Coffee, Theology, and Jesus

working out our messy faith over coffee

You Follow Jesus? Welcome to Full Time Ministry.

If you’ve read any of my posts before then you’ve heard me say that I believe if you’re a Christian you’re automatically in full time ministry. I want to expound on this thought because I really believe it’s one of the key things to help change our mindset when it comes to living our faith out tangibly every day as opposed to keeping it inside and expressing it through just things that our American Christian culture has deemed spiritual.

Ministry is a funny word. It’s funny because at it’s most basic definition it means to serve. When you minister to someone you are essentially serving them in some way. You’re helping to address physical needs, spiritual needs or emotional needs that the person can benefit from. Christ is the ultimate example because in His ministry (think service) He served people in all three areas.

Why is this important? Because, as a good friend of mine says, if we are around people then we have the opportunity to minister. As opposed to the common idea of ministry, that is someone who is a professional minister or someone who serves on Sunday morning during a Church meeting, ministry is for every believer everywhere all the time. This is exactly how we express the tangible Jesus to people by ministering to them. It doesn’t have to always be in elaborate ways. Sometimes it’s being friendly to the clerk behind the counter, or talking to your waiter who you know is having a really bad day. Other times someone might need some work done around the house or someone to talk to. Ministry is a huge word and it encompasses the life of the believer. In fact it is our duty as followers of Christ to minister to people we meet everywhere.

It’s difficult to break the habits in which we use words. Often times when I say ministry people think of a Church program, or something that has to do with Church meetings. Although ministry encompasses that, it’s not limited to inside the Church walls and what happens in our meetings. Our definition of ministry must be expanded. Why? Because Christ was always ministering to people OUTSIDE the Church. Jesus was always with the people that society deemed unapproachable and the religious elite saw as too filthy to touch (sound familiar?). This is the people who need to be served the most. The ones society has given up on.

What’s this look like practically for us? Well we all have different lives, different jobs, families, we live across the globe and yet we can all minister. The job you have, what does it look like when you view it as your ministry, not just your job? Who are the people that are in your life that you can serve? Maybe it’s your wife, maybe it’s the guy in the cubicle next to you, or maybe it’s the barista who hands you your latte every morning. We all have people in our life that we can serve in some way. You’re life is your ministry, live it that way – TW

The World Cries Out: Christians Hear but Don’t Listen

This blog post was written by one of my good friends Paul.  Paul and I have been good friends for several years now and while we have completely different world views, that hasn’t stopped us from remembering that we are both humans in the same boat.  I encourage you strongly to listen to his words in this post.  As a Christian I took these words to heart regarding how to approach people with a starkly different world view.  Enjoy. -TW

When I was asked by my dear friend Tim to guest write for his blog, I was incredibly excited. Both for the opportunity and for the chance to write a piece, with an intention to offer my perspective on a topic that is close to my heart. The topic to be revealed later.
Very recently. I got into a debate with a close family member. They being a christian conservative. Myself a secular progressive. Now with that picture painted. We debated a whole gamut of issues. From economic to social. Somewhere in the middle sprinkle in the issue of gay marriage. The friendly debate turned into a heated argument. It turned because I support marriage equality. He in accordance with his faith believes, as many do that marriage is between a man and a woman for the purpose of family through God.
Now what made me upset and angry was not my family member’s beliefs. It was because He used rather unnerving language. He used the phrase “Gay Agenda”.
What I see as a basic principle of law – That I, a tax paying citizen wanting to be treated equally under the law. I in no way shape or form, want or desire to take away anyone else’s marriage and family.
All I want is the spousal privileges afforded to ANYONE other than me and others like me, under the law.
In the argument I tried to outline a few of the things that are denied LGBT couples. Specific things like hospital visitation, insurance and tax incentives, things that may seem mundane or of little consequence to some. However one of my greatest fears is building a life together with someone and growing old, at the end be denied to be in the room, or be a part of the decisions of end of life care.
Imagine for a moment. Sharing your life with someone. Committed until the end. But not being allowed to be a part of it. Agonizing.
I believe in the conservative principle that marriage is good for society. That it leads to stability and often better life outcomes. I ask quite simply. Why do we instead narrowly define what a marriage is and who can be married? If marriage is both good for the family and society, wouldn’t you want more people committed to an institution that makes all peoples better?
Now my dilemma is that I really respect and love this close family member. I DO NOT think this person is a bigot. I DO NOT think this person lacks intelligence. However in that heated discussion on a topic that directly effects me as a gay man in a long term committed relationship. I needed my family member to listen to my concerns. All they did was hear me.
Often times we hear others. Less so we understand them. When you use the word Gay Agenda or special interest you detract from the human struggle faced with anyone who is misunderstood by others.
Even though I am not a religious person now, I took a lot of great things from my catholic/christian upbringing. Compassion being one of the greatest influences. I often find myself trying to understand other people – what other’s go through.
I think it has a lot to do with being the kid who was always misunderstood. Weird little kid with four fingers and long hair. Who was sensitive and quiet. Terrible at sports, more interested in reading. That little kid grew up to be a little guy (i’m still only 120 lbs at 5’6) with a heart bigger than his chest could hold.
Despite being an atheist the Gospel and Jesus have taught me a tremendous deal about life. Very simple message. Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. For me this is a powerful message. In our sin we are equal. None better or worse than another. We are in this together. Life is for the living. We share the oxygen that serves all breaths taken. We should treat all others as though we are family. We will often disagree but that does not mean we are not still connected. As children of God or Humans that walk the same earth. Brothers and Sisters.
My moral crisis as an atheist is often forgiveness. Something Jesus was good at, but that I struggle with mightily. Its hard to forgive something you can’t change. I still love and respect my family member. We both apologized. Yet I still struggle to move forward. We have seemed to reach an impasse, however I am confident that with some time I will forgive and move on. Writing about it is (for me) the first step in the process. My therapy.
Bottom line. Listen a little closer. Try to imagine another’s struggle as your own. Be kinder. I am not perfect, but it is truly humbling to know that no one else is either.
All views in this post are solely those of the author.

The Grid of Philippians – Rob

Alright.  I’ll give you fair warning.  This one, if it affects you as it affected me, will hit you square between the eyes.  If not, well you were doing better than I was haha.  So just be prepared.

I was perusing Facebook the other day when I looked at the side bar on the right.  You know, the place where you can creeperishly see what your friends are all liking.  Well something popped up that grabbed my attention.  I will use the anonymous name of “Joe Smith” for the time being.  “Joe Smith and 25 other friends like Tosh.0.”

Now, perhaps I am out of touch with reality but from what I know about Daniel Tosh (I’ve never actually seen his show) is that he isn’t exactly one that jokes while upholding “Christian Values.”  From what I understand, Daniel Tosh tends to be somewhat sacrilegious and filthy in his commentary.  I have even heard from “secular friends” that his jokes are very dirty.  Being that I heard this, I figured it best not to spend my time watching his show.

But, when I saw Joe Smith and 25 other friends liked “Tosh.0” on Facebook I was pretty curious as to who liked it, and so clicked it to find out.  “Joe Smith” is a friend of mine that at one point stood for the same Christian values that I do, which peaked my curiosity even more.  As I clicked to see who the 25 other people were I was actually very surprised.  I would say 95% were “Christian.”  Now, don’t take this as me condemning anyone else or looking down on other people’s activities.  What I took out of this was that we, as Christians, may be letting the world influence us in far too many ways.  Somewhere along the lines it became ok to sit and laugh at sin and filth, to enjoy watching sin in movies, enjoy listening to sin in music, and joke about sin in conversation.  I have caught myself thinking on occasion “well this isn’t that bad” and accepting it as OK to watch/listen to/talk about.

We have often heard it said, “If Christ was in the room with you would you still watch it?”  Well guess what?  Christ IS in the room with me every time I go to watch a movie, listen to music, have a conversation, or tell a joke.  There is no “what if” there is “what now?”  I guess seeing how many Christians were ok with subjecting themselves to taking pleasure in sin really got to me.  How much sin am I ok with being leaked into my life?

Paul wrote to the local church in Philippi in Philippians 4:8,

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

What a contrast!  Now, I’ve heard the argument, “Yeah, but I don’t want to be a weirdo and Christ and his disciples sat and ate with sinners!”  This is correct, Christ did sit and eat with sinners.  But I guarantee that he did not partake in their sin, or laugh at it.  Paul and the disciples did not sit around with the other Christians and tell off-color jokes or watch Tosh.0.  The reason they were with sinners?  To preach the gospel.  What person wants to listen to a message “that will change your life” when the person telling it is no different than they are?  Not only are we taking away from the praise that Christ is worthy of, we are erasing the impact of the gospel.  What a tragedy.  Paul lays forth a grid through which we can pass EVERYTHING we do.  My job can be something that gives Christ praise because of the type of employee I am reflects my Savior.  How are my conversations with my co-workers?  Worthy of praise? Pure? Honorable? Lovely?  How about with other Christians?  True?  Kind of sounds like a possible stab at gossip.  Am I just always looking for more dirt? Are the things commendable that I talk about?  I am reminded of James 3:10,

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.  My brothers, these things out not to be so.

How many of my recent activities have made it through the grid?  How will my planned activities make it through?  As Christians, we should always be evaluating where we are when it comes to the scripture, not the world.  Too often I have found myself saying “Ok, I will stay this far away from the world!”  Which sounds great except when I realize that the world is spiraling further and further from God.  The only distance I should be worried about is between me and God’s standard.  The world will continue to fall away and I would be wise to not fall away with it.  How much of the world am I letting into my life/mind/heart?  Usually, standing for God will make me the odd-man out.  Christ himself said in John 15:18,

If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you.

Want a good indication of you effectiveness for God?  Does the world hate you?  I am not saying that when you go to school you should immediately have things thrown at you and have no friends.  People, in general, will highly respect a Christian who is living for Christ.  They are the nicest people! But the world, the system of thought, education, knowledge, and lifestyle that goes against God, should hate the Christian.  We all know what the Bible means when it says “world.”  Romans 12:1-2 says,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

As a whole, Christians are far too conformed to this world and allow too much of the world into our lives.  I am guilty just as much as the next person.  Tim is hard on the Church but I would say it starts with the individuals in the Church.  We are allowing the world into our lives in small and large ways.  If we are to be effective communicators of the gospel then we have all got to take a step back and re examine what we let come into our minds, across our eyes and ears, and out our mouths.