The Apathy Series Part 1: “Good Enough Just Isn’t Good Enough”

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Why is it that we can turn on the radio and nearly instantly know if the song we’re hearing is a “Christian” or “Worship” song?  There’s something wrong with this; something deeply and fundamentally wrong.  I can hear somebody reading this and already saying to themselves, “but we’re supposed to be set apart and stand out from the world”.  Please don’t give that thought any more of your energy, it’s ridiculous.  It would be one thing if you heard Christian music and said, “Man, this is so progressive and new, mainstream music has nothing on this.”  But let’s be honest, none of us has ever said that.  Occasionally, and only very recently has there been anything from the Christian music world that I’ve even been able to say is relevant and progressive on at least the level that mainstream music is.  So I ask again, why is this?  I certainly don’t have all the answers and I’m a terrible songwriter myself (I can’t even sing) but I listen to a lot of music; a lot of different genres, a lot of different time periods, from Christian to underground rap.  The point is I like many of us can appreciate good music for what it is fundamentally.  The picture above is the album cover for Dustin Kensrue’s (Formerly of Thrice and now the Worship Director for Mars Hill) latest release.  It is a worship album built for The Church with the excellence and musical relevance of the mainstream.  It’s incredible.  It’s relevant, progressive, excellent, theologically sound and singable by The Church at large.  It is exactly what Church music should be.  Recently there have been some better releases, Zion by Hillsong, some of the Something Like Silas and Digital Age stuff and a very few others but none of them fire on all cylinders.  Dustin had this to say about the state of Christian music, “I would have told you that I don’t even like worship music. I didn’t like how so much of it was full of unhelpful and unhealthy theology. I didn’t like how much of the worship music culture was insulated and backward-looking that it no longer had any relation to any music outside of its own bubble. I didn’t like how much of it seemed more focused on getting played on the radio than equipping and edifying the church.” And I fully agree.  Why are we so damn dispassionate about the apathy in The Church?  It’s not just the music, but we’ll save that for the rest of this series.  We constantly allow for a lack of excellence in our churches and it reflects on the whole Church.  We’ve become content with the mold that has been set and it sucks.  It just does.  We’re talking about gathering before and worshipping our Creator and we’re constantly settling.  But why?  Why do we allow Christian music to be what it is?  Just because it’s Christian and sometimes edifying?  Look, if you love all of the last thousand songs Chris Tomlin wrote because it’s all your church has challenged itself too, that’s your prerogative and I’m not saying they’re bad (some of them really are though).  Maybe, just maybe though we’re called to something greater in the way we praise The Lord.  Maybe there’s Christian music good enough to not just be good enough for The Church but for everyone.  Good enough just isn’t good enough.  Think about it…I would bet there’s at least one band or artist you really like/appreciate that you’ve wished was Christian and made music for our God.  Maybe that’s just me but what I’m suggesting is that maybe the Christian music world should just catch up…quickly.

 

Ryan

 

 

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Wayne Grudem’s Autograph

Preface:
Wayne Grudem is and should be one of the Wayne Grudemmost respected men of our generation in terms of expanding the Gospel to humans. Other men who I personally categorize along-side Grudem are Tim Keller, Andy Stanley & Rick Warren [just to name a few]. I have a tremendous amount of personal respect for the dedication these men have towards forwarding the love and grace of Jesus through writing, preaching & their lives. And while they aren’t sinless due to their service, they are holy saints, redeemed by the cross of Christ, just like you and I.

Personal thought: Just like you and I… All men are equal in rank but wildly diverse in skill-set and calling; what if there is no such thing as a “super-Christian” only those who follow Christ as leaders and those who follow Christ by following their leaders?

A couple weeks ago I was in a local coffee joint [sozocoffee.org] chatting with a pastor friend of mine and our convo got briefly interrupted by an acquaintance of his. I over heard a part of their conversation where this dude was telling my friend that he got to meet and listen to Grudem speak recently. Without mentioning a sentence of what he gleaned from that day, made sure that everyone within an ear-shot from him heard that Wayne Grudem signed his copy of Systematic Theology!

Don’t misunderstand me, Grudem isn’t [necessarily] at fault for signing an autograph; there isn’t anything inherently wrong with putting your signature in a book [especially when you took the time to write it]. It is just a little weird to me that this guy could have started conversation about so many different things and the one he chose to boast about was getting a book signed by a theologian… Maybe I’m wrong, I just don’t think many people are paying for that autograph.

This is a bit cynical and I understand that, but maybe if you were there and could have heard this dudes level of excitement, you would have thought he was was a pre-teen who left a One Direction with the autographs of every member. We all have our quarks and do dumb things and respond differently to situations, this one just made me laugh.

Maybe consider this question in closing: If Holy Spirit spoke to you in truth and the words didn’t agree with the opinion of your pastor or favorite theologian, who would you be more inclined to displace?   

You’re Right, It’s Not Fair

Not FairPretty much every day I hear somebody talking about how something is not fair, how if there was any justice something would have gone differently, how they wish somebody would have gotten what they deserve, etc.  Enough people!  Seriously though, please stop and think before you lash out with this ridiculous line of thinking.  I think this circles back to the old “be careful what you wish for” idiom.  And, to be clear, I’m not innocent here.  I’ve certainly ridden this nonsense train before but who hasn’t at some point.  Here’s the deal:  None of us actually want true justice.  We all deserve it, but we don’t really want it.  True justice for all of humanity equals death and an eternity of separation from our Creator.  But, here we are, running around complaining about how other people should have received different treatment or how we “deserved” a different outcome.  What a joke.  We so arrogantly stomp around like children on this futile earth wishing for vindication and justice meanwhile completely disregarding the truth that we’ve been given freedom from justice.  Not a right to justice but freedom from it.  For some, this should be a near revolutionary thought.  Imagine what you could let go of if you truly recognized that you have no right to “justice” or vindication.  Imagine what freedom from the bondage of spite or bitterness could feel like.  Besides, only God has the right and ability to execute justice.  If we just forgive those who do us wrong and stop worrying about them receiving “justice” we could move on with joy and peace.  We talk about justice in the legal system but that is a human concept of punishment for wrong doing.  We live in the Godly concept of mercy whereby we are not getting punished for our wrong doing.  Well, we should anyway.  Unfortunately, we too often live on the wrong side of the paradigm as we battle human notions and misguided emotion.  It is said that hurt people hurt people.  You might have to say that a couple times out loud but I think it’s true.  Our desire to hold on to a want for vindication or bitterness about lack of “justice” or “fairness” only hurts ourselves.  Further, I think it is oppressive.  We are not able to live in mercy and grace and we have the opposite of a peace that surpasses all understanding.  We have a bitterness that turns people away, disclaims the gospel and defeats the purpose.

Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Break out of the need for justice and praise God for your freedom from it!

To Its Logical End

If logic is your god, at least make logical decisions….

Logic

I have some friends who do not believe what I believe… heck, none of my friends agree with me completely in my beliefs. This, in-and-of itself is an interesting thought to ponder. Do you completely and wholeheartedly agree across the board with anyone who carries the same general belief structure as you do? I would venture to say that the answer to this question [if answered honestly] is no one hundred percent of the time.

As humans we are shaped by our experiences, insecurities, what we believe to be true and our ability to carry a situation to its logical end, or maybe it’s our inability to do so.

[disclaimer: If we get into semantics I would agree that there is more that shapes us as people than just these four things, but generally speaking, most any situation can fit into this categorization]

As I mentioned, I have some friends who do not believe what I believe, one of them in particular has continually challenged me in my faith by telling me that I should be more logical in my thinking and give no weight to faith in “God”, because it isn’t scientifically possible. For the duration of our friendship I have been the “Christian” and he the “Atheist”, a yin and yang that has brought about incredibly intimacy through heated and refining conversations for both of us.

One of the things I am most grateful for from our friendship is the way that God has used him in my life to keep me from being a ‘kooky right wing Westboro Baptist version of a Christian’. He specifically forces me to take every single belief I have to its logical end; this is a process that I have tried to adapt in most of my decision making.

I began thinking about writing this post after overhearing, and without tact, butting into a conversation that involved someone I care about dearly. [She will remain nameless to respect her personal life]. She is anxious for a dude to get out of prison in hopes that he will return with polished armor and be the prince who will swoop her into happily ever after. And while pursuing this situation, continually tells my wife and I that “she wants what we have”, and if we let logic run its course on the details of her situation… I don’t think the numbers add up.

So, why… why do we fight so hard for the life decisions that are so contradictory to logic, let alone the idea of taking logic to its very end? Back to my dear friend who believes differently than me and has helped me be a better man because of it. He always tells me that “logic and reason” should be our guide, not a high in the sky esoteric deity.

Look around… think about the last time you read or watched the news, our world is ignorantly selfish and irrational in its decision making. But, somehow these individuals would rather be left to the fate of their gods: logic, reason and karma. It is logical to understand that the way humans treat one another is unreasonable and I pray to God that we’re not left to karma, because we’d all be damned.

To what end is your logic leading you? Is it leading you to self-preservation and honor and respect of others? Or, is it leading you to a broken heart, years as the victim and a perpetuation of the insecurities that eat you alive from the inside? Is your logic leading you closer to God, the author of all the we want to experience as humans: love, joy, hope, peace and grace. Or, does our stubbornness tell us to abandon that nonsense because it interferes with our decision making? With the way we make decisions, any interference would be a blessing.

Think about it… Evaluate it… Do something about it…

Unlearning: a progressive necessity

Despite a history of economic crisis’ it seems that learning hasn’t lost its value, especially now in the world of self-proclaimed experts. College is still brutally expensive, online learning programs also come with a price, and even bloggers who create a value to their information are making a living by teaching someone something.

There is and may always be a high value to what one can learn, but a more profitable pursuit might be your ability to unlearn.

In order to perform a task at a higher level, you must unlearn bad technique, poor time management habits, half-assed skills or else you may not progress.

Multiple times in my life I’ve had to unlearn in order to improve, let’s take my jump-shot as a kid. I grew up playing basketball in my front yard and until I was about 12 years old I have never learned how to shoot a basketball. My only coaches were my not-so-athletic father and watching the NBA. I had learned how to shoot with poor form and juvenile technique and although I could get the ball into the hoop, I had some unlearning to do if I wanted to improve. So, over the summer I attended a basketball camp at ASU and was beaten down with “form” and “technique” and had two options 1. Continue to shoot like a knucklehead. 2. Take the time to unlearn and practice what I was being taught.
I choose option 2.
Now I didn’t go on to play basketball as a point guard in the NBA as I dreamed of doing when I was 12, but I still play in recreational leagues and it is one of my greatest pleasures.

So what?
You likely don’t care about my jump-shot (which just so happens to be money from 16ft) or that I play in city rec leagues, but I hope you care about being better and not just learning more.

You will learn a lot throughout your lifetime, from season to season you will be overwhelmed with new information, behaviors and truck loads of what must be unlearned. Before getting married I had learned a lot about what it meant to be a husband and father, most of which is very beneficial, however, there was enough bad info that I am diligently pursuing a season of unlearning.

Before you get too caught up in what you know, evaluate what you could unlearn in order to become a better version of yourself.

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Pastor Greg Rohlinger on Suffering and God’s Plan

Greg is the Pastor at Palm Valley Church in Goodyear Arizona. He has been diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy with Parkinsonism; basically his brain is trying to shut his body down. This is just one of those situations where I most certainly could not say it any better. I love how Greg approaches his terminal illness and how he allows for God to still be all love and all good. I feel like I’ve come across a lot of people who are dealing with hurt or disappointment or suffering lately. Most recently we had a friend die tragically over the weekend. It can be very hard to deal with hurt and disappointment within the confines of Christianity and a Loving God. Our prayers are with his family in these hours of mourning and deep hurt. Parents just shouldn’t outlive their children, it’s so amazingly difficult and my heart breaks for the family. It was this incident that in some way lead me to post this video. So many people are going through hurt and often times I think we ask “:why” but aren’t actually prepared to deal with the answer. We can be very quick to blame God or defame him when “bad” things happen. Atheists love to use “bad” things and the work of evil to suggest that God must not be real and if He is that they would not want to serve someone who would allow such things. What’s worse though is when we as believers use tragedy as a point of disbelief and allow our faith to be shaken. Dealing with heartache and tragedy and pain and disappointment is almost never easy but I believe this video helps with some perspective and I think Greg really nails it on the head. So, I’ll get out of the way and let you just watch the video as was the original intent. I hope you are blessed!

Sincerely,

Ryan

The Balance of the Bible

20130507-233352.jpgAlthough I’m not a bible scholar, seminary graduate or the product of a nice Christian up-bringing, I have been identified as a Christian for going on 13 years. Not that time spent has a great deal of weight on what someone can know or the quality of their life, but it could, and in my case it does.

There are a list of trials both self inflicted and experienced that have led me further down this road that the Bible would classify as “narrow”, for those that find it. And at each fork in the road I have had to dig in, hold on tight and continually admit that I don’t know a whole lot about God or how He works. A process I’m sure will continue for the remainder of my time here [on earth].

Amidst so many of these experiences I have drawn closer to the Gospel[s] of Jesus Christ, Psalms and Proverbs and loosened my grip on the Epistles, which honestly used to be my Gospel. The past few years specifically have made me cling to the voice of Holy Spirit and the reflection of who Jesus was/is, how he interacted with humanity, and what seemed to be most important to Him as He interacted with His craftsmanship. A majority of the verses that we use against other humans are A. removed from their contextual home in order to support someones opinion or B. not from the words of Jesus specifically.

When Jesus spares a woman caught in adultery, we would rather respond w/ words from Paul about sexual purity and its guilt stricken place in the Christian faith. What we have learned as Christians is that when someone else commits a wrong we are to “correct” them in “love” as Paul commands, but when it is us we shout from the rooftops for our accusers to take the plank of wood out of their eye. In other words, we want to feel holy by making sure that someone else knowns they screwed up and that they must seek repentance, but when we are the ones wearing those shoes we want everyone to take the time to examine their own hearts and lives before saying anything about ours.

This not only seems kinda dumb, but it is the reason that a lot of people get hurt in the world and business of church. There is no room for honesty, freedom, submission or obedience in the Church because we are all too busy bull-shittin about how someone else has decided to live their life. If, and only if we are able to talk about real things in the church and make it more about regeneration than outreach will we see a revival of hungry hearts not just fare-weather fans!

Here are some things that Jesus talked about that we don’t [especially to the youth] like to discuss because most of us probably don’t agree 100% on these topics.
Demons
Prayer as a continual conversation with God
Grace
Drinking
Spending time with people who do bad things
Endless forgiveness
Joy
and others

I am praying for a paradigm shift where honesty out weighs a congregations perception of a pastor; if I had to guess, Jesus wasn’t very concerned with how people perceived Him because He knew that His integrity was more dense than the flash of someone else’s word[s].

Remember that Jesus said, “… on earth as it is in heaven.” He said, “go out into all the world [the places that you are called or have great passion for] and baptize people in my name through Holy Spirit and water.”

Bring heaven here.
Get out of your church.
Love well.
Don’t be an asshole to people that you don’t understand.
Be honest with kids [10 and up]. If they don’t learn about it from you they will learn about it from someone.
Get pissed if the situation calls for a righteous display of justice

As a bible-believing man, I believe that there is balance in the scriptures, in our churches and our hearts, but it is up to you [me] to listen to Holy Spirit, weigh motives and truly act like Jesus did; because when we do that, people want what Jesus is offering.

Thanks for reading!
If you think I’m way off please feel free to let me know; I’m always up for the conversation.

DG