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".