depending on the Bible saying that “It is finished” and there was nothing for me to do.  That was March 30, 2006.

Since then my life has been perfect and I have made no mistakes….. NOT.  Christianity is not perfect living, which I very quickly had to admit as the sins didn’t stop.  But as we grow in our faith the desire for sin lessens and we should look more like Christ.  Fortunately God has given us His spirit to accomplish this because the REAL Christian life is impossible without the Holy Spirit.

Now, how I met Tim.  Actually, it comes out of a lower point in my life.  It is not that I was doing anything wrong but I had some of my priorities a bit messed up.  I was reading less and cared more about hanging out with friends, having fun, and going to open mics.  But at Starbucks is where I met Tim and we hit it off instantly.  He encouraged and strengthened my faith as he challenged me.  He doesn’t go to a church like mine and doesn’t share some of my beliefs about how worship should be done but I love him anyway and he has caused me to dive deeper into Christ.  I met some other cool people through him as well.  I was always one to openly discuss my faith with anyone and everyone.  I am not one to shove it down your throat but if you ask me about it I’m going to have an answer.  I have a huge interest in Christian life, the church, apologetics, and science.  All of which integrate into my pursuit of Christ.  The more I talked with Tim the more I loved the challenges we brought eachother as we wrestled with what our faith means everyday.

Tim and I don’t agree on some things but we are definitely both in love with Christ and want to see him lifted up and his people encouraged to follow His example and His word.  When he asked me about a blog I thought it was an excellent idea and was honored he wanted me to join him.  This has been a great learning experience for me and we enjoy seeing discussion and wrestling with our readers as well.  That is really our desire with the blog, to make us all sit back and think and dive into God’s word together to be a better embodiment of our Savior.  We also value the opinions of those that aren’t Christians because isn’t that our commission? To go into all the world and preach the gospel?  Our testimony is at stake to and we want nonbelievers to look in and see a church body that is all about love and truth and God without all the other distractions and headaches that Christians are sometimes known for.  Let’s all grow together as Christians and be a light to an ever darkening world!

Thanks for reading and keep commenting!

-RM

 

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Sometimes Christians Get It Wrong

Originally, I was writing a post about absolute truth and how it exists and how important it is. But then I realized that I don’t know nearly enough on the subject to articulate myself well enough for a post. But as I began to write, another topic emerged. The more I wrote, the more I realized that I needed to take my post in another direction. So buckle up here we go.

As Christians, sometimes we think we own the corner on truth. What I mean by that is we sometimes assume that everything we say about the Christian faith is true, as opposed to truth dictating what we believe about the Christian faith. If you look even briefly at the history of the Christian faith, you will see that we have done things that we look back on and say “what were they thinking?!” For example, the crusades were a very bad idea and not true to the Christian faith and the teachings of Christ. Although at the time they felt justified in their actions, we see clearly now that what they did was contrary to Christ and His Kingdom.

When we look at modern day Christianity (especially here in the states) we must be careful in how outspoken we are regarding what we think we know. Sometimes we over extend our hand and assume that the way we were taught to interpret the Bible is the right way, or the way we were taught to see our culture or the unsaved is the right way. We must extremely careful not to get so wrapped up in our dogma that it blinds us to truth when it is presented.

One of the dangers I see in the Christian faith is that we have let other things such as world views, politics, and compromise come in and alter our view of the way of Christ. We have taken certain messages from the world (such as the liberal message or conservative message) identified parts of it in the Bible, and then made up our own version of Christianity. Essentially, we have let other things dictate how we see the Bible and ultimately our faith, instead of digging more in to the context and history of our faith and seeing how to apply it here and now.

One of the biggest missteps I have seen over the past ten years is the way many public Christian figures (and not so public figures) have handled the homosexual movement. In a faith that is so clear on grace, redemption, love, and forgiveness, we instead pointed out the action of homosexuality and essentially condemned people solely for the particular action. In the process we not only lost the heart of the gospel (that no matter what we do, we are in need of Jesus and His healing), but we lost the ear of many people engaged in that lifestyle. From people like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson who blamed 9/11 on the homosexual movement, to the pastor who suggested that we round up all the homosexuals and put them in a quarantined area with an electric fence, we have made some missteps in the way to engage this growing topic in our culture.

Sometimes, we as Christians can accidentally get so arrogant, so full of pride, because we think that our eyes have been open to all truth because of Christ when this is not the case. Sometimes, we think “well I believe in Jesus and affirm his resurrection, therefore whatever I think must be completely true” and this is a dangerous slope because no human knows everything. No human has the corner on all truth. The pursuit of truth is a lifelong pursuit and one that we can never fulfill in our lifetimes. We are wrong on some things. Even now, I’m sure that all of my beliefs are not accurate when stacked up against God and his absolute truth. Even though many of you reading this who are Christians are agreeing with me, your actions sometimes say quite the opposite.

Let me ask the Christians out here a question, when was the last time you apologized to a person who was not in the Christian faith? When was the last time you told someone “I was wrong for thinking that about you”? Christians are called to be humble, people are looking to make things right, not to inflame the situation. I have heard with my own ears people who profess Christianity talk so arrogantly about what they think they know and as soon as someone enters the conversation with a different view, the Christian shuts them down immediately with prepackaged Christian culture answers. This is not the way to engage people and to win their respect so they will hear you out and continue a conversation about deep, complicated things.

Let me ask you (the Christian) one final question. What’s your motive? To prove to the world that everything that you say is absolute truth? Is it to prove that you are right and they are wrong and therefore everyone must see everything the way you see it? Or is your point to introduce them to Jesus so that they may know Him and His way, His teachings, His kingdom? When your motivation is introduce people to the risen Christ, the way you engage people with different views than you changes greatly. It changes from attacking and overloading them with your worldview, to being a listener and conversationalist, trusting that it is Jesus who redeems and saves people, not you.

If all we do as Christians is tell the world how wrong they are, and how right we are, and people reject Christ because of that (as many have) then we still lose in the end. Our only focus should be introducing people to God and His kingdom. The Bible makes it clear, God judges people, not us. Why? Because all are equal at the foot of the cross. Without Christ we are all in the same sinking boat. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, how you live, Jesus is the only hope for humanity.
-TW

The Man, The King, The Son of God (A Worship Thought) – Rob

This has been on my mind recently; reading through the accounts of the crucifixion in the gospels we have three phrases that I have personally really enjoyed. These phrases were spoken by men who were actually involved in the action. Two of them were made by Pilate and one by a centurion.

“Behold the man” – Pilate
Pilate had no idea the truth involved in those words. He really never fully grasped the magnificence that this individual before him was indeed a man. We often sing “Verily God yet become truly human, Lower than angels to die in our stead.” Jesus was a man and it was a requirement for the plan of salvation. Pilate desired everyone to look at Christ that day as “a man” and have pity upon Him! Maybe if they could see that He was one of them (a Jewish man) they would let Him go. He was recently beaten and had a crown of thorns and a mock robe. Pilate was only looking for some pity as they gazed upon this man, but none was found. Despite their reaction, they were indeed looking upon the man. Can we not apply this to our lives and worship? Christ became a man for our sake; to die on a cross. We read in John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” meaning he “tabernacled” or made His dwelling/home among us. The God of eternity who had eternal glory in Heaven made his dwelling among men. That should motivate us to a life devoted to service for Him and worship from hearts of unspeakable joy as we “Behold the man.”

“Behold the king” – Pilate
Again, I don’t believe Pilate knew exactly what he was saying. I do believe he was attempting again to appeal to the masses. A bruised, beaten, and disfigured man stood before them and in his innocence he cried “behold the king.” The Jews replied with another rendition of “Crucify Him!” Perhaps the discussion with Christ about truth made Pilate realize who Christ was and he again tried to plead with the crowd on His behalf. Pilate must have heard many things about Christ and I’m sure one of them was that He is “the King of the Jews.” He tried to persuade the crowd with these words but it only fueled their thirst for blood as they cried out “We will not have this man to reign over us!” However, was not Christ the true King of Israel? Was He not the King of all creation? Should this also not affect our lives and worship? As we live here on earth are we aware of our King? If I had my eyes constantly on the King I would be so much more willing to live for Him and submit every part of my life to Him. And my worship? Well I would see Him as King and the one who deserves all of my worship and it would alone go to Him.

“This was the Son of God” – Centurion
I think this phrase is the one that impresses me the most. This centurion may or may not have known much about Christ but he witnessed that crucifixion first hand. He saw the three dark hours and felt the earthquake. I’m sure he heard each of the cries of Christ on the cross. The forgiveness, the love, the obedience, and the sacrifice were all seen by him. What was his impression? He proclaims that the man who was cruelly treated and crucified was none other than the Son of God. What a statement! What a realization! I can’t wait to talk to this man in Heaven (yes, I’m sure he will be there). Will he be equally impressed with my life and worship? When I view Christ does my heart proclaim “This is the Son of God!” If only I would have my eyes on that my worship would be all the more meaningful.

Let our lives and worship be augmented by these three simple phrases as we behold the man, the king, and the son of God.

Hey! The Kingdom!

Rob, Kyle, and myself have been extremely busy, we’ve been a little slow in the post department. So until we can get some newer ones written I figured I’d put up a post I wrote a year ago on my notes in facebook.   I was just re-reading it for the first time since last year and wow I never new it was possible to encourage yourself.  Anyway check it out

 

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the kingdom of God, about what is means here in America, here in New Jersey.  What does it mean to establish the kingdom of God?  This is a question that I have been attempting to answer (in my human ignorance), and I don’t think I can answer it in words, but I do think I can live it out. (more of that in a second)

 

 

That being said I can think of one thing that i see the Lord doing, I see the Lord calling out the true worshippers and I see Him calling them to a new level of relationship with Him.   The Lord is doing things in our lives, shaking us to our core.  Asking us questions like “will you REALLY follow me”, will you REALLY lay this down, will you really pick this up.  These are questions that have a common theme.  I believe that Christ is challenging us re-evaluate our relationship with Him.  I can speak from personal experience that the Lord is rocking me big time with this.  He has been challenging me to read His word daily, and to understand it.  I have been challenged to spend one a hour a day with Him and listening to His voice in regards to what I’m supposed to do with that hour.  It has been challenging but rewarding.

 

 

I’ve been realizing more and more just exactly how much my relationship with the Lord must not only be my foundation, it must be my entire house.  Without Christ being my absolute everything, I have no purpose to my life.   When Christ is not only the rudder to the ship, but my ship I realize that even in the choppiest of waves I am safe.  This is essential, it is ESSENTIAL that we armor up as the body of Christ, the enemy is on the prowl, continous distractions, causing strife, gossip among the church attempting to tarnish it’s image (and in many ways succeeded).  Family there is no more time for games, Christ demands our life and the question is are we going to submit to Him?

 

 

Where am I going with this you ask? Because before we talk about establishing the kingdom we need to be completely confident in our relationship with Christ, this is not to say that we are perfect,  God equips the called He does not called the equipped (because none of us are).  Until we realize his amazing grace on our lives, and until we realize our complete depravity we cannot move on and allow God to mold us in to who we were orginally created to be.

 

 

 

I digress let’s move on to the kingdom.    People estimate that there are about 300,000 Christian churches in the U.S (not including Catholic).  If the population of the U.S is about 300 million people, that equates to roughly about 1,000 people per church,  In a very real way the church has effectively communicated the gospel, the majority of Americans claim Christianity as their religious association (75%), this is quite an amazing feat.  However that’s where the positive ends, staticians estimate that out of those 75% only 4% hold a Biblical worldview.  What is that worldview? It’s the essentials! (The trinity, satan being real, the Bible being perfect and absolute truth).  This is a huge miss, because even though people know about Jesus, they still haven’t met Jesus, even though they know that christians are opposed to abortion, premarital sex, drug use, they still don’t understand WHY we are opposed to those things.   This is huge! What good is a list of things that are “sin” if there is no savior who points out a better way to live?    There is a new generation rising up (us!, twenty somethings) who are determing to explain to the world that there is a better way to live then the way they are living.  We are people who want to introduce people to a living God who doesn’t demand sunday morning church attending, but demands a lifestyle change, a lifestyle that is so free, so full of life, so full of people who support you, and a lifestyle of grace and redemption.  The kingdom is coming, and God has entrusted us broken people to establish it.

 

 

It is essential that we view our faith not as what church we go to, but we realize that we are doing the same work for the same God.  It’s not about one church, it’s about a kingdom menality, when I visit a church community, or when I have dinner with a christian I’ve never met I am serving the same exact God they are.  Could you imagine if the American church put aside petty differences (I’m not talking about core doctrines) and united and reached their community’s together?  Could you imagine a baptist church and a pentecostal church working TOGETHER to paint the local firehoue? Or to feed and clothe and love the poor?  If we believe in the same God who redeemed us then we need to start acting like it.

 

 

The idea of the kingdom goes beyond just the walls of what we call a church (which using the word church the way we use it is actually wrong, the Bible never refers to church as a building), the kingdiom goes way beyond Sunday morning, weds night, or youth group. It goes beyond what we are used to calling “church” in American society. The kingdom is established in relationships and over all lifestyle choices. Allow me to elaborate, first relationships.

 

Let’s get one thing clear, America does not want another product, they are not interested in a salespitch when it comes Jesus, and quite frankly I think they’re tired of hearing about Jesus. What America wants to see is an active Jesus, one who puts their money with their mouth is, one who preaches abstinence then actually practices it. People aren’t looking for robots, they are looking for humans who understand the struggles of the human condition and who can offer a way out. It’s a delicate balance,. We don’t want to preach the idea of christians are perfect and have everything together at all times because well, none of us are perfect. In the same breath we don’t want to preach the opposite idea either, that we can live however we want to live. I think the key is when we are genuine about who we are, this is best accomplished through a personal authentic friendship, one that still loves the person regardless if they reject the Gospel, I have a friend like that, I love him to death regardless of his rejection of the Gospel because I have no control over what he chooses to believe, and I trust God to work on his heart (what a relief).

 

The second is lifestyle. This is so absolutely key to our faith, not only because Jesus demands it, but because in a world of talk, talk and more talk, action cements the beliefs that we say we believe. Don’t fool yourself however, a lifestyle of Christ will only come out of a genuine love for Christ and a realization of his amazing love for us. After that, lifestyle will pour out of us because we wont’ be able to live any other way.

 

 

Just the other day me and some friends got to together at my house, cooked a full meal, brought out my moms best dishes and celebrated communion, we had the bread, ate a full meal then drank the juice (or soda in this case), the whole conversation was centered on things about God and the topics spanned from personal life, to the end times to everything in between. This is the lifestyle I’m talking about. Why not bring church to your home? I mean the church is made up of people anyway. So live as the church throughout the week. Often people will say “I’m too busy to do things like what you just described” but that’s the beauty of a lifestyle. The lifestyle is how you live, it’s where you live, the kingdom walks where you walk. YOU bring the kingdom WHEREVER you go! This includes work, this includes when you go out to eat, when you go to the gym. God has entrusted us with bringing the kingdom to the world and we bring it where we walk.

 

I believe however that the only way to effectively bring the kingdom to where you are is to have a group of likeminded of people that can support you and that you can support. Americans are realizing that things don’t satisfy, that there is more to life then a pension, big house, and lots of money. All over the place we are realizing that the promise of the next gadget to fix our life doesn’t actually fix anything and instead creates more problems. Living independently isn’t always best, and really what good is all of your stuff if you’ve sacrificed marriages, and your children to get it?

 

Find people who want in on this amazing task, initiate, start inviting people over all the time for coffee, or to do whatever it is you want to do. It doesn’t matter what it is, let your relationship s naturally mature and enjoy being the community, the church that Christ has called us to be. One that goes WAY beyond four walls on a sunday, one that goes way beyond the normal idea of a nice quite Christian American life. The two greatest commands we have from our Father is to love Him with everything, and love people. 1 Corinthians 13.

 

Any typos/grammatical errors are not my fault

 

– Tim Whitaker

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