Shopping Ethically

In the past few months, I’ve received many calls, texts, emails, etc. in response to a post I wrote in December entitled Stop Buying Slaves. The piece detailed how we all in some way have played and still currently play a role in promoting modern-day slavery and why we as Christians need to make significant efforts to stop buying slaves. Popular brands we purchase our clothes, food, coffee, accessories, sporting goods, etc from often employee what we would refer to as slaves. Christians most of all should be furious about this.

Many of the people who contacted me were convicted by our unethical shopping habits as well as inquired about ethical shopping options. Here are a few options and resources that I know of:

Clothes & Accesories
Coffee & Tea
Food
Household
Personal Hygiene
Shoes
Misc
Final Tips
  • American-made, not American-assembled or designed in America
  • Look for the Fair Trade or Direct Trade label
  • Shop at thrift stores, boutiques, second-hand shops, etc
  • If the price is too good to be true, then it most likely is too good to be true. The odds are that someone was ripped off in producing that product for so inexpensive.

As you can see, there are many options available in most categories of life. From face wash to furniture, people are crafting products and businesses that are ethically sourced by paying their laborers fair wages as well as using wholesome and sustainable resources that seek to better the environment.

If you know of any other ethically-sourced products that are not listed above, please feel free to share them with me. I’d love to look them up and add them to the list!

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Forty Things Jesus Never Said

About a week ago, #ThingsJesusNeverSaid was trending on Twitter. Some of them were mocking the Christian faith while others were quite insightful, enlightening us to the perception that many people have of Jesus and the church as a whole.

While I did find some of the tweets both helpful and humorous, some of which I’ve included, I thought I’d make a list of my own. Here are forty things, some humorous but all serious, that Jesus never said:

  1. If you classify yourself as a Christian on your Facebook profile, then we’re good.
  2. Life will be easier if you follow me.
  3. I’m white.
  4. The church will never hurt you. My followers will be perfect.
  5. I’m Republican.
  6. Mel Gibson could probably tell my life story (R. W. Martin).
  7. Guns are your God-given right.
  8. Love your neighbor as yourself unless they’re gay, liberal, or not U. S. Citizens.
  9. Violence is awesome.
  10. I hate gay people.
  11. America is the greatest country in the world.
  12. The homosexual lifestyle is more of a sin than watching porn, lusting after someone who isn’t your spouse, and sleeping with anyone outside of marriage.
  13. Stand up for and even die for your constitutional rights.
  14. You don’t need church, you just need me.
  15. If you truly love each other, you’re already married in my eyes.
  16. I can only be worshipped through music accompanied solely by an organ even though the church won’t start using it for nearly a thousand years.
  17. I don’t care what you do with your money as long as you give the church 10% of your income first.
  18. This earth doesn’t matter; it is yours to ruin.
  19. Don’t trust science.
  20. FOX news and the Blaze are almost as trustworthy as the Bible.
  21. Don’t listen to secular music or watch rated R movies unless they are about me or war.
  22. Don’t just pray in your closet, live there too. Completely isolate you and your family from anyone who isn’t a Christian.
  23. Your bodies don’t matter. Do with them as you please. Forget a healthy diet, exercise, and sleep pattern.
  24. Going to church makes you a better person.
  25. My conscience forbids me from providing services to homosexual couples.
  26. Only read the King James Version of the bible even though scholars will unanimously agree that it’s a less-accurate and reliable translation.
  27. I only like hymns.
  28. Suits and long dresses are a mandatory church dress code.
  29. It’s okay to do unethical things as long as you don’t think about them (illegal downloads, buying from companies that use slaves to produce the product you’re purchasing, etc)
  30. Before I heal you, I’ll need proof of health insurance.
  31. I can’t come in unless you invite me first. You have to ask me into your heart.
  32. The age of the earth matters.
  33. Shelter (*clears throat*), I mean protect your children from the “secular” world.
  34. Christians verbally attacking each other on social media is the best way to spread a message of grace (Jon Acuff).
  35. Slavery is okay.
  36. Capitalism is the best economic system.
  37. I only help those who help themselves.
  38. Karma! What goes around comes around.
  39. It doesn’t matter how you live anymore.
  40. Obama is the anti-Christ.

You Have More Influence Than You Think

Who do you think is the most influential person alive today?

If we were to assess influence by Twitter followers, the most influential people would be:

  1. Katy Perry • 66 million
  2. Justin Bieber • 61 million
  3. Barrack Obama • 56 million
  4. Taylor Swift • 54 million
  5. Lady Gaga • 44 million

If we were to, instead, assess a person’s influence by financial wealth, the most influential people would be:

  1. Bill Gates • $79.2 B
  2. Carlos Slim Helu • $77.1 B
  3. Warren Buffet • $72.7 B
  4. Amancio Ortega • $64.5 B
  5. Larry Ellison • $54.3 B

Each of these people along with other celebrities, business men and women, athletes and artists are incredibly influential. They seemingly possess the power to change culture, establish industries and transform nations.

With all of their influence combined, they don’t even stand a chance against the most influential Person of all time.

The Most Influential Person

Jesus has affected human history more than any person, nation, business or technology.

More than 2.1 billion people alive today worship Him as the resurrected God-Man. Almost another 2 billion believe in him in some manner or another but are not sure what or who to view Him as. An estimated 5 billion Bibles which detail His life, death and resurrection have been sold. Our dating of history is based roughly on his coming. Two of the biggest holidays in the world are celebrated in light of major events that He was involved in.

How did this working-class joe from a tiny, rural town in the Middle East become the most famous person in all of human history?

One of Jesus’ early followers, John, wrote a short biography about Jesus, detailing His life, teachings, death and resurrection. In the opening chapter, John wrote:

The Word became flesh
    and made his home among us.
We have seen his glory,
    glory like that of a father’s only son,
        full of grace and truth.

In this description about the coming of Jesus, John highlights an often overlooked component of Jesus’ incarnation: in order for Jesus to reach, influence and transform humanity, He became like them.

Wouldn’t it have been strange if God came to us as a giraffe or a deer? Heck ya, it would! Thats one of the many reasons why He came in human likeness.

Take it once step further: what if Jesus showed up in the first century wearing thick-framed black glasses, a long-sleeved flannel shirt, skinny jeans with rolled-up ankle cuffs sitting atop a pair of brown boots all while holding a steaming cup of Stumptown coffee? Do you think His degree of influence would’ve been diminished because of how foreign His appearance was to the first century?

Notice that in order to reach and influence a certain generation of people, Jesus was clothed with many of the cultural norms of His day, walked similar paths as the people He’d meet all while embodying countercultural values.

This is one of many reasons why Jesus became the most influential person in human history.

The Most Influential People

As followers of Jesus, we are to do just that: follow Jesus. During one his most famous talks, Jesus encouraged His people:

You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.

Jesus told His people that they, His followers, are the light of the world. How would they be the light of the world? By their actions. Jesus profoundly points out that God chooses to work through His people to influence and reach those who are far from Him.

This doesn’t mean we have to have a Bible College degree or become a licensed minister to influence people for the Name of Jesus. It means that God has placed each of us in specific communities of the world in specific jobs and/or schools to connect with and influence those specific people we encounter every single day.

But how? Who could we possibly influence?

That person you serve coffee to every morning. That person who always rings you up at the grocery store. That person you sit next to in class. That coworker who drives you absolutely crazy! That leader you’ve blatantly badmouthed for years. That person you’ve ignored for far too long.

What if we as Christians looked at literally every single person we came in contact with as a person that God divinely and purposefully has placed in our lives? What if they were not simply someone you walk by or someone you order food from but as someone Jesus died and rose from the grave for?

God has given you far more influence than you can imagine, a platform far greater than millions of Twitter followers and a message far more significant and impactful than 140 characters could summarize.

Christians are not called to be idle bystanders while God radically transforms the world. We’re not called to sit back and enjoy the show of redemption that only pastors and ministers take part in.

Instead, we are all called to be proactively and passionately involved in what God is doing here and now to bring Heaven on earth.

Ministry Update: We’re Moving On

By Tyler & Erin Saldaña

In December, we announced that we would be moving to the state of Washington. An opportunity arose for me to serve as the Associate Campus & Worship Pastor at Timberlake Church in the city of Issaquah.

Now, after over a month of praying and thinking through the situation as well as seeking counsel from close mentors, we have decided to leave Timberlake Church after just under three months of serving on staff. Due to major differences in theology, methodology, mission and staff values that quickly became apparent to us, we did not feel right remaining a part of the church nor did we think we could faithfully and passionately serve the community at Timberlake.

Regardless of our differences, we are grateful for our short time at the church. We trust that ultimately, God is sovereign and our time at Timberlake was not in vain. In the short time, we’ve formed some awesome relationships with people in and out of the church. We have also been challenged and as a result have learned a lot and grown much closer together.

What’s Next?

Currently, we are planning on staying in our city, Issaquah, Washington. In all our talks about potentially leaving the church, we never really considered leaving the area. For us both, this city has become our home.

We are currently in the application and interview process to become a Pastoral Resident at a local Acts 29 church. Essentially, we would go through a two-year apprenticeship to develop as potential church planters. Simultaneously, we will be working multiple side jobs to support ourselves during the residency and to stay connected with the community.

We ask that you please keep us in your prayers over the coming months as we seek God’s call on our marriage. We believe that He is leading us to plant a church in an urban context in the next decade. Please keep us in your prayers as the path there seems long, windy, and at times unclear.

Thank you for loving and supporting us as we pursue God’s call on our marriage!

Why Palm Sunday Matters

Today in church history, we celebrate Palm Sunday, the day in which Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It is the day which marks the beginning of what we refer to as Holy Week. Jesus rode into the city on a colt only to be crucified a few days later.

On Palm Sunday, the crowds cried to Jesus, “Hosanna!” or save us as He entered the city. On Friday, that very same crowd cried, “Crucify Him!” leading to His execution outside the city.

Why did the cry of the crowds so drastically change in such little time?

The King We Don’t Want

For centuries, the Hebrews had awaited their coming king from the line of David. The king was to restore power to God’s chosen people after their years of living in oppression.

This was the king they wanted.

This is why they cried for Jesus to save them. The Hebrews desired for Jesus to be their sovereign king, bringing their people from their lowly socio-economic state and restore their nation to political power.

Essentially, they wanted Jesus to make the circumstances of their everyday life better. Unfortunately, this was not Jesus.

They thought He was coming to take up His crown. Little did they know He would first need to take up His cross.

The King We Need

The Jews thought they needed Jesus to take over the city. In reality, Jesus came not to take over but to lay down His life for the sins of many. Their need was not a political or socio-economic restoration but a spiritual redemption. The oppression the Jews had endured for centuries couldn’t compare to the opposition they faced against God because of their sin.

Some of us approach God in a similar manner, don’t we?

We tell God what we in our limited understanding think our needs are. We, then, demand that He perfectly meet every single one of them. If He doesn’t fulfill these “needs,” we deem Him either as unjust or not real.

But is it reasonable to conclude that God is unjust or not real just because God doesn’t make our lives play out scene-for-scene exactly as we think they should? Is it so ridiculous to think that the infinite God of the universe Who crafted literally everything knows more about our needs than we do?

Jesus may not have been the king the Jews wanted but they absolutely needed Him. Similarly, He may not always be the Savior we want but He is always the Savior we need.

While we may not always understand why God does or doesn’t do certain things in our lives and in this world, Palm Sunday reminds us to trust God even when it doesn’t make sense.

There are eternal reasons for temporary circumstances.

Dividing Over Doctrine

We live in a heavily divided society. Democrats and republicans, rich and poor, black and white, religious and atheist, etc.

Unfortunately, the church is no stranger to dividing lines.

While it’s understood that Christians are to “Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace” (Eph 4:3), the question often arises as to when it is appropriate and even necessary for Christians to divide. How important is a specific doctrine? When is it necessary to divide over a stance and when is it appropriate to simply discuss our differing views?

Dr. Gerry Breshears, one of my professors at Western Seminary, offers a helpful guideline for Christians to discern the significance of certain beliefs. He classifies doctrines and beliefs into four separate categories: die, divide, debate and discuss.

Die

Doctrines that you would die for consist of essential truths that, if denied, the validity of the gospel would be discredited. Essentially, if these truths are not affirmed by someone, the person would not be a Christian. Here are a few examples:

  • the divinity of Jesus
  • the humanity of Jesus
  • the death of Jesus
  • the resurrection of Jesus
  • salvation by faith in Jesus alone through grace alone

Divide

This category of doctrines is made up of stances that, should two parties differ, it would be wise to divide. This does not mean that that the dividing groups doubt the others’ faith. It simply means that these doctrines hinder partnership in ministry together. Here are a few examples:

  • complementarian or egalitarian
  • calvinist or arminian
  • authority of scripture
  • views on marriage

Debate

In this section of beliefs, there are views that can be debated in house but at the end of the day should not divide people. We can hold to opposing convictions and yet still be on mission and worship together in one local church. Here are a few examples:

  • style of worship
  • continuationist or cessationist
  • creation and evolution
  • young earth and old earth
  • end times
  • political or social topics
  • infant baptism or believer baptism

Discuss

These items essentially don’t matter in regards to salvation. Churches will undoubtedly consist of people who take a stance all across the spectrum. Here are a few examples:

  • secular music and Christian music
  • rated R movies
  • drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco
  • tattoos
  • bikinis, tankinis, one-kinis and any other type of “kini”

Final Thoughts

It’s vital for us as Christians to understand these categories as well as learn how to better discern where each of our views fall under. We don’t want to be “tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching” (Eph 4:14) but instead, when storms of controversial doctrines confront our faith, we may endure the waves of deceit and stand firm in Truth.

What the Church Can Learn From Saturday Night Live

Saturday Night Live turned 40 this year.

Last night, the sketch-comedy show celebrated its four decades on the air thus far with countless stars ranging from Paul McCartney to Justin Timberlake. The three and-a-half hour show took a look back at some of the most brilliant sketches performed while also revisiting renown sketches such as Celebrity Jeopardy, Weekend Update, The Californians and more. The special drew incredible ratings for NBC, becoming the most-watched prime-time entertainment telecast since 2004 aside from the Super Bowl.

Considering SNL’s incredible legacy and undeniable influence up until this point in history, the church can learn a lot from the show, especially in regards to ministry and the development of leaders:

Their Willingness to Fail

Highlight shows and Greatest Hits albums often give off a facade, placing the spotlight solely on the triumphs while negating to mention the failures.

Looking back as an SNL fan of nearly twenty years, I can think of numerous fantastic sketches and characters that I’ve grown to love and that have influenced culture. More Cowbell, Threw It On the Ground, Matt Foley, Stefan, Debbie Downer, Wayne’s World, The Barry Gibb Talk Show. While these sketches and many more have had undeniable success, there have also been that many more failures produced by the SNL team.

Larry David, Conan Obrien, Stephen Colbert. These writers along with numerous others, while notably writing hit sketches have also put forward and produced sketches that flat-out bombed. This freedom-to-fail gives creatives the opportunity to take risks.

Instead of constantly playing it safe, the cast and writers are granted artistic freedom (of course, within reason) to craft and fine-tune two-minute characters and sketches into Twitter-trending sensations. It allows nobody’s to become Eddie Murphy. This culture that has been created at Saturday Night Live predominately by creator Lorne Michaels has helped shape not only the show’s chemistry but western culture.

Counter to this principle of development, often the church fails to give up-and-coming leaders similar opportunities to grow in their skills and flesh out their gifting. Whether it be due to the lack of options that the church has or fear of the consumeristic-driven church culture we live in, we fail to provide adequate opportunities and grace for developing leaders.

What would it look like for local churches to acknowledge, affirm and encourage young leaders in their gifts and callings? How could we provide more opportunities for these young leaders to develop practical skills in their local churches instead of simply expecting them develop often-irrelevent head-knowledge at distant academic institutions?

Their Boldness

Every now-and-then, SNL is blasted for going too far while the opposite can be true of most churches.

Instead of shying away from difficult, raw and controversial topics, the show embraces the cold with a torch of confidence. Similar to South Park, if something or someone graces the front page of newspapers during the week, chances are it’ll be covered that upcoming Saturday night.

And people look forward to this.

They appreciate, if not crave the direct and honest evaluation of and approach to current events and pop culture. Unfortunately, people frequently learn more about the news when watching shows like SNL, The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight instead of the actual news channels because of the their conservative or liberal filters.

Similar to this tactic of engaging contemporary culture, Jesus and Paul often quoted and examined the rockstars and ideals expressed in art, comparing and contrasting their values and truths with the ultimate truth of scripture.

What would it look like for churches to address current events and teach their community how to process and think through how to respond from a gospel-centered worldview? Instead of forty minutes of one person teaching each week, could the church have one person confront current issues for five-to-ten minutes while another person handle the weekly teaching passage or topic?

Their Farm System

A farm system is a term used for semi-professional teams in sports that provide experience and opportunity for younger players. The hope is that the players will develop and move up from the farm team onto a professional team.

Similar to this developmental system, SNL attracts some of the most up-and-coming comedians and writers in show business. If selected to be on the cast or a writer, the hope is that eventually they will move on to bigger and better things because of their invaluable experience on the show. Every couple years, the show says goodbye to their best cast members and writers who eventually go on to do far greater things.

Similar to this method, Luke recorded a moment in early church history when the leaders of the church chose to operate under a similar methodology. In Acts 13, we see the leaders of the local church in Antioch send out Paul (then Saul) and Timothy to expand the reach of the gospel. Few people, if any, have questioned this decision of sending out arguably one of the greatest apostles. Instead of keeping Paul and sending out someone else, the church sent out their best to plant and establish new local churches in the greater area.

How much more impactful would our next-generation leaders and our local churches be if we sought not keep our best but send them out? What would our churches look like if we didn’t hold our leaders with such a tight grip but instead were more than willing to send them wherever God may call?

Their Influence

Saturday Night Live draws people from all walks of life and influences every avenue of culture. The diversity of both cast and influence goes deep and wide. It is one of the most inclusive institutions today. While inclusiveness can be dangerous, it is also a shadow of the Kingdom of God. The good news of Jesus, while not affirming of all lifestyles, welcomes people from all backgrounds.

Instead of a television show, sporting event or university, what would it look like if the local church was the most diverse and and inclusive institution known to society? What message of radical love, value and acceptance would this communicate to a hate-filled and divided world?

Their Legacy

Undoubtedly, the world would not be the same if Saturday Night Live had never been created. The cast members alone have influenced pop culture and politics more than we can even comprehend.

How much more so is the church called to influence, shape and transform the world through the message of the Jesus by the power of the Spirit to the glory of God?