Attention White Folks: 4 Articles Worth Reading Related to Race

I am a white guy. Which means I have certain privileges merely because of the tone and tint of my skin color. It doesn't matter if I'm a good guy, jerk, or somewhere in between. My skin gives me privileges whether deserved or not. 

I didn't choose my family, ethnic heritage, or skin that easily burns in the Midwestern heat. But, I don't reject it. I don't feel guilt over it. I celebrate the God who designed me and ordained me to be an image-bearer who happens to be white (Ps. 139).

But, being white in America, makes me very aware of how others are not treated fairly in light of their "image-bearingness." I don't get strange stares when walking into a public space. I have never been harassed by a police officer. My father never gave me a talk about being black in America, and what it means for personal safety, and how others might treat me.

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Rediscovering the Art of Conversation and Other Nostalgic Musings

Today, I engaged in about five hours worth of conversation with living breathing humans. I know, right? Talk about old school and nostalgic. Come on, what are you like ninety? 

Anyone else feel the oddity that face-to-face conversation is being replaced by texting, Facebook, and other communication platforms lacking human touch?

Do we even call people on the phone anymore? When my phone rings I begin to panic. It usually means someone died or my child choked on a Lego... again.

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A Prayer of Lament for Recent Shootings

Pastor and theologian John Calvin said the Psalms are the "anatomy of the soul." They give words, language, and expression to the deepest joys, sorrow, and wounds of the heart. In light of the shootings in Charlotte, Tulsa, Dallas, Louisiana, countless other cities/states, and terrorist attacks around the globe, we are not always sure how to respond. 

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Post Traumatic Alienation Disorder and Gospel Community

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder plagues 50% of soldiers coming home from war. Only 10% of the military actually see battle of any kind. What is the deal?

In a TED Talk, Journalist Sebastian Junger explains this phenomenon. While death tolls in war are becoming less and less (every year since Civil War), and hands on combat less and less, the problem lies when military personnel come home. 

Junger calls the experience Post Traumatic Alienation Disorder. It is not an official diagnosis. But, he believes we need better language to describe what is actually happening to our military. 

The problem is not the solider who has witnessed horrific things in battle. It is the community he/she comes home to. Military are plunged into a modern society that does not value community. The close knit band of brothers/sisters in the military is ripped away and they feel alone. 

The real trauma is one of alienation.  

I began to wonder how the church can be, and should be, a place of welcoming the dislodged, alienated, broken, and sinner among us (me included). Are we welcoming to those with battle wounds and scars deep in the soul? Do we forget what it was like to be alienated from God and others? Is the church just a group of spiritually minded individuals?

It should not be so. The Bible describes the church in these terms:

"12 ...remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord" (Eph. 2:12-21).

We were all alienated from God and one another. We were all lost and looking for hope in a hopeless world. Our alienation runs much deeper than the horizontal of human relationship. It begins with a fractured alienation from our Creator and Redeemer Jesus Christ. It is only in Christ do we find a home with God and one another.

I don't disagree with Junger on the need for the military to find a welcoming community. This is a real human need. Our modern society is sad, lonely, and isolated. But, if we take it a step further, we need to bridge a deeper alienation. An alienation with God.

Thanks be to God for the cross of Christ that makes this possible. It creates the community we need with God and one another. 

*Take a look at the video. Worth 13 minutes! 

Episode 022 - Jason Ladd on Christian Worldview

In this interview Ryan chats with author Jason B. Ladd. Jason is an Marine pilot who came to faith in Jesus and discusses his journey through a new book called One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot's Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview. Jason has a passion to see Christians equipped to winsomely explain the importance and life altering realties of the Christian worldview.

You can get the book, and other resources, on Christian worldview, apologetics, and hear what Jason is up to at: www.jasonbladd.com.

 

The Myth of Self-Esteem and a Cure

If you’re a product of the 80’s, find your age between 18-45, or live in America, you’ve probably been served a healthy dose of the self-esteem movement. The idea that our self worth, identity, and happiness is predicated on how I perceive my self love quotient. 

Or, to be more specific, let me quote Dr. Christina Hibbert, who complied a helpful definition from psychiatrists and the dictionary:

  1. Belief in oneself; self-respect; undue pride or conceit
  2. One’s overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth
  3. A judgment of oneself as well as an attitude toward the self
  4. Encompasses beliefs, emotions, thoughts, and power of conviction about oneself
  5. “Self-esteem, is the positive or negative evaluations of the self, as in how we feel about it” (http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/5-reasons-self-esteem-is-a-myth/)

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I Am a Winner

In the school system, youth athletics, homes, companies, and even in some churches, you are told people will not succeed if they have low self-esteem. Children will not be healthy contributors to society, will struggle in school, and probably be murderers, if their self-esteem is not nurtured and bolstered to some mythical level. 

If we use the working definition for self-esteem above we find an obvious problem. Who is the arbitrator and determining factor of self-esteem? Who determines a persons self worth, value, beliefs, and convictions about oneself? 

Answer: The Holy Trinity of… Me, Myself, and I.

"Prone to Wander Lord I Feel It..."

I have lived in my own skin for thirty seven years and can without hesitation tell you I am not a good assessor of myself. My “self” is weak, sinful, selfish, and most days, my feelings and desires, are a roller coaster of disordered loves, wants, and idolatry.  

How do I know when a healthy dose of self-esteem has kicked in? How do I know when I am loving myself enough? What does that even mean? How can I make accurate judgements about the perception of my self-esteem when I’m full of pride, blindspots, selfishness, sin, inconsistencies, false loves, and fractured desires? Aren’t these determinations of self-esteem subjective at best? 

The Myth of Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is a myth because it is subjective and does not allow for an outside objective authority. You don’t need to spend much time with yourself to realize we are all full of inconsistencies, selfishness, and sin. You are not a good judge of what you really need and want. If you have children, you know this truth from Day 1. 

If I am left to my own determination of self worth, happiness, and love, I will believe anything, do anything, and tell myself anything, to get the self-esteem I perceive to need in the moment.  

So, if self-esteem is a myth, too subjective, and functionally, will not work in the curing of souls. What is the cure?

An Alternative to Self-Esteem and Self-Love

The danger of inordinate self-love is it can’t answer the deep heart, soul, and love needs of humans. In self-esteem, we are banking to find ultimate love from within. The problem is ultimate love does not come from within. It comes from without. 

Milton Vincent in A Gospel Primer said there are two dangers in self-love/self-esteem:

1. Fear. I do not believe that anyone can love me, the way I can love me, and if I don’t love me well, who will?
2. Superior love is only found in the self. The belief that there is not an object of love greater than myself. This only leads to more fear, arrogance, and pride, believing I am the only being in the universe worth loving (pp. 29-30).

What is the cure? How can we shift from self-esteem and the dead end of self-love as the highest pursuit in life? How can we be liberated from self-love to a different love?

Gospel-Love.

Vincent provides the cure and solutions to disordered self-love in the gospel itself:

#1 The gospel assures me that the love of God is infinitely superior to any love I could give myself. 

John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

Jesus lays his life down for sinners out of mercy, grace, and love. He didn’t do it because you are worthy, he did it because he is worthy, and make us worthy by faith in Him. 

The gospel is a superior love that is objective, rooted in truth and history, and experiential for the disciple of Jesus. It is not determined by my feelings in the moment, how much love is being shown by others, and if I am measuring up. Paul in Romans 5 makes claim that we can experience this love on a regular basis:

“3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” Romans 5:3-5.

Even in suffering, God is producing endurance, character, hope, and exploding love in the heart because of what Christ did for us. The Holy Spirit exists to remind us of superior, ultimate, and lasting love in Christ. 

#2 The gospel allures me away from inferior loves.

When God becomes breathtakingly glorious, beautiful, and soul satisfying, the allure of self love begins to diminish. The heart is enthralled with a greater, eternal, and more satisfying love in God, not self, a love which is objective and experiential.

King David gives an example of a heart enthralled with God:

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to inquire in his temple (Psalm 27:4). 

David found a “beauty” he could “gaze upon” for his entire life that would satisfy his need for love. This is what happens when a person shifts from a subjective inward preoccupation searching for self-esteem, self-love, and self worth, and moves to an objective and satisfying pursuit in the gospel. 

Our children, neighbors, family, churches, and society, need an alternative to self-esteem and self-love. A love that is robust, lasting, objective, and impenetrable amidst the shifting sands of feelings, circumstances, and cultural pressure. 

We need a superior beauty to gaze on that is not staring back at us in a mirror. 

The gospel might be the cure we are all looking for.

 

 

 

Episode 21 - Jovan MacKenzy on Christians and the Arts

In this episode, I (Ryan) interview Christian rapper Jovan MacKenzy. We discuss an article he wrote focused on Christian Art. Why is Christian art often subpar? Why do we not see more Christians in mainstream creative fields? How can Christians make art that bridges the gap between the Christian community and larger world? These questions and many more were discussed in this helpful interview.

You can find Jovan on Facebook, Twitter, or read some of his writings at Rep the King.

A Conviction-less Society

San Francisco Forty-Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick is under fire for standing up (or sitting down) for injustices in America. He will not stand for the National Anthem before every game in which he plays. 

Kaepernick gave reason to why he is taking a stand for minorities in America:

"People don't realize what's really going on in this country. There are a lot things that are going on that are unjust. People aren't being held accountable for. And that's something that needs to change. That's something that this country stands for freedom, liberty and justice for all. And it's not happening for all right now” (http://www.49ers.com/news/article-2/Key-Quotes-from-Colin-Kaepernick-49ers-Teammates-on-Aug-28/bf85743d-3b62-4b29-bfd1-c733f743e708).

There are mixed reviews on the quarterback’s decision to protest the National Anthem. Some think Kaepernick is demeaning military men and women who have fought for this countries freedom. Others think his boycott is a media ploy. 

Kaepernick defends his intentions and does not want to belittle this nation:

"I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That's not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn't holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody. That's something that's not happening. I've seen videos, I've seen circumstances where men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they fought have for, and have been murdered by the country they fought for, on our land. That's not right” (http://www.49ers.com/news/article-2/Key-Quotes-from-Colin-Kaepernick-49ers-Teammates-on-Aug-28/bf85743d-3b62-4b29-bfd1-c733f743e708).

The irony is those who think Kaepernick is slapping the military in the face are missing the bigger picture. Men and women fight for freedoms in America that are at times illusion. The black community has not been treated fairly for over two hundred years in America. They have been the recipients of unjust laws, treatment, and not given equal opportunity in a country founded on “justice and liberty for all.” It is the “all” and “justice” part Kaepernick wants to see change.  

Regardless of where you stand on the issue… I think this is a noble act. I don’t think Colin hates the country, or is after a media spotlight grab. He plays professional football in the NFL which is the most watched sporting event on any given Sunday. He obviously doesn’t need the money as a well paid quarterback in the NFL and gets plenty of press. I see a young man who wants to see things change on the racial injustice front. You’d think people would applaud Kaepernick’s effort to make aware injustices that we often turn a blind eye toward in America.

In past generations, men like Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, and others, stood up for wrongs in the world. These noble men took criticism, were imprisoned, physically and verbally assaulted, and even shunned by family and friends. All for deep seated convictions in how they perceived the world should be. A world marked by justice, compassion, and equality.

A Conviction-less Society

I don’t get it. Where are the prophets of our day? Where is the deep agonizing conviction that things are wrong and we need to be agents of change? We are becoming a conviction-less society. 

In America, people with convictions of any kind, good and bad, are scorned, ignored, and seen as arrogant. We are becoming spineless and afraid to speak up. Fear of man. Fear of mockery. We want to be politically correct. We don’t want to hurt feelings. We don’t want to act.

I don’t know the primary culprit of our lack of conviction. But, we are becoming a generation that live insulated and isolated lives unconcerned about real issues right in their own communities. 

I am bias (because I am a follower of Jesus), but I think of the early Christians in Acts. Men and women who laid their lives down because they were convinced Jesus’ death and resurrection changed everything. They lived with such ferocious conviction that many disciples of Jesus were tortured, beaten, and imprisoned for the sake of the cause. They couldn’t stop talking about the Christ. 

“Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” Acts 4:19-20

These Christians lived with conviction. They literally changed the world because of what “they saw and heard.” 

I applaud Kaepernick for standing up for a community of people that for the last two hundred years in America have not been given the same rights and freedoms as other groups of people. I applaud his conviction and any ramifications it may cause his football career. 

I pray I’d be a man of conviction and not let the pressures of a politically correct and often spineless society, fear of man, or simply selfishness, shape my heart. 

I pray we’d learn from Colin Kaepernick and speak when it’s time to speak. Act when it’s time to act.

Honeymoons Are a Demon

Why do marriages fall apart a few years in? Why does the intensity and emotion of following Jesus become mundane and struggle after a couple years? Where did the boredom of the “dream job” come from before the first quarter is done?

The honeymoon is over.

When you get married the honeymoon is a time of tremendous intensity, love, and infatuation. You are wholly focused on another human destined to spend the rest of life with, “till death do you part.” At least that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

But, the feelings, emotions, and newness of marriage wear off and you are stuck with a fellow homo-sapien filled with faults, quirks, and inconsistencies. This is when people begin to bail on the marriage, often commit adultery, or become angry. Why?

The honeymoon is over.

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In Love with Love

The problem with honeymoons is they are a false read on reality. You get the sense that everything is perfect and this relationships, job, and church, will be intensely wonderful for the next fifty years. But, it does not turn out that way. Intensity wanes, emotions run low, and the mundane becomes the new normal. Why?

A Catholic spiritual writer Ronald Rolheiser believes, the honeymoon phase in different seasons of life, is a vital part of discipleship in Christ. The mature disciple must learn to navigate the mundane, boredom, and regular-ness of life, when the honeymoon is over. 

The problem with honeymoons is “we fall in love with love.” In the beginning of a marriage it’s the feeling of intense love we enjoy. The nearness and closeness. It is the newness and intensity and experience that is intoxicating. 

At the beginning of a marriage no one thinks these feelings will ever subside. The next fifty years will be the equivalent of long walks on the beach and all the bacon you can eat (that is how I envision it). 

During the honeymoon phase, it is not the person you love, it is not the work that is enjoyable, it is not the community of faith that is spiritually nourishing. In the beginning, it is the newness and intoxicating emotional high’s we love. In reality, “we are in love with love.” 

Honeymoons Are NOT Reality

Sadly, honeymoons create a pseudo-reality. We know deep down nothing lasts forever and we know these feelings will rise and fall. But, we crave it, we want it back, we need to rekindle what was lost. We need another hit of honeymoon bliss. 

For the maturing disciple of Christ, we must get beyond the honeymoon phase to find true joy and depth. 

Rolheiser comments on the dangers of trying to recapture honeymoons:

“Their first warning concerns the danger of reverting to immaturity because of the longing for another honeymoon. Our route to maturity generally involves a honeymoon or two. Honeymoons are real, are powerful, and afford us this side of eternity, with one of the better foretastes of heaven. Because of that, they are not easy to let go of permanently. Inside of everyone of us there is the lingering itch to experience the kind of intensity yet one more time, and that itch is made stronger by the fact that our commitments, including our marriage, can often feel bland and flat when measured against the intensity of the honeymoon. One of the demons we must wrestle with after we have made a lifelong commitment is the powerful temptation to experience yet another honeymoon. Infidelity in marriage is often triggered by this temptation” Sacred Fire (pp. 69-70). 

The Honeymoon Demon

The “demon” of honeymoons can apply to most of life. Marriages fail and adultery happens because of trying to recapture the honeymoon. Job hopping, church hopping, and relationship hopping happens, because we are trying to recapture the intensity and high of the honeymoon. 

We know honeymoon’s are wonderful… but don’t last. All is not lost.

Deep intimacy with a spouse happens when you no longer are in “love with love.” You begin to love the person with all their sin, warts, and faults. You begin to navigate true intimacy when feelings are not as heightened. Feelings are not unimportant, but don’t become the barometer, for which everything hinges. You serve, cherish, and encourage your spouse, for the sake of Christ, and a genuine love for the person, not the sake of feelings or lack thereof. 

When you see the underbelly of the local church and realize it’s not perfect because you are there. You stick it out. You find greater intimacy and fellowship with Christ when you cling to him and walk humbly with others. Knowing relationships are hard, doubt is real, but the honeymoon is a liar. 

In the marketplace the work takes on new meaning when we stop clinging to the honeymoon. We realize bosses can be jerks, people are people, and not all work is creative, enjoyable, and satisfying. The honeymoon is a demon that can tempt us to cut corners, give half effort, live for the weekend, and look for the next thing. Which is just looking for another honeymoon.

If we allow the honeymoon-demon to creep in we can’t be present with God, people, work, and the ones we love. Honeymoons are great. Honeymoons are a gift from God. But honeymoons don’t last.

Acknowledge It... Don't Live There

Acknowledge the honeymoon. Acknowledge the waning intensity. And, ask God to give faith, strength,  and maturity, to live in the midst of the mundane, ordinary, and regular-ness of life.

Where have you seen the honeymoon demon in your life?