As we said last week, we want #LiveFully to be part of a Kingdom movement that makes communities stronger. We want to live as Kingdom ambassadors by loving others, spreading peace, and putting broken things back together.

We need to be careful, however, not to forget the one thing that really matters if we hope to bring God’s Kingdom to our neighborhoods, the nations, and the next generation. Many Christians today are passionate about things like feeding the hungry, setting captives free, and rebuilding homes. These are all great and worthwhile Kingdom causes, and by no means am I wanting to discourage you from those things.

What is the one thing?

img source: http://unsplash.com/

The problem, however, is that I’ve heard many Christians say, “all that really matters is that we love people.” Again, loving people is important, but it is only the second greatest commandment. Jesus gives us the first and greatest commandment in Matthew 22:37, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” 

You want to experience Kingdom living in your community? Then start by loving the King. Unfortunately, many of us focus so much on work and service (both good things!) that we forget about Jesus. In Luke 10:38-42, we see this happening inside the home of Mary and Martha.

“One thing is necessary”

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Most of us know how Martha felt. As a teenager, I remember my mother telling my sister, brother, and me to clean the kitchen. It was anarchy, a constant battle of pointing fingers. “I’ve already done the dishes, Lindsey hasn’t done anything!” and “How come Evan doesn’t have to sweep the floor?” and “Why is Taylor playing video games already?”

Martha is busy serving. She is working to feed people, create a comfortable home, and make people happier. Her sister, on the other hand, is doing nothing but sit at the feet of Jesus. When I first read this story, I was surprised that Jesus did not take Martha’s side. I expected him to tell Mary, “you need to help your sister.”

Instead, he responded with something completely revolutionary, “one thing is necessary.

If we hope to represent God’s Kingdom well, if we want to make our communities stronger, if we want to love people with the love of Christ then there is only one thing that is necessary: we must sit at the feet of Jesus. 

Some will argue that service is more important, but Jesus is clear. We are to seek the King above all other things.

Life at the Feet of Jesus

When we choose to sit at his feet, several amazing things happen.

  1. Our relationship with him grows stronger: Relationships are built upon the bricks of respect and quality time. The better we know Jesus, the better we’ll be able to represent him to the world.
  2. We become more like Jesus: The more time I spend around someone, the more I become like them. I have found this to be true of good people and bad – we are influenced by those we draw near to. The more time we spend at Christ’s feet, the more his Spirit can work in our hearts to transform us into his image. As we become more like Jesus, it will become impossible not to represent the Kingdom well.
  3. Our hearts for others will grow: Jesus is the perfect example of love. He is love. Sitting at his feet will only increase our capacity to love others. 

We may be tempted to think, “if I focus all my energies on Jesus, then I won’t ever spend time loving people.” But this is clearly not the case. By focusing on Jesus, our capacity to help and love others can only increase. It is impossible to love Jesus and not love people. When we put him first, serving others will cease to be a chore, and start to become one of our greatest joys.

This can actually be rather comforting. I want to help make the world a better place, but I often get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. But Jesus makes it simple: we start with Him. He will take care of the calling, the details, the gifting, and the passion. We need to focus on Him.

In the future, as we get practical about building communities and living fully, don’t forget the foundation. It starts with seeking Jesus with your whole heart. If you do that, you’ll be enabled beyond belief to change the world. 

Leave a comment: What is your favorite way to connect with Jesus?

1. Favorite Article: Being Rich isn’t as awesome as you think

2. Favorite Business Philosophy: Lift as you climb

3. Favorite Twitter account: If you’re tired of links that serve no other purpose than to make you click, then you need to follow @SavedYouAClick

4. Favorite workout: Fungo brothers

5. Favorite reason to love others: This commercial

It’s been a slow year for for new content at #LiveFully. That changes today.

We have three convictions here at #LiveFully. They are simple, but I’ve lately been reminded of their importance:

1) Jesus alone redeems people and cultures.

2) The redemption of Jesus transforms every area of personal life and positively impacts every channel of cultural life.

3) Followers of Jesus should be most recognized for what they contribute to the world instead of what they are against in the world.

Living Water in the Kingdom of God - from the Milford Track

Despite believing these three things, I personally find it hard to live according to them. It’s more natural to simply point out people’s sin and condemn them, but it’s typically ineffective. Sin is often the source of people’s satisfaction, it may be a broken source, but people won’t change until you offer an alternative. Furthermore, people cannot redeem themselves or genuinely change the way they live.

All of these problems, however, are resolved by Jesus. He is our alternative to sin, he is our redeemer, and he transforms our lives and communities.

The World, Remade by God

I recently listened to a brilliant sermon by Tim Keller. I highly encourage you to listen. If you need some extra motivation, it’s primarily about sex. Click the play button below or download it to listen later.

Keller defines the Kingdom of God as “the world, remade by God.” Christians aren’t meant to escape this world, rather, Jesus will return and make all things new. There will no longer be pain or sorrow or tears, and we will experience a more abundant life then we ever thought possible.

The Bible calls us to actually live as if the Kingdom of God were already here in its fullness. After all, God has already remade us into something new: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).” Kingdom living, of course, would not just transform our Sunday mornings, but literally everything we do.

We would not cheat in business for personal gain, but rather work with integrity. We would not be selfish or power hungry, but rather we would serve others. We would not use sex for personal gain, but rather to build oneness and intimacy with our spouse. In short, we would work to strengthen our communities and culture, instead of seeking personal gain.

We know the Kingdom of God will bring peace and satisfaction beyond measure. Therefore, following God’s commands will not result in a boring life. Instead it produces peace and satisfaction. God’s version of sex, money, and power don’t destroy lives, but actually build life and make communities stronger.

I find this remarkably inspirational. I want fullness of life, and I want to positively impact the world. When people see the way I live, work, play, and even eat, I want God’s work in me to shine. I want to make my community stronger and healthier because of the way I love Jesus. I want to be known for what I contribute to the world!

Do you know what I don’t find inspiring? Being told nothing but, “you can’t do this and shouldn’t do that.” If I had to guess, I bet that’s true for most of us. If that’s all we hear, then the best we can ever be is neutral. If I want to help make a community stronger, then yes, I need to know how not to cause damage. But, even more importantly, I need to know how I can make positive contributions.

The brilliant thing is, when you focus on seeking Jesus and making positive contributions to the world, you won’t have any time or desire to sin and cause damage.

The Kingdom of Heaven is upon us. Let’s start living like it.

Join the Movement

If that inspires you, if you are interested in contributing positively to your community, then I’d ask you to join the movement. There are a few ways to do that:

1) Seek after Jesus, everyday. He is the King!

2) Invite others to do the same. Celebrate people who demonstrate the Kingdom of God. This is a work for the community.

3) We want #LiveFully to be a global community of believers who are living in this way. Join us facebook or twitter and share your stories.

4) Share this post and invite others to join our global community of believers seeking to #LiveFully.

5) Over the next few months, we’ll be posting regularly about Kingdom living that results in a full life for you as an individual and your whole community. Subscribe below to receive email updates and make sure you don’t miss a thing.

#JoinTheMovement

Growing up, I never really learned much about Nehemiah. Sunday school was filled with stories of Noah, Moses, King David, Daniel, Jesus, the apostles, and many other important figures in the Bible. Somehow, Nehemiah slipped through the cracks in my education.

I recently read Nehemiah and was surprised to find it so awesome. It might even be my new favorite. Nehemiah was a stud with unbelievable leadership skills. It takes place after Jerusalem was destroyed and the people were held in captivity. When they finally returned, of course, they found their city still in ruins. Nehemiah took it upon himself to ensure the city walls were rebuilt and the people of God could again have a home.

Rebuilding Walls

Here are 8 epic leadership principles we can learn from Nehemiah:

1) Identify your calling

Nehemiah was not awoken at night by a voice, he had no dreams, and witnessed no burning bushes. But he identified God’s calling by recognizing what broke his heart. In 1:4, immediately after learning the wall of Jerusalem was broken down, he said “I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”

Nehemiah saw a problem with the world. Rather than ignore it or distract himself with entertainment, he chose to use his gifts and do something about it. If something breaks your heart and you have the ability to change it, there is a very real chance that God has called you to make it happen.

2) Pray for everything

As we already saw in 1:4, Nehemiah’s first response was to pray. In 2:4, as he is speaking to the King of Persia (aka King of the entire world), he prays throughout the conversation. He did not depend on his own abilities, but rather the work of God’s Spirit. He asked the King for permission and help to rebuild the city, and surprisingly (or not surprisingly considering the prayers) the king gave his full blessing.

3) Delegate and Motivate

Nehemiah did not build the walls on his own, he enlisted the aid of hundreds. Chapter 3 is full of different people from different backgrounds with different skill sets, all working together for one great cause.

Nehemiah knew the key to motivating people: he gave people a vision and invited them to join him in building their future. Without the eager participation of the different people and unique skills, the walls would have taken ages to build. They also would have been built poorly. Instead, the project was completed in 52 days and the walls stood for hundreds of years.

4) Lead by example

Nehemiah did an excellent job of delegation, but he never excluded himself from the work. He worked alongside the people, getting his hands dirty everyday to help build and defend the walls. 5:16 says, “I also persevered in the work on this wall, and we acquired no land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work.

It is easy for a leader to hide behind a title and never actually work. But Nehemiah recognizes the importance of leading by example. He, and those who led with him, worked to build the wall. This undoubtedly inspired the people and is a great reminder for us today.

5) Resist opposition to your work

If you are working on something worthwhile, there will be opposition. People will question you, judge you, mock you, gossip about you, and even try to stop you. Nehemiah faced both verbal and physical conflict, but he would not be deterred. He took the necessary steps to protect the work they had already completed, and continued pushing forward. In Nehemiah 6 he responds to his dissenters by saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?

We often get discouraged when we face opposition, but Nehemiah didn’t flinch. He knew the Lord was on his side.  So when people call you crazy or foolish, don’t be discouraged. Keep pushing and praying, and unless God calls you to something different, then don’t quite!

6) Quick decisions and action

In chapter 5, Nehemiah learns that people are going hungry in the city. In 5:6 it says, “I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. I took counsel with myself, and I brought charges against the nobles and the officials.” When he recognized the problem, he didn’t wait for a few weeks and hope it went away. He didn’t start a passive aggressive campaign to spread rumors and make the nobles feel bad about themselves. He acted quickly and approached the problem directly.

The approach worked. The nobles and officials repented and restored to the people that which they had earned.

7) Serve

As the governor and good friend of the king of the world, Nehemiah received a large food allowance each month. Each day, they prepared for him “one ox and six choice sheep and birds, and every ten days all kinds of wine and abundance.” That is a pretty impressive feast!

But Nehemiah didn’t let it get to his head. He recognized how hard the people worked, and so he shared his food with everyone. This, of course, is not normal. But it is the mark of a good leader! “The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God.

8) Dependence on the Lord

6:15-16 says, “So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.

Nehemiah was a great leader, but his abilities delivered exponential results with God’s help. I want to have the type of life where people see the work I’ve done and perceive that God was involved in the process. This happens when we wholly dedicate our work to Him, whether it be in business or finance, construction or education, ministry or entertainment.

Your turn: Have you ever read Nehemiah? What is your favorite part?

God has given all of us unique skills and talents, and part of living fully is offering those gifts to be a blessing in the world.

Today we’re excited to celebrate one of our #LiveFully friends for his work as a filmmaker. Kyle Sklenar recently won the Best Picture award at the Campus Movie Festival at Georgia State University. Kyle’s film, “The Love Note,” beat out 250 other films, which is an incredible feat, especially since he is only a freshman in college.

We wanted our readers to hear from Kyle about this creative effort and how his faith inspires him along the way as an artist. Enjoy the interview, and if you haven’t seen the video yet, watch it first (spoiler alert).

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-How did you come up with the idea for the story told in your film?

It was over Christmas break. I saw an engagement video where the future groom spoke a few words to his fiance. His words captured me, and I knew I wanted to use this concept in a film. However, I also knew there needed to be a hook. There needed to be something gripping. At one point while writing, September 11 dawned upon me. I struggled with using it, because I did not want it to seem like a ploy to get super emotional. I finally decided to use it, because it’s such an important part of our history.

-What was the biggest barrier you faced in creating your film?

I hit so many barriers. Looking back at it, most of them were self-induced. The festival crept up on me, so I had to do a lot of the planning only a week before the shooting day. It’d be a lie if I said it was just a coincidence that everything worked out so perfectly. The Lord provided actors (and incredible ones at that!) as well as locations (I had two different apartments in the same complex, and both groups of people were gone that weekend), and every time I asked people on Facebook about getting props, I got so many responses.

-As the film festival approached, how confident did you feel about your short film? Did you expect to win?

Once the project was finished I watched it a few times, and thought it was absolutely terrible. I thought stuff was messed up with the audio, and shots didn’t look good. I thought it was so bad, I didn’t show it to anyone. A month later at the awards night, I had very low expectations.

When The Love Note started to play, the reaction was priceless. Everyone gasped when they should, and cheered when I hoped they would. It was perfect! Then came the awards. I thought that I may have a chance for best drama, and I did. The film was nominated along with 2 others for best drama. Unfortunately, I didn’t win.

I thought that was my only chance, so my heart finally stopped racing, and I just sat back to enjoy the rest of the evening. I was slightly bummed I didn’t win anything. But then, there came the final prize. This was the big one. The mother load – BEST PICTURE. I was just sitting there, not anticipating anything because I assumed that you couldn’t be nominated for two things. And boom. I won. Just like that. It was one of the most fantastic experiences ever.

-How did you experience God in the creation of “The Love Note”?

The Lord used this win to affirm in me the things that He has put in me. For a long time, I’ve doubted my ability to make narrative films. This festival showed me that random film industry representatives saw my film, and thought it was the best of 250 others. That means that the Lord was right about my ability to make good narrative films.

-Why is it not necessary to entertain with the dirty humor or blatantly sexual content to still make a good movie?

I would say a major part of seeking God’s Kingdom in my filmmaking would be to create morally upright content. I don’t think sex or extreme language are ever necessary for a good film. Stories can be told without the F-word showing up every minute. Overly sexual content is a cheap way to get people to come see the film. This might seem strange, but I actually think people are starting to become tired of everything being infused with sex or sex-related ploys. I hope to push it back over the edge to a side of higher morals and purity. I strive to turn heads by the quality of my films, not using sex as a cheap tactic.

We are so proud of Kyle and the way that he is continuing to grow in his craft as a filmmaker. This June, “The Love Note” will compete at the national film festival in Hollywood. To learn more about Kyle’s trip and how to support just click here.

Here’s how you can stay connected to Kyle:

Website: kylesklenar.com

Twitter: @kylesklenar

Instagram: @kylesklenar

If you know much about me, then you probably know I have a fascination with film. I recently started reading a book by Ted Baehr that has a ridiculously long title: How to Succeed in Hollywood: A Field Guide for Christian Screenwriters, Actors, Producers, Directors, and More.

I’m only a couple chapters in, but so far it’s quite good. It speaks to a lot of concepts we discuss on #LiveFully and gives very practical advice to any Christians who want to impact culture through media.

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One section in particular really stuck out to me:

It would be a great breakthrough in contemporary communications if we could refrain from using the word “Christian” as an adjective, and limit its use as the early church and the Romans did, by defining “Christian,” only as a noun.

In the book of The Acts of the Apostles, a Christian is a person who confesses and follows Jesus Christ. Paul is a Christian who makes tents; however, the tents that Paul makes are not “Christian” tents.

By restricting the use of “Christian,” we would no longer be confused by “Christian” art and media. Instead, we would have Christians, who make a work of art, or who communicate through a specific medium, such as television. The artwork made by a Christian may or may not communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ.

If we evaluated the art as art, the television program as a program, and the tent as a tent (including any gospel messages woven into the fabric), then we would be delivered from the temptation to worship a particular thing as a sacred object set apart by the use of “Christian” as an adjective.

Christian culture has become an industry of its own. Christian music, Christian movies, Christian dating sites, Christian youtube, Christian plumbers, and more! While I’m sure some of these are created with good intentions, others are taking advantage of the large audience who will choose to spend money when something is described as “Christian.”

(Here is a nice satirical look at Christian dating)

There are multiple problems with this. First, as the #LiveFully mission states, Christians should have a positive impact on culture. If we attempt to escape mainstream culture by living in a Christian bubble, then the world misses out on the truth.

Secondly, operating as a “Christian” art company often gives people license to create poor art. We assume, “since my message is positive, people will accept it even if it is delivered in an ineffective way.”

One of our first interviews on this site was with a popular writer named Jeff Goins. He said, “Everyone knows the story about this girl or guy who gets up and sings for their church choir and it is just awful. But they’re singing about God, and so everyone comes up to them and says great job.

You know I’ve been in circumstances like that, and I don’t like this weird dichotomy we have between faith and culture, which is a new thing historically. I think faith is supposed to have an impact on culture and culture should have an impact on how what we believe interacts with the world.

So I want somebody, Christian or not, to be touched by my art in some way. And ultimately I want to connect them with that same hope I have. But that initial judgment call, I want it to be on the face value of the art.”

Two applications:

1) Evaluate art for art: When you consume media, whether it be movies, television, videos online, books, or anything else, evaluate it for the quality of the art. Is the message important? Of course! But often times, the meaning of a story is intimately tied to the method of storytelling. If the method is poor, then the message will not resonate with the audience.

2) Create quality art: Do you have a story to tell that will inspire hope? Awesome. Go for it, but make no compromises in the quality with which you tell the story. Good art can inspire and change the lives of anyone. This will not be easy – it will cost you sweat and time and require constant prayer for God to work through you. But if you create something truly beautiful, then the world will take notice.

Your Turn: Let us know what you think in the comments: should we stop using “Christian” as an adjective? Or is that going too far?

photo credit: jsawkins via photopin cc

2014 sees the return of the Biblical epic. Exodus will be released in December, and Noah opened this weekend. Naturally, Noah has created quite a stir amongst evangelicals – will it be Biblical? Will it be offensive? Will it be too environmental?

I went to the theaters this weekend to watch the film. I love movies, and always enter the cinema with a sense of excitement. Story is powerful. It can change people at a heart level and cause entire shifts in our culture.

The director, Darren Aronofsky, is an atheist with some dark (though powerful) films in his history. I’ve seen some of his work, and so I knew he had a very unique style – this would not be your standard Hollywood epic. I was actually shocked that he would do a Biblical epic, but this piqued my interest even more.

Was it Biblical?

This is the most popular question and comment from Christians that I’ve seen. But I knew going into the movie it would not be completely Biblical. First, when was the last time you saw a movie that was the same as the book? Probably never – film structure works differently then the written word. Elements are also added in to increase the visual drama.

Secondly, the actual story of Noah in Genesis is less than 2500 words. In order to create an entire movie, narrative elements will need to be imagined and added. I might upset some for saying this, but there would be no point to judging it for every detail that differs from the Bible.

Interestingly, I think many people are probably comparing the film to the felt board stories they heard growing up. I have some news for you: those felt board stories with a smiling and happy Noah weren’t exactly Biblical either. The same could be said for the Veggie Tales version (Noah did not have an umbrella!)

We must be cautious with stories like this to not let the movie (or felt board, or anything else) replace Scripture. This is true in all things – God’s Word is our standard and nothing else.

Knowing what I know about the director and story in general, my chief concern going into the film was this: What themes and messages would the film convey? Would they align with the Bible? Would they enable Christians who desire to engage culture to have good discussions?

Image Credit: Noah Film

Quick Review:

The quickest way to review any film is to answer this one question: Do you recommend that others watch the movie? For me, the answer about Noah is a yes. As expected with Aronofsky, the film does have a very unique and artsy style – and some may not like it. They attempted to blend art-house film with an epic adventure. Sometimes the blend worked, and other times it didn’t.

The “Watchers” were unexpected and awkward (their special effects felt fairly 80′s at times), but they did make the battle scene a lot more entertaining. Again, this is definitely not the felt board version of Noah. It is violent (like much of the Old Testament) and not one for kids. Overall, however, there are some beautiful scenes, the drama is often gripping, and the acting is superb.

Most Christian film or television is remarkably subpar and cheesy. While this isn’t technically a Christian film, it was extremely refreshing for me to watch a Biblical story told as an art form. It’s not perfect, but it was definitely a step in the right direction from a quality standpoint. I hope the movie encourages more Biblical films from Hollywood. Even more so, I hope it encourages Christian story tellers to improve their work.

I did find the themes of the film quite thought provoking, and though there are some holes Biblically, I believe that if you watch the film with non-Christians you can definitely have gospel-centered conversations.

Image credit: Noah Film

Themes in Noah

There are several messages going on in Noah, and I think all of them are relevant for today and could lead to great conversations for people who want to #LiveFully in their approach to culture. I don’t want to ruin the film, so I won’t go into great detail.

1) Care for the Creation: One of the chief reasons God destroys the world in Noah is the destruction man has done to the Creation. God is frequently referred to as “the Creator.” Some will say the film was too politically environmental, and perhaps it is. But do you know what drives me nuts about Christian conservatives? They defend creation and condemn evolution, but do little to actually care for the Creation. Just to clarify, I am a conservative Christian and I do believe God created the world. I just think If we claim to love the Creator, then we should make sure we’re taking care of His creation.  Question for discussing with friends: Are we honoring the Creator by our treatment of creation?

2) The sinful nature of man: The film definitely demonstrates the sin of mankind. You expect this with the people who drowned in the flood, but I was impressed by a scene where Noah confesses to his wife that he realized he was sinful and deserved death as well. This is as Biblical as it gets. We tend to look at heroes in the Old Testament as perfect, but they were deeply flawed and needed a Savior. Question for discussing with friends: Is all of mankind truly evil? 

3) God is Just and Merciful: God’s justice is certainly abundant in this film. His mercy is more difficult to see, but it is also present. One character shouts, “Creator, forgive me” as he dies and is instantly swept up to Heaven. God blesses Noah and his family in the end, despite their faults. Our culture struggles with a God who would flood the entire world, and perhaps we should. But despite the sin and death we cause, God still chose to redeem our situation. Question for discussing with friends: Do we deserve justice or mercy? 

4) Man’s choice or God’s plan? I think one of the most interesting questions of life is that of freewill. If God has a plan and knows all things, what role do our choices play? They must matter on some level, but I’m not sure we’ll ever know exactly how. Noah must make an extremely difficult choice in the climax of the story, and ultimately his decision is blessed by the Creator. The choices are quite dramatic, and I think the film  puts too much weight into Noah’s choices, but it can still make for an interesting discussion. Question for discussing with friends: Do our choices matter? Or has God planned everything already? Or do they work together somehow?

Conclusion:

Noah may not perfectly Biblical, but don’t miss this opportunity to engage with culture and point people to Jesus.

Your turn: Did you see Noah this weekend? What were your thoughts?

I once read an article about Justin Bieber’s faith.

“I’m a Christian, I believe in God, I believe that Jesus died on a cross for my sins,” Bieber told Billboard in November 2010, while promoting his autobiography. “I believe that I have a relationship and I’m able to talk to him and really, he’s the reason I’m here, so I definitely have to remember that. As soon as I start forgetting, I’ve got to click back and be like, you know, this is why I’m here.”

Now that sounds really nice, but considering his moral breakdowns this year, this statement he made in 2010 can seem very surprising. Bieber (or, “Bizzle” as he might now prefer to be called) was arrested for drag racing, drunk driving, and resisting arrest. There are also stories of him beating people up, going to strip clubs, and more.

But if you read the rest of his interview with Billboard, I believe we will find a key to his failures:

“They go to church just to go to church. I’m not trying to disrespect them. But for me, I focus more on praying and talking to Him. I don’t have to go to church.”

I understand what Bieber means about people who “go to church just to go to church.” I grew up in the Bible belt, which meant I knew hundreds of people who went to church, even if a relationship with God meant nothing to them.

Bieber does get one thing right, Christianity is about a personal relationship with God and not religious rituals. Prayer is essential for any christian, but by avoiding the church, he misses a huge blessing and sets himself up for a colossal fall.

You see, the church is not a building you visit on Sundays. The church is the people of God, and we need them.

I’ve heard this analogy before, and perhaps you have too: I love building fires (perhaps that is part of my genetic code as a male). Anyone who has spent much time around fire knows that burning wood will continue burning best when it remains with the rest of the burning wood.

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If you pushed a log away from the rest of the fire, that piece of wood would quickly die out. Most christians today have sung or prayed that God would “light the fire in my heart.” We want to love Him passionately, but if we live in isolation from the church, we make our job incredibly difficult.

Christianity is not a solo act. If you want to #LiveFully, you need to live in community with other believers. We need the encouragement, the accountability, and the passion of other people inspiring us to seek the Lord even more.

The church is messy – it’s full of broken people who sin on a regular basis. But God loves the church. He protects it, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The church is the bride of Christ, and if we hope to love God, then we must also love His bride.

#LiveFully.

There is a disturbing trend these days: People are fighting hate with hate.

Perhaps I should not be surprised. After all, this sort of thing has always been around. The internet, however, has expedited things by giving people the freedom of anonymity to really let their insults fly. If you spend much time reading comment threads on news sites, youtube, or internet forums it won’t take long to find this sort of behavior.

Just to clarify, I’m not talking about trolls (people who say preposterous and outrageous things just to make others angry). Trolls are a problem, but all we need to do is ignore them. I’m talking about people who genuinely think they’re making the world a better place by verbally assaulting people who do wrong.

The story of Alicia Lynch

Take, for instance, Alicia Lynch. Now, this story may be ancient history (it happened almost 3 months ago), but I think it provides an excellent picture of the problem.

Lynch made a stupid decision, she really did. She dressed up as a Boston Marathon victim for Halloween. It was insensitive and foolish.

Initially, people called her names and ranted about her insensitivity. But hate always begets more hate, and things quickly escalated for her. There are many tweets and forums filled with horrible statements, but here is an example: “Is that chick with the marathon bombing halloween costume dead yet? have we killed her yet? If we havent, then what are we waiting for?”

Someone found her address and home phone number on the internet, and the death threats started happening over the phone. She lost her job and even her parents had their lives threatened.

Now, Lynch was certainly insensitive. But we have a serious problem in culture when we think that the appropriate way to handle an insensitive person is to hate, bully, and ruin their lives. It’s shocking, actually, that people could feel so incredibly self-righteous about themselves as they make death threats to a 22 year old they’ve never even met.

Do they not realize that their words and actions are an equal, if not greater offense than hers?

The log in your own eye

The Pharisees were also self-righteous. They never did anything wrong, and they looked down on all the sinners who dared cross their paths. Jesus tells a convicting parable in Luke 18:9-14

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Who do you identify with more in that parable? The pharisee or the tax collector? If I’m honest, my personal thoughts sound a lot more like the pharisee. “I’m a good guy! I go to church, lead a small group, love my wife, I don’t drink too much…”

But the reality is, I am much more like the tax collector. I am selfish, egotistical, demeaning, and a sinner in desperate need of mercy. Until we understand this, until we recognize the depths of our own sin and accept the fact that we are actually jerks ourselves, then we’ll struggle to love people like Alicia Lynch who make mistakes.

So before you focus on getting the splinter out of your friend’s eye, consider the log in your own eye. We cannot control the selfishness or sin of others anyway, but with God’s power and help we can see change in our own hearts.

Why hate will never solve the problem

I’m going to close with two quotes from two brilliant men of faith. First is from Martin Luther:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

In fact, if you try to fight darkness with darkness, things will only get darker. If you want to change something positively, it can only happen with love.

And now we turn to a CS Lewis quote,

“Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him…The more cruel you are, the more you will hate; and the more you hate, the more cruel you will become—and so on in a vicious circle forever.”

Light defeats the darkness

Avoid the vicious circle, choose to love your enemies. If you want to see less hate in the world, our only weapon is love. To #LiveFully is to love fully.

How to Reverse the trend

It’s nice to talk about how we need to love instead of hate, but what does that actually look like practically? How do you love someone you disagree with on the internet? Here are some ideas on how to start reversing the hate trend in our culture:

1) Remember that you, like me, are a sinner who desperately needs God’s mercy. When you remember that, showing others grace will occur much more naturally.

2) Celebrate the good. Human nature is much more prone to pointing out faults than celebrating the good. Instead of ranting and sharing nasty stories, why not share and comment on positive stories? For instance, it was so encouraging to see the way Atlanta responded to Snowmaggedon last week.

3) Pray for people. We all make mistakes, and we all need prayer. Want to love someone like Alicia Lynch? The easiest thing you can do is pray for her. You could even let them know through social media.

4) Act instead of rant. For some reason, people think that they make a huge difference by ranting about problems in the world. I suppose awareness is a good thing, but instead of just ranting about something that makes you angry, take the time to get your hands dirty and work to reverse the problem. Allowing someone to continue hurting themselves or others isn’t loving at all, so work to help make an actual difference.

Your turn: What can you do today that will show others love?

The world watched last night as the Seattle Seahawks dominated Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. With a near perfect defensive performance and a rock solid offensive effort, the Seahawks were in control from start to finish.

On the heels of such glorious achievement in sports, many would say Seahawk stars like quarterback Russell Wilson have arrived at the pinnacle of their lives. And yet, as this short video reveals, Wilson and several Seahawk players are convinced that there’s something far more fulfilling than a Super Bowl victory or any other human feat.

Whether you’re a huge sports fan or not, this brief video is definitely worth the watch. #LiveFully

If you’re interested in seeing the interview in its entirety, just click here.