TOMS SHOES TAKING ON COFFEE ROASTING

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I am was somewhat surprised to read that TOMS Shoe Company is now dipping into the coffee roasting industry! As a coffee lover and a customer of TOMS, I am skeptical and intrigued all at the same time.

I am even more surprised to read on Fortune that TOMS Roasting Co. is not targeting other companies like Starbucks, but rather specialty coffee roasters like Stumptown and Intelligentsia.

The company still plans on keeping its one-for-one business model with clean water as the commodity that will given to countries in need for each bag of coffee sold. I am not sure how they plan to quantify this transaction, but I would definitely be interested to find out.

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Dear Coffee, I Love You does has a wonderfully balanced view of this business venture and offers some encouragement to the company as well as some critiques to the business model that promotes the “westerner as savior” ideology that is very present in much of humanitarian work today. I appreciate and tend to agree with that critique, but read for yourself and decide whether or not you will enjoy a cup of this new roaster. The coffee seems to be on their main site and ready for purchase! It is fairly priced and I eventually think I may give it a try.

A Sincere Sacrifice

I came across a church community located in Vancouver that is somehow connected to a few people I know. In fact, I recently found out that a friend will speaking at the church sometime in the near future. In any case, the church, St. Peter’s Fireside, is going through a series on Malachi and today I decided to take a listen to what seems to be the second sermon in that series. The sermon entitled How Have We Despised Your Name? articulated, in my opinion, one of the best explanations for the sacrificial system that I have ever heard. Many, including myself, have found the sacrificial system to be simple on the surface but as we dig deeper we find that it simultaneously complex. I think this pastor does a great job of sifting through some of the issues presented in Malachi about the sacrificial system and show how it is deeply intertwined with the Lenten season. Listen to the teaching here, located at the bottom of the page.

March Ministry Update

Greetings from Kent! I hope that this letter finds you well and that you are experiencing God’s goodness as we enter into the Lenten season! Here is an recent update on what is happening in our church and in my life!

We kicked off this semester with a new series entitled “Tough Issues”. In our conversations with students on campus, we’ve discovered that many people look favorably towards Christianity. However, there are often 1-2 issues that prevent most students from seriously entertaining Christianity. So, as a church, H2O wanted to address those issues during the first 4 weeks of the semester. To determine which “tough issues” were stumbling blocks for Kent students we gave each of our members 3-5 surveys to give to their closest friends that don’t attend H2O. In addition, we hosted a table in the Student Center to grab random students to fill out these surveys. In all, we had 700+ surveys completed. On the surveys we had eight options for students to choose from and the most popular four answers were: “Science disproves Christianity”, “The Bible cannot be trusted”, “Christians are too intolerant”, and “If a good God exists, then there wouldn’t be so much suffering”. So, we took four weeks to teach on these topics and we had many new students show up! It was a fantastic way to engage the intellectual, emotional, and social hang-ups that many students struggle with and I totally believed God used it for good! We are trusting God for what comes next!

Last weekend we had our annual men’s retreat and it was wonderful… and also quite smelly! About 230 men gathered from six churches in the Collegiate Church Network for 24 hours in Cincinnati and it was encouraging to witness all that God did. The theme for the weekend was “Men of Honor” and we entered into the life of Joseph to help us better understand what it looks like to be men who live honorable lives. We heard from a few of our pastors for the main sessions, worshipped passionately, had breakout sessions on specific topics that men struggle with, and ate a lot of food together. Our staff team was in charge of the food and as you can see in the picture (top right) we had plenty of it! I came off of the weekend thankful and also challenged. I am thankful for the quantity and the quality of men that exist in our churches. I also feel challenged because I know that God has given me a responsibility to prioritize raising up men who are noble, faithful, and loving. I am honored that God has invited me into this ministry!

I cannot believe that I have been on this journey since the beginning of June alread, but I am utterly thankful to see how God continues to use this process in my life. I am excited to inform you that I am very close to being done with this initial stage of MTD (Ministry Team Development-which essentially means support raising). I have officially crossed the 80% mark and I hoping to be done with support raising by the end of May. The end of May will mark one year since I started full-time support raising and it is overwhelming to even begin thinking about all that God has done in providing for me, humbling me, and using me.

February was a difficult month for me because I found myself with very few people who I would be able to connect with. So, I feel like I have lost a little momentum as I end this month, but I really hope that God gives me grace to push forward and to trust that he has people for me to meet with and people who will be desirous to partner with me in ministry. I am praying for a soft-heart as I finish out this process and ask for you to join with me in praying fervently for God to use the rest of this time to prepare me for the ministry ahead. God is slowly- and sometimes painfully-solidifying my identity in His truth and I do not want that to end prematurely. At the very same time, I eagerly look forward to participating more fully in our church and in campus life. Thank you for all you do to support me and hold me up. I sincerely am thankful for you and humbled by the realization that this would not be possible without your sacrifice. I pray that you would continue to hope and persevere alongside me until God brings this season to completion!

Here are some things to be praying for:

  • Be praying for the men and women of our church who attended ManMaker and Women’s Weekend! There were a ton of men and women from our churches who attended these retreats. Be praying that God meets them in sustaining the vision and hope that they received during this time.
  • Pray our upcoming Spring Break Trips. In a few weeks, a number of our students will be with other Kent State students to love and serve other communities domestically!
  • Pray for emotional and spiritual sustenance during the season of support raising. I learning how to live patiently in a time when I want immediate results. Please pray that God would guard my heart and soften it.
  • Please pray that God would use this time to prepare me for full-time ministry. I believe that God is already doing this, but I suppose that I need continual affirmation that this is actually happening. Please pray with me for that.

Thank you for all you do. I am deeply appreciative of you and am thankful that you desire to partner in ministry. I will be praying that you draw near to the Lord in this Lenten season and that you are able reflect more deeply on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Please let me know if there is anything that you need prayer for. 

Even though you haven’t been physically present with me in every phone number I have dialed or every appointment I have had, I want you to know that I have been reminded of you in those moments. God has used reminders of your sacrifice on my behalf to encourage me in moments of discouragement and frustration. Again, thank you for all you do.

 

Reflections on the Common Question of Lent

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If you were not yet aware, then let me be the first to tell you: today is Ash Wednesday and thus the beginning of Lent.

There is a Christianity Today article that was posted yesterday about the top 100 things people were giving up for Lent. This sociological sample was only taken from what people tweeted. In my opinion, the top 100 list taken from Twitter was rather unsurprising. What’s worse was the fact that these answers were evidence of the cheapened version of Lent that we have been sold.

I grew up being aware of Lent, but that was about it. I suppose I was also very aware of the fact that instead of receiving presents during Lent, I actually was expected to give something up. Even though I had absolutely no idea as to the significance of Lent, I always responded to the prodding from those who would ask what I was giving up-and to my parent’s delight, soda was often what I chose (which is number eight on the Twitter list by the way). I never really asked about why Lent took place, but I was certain that it had something to do with Christianity and giving up Coca-Cola. It was a good place to start as a young lad, but my convictions have drastically changed since that point in my life.

It has only been in the past couple of years that the observance of Lent has become extremely important to me. In the context of the liturgical year (which is not just for Catholics by the way-check my friend and colleague Eric Asp for more on this) Lent comes after Epiphany, which remembers Jesus’ divinity, and lasts for forty (but technically forty-six) days. Lent was deemed to be a forty day occasion under the Council of Nicea, which met in 325AD. The number forty may sound arbitrary, but it is actually rich with meaning. When we see passages like Exodus 34:28 where Moses waited for forty days and forty nights in preparation to receive the ten commandments from the Lord we begin to see glimmers of what Lent could actually be about. However, our focus becomes increasingly clear when we set out sights on Jesus. In the synoptic gospels we witness Jesus being led into the wilderness by the spirit for forty days and forty nights (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13). For Jesus, this time in the wilderness was also about preparation and identification.

So, what are we preparing for? What is the point of giving up Coca-Cola? The forty days of Lent lead us to holy week in which we remember and are led to worship the God who was slaughtered in our place. We remember the Jesus who was tortured, died, and placed in a tomb.

We remember something else too…

We remember the fact that he was raised to life in order that we too might walk in newness of life. In his rising he gave us a foretaste of the new creation that is seeping into this world now, but will one day burst forth and renew the face of the earth. This is what Lent prepares us to remember and celebrate.

How does giving something up fit into this equation? Giving up something during Lent is not about saving some money on Starbucks or about loosing some weight so that you can finally fit back into those pants that you really like. No. Fasting during the Lenten season is about forsaking ourselves. Fasting is not about what God gives me in return or about the benefits that I receive (read Isaiah 58:3-Israel struggled with the same thing), but it is instead about learning to forsake ourselves in hopes of turning our gaze more fully to Jesus and to our neighbor. This is and has always been the purpose of fasting during the Lenten season. One pastor says that Lent is about “learning to take sides with Jesus against ourselves”. I have always appreciated the imagery in that statement.

I am not sure about you, but I love the liturgical year. There was a time when I rebelled against it (maybe three or four years ago) but I have come to love its history and its purpose. The purpose of Lent and the liturgical year in general is to maintain a rhythm of remembrance. We absolutely need this rhythm and I think we would do well to pay attention to the tracks that were laid for us long ago. Let’s pray that Lent is a place where revival, reform, and revision take place in hearts of God’s people this year.

If you want to go through a Lenten devotional, here are some resources that may be helpful:

Henri Nouwen Lenten Devotional : The late Henri Nouwen taught in America but was born in the Netherlands and was best know for being a spiritually formative writer. Nouwen has been extremely impactful in my own life and has had tremendous impact in forming me spiritually and emotionally. Check out this devotional by subscribing via email.

Gospel Coalition Lenten Devotional: Journey to the Cross is a solid devotional that you can read digitally or in print if you’d like. The Gospel Coalition is a blog I follow and a movement of pastors and church leaders of the Reformed tradition that desire to be faithful to gospel of Christ. This devotional provides some wonderful daily rhythms that will help prepare your heart during the season of Lent.

NT Wright’s Lent for Everyone Devotional: Here is devotional by NT Wright that I have heard is good as well. Wright is a retired Anglican bishop and New Testament scholar. He has devotionals for years A, B, and C for the three year cycle in the liturgical year. 2014 is year A in the liturgical calendar.

I hope some of these resources prove helpful to you! I also hope that this Lenten season you learn what it means to forsake yourself while seeking to love Jesus and your neighbor.

SAL’s Newest Atlas EP!

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“Land” is the newest EP from Sleeping at Last just released today. I have already downloaded the EP and am currently enjoying the melodic acoustics alongside the stirring lyrics. I believe that “Land” is the first EP of the new year for O’Neal, but this is the fifth of six EP’s that makes up his Atlas collection. The next and final EP of this project will be Oceans-an instrumental EP.

I am really enjoying the soft and melodious sounds coming from this album. The lyrics of the songs entitled “North”, “South”, “East”, and “West” are creative as they are reflective and inspiring. If you get the chance, give it a listen, and check out their brief song notes here.

Competence and Calling

I am writing a paper for my seminary class and I just wrote this paragraph that I didn’t know I believed until I typed it–this can be fully attributed to the fact that I am primarily a verbal processor. This section of my paper is about competence and excellence in ministry, but I doubt that will give enough context for you to totally understand my reasoning here. For this section of the paper, I was merely asked to elucidate on my understanding of competence and excellence. Here are the few sentences I came up with to introduce my thoughts:

            My understanding of competence and excellence is directly related to my understanding of faithfulness. Competence is the acquisition of certain skills and abilities that help us to be faithful to those whom God has called us. Excellence, on the other hand, is the quality of work that we should aim to produce for the sake of God’s name and the good of His people. The reason why faithfulness must be central to our understanding of competence and excellence is because it emphasizes our fidelity to God and His people in exercising these gifts rather than highlighting the gift itself. Faithfulness must be the foundation upon which we grow in competence and excellence in ministry.

Yes, I affirm the fact that we desperately need to be equipped for ministry and that we need to be doing it with excellence, but we cannot forego faithfulness in the midst of these secondary pursuits. In some cases, I would heartily agree that competence and excellence are a part of what it means to be faithful to God and His people, but I do not think they are necessarily one and the same. What do you think?

 

Coffee Vlog #2

Hey folks! Here is our second official Coffee Vlog! In this episode, Kyle and I have some trying to put words to what we taste and smell in the Rwanda Kigeyo from Bent Tree Coffee Roasters! We talk about many other spontaneous topics and crack some jokes along the way. Enjoy this coffee tasting and let us know a kind of coffee you think we should taste next! Comment below! Thanks!

Dipping into the Donald Miller Discussion

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If you follow Donald Miller’s blog, entitled Storyline, you know that there has been quite a raucous concerning his two posts from a couple of weeks ago. I simply wanted to dip into some of Miller’s content and provide a couple of the responses that merely approach the main concern or question surrounding the ideas that Miller presented. I would also like to include some of my own affirmations and concerns with what Miller has put forth.

The first post was written sometime last week and was called I Don’t Worship God by Singing; I Connect with Him Elsewhere.  Perhaps this title is self-explanatory, but within this post Miller attempts to explain the alternatives to a “traditional” church model that he has begun to pursue. Miller elucidates these alternatives by sharing the ways in which he now seeks intimacy with God and how he learns about God. Miller explained that he rarely learns anything from hearing a sermon but rather from doing the teaching himself-he attributes this to the fact that he considers himself to be a  kinesthetic learner (learning by doing). In addition, Miller says that he experiences most intimacy with God through his work and building his company as apposed to singing in a worship service. Suffice it to say, this post created quite the domino affect.

The next response post he wrote a couple of days later and it was rather lengthy. The blog was entitled, Why I Don’t Go To Church Very Often-A Follow-Up Blog. This blog was primarily a response to some of the more concerning comments that he came across. I won’t take the time to surmise all of these here, but go ahead and give it a skim for reference and a deeper understanding of what Miller was referring to in his first blog.

Lastly, Miller wrote a blog yesterday as a third (and hopefully final) response to his original blog post. This blog post was entitled, Church Anywhere and Everywhere. I found this post to be the most clear in regard to where Miller’s heart resides. Although, I wouldn’t be surprised if you walked away from this post confused about where Miller stands. Here, Miller hones in on the doctrine of the Priesthood of all Believers and attempts to uphold it in order to provide a platform to support what his original blog post was intended to mean. He wonders, in this post, whether or not God has given us more responsibility and more authority (each of us, individually) than we have allowed ourselves to accept-hence the focus on the Priesthood of all Believers.

If you have at least skimmed through Miller’s posts then here are a couple responses for you to munch on as well:

Well, if you are still with me and want something more to think about (which, I highly doubt), then here are some of my personal thoughts on the topic.

I totally believe that there are some nuggets of wisdom in what Miller is offering up in these blogs, and I think there a lot of Christians who actually agree with him, but I think we must realize what is actually at stake here. At the heart of Miller’s blogs the question that needs to be asked is “Who is the Church?”. This is about the church’s identity and much less about alternative forms of worship or whether or not we should gather on a Sunday.

My main issue with Miller in these posts is that he does not seem to grapple with the robust vision that the New Testament offers for what the church is to be. If anything, Miller seems to be buying into the common misconception that American Evangelicalism has provided in recent years and that is that the church is to be centered around a weekly Sunday gathering. If we see church through this lens, we will always be seeing a cheapened version of what the church was actually meant to be and we will always be left discontent.

We miss the point of not only a Sunday gathering but who the church is when we limit it to hearing sermons and singing songs. I resonate with Miller’s restlessness in his desire to see the church to transcend the bounds of its Sunday gatherings and I agree! I simply don’t understand why he stops there and retreats to the rhythms that work for him. If the church is truly Christ’s bride, then we ought to hold her more dear and have a vision and a hope for who she is and who she can become. When we see that the church is not aligning with her identity found in Scripture then why we do continue to sit passively in our pews as if we have no influence. The church is continually being re-formed and that is ok-let’s engage in that process rather than retreating from it!

The New Testament confronts us with an intense perception of the church as a community that gathers to encourage, equip, and remember God together and then scatters in order to partner with God in reaching out and restoring the world. We need to re-read books like Ephesians to gain an understanding of the church that is not limited to a mere Sunday gathering, but a community that lives life alongside one another.

I appreciated Miller’s thoughts and glad he began the discussion and also glad that the responses I read were respectful and helpful. Hopefully this stuff gets you thinking!