Happy 4th Birthday!

108H

My blog is officially 4 years old today.  After 400 of posts over the past 4 years, it has been fun to see how the blog has changed, grown, and become what it is today.  This blog wasn’t the first time I had blogged.  I had a livejournal back in the day and even blogged while I was an intern for a short season.  But four years ago, I decided to venture back into blogging.

Here was my first paragraph I wrote on rjgrune.com:

I’ve thought about blogging for a while now; I’ve struggled with the idea of why I’d do something like that, wondered if I’m arrogant to think that anyone would care what I have to think, and ultimately put my reservations aside and decided to go for it.  Since I have spent a lot of time trying to decide if I would blog, I figured I should share my thoughts going into it.

When I started blogging, I initially blogged primarily about youth ministry and technology, occasionally adding in some random theology posts.  At that point, I would’ve considered my blog primarily a youth ministry blog and also a way to promote some of my app development work.

I blogged because I wanted to, had no strategy, and slowly began to have people reading and interacting with what I wrote.

Now, four years later, this blog has grown up a little bit.  I’m still motivated by my love for writing and sharing my ideas.  And I still love the things that I have previously spent a ton of time blogging about.

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The Power of Words

Power of words

While most of us have grown up with the rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will never hurt me,” we know that words have far more power than that simple childhood rhyme led us to believe.

Words have the power to create and destroy; to kill and give life.  God works through words.  In the beginning, the Word created the world and everything in it.  In our daily life, our own words have the power to create and destroy the lives of our friends, family, and coworkers.  Our words have the potential to give life or kill the life of the people around us, just as God’s own words do this in our life.

God’s word “kills us in order to make us alive.”  He speaks his word of condemnation to shatter our self-made delusions about the kind of people we think we are.  He reveals us for what we are in his sight and once we have been shattered, he reminds us of who he is.

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How Do We Understand What Laws We Follow in Leviticus?

Leviticus

Why do Christians pick and choose which laws to follow in Leviticus?  How can someone wholeheartedly affirm one passage that says declares one sin an abomination and then flat out ignore another that forbids eating shellfish.

One of the misconceptions in understanding how to read the Bible is that people often simply say, “I read the Bible literally.”  That’s not true, even by the people who claim it.   Most of the people who might say something like that actually don’t literally believe that the poetic language of Psalms should be taken literally.  Or when Jesus claims “I am the gate,” believes that Jesus is literally a fence that opens and closes.

A better description for the proper way to read the Bible is: read the Bible as it was literally intended to be read. This means that some books are intended to be read as history, others are intended to be read as poetry, others as apocalyptic and so on.  When we read the bible we have to consider, who wrote the book and what was the author’s intention behind what we read.

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Criticism Sucks: Don’t Listen to the Haters

Criticism sucks

Criticism sucks.

And based on my experience, criticism tends to happen whenever something goes well.  You preach a sermon you love, you get the deal you’v been waiting for, you write a blog post that blows up… and then somebody decides to rail you for it.  Anytime you share your work with the world, you run the risk of being criticized.  As I’ve preached and written many different times and plan to keep doing so, I’ve come to expect that this will inevitably happen to me.

But even when you expect it, it still sucks.

Because even when you get 100 compliments, the 1 complaint is much louder. A while ago after receiving some criticism, I was reminded of an important truth that I often like to share with others.

You are not what you do.

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Comforting Bible Verses for Times of Death

Death

If you are anything like me, tragedy causes you to question everything you say to the people you care about.  You question whether or not to say anything at all.  In order to help myself in these situations, I’ve decided to think about it ahead of time and write down some bible verses that are helpful for a variety of difficult situations in which I want to be careful no to say something stupid.

Now, doing this, remember that even when you are nervous about what to say, your presence speaks loudly.  Be present for the people you love even when you don’t have the words to say.

But given that you are like me and you want to know what places to point people to in these moments, I thought it would be helpful to consider what we can say when someone dies.

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More Than a Piece of Paper

Piece of paper

In our world it is easy to see marriage as nothing more than a piece of paper.  But marriage is about more than a simple, legal binding between two parties.  It is about two people before God, their family, and their friends making a promise.

This isn’t about negotiating a contract.

It’s not about scoring the better end of the deal.  It’s not about making sure your benefits outweigh the costs.  It’s not about making sure that you’ve made out better than the other person.  This is not about being a consumer seeking a good bargain.

Our world loves bargains and business deals.  But marriage is not one of them.

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Ideas Are Cheap. Teams Take Work.

Ideas are cheap

Ideas are cheap.

Anybody can come up with a great idea, but executing that idea is a different endeavor.  There was a season that I spent some time making some iPhone apps; one of the common occurrence during that season was a ridiculous number of people would tell me they had a brilliant app idea but they just needed somebody to help them with the app.

And I was not interested.

Because ideas are a dime a dozen.  Anybody can come up with ideas.  But executing that idea is hard work.

There’s something far more important than the brilliant idea that you wait up all not far.  And that something doesn’t happen randomly when you are on a walk or in the shower, but it happens by hard work with time.

So what’s more important than a great idea?

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What’s your worship style?

Worship styles

Imagine the disciples if they were encountered with a discussion of “worship styles.”  I can only imagine their reaction to somebody suggesting they prefer contemporary worship or traditional worship as being, “Huh?”  Or consider their confusion when worship is a genre of music and not what one does with all of their life.

There are only two styles of worship – true worship and false worship.

“The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:23-24

Despite our best efforts to categorize worship into hundreds of categories, there is really only two.  It’s either the worship of God or the worship of something else.  Contemporary, traditional, contemplative, experiential, post-modern, liturgical, confessional, attractional, missional, contemporvant

The same confusion continues when worship is an adjective to describe something.  Worship music, worship album, worship artist.  Is there a kind of album that is not worship?  After all the person creating the music, album, or art had to be worshipping something.

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I’ve Got 99 Problems, But Karma Ain’t One

99 problems

If karma were true, we’d all be be screwed.  While some of us might not suggest that we actually believe in Karma, there are many of us who do believe it.  Because the idea that you’ll get what you deserve is an appealing way of looking at the world.  People, regardless of their faith background, like to think that if they do something good, something good will happen in return.

But the problem with Karma is that it leaves us with some crappy possibilities.

If karma is true,  everything evil that happens is because of something that we’ve screwed up.

If somebody believes in karma and doesn’t feel like things are going poorly for them, I’d suggest that they have an arrogant view of themselves.  Karma suggests that everybody gets what they deserve.  This means that if somebody is rewarded, they get the credit.  And if somebody is punished, they get the blame.

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A Cheater’s Guide to Preaching Without Notes

Preaching without notes

As a preacher, one of the most valuable tools that I find in preaching, is preaching without notes.  The idea of preaching without notes is one that I’ve loved whenever I’ve seen it done.  But the idea of doing it is quite frightening.  It is extremely nerve-wrecking to consider standing in front of a congregation without your trusty notes to guide you through.

As I’ve begun preaching regularly for our entire congregation, I’ve tried to make it a regular practice do preach without notes.

Why?

If I can’t remember what I’m talking about, how will the congregation be able to remember what I said?  Years ago, I listened to a preacher talking about communication and he suggested that giving a sermon should be like talking about your own family.  What he was suggesting is that a sermon should be something that is so deep within you that it doesn’t feel like your reading from a script or a page of notes.

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