Audible Narrator Announced for The Sky Riders: David Rheinstrom

The Sky Riders Christopher Hopper Audible Narrator David Rheinstrom (large)

I’m so thrilled to announce my partnership with voice over artist and narrator David Rheinstrom as Junar ap Leif in Book 1 of The Sky Riders. He’s a gifted voice actor, writer and game developer based out of Chicago, Illinois.

After many months of looking and waiting, I felt David’s audition not only captured the enthusiasm and adolescent dilemmas of Junar’s journey but the inflections of each supporting character, which is just as important to me. Feel free to drop him a note on Facebook.

For those of you who’ve already read TSR, I hope you find the Audible book a fresh companion for the story you’ve already come to love. For those who haven’t, get ready for a theatrical narration of an unforgettable journey above the clouds of Aria-Prime.

Christopher

Doesn’t Modern Worship Miss God?

No, not unless it’s telling you to miss God.

New Life (Colorado Springs, CO) worship leader Glenn Packiam is in the middle of a great two-part piece about modern worship, entitled “The Problem With Our Critique of Modern Worship.” Whether you’re a worship leader or a worshiper (hey, that’s every Christian) I would recommend reading it.

I know why Glenn’s writing this. It’s the same reason I would write something like this. Because when you’re in a place of leadership in an evangelical Christian church, every congregant has an opinion of how church should run, and their way is inevitably the “right way.” Much of this stems around the worship style.

Because we’re Christians, we can’t just tell people their ideas are stupid (even though plenty are). We need to be kind. And because we’re leaders, we must have a thoughtful response.

With regard to modern worship style and contexts, some people feel it’s missing God. They ask questions like, “Why do we need lights?” and “What’s up with all that bass?” which inevitably leads to “Are we running a rock concert or a church service?”

Assuming you already paused long enough to read Glenn’s article, his first point citing where critics often accuse modern songs of having “too many eruptions of repetitive monosyllabic sounds” is brilliant.

“Because it’s Biblical.”

And he brings in quotes from Fuller Seminary’s Old Testament professor John Goldingay to make the point. What might surprise many Christians today is that ancient Hebrew worship music was even more rhythmic and less melodic than anything we have today. And, if I might add from a modal study, our music has far more major chord voicings than anything they used in Middle East traditions, past or present.

But I’d like to offer a few additions to Glenn’s second point regarding the common accusation that our services are “too much like a rock concert.” Glenn does a great job of discerning how Christians can “inhabit the form” of something from the world while not being of the world. Like metaphor and diverse expression, the Church is a wonderful vehicle for an array of communications.

Here’s some more food for thought.

Firstly, what is so bad about a rock concert? Or any concert for that matter? Somewhere, the term “rock concert” has become synonymous in certain Christian circles as being “of the devil.”

News flash, and I know this might be a shocker, but I’ve been to hundreds of rock concerts and I’ve never seen the devil. I’ve never been encouraged to worship the devil. And I’ve never felt the devil. Granted, I may not have gone to the “proper rock concerts” to experience this, but even that proves my point: not all rock concerts are bad, and similarly, not all church services are good. So making a broad generalization is poor grounds for any argument.

Secondly, I’ve seen some amazing things in rock concerts. I’ve seen how lights can be used to minimize distractions and draw a crowd’s attention to something important. I’ve seen how quality mixing, thorough sound reinforcement, and poignant visual and video effects can provide an audience with a memorable, life-altering experience that they’ll never forget.

Isn’t that exactly what we’re trying to do in the church?

So if the question isn’t one of style, but really—if we’re being honest—of content, then what are we promoting with all this technology?

I’m not sure about your church, if it falls into the “modern worship” context or not, but yesterday at mine, our worship leaders talked incessantly about Jesus, lead the church in songs about him, shared scriptures from his Bible, exhorted the church to pray and intercede for the perishing in our community, and prayed for the congregation.

Huh. I’ve never been to a rock concert where that happened. Unless you’re talking about a CCM concert, which I don’t think that’s what critics are trying to cite as evidence.

The truth is, I’ve been to secular rock shows where the front man was more humble than some pastors I’ve met on a Sunday morning. Again, not all, just some. Content always trumps environment.

Why am I so stumped when critics draw the awkward and ill-informed rock concert comparison? Because they’re choosing to use broad strokes when really all they need to say is, “I don’t like electric guitars.” Now at least that would be an honest, accurate statement that we could have a discussion about. Or just say, “I’m always going to think that things were better [in whatever decade they were saved in].” I can work with that! I’m sure that I’ll always think the 90’s were the best. (But they really weren’t).

When we use stereotypes in place of facts, it’s usually because we have not thought out our arguments and believe that generalizations will further impassion our plea. The opposite is true: they undermine our arguments and turn well-meaning people into cause-driven fanatics.

If we’re going to critique anything, let it be whether or not we see the love of Jesus at work among his people. Whether or not we see people using their creative gifts to full effect in directing attention to God and creating an unforgettable experience for others. And whether or not people walk away remembering how exciting it is to see “the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13).

From Whence Beauty Came

A culture that values beauty, values life. One of our goals as leaders should be to teach the appreciation of beautiful things.

When we see significance in the complexity of creation as well as in the self discipline of creating, we esteem art to a place of tremendous influence.

Where media was but a mixture of molecules and actions, it is now an expression of something divine, testifying to the life which brought it to bear upon the sole of the recipient.

If a people can learn what is beautiful by appreciating what makes something lovely, that people will embrace the subject from which that beauty came more freely.

Man.

And then God.

Changing One

I remember walking the grassy fields of Auschwitz in the summer of 2002, trying to contemplate just how many millions of people had perished there.

A million people is a hard concept to grasp.

Millions of people even harder.

And that these lives hadn’t lived and died in the naturally occurring order of life, but instead were brutally snuffed out, was an almost unthinkable equation.

“You can’t think of them as millions,” said Vincent Fernandez, sensing my obvious frustration. Vincent has become a man who Jennifer I consider our French Pastor and our French PaPa. And for good reason: leaders that call great things out of you and challenge you to higher realms of being deserve such titles. “You must think of them as one, plus one, plus one.”

He took a few steps and then turned around. “And everywhere you set your foot, you must remember that someone died there.”

“One, plus one, plus one.”

I wept bitterly. The millions had stopped being numbers and started being people.

Like most tourists who visit her hallowed grounds, Auschwitz changed me. Deeply. The moments I spent there have bled into the rest of my life, namely this:

We change the world when we change one life. Because life is made up of ones.

Christopher

Arresting Our Perspectives

Sometimes our perspectives need arresting. The out-of-control, self-centric world view that plagues those of us who live amongst the earth’s most affluent societies is a beast that needs constant taming.

The fix is quite simple really: force your sane self to show your perspective-less self the images and stories that your bad attitude conveniently missed.

Like this one, posted recently by one of my friends:

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Hey, you there. Reader. You had a really good day today. Now go find someone to encourage.

Brittany’s Dying Later Today

How would you live today if you knew you were going to die tomorrow?

What would you do this week if you knew by the end of next week that you wouldn’t be around?

Sobering questions.

For Brittany Maynard, she’s dying November 1st. That’s today. I don’t know Brittany, and at first blush, I can’t say I agree with her logic. But I’m also not the one whose brain is being taken over by the most aggressive form of cancer known to man. Pain is a cruel tormentor.

I don’t know what I’d do in those shoes, because I’m not wearing them, and most speculation is trivial at best, insulting at worst. I’d like to think I’d pray, ask for prayer, and believe God for a miracle. I’d like to think I’d see some relief. But as Rocky said, “No one hits as hard as life.”

At some point today, Brittany will be dead, and a family will be suffering. But her last ‘bucket list’ item was checked off this week: to see the Grand Canyon with her family.

Maybe we don’t live the way we should because the elusiveness of our expiration date dulls the sense that we’re slowly advancing toward it? Maybe because we can’t mark it on a calendar we’re more prone to ignore it, because it’s gruesome. Sad. Distasteful.

Value your life today. While you may not know the exact day you’re going to die, the death rate for every generation is 100% (minus Jesus and maybe Enoch).

And value your life enough today to dwell on where you’ll be when it’s over. I’m not sure if Brittany knows Jesus, but he certainly knows her and if grieving for her. I hope beyond all hope someone told her about his love and sacrifice, because I’d really like to see her smiling on the other side of cancer.

“Live like you were dying.”

-Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman

And for the Christian, we’ve already died once. So living this time around removes the sting of death.

Live on.

Beauty Has Motion

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To watch someone make the difficult look effortless is the epitome of artistic affluence. To watch a performer act as if each participant is the only person in the room is transcendent. I love watching my wife do what she was born for. 1,000 little hearts were impacted today in ways we’ll never know this side of glory. Partnership is a gift to be treated reverently. #CampusImpressions

Leadership Tactics

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One of yesterday’s highlights was having US Army Operations Officer Zack Wiley bring his wealth of knowledge to our table at New Life. Very humbling to have man that organizes operations and logistics for an entire battalion honor us with his insight. Translating it to the church world is exciting and inspiring, and Zack’s love for the Bride of Christ is contagious. Just one of the many blessings of serving in a military city.

Learning how to serve people better means finding new people to learn from.

What Gratitude Does

I’ve never met a thankful person who had a bad day.

Ungratefulness is like a blindness that leads us down the path of depravity until we’re trapped in the clutches of entitlement.

Take today and start thanking God for the minutia in your life. It changes attitudes quickly. When I start putting my life in context of the rest of the world, I come face to face with how ungrateful I really am. Every problem I have is a First World problem. Which calls me from wallowing in self pity to engaging with the mission of God for my life in the kingdom.

God, thank you for this glass of water.

God, thank you for this light switch and the lightbulb on the other end.

God, thank you for this countertop, this stove top, this table top.

When I’m having really “bad days,” I actually touch everything I’m thanking God for, this way my prefrontal cortex and my physical body are making the connections about what my spirt is trying to remind my flesh of: that I’m blessed beyond belief.

Once gratefulness has a firm seat in your heart, you can approach the mission of God for your life without the need to get anything from it for yourself. You’re simply concerned with one thing:

What does God get out of my day today?

And a close second:

What do others get out of my day today?

Emotional Comfort or Divine Peace?

What many of us are referencing when we say we need or want “peace” about something is actually not peace at all.

It’s emotional comfort.

Peace that passes understanding is just that—something that surpasses out ability to comprehend it. What we want is for everything to make sense, and then, because we understand it all, to feel good about what we know. That’s cerebral. That’s emotional comfort. Divine peace, on the other hand, says, “I don’t understand it all, and yet in spite of that, I’m at one with God.”

It’s not the absence of conflict, it’s knowing who’s at the helm of the ship when the seas are up.

If we’re focused more on personal happiness than we are with ongoing spiritual maturity, we’ll misinterpret trials as judgements instead of invitations to become Christlike.

Sail on.

The Importance of Choosing the Right Church

Fundamentally, the church you call home should promote encounters of heart, mind, soul and body with God, challenging what you know and how you behave; it should be a place that provides accountability to how you love God and serve people; and it should be a place where you receive genuine care from other Christians whom you’re close with.

Worship God.

Provide care.

Receive care.

How some Christians make obtuse life-decisions without taking into consideration what quality of church they’re leaving or what quality of church they’re walking into mystifies me. And yet it’s inevitably quality churches which broken people finally land in that nurse them and their children back to health.

If you’re not in a church that promotes comprehensive God encounters, provides accountability that stings your worst and encourages your best, and pushes you out of your comfort zone to serve those around you, then I suggest you change churches. None around you? Then you’re either called to plant one, or move.

Move?

There’s a reason towns were built around churches: their founders valued divine relationship above industry and economy. Build your life around God and the community of believers, and you’ll find it hard to miss the plans and purposes that God has for you.

And, statistically speaking, no—you’re not going to change the pastor or the board. Though noble, the church is littered with the remains of people who stayed too long, fighting to change the very thing God himself said he wouldn’t: someone else’s free will. Get out, and go find a healthy place to pasture your family while there’s still daylight. Your future is worth it, and so is theirs.

ch:

The Life Dichotomy

Plenty of things in this life should give us reason to pause.

Why does the word “lisp” have an “s” in it?

Since Americans throw rice at weddings, do Asians throw cheeseburgers?

And then there’s this picture of an octopus eating a shag:

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Not that bird’s best day.

Other more important things give me reason to pause, especially when the propinquity of their seeming juxtaposition nears a common epicenter.

Like my friend’s mom dying within twenty-four hours of my other friends having their first child.

As a Christian, and further as a pastor, such dramatic life events present an interesting gambit of emotional obstacles. Not because I’m worried about crying at funerals, or hate smelling babies’ heads. (I do both quite well). But because I’m called to identify with loss, and equally identify with gifts.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

When we take on another person’s life-state as if it was our own, we participate in something uniquely divine, an inferior reflection of what Jesus did so perfectly: becoming as someone else.

Life’s dichotomies, as experienced most extremely in birth and death, are not meant to be feared, but should be seen as opportunities to act Christ-like. To take on someone else’s burden so that they might understand they’re not alone. Truer, more authentic empathy is rarely seen, save maybe in exchanging one life for another. And even in that we see the picture quite clearly: giving up part of our life in recognition of someone else’s.

We die a little.

We give ourselves away a little.

If you’re asked to celebrate today, celebrate with all your might. You honor the lives around you with your passion.

If you’re called to grieve today, mourn from the deepest part of your soul. You honor the lives around you with your compassion.

You’re also acting a whole lot like Jesus. It can be draining, yes, especially when these life-dichotomies are so close together. But that’s the beauty of it: he knows how to sustain you because he became like you once too.

To Kevin: We’re so sorry for your loss. We’re with you here and now.

To Karen and Costa: We’re so happy for your new little man!

Mourning and rejoicing,

ch:

Out In Front by Kirk Gilchrist

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My dear friend and senior pastor just released his latest book this week, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for him and for those who read it. It’s chalk-full of hard hitting life lessons, glacial nuggets of wisdom, and often startling arguments to some of church culture’s more common assumptions—ones he confronts from simple, Biblical perspectives.

An eternal pragmatist as well as a tireless worker, Kirk also writes about many of the fundamental cultural principles of leadership that’ve helped grow our church, New Life, to the healthy place it is today.

What I love most about this book, however, is that it reflects a man I deeply admire. I know Kirk. Of all the people I’ve ever met, he operates unlike any other in a true New Testament gift of leadership. He’s always looked to better his team before he betters himself. And he’s paid a high price to be able to speak from a place of authentic spiritual success.

I can’t afford (nor could I survive) to make all the mistakes of other men—I have my own to wrestle through. That’s why works like these are so unequivocally pivotal when it comes to serving others the way Jesus did and does.

Dig in,

ch: