Coffee Cups Don’t Matter, Culture Does

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Red Cup & Coffee (close-up)

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Progressive Christians are having a field day because one guy, an Internet Personality, has decided he’s mad about red coffee cups. Let me go ahead and say it wouldn’t be fair to call these concerns stupid. It’d be fair to call them extremely stupid.

Let me say, you don’t have to have anything to do with a particular chain of coffee shops. I don’t drink coffee. If I have a Chai Latte, it’ll be at Dutch Brothers or a church coffee shop. Aside from a couple of gift cards, I pretty much gave up on [the chain getting enough free advertising] when they decided baristas were going to randomly lecture people on race relations. A red cup doesn’t have much to do with issues some people have with that place. And to passively not to go somewhere takes very little of my time.

However, I’ve noticed a subtlety in the commentary from many progressive Christians. People aren’t just suggesting that this is a stupid thing to be upset about and that the guy is behaving badly.

Rather, it’s indicative of a larger “problem” of Christians being concerned about the state of our culture: issues like the removal of God from the public square, immorality in the media, and a society that forces Christians to violate their conscious or be ghettoized. Why can’t we focus on things that really matter like people’s needs?

We should care for the needs of people, but we should also care for the state of our culture and the soil in which people grow and are influenced. Many children are orphans because their parents listened to cultural messages to “follow your heart,” and “be true to yourself,” and ended up in a world of trouble. It left them so broken, they couldn’t care for their own children.

When you look at the trail of broken and destroyed lives that so many ministries deal with, you can find the messages that led them astray are in the schools, the government, and the entertainment media. Saying, “Why not just help hurting people and forget about the culture,” is kind of like saying, “Forget about turning off the faucet, let’s just bail water.”

For those who are concerned about evangelism and bringing people to Christ, I would plead our government doesn’t just hand out inoculations against disease. In public schools, our government attempts to inoculate against the Gospel of Christ by trying to remove the very idea of sin, a creator, and the need for a Savior.

What can a healthy culture do? It can’t compel faith, but it can point the way to faith. I have a relative who grew up in the 1940s and 50s raised by an Atheist. In the early 60s, he wrote a song about Noah’s Ark before becoming a Christian. When he got into trouble and decided to turn to God to help, he knew: 1) he needed to be humble before, and 2) he needed to confess his sins to God. (A lot of people won’t get that from church.)

No, red cups don’t matter. However, culture does matter a great deal. A culture that spits on God, encourages sexual immorality and self-idolatry is a culture that hurts a lot of people. Yes, let’s care for those in need, but part of that is caring for the cultural climate of the world we live in.

[tweetthis]Coffee Cups Don’t Matter, Culture Does. Guest Post by Adam Graham @idahoguy[/tweetthis]

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]”Care for the needs of people and for the cultural soil people grow in.” Adam Graham, @idahoguy[/tweetthis]

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_url=”true” remove_hidden_hashtags=”true” remove_hidden_urls=”true”]Saying, “Forget about culture, just help people” is saying, “Forget about turning off the faucet, just bail water.” ow.ly/UudcL[/tweetthis]

God Wants Lovers, Not Lawyers

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manwomanbeachverseThe Pharisees confronted Jesus over divorce in Matthew 19 asking if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause. Jesus answered in part with a line that would become part of many marriage ceremonies, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:6) The Pharisees raised a reasonable legal point and asked, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”

Jesus responded, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”  (Matthew 19:8) The certificate of divorce was a protection for the woman. American history shows how this “hardness of heart” could play out  many centuries later in the life of President Andrew Jackson’s wife, Rachel. She received a notice of divorce from her first husband and thought she was free to marry Jackson. Only later did she discover the divorce wasn’t final and her first husband used this to attack her as a bigamist. Jackson’s political opponents used the same attacks during the 1828 campaign, and she was driven to her death by them. A simple certificate of divorce protected the divorced wife.

Yet many had interpreted the ability to write the certificate of divorce as God’s blessing of the practice. If the Pharisees had paid attention to the prophets, they would have seen this was clearly not the case.

In Malachi 2, God announces that he’s not honoring people’s offerings because they’ve covered in his altars in tears and he explains how they did this:

…Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.

“For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.  (Malachi 2:14-16)

The Old Testament law contained no specific prohibition against divorce. It contained a mechanism by which divorce could lawfully be obtained. Yet the men of Judah’s treatment of their wives had invited the ire of God.

foreversunsetUltimately, they made the same mistake we’ve all made. They assumed God was primarily concerned about our ability to follow all the technicalities of the rules. We can look at the commandments of the living God as if we were a corporate lawyer combing the latest pages of regulations from the Federal Register, seeking a loophole to keep our clients in good standing.

Yet God is concerned about our hearts. We often approach situations with impure motives. (ex: Is it technically adultery? Would God really punish me for this? Can I still do this and go to Heaven?) As long as our heart is focused on, ‘What can I get away with?’ we’ll be far from God.

God wants us to be faithful, loving, and kind. Jesus gave us the Great Commandments to Love God and love our neighbor. The goal of the Christian life and the cry of our heart should be for our hearts to be faithful, kind, and loving so that we would fulfill these commandments rather than hoping to find a loophole to get away with it.

[tweetthis]God Wants Lovers, Not Lawyers: Guest post by Adam Graham @idahoguy[/tweetthis][tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]”As long as our heart is focused on, ‘What can I get away with?’ we’ll be far from God.” Quote by @idahoguy [/tweetthis]

A Fresh Look at Spiritual Warfare

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testingofaithSpiritual warfare is a part of every Christian’s life and an integral part of a balanced relationship with God. It is not some “special revelation” meant for a few especially gifted people. Nor is it a formula or a set of complicated, extra-biblical rituals that resemble role-playing games.

The new Christian is born into the battle. We do not choose the battle but must learn to do battle. Jesus tells us (John 15:18-19) the world hates you because it hated me first and you are not of the world.

Jesus taught us that whatever we ask the Father in Jesus’ name He will give it to us. The name of Jesus is powerful to the believer but it is hated by the unbeliever.  His name is the first line of defense in battle. We are empowered by the Holy Ghost. In the book of Acts, we are taught we shall receive power after the Holy Ghost is come upon us. Power has been given to the believer to cast out devils, heal the sick, even raise the dead. There will be signs and wonders that follow the believers. These signs and wonders do get the world’s attention.

Note those who would seek to gain this power for self-serving reasons apart from the cross are in grave spiritual danger. The power of God cannot be bought or sold. In the book of Acts, the Apostles were given power to lay hands on people, and the Holy Ghost was poured out upon them. Simon, who had been a sorcerer, offered money, thinking he could buy the power of God. Peter rebuked him for this. It is also recorded a certain group of Jews who were exorcists tried to cast out devils in name of Jesus, and the evil spirit answered, “Jesus, I know and Paul I know but who are you?” The man who was possessed by the evil spirit leaped upon them and prevailed against them.

Jesus had some instructions, both warning and encouraging believers in how they must fight to win the battle with our enemy “who goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” He admonished, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and rulers of the darkness , spiritual wickedness in high places.”

Knowing we face a formidable enemy, we need to also know that greater is He that in us than he that is in the world. God would not leave us unprotected, so we are taught how to withstand the attacks of the devil. We are to put on the whole armor of God.
roman soldiers
While we are standing in battle, we are to surround ourselves with truth. The breastplate of protection is His righteousness. Our feet are equipped with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Above all, our shield is faith that will put out the fiery darts of the wicked. The helmet we wear is Salvation. We fight the battle with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.

Jesus demonstrated this example when He was tempted of the devil three times after He had finished fasting for forty days in the wilderness. Each time He was tempted, He responded by quoting the written Word of God.

We will face opposition as we strive to walk with our Lord Jesus. We have to be determined to stand and contend for the faith—while keeping ourselves in the love of God and always looking to the mercy of our Lord Jesus for eternal life. We will receive eternal life after our battles here are won. There are battles ahead, but we are not alone. He has not left us comfortless. God is able to keep us from falling and present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.

Dear Father In Heaven, we love you, you are mighty and full of grace and mercy. Please set our hearts on fire for you. We ask you would make us vessels of honor that we could fulfill your will for our lives. We ask you to grant us strength for the battle. Let us be quick to discern the attack of the enemy and remember as we draw near to you the devil must flee. We thank you that because of your obedience unto death the devil is a defeated foe. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen

Bio:
Marsha Graham lives in Kalispell, MT. She is married and has four grown sons. She works full in time as a Claims Processor. Marsha was born again at 14 years old and has never looked back. Her greatest joy has been following Christ and raising her family. For several years she participated in a pro-life group and wrote articles in support of life which were published under the editorial page in the newspaper.
[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]New Christians are born into a spiritual war. We do not choose the battle but must learn to fight it.[/tweetthis]

[tweetthis]A Fresh Look @ Spiritual Warfare by Marsha Graham. “We do not choose the battle.”[/tweetthis]

 

Impoverished Gospel, Part Two by Adam Graham

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Note from Andrea: This article concludes a two-part series on prayer by a special guest blogger, my sweet, thoughtful husband, Adam Graham. The first part was posted last Thursday.

war roomSuperficially, the Kendrick Brothers’ latest film, War Room appears to say, “If you pray in faith, your marriage will be saved. If your marriage isn’t going well, it’s because you haven’t prayed enough.” We’ve known people who have had marriages fall apart in spite of their prayers and efforts to fight for that marriage, so that doesn’t ring true.

 

I don’t think that’s the intended point. When the film opens,  Elizabeth is a realtor and the frustrated wife of a hotshot salesman Tony is neglectful, inconsiderate, arrogant, and often absent as his job takes him to other cities. He explodes at his wife when he finds out Elizabeth sent $5,000 to her sister without asking him. She’s haunted by guilt when she overhears her daughter telling her best friend that all her parents ever do when they’re together is fight. Elizabeth meets Clara, an elderly lady who challenges her to pray, to learn to really fight for her family before God in prayer.

 

**Spoilers Warning** The film charts her growth. Her walk with God in prayer makes her a calmer, more peaceful person. Her daughter sees and begins to copy her mother’s prayer habits. Finally, Tony’s dishonest deeds catch up with him and he’s fired from his job. He comes home and tells Elizabeth. She listens and says she’ll try and sell more houses until he can find another job. She’s all calm and that annoys him. She tells him, while she loves him, she refuses to have her joy wrapped up in him.

 

This is where her character arc peaks. At this point in the movie, Elizabeth’s prayer life hasn’t changed her husband, it’s changed her. In her times of prayer, she has found peace and joy which enables her to face the loss of the income of the guy who had brought home four-fifths of the family’s bacon. From there, the film focuses on the restoration of the marriage, but she could have handled it if things had worked out differently because her life had been re-centered and refocused. **End of Spoilers**

prayer

Prayer will always be frustrating if we view it as a vehicle for manipulating others by manipulating God to make them behave or to get God to fix our problems by fixing the world around us. God does move on circumstances and people at many times, yet it’s often true the one God will change is the one who’s on speaking terms with him. In other words, God changes us. Prayer is not primarily about God giving us things but about God giving us more of God. That sometimes changes our circumstances. More often and more importantly, it changes how we react to them.

 

This can be seen in the book of Habakkuk where Habakkuk wanted God to change his pronunciation of judgment against Judah. God didn’t do that, but at the end of his lament and seeking God the prophet was able to declare in Habakkuk 3:17-19.

 

Though the fig tree should not blossom,

nor fruit be on the vines,

the produce of the olive fail

and the fields yield no food,

the flock be cut off from the fold

and there be no herd in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord;

I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

God, the Lord, is my strength;

he makes my feet like the deer’s;

he makes me tread on my high places.

 

Then there’s the Apostle Paul, a man so powerful in prayer and faith, he raised the dead. People took cloths he’d sweat on to the sick, and they were healed. Yet, he suffered a “thorn in his flesh” and when he prayed God to remove it, he was told, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9.)

 

On a spiritual level, Elizabeth from War Room, Habukuk, and Paul all got the same thing:  more of God and more of His grace.

 

If we’re honest, most of us don’t come to God in prayer out of a desire to get more of Him, it’s mostly to get our problems fixed or out of a sense of obligation. We will find prayer a frustrating practice as long as that’s where we’re at. The people who I’ve known whose prayer life bares the fruit people want from prayer have moved past that being the measure of whether the time they’ve spent in prayer was valuable or not. They’ve been changed through the time they’ve spent with God.

 

Despite its flaws, The War Room is a valuable film that challenges people to pray and to think about prayer. It illustrates how prayer works primarily by changing us to be more like Christ and how it can bring God’s grace to others. The movie’s portrayal isn’t entirely satisfactory, message-wise, but that’s one of the challenges of doing a movie about prayer or writing a book or article about it.

 

Prayer is a mystery. We participate in it, but our minds can’t fully grasp all of what it means. We can make it too complicated and speak too broadly about something we don’t fully understand. God isn’t a genie who gives you everything you want, but  God does give good gifts and God always begins by giving us Himself

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gloria patri
Amen

 [tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]What Elizabeth from #WarRoom really got from #prayer: more of God and more of God’s #grace.[/tweetthis]

[tweetthis]#Prayer is frustrating when we pray to get our problems fixed rather than to get God.[/tweetthis]

Impoverished Gospel, Part One

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By Adam Graham

Note from Andrea: This article begins a two-part series on prayer by a special guest blogger, my sweet, thoughtful husband. The second part will post next Thursday.

war roomThe Kendrick Brothers’ latest film, War Room, finished second at last weekend’s box office. The film focuses on the power of prayer. For many, that’s a problem. Some have accused the film of preaching a prosperity gospel that says all you have to do is pray in faith and your family’s problems will all go away.

I see the film as a mostly positive illustration of the power of prayer, but I also see how it could play into the hands of the false prosperity teachers. However, prosperity teachers aren’t the only sources of a warped view of prayer. This is important. Of all the areas where I’ve received poor teaching, none has done more harm than the variety of awful teaching I’ve received on prayer.

Growing up, the big thing was health. A popular sermon was, “Is it God’s Will to Heal Everybody?” The answer given was yes. The problem? As a child, I was often sick with bronchial infections. It recurred several times a year and hung on, time and time again, for weeks on. I begged God for relief and it never seemed to come.

When I was little, based on such teaching, I declared over my bronchial infections, “I am healed, and I was healed.” It was a nice, positive confession, but the illness continued to return to torture me round after round. As I grew older, I lost confidence that I would ever get better. Indeed, to this day, I have a bout once or twice a year with the same affliction that’s stalked me since my early days. I wasn’t alone in getting disillusioned from a lack of healing. I remember talking to a dear, sweet brother with chronic pain. He left a fellowship because he couldn’t live up to that standard of God healing him.

Thankfully, my never receiving a miraculous healing didn’t lead me to abandon God. I knew people who were healed, genuinely, absolutely, clearly miraculously healed, and only God could have done it. My conclusion was something was wrong with my faith and I couldn’t fix it. In the back of my mind was the idea maybe God didn’t love me as much as he loved others whose prayers seemed to be readily answered.

My confusion was infused with cynicism as I realized for some people, “I’ll pray about it,” meant, “I’m going to use prayer as an excuse to do nothing.”

At the first church I attended in Boise, I then heard a very clear message: God doesn’t want to hear about all your little selfish needs. “He doesn’t want to hear your selfish lists of requests.” This abusive church commanded us to only pray for others, and that’s what I did. Whole years passed where I would hardly mention my own needs to God.

It had been drilled into me that prayer was important and not doing it was bad for you. Prayer became the spiritual equivalent of an unpleasant medical exam: not fun but it’s got to be done.

I loved praying in groups because I did believe God would care about that prayer. Things that were prayed by groups had gotten God’s attention. He’d promised to move if two or three agreed. But me? Would my prayers ever change anything? Certainly not.

I did things for God and tried my best. Yet a lot of my effort was wasted. It’d be a mess or just unfruitful as I did my best to tilt at windmills and found the windmills winning.

Of course, I’d never publicly affirm that to be the case. I hardly admitted it to myself because it was too shameful to admit. But it’s had an effect on my life nonetheless. I worry too much and get way too stressed. I don’t have the peace I should have.
prayingman
I read scripture verses that I desperately wished would define my life but didn’t. They’d almost make me cry with longing for them to be true. Cast your cares upon him for he careth for you. (1 Peter 5:7) In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (Philippians 4:6) That’d be nice, and I wanted it to be true, and to reign in my life, but it didn’t.

Instead, I carried far too much on myself. In the process of rejecting the tacky idea of the abundant life with perfect health now and everyone having a Cadillac and a boat, I’ve also missed out on experiencing what Christ meant by that phrase in the book of John.

However, God is working on me and one thing that ministered to me over the last couple of years is Diane Moody’s book Confessions of a Prayer Slacker (Second Edition). I got it free on Kindle, and it was the best free book I’ve ever gotten. It’s an honest book about how this author built her prayer life. She was honest about her struggles and the challenges she faced in doing it and it pushed me to making my prayer life a priority. And my Donna Fletcher Crow book Seasons of Prayer
has added some helpful organization.

Slowly but surely, I’ve drawn closer to God through prayer and the vast majority of days I’m remembering. I’m not where I should be, but I’m not where I was either. I sin a little less, fear a little less, and am moving closer to Him.

People who target a false doctrine often forget there’s more than one way to be wrong. For every churchgoer who thinks God owes them a BMW if they ask for it by faith in the name of Jesus, probably two or three wonder if there’s any point to praying at all. It’s this second group that War Room is meant to speak to.


Adam Graham is a follower of Christ and a contributor at PJ Media and Caffeinated Thoughts. He is the author of the novel, Tales of the Dim Knight (with his wife, Andrea) He has been an adult Sunday School teacher. He is also a former President of his local American Christian Fiction Writers Chapter. You can follow him on Twitter @idahoguy

[tweetthis]NEW! Two-part series on #prayer by special guest Adam Graham @idahoguy. #WarRoom[/tweetthis][tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_hidden_hashtags=”true” remove_hidden_urls=”true”]In targeting #falsedoctrine we forget there’s more than one way to be wrong. #prayer Impoverished Gospel[/tweetthis]