Coffee, Theology and Jesus

working out our messy faith over coffee

Category: Convictions

#icebucketchallenge #alsicebucketchallenge #strikeoutals

So, if you have logged onto social media in the past several weeks you have seen copious amounts of videos of EVERYONE dumping buckets of water on their head.  By now, we all realize that this is about raising awareness of ALS and promoting donations to ALS research.

I am certainly glad that this horrible disease is getting so much attention as it is 100% fatal with no cure.  However, as Christians we don’t just follow social trends and go along with the crowd.  I have been challenged to do this multiple times at this point and have politely declined and given my reasons for abstaining.  Here are some of them:

  1. The ALS Association is an organization that supports and performs embryonic stem cell research. While you can elect that your donation dollars not be spent to fund embryonic stem cell research (and the major study going on now is funded by a particular donor interested in such research) ALSA does state that it will not hinder future research of this type.
  2. Social gratification. I can’t speak for anyone else but when I was first challenged my first thought was “oh man let’s do something big so people will notice.”  The whole reason it is viral is because it plays into the instant social gratification veiled as altruism.
  3. Dumping 5+ gallons of clean, fresh, ice water on your head is degrading to countries and people who don’t have even a single glass of clean drinking water. Our water is so abundant and free that we don’t think twice about dumping it on our heads.  Now don’t get me wrong, we also water our lawns and wash our cars (while most people don’t even own a car or have a lawn).  But I don’t think we should be going around making a show of it either.

As a Christian, my giving should never be fueled by emotions.  Commercials can be very good at getting us to feel a certain way.  Marketing is all about stirring emotions to drive an end goal.  To me, my donations or charity should be done in accordance with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  It is HIS money after all, right?  Again, I’m not saying that all of this money going to ALS research is a bad thing but I wonder how many Christians have donated to a cause simply because of a challenge without being burdened by God that they should give God’s money to ALSA (or some other foundation/organization).  This isn’t just applying to ALS but to every donation I make.  Everything I give should be in accordance with what God wants me to do and where God wants me to donate (whether it is money or time).  My challenge to you is not to follow a social trend and make donations to the popular place but to pray and be open about what God has you to do.  For me, I wasn’t lead to give to ALS research for the reasons I listed in this post.

I will tell you about a charity that I do support and that God has laid on my heart.

Charity: Water

I’m not seeking to challenge anyone into giving.  I had originally included a paragraph about life in a third world country but realized that wasn’t appropriate.  Pray about it.  I know some of our readers do regularly give to charities that they feel strongly about.  I personally have been burdened by resources in other countries and love that charity: water gives 100% of donation dollars to the projects (not administrative costs).  Research charity: water and if this is something you want to support click the link below!

https://my.charitywater.org/coffee-theology-jesus

As a side note: for those that are burdened about ALS, I did find an alternative place to ALSA that conducts biblically ethical research:
http://www.jp2mri.org/capital-campaign.htm

Thanks for reading!  As always if you have any comments please let us know!

Rob

Christians & Alcohol: The Other Side of the Fence

This is Side 2: see Side 1 here!

It is interesting to me that the majority of things we (as Christians) argue vehemently over are personal preferences.  Many Christians spend their lives arguing for things not in scripture while denying things that are in scripture.  I think one of the biggest things argued for/against may be alcohol.  Did Jesus drink wine? Should I drink alcohol?  Don’t I have personal freedoms in Christ?

I would have to say the scripture is clear that drunkenness is indeed a sin and a “big” one at that.  Just take a look at the list of things Paul gives to those in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.  He then concludes “and such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”  Three big words in Christianity all in one verse: regeneration, sanctification, and justification but we will get into those perhaps in a different post.  So obviously drunkenness is a sin but little is said about alcohol or moderation drinking in general.  So instead of pulling out verses and attempting to explain something that may or may not be there lets go to some principles of the scripture.

1: Stumbling Another Believer (1 Corinthians 8)
Tim pointed out in his post that his friends check with him to make sure it is ok before drinking in front of him and that is great.  However, I have been out with friends (some mutual friends of Tim and I but some of my personal friends) that have not given me the same luxury.  Now, I am not one to judge them on their decisions about what to drink but because of the reasons I will list in this post, I attempt to avoid alcohol altogether.  Now, with respect to stumbling another believer there are of course lines.  If I didn’t like orange shirts and asked every member of my church to please throw out their orange shirts that would be a bit of an issue on my end.  But when a younger believer has knowledge that the leaders in his local body or the “older crowd” is ok with drinking then he goes out and drinks and fuels the addictive tendency and now has an issue with alcoholism that is closer to the meaning of causing another believer to stumble.  It is obviously still the choice of each individual but when that believer looks up and sees that behavior what inhibition would exist to push him/her in the right direction?

Several years ago there was a study conducted on alcohol usage in teenagers compared to the alcohol usage of parents.  In homes where parents were total abstainers from alcohol 16% of the teenagers tried alcohol before adulthood.  However, in homes where the parents were social drinkers, 66% of the children experimented with alcohol before adulthood.

There are numerous other examples that could be brought to light but the principle is the same: why rejoice in something that could cause another believer (or your own child) to stumble and stumble big.

2: Better to Be Separate then Compromising (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
I mentioned in the intro that in 1 Corinthians 6 we have a list of things that the believers in Corinth used to be, and among that list was drunkard.  Of course a drunkard and a social drinker are not the same thing but I don’t think it is too many steps down the staircase of alcohol between the two.  I have seen many friends that started at social and have stepped down to borderline drunkard.  Do you know what the number one reason people drink alcohol is? Socialization.  That is interesting to me and very telling.  People drink to fit in.  I wonder how this translates to Christians who chose to drink.  People are drinking to fit in with people who drink.  Paul says that some of the believers in Corinth were drunkards but have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus.  So being a drunkard is a lifestyle that is associated, not with Christ, but with the world.  So in 2 Corinthians 6 we have Paul’s entreaty (using the words of God from the OT) that they should “come out from among them and be separate.”  I don’t think it is illogical or a stretch to say that a drunkard is not a drunkard without alcohol.  Social drinking is not social drinking without alcohol.  Paul associates the whole business with the world and urges the believers in Corinth to come out from among them and be separate.  As Christians we tend to pride ourselves with our distance from the world.  What we fail to realize is that keeping a steady distance from the world is actually pulling us further from Christ because this world isn’t growing steadily closer to God.  It appears to be the exact opposite and if our focus is on keeping a particular distance from the world then it is on the wrong thing.  We should have the attitude of distance to Christ.  We have been bought with a price and compromising in little things seems like a big price to pay at the judgment seat of Christ.

3: Christian Testimony (1 Peter 4:3-4; Romans 12, 1 Thessalonians 5:22)
I think this slides right in line with #2.  Part of being separate is your Christian testimony.  This, to me, is one of the strongest reasons to not partake in any drinks.  It actually is a fantastic opportunity to speak a few words in the gospel every time I am asked the question from a co-worker “you don’t drink?”  I have the opportunity to say that Christ saved me from my sins and I can’t see any way it is rewarding to Him for me to drink.  Sure, it comes with criticism sometimes; just look at the believers to whom Peter was writing in 1 Peter 4:3-4.  “For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.  With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.”  This negative treatment of those who seek to uphold a Christian testimony and be separate hasn’t changed.  However, there are many who look to such an example and see a difference and inquire.  They are impressed with someone who can stand against the flood of normalcy in our society and have convictions.  Now, the difficulty comes with consistency.  Christian testimony goes far beyond alcohol and drinking and into every sphere of our lives.  When I have talked to others about this issue they come back with a retort of “well if that is the case then we shouldn’t go watch some movies or look at TV shows or listen to some music” and that always surprises me.  When did the grid of Philippians 3 become out of date and unnecessary?  When did looking at our actions and activities to see if there is any honor for Christ in them become something of the past?  EVERY THING should be compared to Christ and to see if it is bringing Him honor.  If it doesn’t, then like Paul reminds those in Corinth “if anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss” (1 Corinthians 3:15).  A Christian will have to face a judgment as well.  Not the Great White Throne judgment that judges sins (Revelation 20) but the Judgment Seat of Christ which judges works (2 Corinthians 5:10).  Everything that didn’t bring Christ glory and honor will be burned up and a reward will be lost.  Reward that will ultimately be placed at the feet of Christ.

But I referenced Romans 12 and 1 Thessalonians 5:22.  In Romans 12 I had in mind the appeal “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (v 2) and “give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (v 17).  The principle is what we have already been looking at.  Be separate.  But what about “Do what is right in the sight of everyone, “as Paul says in verse 17?  It ties into what a surface reading of 1 Thessalonians 5:22 says “avoid the appearance of evil.”   Some would take this to mean that we should not only avoid evil but avoid anything that looks evil.  Although this may be a good Biblical principle that is not in the context here.  We are to avoid every form of evil, whether it be doctrinal teaching, glaring heresy, or lifestyle choices.  We should avoid everything that may produce anything in us (albeit beliefs or lifestyle) that is contrary to the whole of scripture.  Does drinking make anyone a better person?  Do the ramifications of alcohol help anyone?

Perhaps my convictions are so strong because as a young person I had a former drug addict/distributor (the largest in PEI, Canada) look me in the eye and tell me “Rob, if you learn anything from me just stay away from alcohol all together.  It will do nothing for your testimony and is only playing with fire.  Don’t take the risk of getting burned.”  Regardless of my conviction, the Bible is only crystal clear on drunkenness.  I just wanted to give the Biblical principles for the other side of the argument from Tim’s post.  I am only a sinner saved by grace so to condescend on anyone else would be wrong but hopefully this at least brings a balance to the alcohol issue.  Regardless of your stance our prayer/desire is that all things are done to the glory and honor of our Savior.

-RM

 

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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.