BEATLES Mug

Mug - 16My dad really likes this mug. I’ll admit, The Beatles have never been my favorite band, but I do enjoy their timelessly catchy tunes as much as the next average joe. Of course enough has already been said about them and the deep imprint they have left in the history of modern music and culture–I couldn’t possibly say anything new about all that. But for me personally, when I hear The Beatles (or drink coffee out of their yellow submarine), it brings back memories of all the music my dad and mom listened to… Especially the music they listened to when I was a kid, and the stations they would tune into during long trips in our family’s old Astro mini-van. I remember hearing as much Elvis and Creedence Clearwater Revival as I did The Beatles. Sometimes my mom would bring her cassette tapes and Amy Grant would all the sudden find herself doing an encore for The Beach Boys. I was too young to understand or care about the differences. My parents’ music all blended together. One moment we’d be listening to John Denver sing “Rocky Mountain High” and the next we would be hearing tunes from the traveling Gospel quartet who had been visiting our church a week earlier, peddling their cassette tapes along the way. My parents religiously (pun intended) bought the tapes of every person and group that came through our church–I’m not kidding. A few years ago I found a box that had close to a hundred cassettes in it–all from people who had visited our church over the years to share their music.

The point is… My parents didn’t play music, and they didn’t sing either, but they loved to listen and they loved to collect it. And they taught me to explore the art form on my own, and to discover for myself what I liked and what I didn’t. I think I was in 5th or 6th grade when I started really getting into music enough to want to own the stuff I liked. My parents would buy me blank cassettes, and then I would record stuff right off the radio. I remember hearing the DJ on 99.5 WZPL announce a song that was about to come on, and I would dash across the room so I could hit Play & Record on the tape deck. And my older cousins had tapes that they would let me copy. My cousin Toby introduced me to Bon Jovi’s “Slippery When Wet” — changed my life. That was back when Jon Bon Jovi was an actual rockstar, before someone kidnapped him and removed all the testosterone from his body.

My early musical tastes were widely diverse. By the time I was in high school I was practically in love with Amy Grant, because I had been hearing her sing since I was in kindergarten. But that didn’t stop me from listening to Soundgarden or Metallica, and REO Speedwagon when no one else was around. I remember one time I was in an IRC music store with my dad, and he was letting me pick out an album for my birthday–I chose “Appetite for Destruction” by the infamous Guns N’ Roses. He just shook his head and said, “OK, but don’t show mom.”

Like I said, my parents really let me figure the whole music thing out on my own. When I was young, I heard what they liked, and as I grew older, they gave me the freedom and independence to decide what kinds of music I liked. Just because they didn’t like something, or because some dumb televangelist like Jimmy Swaggart said it was evil, didn’t mean they would stop me from listening to it. And I’m so grateful for that now. They never bought into all the crap about “christian” music versus “secular” music, and how non-Christian music was all from the devil. My youth pastor and his wife were the opposite of my parents when it came to music. They were good people, and I learned some good things from them, but their views on music were not among the lessons I chose to retain. I always thought it was kind of funny that they cared so much about it. I mean, at the outset of every trip we took, they would assign a student to go around checking everyone’s music to make sure no one had anything non-Christian with them. It was fascist and imperial. And we all know the proper response to something imperial–(thank you, Star Wars.) So I made it my mission to sneak as much non-Christian music as I could on board the church bus. And I was successful at it too. I was a supplier for the handful of other “rebels” as well.  How did I accomplish this? How was I so great at smuggling contraband past the music police? Simple. My parents would let me use the outer cases of their Christian music CDs and cassettes to camouflage my music on the inside. When they came around to check my music, they would just see Michael W. Smith, Carmen, and of course Amy Grant… Never knowing that inside was Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and The Doors. Well, ok… Some of the Amy Grant cases actually had the Amy Grant cassettes in them.

Of course when I journeyed off to Christian college, things were on a whole new level. There was no actual rule against having non-Christian music, just a heavy fog of rampant judgmentalism toward those who did. I discovered this firsthand when the worship leader who lived next to me in the dorm almost had a stroke after seeing the Led Zeppelin poster on the outside of my door. I discovered it even more when during my second semester, my room was broken into and all the band posters (including a 6 foot Sgt. Pepper’s display) were all ripped from the walls and replaced with notes warning my roommate and I about our impending journey on the highway to Hell. But we had fun with that sort of thing. A few of my friends got together one night and did a live cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze for the entire campus. That didn’t go over too well. But anyway… “we all want to change the world.”

And it’s great, what kind of memories a coffee mug can conjure up.

Originally posted on Instagram @ajcoffman and Facebook on December 4, 2014

Winebrenner Mug

Winebrenner Mug
Mug - 08As one of the previous Curry House regulars pointed out yesterday, sometimes these mugs have seen a little more than just coffee and tea. Such is definitely the case with this Winebrenner mug, which has seen its fair share of rice and curry.

It’s hard to think about my time in the curry house without also thinking about Winebrenner–together the two occupied nearly all of my time between 2008 and 2010. We were always grateful that the professors and staff at the seminary encouraged us so much, with many of them even finding occasion to come to our house themselves and share in our weekly curry night meal.

I think what is most interesting to me when I think back on curry night, is that none of it was planned. The four of us guys who lived in the first incarnation of the Curry House had already been cooking and sharing Indian food with our neighbors for years prior to us moving to Findlay. It’s just what we liked to do. It was hard to explain that at times, especially when leaders and pastors from some of the other churches in town would come to visit–always looking for the secret of our success; always wanting to figure out how to duplicate what we were doing. We always told them the same thing… The truth was that we really didn’t know what was happening most of the time, or why. I moved to Findlay so I could attend Winebrenner without having to commute four hours there and four hours back every week. I didn’t expect (none of us did) that within a few months of moving, a hundred people would be coming over to our place for dinner. It was not always that convenient, and there were many times when we didn’t think we could keep doing it (it was kind of expensive for four graduate students), but we continued on, putting ourselves into God’s hands and trusting him to provide–and of course he did. In four years we never had to call off the meal.

For those out there wondering how to do ministry… It’s not as complicated as we’ve tried to make it. It might include going to bible college or seminary, but it doesn’t have to. All you have to do is look at what God has already given to you, and then share it with those around you—for free!

Originally posted on Instagram @ajcoffman on April 18, 2014

Russian Espresso Cup

Mug - 07This cup is really different from the others I’ve talked about. It’s not a traditional mug by any means, but I have had coffee and tea in it before, and it is the perfect size for an espresso shot. I bought this little tumbler at a factory that produces all sorts of similar goods. It was in an old Russian town called Semyonov, which was a few hours from Nizhny Novgorod — where I was studying for the semester.

It is hard for me to believe that was just over 10 years ago now. When I see the way Russia is often characterized in the news, whether because of the Olympics or because of the actions of its government, I just think to myself–that’s not the Russia I remember.  Those aren’t the people who brought me into their lives, into their homes, who took care of me like I was one of them.

Experiencing Russia was a life changing endeavor for me. It challenged me in several ways. Just living in a city was a new experience for me. It’s really too much to go into for a small post such as this, but I have written about it much more extensively before. If you follow this link, or type it into your browser, it will take you to the chapter of a book I finished writing in 2008 about my time in college. This particular chapter can be read apart from the rest of the book, and is a stand-alone story about the time I spent in Russia.

http://crossing-kcu.com/10-walking-in-russia/

Anyway, that’s all for today’s installment. As they say in Russia, “paca.” Until next time.

Originally posted on Instagram @ajcoffman on April 17, 2014

Laura’s Mug

Laura’s Mug
Laura's MugI really love this mug. There is none other exactly like it on planet Earth. It was a gift from my friend Laura, a.k.a. @sweetlauralai (she also painted it herself, which makes it even more awesome). I met Laura at Kentucky Christian University back in 2002. I was skeptical at first. My bros and I were a close knit group. To be honest, there weren’t very many girls that you could just have fun hanging out with on the campus back then. They were either the kind who looked down at you for listening to ‘non-Christian’ music, watching rated R movies, and wearing jeans to chapel services–or they were the kind who just wanted to graduate with their MRS degree. There were some exceptions of course. Laura was one of the exceptions. I realized that when she was hanging out with us dudes one night, and during a conversation she just lifted her leg up and farted really loud–then went on like nothing happened. We were buddies after that. I think Laura was only at KCU for about a year or so before transferring to Johnson Bible College (now Johnson University), but we still stayed in contact and whenever our larger group of friends would come to my parent’s house to visit in Indiana, she was usually there. These days, I haven’t talked to her for quite awhile, but I still remember how fun it was to hang out with such a great sister, and I especially miss those times we would have long talks and pray together. I’m also really happy that this mug has survived all these years intact. I still have plenty more to talk about, and I’ve enjoyed sharing the others so far, but I think this one is my favorite.
Originally posted on Instagram @ajcoffman on April 16, 2014

Taizé Mug

Taizé MugThis particular cup is very unique. It comes from an old monastery in the middle of France known as Taize. A description from their website reads:

“Today, the Taizé Community is made up of over a hundred brothers, Catholics and from various Protestant backgrounds, coming from around thirty nations. By its very existence, the community is a “parable of community” that wants its life to be a sign of reconciliation between divided Christians and between separated peoples.”

I think it sounds like a pretty neat place, and it must be, because every year thousands of people visit the 74 year old Taizé community which was founded during WWII by a man named Brother Roger. Brother Roger himself was stabbed to death in 2005 at the age of 90 while leading the evening prayer service.

If you’re like me, I had never even heard of this place until I was told about it several years ago by a friend who had visited and in the process had acquired this coffee cup for me. The cup holds a great deal of meaning for me, and it harbors a great deal of irony as well. Sometimes, in this journey of life, we become alienated and separated from those we were once very close with… Sometimes, good friends can even become bitter enemies. Sometimes it’s our fault, and sometimes it just happens–and there is nothing we can do about it. But it always hurts. The friend who gave me this cup from Taizé has been long gone from my life, though he was once a very close brother. And even though we were deeply alienated from each other many years ago, I have kept this cup as a reminder of my friend–there is a hope there, however small, and I think of him whenever I drink from this coffee cup — made by the hands of people who have devoted their entire lives to Brother Roger’s vision of bringing together and reconciling Christians who have been divided.

Originally posted on Instagram @ajcoffman on April 15, 2014

Jesus Christ is God

I always look forward to those rare moments that come along where a random interaction with someone leads to a deeper discussion about something serious, or when a seemingly inconsequential series of events culminates into something that is extremely important, or when something that seems insignificant in the grand scheme of things, becomes the prelude to something with fundamental purpose.

I experienced one of these occasions this past weekend when I went to my cousin’s high school graduation party. After I walked in and helped myself to a fine brunch buffet, I sat down in the living room to chat with my older sister and my dad while we watched a slide show of my cousin’s life. There were several people milling about the house, and there was nothing really out of the ordinary at all. It was pretty much what you expect each year when these types of parties roll around. But within just a few minutes of my arrival, everything changed.

As I was sitting on the couch, discussing home remodeling issues with my sister, a guy from my home church sat down in another chair across the living room. I’ve talked with Rob before, and he’s a great guy who I’ve had a few good discussions with in the past. He loves to talk about God. I could tell as I was chatting with my sis, that he was waiting for a break in our conversation so that he could engage me in a discussion. Well, sure enough, as soon as I finished talking Rob began asking me questions. He began with the usual questions about school and what I was studying at seminary. When I told him I was studying theology and church history his eyes lit up and he immediately sent what can only be described as a barrage of theological questions my way.

Rob asked me some good questions, like who is God? And what is God’s name? I proceeded with a brief discourse about the trinity, to which Rob replied by asking me where in the Bible it talked about the nature of God. I quoted a few passages and then went on to talk about some of the erroneous views of Christ, as Rob asked me some more questions. The questions kept coming and the conversation continued into the next half hour or so. After we reached a point where Rob was sufficiently satisfied that he understood what I believed about God, he then informed me with a grin on his face that he did not believe in the trinity, and that he did not believe that Jesus was God.

To say that I was shocked at this information would not do justice to my internal reaction upon hearing this from Rob. I didn’t know what to say as Rob launched into a discourse that involved his misinterpretation of key passages in the New Testament. The whole time he was speaking, I kept thinking to myself, “is this really happening?”

Knowing that Rob was an influential youth group sponsor, not to mention a member of my home church, I couldn’t resist asking him if the elders of our church knew what he believed. He informed me that they did, and that they had told him they didn’t mind as long as he still believed that Jesus was the Son of God. I went home that afternoon in a haze of confusion, unable to make any sense out of the nonsense I had just heard from this guy that I really did have some genuine respect for, and to tell you the truth, I was even a little depressed by it all.  I felt kind of like I had stumbled into the bizzaro world from Superman, where everything is the complete opposite of what it’s supposed to be.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the deity of Jesus Christ as part of the Trinity is a fundamental, basic doctrine of Christianity, and has been since the inception of the Church. This is also referred to as the Incarnation, which means that Jesus is God come into human history in the flesh. It is the foundation of our entire faith. The scriptures are not vague on this particular issue; they are in fact abundantly clear. Even the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who do not believe that Christ is God, have been forced to produce their own separate mistranslation of the Bible in an effort to avoid the point that Christ is God. If Satan was only ever able to tell one single lie, somewhere at the top of his list would be the lie that Jesus is not God. Because if Satan can get someone to believe that, he can get them to believe absolutely anything. Let’s take a look at the scriptures, shall we?

Matthew 1:22 and Isaiah 7:14
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’—which means, ‘God with us.’”

Matthew 4:10
“Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

Matthew 28:9
“So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’”

Mark 2:5-7
“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ‘Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’”

John 1:1-5, 14
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 5:17-23
“Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’ For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

 

Jesus gave them this answer: ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.’”

Exodus 3:13-14 and John 8:57-58
“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? 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.’”

 

“You are not yet fifty years old,’ the Jews said to him, ‘and you have seen Abraham!’
‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’”

John 10:27-33
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.’ Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’ ‘We are not stoning you for any of these,’ replied the Jews, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.’”

John 12:44-46
“Then Jesus cried out, ‘When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.’”

John 20:28-29
“A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’”

Acts 20:28
“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”

Romans 9:5
“Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.”

Colossians 1:15-20
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

Colossians 2:8-10
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”

Philippians 2:5-11
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

1 Corinthians 8:4-6
“So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”

Titus 2:11-14
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”

1 John 5:20
“We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”

Hebrews 1:8
But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.’”

2 Peter 1:1
“Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:”

Revelation 1:8 and 17-18
“’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’”

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.’”

Likewise, the following sets of verses are places where the New Testament refers to Christ by the same designation used to refer to God in the Old Testament:

First and Last
Isaiah 41:4; 44:6; 48:12 – cf. – Revelation 1:17; 2:8; 22:13

Light
Psalm 27:1 – cf. – John 1:9

Rock
Psalm 18:2; 95:1 – cf. – 1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Peter 2:6-8

Husband” or “Bridegroom
Hosea 2:16; Isaiah 62:5 – cf. – Ephesians 5:28-33; Revelation 21:2

Shepherd
Psalm 23:1 – cf. – Hebrews 13:20

Redeemer
Hosea 13:14; Psalm 130:7 – cf. – Titus 2:14; Revelation 5:9

Savior
Isaiah 43:3 – cf. – John 4:42

Lord of Glory
Isaiah 42:8 – cf. – 1 Corinthians 2:8

In summation, there is this thing that we Christians believe called the doctrine of the Trinity, which in short means that there is one God, revealed to us as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

For anyone struggling to better understand the doctrine of the Trinity, I would recommend a reading of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, wherein he devotes several chapters to the subject. His discussion of the Trinity helped me a great deal at a time when I was searching for more clarity on this doctrine.