Coffee, Theology and Jesus

working out our messy faith over coffee

Tag: God (page 1 of 3)

On Resolving Conflict

Resolving relationship issues is tough work. It’s so tough in fact, that most people don’t even bother resolving issues they have with other people.  They either sweep them under the rug, or cut the relationship off completely.  But this is contrary to Jesus and His way of living.  When we hold grudges and let problems get in the way of our relationships with people, we are letting brokenness reign instead of Jesus and his restorative nature.

 

I’ve been fortunate to be a part of a strong local community these past 7 years where I’ve had to resolve issues I’ve had with people, or people have had to resolve issues they’ve had with me.  These conversations have not been always easy, but they have always been necessary.  Why?  Because we knew that for us to really live in relationships together we had to be honest and willing to ‘go there’ even when it was difficult. 

 

Because of that, the relationships formed are of the strongest bond.  When you confront someone with the love and humility of Jesus, you open yourself and the other person involved to healing and restoration.  Is it easy? Of course not, it’s often awkward, and painful.  BUT, as the conversation progresses you see a light at the end of the tunnel.  

 

Why am I blogging about this? Because we don’t know how to confront people and resolve problems between each other in our culture.  No, we’d much rather run to twitter and rant, we’d much rather call our other friend about the problem and spread gossip like wildfire, we’d much rather tear the other person down to make ourselves look better.  When we don’t confront, when we don’t know how to humbly approach each other we lose out on deeper relationships.  

 

I’ve been on both sides of the confrontation.  I’ve been the person who has initiated and brought the conversation up, told the person how I felt when he/she said this, or did that, and then heard their side and worked to common ground. I’ve also been the person who has been told that what I did or said was not ok and he/she was deeply hurt.  At that point, I had no choice but to eat a big helping of humble pie, ask for their forgiveness (which they so graciously extended), and then moved on.  This is a lost art even in the Christian culture.  we’d much rather go to our pastor, we’d much rather talk to someone else about our problem, not the person directly involved.

The Bible talks over and over about this.  Jesus tells us that before we even go to Him, if we remember that we have an issue with someone to immediately to that person to resolve our problem.  We are told not to let the sun go down on our anger, and Paul tells us to love one another, forgiving one another just as Christ forgave us.

 

Do not be afraid to talk to someone about the offense they committed against you.  Be gracious, be humble and willing to hear them out. Humans do dumb things and that includes you.  No one is above reproach.  We love to think that we are above being confronted.  People will vehemently defend their actions even if they are completely in the wrong.  Ultimately, this comes down to a pride issue that is for another post, but to Christians I will say this: Kill that pride and be teachable.  If you have an issue you need to resolve with another human being (wife, husband, son, daughter, friend, brother, sister, mom, dad, the guy at the grocery story etc), then go to that person and talk those things out.  Don’t give sin a foothold to start spreading, the longer you wait the harder it is to resolve the issue and the easier it is to keep going down that path. 

If you like this post then share it!

 

-TW

The Problem with Scientists…

In my undergrad studies of Mechanical Engineering is where my deep interest in astronomical sciences really developed.   If time and money allowed, I would go back to school to obtain my PHD in astrophysics and astronomy but since that is not a current option I’ve resorted to reading journals and articles and book and papers.  I’ve been reading many articles lately on scientific findings and discoveries.  The overwhelming feeling I get when reading many of the articles (especially the ones dealing with the origins of the universe) is that the data is twisted to support the preconceived conclusion.  You may already be thinking “YEAH! Get those silly atheists!”  However, I’m talking about the scientific articles written by Christians.

The problem with scientists (both atheists and Christians) is that their beliefs cloud their findings.  Each side is guilty of observing a particular phenomenon and immediately seeking to fit the data to “prove” their conclusion.  Yes, creation scientists do this as well.  It baffles me that the ancient claim has always been “atheists have a preconceived conclusion that there isn’t a God and all their findings are bent to make sure God is never the conclusion” but Christians turn around and do the same thing to make sure their view of creation IS the conclusion even if it means to bend the data.

I have no problem with science.  Many Christians pick fights with science and that isn’t the battle they want to have.  God created science and all the laws of nature.  I would label him as the first scientist (He just doesn’t have to test His hypothesis).  I don’t want to get into a debate of the timeline of creation or the origin of the universe but I’ve heard too many people that lean to a certain creationist belief state that all science is bad and is just twisted to provide a platform for evolution.  I whole heartily disagree.  Now, the science isn’t the problem.  The scientist is; on both sides.

Many Creationists love to say that Albert Einstein was a Christian and believed in God. Actually, he was in fact an agnostic and was very critical of the belief in a personal God. In the early 20th century he developed the theories of relativity.

Relativity

If we were to let science and nature speak for itself what would happen?  Psalm 19:1 would happen.  Again I’m not about to get into a deep discussion about evolution vs. creation but the overwhelming evidence for a Creator is observable science.  Let’s take Einstein’s equation for a second.  The left side of the equation represents acceleration and if we step back and just take a look at the fine details it tells us that the universe is experiencing negative acceleration.  The Bible, other equations, and many discoveries reveal that the universe is also expanding (Job 9:8, Psalm 104:2, Isaiah 42:5).  An explosion is an occurrence where we see negative acceleration and expansion all in one… Big Bang anyone?  The interesting thing is that as Einstein contemplated the Big Bang he did not like the implications.  He realized that the Big Bang implied a beginning and thus the existence of a creator so he spent many years modifying the equation to give us the cosmological constant.  Even Einstein was “fudging” data to suit his conclusions.  Interesting that even something that is by many tied to “atheistic science” was realized by Einstein to require the existence of a creator.  Something about letting science and nature speak for itself.  Romans 1 give us a pretty good outline of things as well.

So the point?  I guess my point is that Christian and secular scientists make the same mistake.  They don’t follow the scientific method.  They determine the conclusion and wonder how their data can prove it.  Instead, if everyone would take a very good look at the data we may actually see what God intended us to see all along.  Him.

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

The Pastor: Overburdened and it’s our fault!

I feel bad for pastors. Am I allowed to say that? Really, they don’t have it easy. Most of them live on borderline poverty. Usually there’s only 1 pastor per 75-100 people, and the congregation demands them to essentially be Jesus (that is, with no sin). I mean what a burden other Christians can put on someone who has the title pastor. We want our pastor to be there for us whenever we need him and when he can’t make it out to something we deem important (like a funeral) we think that he isn’t really doing his job. But here’s the thing, what if we have a very skewed and often incorrect view of what the role of a pastor really is? That would change things wouldn’t it?

 

 

It’s no surprise to anyone in the Church to hear about pastor so and so who had an affair, stole money from the church or engaged in some other act that got him to “step down” which is a polite way of saying got fired. We are quick to be the first to cast stones at the pastor without any real understanding of the pressure that we have put on him. The pastor is expected to be the ultimate family man, to never be angry, no smoking of course, most Church bodies would frown on their pastor having a beer, he has to have the answer to every question we have, and he MUST pump out sermons like candy (and they better be good and life changing every time!). Can anyone fill such a role? When the pastor fails one of these stipulations we put on him, all of the sudden he is under review and he might need to step down and take some time off. Ridiculous.

 

 

We’ve made the role of pastor in the Church the all in one printer. The pastor is expected to fill several roles that are outside the Biblical role of pastor. When we put all these different roles in to one guy, they all come out just ok. I’ve met many pastors that really are terrible with people skills, but they are amazing teachers. I’ve met pastors who have a heart for the lost and would rather spend their time outside the Church walls evangelizing, and I’ve met pastors who are great pastors. They have a heart for the people in their church, they spend as much time as they can being a shepherd to their flock. Seeing a pastor who has the gift of pastoring is amazing and refreshing, seeing a pastor who has a completely different gift but still try and pastor is frustrating.

 

 

A couple posts ago I posted about the 5 roles we see in Scripture to equip the saints. The roles are the apostle, evangelist, prophet, pastor, and teacher. All five of these roles are given to equip the Church but somewhere along the line we cut out 3 and combined two. In our modern day Church culture here in the states we got rid of the apostle, prophetic and evangelist and we combined the pastor and teacher in to one. Why? Beats me. I’m sure someone knows why, but I really don’t. To me it makes no sense to take one of those roles and make it the superman role while cutting out the others. Here’s why.

 

 

First (as I said earlier), it puts way too much pressure on one guy to lead a huge congregation and he has to fit in to all of these different roles on demand to meet the needs of the people. When you have a one boss CEO mentality in a local Church model it fails. Why? Because unlike a CEO a pastor by definition has to be completely engaged with everyone in his congregation. This is why having multiple pastors (or people with the gift of pastoring) is essential. Think about it like this. If I’m a shepherd and I have a flock of 200 sheep, I can’t possibly take care of them all by myself, I’m going to need a few other guys who also are shepherds to help take care of the flock. This same logic should be applied to our church bodies. NOTE: By pastor I don’t necessarily mean a guy who is paid in a full time salary position and who is also an administrator. I mean people who have the gift of pastoring actually using their gift. People who pastor don’t need to be the big leaders of a local church body.

 

 

Second, the 5 role structure is so clear in Scripture and all 5 roles are necessary to the body. A pastor shepherds people, takes care of their needs, a teacher teaches! Why have a pastor teach when that might not be his gift? Ever heard a pastor who can’t teach try and teach? It’s painful. This is not meant to offend anyone but it’s true. If they don’t have the gift, then don’t put them in that position. The apostle (think missionary), prophet and evangelist are all necessary roles that are so desperately needed but are missing.

When we have the 5 different positions operating together we have a team of people equipping local Church bodies. I’m convinced more and more that this is the Biblical model for the local church. It’s not about having leaders, but it’s about having equippers. When the five roles are working together it’s beautiful and wonderful. When we amputate 3 roles, we end up limping along.

 

 

There’s a book I’m reading called Church Zero by Payton Jones. It’s all about what I’m talking about here so check it out!

 

-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.

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

Untitled

Christians & Alcohol: The Other Side of the Fence

This is Side 2: see Side 1 here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-RM

 

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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)

The Condescending Christian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-RM

 

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My Story: Paths Colliding and God Directing (Rob)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading and keep commenting!

-RM

 

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