Quiet Down & Listen

We choose all kinds of unnecessary conversations to engage in, most of which the bible warns us against having [especially in the company of folks who don’t believe in Jesus]. We waste hours being indignant to our family, friends and strangers who don’t believe what we do, all the while we should know that an argument has (likely) never turned someone’s heart towards Jesus. We write blogs, spend hours reading and exercising our pride for the sole purpose of proving someone (christian or not) wrong.

Please, for the sake of your public esteem, quiet your desire to “be right” in a faith where mystery far out weighs indisputable fact, rather focus on listening to The Lord who (I believe) is far more concerned with you being fully alive than being right.

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If you identify yourself as Christian then there are only a few things that we trust as truth, things that don’t dance with mystery:
God is a trinitarian reality who is whole and equally God the Father, God the Son-of-Man [Jesus Christ] and God the Holy Spirit].
That unfathomable trinitarian deity is the visionary, designer and builder of everything, literally everything.
God the Father introduced commandments aka rules to live by and he willingly punished certain humans for being disobedient.
God the Son-of-Man showed up on the same earth that He created to live amongst humans that He created in Their image.
God the Son-of-Man chose to be a normal, functional piece of society. He Built furniture, was full of sarcasm, drank wine, got pissed off, made friends in all walks of his life, exemplified grace and emotional vulnerability and closed the chapter by doing supernatural, prophesy fulfilling things.
God Holy Spirit took over as the voice that speaks the word of God the Father to a humanity created in Their image and inherently attuned to The Voice of God.

These span of events have each demanded a new way of living…
When humanity was living based on the 10 commandments and subsequent laws, humanity was expected to obedient to such rules to justify their holiness.
When God the Son-of-Man lived on earth, the flow of humanity was being stirred and shaken for approximately 33 years; the status quo was changing. He was setting up a new way of living for humanity rooted in freedom.
Now we are under the leadership of God Holy Spirit, the communicator, the mediator, the one who shares divine wisdom and knowledge with His likeness, humanity.

If you are traveling this journey of faith without putting a great deal of weight into hearing from God Holy Spirit then you are greatly discounting the intimacy you could have with a God who wants your time. Joy. Peace. Freedom. Vision. Influence… these are all things that we are promised, if we can only believe that we are worth this type of intimacy and unending love from God the Trinity.

The NCM challenge you to shut up and listen today… If you don’t know what you’re listening for, here are a couple insights:
1. You are as crazy as you feel.
2. You will likely hear “your own voice”, which is par for the course; God Holy Spirit is speaking to you, in your voice, in order to be able to communicate clearly.
3. Ask God to tell you something about someone you know very well [preferably someone who believes that God could speak through you if he wanted… this lessens the “crazy” feeling you’ll have].
4. Just go with what you hear… no matter how weird it may be, don’t try and make it sound “normal”.
5. Tell that person what you heard from The Lord and they will be able to confirm or deny if it is really a word from The Lord.

Happy listening 🙂

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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

Self[ish] Preservation

Over the last 12+ years I have had my hands in something that I hoped to be inspiring to another human being. Whether that be rap-rocking the shit out of a microphone back in the old bloodbaught days [and yes, I know it is spelled incorrectly], or spending hours in middle and high school class rooms baring my entire soul to tens of thousands of students, or by writing, tweeting, facebooking, instagramming and any other excuse I can find to use words. I genuinely enjoy the battle of hypocrisy… knowing that if I’m not who I say I am [and I haven’t always been] then I would likely get found out [and I always do]. I believe with all of my heart that there is no better version of yourself to be than the absolute best version, while fully disclosing all of the ignorant, shady, painful things you’ve done or experience with anyone that will listen.

20130108-140628.jpgThat said, there are a lot of things about being “vulnerable” and sharing my story that are some weird mix of emotionally exhausting and totally self indulgent. But, there are also very rewarding aspects to this journey that I’m on as well. One of the most rewarding aspects of being able to share my story with thousands of teens is the moment when one of them comes up to me, obviously nervous, and says “You’re the only adult who knows this, but I’ve had an abortion too.”

I started on this journey because very early on in my journey of being a Christian [which probably had very little to do with being like Jesus back then] I got really fed up with fake-ass Sunday smiles, bible study super kids, and a paralyzing fear of reality. Don’t get me wrong, I often smile on Sundays whether I am at church or not, but that’s because I also smile on Thursdays. And there is nothing wrong with having a love and passion for learning, studying and knowing the bible… as long as you have some interest in being who He would ask you to be [this will likely be a rant of it’s own really soon]. Lastly, I know that being honest is scary, and I realize that not everyone needs to know your business and blah blah blah… My response to that very real truth is: stop being so damn selfish!

When you do or don’t do something because of how it makes you feel, there is some level of selfishness attached to it, and that may not be a bad thing; I think it brings The Lord great joy in some heavenly way to know that His kids are really enjoying their time on earth. However, when it comes down to not sharing your story because of how it makes you feel I think you should probably just get over it in anyway you need to, solely for the benefit of those around you. I have been reading a daily devotional that was written by one of my spiritual fathers and he captures the weight of being selfless with your story by sharing an aspect of his:


One weekend, I had my first real encounter with alcohol. Southern Comfort might be its name, but it took me on a trip to the pain zone. I was hung over for two days! I did all the things that a sick person does and more. I could not get out of bed because of the freight train that was clickity-clacking in my head. It was horrible.

Those two days, my parents did not say a word to me. They took care of me, but nothing was ever mentioned. A couple days later, Dad invited me to his office. He wanted to talk to me in private. I was in great dread of that meeting!

To my surprise, he shared some things with me out of his childhood along with a few of the lessons he had learned around his own mistakes with alcohol. Things I never knew, stories I never imagined. I still recall what he wore that day, I remember how he smelled, and I was deeply impacted by the fact that he did not demean me, but instead challenged me to responsibility.

All that to say this:
Regardless of what you believe or don’t believe, the fine print of our story has an unfathomable worth to someone that tries to hide the same details. And with that I encourage you to share the most painful, scary details of your story with someone else when you feel like you should. If you are a Christian, your life should be lived to the service and sacrifice of your fellow [wo]man for the Glory of God… If you believe that God can/has redeemed you from your story then what in the hell are you so afraid of anyway?

DG

“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

$79,500

Seventynine thousand five hundred U.S. Dollars. This was the ask of a “Mega Church” I attended recently. Carpet in one building, new computers in another, updating cosmetics in a third, the need was outlined. Check out this keosk map for the church campus. I’m pretty sure the coffee shop and bookstore are key indicators of its mega status:

tn_campusmap300

So what right? This kind of thing absolutely drives me nut covered bananas. In recent years I was a part of a church that I was totally bought into. My wife and I served in multiple ministries, supported the church financially and believed in the mission. To make a long story short, the church built a new building. The church, it turns out, could not afford the new building. CCV took over. It was literally like a hostile corporate take over. Pastors were laid off, the name changed, buildings were repainted, the worship team was dismantled, the vision cast aside and families completely disregarded. Poor me, I know.

Here’s the deal. I’m all about faith. I believe that in Christ all things are possilbe. I believe that miracles do happen, a lot. I believe that if God gives you a vision you should pursue it and he will guide your path. What I don’t believe is that even if we make dumb decisions or insert our will as God’s that he will necessarily keep us from peril or failure. For some reason, churches seem to think they can finance the world and that because they’re a “church” and they pray and they believe, everything will work out. This is insane. Do you realize that many of the Mega Churches have multi million dollar budgets? Do you realize that almost no churches have MBA’s on staff and that almost no pastors have actual business expererience? Do you see that this is insane? Do you see that if you try to say that this is a moot point because churches aren’t businesses I’ll kick you in the privates?

My point I guess is this. What the crap is this church doing asking for $79,500 additional dollars above and beyond the regualr tithing of its members/attenders? You mean to tell me they can spend probably tens of millions on a great big campus but it can’t afford to do $79,500 worth of improvements? It’s time for churches to get fiscally responsible. The Bible gives the parable of the talents. If you haven’t read it you can find it here: Matthew 25:14-30. I can’t help but feel like churches concern themselves with numerical growth and in the process fail in financial planning. What if we spent less money on buildings and more money on ministry and missions? What if The Church gained business savy, invested well and was freed from financial burden so it could actually be The Church? What if the referenced mega church left the old carpet, used personal computers and fed the hungry, clothed the naked and gave shelter to the homeless? I’ll leave you with the continuation of Matthew 25.

Shift the Paradigm,

Ryan

Dinosaurs are badass!

There are some odd thoughts, theories and opinions wrapped around Christianity. Opinions that have caused good men and women to lie. Not evil lies necessarily, but the type of lies that we tell when we want to be right, when we know for sure that we don’t have the darndest clue!

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Is the existence of dinosaurs contradictory to a biblical account of creation?
Did dinosaurs exist in a prehistoric time?
Wait… What does ‘prehistoric’ actually mean?
If Adam was the beginning of “history” then is it possible to have a “prehistoric” earth?
But what about the ‘facts’ presented by carbon dating?

Who gives a sh!t?

It simply baffles me that these are the conversations we have to try and prove or disprove an account of creation, or more-so, whether or not God exists!

When millions of humans are internally and externally dying from the social and personal depravity that we all experience, the best we can do is dinosaurs?! Get ready for a rough left turn… I recently had a conversation with a new friend named Ross, he was telling me about a newer collegiate major that he called, “Behavioral Economics”. This study focuses on the reality that humans are not rational beings, therefore the historic theory of economics as a prediction of human choice and purchasing habits based on being rational, seems to be a grossly unevolved theory. As I listened to him explain some of the major thoughts of this study, which were: all humans lie to make themselves appear/feel better than they are, and, humans are most likely to be very similar to those that they spend their time within behavior, social class, and appearance, to name a few. [I think I ran out of breath just writing that sentence… congrats if you got through that marathon] I responded to his brief explanation by saying, “It’s very interesting to me that you’re learning about explicitly biblical principals and they are being called a ‘new social science.'” He looked at me as if I had just told him that I wrote The Bible- and after an awkwardly long pause asked me how I had concluded that those were biblical issues. As our dialogue continued he purposefully communicated to me that he was “Jewish”, and later was a little more honest by telling me he “wasn’t very religious” and this was the open air that allowed for our conversation. [taking a right turn back on track]

These are the types of conversations that I want to be involved in… real, life-bringing, thought provoking conversations… Not mindless bullsh!t banter that steals so much life and energy from those involved.

SO… We would probably all agree that dinosaurs are badass! But did they exist? Maybe they did and maybe they didn’t, but that answer will depend on your personal theory of how we got here. In conclusion, let me suggest that you waste your breath on conversations that you believe in, and topics that are worth dying for, as opposed to dinosaurs.

#nkdchristianmen

This is not shock value…

I want to thank you for reading this far and graciously ask you to continue.

Ermahgerd! Naked Christian Men

Ermahgerd! Naked Christian Men

Initially, your perception may have been that this is a “shock value” site, well let me assure you that is not the intent. Our intent is pretty simple: to be honest with ourselves, with God and with you. We have chosen to do that by letting our sense of humor be the catalyst for our communication,  rather than taking “serious issues” too seriously. We believe that life should be enjoyed amidst the reality that it is miserably difficult at times… Be encouraged that there is far more freedom available to us [than makes us comfortable] to make life an incredible journey.

There are going to be some very sensitive topics written about here and we beg you to join in on the conversation, both here with the Naked Christian Men and also in your own communities.

One last thing before I let you get on with your day… We plan to challenge your thought process, we hope to offend you [at least a little], and our biggest prayer is that we get you to really consider the “why” behind your actions, convictions, judgements and interactions with humans who do life differently than you.

With as much love as a couple naked dudes can give [besides the love we give our wives], we thank you for being here!

– DG & RD aka Naked Christian Men

Happy Holidays? Really?

Yo!

Happy Holidays?  Really?  What a stupid phrase!  Is that what we care about?  Are we really interested in every living person we come in contact with having a happy holiday?  God, I hope not.  I think this is a two point argument for me.

1.        This is the exact dilution of faith in this country that I can’t help but believe has led to some of this country’s greatest downfalls and tragedies.  Whatever you do, don’t pray in “public institutions”.  What another crap phrase but I digress.  Definitely don’t use the Bible as a moniker of honesty or truth.  Please, for the comfort of the minority do not mention God in a classroom, courtroom or war room.  If you graduated at the top of the class and want to credit you Father in your speech, well then we’ll just go ahead and hold on to your diploma.  What are we doing!  The unabashed dismantling of the ability to  show outwardly our faith or speak “freely” when it comes to only the Christian religion is horrific and all too easily swallowed by the Christian masses.  You know what kids, tell them to keep your diploma.  In fact tell them to go ahead and redistribute it among the kids who didn’t do what it took to graduate or have success.  Take a stand, go get your GED and move on.  If I ever go to court, which given my attitude is all too likely, I think I would have to wear a shirt with the 10 commandments on it.  Ridiculous.  Maybe this seems unrelated but I assure you it is not.  It boils down to “political correctness”, perhaps the most crap phrase in the modern world.  Our HR departments, diplomats and everybody else in our lives with a particular penchant to please have managed to take Christ out of Christmas.  Are we really afraid of offending somebody by wishing them a merry CHRISTmas?  If you are, put on your big boy/girl pants and say what you mean, what you believe.  Hopefully you WILL offend someone and earn the opportunity to share the gospel.  That would be wild wouldn’t it…

2.        The last thing I want is for everyone to have a happy holidays.  Sounds cruel I know.  Maybe it is but here’s my point.  What I actually want is for every Jew, Muslim, Mormon, Jehovah’s witness, Buddhist, Taoist, non-believer etc. to have a tumultuous Christmas.  I want them to grapple with truth, wrestle with God and spar with The Spirit (see what I did there ;)).  I don’t wish them unhappiness.  I don’t wish anyone unhappiness but I want the harsh reality that Christmas (and Easter) celebrate exactly what is different about Christianity to cause pause.  Our God became flesh on Christmas and died to rise again on Easter.  It is the great point of separation.  Jews choose not to deal with the reality of Jesus.  Muslims deified some other dude and most of the rest of the major world religions don’t even have a defined picture of a god nor a defined path to salvation.  For those that don’t know Jesus, I pray that you come to find Him.  For those that hear this as “hate speech” you’ve missed the point.  We should be doing everything we can to be true to our faith and to share it with those around us.  If you really want everyone to have a happy holiday, maybe try wishing them a Merry Christmas.