Coffee, Theology and Jesus

working out our messy faith over coffee

Category: Salvation (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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The Twerk Seen ‘Round the World

Did I even spell twerk right? I hope so. Anyway, if you don’t live under a rock (which if you’re reading this I’m assuming you don’t) then I’m sure you’ve heard about or seen the video of Miley Cyrus’s at the VMA’s (Video Music Awards). Apparently, this was one of the most suggestive performances of the VMA’s in recent history. When you couple that with who Miley Cyrus used to be (An innocent little girl who went by the name Hannah Montana) you have a recipe for a media frenzy. After watching my Facebook blow up overnight with people railing against how disgusting and inappropriate Miley’s performance was, I couldn’t help but think to myself why now? Why are people just now starting to get upset at the vulgarity of the celebrity music crowd?

See all Miley really did was show us in a physical way, what we think. Our music is full of innuendo’s and flat out sexual content. It’s normal in our culture to see women half naked dancing around suggestively in music videos. In 1997 Marilyn Manson performed at the VMA’s in an extremely disturbing performance. Nicki Minaj has extremely explicit lyrics and suggestive content in her music and videos but there hasn’t been an outcry during her performances. Why all of the sudden are we as a culture freaking out about Miley? Because at one point she was a nice innocent little blonde girl and a few nights ago she was grinding against a man on national tv? What I don’t understand for the life of me is why we are now just saying “ok enough is enough”. I have three things I want to point out that are ingredients resulting in what we saw at the VMA’s.

1. Moral Relativity

Here’s the psychotic thing about our culture, we want to never be told how to live our lives. We do however, love to tell people in the public light how to live theirs. See we want to decry authority, God, and absolute morals. Then when something happens like what happened Sunday night at the VMA’s we are suddenly up in arms screaming “Have you no class!”. Well no, of course not, because we have taught her to have no class. We have taught that morality is subjective, do whatever feels right for you. So then by that logic, who are we to say that what she did was inappropriate? We aren’t. A culture reaps what is sows. We are telling my generation to experiment with everything, that God is a myth, that there is no absolute right way to live, but then we turn around and eat our own when they act out beyond society’s idea of normal and appropriate.

2. Twisting Human Sexuality

This especially rings true when it comes to sexuality. We have taken what is meant to be sacred and ripped it of its dignity and respect, running it through the mud all in the name of “do whatever feels right”. We have thrown sexuality out in the public streets mocking it and stripping it of its beauty. Pornography is a multi-billion dollar industryand fed the lie that porn is normal to look at. Is it? Is that really normal to do? Is that really healthy for the mind? My question is this; when are we a culture going to realize that human sexuality was never designed to be used the way that we are using it. Miley, is just the latest victim of a sex obsessed culture. I can’t emphasize this strongly enough, this is the fruit of the tree we planted in the 70’s, and it’s rotten to the core. My generation is one big sexual train wreck and like any good train wreck you just can’t look away.

3. The Gossip Machine

Secretly, I don’t think most of us want performances like Miley’s to go away. It gives us something to gossip about, something to talk about. It fuels our blog views and likes on Facebook. It fuels the tweets on twitter. But most of all, it makes us feel better about ourselves. “Well I would NEVER do that” we say. We love to talk about people that we view as less moral than ourselves. It makes us feel better. We have entire TV Shows dedicated to talking about the dirty secrets celebrities have. It fuels the machine called the industry (that includes music, movies, and anyone else in the public spotlight) and we eat it up every night when we get home from work and just want to relax. Gossip yeast in the dough, and we love our bread fluffy.

The only way things will change is when we start reaching hearts with God’s way of living life. If God is the author of human existence then He is the one who knows us best. When we follow Jesus’ way of living what we are doing is living the way we were intended to live from the beginning. When we start introducing people to this way, they become restored because it resonates with their inner most being. The solution to this sometimes ridiculous culture is showing people a better way to live. Miley Cyrus, I promise you can live the fullest life possible without taking your clothes off on national T.V

If you like this post then share it

-TW

Poetry: “Ok”

Ok so it’s been a while since the last post and I’ve been working on a few other ideas but I decided to mix it up a little bit with this one.  I  like to write poems and lyrics from time to time and I wanted to share a poem I wrote recently.  The Title is “Ok” and it is about man’s ruin and redemption; sin and salvation.  Let me know your thoughts.

 

“Ok”

Beating my fist to this chest to feel relevance
Defining by opinion my own excellence.
If I can only convince Him of my worthiness
Then I’ll be ok.

Him, who breathed the worlds into time, space and matter,
Who aligned the expanding universe on a silver platter
And handed it to man to rule; what a disaster.
It’ll all be ok.

The innocence of creation had lost its position
In the heart of man was now a self-religion
To put ourselves on the throne; a new vision.
We will be ok.

The more rungs of this ladder I upwardly climb
The further I descend from the presence of the divine
And the terror of our circumstance dawns on my mind.
I am not ok.

As our sin offended the highest the heavens
It continues to corrupt us down to our essence.
We’ve got nothing to fight with, no weapons.
We are not ok.

The point and purpose of eternal salvation
Is so much more than we have time to mention.
But how is this for a simple explanation:
To be made ok.

The beauty of grace is in the inability
To save ourselves, its all futility
But God sent Christ to save you and me.
We can be ok.

In a moment the Christ, reached in and changed my heart
A complete change from the inside, a brand new start.
I have a place in the plan of God, my own part.
More than just OK..

The beauty of grace is in the inability
To save ourselves, its all futility
But God sent Christ to save you and me.
We can be ok.

In a moment the Christ, reached in and changed my heart
A complete change from the inside, a brand new start.
I have a place in the plan of God, my own part.
More than just OK.

-RM

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

The Boston Bombings: A Sobering Reminder

I was removing wallpaper when I got the news. My brother tells me “Boston just got bombed!”. At first I thought it was a hoax circulating the internet so I checked CNN and read for myself that two bombs did indeed go off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon killing at least three people including an 8 year old child. Although there has been no definite answers, the bombs do appear to be home made and there’s no doubt that the attacks were well planned out.

People’s lives in that second were changed forever. People lost limbs, average citizens had to become paramedics until first responders were on sight, and for some time after the second explosion, we all were wondering if there were more than two bombs planted in the city. Thankfully this wasn’t the case.

I want to be clear right up front, these attacks were acts of terrorism. It doesn’t matter who did it, if it was from domestic terrorist, political terrorist, left-wing, right wing, Islamic, Christian, it’s an act of terror. A child lost his life, the bombs were constructed to inflict a lot of damage, and it is indeed a sad day for America. But there’s something that we often fail to forget that this is a sobering reminder of. People all over the world experience things like this everyday.

Sometimes, it takes a tragedy to pop our bubble. In America, we are fortunate enough to live relatively safe. Most Americans don’t have to worry about being gunned down, bombs are not common, and we have a fantastic government when it comes to national security. Police, bomb squads, state of the art technology, we are fortunate. Yes, yes, we gripe about government waste and over reach, but we forget that most people don’t even get an opportunity to voice their opinion. Be grateful that you can be a loud outspoken activist for your cause and not get imprisoned by your government.

Anyway, back to my point. There are children every day who deal with the tragedy of bombings. For instance, on April 15thInsurgents in Iraq deployed a series of car bombs as part of highly co-ordinated attacks that cut across a wide swath of the country today, killing at least 55 on the deadliest day in nearly a month.” (http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2013/04/15/iraq-bombings-wave-attacks.html). Think about that, in one day 55 people were dead. And let’s not forget, these people are just as much people as Americans are. Now, I’m not diminishing the Boston attacks, or trying to make the Boston bombing less real, it is indeed very real for not only the families of the victims, but for the nation. But what I am saying is to take this moment to feel how many people feel everyday.


See here is the problem. Sometimes, in all of our hustle and bustle we kind of forget that there is a world outside of America that is starkly different from ours. We forget that all over the world there is terrorism happening everyday, that children are being sold, slavery is still a big problem, and bombings are a daily routine. Things like the Boston bombing, as heinous as they are, remind us that there is a reality out there that we are rarely used to seeing. A tragic reality for many people.


As Christians, it is our job as followers of Christ to be aware of the whole world around us. In a ever connected world, it is easier than every to hear of stories happening all over the place. Sometimes it can be so overwhelming we don’t know what to do with it, but it is in these moments that the Holy Spirit reminds us that He has us where we are for a reason. I’ve am being reminded even as type this, that prayer is an incredibly powerful tool that we sometimes underestimate because we either don’t see, or miss, the fruit of it. But sometimes, prayer is all we can do. I can’t drive up to Boston and help out there. Not only will the FBI stop me from being on the scene, I literally have no knowledge in such areas. But what I can do is ask my heavenly Father to bring his spirit of comfort to those people. What I can do is ask the God who spoke us in to existence, who holds all of eternity in His hands, who is the great I Am, the first and the last, to comfort those people, to bring those evil doers to justice, and to make His kingdom come. Prayer is a powerful thing, one of the greatest tools in our arsenal, we (I) should be using it a lot more.

In closing, here are two action steps we as followers of Christ can start taking.

  1. Be more aware of the world outside of your comfort zone. God cares about every person, not just the ones that have certain nationalities. God knows every person personally and they were wonderfully and fearfully made.
  2. Pray more. Let’s face it, most of us can’t fly over to Iraq and start diffusing bombs, but we know a God who can. We know a God who can bring his Kingdom to earth, let’s start to pray for that everywhere.

Slogan Christianity: The Stuff We Make Up to Make Ourselves Feel Better

“No God — No Peace. Know God — Know Peace.”

“Free Trip to heaven. Details Inside!”

“Try our Sundays. They are better than Baskin-Robbins.”

“Searching for a new look? Have your faith lifted here!

“If you don’t like the way you were born, try being born again.”

“Looking at the way some people live, they ought to obtain eternal fire insurance soon.”


“This is a ch_ _ ch. What is missing?

U R

“Forbidden fruit creates many jams.”

“In the dark? Follow the Son.”

“Running low on faith? Stop in for a fill-up.”

“If you can’t sleep, don’t count sheep. Talk to the Shepherd.”

 

 

C’mon, seriously?! Is this what we’ve been boiling down Christianity to these days?  Slogans that are so ridiculous, so over simplistic, that the world looks at these and chuckles?  This post is going to be dealing with slogans like the ones I posted above, and the way that these slogans, and slogans like it do so much more harm than good.

 

I’m not a negative guy.  Really, I promise, I laugh all the time, sometimes I’m way too sarcastic, and I have some friends that make me cry of laughter.  I don’t want people to misunderstand my intent here, it’s not that I’m trying to point out things for the sake of pointing things out.  I’m trying to steer us back to truth, back to the reality of Jesus.  This includes calling out junk in both the Christian and non-Christian world.  I’m often more critical of the Christian world because we are the ones who are making huge claims.  Not many people claim to know absolute truth, not many people claim to know the only  way to heaven, and not many people are so bold about the truth that they claim they know.  Because of this, it’s extremely important that we know the truth that we are claiming.  If we are claiming that Jesus is the only way to God the Father and all of the other things that come with such a loaded statement, then we must be able to articulate this clearly, not dwindling it down to 5 or  6 words.  This is what gets me so frustrated about Church slogans, they are over simplistic, half true (and you know what they say about half truths), and they do very little to articulate the full truth of Jesus.

 

I know many people like to say that the gospel is simple, easy, just say a few words (from the bottom of your heart) and presto, like a magic act, you are instantly saved.  You now have permanent “fire insurance” (Aka: You’re not going to Hell) and one day you’ll be in heaven forever.  While I know this is popular thinking, I don’t think it’ Scripturally accurate.  Even Paul who preaches God’s grace to humanity, acknowledges in his letters to the Churches he started that a fruit of the Holy Spirit working, saving us, is a change in our lifestyle.  Works are a very important part to salvation, why? Not because they save us, but because they validate the real work of the Holy Spirit in us.  Some might say I’m on shaky ground, I beg to differ, the Bible is full of verses that teach this.  Of course the most popular being James 2:17, but then you have verses like Matthew 7:21, and of course the countless verses that Paul writes encouraging the Church to live a life of purity before God.  If works didn’t matter then the New Testament would not be so full of verses supporting the system of saved by the grace of God, validated by the life we live.

 

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.  When it comes to the Christian faith, it is so important that we don’t windle down amazing truths in to bumper sticker slogans.  Why?  Because so often these slogans are not completely true!  For example, I saw one the other day that said “too blessed to be depressed”.  While a cute little saying that at first glance makes you say “Yeah so true!” Scripture will once again beg to differ.  Paul was quite depressed (or discouraged) often in his ministry, being shipwrecked, imprisoned, beaten, and cast out by his own nation, Paul wrote very often his struggle of spreading the message of Jesus to the masses.  Paul was extremely blessed, and he always brought praise to God no matter what his circumstance, but sometimes those circumstances were extremely difficult emotionally, and yet Paul kept his eyes steadily on the Father.  See the difference? The slogan tries to mask over the realities of this world, Paul collides with them head on, still considers himself blessed, and let’s God sustain him through his extremely difficult life.   Or take Job for example, everything was taken away.  If you read Job it’s clear that the word depressed doesn’t scratch the surface of what was happening, Job was honest with God in his pain, and Job never sinned.  For some reason I cant’ see Job saying “God my wife and kids are all dead, but I’m too blessed to be depressed!”.

 

Some of you might be saying give it up TIm! It’s just a stupid little slogan who cares?!.  God cares, because in a world that already muddies the truth, we don’t need to add to the noise.  Often times we hear things like “too blessed to be depressed” and we get a little high off it.  We say “Yeah! YEAH! I am to blessed!” the problem however is once we are faced with reality, that little slogan is soon gone like a vapor.  It can’t stand up to the reality of our situations.

 

Here’s my bottom line, it’s not that every slogan out there is bad, or full of hot air, it’s just that we have to be very careful with what we say is true.  If we are claiming to have the corner on truth (and we are loud about it), then everything we say about that truth, must be just that: True.   We can’t claim to know the way to heaven, then agree with many things that are not in Scripture.

 

A good friend of mine who I love dearly told me regarding my view of slogans in Christianity “Maybe some of us just like a little uplifting slogan from time to time.”Here’s the thing, if it’s not true, then it’s a lie.  There are only one of two options here, true, or not true.  If it’s not true, I dont’ want to hear it, I don’t care how appealing it sounds. I’m not concerned about trying to feel good, I’m not concerned about feeling emotionally happy, I’m concerned with what the work of Jesus has done to humanity, and what it is still doing to humanity.  I don’t want fluff do you?  Do you want to be fed a bunch of happy one liners only to find out that it was like eating junk food?  Tasted great going down but there was absolutely no nutritional value?  Look for the truth of Jesus, not for the concentrated doses of statements that give you emotional highs.  That’s not what is important here, the Kingdom of God is the most important thing because it is eternal, it is forever.

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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Why God Is Not Number One In My life

I’ll never forget the conversation I had with my good friend Jerry that changed my relationship with Jesus.  It was about 6 years ago now where Jerry described a conversation he had with Jesus in his car while driving that changed the way he loved God.  Jerry told me that as he was driving, the Lord brought to mind Matthew 22:37-40 which reads “Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’c 38This is the first and greatest commandment.39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’d 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

As Jerry was talking to Jesus about this particular scripture, Jesus brought up this idea of loving Him with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Jerry responded with “yes Lord, I’ll love you with my heart, soul, mind, and strength but what about other people? I should love them too right?” with which Christ responded “No, just love me”.  “What about my family?” said Jerry, Christ responded with the same answer.  “How about the Church? I should love your bride” Jerry once again asked only to be told “No, just love me”.  This perplexed Jerry for sometime and as he was wrestling with this it finally clicked.  Jerry realized that his own love was flawed, that he couldn’t love perfectly on his own.  Christ then said these profound words to him; “When you love me with everything you have, you can’t love anything with your own love, instead I will show you how to love.”  When Jerry explained this to me my world was rocked forever.

 

We often hear things like “make Christ number one in your life” and while I understand the point, I think it’s a terrible thing to say.  When you have a number one in your life, you’re bound to have a number 2,3,4 etc.  This creates a mentality in our heads that if we do our daily devotions, pray often, and make Christ number one (Whatever that means) then we can have our personal time, time that we can do whatever we want in other times in our life.  When we compartmentalize Jesus (even if it’s the number one compartment) that means that there are other compartments where Christ is not in our life.   This is not the way to be thinking about our relationship with Christ.

 

When Jesus answered the Pharisees in Matthew He is not only quoting the Torah, He is also summing up what it means to follow Christ in one statement.  When He tells us “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind” and says right after that this is the first and greatest commandment, what He is saying is that everything, our whole life, flows out of this.   If our whole essence is not committed to loving the Lord and engaging in that relationship then we are missing out on what a relationship with Christ looks like.   In that command, every part of what makes us human is covered.  God is telling us to give everything over to Him, not just the number one slot.

 

It makes sense, because like you, I know I am flawed, I know that my love isn’t perfect, and that whenever I try and love people, things, or anything else on my own strength I either do a really bad job or whatever I’m trying to love becomes more like an obsession and that becomes my new god.  When we love Christ with everything we have, He then shows us how to love things properly in our life.  We can’t miss this because it is the foundation that our beliefs must flow out of.  If we miss this foundation then what happens is that we become rigid and robotic in our relationship.  If your relationship with Christ only happens on mornings when you read your Bible and pray then you’re missing the heart of what Christ came to do.  In the Torah it was prophesied that God would come down to us, that He would bridge the gap between Him and us.  They called His name Immanuel meaning God with us.  This is the beauty of the Christian faith, it offers God with us, all the time, right now.

 

There is nothing wrong, in fact it is healthy, to have a rhythm with God.  My mom is in that Bible every morning without fail.  I think this is a very good, healthy practice to participate in.  My concern however, is when it stops there.  I have had the mentality of “I did my devotions today, so I’m good!”.  When we do that we rob ourselves of things that God wants to bring to our attention that day, we miss out on the on-going conversation God desires to have with us.

 

 

This conversation happens best when we realize that God doesn’t just want the number one spot in our lives, He wants our whole life.  He wants all of our love not just certain parts.  When we do that, we can’t love anything on our own.  Not our spouse, not our job, not our passions, not our kids, nothing, and this is the way God wants it. Because when we have nothing left to give, He shows us how to love through Him.  God is the author of love, and when we ask the author how to best do what He created, He shows us how to do it perfectly.

 

To sum it up, when we compartmentalize God, even if it’s the number one compartment, it’s still not what God wants.  He wants all of us, He wants every part of us so He can show us how to live the way we were designed to live.  This is the beauty of Matthew 22:37, it breaks through all of our stuff and hits right to the core of who we are.  Christ didn’t say “the most important thing you should is God, then you can love other things”, He goes way to the extreme telling us to love God with everything in our being, and when we do that, we have no love to give anyone else, God then begins to rebuild our flawed practice of love and shows us how to love everything through Him, with only a love He can give.

 

-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)

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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