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

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Guns Loaded

There are a few men in my life whom I look up to and respect as fathers in The Lord. One of them is a guy by the name of Mike Paschall, and despite our mutual appreciation of one another we have never even met each other in person. The following words were written by him as a part of a daily devotional he wrote called Raw Talks With Wisdom and he has given me permission to post them here.

“Like a thornbush brandished by the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.” Proverbs 26:9, NRSV

“To ask a moron to quote a proverb is like putting a scalpel in the hands of a drunk.” Proverbs 26:9, MSG

I have no interest in insulting your intelligence, but may I point out the obvious here? The reason it’s a bad idea for an inebriated individual to trim a rose bush is because his or her judgment and perspective is impaired.

Rose bushes are awesome when they are bloomed in beauty, but if you mishandle them for whatever reason, there are severe consequences. Again, you want your surgeon sober when he’s removing your appendix. Just saying. A surgeon who is under the influence actually becomes unsafe because of what has consumed him.

Like the rose bush or the scalpel, a proverb isn’t the problem. It’s any of these things in the hands of a fool that wreaks havoc and causes destruction.

So, I want to try my hand at paraphrasing today’s text: “A loaded gun in the hands of a lunatic is like scripture in the mouth of a bitter or legalistic Christian.”

This isn’t an NRA advertisement by any means, but guns are not the whole problem in and of themselves. The fact that bad people, immature people, negligent people stockpile arsenals of assault weapons IS A PROBLEM.

I believe it’s a good idea for law enforcement personnel to carry loaded weapons while they’re on duty. I also think it’s a good thing for our nation’s military to be armed while actively defending our country. A thug with a gun is quite another story.

Scripture is full of life! BUT using it as a license to put people in bondage is not a good thing. Likewise, using the Bible to control how people live is a gross misusage.

I have devoted my life to serving the Lord and his people. It requires me to glean and incorporate the foundational truths and great themes of scripture. But I also must be aware that if I make the text a simple rulebook of do’s and don’ts, I have killed the Spirit of love and help that is infused in the Bible.

I do not have permission to grind my way through life using scripture as the litmus test of “who’s in” and “who’s out,” what is right and what is wrong or what is good and what is evil. What a shallow way to live life!

Honestly, there were seasons in my life where I did that. I was nothing more than a modern day Pharisee who needed to be saved from having to be right all the time! Being full of legalism and self-righteous pride made me drunk with religious zeal. I was nothing like the Jesus I was trying to serve.

The problem wasn’t the scripture. I WAS THE PROBLEM. We need to take some time to make sure we are using scripture correctly and safely.

In The Pages
(this is where you journal your way through the following questions
Do you use scripture to make your point in religious altercations? How often do you use scripture to scold another person’s bad behavior? How consumed are you with having right doctrine? Who ultimately gets to decide whether your doctrine is right or wrong?

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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

Family First

Hello and happy Friday!!

This is going to be a short and sweet little encouragement to take the small steps toward the big visions…

1st of all, this is Dennis. I am gracefully married to a badass woman… And I don’t say BA lightly, I mean, this chick makes me a better man and keeps me in line while being an incredible mother and nurturer of our domain.

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Since being married I have been encouraging Jenna to search for new employment, mainly because I have a little philosophy that I live by, “When you don’t like where your priorities have been stacked, purposefully lose the game of Jenga [The America Edition] you’re playing and start building something new.” Well, my wife has been a single mom for 5 years [I told you she’s awesome] and has provided very well for our daughter, now she isn’t a single mom and her heart is re-configuring some priorities.

Just recently her current place of employment wanted to extend business hours [again], which would put her at work from 6:30am to 6:00pm and something in her heart said, “No! My family comes first… even if it is harder financially…”

She is listening to The Lord and her heart is moldable to what God is speaking into our family. God is allowing me to step up and be a frick’n man in a way that I’ve never been and simultaneously allowing her to be a wife and mom in a way that she’s never been free to be.

Dudes, if your woman is willing to say, “Money is not worth the time away from my family”, don’t be a lazy-ass and try to play video games while your wife puts food on the table. You’re the hunter and gatherer, let her be nurturing and show her LOTS of love! Before I close, I would like to add that not all women are built for the stay at home gig, some women should work [even if you have children] as to not go crazy or drive anyone else there either.

There is a bigger vision for our family… A vision that we both have to see and that our hearts have to align somewhere in the super-natural in order for it to be a possibility that we stay sane and travel together. That vision is not having my wife work 60 hours a week in exchange for some dollars and cents, but rather for us to live alongside people we love, sharing resources, loving one another, and spending time chasing each-other not some silly “dream”.

Displace comfort.
Believe for yourself.
Live for what’s important.

Much love,
Naked Christian Men

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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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

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