Expand Your Horizons of Christian Music with The Royal Royal

Expand Your Horizons of Christian Music with The Royal Royal

For this week’s Music Mondays post, my hope is that I will stretch and expand your horizons when it comes to Christian music.

It has been said, quite often, that Christian music just isn’t as good as mainstream music.

I think this is completely false, on pretty much every level.

The problem isn’t that Christian music isn’t as good, it’s that the vast majority of listeners only hear a very small segment of Christian music.  There are many reasons for this, but the biggest one is Christian radio.

Like it or  not, radio is still a major driver of what we hear, no matter what type of music we listen to.  Record labels know this.  That means that record labels will spend vast amounts of money to get their songs played on radio.  That means that the songs you hear on the radio are chosen mostly by virtue of the fact that the record labels paid for them to be played.  This is just the way it works, both in mainstream and Christian music.

Over time, the songs that get played the most are the songs we end up liking (because we don’t have much choice).  In turn, those songs keep getting played.  In turn, those artists receive priority when they release new songs.  In turn, we basically get to listen to the same small cadre of artists and labels on the radio.  That’s life.

Thing is, that small segment of music that we hear on the radio, as popular as it is, isn’t representative of all the music that is available.  Perhaps nowhere is this more true than in Christian music.

Christian radio tends to play the same 12 or so artists at any given time, with the occasional newcomer thrown in for good measure.  That’s fine.  As I’ve already mentioned, I get it.

If you’ve only heard that group of 12 or so artists, you could make the false assumption that ALL Christian music sounds like the music they make.

There is a vast universe of excellent Christian music out there, from a wide-variety of genres, you just have to search for it.  It won’t come to you.

This week, I want to share with you a recent discovery I made of some excellent Christian music that I know you won’t hear on your local Christian radio station

The Royal Royal

I encountered The Royal Royal’s music on the DJ iTunes Christian Music station on iTunes Radio.  The nice thing about iTunes radio is that it is a discovery engine.  By that, I mean that the iTunes radio stations are likely to introduce you to artists you’ve never heard before.  The first song I heard by The Royal Royal was “Light a Fire.”  I knew that I had to hear more after that.

the royal royal, the return of the king, christian music

I went and listened to their album, “The Return of the King,” on iTunes and immediately bought it.  I’ve been playing it pretty much non-stop since then.

Their music is a perfect example of excellent Christian music that is virtually unknown to the larger audience.  You probably won’t hear them on Christian radio, but not because they aren’t good enough, but simply because they can’t make it past the gatekeepers.  That’s a shame.

I’m glad I found them, and I hope you enjoy their music as much as I do. If you do, consider making a conscious effort to seek out new Christian music wherever you can find it, even if it isn’t your local Christian radio station.

The Royal Royal’s Music

Lyric Video for “Real Strength”

“The Return of the King” Album Preview

10 Minutes with your Bible will Transform Your Life

10 Minutes with your Bible will Transform Your Life

Perhaps you’ve said to yourself, or even others, “I wish God would talk to me.  Why doesn’t he talk to me?”

I’ve said this before.  It’s a very common sentiment among believers.

The ironic thing is that God’s voice is never far away.  In fact, it’s usually right at our fingertips. . .

Hearing the Word of God

Believers often refer to the Bible as the “word of God,” without really giving it much thought.  When we describe the Bible this way, we usually mean that the Bible is inspired by God and given to people.

But just stop for a moment and consider the fact that the Bible is, in fact, the word of God.  Every word of scripture is a word from God.  Every word is spoken by God.  Every word is the written voice of God.

So when we lament that God isn’t speaking to us, it’s often because we aren’t engaging with his voice.  We think of reading our Bible as just that, reading.  We need to adjust our understanding of reading the Bible. We need to realize that when we read the Bible, we are listening to the voice of God.

What can God do with 60 hours of your life?

Once we understand that reading the Bible is actually engaging with God, the act of reading scripture takes on a whole different dimension and level of importance.

I want you to consider some very simple math that I worked out the other day:

10 minutes per day X 365 days per year = 3650 minutes 

3650 minutes per year / 60 minutes per hour = 60.8 hours per year

To put it another way–  if we spend 10 minutes per day listening to the voice of God by reading the Bible, we will have spent 60 hours listening to God over the course of one year.

What do you think God could do with 60 hours of your time?

I’m confident He could do some amazing things, if you spent 60 hours listening to Him every year.

But Daniel, I don’t have 10 minutes a day!

Cop out.  It’s just not true.

I get it.  We all have jam-packed lives.  But you have 10 minutes.  Everyone does.

Take a look at that picture at the top of the post.  That’s my daughter, Ava, in the bathtub.  I sometimes use that time as my 10 minutes.  She plays, I read the Bible (I even found a waterproof Bible).  Heck, even if you have to lock yourself in the bathroom for 10 minutes, do it.

Even if you change nothing else about your life, wake up 10 minutes earlier every day.

If you won’t wake up 10 minutes earlier every day so that you can listen to God speak to you. . .

10 Minutes to Transformation

If your boss told you, “congrats, we’re going to give you 60 extra hours of vacation this year,” you’d be ecstatic.  If someone told you, “hey, we’ll babysit your kids for free for 60 hours this year,” you’d probably kiss that person on the lips.

I’ve got something better than both of those to tell you– God is going to speak directly to you for 60 hours this year.

If you’re ready for God to speak to you for 60 hours this year, if you’re ready for transformation in your life at the hands of God, He’s waiting.  He’s wants to talk.

All you have to do is read your Bible for 10 minutes a day and listen to Him speak. . .

 

 

Experience True Freedom

Experience True Freedom

For today’s Music Mondays installment, I want to share with you one of my favorite worship songs, “Freedom,” from Bethel Music. You can check on a live performance of the song. . .

Like many worship songs, this one was inspired by scripture. The chorus of the song comes specifically from 2 Cor. 3:17 –

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (emphasis mine)

This verse is a great example of the power that can be contained in a single verse.  When we recognize, understand, and accept what Paul is telling us, our lives can be transformed.

What is freedom?

In America, we tend to have a very specific idea of what “freedom,” is.  For most of us, when we think of freedom, we think of political freedom.  If we stop there, however, we will completely  miss the freedom that Paul, and this song, are expressing.

When Paul writes to the believers in Corinth and tells them about the freedom that is brought by the Spirit of the Lord, he is talking about something far deeper and greater than what we usually understand as freedom.

Verse 17, which inspired Bethel Music to write this song, is merely part of the conclusion to an explanation that Paul gives the Corinthians about the difference between the old and new covenants (2 Cor. 3:6-16)

Paul explains that the old covenant was one sealed “with laws, etched in stone” (2 Cor. 3:7). He then explains that this “old way” was glorious. So glorious, in fact, that when it was given to Moses, the people had to hide their faces from Moses because his face shone with the glory of God.

Even though the glory of the old way was so great that people couldn’t look at Moses in the face, Paul tells us that the new covenant, sealed by the Holy Spirit, will be even more glorious because it makes us right with God (2 Cor. 3:8).

In fact, Paul emphasizes that the old covenant, with all it’s glory, was not even remotely as glorious as the new covenant, and that this glory will remain forever (2 Cor. 3:10-11).  Because of this, we can be confident and bold (2 Cor. 3:12).

Moses had to hide the glory of God from the Israelites with a veil over his face; but now, through Jesus, the veil is removed for us, so that we can experience the fullness of the glory of God (2 Cor. 3:13-16).

We can do this because–  the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  

The freedom that Paul speaks of is the greatest freedom that anyone can possibly imagine.

Through our belief in Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit that is in us, we are now free to see and reflect the glory of God.  Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, will transform us more and more until we are changed into his glorious image. (2 Cor. 3:18)

Go and be free!

What Paul is trying to convey to the Corinthians, and to us, is one of the most powerful promises in all of scripture.  I want you to hear it very clearly:

Jesus has made you free.  The Holy Spirit is in you and makes you free to glorify God. He will transform you into His glorious image.

You are free from the condemnation of the law.

You are free from death.

You are free from your sins.

You are free from your past.

You are free from the accusations of others.

You are free.  The Spirt of the Lord is in you.

Jesus has made you free.  Live in that freedom every moment of every day.

Reftagger: When Lines of Code are Manna From Heaven

Reftagger: When Lines of Code are Manna From Heaven

I’ve had my own presence on the web since 2005.  Since I’m not exactly code-literate (though I’m handy with a good google search and copy/paste), I don’t have the capacity to create all of the features I sometimes desire in my websites.

WordPress was a major step in the right direction for me.  Because WordPress is open source, there is a vast community of developers who make all sorts of amazing themes and super helpful plugins that I can use to make my life on Internet far easier.

I have, on occasion, been known to get quite excited when I discover a new WordPress plugin that enhances my site in a significant way.  It’s part of my geek-cred.

Just such an occasion occurred this morning when I got an email from Logos (the Bible study software folks) that introduced me to Reftagger.

When he wrote the words of James 1:17, I don’t think James was referring specifically to WordPress plugins, but Reftagger certainly fits the description of something “good and perfect.”

And if you scrolled over that reference, you had the chance to see Reftagger in action.

Basically, what Reftagger does is link any Bible verse or chapter reference to the corresponding text, so that all you must do, dear reader, is scroll over it to see the text, or click to be taken directly to it.

This. Is. Awesome.

Sometimes, I have been reluctant to include a bunch of references in a post because, in doing so, I either need to a) search, find, and manually link the reference to corresponding text on a website or, b) not link to it, which forces the reader to manually look it up on his or her own.

Option (b) is a non-starter, since I don’t like to inconvenience you, if I don’t have to, and option (a) can be tedious and even labor-intensive, when there are multiple references.  As a result, I usually leave out many references, altogether.

Reftagger solves all of this.  With Reftagger installed, now all I have to do is type in the reference (such as John 3:16, or Acts 17) and Reftagger links it for me automatically.

I’m using the Reftagger WordPress plugin, because WordPress is my platform of choice; but, if you have a website and you want to use the power of Reftagger, you only need to be able to copy/paste some HTML code.  Find out how install Reftagger on your site HERE.

Reftagger is also very easy to customize so that it matches the look of your site, links to your preferred Bible translation, and makes it easy for your reader to share a passage or research it further.

Don’t be surprised if you start to see me using a lot more Bible passage references in my posts.  With the power and convenience of Reftagger, how can I resist?

 

 

When we Worship, we Crush the Idols

When we Worship, we Crush the Idols

For this very first Music Mondays post, I thought I should start with the song that was the original inspiration for the series:

“Clear the Stage” by Jimmy Needham

If you’re not familiar with the song, or you want to remind yourself of it, take 5 minutes and check out the official lyric video. I promise you’ll enjoy it.

Below the video, I’m going to post all of the lyrics to the song. With a song like this one, it often helps to see and read the lyrics, as well.

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that’s the measure you must take to crush the idols


Jerk the pews & all the decorations, too
Until the congregations few, then have revival

Tell your friends that this is where the party ends
Until you’re broken for your sins, you can’t be social

Then seek the Lord and wait for what He has in store
And know that great is your reward so just be hopeful

‘Cause you can sing all you want to
Yes, you can sing all you want to
You can sing all you want to
And still get it wrong;
worship is more than a song

Take a break from all the plans that you have made
And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper

Beg Him please to open up His mouth and speak
And pray for real upon your knees until they blister

Shine the light on every corner of your life
Until the pride and lust and lies are in the open

Then read the Word and put to test the things you’ve heard
Until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken

‘Cause you can sing all you want to
Yes, you can sing all you want to
You can sing all you want to
And still get it wrong; worship is more than a song

We must not worship something that’s not even worth it
Clear the stage, make some space for the One who deserves it

Anything I put before my God, is an idol
Anything I want with all my heart, is an idol
Anything can’t stop thinking of, is an idol
Anything that I give all my love, is an idol

‘Cause I can sing all I want to
Yes, I can sing all I want to
I can sing all I want to
And still get it wrong
And you can sing all you want to
Yes, you can, you can sing all you want to
You can sing all you want to
And still get it wrong; worship is more than a song
Worship is more than a song

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that’s the measure you must take to crush the idols

There are two concepts that jumped out at me when I first heard the song–worship and idolatry.

What is worship?

As I’ve said previously, words mean things.  Words can also change or gain new meanings over time, depending on how we use them.  A good example of this in American Christian culture is the term, “worship.”

I’m willing to bet that if you stopped ten Christians on the street and asked them what the word “worship” means to them, most of them would say something like, “singing songs,” or “the church service,” or something very similar.

As Jimmy points out in his song, however, answers such as these don’t capture what worship really means.  Worship is more than a song.

To get a better picture of the meaning of worship, I think it helps to turn back the clock a little bit; specifically, to 1828 and Noah Webster’s first American Dictionary of the English Language.  You can go here to search the entry for “worship” in that dictionary.

After going through the first few definitions, which call to mind the aristocratic meaning of the word that would have been prevalent in the early 19th Century, we get to meanings that are more like what we’re looking for.  I think that if we combine two of them, we get the most accurate definition of “worship:”

Worship is to honor with extravagant love, supreme respect, and extreme submission.

When we see worship this way, it becomes clear that yes, worship is much more than a song.

Worship is an all-consuming activity.  Worship requires our total submission.  When we genuinely worship God, we are putting ourselves in the proper place of complete submission to the one who created the heavens, the earth, and us.

Worship isn’t something we do for a prescribed amount of time on certain days of the week, worship is the way that we live our lives.

Whether or not we realize it, we are all worshipping something.  The question is not, “are you worshipping?” The question is, “what are you worshipping?”

That brings us to the second concept of Jimmy’s song. . .

What is an idol?

Our default condition, as human beings, is one of worship. It’s the way that we’re wired. All of us.

It doesn’t matter if someone is religious or not, everyone is worshipping something with their lives.

For some, it’s God; for others, it’s money; for others, it’s knowledge; and for still others, it’s themselves. We’re all worshipping something. It’s who we are. It’s how we’re made.

If we’re made to worship, and God wants us to worship ONLY Him, then how do we know that’s what we’re doing? How do we know that we aren’t worshipping any of the various idols that this world makes readily available?

Jimmy’s definition of an idol is right on the money. Notice what he says:

Anything I put before my God, is an idol
Anything I want with all my heart, is an idol
Anything can’t stop thinking of, is an idol
Anything that I give all my love, is an idol

I want you to read and re-read these words, then let them sink in for a little bit.

Are there things in your life that fit into these lines?  I  know there have been plenty of things in my life that have, from time to time, become idols.

Some of you might be resisting this definition of idol.  Some of you probably want to yell, “but wait?!  What about my kids? What about my spouse? What about my family? What I about my friends? I give them all my love. Surely, God doesn’t want us to stop loving our kids or spouse, or family, or friends!”

This was my reaction, too.  Thing is, this reaction stems from our woefully inadequate understanding of how God works in our lives and hearts.

We tend to view our ability to love as finite, that we only have so much to give.  God shows us this is wrong.  Not only that, He shows us that when we love Him first, with all of our heart, mind, and soul, He enables us to fully and truly love everything and everyone around us.

The glorious paradox is this– when we give all of our love to God, He gives us an overflow that we can pour out on everyone around us.  

When we give everything to God, he gives us even more.

For most of us, that’s a scary thought.  It doesn’t make any sense.  It goes against everything we’ve ever experienced in this world.  No where else in our lives can we give up everything only to get more than we could ever imagine.

But then, that’s the point, isn’t it?

Worship crushes idols

Worship and idolatry are the two concept that jumped out at me when I first heard Jimmy Needham’s, “Clear the Stage.”  He does a beautiful job of showing how these two concepts are related, and then letting us decide what we’re going to do with that in our own lives.

This song helped me to realize a beautiful truth of God that is affirmed throughout scripture and creation–

True worship, total submission to God, is the means by which we crush the idols in our lives.  It is only when we let go of the idols in our lives that our hands our free to receive everything God has for us.  

 

 

Get Ready for Music Mondays

Get Ready for Music Mondays

I love music.  Music has played a major part in my life, including my walk with Christ.

The last 2+ years working with Christian Hip-Hop artists has taken me places I never would have expected, introduced me to people I never thought I would meet, and given me experiences I never thought I would have.

Since music has been a big part of my life, I want to share that part of me here with you.

Every Monday, I’m going to pick some music and share what it means to me, or why I think it’s important, or how it has effected me.  Simple enough.

Since my musical taste is probably best described as “eclectic,”  you can expect the same from my posts.  I could share everything from a 500 year-old hymn to the latest Hip-Hop track from one of the artists I work with.

No matter what I share, you can bet that it will be important to me, and hopefully enlightening or meaningful for you, too.

I’m calling the series, “Music Mondays.”

It should be fun.

Why I’m Trying to Eliminate, “Unbiblical,” from my Vocabulary

Why I’m Trying to Eliminate, “Unbiblical,” from my Vocabulary

unbiblical bible debate discussion

I was an English major in college.  I love words.  I really do.

Words mean things.

Perhaps one of the most eloquent examples of the power of words comes from the classic film, “The Dead Poets Society.”

So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.        –N.H. Kleinbaum, Dead Poets Society


While I disagree that the primary reason language exists is to woo women, I completely agree that we shouldn’t be lazy with our words. (full disclosure:  the written word was, in fact, the primary way I wooed my wife, lol)

We should endeavor to be as precise as possible with our choice of words, so that we can ensure that our words have the intended effect on our audience.

American English is less than helpful

One of the drawbacks of using American English is that it is a rather imprecise language, as compared to many others.  In our language, one word can take on many different meanings, especially in different usage situations.  Here’s a brief example:

Let’s take the word, “holding.”  Seems straightforward enough, right?  We all know what that word means.

Now, let’s put that exact same word into a few different situations.

  • I am holding a gun.
  • The defensive back is holding the wide-receiver.
  • Sarah was holding her daughter as she fell asleep.
  • The police department his holding the prisoner prior to the court hearing.

The meaning of the word, “holding” is slightly different in all of these situations, even though it is also the same.  Each situation evokes a different feeling in the listener.  I’m willing to bet that even if a dozen people read each of those sentences, they will all imagine different pictures.

Usually, there isn’t much consequence to the imprecision of our language.  If we all kinda know what a particular word means, that’s typically good enough.  But sometimes, “good enough,” won’t do.

“Unbiblical”

One of the situations in which I think people need to be as precise as possible with their words and what they mean, is in discussions of great import.  In my estimation, any discussion that involves the Bible qualifies.

It’s become commonplace in discussions that involve the Bible, whether between believers or non-believers or a mixture, for participants to use the word,”unbiblical.”

In my experience, the word “unbiblical” is used in such a way that it takes on at least one of the following meanings:

  1. something that isn’t found anywhere in the Bible
  2. something that is contrary to the speaker’s interpretation of the Bible

Also in my experience, the practical effect of inserting the word “unbiblical” into a discussion is that everything quickly goes off the rails, or even grinds to a halt.  The reason for this stems from the second meaning of the word.

The Bible is obviously central to the life of every believer.  It is God’s word, given to us.  It is, literally, how God speaks to us.

In light of this, it is perhaps better to reword the second meaning of the word to better reflect what we really mean when we use it– something that is contrary to God.

That’s heavy.

If someone is going to make such a claim, it needs to be done with the great care and full intentionality and acknowledgement.

Far too often, that isn’t the case.

Far too often, the word “unbiblical” gets thrown around carelessly in conversation and applied to a very wide range of topics.

Far too often, the word “unbiblical” is used in the way someone uses a trump card in a game of spades– as a means of winning and ending the game.

Why I won’t be using the word “unbiblical”

My intent for discussion is to actually have, well, discussion.  Using a word like “unbiblical” has the exact opposite effect, often shutting down productive discussion far too frequently.

So, in the interest of having productive discussions, I’m trying to eliminate using the word “unbiblical.”

That doesn’t mean that I’ll be avoiding absolute truth, or shying away from recognizing those things that are clearly contrary to God; it simply means that when I am talking about those things, I’ll refer to them as such, in the most precise way that I can.  Being precise means that I need to avoid using catch-all or potentially ambiguous words like “unbiblical.”

All of this doesn’t mean that I won’t slip up from time-to-time.  Habits are hard to break, even linguistic habits.  So, if you see or hear me use the word “unbiblical,” feel free to call me out on it.  Please ask me to clarify exactly what I mean if you see me using that word.

And if you see someone else using the word, “unbiblical,” the best reaction, the reaction that is most likely to lead to greater understanding and productive discussion, is to ask them exactly what they mean by using it.

If we can all commit to being more precise with our language in such important discussions, we’ll be well on our way to having more fruitful discussions, and fewer disheartening arguments.

Writing as Faithfulness

Writing as Faithfulness

fountain penAllow me to reintroduce myself.

I’ve never been a fan of people apologizing for not writing enough.  So I won’t apologize, but allow me to explain, just a little. . .

Sorting things out

When I resurrected DanielRothamel.com last year, one of the goals I had was to share my perspective with the world.  A secondary goal was to continue to hone my communication skills.

The ability to effectively communicate is a gift God gave to me; I’m not afraid to say that.  The responsibility for being a faithful steward of that gift means that I have to actually use it.

I started off well enough.  I think I wrote something like 7 posts or so.  People liked them. I’m not ashamed of them.

Then I let stuff get in the way.  Sure, everyday life presented the challenges it always does.  Kari and I welcomed a (second) beautiful daughter into the world.  Lots of things were going on.

C’est la vie.

I could use that as an excuse, but the reality is that it wasn’t the real reason that I let the writing fall by the wayside.  That wasn’t the real reason I failed at my responsibility to use the gift I’ve been given.

What I lacked was faithfulness.

Being a faithful friend

My good friend, Jeff Turner, gave me a gentle, unintentional, prod with a post of his own, “The Value of Writing.”

Jeff is someone whose perspective I value.  He is also someone who was going through a situation similar to my own; in that he, too, is a gifted communicator who had fallen virtually silent.

As I witnessed the resurrection of his own blog, I kept watching from the sidelines.  The nature of his content is very different from mine, but I still appreciate much about the way he does what he does.  His post about why he was writing again, however, was what forced me to get back in the game.

For Jeff, he was encouraged and energized by the way in which his ideas were being filtered through others.  His writing was animated by the impact that sharing his ideas (no matter how insignificant he thought they might seem) were impacting others.

One of the things that Jeff and I share in common is that we are both inspired by seeing others inspired.  When others get excited about something, it excites us, too.  When others get excited about things that matter to us, that’s an added bonus.

I’ll never forget one of the things that Jeff once told me when we were having a discussion about social media and blogging.  He said, “you were perfectly built for this.”

I’ve got things to say.  I think that perhaps what I have to say might actually be something that others want to hear, and in some cases, just what they need to hear.

Seeing Jeff inspired, in turn, inspires me.  How could I ignore that inspiration from a friend?

Being a faithful husband

I love my wife.  Kari is the best.

She’s another big reason why I need to get back to writing.

She’s always told me that she enjoys my writing.  She’s always told me that it makes her happy to read what I write, no matter what it is.  No one on the planet has read more of my writing than she has.

When I mentioned to her yesterday that I was going to resume writing, her response was, “that would make me happy.”  Her happiness is my happiness.

Being faithful to Kari means that I must honor her.  Writing is, for me, a way of honoring Kari.  I want to honor her.

Being a faithful servant

As a follower of Christ, I have a responsibility of obedience.  As I mentioned, the ability to communicate is a gift that God gave me.  Every Christian is called to serve through faithfully stewarding all that God gives us, including our gifts.

Put simply– having a gift and NOT using that gift is disobedience to God.

I cannot, I will not, take my talents and hide them in the ground, fearfully awaiting the arrival of my master.

I have been given much, so I must use what I have been given to create abundance for all.

I hope you’ll follow me as I follow Him.  There is much to come.

 


 

The Solution to the Problem of Why People Leave Church

The Solution to the Problem of Why People Leave Church

Jesus.

Let me repeat that more emphatically, just in case you missed it–  JESUS.

Every so often, believers get preoccupied with the topic of church attendance. Then, we get all caught up in why people seem to be leaving churches. This appears to be the current favorite distraction of the week. That is exactly what it is– distraction.

What simultaneously amuses me and frustrates me about the recurrence of this discussion is that it has been going on in some way, shape, or form for just under 2000 years. Seriously.

Modernism, and then Postmodernism, have lead us to believe that this is some sort of existential crisis that is peculiar to the 21st Century church. Meh.

The 1st Century Christians dealt with all of the same issues that current Christians face.  All of them. Their churches were threatened with fracturing from cultural issues (circumcision), racial  issues (Jews vs. Gentiles), false teachings (gnosticism, stoicism, etc.), types of worship issues (gifts of the Spirit, how to worship and pray), and more. Any of these issues sound familiar?  They should.  All of them are cited as problems facing the modern American church.

Funny thing is, Paul addressed and resolved ALL of the above issues. Lucky for us, we actually have access to the way in which he addressed and resolved all of these issues. Ironically, the compilation of his writings that address and resolve all of these issues is readily available in every church that people are leaving, and to everyone who leaves.

So why don’t we just pay attention?

The Solution

In every single one of the above-referenced issues that faced the 1st Century believers, threatening to fracture and destroy their communities, Paul offered the exact same solution– Jesus.

Every. Single. Time.

Paul didn’t point to culture, or history, or social science to resolve those issues.  He pointed to Jesus.

Paul didn’t appeal to those believers to look within themselves for answers.  He appealed to them to look to Jesus.

I’m not going to reference the passages that deal with those situations in this post because I want you to see and experience it for yourselves.  Open up a Bible, turn to Paul’s letters, and then just read.

Remember that Paul was writing to real believers with real problems in the real world.  These aren’t stories or allegories.  These were real people who needed a real solution.  Pay attention to the conflicts he mentions, and then pay closer attention to the solution he puts forth.

Jesus.  No more, no less. (a caution for church leaders)

We tend not to like simple solutions.  So, when Paul puts forth Jesus as the solution for these conflicts, we want to start adding all kinds of other stuff.  Don’t do that.

Resist the temptation to say, “We’ll give them Jesus AND culturally relevant music.  That’s the ticket!” or “We’ll give them Jesus AND a plan for social justice.  They’ll surely love that!” or even “We’ll give them Jesus AND the best children’s ministry the world has ever seen.  People come to church because of their kids!”

That “and” is very dangerous.  “And” possesses the potential to divide our attention.  Once we divide our attention, it becomes very easy to veer off course, even unintentionally.

Remove the “and.”  Just give people Jesus.  If you are focused on giving people Jesus, and Jesus alone, everything else will fall into place.

If you are focused on giving people Jesus, and Jesus alone, then every song you sing, every sermon you preach, every lesson in your children’s ministry, every committee meeting you hold, and every person in your pews will point emphatically and enthusiastically to Jesus.

That is as it should be.

I’ll admit that my family has been lucky.  We have found a place where the focus is on giving people Jesus. Every other amazing thing our church does flows out of that relentless focus on Jesus.

If you haven’t found that yet, keep looking.  If you’re part of a place that isn’t like that, work to change the focus, or find a place that is.

Remember that it also is incumbent upon you to always be seeking Jesus and sharing him with those around you.  If you have that same focus in your own life, you’ll be able to recognize it elsewhere, and help develop it when and where it is needed.

Choose Followship, Find Fellowship (a message for those searching)

Our following of Christ should be done in community. We need the accountability and the camaraderie that comes only from the fellowship of other believers.

This also means that we will always be in fellowship with other fallible humans, other sinners. That means that we will be hurt, on occasion. That means that we will sometimes find inadequate answers to our questions. That means that we will sometimes find frustration where we should find love.

This is precisely why the Church is the Bride of Christ. They are two sides of the same glorious coin. The Church can only live in fullness when it is inextricably and deeply intertwined with Christ.

For those who are searching, I know what it’s like. I truly do. I know the frustration, the longing for something more, the occasional disgust. I also know that the answer has been there all along. Jesus.

Don’t search for a church. Search for Jesus. Where you find him, there you will find where you belong.

We Must Decide

It’s up to us, as Christians here in the 21st Century, to decide if we are going to believe the words written the book we claim to hold so dear.

It’s simple, really.  Either we believe that Jesus Christ is our salvation and faith in him has the power to heal all wounds, comfort all grief, resolve all conflict, and transform our lives; or we don’t.

If we do believe that truth, then we must live it.  We must live it inside and outside the walls of our churches.  We must take it to all who are hurting and all who are searching.

The solution to all of our problems has been staring us square in the face for 2000 years.  It’s about time we started relying on Jesus.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”  (Matt 11:28-30, NLT)

 

 

(this post was inspired by a post on RedemptionPictures.com)

 

Meet 3 Appalachian Souls who had a Tremendous Impact on Me

Meet 3 Appalachian Souls who had a Tremendous Impact on Me

Appalachian mission trip

I previously shared with you my initial thoughts on my recent mission trip to Appalachian Kentucky.  I am going to explore the impact the trip had on me in much more depth; but before I do, I thought I should introduce you to three people I met there who had a tremendous impact on me.  These were the people that we had the pleasure to serve during our five days there.

I’m doing this because I want you to understand that these are very real people with whom myself, my brother, and the kids we lead formed very real relationships.  Since you couldn’t be there with us in person (I wish you could have), I want to try to remove as much of the disconnect as possible.  And since all three of these folks will be making recurring appearances in my writings here, I thought it might be helpful if you know a bit more about them in the beginning.  I’m going to share as much information as I think is helpful, but nothing more specific than is necessary.

3 Appalachian Souls who had a Tremendous Impact on Me

David and Jo–  David and Jo have been married for 4 years.  They are each around 60 years old.  They love each other and the Lord very much, as we quickly discovered.  They each have health issues and can’t work.  David is always quick to share with people that he only has one lung, and that it only functions at 40% (on good days).  Jo suffers various symptoms from diabetes.  They live well below the poverty line.  By just about anyone’s standard, they live with very little, owning only their decades-old trailer and its contents, and a small car; however, they consider themselves rich in all that matters.  Their individual and collective spirit is both awe-inspiring and humbling.

Tim–  Tim is a currently unemployed construction worker.  Three years ago, the Commonwealth of Kentucky forced him to move from his trailer and his land to make way for a new bridge.  Having been given barely enough from the state to even afford to move, Tim made the best of it.  He has been living in his current trailer for a few years.  He and his wife have pretty much raised his grandchildren on their own.  Tim loves NASCAR, especially Dale Earnhardt.  As we would all soon discover, while he may be unemployed, his construction skills haven’t diminished in the least.  Without his help, we would never have finished the project we were assigned.

Our time spent with these three folks, the lessons we learned, and the relationships we formed will have an impact on me for the rest of my life.  I’ll be writing much more about each of them in the future.  I wish you could have met all of them and gotten to know them as we did.  I will do my best to represent them well and I hope to impart upon you even a portion of what they have given me.