Archives For #culture

Christians are called to engage the world, not to escape it.

I think sometimes we like to believe the world is basically a good place filled with good people. The Bible tells a different story: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” In Western Culture, we forget how bad sin can really be. But for our Christian brothers and sisters in Northern Iraq right now, they must literally flee for their lives because of sin’s cruelty.

A growing group of militants who call themselves the Islamic State (IS) and used to call themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have been making the news recently for beheading children, raping and murdering women, enslaving or killing men, and seeking to wipe out entire people groups. This is mass genocide and it is a terrible tragedy.

Large populations of Christians are being killed. Another religious group, called the Yazidis, are also being wiped out. Many have three choices: Convert to Islam, die, or flee. There is plenty of news coverage on this, and you’ve probably seen how horrific it is. I’ve been torn up for the last couple days thinking about this terrible persecution. I want to help make a difference, but I wasn’t exactly sure how for two reasons.

First, I struggle with global news because It is filled with problems occurring on the other side of the world, and frankly, I can’t really do much about them. And yet, when a group like ISIS is at large we simply cannot just sit around and do nothing.

Secondly, when I read these stories, my first thought is that we need to bomb these monsters into oblivion. They are doing seriously evil things and must be stopped. But I am somewhat troubled by the words of Jesus, “love your enemy.” IS is clearly an enemy of God’s people, so how do we balance this? The church endured terrible persecution, even in the Bible, but they never seemed to fight back. How do we stop them and love them at the same time?

I’ve done a fair amount of thinking and research on these two questions. To be honest, I’m still not sure of all the answers, and would love some comments with your thinking, but here are 6 ways you can actually do something to make a difference:

1) Love your enemy:

Romans 12:14-21 is a riveting passage in which Paul calls us to love our enemies. Here are a couple verses that highlight this: 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[i] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

From this it is clear, as Christians we are called to love the Islamic State. This seems insane, and I almost feel dirty saying it, but it’s the truth. We need to realize what it means, however. Loving someone does not mean you encourage or allow them to continue in their sin. It means we point them to Jesus and his saving grace. Members of the IS are evil, but Jesus died for them, and ultimately he is the only one who can change them. You will probably never meet a member of IS, but you can pray that they would repent and believe the truth.

2) Call on the government for justice:

Can you love someone and demand justice be served against them? Of course – God does this often.

I was talking with my friend Keith and he pointed out that Romans 12 is followed immediately by a passage where Paul explains one of God’s systems for dealing with justice. Romans 13:1-4 says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

God has instituted the governments of the world to carry His wrath on the wrongdoer. ISIS definitely qualifies as a wrongdoer, and so we should be calling the governments of the world to bring justice. The US recently approved airstrikes on the terror group, and this is certainly a start, but more is needed. I can’t pretend to be a politician and know the answers, but our leaders will listen if we unite in this cause. So contact your congressman or the White House or Parliament or whoever is in charge of your nation, and call for action! One of the quickest and easiest ways is to sign this White House petition. You can also contact your congressman directly using this website – it will take 2 minutes and you will make a difference, so just go do it!

3) Love your neighbor:

This is more of a proactive approach than a reactive approach. ISIS is nothing new, there are many terrible examples of genocide throughout history. Kosovo, Rwanda, Cambodia, the Holocaust, and the list could go on. If we love our neighbor, we can help prevent things like this in the future.

Omar Shafik Hammami grew up as a Southern Baptist in Alabama. In 2012 he earned a spot on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list because of his work for the Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabaab. How did this happen? I don’t really know, but I do believe that if he had truly experienced the love of Christ in his own neighborhood, he would not have gone down the same path. So love your neighbor, you are an ambassador for Christ and can change the course of their future, and maybe the future of many others.

4) Support Relief Efforts:

Not only do we need to stop ISIS, but we need to help the people who are suffering at their hands. Our Christian brothers and sisters in Northern Iraq need help, and we should work to give it to them. Not only that, but we should support the other minorities in the area as well. Again, one way you can do this is by contacting your congressman or government leader.

I would also suggest giving to relief organizations like Open Doors. I’ve had trouble finding many other direct donation opportunities, so if you know of any, please share it in the comments. (Update: Nanci commented below with this link and recommended Samaritan’s Purse).

5) Don’t stereotype:

There is always a temptation when a group called the “Islamic State” starts killing people. While some will want to blame everyone who belongs to Islam for this, we should not make that mistake. I’ve visited Kosovo twice, where in the 90’s a group of Serbians killed thousands of Muslims. Many Kosovar had to flee their homes and lost family members at the hands of their enemy. During my two trips, I became friends with many Kosovars. I was shocked and appalled to hear that many of their family and friends were killed in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Now, a group of “Christians” committed that atrocity, and again some would want to blame all Christians for that act of genocide. But we know this is not true Christianity. In the same way, we know that all Muslims do not support what ISIS is doing. In fact, many Muslims are being hurt and killed by these terrorists. So continue to love, encourage, and pray for your Muslim neighbors.

6) Pray and Fast:

This is, perhaps, the most important of all. Pray genuinely matters, and the Bible has multiple instances where God fights for his people in the Bible. In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat calls the people to pray and fast so that God would rescue them from Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir. God hears their prayer, and when Israel goes out to battle, God puts their enemy into confusion and they all kill themselves.

In 2 Kings 19, King Hezekiah prays to the Lord to rescue them from the Assyrians. Again, the Lord answers his people, this time in an even more miraculous way. Here is what vs. 35 says, “And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.

We should be praying for the salvation of people from ISIS in the same way we would pray if ISIS were outside our front door. We must plea with passion for God to intervene, and we must believe he can make a difference. The same God who threw the armies of Ammon and Moab into confusion and sent his angel to destroy the Assyrians is the same God today. How awesome would it be if the same thing happened today? What if ISIS turned on itself? God can and will bring justice, let us pray (and even fast) and ask Him to bring it soon. Garret Kell has put together a Scripture based prayer for the situation.

I’m not very good at fasting, but when the need is this great I think it is worth the effort. Not only that, it helps (in a very, very small way) to identify with the people who are suffering in Iraq. If you’d like to join me, spend some time fasting this week (it could be food, but doesn’t need to be – just make sure it’s a sacrifice). During the time you save, pray for relief and justice, and I believe if we unite as a global community of Christians for this, God will not allow the prayers to be wasted.

Your turn: What do you think we could be doing about ISIS?

The first movie trailer for 50 Shades of Grey was released last week. It has already received over 20 million views on youtube. It’s no surprise, the books were extremely successful and have sold over 60 million copies. The trilogy is a sensation. At #LiveFully we want to constantly engage with culture, but I think we need to ask ourselves, should Christians watch 50 Shades of Grey?

50-Shades-of-Grey-Movie

If you don’t know what it’s about, I can’t tell you much. I haven’t read the book, but I did glance at Wikipedia, skimmed the Amazon summary, and read a Time magazine article. From what I gather, it features a pretty simple plot: a girl (Ana) likes a guy (Christian) and they start having lots of sex. Ana wants a romance filled with hugs and kisses, while Christian wants to bind her and control her. The book features “sexual practices involving bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism.” It has also been dubbed, “mommy porn.” 

From that description, I think the answer is pretty clear: Christians should not read or watch 50 Shades of Grey.

If you need more convincing, I’ve got 5 reasons you shouldn’t watch (or read) 50 Shades of Grey. One of our convictions is that followers of Jesus should be most recognized for what they contribute to the world instead of what they are against in the world. I don’t want to just rant about why you shouldn’t engage with 50 Shades of Grey (or any entertainment that contains lots of sexually explicit content), but I’ll also offer the #LiveFully biblical alternative.

1) Every view is a vote

Do you know how Hollywood determines what movies they’ll make? It’s not about art – it’s about money. Every time you watch a youtube video, buy a ticket, or rent a dvd you cast a vote for a particular type of movie. If 50 Shades of Grey rakes in a ton of cash, you can be sure that Hollywood will start to pump out more films just like it. If, however, it flops or has mediocre results, then they won’t even make the sequel.

This is actually quite empowering, you can influence the types of films that are being made. By choosing to watch uplifting films (these could be purely Christian movies like God’s not Dead, but also positive movies like How to Train Your Dragon or Captain America) you are telling Hollywood, “I want more positive movies and less explicit ones.” In all seriousness, the evidence proves this actually works. So don’t support 50 Shades of Grey, choose instead to support films that are both high quality and promote values that will help our culture #LiveFully.

2) Sex should be awesome

Culture looks at a Christian speaking negatively about 50 Shades of Grey and assumes it is because we’re just “prudes” who don’t want to talk about sex. Scripture, however, has a lot to say about sex, and it’s clear that it should be AWESOME. There is an entire book of the Bible, Song of Solomon, that focuses on the pleasure and benefits of a healthy sexual relationship.

So when I say we should avoid things like 50 Shades of Grey it’s not because I’m against sex. I love sex. I’m just vehemently against 50 Shades of Grey type of sex that is about controlling and hurting people. When we fill our hearts and minds with twisted messages about sex, it isn’t going to improve our sex lives, but make them worse. I’d rather that not happen.

3) Women deserve respect

Any book that features a woman desperate to earn the love of a man that wants to put her in bondage is a problem. Women are made in the image of God and should be served and cared for, not controlled and dominated. 50 Shades of Grey demeans women, so please don’t support it. Choose instead to love, support, and encourage the women in your life. Choose to watch and read stories that show women being smart, capable, and making a difference.

4) Men deserve respect

Not only does 50 Shades of Grey demean women, but it also demeans men. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to see men being depicted as nothing more than creatures obsessed with sex and power. Men are also made in the image of God, and we should we should encourage the men in our lives and support stories that inspire them to live more like Christ.

5) Stories should be better

My limited research has led me to conclude that 50 Shades of Grey is poorly written. The Time Magazine article quotes the book and then has some brilliant commentary:

“Did you give him our address?”
“No, but stalking is one of his specialties,” I muse matter-of-factly.
Kate’s brow knits further.

That’s right: This is the kind of a book where, instead of saying things, characters muse them, and they are somehow able to muse them matter-of-factly. And these matter-of-fact musings cause other characters’ brows—which of course were already knitted—to knit still further. The book is over five hundred pages long and the whole thing is written like that. If Jane Austen (another bestselling female British author) came back to life and read this book, she would kill herself.

There is a funny moment in Seinfeld where Jerry complains to a priest about a friend who converted to Judaism so he could make Jewish jokes. The priest asks him, “and this offends you as a Jewish person?” Jerry responds by saying, “no, it offends me as a comedian.”

50 Shades of Grey should offend you for it’s sexually explicit content. But it should also offend you because as an artist. The story is a joke, and anyone who has ever attempted to write something or create a short film should be angry that this story gets to see the light of day.

Conclusion

If you try hard enough, you can create some justifications for watching this movie or reading the book. Ultimately, however, I hope you choose to avoid it. Cast your vote and support quality films that are both works of art and contain uplifting messages. Don’t settle for stories that demean sex, men, and women. Instead, seek after Jesus, encourage others to do the same, and embrace the full life he offers.

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

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

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.

Fire

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?

Screen shot 2013-10-22 at 11.17.40 PMAs I was pulling into my driveway yesterday after a long day of work, the radio station I was listening to began to feature a brief interview with Katy Perry. She was talking about her favorite song on her new album “Prism”.

The song is entitled “Unconditionally,” and she shared that it speaks of a love that’s greater than just the “romantic” kind most often depicted in pop songs.

I must say, her small bit got me curious to hear it, so rather than turning the car off to go inside, I decided to just sit and listen. And I’m glad that I did. Like mentioned in the interview, her newest song does describe a love that transcends the emotional infatuation, or worse, the objectifying lust, of most pop hits.

In fact, I would go as far to say that Perry’s newest song is a powerful depiction of the very heart of God as revealed in the Bible and through the life of Jesus. As I listened, I could not help but hear the direct parallels between Perry’s lyrics and the message of the gospel. It made me immediately think of Jesus’ well-known parable of the prodigal son in the New Testament. (Luke 15:11-32)

So come just as you are to me
Don’t need apologies
Know that you are all worthy
I’ll take your bad days with your good
Walk through the storm I would
I do it all because I love you
I love you

I’m not saying that it was Perry’s intention to create a song that communicates God’s gracious heart. I don’t know what ultimately compelled the lyrics. But regardless of the artist’s intentions, there’s no denying the powerful description of unconditional love. The Bible states,”There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” (1 John 4:18) Perry’s song echoes the same notion..

I will love you unconditionally
There is no fear now
Let go and just be free
I will love you unconditionally

The Bible makes it plain that there’s nothing anyone can do to earn God’s love – that would make it conditional to our own efforts or personal piety. God’s love is unconditional, displayed most clearly through the mission of Jesus.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.      (1 Jn 4:10)

We love because he first loved us. (1 Jn 4:19)

It begins and ends with learning how to receive and accept God’s unconditional love. Only then can we begin loving others in a similar way. We can choose to close ourselves off from this love, or, like the prodigal son, we can return home and experience the unconditional love of God – the grace that every human soul longs for.

Appropriately, Perry’s song ends with a call to the openness required to receive this kind of love.

So open up your heart and just let it begin
Open up your heart and just let it begin
Open up your heart and just let it begin
Open up your heart
Acceptance is the key to be
To be truly free

-In what other mainstream art or entertainment have you seen glimpses of God’s heart for humanity? Would love to hear about it in the comments below.

 

Don’t fear the truth!

Evan Forester —  September 24, 2013 — Leave a comment

Some of you may have already read this, but Relevant Magazine shared a study that states, atheists have higher IQs than Christians.

I won’t repeat the whole article, but it is definitely worth a read. It was written by David Denison and his main explanation for why Christians have a lower IQ is this: Christians look down upon people who ask too many questions. 

Thinking RFID

I agree with his explanation, and get frustrated that Christians rarely entertain the hard questions about life. If someone asks a challenging question, we often shrug them off and say “it’s too complicated.”

But here’s the thing, Jesus is the Truth. If we believe in Jesus, we should never fear the truth. Instead, we should get excited to explore the unknown and learn the answers to life’s hardest questions.

Here is one of my favorite quotes from Denison’s article:

“I believe the faith of children carries with it two significant qualities. The first is that kids are remarkably uncynical. The skepticism that plagues our generation is a learned trait, one that desperately needs unlearning. 

“Secondly, they are annoyingly inquisitive. An inquisitive mind asks why the sky is blue. It asks why the grass is green. It asks why Arrested Development got cancelled but George Lopez still has a successful career. There are some things we will never know, and that should drive us crazy.”

Asking the difficult questions can work out your brain and give you a headache – but it is good for you. If you never exercise your heart, guess what will happen when you go for a run? You’ll feel the pain. But the more you run, the more you begin to enjoy it.

The more we exercise our brains, the less it will begin to hurt and the more we will embrace deep thinking. In fact, you might even boost your IQ with some solid brain exercise. So don’t fear the truth – run after it with zeal. And read Denison’s article on Relevant.

Your turn: What is a question you’ve always wanted to know the answer to?

As pretty much everyone knows, Miley Cyrus performed at the VMA’s on Sunday. The performance was, well, rather interesting. I won’t post it here, because you’ve probably already seen it and frankly it’s just gross.

I know you’ve probably read a million things about her performance, but after a few days of thought I want to discuss something I haven’t really seen mentioned yet:

Her performance was strategic

Make no mistake, this was a strategic move on the part of Cyrus and her PR people. This was not the result of a single night of booze or drugs (although they might have given her an extra bit of motivation), this was modern day marketing at it’s finest.

Ryan Holliday discusses this openly in his book, Trust Me, I’m Lying. This man was responsible for promoting the book and the film, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. His primary goal in promotion? Offend people.

Or, if he couldn’t offend people, then he would create the controversy himself. He did this by writing graffiti on the most prominent billboard in L.A. about how the star of the book/film, Tucker Max, was a horrible person. He also phoned a woman’s rights group and explained how sexist the main character was. This motivated them to stage a public protest.

Why did he do those things? Because “the most powerful predictor of virality is how much anger [it] evokes.

Controversy spreads like wildfire on the internet. If something offends you or grosses you out, then you are more likely to share it then something that brings you hope or laughter. Holliday used these tactics to promote some of the biggest brands in the world, and now the artist formerly known as Hannah Montana is doing the same.

miley_cyrus_personal

Oh how things change

Her strategy worked

Miley Cyrus knows this, and her act was not a failure. It did exactly what it was supposed to. Her name has been brought up more than any other famous person in the world this week. Her new single, “Wrecking Ball,” is number 2 on the iTunes charts.

Does it demonstrate a desperate need for attention and relevance? Of course. Is she clearly misguided? Yes. Is their a moral justification for her actions? Nope. But from an economic perspective, it worked brilliantly. Not just for Miley, but also for the media.

The more traffic Buzzfeed receives, the more money they make. They know offensive material spreads the most, that is what they create new offensive content so often. In fact, Seven out of the top ten “hot on buzzfeed” stories are about Miley.  Newspapers have followed a similar formula for years, sharing stories of sex and violence because those topics sell more copies.

How you should react

Posting photos, sharing buzzfeeds about her performance, and talking about how ridiculous the video is on youtube is exactly what she wants.

And frankly, it is sad that she is so desperate for attention that she’ll pull a stunt like this. But I find it very frustrating that our culture actually encourages her behavior by making it go so incredibly viral.

I can think of three really good ways to react:

1) Pray for Miley. While it may seem fun to make memes that degrade her, she is actually a human being who needs prayer. She is obviously confused about what will bring her a full life, and she’s also mislead about how to prove to people you’re a grown up.

2) Ignore her actions: The other thing you need to do for Miley, and anyone else in the future who pulls an offensive stunt in public, is ignore her performance. Don’t share it, don’t give it a thumbs up, and don’t even bash her.

3) Share something positive instead: Don’t just ignore the negative things, promote the positives! While laughter and hope do not go as viral as anger, they can spread well. And if enough of us start sharing positive things, then maybe news agencies and media blogs will stop talking so much about celebrity decision making failures.

I know that by posting a blog post about Miley Cyrus I’m doing the very thing I’m arguing against. I also know that I’m just one guy and this post probably won’t make a whole lot of difference. But, I believe even a small step in the right direction is worth taking. So from now on I’m going to do my best to promote things that inspire people and bring hope and ignore the things that bring us down.

I hope you’ll join me.

*This post was written by #LiveFully contributor Evan Forester, you can read more of his writing on Adventure’s Out There

I’m not a huge reader, but I wish I was. My current goal is to finish reading at least one book per month. To some that may seem like nothing, while others may view it as an insane amount.

Needless to say, I find books very inspiring. It’s extremely hard work writing one, and even harder writing a good one. A great book can teach you and show you how to live a better life. And I’m not just talking about self-help books here, often times fiction can show us greater and more powerful truths than non-fiction.

Since I cannot remember everything I have ever read, I have found great value in re-reading certain books. But with so many books I have on my “to-read” list, I must be very selective in the books I will read again. Here are seven of them (links are affiliate links):

1) The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: If you have spent five minutes with me, you probably knew this was coming. One of my earliest memories is reading The Hobbit with my dad. I’ve read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy four times. It’s simply my favorite story ever.

2) Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders: I have read this book twice, and am about due for a third reading. Sanders writes with a profound and piercing voice that challenges leaders. If you want to find glory and fame as a leader, this is not the book for you. If you need to be reminded of the cost of leadership, then this is where you should start. It’s an incredibly challenging book, and one that will drive you closer to God.

3) The Reason for God by Tim Keller: I just finished reading this for the first time, and it might be my favorite Christian book. I’m a massive CS Lewis fan, and if anyone alive today can match his wit and writing style, it is Keller. In this book, he handles the most common arguments people give about why God does not exist, and then he spends the second half of the book giving reasons it is completely rational to believe in Him. At times it can seem heavy, but these are the questions that matter most in our generation.

4) Insourcing by Randy Pope: If I could identify one thing the church needs to do better today, it would be authentic discipleship. This was the model Jesus used, and through discipleship the world was transformed. Today we often trade the long and slow process of life-on-life investment for big flashy events that draw a crowd. While I enjoy those events, I know that hearts are far more likely to change and grow through discipleship. Insourcing is an excellent guide to building an effective discipleship program from a very clear communicator who has been making disciples for forty years.

5) Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis: A great series from one of Tolkien’s best friends. I’ve loved these books for years, even when I was a kid terrified of the white witch (no joke – I couldn’t focus in class one day because she was staring at me from the front cover of a book). All of them have incredible analogies for our relationship with God, and frankly I can’t wait to read these books to my (future) children.

6) Harry Potter by JK Rowling: For a long time I tried to be cooler than Harry Potter. I was too old for those kids books, after all, and there was no way they could be as good as Lord of the Rings. But then, while I was on a long road trip, I decided to give it a go (mostly so I could explain why it wasn’t any good). Turns out, they’re incredible. It is one of the few book series that finishes far stronger than it started. This series is full of spiritual themes and, although it can be quite dark, love prevails.

7) Story by Robert McKee: I love movies, so much so that I am seriously considering attempting to make them. Story explains what actually makes a good story (specifically, what makes a good film). But the applications are not just for the film industry, there are important things to learn from this book if you actually want to live a good life.

Your turn: What’s missing? What is your favorite book?

PS: If we’re getting technical, this is actually a list of 22 books I plan on reading again (and again). But who’s counting?