Coffee, Theology and Jesus

working out our messy faith over coffee

Tag: Kingdom

CTJ #1 Love Your Neighbor

We officially started a podcast! Check out our first episode with Tim and Jordan.  We talk about Kim Davis, Facebook and loving your neighbor.

Christian Millennials: It’s the Thought that Counts?

I love my generation.

I really do.

There’s not doubt we are part of an exciting time.  Technology does things our parents only saw in the movies.  We have been the first generation to grow up with things like social media, cellphones and the world wide web.  My generation helped start organizations like kickstarter which let’s people give money to projects they want to see become a reality.  A few of us founded some world changing charities, some have become pastors to usher in the next generation of the Church and others still are on the cutting edge of medical health and sciences.

But…

And there’s always a but.

What about the majority of us?

Let’s face it, every generation has their few stars who rise to the top and do amazing things.  But what about the rest of us? .  What are we supposed to do?  Or maybe a better question to ask is are we fooling ourselves?
You see I know the my generation is aware of the world’s problems. I know if I ask my friends the question ‘what is wrong with the world’ that they can give me answers.  But what are we doing about it?

You know what I think we are doing about it?
We are “liking” it on facebook and patting ourselves on the back for it.  We dump water on our head, put a big red X on our wrist, we like pages for certain causes and we make sure we tell everyone on our social media accounts that today is national “insert major cause here” day.

But is this helping?

I suppose on a pure awareness level that doing things like that helps to raise “awareness” of that issue.  But if it stops there, then we’ve really missed the mark especially when the Jesus we follow lived a life of hands on ministry.

You see for the all the good my generation has done, I see one glaring flaw.

We.Are.Selfish

Now humans are in general selfish there’s no doubt about it but thanks to a materialistic culture in thought and a prosperous culture in reality my generation has, in many ways never had it easier, and still demands to do things our way with very little room to listen to the generations who have come before us.

We’ve fled the church by the hundreds of thousands

We think we know it all and when we disagreed, we took the easy way out and left our faith institutions instead of doing our best to work together to be co-workers in the Kingdom of God

We’ve decried the faith of our fathers for not being authentic enough while making our own faith up by only taking parts of the Bible we’ve deemed radical and organic.  We’ve tossed the baby out with the bathwater.
And I’m one of them.  I’ve made these mistakes.  I left the Church angry and frustrated.  Many times my reasons were valid but my reactions we were anything but.

Jesus prays to the Father that we are one Church and I’m afraid to admit that at times, I’ve contributed to the very thing that frustrated me.  Division and drawing lines in the sand that hinder the spread of the Gospel, not grow it.

For my generation to start changing our cultures, we need to be proactive participants and not annoying bystanders.  What good is it to point out all of the problems with the world if we won’t get in the mud and start working on solutions together?

We can rant on Facebook, we can write blogs about the problems of the world (pun intended) and we can walk around thinking we know better.  But if we aren’t willing to actually move and take action then we are nothing but the people we criticized in previous generations.

As long as we keep thinking the world revolves around us and our rights and our wants and our dreams I can assure you we won’t see much change.  Jesus tells us that if we want to find our life we must first lose it.  James tells us that true religion is to look after the widow and the orphan (AKA – Not looking after yourself).  The disciples gave up their entire lives so the gospel would be spread to the ends of the earth.  Many of them lost their lives because of it but Paul counted it joy because unlike our self-centered culture, Paul knew that what mattered wasn’t what he did for himself, but the impact he made on people around him to spread the good news of the gospel.

We (millennials) might have these grandiose thoughts about how to change the world but if we don’t put the work in to make those ideas a reality then they are useless to everyone except ourselves.  We trick ourselves into thinking that if we are aware of an issue and we stand against it in our hearts then we’ve done our moral Christian duty by publicly saying “I’m against this!” or “I’m for that”.  I promise your words although well intended do very little to change the status quo,

When it comes to our faith the words we say are only the beginning. If there is no tangible actions behind our words than our faith is pretty much useless as James tells us.

So where do you start? When faced with the world’s problems it can get pretty overwhelming pretty fast.  Start with little things in your life that you can do to start changing things you know that are harmful to yourself, other people, or the environment.

My girlfriend recently has decided to cut back on her use of disposable items such as plast silverware, straws, cups plates and bags.  She decided that she didn’t want to add to the problem of throwing away items that the earth can’t break down and reuse.   A simple lifestyle change that over time will help to reduce the amount of waste we bury underground.

You want to help the generation coming up behind you? Then find a place you can volunteer to start being a role model

You want to feed the homeless? Then volunteer at a shelter and be the hands and feet of Jesus

You want to fight Human Trafficking? Then get in touch with an organization and see how you can help.

Don’t just dump water on your head, don’t just draw a big red X and throw in on social media so people can admire your good work.  Get in the dirt with us and start impacting people.

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What’s Wrong With Ferguson: Christians

*sigh*

We all know Fergusson is a very hot button topic right now in our country.  The death of Michael Brown has sparked outrage on all sides of every issue this event entails.

This post isn’t about the acquittal of the officer who shot Michael Brown or about race, or politics, or anything of the sort.  This post is about the Christian response to Ferguson and frankly, it’s been a little embarrassing at times.

Christians will often tell you that they believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  By saying that we are really saying that Jesus is the person who rules our life, and we trust in Him for eternal salvation as made clear in the Bible.  Any Christian who takes their faith seriously would agree that following the teachings of Jesus and using his life as a model for how we should live ours is basic Christian living 101.

This isn’t to say that we always get it right.  We are after all, human and are prone to our faults just like anyone else.  But the catch is that in our culture, Christians have become so publicly vocal about how to live that we’ve trapped ourselves by not being able to live up to our own standards that we preach from our bullhorns (usually Facebook).  When it comes to Fergusson I’m afraid we’ve made that same mistake.

If there’s one thing I’m seeing lacking in the Christian response to Ferguson it’s  empathy.  There is very little empathy from Christians nationwide for Michael Brown (and the people he represents).  When the jury announced their decision to not indict the police officer my Facebook exploded not with empathy or condolences to brown’s family, but to all the reasons why he deserved to be shot.  Well that’s not completely true.  Usually someone would say “It’s sad that he is dead but…”

“but he robbed a store”, “well he went for the officers gun”.  This might be true, but does that mean that a family is still not mourning the loss of their son?  Is there not a bigger issue at play here?  Why do Christians consistently seem to be on the side of harsh words instead of gentle answers and most importantly how would Jesus respond to all of this if he was here right now?

There are a lot of questions that seem to be lacking answers.  But the one that I’m most confident about is that if Jesus was here, he’d be part of the conversation to help change the culture we live in when it comes to racially charged issues and violence that takes so many of young ones.

Christians have no problem calling Michael Brown a thug yet Jesus chose a few thugs of his own to be his disciples and to change the world.  Tax collectors, violent revolutionary zealots and the like were part of the 12 Jesus chose to announce his Kingdom.  Do you see where I’m going with this?  We are all too often ungraceful in how we respond to such tragedies.

When Christians respond to issues of the day the world watches.  People notice how we say things, how we respond and they don’t forget about it.

Sometimes we can look so unlike the Jesus who said to love our enemies, who told us to love our neighbor as ourself.  We can be so unlike the Jesus who shook up the establishment because he was a bridge between racial lines not a builder of walls.   Yet, we often feel justified in our response to issues like Ferguson because well the facts are right there, and the facts are facts.  Let me tell you, I’m glad Jesus still acknowledges the facts about my life but offers me grace instead of what I actually deserve.

When we don’t empathize with people, we contribute to the racial divide.   When we refuse to hear other people out and we instead assume that they are imagining things, we contribute to the cycle none of us want.

As Christians, we should be the first group of people to sit down at the table and offer solutions on how to stop all kinds of senseless violence because we believe that we have major solutions to contribute but those solutions won’t be heard if we first don’t listen.  The Bible tells us as Christians to be slow to speak and eager to listen and it is so necessary that we put this into practice.

I don’t think anyone wants another Ferguson to happen.  But the only way we can stop things like Ferguson from happening in the future is if we take the time now to come together to listen to the needs of each other and our communities and find solutions together.

As Jesus said (paraphrased) ”

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

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Fighting The Wrong Fight…Again…..

Am I allowed to rant?

I suppose so, it is after all my blog and so I’m going to rant.

I’m frustrated

i’m aggravated

I’m fed up.

So what is it that it that I’m so fed up with?  What is it that makes me at times want to stop identifying with the word ‘Christian’?  It’s the mass hysteria so many christians get all frenzied up about. It’s the posting on Facebook to express how persecution is coming to America and posts some obscure article to prove it.

Usually the article talks about some big government move by some big horrible liberal politician and then explains how important it is that us Christians step up and fight this down!  The ironic part? Often, these articles don’t tell the whole story.  They just pick out parts that suit their needs to get their audience all riled up for no good reason. 

I wonder if I can find an article….oh wait here we go!

http://www.wnd.com/2014/10/major-u-s-city-demands-oversight-of-sermons/

It wasn’t long before I saw articles like this one all over my feed with christians posting the links with headings like “We warned you” “I called it” “This is the first step to our persecution” blah blah blah.

I’ll be honest, at the beginning of this story breaking I was concerned myself.  Are politicians really trying to snuff out a pastor’s right to free speech?  Can this really be happening?  The answer…no it’s not happening.  Articles like this (http://americanvision.org/11407/houston-demanding-oversight-pastors-sermons/) tell a much bigger part of the story and explain how what is happening in Texas is common law practice.

But this post isn’t about this story necessarily.

It’s about 2 things.

First, It’s about the deceptive nature of some christian conservative news outlets.  I see it all the time on my feed.  Some obscure news website that panders to an only christian conservative worldview will purposefully twist words and leave out necessary points to a story to rile up people into thinking that Christians in the states are being persecuted.  It really blows my mind to see some self-proclaimed christian news sites being so deceptive either intentionally or unintentionally.  I mean when Jesus tells us to be honest, to be people of peace, and to be salt to the world, I think the last thing he had in mind was “go ahead and rile people up with half baked truths”.  The hypocrisy between their name and their actions is so glaring, I can’t believe other christians actually find them legitimate news sources.

Second, Christians are still at war with the wrong thing.  Perhaps to be the bigger issue here is the kind of wording I was seeing with Christians replying to the story I posted above.  This verbage of fighting the good fight, standing up for our rights, fighting till the end, are all extremely anti-Jesus.  Paul talks about losing our rights as Christians, Jesus calls the peacemakers blessed, and Paul also tells us that our battle is NOT against flesh and blood.  How do we miss this?

Let me share with you some quotes regarding the story I shared above. And I’m going to respond to them underneath of each one These were taken from Charismanews

In light of this egregious example of gay-activist bullying—the very kind that I and others have documented for years now—I urge every pastor in the city of Houston to address the issues of homosexuality and transgenderism this Sunday, announcing this for the entire world to hear but at the same time, refusing to obey the unrighteous decree of Mayor Parker’s office to turn your sermons over for government scrutiny. (This should be done respectfully, in the spirit of Acts 4:19-20; 5:28-29.)”

I really wonder if Paul, or any of the disciples felt bullied and what their responses were.  After all they lived in an extremely oppressive culture and most of them all died pretty terrible deaths by the hands of governments.  Yet Paul says it’s a joy to be persecuted for the faith.  The disciples willing went to death for the sake of the gospel.  No where do we read in the Bible “This oppression is wrong so I have become a politician to ensure my rights”.  So many of my fundamentalist friends have no problem claiming to go only by the word of God….but then have no problem fighting with other humans for what they deem are their “rights”.  Yes, legally we all have rights, which is why no one is in jail for their beliefs, but even if they were…would that give us a right to make enemies with people?  After all, Jesus said that the two most important commands that every other command hinges on is to Love the Lord your God and to love your neighbor as yourself.  Notice here that the most important command is not to tell gay people they are super sinful.  Notice how the most important command is not to wage war on people.

“I also urge every congregational member in Houston to tell your pastors that you are standing with them, encouraging them to stand up for what is right in the face of bullying and intimidation.”

Yes, a legal request has become bullying? Urging the congregation to stand up for what is right?  This kind of talk just draws a bigger line in the sand.

I don’t know how much clearer the Scriptures make it. Jesus was a friend of people who had problems.  Jesus calls us to be his hands and feet when He is not here.  Nowhere in Scripture do we see Jesus getting political, or campaigning for his rights.

What if (and it’s a big what if).  What if those Texan pastors requested lunch with the mayor? What if they requested a meeting with her to hear her side of the story, hear where she is coming from and asked the mayor to hear them out and see where they are coming from to get better clarity on an issue that has divided so many.These pastors have a chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus to someone directly and instead they are throwing it away because they were taught that there is a huge culture war and it’s their job to fight for good morals in the world.  (Hint: It’s the wrong battle)

You don’t change people by legislation and you certainly don’t change them by telling them how to live their life.  Life change is a fruit of a relationship with the Holy spirit.  If there’s no holy spirit then you can’t expect life change and guess what our job is in this? To introduce people to Jesus.  That’s it.  It’s not our job to judge the world, it’s not our job to tell people (especially those who are not Christians) how to live their life.  It’s our job to be the tangible hands and feet of Jesus and to tell the world that there is hope.

To the Christians who insist on waging war on humans even though the Scriptures tell us not to; it’s time to start building bridges to reach lost people, not burning them.  I never want to be the reason why someone turned away from Jesus and his infinite mercy and grace that he extends to every human.

Let me put it this way (and I’ve said this before).  If you tell a person how they’re living is wrong, that they need to change or else, and that person dies without knowing Jesus, you still failed your mission.  Our mission was never, ever, ever, EVER, to become American Pharisees, but to humble ourselves before others to show them the hope we have found in Jesus.

-TW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you like this post share it!

-TW

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.

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