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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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

Leave Room for God

I got to thinking about this idea while in Yosemite with my In-laws.  As a side note, if you’ve never been, it’s worth the trip; one of the more majestic and beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen.  Strangely, the recent events in Boston got me thinking about it again but there will have to be another post.  Anyway, we were driving back to the cabin from dinner and my mother in law and wife started talking about how a glacier carved through the mountain thousands of years ago and created the Yosemite Valley as we know it.  This of course led to a discussion about macro vs. micro evolution, which of course led to a discussion about creation, which led to a mild disagreement about the completion of God’s creation.  If you don’t believe in creation and can actually wrap your head around the idea of a single particle which existed outside of time and space somehow exploding into everything that exists, then I admire your level of faith.  For the rest of us I think this is an interesting discussion.  One of the things I love about my faith is the journey it takes.  I have opinions and stances now that may have seemed crazy to me only a few years ago.  I’ve had experiences that point to previously dismissed ideas being realities.  It’s really wild and at the same time really rad how being willing to challenge yourself and wrestle with your own status-quo in the midst of your Savior can evolve your point of view and bolster your understanding.  That to say, who knows, maybe a year or ten from now I’ll think differently or maybe my family will but my initial reaction to the idea of creation via glacier wasn’t necessarily agreement.  At the very least I didn’t, and really still don’t, want to believe that Yosemite (nor most anything) was created by happenstance.  Does a God who declares me fearfully and wonderfully made and who knows all the hairs on my head leave creation to chance?  Maybe.  Maybe he designed nature to evolve.  Maybe he sent that glacier into motion.  Maybe it was just a natural phenomenon.  For me though, it’s hard to take God out of the equation.  I fear control and definite knowledge far more than the unknown; far more than ruling God out.  I choose to leave room for God in the creation of Yosemite.  I choose to leave room for God to fill my wife’s still barren womb with life.  I choose to leave room for God in the midst of the Boston bombings.  I choose to leave room for God in the fate of our country.  I choose to leave room for God in the plans for my future.  I hope for less of me and more of Him.  I yearn to be completely out of control.  I choose to leave room for God.  Maybe this causes you to think, maybe i’m just way behind in my understanding but please share your thoughts either way.

Stay Naked,

Ryan

New Years Restitution

res·ti·tu·tion

[res-ti-too-shuh n, -tyoo-]

noun

1. reparation made by giving an equivalent or compensation for loss, damage, or injury caused; indemnification.

2. the restoration of property or rights previously taken away, conveyed, or surrendered.

3. restoration to the former or original state or position.

4. Physics. the return to an original physical condition, especially after elastic deformation.

In a season full of resolutions I got to thinking, “There has to be something better”. Most resolutions have to do with starting something good or quitting something bad and in many cases one resolution does both. For example, someone resolving to go to the gym is doing something good in that very action and quitting something bad, like being lazy. The problem I guess is that very few resolutions actually come with any resolve. We know this because for many of us we make the same ones year after year. If we had really resolved to do it in the first place we wouldn’t have to come back it. Sure some of these resolutions are misguided and come after a night full of drinking – either while still in an alcohol induced state of increased confidence or in the fetal position wrapped around the toilet the morning after – so maybe we exclude those ones. Of course that would not apply to any of us ;), but we at least know someone we can attribute this to. It is dawning on me that most of this paragraph is useless to the point. Right, so the bottom line is that most resolutions are crap. If you’ve resolved to read the Bible every day, definitely do that. If you’ve resolved to get in better shape, definitely do that. If you’ve resolved to love more/better, definitely do that. Resolutions aren’t inherently bad, we’re inherently bad at keeping them. This brings me back to the point I think.

Restitution. I would encourage you to take the new year, each and every day in it, to focus on restitution. Be restitute (I’ll explain). Think back to when you were a kid. How easy was it for you to believe something and express this belief by blindly living in it? I never saw Santa in my house but I believed he was real; wrote letters to him and everything. The same can be said about our belief in Christ and what was done for us, the ultimate restitution. Insert John 3:16 here. There was a time in all of us who have accepted Him as King when we had faith like a child. Since then, life has thrown us many dirty curve balls. Some of us more than others for sure but none of us are excluded. I wrestle with God all the time. Sometimes I wonder if what I believed to be true necessarily is. Sometimes I feel like his promises are missing or are taking too long to come through. Sometimes I simply wonder, “Why?”. What saves me in these moments or days or weeks is restitution. I become restitute in my faith. I become restitute in what I know to be true. I become restitute in my time with God(Thank you Holy Spirit!). Most importantly though, God is restitute. Constantly. We know that he is omniscient and omnipotent and omnipresent and all love but are we living like we know he is also omni-restitute? All day, every day, God is laying out a path for our restitution; a way to become as we were in The Garden…perfect. His desire is for us to be not only holy but redeemed…restituted. The best part is, He does not fail. The free gift of salvation through grace is our path to final restitution but we can try each day to meet Him on this path. He tried to do this without sacrificing his son (think lots of water and an Ark) but we screwed that one up of course. Eventually Jesus was hung on a cross and rose again. God does not fail. Final restitution. I think God appreciates our resolve when we actually have it but I also think He wants, deserves and expects more. Naked we came in, restitute am I in getting naked again.

Cheers,

Ryan

“Taste of Ink” – Taboo Tattoos

Some of you may recognize the title as the name of a punk rock song by The Used. Very sacrilegious of me I know and I love it! There is something to be said about the sort of desire for tattoos one gains after they get their first but that’s beside the point. Instead of wasting 100 more words on set up I’ll just direct you to the below photo:

Tattooed Taboo

The thread goes on in support of our friend and even contains some examples from others who have been spiritually harassed for their appearance. One even got told she would be going to hell because of her tattoos (this occurred in a Hobby Lobby which I can totally picture and find hilarious). So why write about it?

I think in a way, it’s things like this that spawned us even wanting to start this purposefully button pushing site (I haven’t even spoken to Dennis about this so we’ll likely here from him too 🙂 ). As I think about it, this also kind of ties in with Dennis’ recent post on dinosaurs. The things that we’ll say to each other in the name of our God are insane. It would be easy to just rant about the idiocy of believers (post on this word to follow, OMG) and the ridiculous lies we live by but maybe (though it’s hard for me) I’ll spare the rant.

Do we find people saying things like tattoos and piercings and sagging pants (yes people really associated saggy pants with sinfulness) will land us in hell because it’s an accurate summation? No!! I have to think that people say things like this out of their own insecurity, uncomfortableness and/or incompetence. As society grows and changes, too many people are found living in the past and the “security” of how it used to be. This would be fine if that’s where it stopped; ignorance is bliss after all. The problem is that people are such jack asses that they actually think it’s okay to run around casting unfounded judgements on guys like our Facebook friend and Dennis and I alike. I mean if my half sleeve is a ticket to hell then surely so also is my use of the word “ass” not more than a sentence ago. And let’s not even talk about the thoughts I had when that guy cut me off the other day. Ironically (if my wife is reading this I apologize for probably using irony wrong 😉 ) the person riding the tidal wave of inappropriateness and consequential sin is the aforementioned donkey that has the gall to make inaccurate judgments and accusations against a total stranger.

How about we try getting to know people and not getting immediately to why someone is different and doesn’t belong and therefore must be off track with Jesus and certainly far from salvation. I can tell you right now that if the moron that asked our Facebook friend to check his walk with Jesus instead took the time to get to know him at all, he would have been blown away by the incredible man that stood before him. A man that seeks after God’s own heart and His will for him and his family as genuinely as I’ve ever seen. So ya, screw that guy but more importantly good on all of you who are living naked and throwing conformity to the wayside. Good on all of you who are the true hipsters and live in acceptance of the minorities. Good on all of you who are loving on your gay friends the same as your straight ones and black ones the same as your white ones and brown ones the same as well you get the point. The Body of Christ is about unity, about gathering together in our differences to be on the same page about one thing…The Gospel. My pastor likes to refer to the upside down, inside out, backwards gospel. For the record, he’s referring to the actual gospel. The actual call of our Lord. The actual purpose of our lives on earth. As Christians we’re not supposed to make sense. We’re not suppose to conform and we’re not supposed to find safety in the good old days. Get with it people. We serve a radical God. A true nonconformist. The ultimate challenger of the status-quo. So I don’t know, stay wild and free I guess. Get a tattoo if you want, gauge your ears until your lobes break whatever makes you comfortable but seek after the truth about your God, your Father and your Savior.

Maybe I’ll post pictures after my tattoo appointment this week. haha, oh the irony!

Stay Wild,

Ryan