Heard at Café: 11/28/2017

This week we wrapped up Café's November theme - talking about love. ❥

In previous November weeks, we spent time trying to love and connect with God (Café Refill) and learning about God's love for us and others (The Parables of the Lost Sheep & the Prodigal Son - both in Luke 15). So on Tuesday we read from 1 Corinthians 13 - a scripture famous for describing love (and also for being read at weddings!):
13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
After a semester of talking about faith, hope, and love, this passage seemed to be a fitting way to bring these three ideas together. While faith and hope are important and worthy of pursuing, and while intelligence and giving to others and kind actions are good things, Paul says that they are nothing without love. Because love is the greatest of all these things.
He goes on to describe what perfect love looks like, and while it seems like a "pretty" idea in theory, it's a lot more difficult to live out. We may consider ourselves loving people, but are we ^^this kind of love? We discussed in groups the parts of the scripture that we thought were feasible to accomplish, and the parts that were really challenging. Answers varied, but we all came to the conclusion that this kind of perfect love felt unattainable.
This kind of love, or "agape" as they called it in the Greek, was not meant to explain friend love, romantic love, or even our love for things like coffee and desserts and music... instead it was a word specifically describing God's love for us. Patient, kind, persevering, protective, trustworthy, hopeful, unfailing. The kind of love that we should spend our lives aspiring to live out, and trying to become more and more like. While we'll never love perfectly, we can love better. We can strive to be Christ-like with all of our words and actions and thoughts, and ultimately help others to see God's perfect love through us.

Heard at Café: 10/31/2017

Café had a spooky, "Stranger Things" theme this week, and we began the evening by talking about the things that scare us - rollercoasters, spiders, snakes, failure, the dark, etc.

We also talked about how we handle situations when we're scared. Do we wait patiently, hoping for a better outcome? Do we take matters into our own hands? Do we try to distract ourselves with other things?

People have a tendency to get worried/scared/frustrated when they aren't sure how something is going to turn out, but this is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it's been happening since the beginning of time, and the scripture we read at Cafe proved just that...
Exodus 32:1-8, 19-24
32 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”
Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’...

19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20 And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.
21 He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?” 22 “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ 24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”
At this point, the Israelites had seen God work in powerful ways - they had been set free from the Egyptians, they had walked through a parted Red Sea, and now they were on their way to the promised land.
And yet - they still had doubts, still got anxious, and were still acting on their own accord when they worried about the way things were going.

The question posed to all of us was, in essence, what is our default setting when things don't go according to plan? When we're anxious/scared/angry/stressed/sad/hungry/bored/lonely? Do we look to God, or do we try to distract ourselves with other things?

The Israelites chose to make a golden calf to worship, which may seem dumb, but really - how would we react in that same scenario? We might not configure a cow out of gold, but it may not be our first instinct to look God. It might be that we look to relationships, or Netflix, or food, or sports, or whatever we may find on the internet to fill us up - but when we do that, we end up falling short of God's desire for our lives.

Heard at Café: 10/17/2017

After taking a week off for Fall Break, we were back in the full swing of things at Café last week with a special focus on Globalscope!

Lauren Lillquist was our guest speaker, and began talking about the idea of encouragement - specifically, how the people in our lives can encourage us with their words and actions.

We talked from the book of Romans, and how Paul was trying to encourage the early Roman church through a letter he had written to them. He spoke a lot about the idea that Christianity is for everyone, not just for the Jews but also for non-Jewish people (a.k.a. Gentiles), because there seemed to be a lot of division amongst the Romans. As the letter is coming to an end, he had these words for them:
4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
As it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.”
10 Again, it says, “Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.”
11 And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; let all the peoples extol him.”
12 And again, Isaiah says,
“The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.”
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Though the Roman church was not perfect or wholly unified at the time, Paul wrote to them to essentially say: be encouraged. Let's remember what God has done and look forward to the things he has promised us. Look back, remember, and through all these things you can have hope.

It can be easy to feel hopeless when bad things happen or when life doesn't go the way that we want it to, but God wants more for us than hopelessness. Because of Jesus, the fulfillment of so many Old Testament prophesies, we can have hope that God is still promising good for us.

We can even look back on our own lives and see how God has been good, and encourage others to do the same. Paul doesn't just tell the Romans to be encouraged, he is telling them to do something through the encouragement they receive. We, too, can act on knowing that we're loved and accepted by God, and go on to help others see how God is good.

Heard at Café: 10/3/2017

Last night we had the pleasure of hearing from three of the Café interns: Jake, Eric, and Macy.

We started by discussing various kinds of weakness. Whether they're funny (being too weak to climb "hills"), embarrassing (throwing up at track practice after eating an entire pizza), or more serious (struggles, injuries, etc.), the concept of weakness is present in all of our lives.

Paul, one of the very first Christians, wrote about this idea to some friends of his and said the following:
2 Corinthians 12:6-10 (NIV)
Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul had every reason to boast: he was a hard-worker, a devout follower of Jesus, and was well-respected by his peers. But Paul also understood that God's power was so much greater than anything he could do on his own. He begged God (multiple times, too) to take away his "thorn", and his prayers were not answered how he had hoped. Instead God responded with, "My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness." Paul knew that having his "weakness", though he clearly didn't want it, only helped him show others that it was Jesus working through him since he couldn't do everything by himself.

In all of the tough things that Paul had to endure, he was quick to point out that it only helped him grow closer to God and understand Christ's power. This helps us keep in mind that ultimately our gifts and willpower and strengths come from God, and that we can only do so much on our own. We all have weaknesses, but it's reassuring to know that God is working through them.

Heard at Café: 9/26/2017

On Tuesday night, we began Café by discussing one of the most pressing questions of our generation...

Who would win in a fight:

After some serious debate, we moved on to talking about other forms of wrestling - not just physically, but mentally, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually - and eventually turned to a story from the Old Testament of the Bible about what it's like to wrestle with God. 

Jacob, a man known for his trickstery, deceives his dying father into giving him the family blessing... an honor that was intended for his brother, Esau. After doing this, he ends up running for his life until he decides to stop running and face what's coming for him.
Genesis 32:22-30 (NIV)
22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” 29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

Jacob, after trying to flee from his problems, meets some sort of manifestation of God and ends up wrestling with him all night until he can't take anymore. It's a strange story, but it's important to note that God allows Jacob to fight with him until daybreak - fighting him as an equal, not instantly overpowering him, and eventually giving him the name Israel which means "the ones who struggle with God". It's almost as if God knew that his people would be struggling with him for years to come.....

God uses this situation as an opportunity to say "I know you're going to struggle, but I'm still here in it with you." A lot has happened in the past few weeks - on campus/in our country/around the world - so it's reassuring to know that God allows us to come to Him with our questions and doubts and struggles, and that He's willing to wrestle with us through it all. God meets us where we're at, and reminds us that working through questions and struggles and doubts with Him will make only make us stronger.

Heard at Café: 9/19/2017

Café was a little different this week because we had a guest speaker. Tom Basile, who works with BAM (Business-As-Mission) ministries, talked about some of his life experiences and how he has seen God moving in the lives of people all over the world. He and his wife have been living in Puebla, Mexico for the past few years and are currently working to provide clean water resources to the people of that area.

He posed the question to us: "If you had an unlimited amount of money, what would you do with it?" People said some fun-related things they'd spend money on, such as cool cars or traveling the world, but a lot of people eventually concluded that they would want to do something to make the world a better place.

Tom's work with BAM has opened his eyes to how we can create positive change in communities all over the world by using what people already know and are able to do. Whether it's building wells or creating tea from local plants/herbs, everybody can contribute something to help their community prosper and to ultimately grow the kingdom of God.

Heard at Café: 9/12/2017

Amidst all the chaos caused by Irma (Irmagerd!), we were still able to put on Cafe last week thanks to some hard-working interns and staff. We began the evening by talking about disruptions, and how they can sometimes challenge us to re-evaluate how we go about our day. The hurricane/tropical storm was an easy example to reference since it caused power outages and cancelled classes, but we also talked more deeply about when we are challenged with new ideas or are reminded of some things that Jesus once said. One such thing was referenced in the Scripture we read and discussed together:
Matthew 9:9-13
9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus intentionally picked a tax collector to become one of his disciples, which would not have made sense to the people/leaders of that time for many reasons. Tax collectors were seen as traitors and cheats because of their allegiance to Rome and the way they conducted their work, so they were generally not liked or accepted by their communities. The Pharisees (religious leaders) saw this and were very skeptical of Jesus' motivation in choosing someone that seemed so flawed, but Jesus responds to them by questioning their motivations. He disrupts their way of doing things and their way of thinking by challenging them to re-evaluate what they know. He quotes "I desire mercy, not sacrifice" from the Old Testament to remind the Pharisees that God doesn't necessarily want us to just atone for what we've done wrong - - he wants us instead to realize that we are all flawed humans in need of forgiveness and grace.
When we start looking at Christianity as a list of rules to be followed, we begin missing the mark. Adrienne, CCF's newest staff member, had previously mentioned that she and her husband are trying to raise their children to be passionate followers of Jesus, not just well-behaved child robots. It's a funny sentiment on the surface, but ideally this is what we/CCF want for you all as well. We want you to know that you don't have to be perfect and get everything right all the time - it's an unattainable goal that we'll all fall short of achieving. Instead, our hope and desire is for you all to become passionate followers of Jesus - loving others as he did, being welcoming to all, and realizing that we're all in need of grace and compassion.

Heard at Café: 9/5/2017

This semester at Café, we'll be talking about the concepts of faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Up first: faith!

After Monday night's tough loss to Tennessee, we questioned why we put so much faith in sports teams (especially Atlanta sports teams.. too soon?) and began Café by talking about things we put our faith in - be it your alarm clock in the morning, commuters on the interstate, cashiers at grocery stores, etc. The faith we put in these things and people can also be seen as what/who we choose to trust. What does it take for somebody/something to earn your trust? What makes someone trustworthy? Who do we trust most in our own lives?

We then looked to the Bible for examples of people who had shown great faithfulness and who had trusted that God was working and leading them into a better place.
Hebrews 11:1-4, 8-12, 39- 12:3
1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. 4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead...
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore...
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
This chunk of Scripture was written to encourage early Christians who were struggling to see why following Jesus was worth it. It was a reminder to look back and reflect on people who had been heroes of the faith - people who chose to trust in God, even when it wasn't easy - and the amazing things that resulted from their faithfulness.

With all this in mind, faith doesn't just come down to a quick system of beliefs, but rather a choice to follow based on who we believe God is... Jeremy talked about a friend of his who did not think highly of God because of baggage from her past. Seeing churches be hypocritical and seeing peers talk about God but then act like jerks did not sit well with her, so she neither liked nor trusted this God. Towards the end of her college years, though, she began asking questions about Christianity and decided to refer to God as Greg - a neutral name to her that didn't carry any negative connotations. After learning more and more about Greg, she realized they saw eye-to-eye on a lot of things and that they both cared a lot about people. It just took her calling him a different name to fully understand who God was, and to choose to follow Him.

So, what does this look like for us? Do we believe in God, and, if so, are we choosing to be faithful and follow Him? As Tech students, how are we choosing to follow God in our day-to-day lives? God doesn't promise that following Him will be easy but he does promise that it will be worth it, and the faith "hall-of-famers" named in Hebrews 11 are great examples of people we can try to emulate as we strive to "run with perseverance the race marked out for us".

Heard at Café: 4/25/2017

To end the Spring 2017 semester, we had the classiest of classy Cafés on Tuesday night. There were bountiful amounts of cheesecake, Shirley temples, nice attire, and an opportunity to make your own monocle.

We also talked about change, and how the end of the school year can mean some major life changes for some people - seniors about to graduate, interns about to move on, students about to study abroad, people leaving for the summer, etc. While these life changes can be daunting at times, it's comforting to know that God is still with us through it all.

Jeremy talked about 2 stories from the Bible that help illustrate the idea of God with us. The first was from the Old Testament - the story of Moses being told by God that he would help free his people from the oppression of the Egyptians.
The LORD said, 10 "So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’
“This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation. 16 “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. 17 And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’"
God asks Moses to do something that is way out of his comfort zone, and Moses responds just how any of us probably would - by asking questions. God doesn't promise Moses it will be easy, but he does promise to be with him through it all. He also gives Moses an odd response when Moses asks for God's name, just saying "I am who I am." Translated, this phrase is spelled out YHWH in English, and looks like this in Hebrew:

It's an odd name for a lot of reasons, but a major one being that this word, YHWH, is a verb as opposed to a noun. God is saying he isn't meant to be distant, or something we can easily describe or put in a box. Instead, he tells us that he is, was, and will always be.

This response is similar to what Jesus tells his disciples during his final days on earth after the resurrection. Matthew 28:16-20 says:
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
While Jesus had shown the disciples time and time again that he was the Messiah - performing miracles, resurrecting, etc - they still doubted at times. Even with this doubt, Jesus challenges them to go make disciples of all nations. And while I'm sure they had many questions, they end up following his commands and changing the world for the rest of time. Their willingness to follow Jesus, though they probably felt unqualified and inadequate, is the reason why you and I are here today - reading/writing about Jesus and how he is/was/will always be. Jesus doesn't tell the disciples it will be easy, and for many of them it wasn't, but he does tell them that he will be with them always, to the very end of the age.

Heard at Café: 4/18/2017

The penultimate Café began with the musical stylings of Jen Turnello, a spotlight on the paintings of Ebie McDonnell, and learning more about the weekly Compassion event, Knit-A-Square. Then Jeremy began his talk by talking about scars - how we all have them and how they tell a story of where we've been and mistakes we've made. They are reminders of pain from the past that we've healed from and that no longer hurt us. But sometimes we carry pain with us - internal hurts/scars - often in the form of regret or wishing things had turned out differently.

Peter, one of Jesus' disciples, knew this feeling all too well. While he had followed Jesus around and loved him deeply, Peter quickly turned his back on Jesus and claimed to have not known him when things got tough. This denial had been predicted by Jesus and happened as Jesus was being arrested and on his way to being crucified. Peter had refused to believe Jesus' prediction, so when it happened he was devastated by his ability to fall away so easily.
But then - 3 days after Jesus died - he was resurrected and came to find the disciples...
John 21:1-17
Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. 5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. 6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. 7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. 
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.
In this moment Jesus makes himself known to Peter, and reconnects with him. He asks him again, "Peter, do you love me?" Jesus asks 3 times, echoing the 3 times he had been denied, and gives Peter a moment to realize that he doesn't have to carry that pain with him. Jesus challenges him to look ahead rather than look back on what's already happens, and he shows forgiveness and grace in the process.

Jesus met Peter at the point where he probably felt hopeless and ashamed, and helps him realize that it's more important to move forward than to dwell on the hurt. Life didn't end for Peter in the moments where he felt weakest and most scared, and it doesn't end for us in similar moments either. We listened to the song "Roll Away Your Stone" by Mumford and Sons, and tried to put ourselves in the shoes of Peter - what it would've felt like before/during/after he had seen his Messiah again, and how he would go on to accomplish incredible things in the name of Jesus.

Heard at Café: 4/4/2017

Spring was in full force this week at Café as we had Coffee Hour in the front yard, decorated the tables with flowers, and hyped up the Spring Retreat (April 7-9, ahh!). Some interns gave the talk this week, and had some things to say about springtime as well.
As the seasons change - as dark, wintry times give way to brighter, warmer, sunshine-ier days - we are reminded that hard times end with the promise of better days to come. Much like the Israelites of the Old Testament, sometimes we wonder if all the troubles we face will ever come to an end. We are promised good things by the God we believe in, but more often than not these promises feel like they will never come to fruition. Thankfully, we have prophets like Isaiah who give words of encouragement when the easiest thing to feel is despair.
Isaiah 55: 10-13
10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”
There is a Hebrew word that echoes these sentiments: "shalom", meaning peace/harmony/wholeness. We all have moments when the idea of "shalom" seems like an unattainable feeling, but God promises that the world will be restored to the way God intended. The interns each gave examples of times when they were struggling with this idea, and how they've had people in their life give them hope and help them think through what it means to feel whole. It's reassuring to know that we're always on our way, and that we can surround ourselves with people who will remind us of spring when the winter seems to last forever.

Heard at Café: 3/28/2017

This week at Café, we put an international spin on the night by singing a song in Malay, nomming on Chilean cocadas and Mexican horchata, marking places we've visited on the CCF wall map, and learning a little bit about Globalscope (an exchange program that CCF partners with).

Jeremy talked about Romans 12:1-2 and 9-18, and we discussed the Scripture at our tables after re-reading it in The Message version:
12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you...
...9-10 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
11-13 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. 17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.
These verses come from Paul who wrote them at a time when he and other new Christians were learning how to follow Jesus in cultures that they were unfamiliar with. We are challenged to follow Jesus above all else and to allow God to bring out the best in us even when things feel foreign and difficult.

We then heard from some of our friends who are currently studying abroad with Globalscopes in Scotland, Spain, and Chile. These friends, like Paul, wrote letters to CCF to tell stories about adjusting to a new culture and how they've grown in their faith since arriving - allowing themselves to be transformed by the renewing of their minds and being representations of Jesus to people who think of Christianity as a foreign concept. Mark Jackson even made an appearance, and told us about some of his experiences with Globalscope and how he's seen dramatic changes in the lives of his Chilean friends because of their time in campus ministry and learning more about who Jesus is.

Heard at Café: 3/14/2017

Before Spring Break, three of our interns spoke at Café about anger and what the Bible says about it. Emily, James, and Michael spoke about some of their experiences with anger and different ways they've dealt with it in the past.
While some people keep anger bottled up, some people lash out, and some people act passive aggressively, we all have to deal with anger at one point or another and we've all had moments where we haven't dealt with it in the most healthy of ways.

We then read from the book of Ephesians to see what the early church thought about anger:
Ephesians 4:25-5:2 NIV
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Paul, one of the world's first missionaries and the writer of Ephesians, challenges us to get rid of all forms of anger, and goes so far as to say that we should, instead, forgive each other and treat each other with kindness and compassion.
But what happens when our anger is righteous - when the thing we're angry about is worth being angry about? When things happen out of pure bitterness, rage, malice, slander, etc? When things are done with an evil/malicious intent? Well, Paul challenges us to forgive anyways, just as Christ God forgave us.

Heard at Café [Unplugged]: 3/7/2017

Last week at CCF, we celebrated the Week of Compassion & gave up from something every day to learn what it's like to live without something that we use as a part of our daily lives. Tuesday's focus was on electricity, and how 1/9 of the world doesn't have access to it (and how many more than that experience spotty electricity, at best).

In order to honor the Week of Compassion, Café happened last Tuesday sans electricity. We filled the room with candles, made desserts without using the ovens, and talked without microphones. While it was pretty different than a normal Tuesday night, Café "Unplugged" was a cool way to experience how a lack of electricity can make things more difficult, and it helped give more meaning to the talk which revolved around the idea of being thankful regardless of circumstance.

We read from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22:
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.
While the verses in this passage are pretty simple, they carry a pretty significant message. Paul wrote this to the people of Thessalonica after facing some hardships of his own, so the words "rejoice always" come with a deeper meaning - in the good times and the bad, it's always worth celebrating what God is doing in your life.

What better song to end the night with than Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", which, when translated, means "praise the Lord". The final verse says "And even though it all went wrong, I'll stand before the Lord of Song, with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah"... Even in the tough, in the times of struggle, we can hold on to what is good and find those things to be thankful for.

Heard at Café: 2/28/2017

Are we paying attention? This was one of the questions posed to us at Café on Tuesday. This semester we've been using songs to help give a better illustration of what the Bible is trying to tell us, and this week we chose a song based on its lyrics but also because of its music video:

According to OK Go,
"The song "The One Moment" is a celebration of (and a prayer for) those moments in life when we are most alive. Humans are not equipped to understand our own temporariness; it's deeply beautiful, deeply confusing, and deeply sad that our lives and our world are so fleeting. We have only these few moments. Luckily, among them there are a few that really matter, and it's our job to find them."
When we look back on our lives, we can think of specific moments that are pivotal to the person we've become. Although just one moment, these instances shape our lives for days/months/years to come.

One particular moment that was definitive of Jesus' time on earth was something called "the transfiguration". We read from Luke 9:28-36 and discussed what it would've been like to be in the shoes of the disciples who witnessed this event.
28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)
34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.
Peter, John, and James head down from the mountain dumbfounded. The transfiguration was probably a moment that gave them absolute clarity and certainty in their belief in Jesus, but it's not too long after this that these guys feel confused and defeated again. Even after witnessing undeniable proof of Jesus' importance, the disciples still go on to experience doubt and hard times in the future.

And if the disciples experienced doubt - even while being a part of events like this - then surely we, too, are allowed to question and struggle with what we believe. More importantly, though, we can learn from the disciples and understand that Jesus wants more from us than just a belief that he is who he says he is; he wants a relationship with us, too. After all, Jesus came down from the mountain to continue his ministry and continue living among his disciples.

Frederick Buechner, a Christian theologian, quickly sums up this thought with a quote:
"It is not objective proof of God's existence that we want, but, whether we use religious language for it or not, the experience of God's presence. That is the miracle we are really after. And that is also, I think, the miracle we really get."
The transfiguration of Jesus was an experience of God's presence for the disciples, and it was probably a moment they looked back on and clung to during times of fear and uncertainty. We may not get a "transfiguration moment" in our lifetime, but if we're paying attention we can experience God showing up in our lives in other ways.

Café ended with a Lenten challenge: to pay attention. We can do this in a number of ways...

  1. Look at the Bible. Read through one of the Gospel stories (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), and find one example from each passage/chapter of God showing up.
  2. Look at your own life. Find an example each day during Lent of God showing up in your life. 
  3. Look to others. Talk through some of these things with your friends or someone you trust, and think about how God is showing up through the people in your life.

We'd love to hear how you guys are paying attention during Lent. Let us know by dropping a note in Mugshot, talking to a member of the Café team, or a leaving comment here. 

Heard at Café [Refill]: 2/21/2017

ICYMI, here's the playlist from Café Refill this week:

Heard at Café: 2/14/2017

There was a special Valentine's theme this week at Café, and Marc & Leslie Smith were our guest speakers!

They talked about love, and the kind of love that the Bible challenges us to live out. While romantic love is usually associated with Valentine's Day and is essential to any great marriage, the love mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13 requires a lot more of us. It requires maturity, grace towards others, humility, and selflessness.
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 
8 Love never fails. 
But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Marc & Leslie shared some great stories about their kids, and how their kids teach them more about what this kind of love looks like every day. Sometimes it's easy to love people (when they're being sweet/fun/well-behaved), but other times it can be challenging (when they have stomach viruses/pee on the floor/playfully hit you harder than they probably should). The important thing, though, is that we choose to love others above all else because that's exactly what Jesus did for us.

Heard at Café: 2/7/2017

Café began on Tuesday with this simple challenge...

Fill in the blank: I hope ______________________.

We grow up hoping for many things... hoping to do many things... hoping to become the person we want to be...
But as we get older, when we hope for something and end up disappointed instead, it can be easy to turn to cynicism as a way to cope with all forms of suffering. Anything from failing a test, to watching the Falcons lose the Superbowl, to missing out on a great opportunity, to losing a loved one... life isn't always easy, but we can choose how we deal with these forms of suffering.

Paul tells us some wise words about suffering in Romans 1:1-5.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Rob Cosby made a guest appearance at Café on Tuesday, and told us about what this passage has meant to him. Last April, Rob woke up with extreme back pain and lost feeling in his legs, causing an unexpected trip to the hospital where he learned that he had suffered a spinal stroke. The doctors guessed he would eventually get better, but they didn't know how long it would take for Rob to regain any sort of function in his legs. He spent the next few months at The Shepherd Center, going through rehabilitation and persevering every day to help his legs get stronger. During one of his first nights in the hospital, Rob came across the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and watched it. When the movie ended and the credits began to roll, the song "Stay Alive" by José Gonzalez played... and the lyrics stuck with Rob throughout the rest of his recovery journey. But who could explain why better than Rob himself, who created a video montage of his experience to this song:

Rob's story is an incredible, real-life example of what Paul was trying to say in Romans 1:1-5. We know that suffering can lead to hope if we persevere and grow along the way. While his condition has improved dramatically and he walks to and from class everyday, Rob is still working to get stronger and healthier. While things aren't always easy, they can be good... and Rob ended his story by reading some words that have meant a lot to him over the past year:
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Heard at Café: 1/31/2017

On Tuesday night, the Café crowd had to choose between two songs to be part of the ongoing soundtrack of the semester. It was a match-up for the history books:
"Waiting On the World to Change" by John Mayer vs. "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson...

and the winner was.....

While John Mayer takes a more passive approach to the troubles of the world, the King of Pop challenges us to be the change we want to see. As he says in the song, "If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself then make a change."

Jeremy then connected the lyrics of "Man in the Mirror" to the way we should approach faith. It's often easier to take a passive/"Waiting On the World to Change" approach, but God ultimately wants a lot more from us than just waiting around for something good to happen. We talked about the idea of faith expressing itself in love... an easy thing to say, but a lot harder to actually do. As James tells us in the New Testament:
James 2:14-26 NIV
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
While we can tell people what we believe, the Bible tells us that God wants us to live in a way that shows people who Jesus is, representing him through our words AND actions. We are called to have "Man in the Mirror" faiths, to press into sometimes uncomfortable situations for the betterment of others, and to show people that they are loved and that they matter.

Heard at Café: 1/24/2017

This week Café had an extra cozy vibe, and Lauren Lillquist was the guest speaker.
We talked about feeling cozy and how taking it easy is sometimes necessary, but that God ultimately calls us to do a lot more than just feel comfortable. In the past few years it's become common for phrases like "you do you" to become life mottos for people, but this is not a new phenomenon because people have been living with mentality for millenia. 
Shortly after the death and resurrection of Jesus, a man named Paul made it his life's mission to tell people about Jesus. He eventually made it to the city of Ephesus and spent 3 years there making friends and helping start the Ephesian church. A few years after Paul had left the Ephesians, he was in jail for telling people about Christianity when he heard about his old friends in Ephesus... Paul was not happy with what he had heard, and decided to write the Ephesians a letter:
Ephesians 5:1-20 NIV
1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.....
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
While this letter seems harsh, it's important to understand "the why" behind the letter. From this text, we can gather two themes:

  1. Paul knows you have to earn the right to be heard.
    • Paul had known the Ephesians for years, and had developed a strong friendship with them.
    • Paul, the first and only the Christian the Ephesians probably would've met, took his role as a Christian model very seriously.
    • The Ephesians trusted Paul because of the example he set for them, and they would've taken his words to heart. 
  2. Paul tells the Ephesians to do everything in love.
    • Though this letter comes across as Paul scolding the Ephesians, he begins this part of the letter with the words "follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children."
    • Paul loved the people of Ephesus. He was their role model, but he was also their friend. And as their friend, Paul told the Ephesians as straight up as he could that they were missing the point. 
    • Paul challenges the Ephesians to stop doing these things because they were keeping them from drawing closer to God and keeping others from seeing who God really is.
We closed out the evening by listening to "Sigh No More" by Mumford & Sons and reflecting on the lyrics,

"Love; it will not betray you
Dismay or enslave you, it will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be
There is a design, an alignment to cry
Of my heart to see,
The beauty of love as it was made to be."

Heard at Café: 1/17/2017

Bop Bahhhhhhhhhh

This week at Café, we talked about what it means to settle. Settling isn't necessarily a bad thing, but as Christians we are urged to do more than just settle when it comes to our faith. Paul says something similar in one of his letters to the people of Corinth:
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
The Corinthians, people who prided themselves on athletic competition, would have related to what Paul was saying here. Instead of undergoing strict training to represent their hometown in "the games", Paul tells them to work just as hard towards a more worthwhile goal - representing Jesus with everything they do.

Heard at Café: 1/10/17

To kick off Café for the Spring 2017 semester, Jeremy introduced the idea of creating a soundtrack for our lives. Every Tuesday night this semester, we'll be talking about something from the Bible and connecting it with a song as to further understand what Scripture is telling us and how it applies to our lives today.

Although it's now January and Christmas decorations have come down, we talked about letting the spirit of Christmas dwell among us. John 1:1-14 tells us,
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
We all have people in our lives who have been with us through it all... those dependable people who have been present through the bad times and the good, who know us well, who are trustworthy and consistent, who have chosen to dwell in our lives and be fully there. God chose to do the same when he came into the world through his son, Jesus. These verses are the Christmas story in summary, but they tell us that Jesus is still present with us. The words of John were written decades after the death of Jesus, and even after all those years the light/Jesus had not left & still has not to this day.

The song featured this week was "Christmas Lights" by Coldplay. It was chosen because it is a good representation of that feeling of loss, but realizing that we have reminders of hope all around us. The light dwells among us, full of grace and truth.