Coffee, Theology and Jesus

working out our messy faith over coffee

Category: Relationships (page 1 of 4)

Bursting the Christian Marriage Bubble

So as amazed as we all are that Tim has pulled the wool over some girls eyes long enough to maintain some sort of steady relationship…. I got a girl to say “I do.” Perhaps many of you do not know me but that’s ok, you can agree along with the rest of us that God can do anything. Now saying that, I appreciated Tim’s last blog about bursting the ideals and assumptions we have going into a relationship. I wanted to expand on it a bit and talk about marriage. Now, I got married on Sept 1, 2012 so I am certainly no expert on the subject and wouldn’t pretend to be. Hopefully some of these things you will be able to identify with and will help you in the future. If you have any more please share them as marriage doesn’t get any easier as you go.

Many of Tim’s list of 5 applies to marriage as well so I won’t try to repeat anything he has already stated so well. But here is another list (of 6) that I have learned.

1. Sex isn’t as great as you might think
You may be lifting an eyebrow (especially those who are married and enjoying a healthy sex life) and my pre-marriage self is wondering “what on earth can you mean?” However, I will stick to this one. Don’t get me wrong, sex is amazing and wonderful (in the confines of marriage) but it is not what will hold your marriage together. Your marriage will determine the enjoyment of the benefits. I can go back a few short years when I couldn’t wait for my honeymoon. I couldn’t wait to be married so I could do “marriage things.” That is what is pounded into our minds right? “The Bible says that sex is for marriage and marriage only!” While I agree with the statement the constant reminder of the marriage rights started to warp my mind on what it is actually for. I started to want the marriage more for the benefits it came with. Is that any reason to get married? I’ll answer for you. Definitely not! One theory I have for the reason that the divorce rate is higher among Christians is because of sex. Kids are getting married to enjoy the benefits of marriage and not because they are ready to submit themselves to one another and serve God together. Let me tell you, if sex is your goal in marriage, you will be highly disappointed. Some nights you may just not be in the mood. Does that mean your marriage is failing and something is wrong? No, but if that is your main focus… things may start to crumble when this begins to happen.
Sex in its correct context, the physical, emotional, and spiritual bonding of two people is beautiful and brings two people who already are in love even closer. The bonds created in sex are inexplicable and why it is meant for marriage. It is so much more than just a physical act. But, it is not a reason for marriage. I won’t take the time to go deeper into this one but I think you get the idea. Have a correct perspective of sex in marriage. Focus on the relationship not the benefits of it and the benefits will be even better.

2. You are Selfish –
When people ask me what is the top thing I’ve learned about marriage since the wedding day I always say the same thing. I’ve learned exactly how selfish I am. This is one of those things that you just can’t prepare for. Dating begins this process but when the wedding vows are done and over you realize how much you missed. When I was single I ate what I wanted for dinner, I went where I wanted to go, and spent money where I wanted to spend it. This all changed once I got a ring on my finger and I’m now with this other person every day and every night. A quick example. The other night Julia was working late and mentioned she wanted a salad for dinner. So as I get home from work and I’m just doing a few things around the house I finally decide to order Chinese food. The Chinese food arrives and not 10 mins later Julia walks in the door with this look on her face “YESSSSSS!!!!! CHINESE FOOD” and I right them realized that I probably should have asked her if she wanted anything. Oops. It’s simple and was mostly harmless but it showed that I’m still working on constantly being aware that it’s not just “every man for himself” any more. I’ve got a wife that I have to consider into everything (if I want to have a solid Christian marriage that is). Should I really buy that new ______ (fill in the blank) without consulting her or should I really be hanging out with this group of people right now? Every decision should get input from all parties involved.

3. Your actions affect another
This is one I’m constantly struggling with and learning to deal with. One of the most terrifying moments just before the wedding day was when it was impressed on my mind the responsibility I was taking on. I had learned in the months leading up to us starting to date that I had a lot of things God wanted to see changed in me. He is still changing and working with me. But now, its not just me that my actions and decisions affect but my wife as well. I am held accountable to how our marriage is reflecting upon God. I am held accountable (to an extent) for the spiritual wellbeing of my family. Being “the head of the household” doesn’t mean I make all the decisions. It means that I have the God given responsibility. It means I am taking initiative to lead our family in a path of spiritual growth and development and we can foster that type of activity. It is definitely a team effort but I have that responsibility. The thought of that terrified me until I also realized that God didn’t wan to see me fail and would be with me every step of the way, in success and failure. But it is not just leading. It is every aspect of life.
How I talk to certain people affects not just me but Julia. Where I go does not just affect me but Julia too. Where I work, what we do with our money our time, etc. Everything is affecting both of us. It is an enormous responsibility that should not be taken lightly.

4. Time will not slow down
While Julia and I were engaged we were under this delusion that we would have so much more time when we are finally married. We won’t have to spend so much time in the car driving to one another. We won’t have to say goodbye and goodnight every day. We will just be able to get so much more done. Trust me when I say… life sped up after marriage. It was like someone kicked us into the next gear and time started to go faster than before. The days and weeks fly by and before you know it a year is over. Time will not slow down. My advice to you? Start good habits early in life. Are you single? Start spending time with God as much as you can. You will never have time alone like you have right now. Are you dating/engaged? Spend time with God alone… and together! You won’t believe how crammed full your life will get as the years pass on. The world, the flesh, and the devil will try to squeeze every last second out of you and keep you from that precious time with God. But, if you developed those habits earlier (say when you were single) it will be easier to maintain. Then when you get married you are used to spending time in the scriptures and praying together. Let me tell you… that doesn’t happen overnight. It is a “chore” and has to constantly be readdressed. You will never be able to spend enough time together with The Lord. Get in the routine as early as possible. But always remember it is never too late to start :)
As life goes on it will only get busier… kids, activities, school, work, etc. Everything will pile on. Don’t let life separate you from the one who gave it to you.

5. Be content with where God has you now
I will word this one carefully and lovingly because I know we are struggling with this right now. As humans we always want to see what is coming next and get going to the next stage. While growing up we couldn’t wait to be a teenager. Then we couldn’t wait to go off to college. Then we couldn’t wait to start our career. Then we couldn’t wait to get married. On and on the list goes (in whatever order). But I can speak for myself that I was always ready for the next step. ESPECIALLY when EVERYONE around me was crossing into that next step. I felt left out. I knew God gave me the desires of my heart for a reason but I didn’t want them if they couldn’t be satisfied. God’s timing however was perfect and was worth waiting for. If I would have settled for something earlier I would not be as blessed as I am now. God gave to me the perfect girl for me at the perfect time. But I want the next step! This is a constant struggle to be content with where we are now and with what God is doing with us now. God is never not working with us. God is never just asking us to sit and do nothing. Even “waiting” implies preparing. Please refer to this post on waiting for more of an explanation. God knows what He is doing and we have to learn to submit our wills, our plans, our desires, and everything to Him. He made you with your desires. Even if they don’t make sense right now, or they frustrate you, or they make you lay awake at night in tears. God gave them to you. He made you and He didn’t make a mistake. Trust that He will satisfy the desires of your heart in His time and His own way. Easier said than done, especially in a “now” society. Whatever you want you should go get. That isn’t how God works. Rely on Him and be content with where you are now and what you’re doing for Him now. The next step will come at the best time.

6. Remember to date your spouse
One last thing. Dating your spouse. I guess this could be thrown up into number 4 with time constraints but that isn’t the only thing here. Dating your spouse is about learning about them, spending time them, and generally showing interest in them. Flirting in marriage is the best thing you can do. Let your spouse know that just because you both are wearing rings doesn’t mean you don’t still like to flirt with each other and have fun. Marriage is stressful, hard work, and sometimes you just want to throw in the towel. So pick a night and show your spouse that they still have your attention and you are still attracted to them. I will never stop learning about Julia. There will never come a time where I will be a “Julia expert.” This is a life long commitment and dating your spouse is a great way to keep everything going.

As I stated at the beginning, a lot of what Tim said about dating applies to marriage as well. Friendship or perceived romance or lack of butterflies. Let me tell you in marriage there are days that there are no butterflies in my stomach because they’ve been eaten by vipers haha. But love is a choice and every day I must chose to love my wife. I chose to put her before me and do anything I can to make sure I am being a benefit to her. That is not easy and things get rough. A strong marriage grounded on the right things will always prevail as marriage is ultimately a picture of Christ and His Church. God would never bring two people together and want them to fail. God is for marriage. Hopefully these few basic points help you in some way.

Rob

Wedding

The Social Dilemma Part 2

So as Tim stated in his post last week… we are touching on some of the pitfalls of the social media driven world.  Again, I would like to state that we love social media.  In fact, if you are reading this post… it is a form of social media.  We looked at the validation search last week and want to take a look at “intimate moments” this week.

Missed Part 1?  Check it out here: Part 1

The more I scour the various platforms of social media the more I am confronted with the simple fact of their success.  Social media has reached deep into the human psyche and struck a chord for acceptance, and validation.  Tim aptly explained that this search for acceptance and validation is because we haven’t found it in our Creator (with whom we have already been accepted and loved).  If we don’t seek for it and find it in our Creator we will pursue it elsewhere and always come up empty.  However, I wanted to look at not our search for validation but the loss of distinction between public and personal information.

The rest of the world is breaking into our most intimate moments.  Walk through a restaurant and notice how many families are not talking but all scrolling through their phones.  See how many dates are inundated with pictures/tweets of food, ticket stubs, and selfies.  At the next wedding you attend try to count the amount of times someone pulls out their phone to get the next Instagram photo captured for posting.  These intimate moments are being destroyed because of our addiction to social media.  Family time around the table used to entail discussing the latest news of the day and enjoying time as a family, now it is time to catch up on the world.  Dates used to be the method of discovering if the person across the table or next to you at the concert was the person you wanted to spend your life with, now it is the method to gain social popularity.  Weddings used to be a celebration of love when we show our support in this beautiful union of two people, now it is the springboard for “likes” and “follows.”  I assure you that your family would rather have you present at dinner than see you posted a picture of your plate with the hashtags “#homecooking #loveyoumom #poorcollegekid #nomoreramen.”  I promise that your date would rather spend time talking to you and enjoying the date then see some status about how good your seats are or where you are eating.  And I can absolutely guarantee that the couple that invited you to their wedding would much rather you enjoy it with your phone in your pocket and your eyes on them.  If social fame is what you are after then the sacrifice will be much greater than you want to give.  As those precious moments slip by you will wish that you everything back.

Another problem I have been noticing was more apparent than ever last Friday.  Yes, February 14th.  Better known as Valentine’s Day.  Scroll through any social media news feed that day and you will see a bunch of posts that you will wonder why they are online instead of written in some card.  Part of it goes back to what Tim wrote last week… we want to be noticed, we want to be validated, and we want to show off our lives.  I am thrilled that people love their significant other but those are moments and things that should be shared between those two people only.  Stop bringing the world into our private lives!  I’ve had to catch myself on multiple occasions from spreading something that was private.  From inviting people into my intimate moments that had no business being there.  The line has all but been erased between public and private; between universal and intimate.

Push the social media back out of your private life and enjoy those moments.  No tweet, vine, post, or picture will ever compare to the quality time spent in the moments you will cherish.  Tell your significant other to their face how much they mean to you and it will mean much more than an eloquently worded post.  Sit down and discuss life with friends and family around the table and you’ll never miss what the social world is doing around you.  Enjoy your life and those you have in it face to face instead of screen to screen.

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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The Church Friend Zone (Breaking Out)

Remember when you were in the friend zone?

For the married crowd let me refresh your memory on what the friend zone is.

The friend zone is when you like someone more than just friends, but they don’t see you the same way so they put you in what’s called the friend zone. It pretty much means that they will never see you as more than a friend and there’s nothing you can do about it. They simply don’t see you the same way that you see them. For men, those three words bring up feelings of impending doom, emotional death, and absolute helplessness.

The friend zone is a barrier put up between you and the other person that says “you can come this far into my life, but no farther then this boundary I put up”.

So what happens when we Church zone people? I’m glad you asked.

The Church zone is like the friend zone only for Church people. Essentially, it’s a barrier we put up between us and other fellow Church members that says we can be friends up to a point. That we can be friends at Church events (like Sunday morning, maybe small group, and the yearly Super Bowl party) and that’s about as far as our relationship will go. When we church zone people we don’t see them as friends that we do life with, we see them as church folks that we see once a week or at other church events.

I know when I’m breaking out of the church zone with Church people when they call me just to hangout, to maybe see a movie, to kick back at the house and figure out something to do. This is when I know I’m not just a fellow church member, but now I’m a friend. Now I ‘m someone they see as a part of their entire life, not just their “church life”.

This is incredibly frustrating for me because the big movement in Church these past few years has been a (rightful) focus on community and relationships. The problem is that we are so used to planning events and church functions that we have forgotten how to be friends again.We are afraid that if people from Church just hangout without an agenda that we somehow didn’t do it right. This is a dangerous mindset because when we forget how to be…friends, we then miss the whole point of holistic Church life.

Listen, if people in the Church are agreeing that Church is not a place you go to it’s a life you live, then we need to smash through this wall in our heads that we put up of spending 90% of our time with fellow Church members at specific Church designated events. We must de-compartmentalize and blur the lines between Church friends and friends! Who are the people you make time to see? Who are the people that you can be you around, who you invite over regularly to eat with, to catch up on life with, to share your life with? Are they the same people you see regularly on Sunday morning?

If we are going to claim to be a Church that sees human relationships as key to living out the faith, then we must de-church zone our fellow church members and must invite them into our whole lives, not just to small group time, or Sunday morning service time, or potluck dinner time.

What’s the challenge? Call up someone you see on Sunday mornings but not during your normal week or during your normal social time and invite them to hangout. Share a meal, play Mario Kart, grab coffee, go shopping together or whatever else you can think of and break them out of the zone you’ve put them in.

If you like this post then share it!

-TW

Church Hopping: It’s Really not a Bad Idea.

“So Tim what Church do you go to” is often the question I get from pastors or other Christians I meet for the first time. Usually I start by saying “uh…..hmmmm….it’s kind of complicated”. At that point the first bead of sweat pours off my forehead as I start to utter the words “I visit different Churches every Sunday”. As those words pour out of my mouth I see the face of the person I’m talking to change from pleasant to “oh he’s one of THOSE people”. Awwwwkkkwaaarrrdddd.

I’ve been Church hopping for about a year now and I’m still a Christian! I know, it’s unbelievable that I haven’t lost my faith, or that God hasn’t given me the almighty smite that I was under the impression I’d get if I start hopping around to different Church bodies on Sunday mornings. But here I am a year later and all my limbs are still in tact.

Before I go further let me say that I understand why I was told that hopping around different churches is a bad idea. I understand that there are people looking for the perfect church that meets all their needs and requires nothing from them. From that perspective yes, Church hopping is a bad idea. But if you’re doing it to meet other believers (read that as meeting family you’ve never met), then I highly recommend it.

I’ll be blunt, it’s easy to get burnt out serving on Sunday mornings. In fact, this is the first time in 13 years that I’m not required to attend a Sunday Service to serve in some capacity. To be honest, I often wrestle with why we as a Church culture define people serving as “We need help making our Sunday service work, and if you don’t serve that in some way, we question your devotion to God”. I digress.

Usually, the main way I serve on a Sunday morning is by playing drums for a specific worship band. A year ago I said goodbye to a dear Church family I loved serving with and embarked on a new journey. The journey of seeing how other believers worship on Sunday morning.

It has been quite a year. I’ve had the chance to visit Sunday morning services all over New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and even in Illinois. Here are three things I’ve learned over this year.

1. Going to a Church service you’ve never been to is quite intimidating. If you ever wanted to know why non-Christians rarely come out to a Church service, take a Sunday morning to attend a Church you’ve never been to and where you know no one. It’s completely intimidating ESPECIALLY when no one talks to you. Yes, that’s happened to me more than once. I’ve been that guy by himself standing awkwardly in the hallway waiting to walk into service while everyone looks at me with the face of “who is that weirdo”. I never went back to those church meetings.

2. Many churches think way too small. Since I’ve been visiting different Churches every Sunday my view of the Church has expanded on a global level. I used to view Christianity starting with the local Church and then eventually expanding to the big picture. That there is one Church globally that has been charged with showing people the Kingdom of God. Now, my mind first starts with the big picture and then moves downward to the local level. It’s just like when you use Google maps when you’re all the way zoomed out. Then, when you type in an address it zooms you in to that address. That’s the way I think about Church now, and you know? It changes the way you view things. Now, when a Church body asks me to help out on a Sunday morning (usually musically related) I see it as helping out another part of the family in the Kingdom of God. It’s freeing because once you see other Churches as family and not as competition, you want to work with them, not outdo them.

3. Apparently drummers are in high demand. I probably fill in 2 times a month at a different Church body on the drums for Sunday morning. Who knew.

If (and only if) The Lord has released you of your Sunday morning obligations to your local Church I highly recommend taking a couple months and visiting other Church bodies in your immediate area. You meet some great people, make new connections and you get a much bigger picture of what is going on on a Kingdom level. It’s freeing knowing that you’re a member of the Kingdom, not one local Church.

If you like this post share it!

-TW

If You’re Single and You Know It Clap Your Hands

I’m writing this post because I know that I’m not the only Christian who is in their early/mid/late twenties and hopelessly single. Is this a bad thing? Not always, but is it a difficult thing? Absolutely. Why? Because not only were humans not really designed to be single abstinent people at this age, but both our church culture and the culture of our society both throw two options out that in many ways just are not viable. This post isn’t a rant or about getting attention. I don’t sit in my bed at night crying to Dashboard Confessional, I don’t walk around with jet black hair in my face with a frown about how sad I am that I don’t have a girlfriend. No it’s not about that. It’s about sharing my honest thoughts on being single in my mid 20’s.

Is it frustrating at times being single and in your mid 20’s or older? Absolutely. Who in that situation doesn’t have these thoughts “Maybe I’m just really weird”? We all have those thoughts, especially when we are going to weddings monthly of our piers tying the knot. And congratulations to them by the way, weddings make me extremely happy.

So what are we single people to do? Well let me start by telling you that our American culture’s answer is a horrible one. The train of thought for people our age is usually something along the lines of date as much as you can and sleeping with your date is perfectly fine, after all you have to test drive the car before you buy it right? What a horrible analogy.

But I digress.

What culture fails to tell you is that statistically people my age are more emotionally miserable and often feel empty when they live such reckless sexual and emotional lives.

Sometimes the Church’s answer isn’t much better. Usually the answer is something like “hey you’re single? We better get you married ASAP!”. One time I heard a pastor say from the pulpit “Hey if you’re single, go get married”. As if all I had to do was put a dollar in the crane game and pick out my wife. Sometimes it’s just not that simple. Plus, sometimes we need to be supported in being single. And if I hear one more time from a married guy or girl tell me to let Jesus fill the void I’m going to run my car off a cliff. Isn’t that ironic? I’ve never had a single person tell me that. Why? Because we single people know that we were designed for relationship with someone of the opposite sex. So does God, that’s why He says in Genesis that it’s not good for man to be alone.

Think about that statement for a minute. God said that BEFORE sin entered the world. Even when God declared his creation good it still wasn’t complete. God and Adam had perfect unity, they was no sin in between them and God still says that Adam is alone? According to many of the songs we sing on Sunday morning that tell us God is all we need, God must be wrong. Nevertheless, He sees man so He creates Eve and this beautiful thing called marriage. There is a void in the heart of most people that God does not fill because he designed that void to be filled by a human companion. Don’t misunderstand, without a relationship with God how can we live fully? How can we love someone wholly? God is the source, but God designed us for more than solely a relationship with Him. We were designed for marriage, and God delights when His children commit to life with each other.

What am I saying? That’s actually a great question, I feel more like I’m rambling to be honest. Here’s what I’m trying to say, yeah being abstinent and single is difficult, but it’s ok. It’s ok to admit that sometimes it’s tough and it’s ok to admit that there are times where you struggle with being lonely in that area of your life. I used to BS to people and tell them that God has filled that void, but one day when I was having a conversation with God, the Holy Spirit gently told me “It’s ok to admit you’re lonely with this, now trust me with it and walk through it”. It changed me forever. Yeah, I’m single, no I really don’t want to be single, but you know what? I’m not compromising for the sake of companionship and my God can sustain me through it. Admitting that you don’t want to be single, while still being single is not a pity party, it’s not depressing, it’s truth, and it’s truth that I’m comfortable sharing.

To you single people out there, continue to pursue your relationship with Jesus, let Him write the love story to your life, and don’t compromise for the sake of companionship.

If you like this post then share it!

-TW

Seeing the Big Picture

I love to travel. Currently, I’m on a two week road trip with a good friend of mine named Jerry visiting friends we haven’t seen in a while. On Sunday night we stopped in Ohio to visit friends we haven’t seen since Jerry and I were in Belgium. Monday and Tuesday night we spent with two friends of ours in Michigan who just got married and we eventually ended up in Rockford Illinois where we’ll be for the next 10 days.

I love to travel because I love being able to experience new cultures, different ways of life, and places that are region specific. But really when it comes down to it what I love most about traveling is meeting other people in the Kingdom of God who are making an impact in their local communities by participating in a movement that is 2,000 years old. That’s really the point of this post, to share my most recent thoughts on this thing called Christianity and what it actually means in the big picture.

Most Christians probably know that Christianity was started a long time ago by this guy named Jesus, but what we don’t realize is that we are participating in the same movement that he started all those years ago. That same Kingdom Jesus talks about over and over again is still happening today and we are a part of this living movement. Sometimes we get so sucked into our current culture and era that we don’t see the Christianity today as a continuation of the movement Jesus started 2,000 years ago but that’s exactly what it is. It’s a living and breathing movement that is still happening and will continue to happen. This is what is so powerful about the Christian movement, ultimately it’s really the Jesus movement and ultimately that boils down to the Kingdom movement. When we view Christianity through the lenses of the Kingdom of God and the core of that being Jesus and the Scriptures He laid out then other things in Christianity that we fight over fade in to the background because the big picture is that Jesus told us to reach the lost with his message and announce His kingdom that brings healing, the changing of the mind and ultimately life everlasting that starts right now.

It’s easy to get sucked into discussions about difficult topics in Scripture that soon become arguments and then turn into dividing lines that fracture the Church (I’m talking the church not your local church body). Are there things in Scripture that we won’t see eye to eye on? Sure, but are those topics that we disagree on really enough to stop the Kingdom from going forth? Absolutely not. See my point here? I love a good discussion, I love wrestling with the paradoxes and gray areas of God’s word and Christian culture BUT, at the end of the day none of that takes away from the most fundamental basic teachings of Christ that anyone in the faith clearly sees laid out in Scripture such as making disciples, loving the broken, proclaiming the good news of Christ and ultimately seeing people come to know the radical love of our God. The other stuff is secondary to these things and they should be. Because once we make secondary stuff primary, we start creating huge divides in the body that Christ prayed to be one in.

Let me tie this together for you, there is a huge kingdom already here on earth full of Christ followers passionate about impacting their local areas with the message and love of Jesus. Do not buy in to the lie that your local Church culture is the only way to do church, follow Christ, or express the teachings of Christ. The kingdom of God is extremely diverse and full of different cultures and is constantly moving and impacting all around the world. The kingdom is bigger than you, it’s bigger than me, and it’s all that matters because it is everlasting. When we express this kingdom through love, the teachings of Christ and the BIble we give people a glimpse of heaven. Today in your life take time to remember and reflect that as you breath Christians all over the world are active and expanding the Kingdom. Christianity is no spectators sport, it is an active and full life that requires your participation.

-TW

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.

The Rules of Engagement: The Lost Art of Debate.

These days I’m more of a moderator on my own Facebook page than anything else. In a way, I like that. It’s great seeing people engaged in discussion about various topics that are viewed differently through the eyes of different world views. Atheists, Christians, Conservatives, Liberals, Libertarians, Veterans, Moms, Dads, and more are all represented on my Facebook page pretty often. It makes me happy. Not because I get 40 likes or 40 comments, but because people are engaging in issues that are incredibly important. Now I realize that Facebook is a pretty limited medium but you know what? It’s a start. If people start talking about it, they start thinking about it, and any action first starts in the mind of a person. If all I do is plant seeds and they get watered elsewhere that’s fine with me.

Sometimes though, the conversation gets heated, the conversation gets a little intense, and before you can say controversial, people start name calling and resorting to the vocabulary of a 6th grader. I understand why. It’s easy to get emotionally involved in a conversation, especially one that you are really passionate about. Homosexuality and abortion are two topics that people are very passionate about! I get it completely. I’ve had my fair share of losing my cool and resulted in breaking a keyboard (or two….or three….). But at the end of the day no amount of anger, name calling, and insulting gets your point across does it? The next day when you read what you wrote you think “what was I thinking!”. I’ve been there too and I’ve had to apologize many a time to people that I conversed with through some sort of digital medium.

So to help all of you out reading this, I’ve composed a couple of things that you should keep in mind when debating or discussing controversial topics. Below are Tim’s online discussion rules! Also, if you post on my Facebook frequently I want to first say thank you, and then I want to say PLEASE keep these rules in mind.

1. No name calling, insulting, or personal attacks – Remember you are debating an idea, or a view point, not a person. Argue ideas, ideologies, and anything else you want, but don’t start to insult people. When you do that not only do you look desperate, you automatically lose the person you’re trying to convince of your point. It’s completely self defeating.

2. Choose your words carefully – I can’t read your mind or inflection when I’m reading your response. All I’m reading are words. Because of that go out of your way to explain that you mean this in a polite way and with respect. I’ve been learning myself that when I take the time to explain myself clearly, I’m better heard by the person.

3. Be willing to admit your wrong – Unlike the political world, admit your wrong when you’re wrong. It drives me nuts that in our rhetoric based society NO ON can admit that they were wrong on issues. I’ve tasted my foot many times, and I’m getting used to the taste. I’ve had to apologize to people for making false assumptions or just not knowing the subject as well as they did. It’s ok to admit that you were wrong!

4. Come to the table willing to learn – I’m pretty confident in my beliefs, but that doesn’t mean there are not times that I think “wow that’s a great point that I’ve never thought of”. I try and tell the person this so that way they know that I am open to what they have to say. Try it sometime, open that mind of yours in a healthy way. Don’t have it so open that your brains fall out, but don’t have it so closed that your brain can’t breathe either.

5. If you’re going to get involved with a discussion, know how to defend your point when asked – Nothing is more frustrating then asking someone a straight forward question and getting riddles in response. If you can’t really defend your position well then research it more before you start typing away furiously on that keyboard of yours.

There you have it. 5 things to keep in mind when entering the wonderful world of internet dialogue, discussion, and debate. Also let me just say that I appreciate so much all of you who take the time to engage in the discussions that happen on my Facebook frequently. I purposefully keep it open and public so people can really get different perspectives on some of the issues on our time. Thank you for participating in that discussion. – TW

Importance of Christians Engaging not Excluding the World

Warning: This post is a little longer than usual.
In this post we really wanted to address how we (as Christians) are to approach people with different beliefs. It’s a hot button issue inside the Church with an array of different methods to either interact or share Christ with people of different beliefs. This post was written mainly by Rob with Tim writing a little bit here and there to polish off the edges. How we interact with people outside the Christian faith is of utmost importance and we see Christ be an amazing example, as well as the disciples, apostles, and other people in the Bible. In a world of talking points, political rhetoric, and more talking points, it is important that Christians stand out not just in the things they say, but how well they love with their lives. People are watching and waiting to see how followers of Christ are going to handle a lot of the hot button issues of our time. Here are our thoughts.

Interactions with Non-Christians

Interaction with those of a different religion, theory, or idea is something that can’t be avoided in the world today.  Nor should it.  However, this should be prefaced with a few things.  There is no “one-size-fit-all formula” and we should not expect a certain number of converts in a certain time period.  Evangelism is not Christians persuading non-Christians to join their theology.  We aren’t to be watching numbers and setting time based goals.  These are humans we are talking about, not our personal projects.  God wants to save every single person (1 Timothy 2:4) to be saved from their sins for His glory and their blessing.  Evangelism is really Christians following the leading of the Spirit of God who works sovereignly with people  in His time and purpose.  We are reaching real people with real needs in real circumstances.  But how do we do that?

In Love: Without Condescending The Individual
Spreading the gospel is something that every Christian has the responsibility of doing.  If not for the direct command of Christ “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15) we could rely on our inherent love for other humans to dictate this commission.  As Christians, we cannot avoid that anyone who does not accept Christ as their personal Savior will spend eternity in Hell.  This should touch the heart of every Christian reading this blog.  Our mission is to reach people with a message that can save them for all eternity.  Therefore, everything we do should be out of love not condescension and care not inferiority.  Paul was such an effective evangelist because he never lost sight of the fact “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).  Had it not been for the grace of God in my life I would be in Hell for all eternity.  We, as Christians, are only looking to share how God’s grace has changed us and offer that same hope to others in Christ Jesus.

I’ll tell you what love isn’t.  Love is not using every opportunity to tell every person you met how terrible of a sinner they are and how they only deserve Hell.  Probably not a good conversation/relationship starter.  The best evangelist we have is Jesus himself.  Now, we don’t have God’s omniscience but we do have His example.  In each situation where Christ would evangelize He first developed trust and a relationship.  Think about the woman at the well (John 4:4-42).  First, it was unbelievable to that woman that a Jewish man was even speaking to her (+1 right there).  She was a Samaritan and a woman.  However, He took the initiative and went to where she was.  Ever wonder why she was coming to the well at that time of the day?  It wasn’t the typical time.  She most likely wanted to avoid the other women because of the life she was living.  Christ came to her where she was.  He then tells her what He can do for her; He can give her living water!  There is no doubt that the kindness of this man spoke greatly to this woman.  She already sensed that she was valued in the eyes of the man before her.  Our relationships with others won’t be built in a specified amount of time.  I don’t believe we have the full story of the conversation between Jesus and this woman.  Perhaps it will be days/weeks/months/years of friendship before the proper door opens to share the gospel.  The point is that we should be displaying the attributes of Christ’s love long before we share the message of the gospel.  I heard a saying that goes “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  There is a reason that Christ sat and ate with sinners.  Because it is sinners He is trying to reach.  No better way to build a relationship then over some food and/or coffee.  That is what sitting and eating with sinners is all about.  Want to build a new relationship with an unbeliever?  Grab some food/coffee and listen.  Ask what is going on with their life and actually listen to the answer.  Don’t worry about telling them their sins are taking them to Hell.  Remember this is all about God’s timing; not ours.  If we are sensitive to the leading of the Spirit we won’t miss a good opportunity to speak the gospel but when we try to force it down their throats it does nothing but look bad on Christians.  Care about the person because I can assure you that God loves them regardless of their belief.

But what about when the opportunity finally comes up and perhaps our friend here asks us about the Gospel?  How do we share it?

In Truth: Without Compromising His Message
This one can be a little more difficult.  This is one of the major reasons that Peter says “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).  Gentleness and respect is what we are talking about when we say “in love.”  The first half of that verse says “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.”  Interesting.  What I am reminded of is that this gospel is unchanging.  The gospel deals with the holiness of our Savior and therefore we should not alter it in any way.  We don’t need to change the message to make it more acceptable or to take an edge off it.  We need to present the truth.  Let’s go back to the woman at the well.  She and Christ have a relationship now and Christ in His omniscience sees the opportunity to face this woman with the truth of the message.  Her sin.  He asks her to go get her husband.  He confronts her with the issue she was looking to avoid by going to the well at that time of day.  But because He already established the relationship she didn’t throw the bucket of water on him and run back to her home.  Christ didn’t cover up the “ugly” part of the gospel to make it easier to swallow.  When our friends ask us about the gospel the issue of sin must be addressed.  Now, I wouldn’t suggest calling out the wrong you see in everyone else.  That would be the wrong way to go about it.  Christ had the lady confront her own sin before he spoke about it.  If it looks like someone is getting uncomfortable and upset about the topic and no longer wants to discuss it that would be a good time to let it go and talk about something else.  Too often Christians get the “Gospel Mode” going and can’t get out of it.  Just because someone asked you about an attribute of God doesn’t mean you have to point out the fact that pre-marital sex is wrong.  God is the one who is working with hearts/souls/minds and we are just “clay vessels” carrying the message of salvation.  Let God do His work and we must be faithful to present the uncompromised message of salvation.  Not this “feel good gospel” because that won’t save anyone from Hell.  But the reality that Christ died on the cross for sins and only a sinner can be saved.  Christ said “I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).  Sinners are the ones who need Christ (thankfully I am definitely one of those which makes me eligible for forgiveness).

So the question then arises:  Well, if I am supposed to witness to nonbelievers and Jesus sat and ate with sinners, shouldn’t I go to the strip clubs, bars, and night clubs so I can relate to them?  We should go to where they are right?  How do I do that?

In Life: Without Contradicting My Testimony
As a messenger of the gospel my life is the greatest message being given.  If my life doesn’t display the love of Christ then no one will care what my lips are speaking.  This is why we stress the attitude of Christians so much on this blog.  The world around us is watching us to see if we practice what we preach and all too often Christians are coming up way too short.  I was once told “we represent a giving God so when we go to others we better go giving.”  Whether that is money, food, time, or whatever I think there is a lot of truth in it.  So first, our lives must reflect our Savior; not deny Him.  I will defer to the words said before an old DC Talk song “What If I Stumble.”

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him with their lifestyle.  That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

Tim & Rob

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