Coffee, Theology, and Jesus

working out our messy faith over coffee

Tag: important

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

 

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.

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.