Random Notes From What I’m Reading

The story of my life is the story of my faith…

Archive for August 2007

Faith Grows

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Have you had one of those moments where you break out  into a spontaneous grin while reading? When your trying to casually read something on the bus without drawing attention to yourself but something grabs your attention that you have to nudge the person next to you and share what you read. Or when something comical grabs your funny bone and you can’t help but laugh out loud. Those times are few and far between but I had one while reading this section of “God Is Here” by Steve Case:

One of the important parts to remember is that faith grows. You will not have some kind of super faith when you begin the presence. Children do not jump up from infancy and dance. Kids do not climb on a bike and ride the first time without skinning their knees.

Faith grows.

You failed tests and learned to study harder; you drank to excess and spent a day with your head in the toilet and didn’t drink that way anymore.

Faith grows.

We must learn to use our faith. Faith grows and becomes more alive when we learn to connect with God. When God is a part of our everyday lives, our faith becomes central to w ho we are. We no longer doubt. We no longer expect black and white. We learn that some questions have no answers and others may not be answered right away.

I’ve always been a Christian – I guess the buzzword for that is “inherited faith” – so there are times where I become incredibly frusterated with myself for not being as “mature” in my faith and relationship with God as I would. This exceprt was a great reminder that God doesn’t expect me to be perfect because my relationship with him and my faith is meant to always be growing.

Written by Ryan

August 31, 2007 at 11:35 pm

Posted in Books, Christian, Steve Case

Unwilling To Defend The Term “Christian”

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Ahh, someone else longing to burst out of the Christian “bubble”… I love it!

Check out what Donald Miller wrote about his thoughts about the term Christian in “Blue Like Jazz”:

So much of me believes strongly in letting everybody live their own lives, and when I share my faith, I feel like a network marketing guy trying to build my down line.Some of my friends who aren’t Christians think that Christians are insistent and demanding and intruding, but that isn’t the case. Those folks are the squeaky wheel. Most Christians have enormous respect for the space and freedom of others; it is only that they have found a joy in Jesus that they want to share. There is the tension.

In a recent radio interview I was sternly asked by the host, who did not consider himself a Christian, to defend Christianity. I told him I couldn’t do it, and moreover, that I didn’t want to defend the term. He asked me if I was a Christian, and I told him yes. “Then why don’t you want to defend Christianity?” he asked confused. I told him I no longer knew what the term meant. Of the hundreds of thousands of people listening to his show that day, some of them had terrible experiences with Christianity; they may have been yelled at by a teacher in a Christian school, abused by a minister or browbeaten by a Christian parent. To them, the term Christianity meant something that no Christian I know would defend. By fortifying the term, I am only making them more and more angry. I won’t do it. Stop ten people on the street and ask them what they think of when they hear the word Christianity, and they will give you ten different answers. How can I defend a term that means ten different things to ten different people? I told the radio show host that I would rather talk about Jesus and how I came to believe that Jesus exists and that he likes me. The host looked back at me with tears in his eyes. When we were done, he asked me if we could go get lunch together. He told me how much he didn’t like Christianity but how he had always wanted to believe Jesus was the Son of God.

Written by Ryan

August 30, 2007 at 11:47 am

We Must Say “Thank You”

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I tend to go through the motions sometimes and life just tends to blend into the background. Kind of like life is stuck in cruise control. It’s time like these that I really appreciate this excerpt from Steve Case’s book “God Is Here” because it reminds me to slow down, appreciate life and take time to thank God for the blessings he’s given me:

God created us. We must say “thank you.” The bible tells us that all good things come from God. Below is a partial list…

Trees, rain, snow, hot fudge, Chuck Taylor high-top tennis shoes, Ben &Jerry’s, peanut butter, bus drivers, ambulance drivers, garbage collectors, candles that smell like the ocean, books, CD’, The Simpsons, Starbucks, matches, sleeping bags, stars, planets, rocks, telescopes, movies, DVD’s, warm socks, warm hearts, families, vacations, vacations with the family, vacations without the family, the Grand Canyon, rest stops, public toilets, indoor plumbing, agriculture, corn, peas, jalapeños, pizza, cheese, cows, chocolate milk, Oreo cookies, plastic bags to put your lunch in, metal lunch boxed, thermoses, cool mountain streams, the smell of pine needles in the woods, the smell of pine needles in your living room, Christmas, Easter, vaccinations, vitamins, laughter, giggles, smirks, grins, smiles, laughter through the tears, tears through laughter, jokes that make you squirt milk out your nose, onions.

Say “thank you.”

This is not a “thank you” the way you say “thank you” to your grandmother who still gives you PJ’s because she has labored under the delusion that you have been eight for the last fifteen years. This is a “thank you” from deep in the depths of your soul. This is a “thank you” that is a realization that all good things come from God. Everything you take for granted. Everything you never thought of. Everything.

This is a “thank you” that should be shouted from the mountaintop. This is a “thank you” that should be heard from your driveway when you walk out in the rain to get the paper in the morning. This is a “thank you” that comes from the heart. Say “thank you” with your life.

The best way to say “thank you” to God is by taking the gifts he has given you and giving the back to Him. If God has given you the gift of being able to sing, sing for God. Volunteer to do a solo on Christmas Eve. If you have a God-given gift to cook, cook for God. There’s a shelter in your neighborhood. Or maybe you can cook for your church youth group one night.

God gives everyone gifts. All good things come from God.

Say “thank you.”

Written by Ryan

August 29, 2007 at 8:22 am

Posted in Books, Christian, Steve Case

Why Does God Allow Hurt?

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Have you ever sat by and listened to a friend pout our their heart about the hurt they’ve endured and listen to them question why God would allow this? I’ve been blessed to have hurt in my life but minimal hurt – the kind you can easily chalk up to God building your character and strengthening your faith. Other Christians have had their faith rocked by hurt and Max Lucado does a great job of explaining where God is during this time in his book “Come Thirsty.” Check out the excerpt below:

Some find the thought impossible to accept. One dear woman did. After I shared these ideas in a public setting she asked to speak with me. Husband at her side, she related the story of her horrible childhood. First abused, then abandoned by her father. Unimaginable and undeserved hurt scar her early memories. Through tear-filled eyes she asked, “do you mean to tell me God was watching the whole time?”

The question vibrated in the room. I shifted in my chair and answered, “yes, he was. I don’t know why he allowed your hurt, but I do know this. He loves you and hurts with you.” She didn’t’ like the answer. But dare we say anything else? Dare we suggest that God dozed off? Abandoned his post? That heaven sees but can’t act? That our father is kind but not strong, or strong but doesn’t care?

I wish she could have spoken to Joseph. His brothers abused him, selling him into slavery. Was God watching? Yes. And our sovereign God used their rebellious hearts to save a nation from famine and the family of the Messiah from extinction. As Joseph told them, “God turned into good what you meant for evil” (Gen 50:20).

I wish she could have spoken to Lazarus. He grew deathly ill. When Jesus heard the news, he did nothing. Jesus waited until Lazarus was four-days dead in the grave. Why? “For the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it” (John 11:4).

Best of all would have been a conversation with Jesus himself. He begged God for a different itinerary: a crossless death. From Gethsemane’s garden Christ pleaded for a plan B. Redemption with no nails. “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. YesI want your will, not mine.’ Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him” (Luke 22:42-43).

Did God hear the prayer of his Son? Enough to send an angel. Did God spare his son from death? No. The glory of God outranked the comfort of Christ. So Christ suffered, and God’s grace was displayed and deployed.

Are you called to endure a Gethsemane season? Have you “been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for his sake” (Phil 1:29 NSV)?

If so, then come thirsty and drink deeply from his lordship. He authors all itineraries. He knows what is best. No struggle will come your way apart from his purpose, presence, and permission. What encouragement this brings! You are never the victim of nature of the prey of fate. Chance is eliminated. You are more than a weather vane whipped about by the winds of fortune. Would God truly abandon you to the whims of drug-crazed thieves, greedy corporate raiders or evil leaders? Perish the thought!

Written by Ryan

August 27, 2007 at 1:32 am

Posted in Books, Christian, Max Lucado

Beautiful Scandalous Night

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How great of a name for a song is “Beautiful Scandalous Night?” Maybe it’s the geek in me that loves to play with words to create mental images but I’m amazed by the name of this song. Simply amazing.

I just head Bobbie Seay Band cover this but I was unable to find a  YouTube clip of their version so I’m posting Leigh Nash’s version instead. If you want to hear Bobbie Seay Band’s version you can dowload their entire album for free this week courtesy of Relevant Magazine. Enjoy 🙂

 

Written by Ryan

August 24, 2007 at 1:51 pm

Posted in Christian, Music, Ryan, YouTube

Foot-In-Mouth-Itis

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I have a confession to make – I suffer from foot-in-mouth-itis.

While the medical profession in North America has yet to officially acknowledge this term I’m sure there are countless other people who unfortunately share the same infliction. It could be an ill-timed joke, a well meant joke that is worded the wrong or or just flat out dropping the ball and saying something I shouldn’t, all of my friends and family know that my lips are basically a timebomb waiting to explode.

Trust me, I’ve tried to my hardest to fix this problem but it seems like there’s nothing I can do.

While reading through articles on Relevant – yes, I’m still slowly reading through the articles on my RSS feed – I came across a gem from Joey Spiegel where he opened his article by writing:

Ever found yourself in an argument that you later realized wasn’t worth it? I have. I can’t shut my mouth sometimes. If somebody says something that pushes my buttons, my initial reaction can be fierce and divisive. As a Christian—and as a pastor—I struggle with this.

Whoa, hold up!

You mean those cool, calm and collected people whose sermons I soak up each Sunday suffer from the same affliction?

Knowing that I’m in good company helped me tremendously in dealing with some regret over some ill-timed comments that I’ve recently made. Thanks Joey!

Written by Ryan

August 23, 2007 at 1:32 am

Fighting For Authenticity

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Something I check almost as often as my email is my RSS feeds although one of my favourite sites, Relevant, gets neglected and I keep saving articles a they come out to read later. I have a ton of music and basketball sites in my feeds and I always bookmark the Relevant articles as I’m usually in a hurry to read through my feeds and email and I like to slowly read the articles and digest what I’m reading.

This week while going through archived posts I realized I had over 50 Relevant articles saved up so I finally sat down to read them.

Talk about being a slacker.

While digging through the 50 plus articles one that stood out was Josh Riebok’s “Fighting For Authenticity” and the section or the article that caught my attention was when Josh wrote:

Authentic community, authentic faith and authentic Jesus are the cry of the new generation.

We don’t want to be fooled anymore. We don’t want to be gullible anymore. We want to be us with people that don’t pretend to be something that they aren’t. Just add water relationships, plastic pastors and immaculate images have induced gag reflexes like that of Lloyd Christmas upon finding that Harry Dunne was sweeping Mary Samsonite, I mean Swanson, off for a day of skiing in Dumb and Dumber. We want flawed. We want imperfect. We want real. And this kind of corduroy rather than polyester faith is a growing and refreshing influence in the world today.

But as our generation has attempted to flee the “traditional” model of Christianity with perfect leaders, pristine theologies, hollow rituals and performance driven faith, it has not been able to fully evade it and it is now invading our most cherished value, authenticity. The banner of authenticity that our generation has waived is in danger of being tainted, soiled and becoming one of the very things that we are so desperate to escape.

The truth is, authenticity is becoming as traditional a religious method as singing “Amazing Grace,” uttering the Apostles Creed or avoiding tattoos and drinking. It is becoming a mindless ritual that holds no meaning. One that we somehow believe makes us more spiritual. It goes something like this.

A group of twentysomethings will be drinking a beer, talking about life, Lost and sharing their stories. Someone will begin to share about their past, perhaps describing the strained nature of their relationship with their father. Words like broken, wounded and bitter will get thrown around. As the individual finishes their story, the others in the room will feel a deep connection, believing that this individual has just bared their soul in an authentic way.

But what really happened, many times, is that this individual has just performed a powerfully hollow ritual. They have figured out what they can share in this community in order to make everyone else think that they are being authentic and making them happy. Simultaneously, they withheld all things that are difficult to share, anything that might bring discomfort, and anything that they are truly wrestling with. At the conclusion of the exchange they are accepted by the community, their heart has remained completely hidden, and they somehow believe that God is smiling. Herein lays the danger of authenticity and the proof that “religion” has infiltrated the ranks of authenticity.

We, as humans, always learn how to play the game of religion and spirituality. We adapt. It used to just be that we could go to church, memorize a few Bible verses, not party too hard in public and avoid Tarantino movies, and we were confident that we were OK in the eyes of everyone else. And now, we are simply adding authenticity to that list. It is simply lengthening the works oriented faith list that must be executed in order to make God and others happy. 

This article was a good wakeup call for me as I’ve realized this summer that through trying to be genuine and authentic I’ve strayed away from being honest to  myself. I would like to expand on this some more but the best I can do is linking it to Jesus’ example of the first being last – the more I try to be genuine and honest through being open with friends the more it feels like I’m putting on a mask.

I’m not sure if my ramble made much sense, but even if it didn’t please take some time to read Josh’s article as it will provide you with some great food for thought.

Written by Ryan

August 22, 2007 at 3:32 am