Coffee, Theology, and Jesus

working out our messy faith over coffee

A Thanksgiving Thought

 

Yes, after months of silence I have returned with a post.  My apologies for such a delay, my personal life has kept me extremely busy these past few months.  Between travel, moving into a new house, school, recording for a friends album and general life things I’ve had difficulty in finding the time to get a post up.  Not to mention that I’ve also had a difficult time thinking of what to actually post!  Not to fear, for I think I have something here.  (See what I did there?)

 

If you’ve followed the news or just keep in general touch with topics that run through the headlines, then I’m sure you’ve been hearing all about many big retail stores opening there doors for Thanksgiving for early shoppers.   Here’s my advice – Don’t go.

 

“Oh Tim, why don’t you get a grip, it’s really no big deal” you say.  But alas I think it is a very big deal.

 

 

 

There’s little to no surprise that consumers drive the holiday shopping season.  To an extent, it makes complete sense.  People buy gifts during Christmas, and black friday is a yearly tradition for some.   Now for the sake of transparency let me admit that I think black Friday is a ridiculous idea.  To see people lined up for hours to get their hands on a super cheap tv or whatever other fancy object they’ve been dying to buy I think is a complete waste of time.  Why?  Because we are talking about stuff…things…you know, items that won’t matter in a few years.  People actually rush the stores, cut in line, get into fights and argue with employees all over…..stuff.  These things don’t breathe life, they don’t actually live, they just exist for the sake of pleasing us.  So we flock to the stores like cattle all for the name of a good deal.

 
Anyway, that’s not the point of this post.  The point is to explain why I think stores opening up on Thanksgiving for shoppers is a bad idea and why as Christians we should stay out of stores and stay in with family..

 

I realize that we live in a consumer driven society.  I (like most people) am not immune to the fact that I at times, have to go out and purchase something that I want or need.  I wanted my Nintendo Wii U so I purchased one.  I needed a pair of jeans (my last pair ripped), so I went out and purchased them.  This is the way our society works.  Is it flawed? Sure, but it’s what we got, and slowly people are becoming more intentional shoppers, purchasing from companies that do things ethically, not just in the name of the lowest price (yes, I’m looking at you Wal-Mart).

I say all that so I can say this; as Christians we have a duty to be responsible consumers.  It is our responsibility to view our lives through the lens of Christ, not just hot button issues that the Christian culture pushes.  It’s a shame honestly, that the Christian culture is so willingly accepting of greed, over the top consumerism, and blindly supports massive companies that don’t treat its workers fairly.

 

When it comes to Thanksgiving, the day that Americans take time out of their work schedules, their normal schedules and gather around family, or people in their life that are equivalent to family and eat, and talk, and share a good meal.  It’s a day of rest, it’s a day of feasting, and it’s a day of remembering all that you have and how blessed we are to live in such a country.  This also goes for employees of retail stores.  They deserve the same day that most of us get.  A day around family, without worrying about going into work later to face hordes of self-centered consumers who put more value on the stuff their trying to buy than the human being God created standing right in front of them.  If anything I would like to see the Church protesting companies forcing their employees to work on Thanksgiving (For those of you who don’t think they are being forced, you’ve clearly never worked retail).

 

I’m not here to belabor my point but I’ll end by asking this; When is enough, enough as a society? When do we draw the line with the materialism and consumerism in our culture?  How many things do we need to go out and buy before we realize that you can’t buy family, people, or happiness? We might say that people are most important but when it comes to our actions we so often put stuff above them.  We get mad at the employee who is slow to check us out, we fight over the last item on the shelf, and we get mad when that guy takes our parking spot.   In many cases our beliefs do not match up with our actions and as followers of Jesus it is more important than ever that they do.

 

Spend time this Thanksgiving with people, not with stuff.   Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

-TW

 

Taking Out The Trash: Operating in God’s Family

God’s Family

If you’re a follower Jesus did you know that you are part of a family that spans over thousands of years? One that expands beyond your biological and into the supernatural? I’m talking about the family of God. God’s family is huge and inclusive containing all different cultures, all different ages, and spans through generations upon generations of people.

Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that we are part of a movement that was started 2,000 years ago. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that we are part of a family that extends outside of our biological family. God’s family is eternal, it lasts forever. Where biological families will cease to exist God’s family will thrive and last eternally.

This past week I had an amazing privilege to help run Camp Melody, an all boys camp for ages 10 to 16. This year, the theme was brotherhood inside of God’s family. Every day we focused on a different aspect of what brotherhood looks like inside of the family of God. On Monday, the theme was encouragement, Tuesday forgiveness, and Wednesday unity. We really wanted to contrast the difference between how God’s family operates as opposed to things posing as family (such as gangs). As the week went by I couldn’t help but realize that the themes we focused on carry into the whole of God’s family. How in the Church practicing these principles of forgiveness, encouragement, and unity really change the way we view each other.

I want to point out three things that are the opposite of forgiveness, unity, and encouragement that we need to get in check in our local Church bodies. The culture we create in our local Church is essential to the Body of Christ thriving in our local communities.

1. Divisiveness

All too often for those of us who have been involved with church politics, we have seen the church split over things that really in the big picture are petty. I’ve seen church bodies have major arguments over the instruments played, the carpet color, and the leadership structure. You know who wins these arguments in the end? Satan that’s who. He is all too happy to help those fights along. Jesus prayed directly against being divided in John where He said “My prayer is that they (us) are one”. To divide over things that are secondary to the gospel is sin pure and simple. Do people have different opinions on different things regarding the Christian faith? Absolutely, but to let that stop you from working with fellow family is absolute garbage. Do you and your siblings agree on everything? Of course you don’t, but that doesn’t stop you from being family.

2. Bitterness

The opposite of forgiveness is bitterness plain and simple. When we don’t learn to forgive people we let bitterness eat away at us like termites devouring wood. Christ commanded us to forgive others because He has forgiven us first. The practice of forgiveness in God’s family is mandatory and necessary to have healthy relationships with people. Chances are at some point in your life a fellow Christian will offend you, hurt you, or upset you. If you don’t learn how to forgive you will walk away from the Church with a bitter heart and an angry spirit. Both of those things are the opposite of how God operates. God operates with forgiveness and reconciliation at the forefront (for any doubters just read the Gospels).

3. Gossip

Perhaps one of the dirtiest secrets of our American Church culture is our obsession with gossip. I would argue it’s also one of Satan’s most effective weapons. If he can people to talk about other people negatively and behind their back he can start stress cracks in the foundation of the Church. All too often those stress cracks in the foundation lead to a crumbling house full of he said, she said. When we create a culture of encouragement there is no room to gossip because we are too busy focusing on building each other up. At least here in the states gossip is common and seen as not a big deal by our American culture. We have borrowed that view and brought it in to Church culture. The only difference is that we preface our gossip by saying “I really am not gossiping but…”. As I type those words I cringe because I am 100% guilty of using that line to justify my tearing down of someone. This is once again, the opposite of how God’s family works. When we are a part of God’s family we replace a culture of gossip and tearing down with a culture of encouragement and building each other up.

May I suggest Church that it’s time to take out the trash? It’s time to take these things and throw them away, replacing them with God’s principles. May we as a Church learn God’s culture and implement it in to our local church cultures. Creating atmospheres of family, belonging, and encouragement.

The Kingdom; It’s Bigger Than You

This past week I had an amazing opportunity to fly down to the Dominican Republic with an organization called The Initiative. The Initiative is a leadership based program that helps students put their faith in to action. We took a team down to the Dominican to teach a school how to use The Initiative program and implement it in to their school. The response was overwhelming and the students were ecstatic by the end of the 3 day conference.

While in the DR I got to experience a completely different way of life. Our house had no hot water, people ride small motorcycles and scooters everywhere, and the terrain is much different from where I live in New Jersey. Out of all of the many differences, there was one blaring similarity. I realized more and more how the Kingdom of God is the same no matter where I go. There are people in completely different cultures worshipping the same God. These people are our brothers and sisters, people we are spending eternity with, people who are wrecked by the Gospel and compelled to give their lives to it.

One of the most sincere people I met (even though I only met him for a short while) was a pastor working in a part of the Dominican called the rails. The rails is an extremely poor community. The people live in small huts with no plumbing, most of the kids walk around barefoot, and it was clear this area was extremely poor. Little kids ran up to me grabbing my hand and tugging on my beard calling me Santa Clause. Other kids ran up to some of the girls on my team grabbing their hand and not letting go the whole time. This was where the pastor devoted his life. With help, he built a church that he sleeps in, and devotes his time to helping the community around him. At the end of our visit we gathered around him and laid hands on him, praying for his work. It was a moment where we all realized that we were united in Christ, that this man is our brother, doing the work of the same God I serve here in the states. What a sobering moment.

During our time walking through the rails, we got to sit down with 30 or so people (mostly children) and sing songs praising God for His goodness. If there is ever a time where you get hit with the reality of how God’s kingdom is all inclusive it is in times like that. We were in the middle of tiny huts, surrounded by people that had no money and were barely scraping by, worshipping the same Jesus who gives us all the same hope.

The rest of our time was fantastic. The conference we put on for the students was received extremely well and we got to know these students as people. We worked with a couple named Mitch and Debbie who devoted their lives to reaching the people of the Dominican. They are radicals, people who gave up their life in the states to become like the people of the Dominican to reach them for the gospel. God has blessed their ministry immensely, and it was great working with them.

I want to get back to my point. The Kingdom of God is so diverse and inclusive. Sometimes it’s hard to see that in the states. Being so jaded by political affiliation and other things, we think sometimes that being a Christian means that people have to be like us, that they have to think the way we think, and if they don’t, then they know don’t fully understand being a Christian. This at times, can’t be further from the truth. God’s kingdom is way beyond us. Heaven is going to be such a diverse place full of different cultures, full of different ways of living life all under the banner of God and His kingdom. Jesus expands beyond our suburbs, our nice and neat church buildings that we spend so much money on. Jesus goes way beyond the limits we put on Him.

Right now, as I type this, there are millions and millions of my brothers and sisters worshipping God, living life with Jesus in a much different way than I do here in the states. The best part? That’s ok. We must begin to realize that there are other worlds beyond the States, that we don’t always do things the best, and that we can learn from other Christians in other cultures.

One of the most shocking things I learned while in the Dominican Republic was hearing Debbie tell me about groups who come from the states and come with an attitude of superiority. Debbie told me about a guy who would call the Dominican people stupid and try to correct everything that he thought they did wrong. Another group that was coming in said that they need pizza every night and that they don’t want to eat any Dominican food. What a shame that sometimes we travel to other parts of the world with arrogance and pride. Thinking that we have the corner of doing things right and that everyone else (especially people in third world countries) are not as smart or as intelligent. Pride is something that God hates, and we need to rid ourselves of it and walk in humility, always looking to learn wherever we are, and help when we are needed.

I talk about the Kingdom a lot because it is what Jesus talks about a lot. Jesus mentions the Kingdom of God over and over in the Gospels. The Kingdom is tangible, it is everywhere, and it is the future. Eternity will be spent with God in his kingdom, in His world, and He has entrusted us, his sons and daughters with being agents of that Kingdom. We are called to be Little Christs, and Christ modeled the Kingdom life for us. He constantly told us what it looks like, what it feels like, and what it’s going to be like. We are called to represent that Kingdom with our lives. That means putting aside everything else and making it our priority. Christ offers us new life, and that life is the Kingdom of God. Everywhere we walk, the Kingdom is walking. It doesn’t matter if we live in the rails, or in New York City, it is the same kingdom, the same God, and the same freedom.

-TW

When tough times Hit and Remembering What’s Really Important.

Phew! 5 days without power, no wi-fi, barely any cellphone reception, no walking dead, no office, and most importantly no lights when I want them?! I’m barely survived. Of course that being said, in the most important ways it’s been some of the best days I’ve had in a long time. You see, it’s times like this, when you have no distractions that you realize what life was really meant to be all about. My dad has been home, my brother has been home, we’ve had our second family (our next door neighbors) over every day since the power has been out. My grandma who lives in the addition we built has been in the house every day as well. Now you would think we would be sick of each other, fighting all day, but in fact it’s been just the opposite. It feels almost….natural to be together this much. Because we don’t have T.V, internet, or video games, we were forced to hangout with each other. Never in my life have we played so much poker, rummy, or catchphrase, and I don’t think my family has laughed so much together in the past year than we have these past days. To be honest, I wish this was life consistent. Waking up to a full house, hanging out, talking about everything, random games of poker, all with family, it’s almost like a glimpse of how we were originally designed to live.

 

It’s interesting because I’ve never so clearly been able to contrast American life from God’s life. Don’t get me wrong, we are blessed in America, we have whatever we need whenever we need it, but it’s hard to see how demanding the American way of life is when you’re in the thick of it. However, once something comes along to shake things up a little, we quickly realize what’s important. We quickly realize how much more enjoyable life can be with family when we aren’t pulled in to our own little worlds and are pulled together. Times where our comfortable bubble is popped forces us to spend time with people that take we take for granted. It has been a great three days in our house, full of community, and I’d take that any day over internet.

 

Look, I know that Hurricane Sandy did a lot of damage to a lot of people. My house went 5 days without power but this pales in comparison to the people who lost their homes. I’m not trying to say that you should be grateful for natural disasters like this. I’m simply trying to find the silver lining in a very tough time for the East Coast. Use this time (if you’re so fortunate) to spend time with the people in your life you take for granted. Not only is it a good idea, it’s healthy because it’s how life is designed to be. I think we can learn from the Eastern world and their family values. For the eastern world, family is one of the highest priority’s. Their life doesn’t revolve around a career, it revolves around their family, and their extended families. In fact even here in the states I’ve met families from India that all live together. Their mother, father, son, his wife, daughter, her husband, all living together in the same house. I used to think they were crazy, then my power went out for three days and I realized I was the crazy one.