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“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free”

Fave Five 09.05.14

Evan Forester —  September 5, 2014 — Leave a comment

1) Favorite List of Puns: Awesome Puns

2) Favorite Star Wars Tribute film: Retribution (This was filmed at UGA and directed by a football player named Chris Conley – he also loves Jesus)

3) Favorite Cosby moment: Responding to Victoria Olsteen

4) Favorite Sermon: A Christian’s Happiness by Tim Keller (Listen to this – a far superior response to Olsteen then you’ll read anywhere)

5) Favorite Vlog: Do movie titles matter?

Here at #LiveFully, we love to talk about transformation, not just personally, but culturally as well. Today’s video is a quintessential example of the cultural impact that is possible when people are united by a vision to serve a community (and more broadly, an entire country).

I am so proud of the filmmaker, and our dear friend, Mary Claire Stewart (@maryclairephoto, www.maryclairephoto.com), as well as my wife Erin Burchik, who had the vision and passion to drive this video project from the beginning. Most of all, we are all so proud of our friends Berat and Valdete Gegaj, who have committed their lives to serve their country of Kosovo.

This is a short documentary film about a beautiful friendship that has formed between two cities – Lilburn, Georgia, USA, and Suhareke, Kosovo. Kosovo Hope, a non-profit organization in Kosovo, partners with Americans to host a summer camp for Kosovar students. An extensive selection process takes place during camp to chose 25 students to be a part of the Kosovo Hope Exchange Program, where they are given the opportunity to study English in American for a month while living with host families. This is the story of some of those students and the many people who are bringing hope to the next generation.

For more information or to find out how you can be a part of Kosovo Hope, email berat.gegaj@gmail.com

It’s been an interesting few weeks on social media. Newsfeeds have been flooded with content revolving around ISIS, Robin Williams, Ferguson, and of course, the Ice Bucket Challenge. Many people have rejoiced at seeing such attention drawn to things like ALS, but others have had a more skeptical view.

I recently learned a new term, “slactivism.” Essentially, it means this: when you discover a problem in the world, you do nothing more than share a link or video on your social media. Slactivism is all about awareness, but rarely about actual action. For this reason, some people have criticized things like the ice bucket challenge.

Before moving forward, let me just say that I have nothing against building awareness. I work in marketing and generating awareness has actually been my number one priority for the last two years. Awareness is important, because without awareness there is no action. I definitely support posting things to social media, and I love seeing how something as silly as a bucket of ice water can unite people and change the way a nation perceives a horrible disease like ALS.

I also support discussion, especially when there is an event like what has been happening in Ferguson, Missouri. Even if we don’t know all the facts, it is vital that we communicate with each other and work to understand the broken world we live in. Thabiti Anyabwile, for instance, explains how speaking out has helped challenge and clarify his position on how the Gospel should transform the situation in Ferguson.

Awareness and communication are good things, but we need to be wary of doing nothing more than talk. I majored in philosophy at the University of Georgia. I remember students would hang around Peabody hall and discuss how they would solve world hunger or politics or family structures. The only problem was, they never left the hallways of the school. They just sat there, smugly pretending they knew how to fix everything.

I’m all about awareness, but I want that awareness to lead to action. Here are 7 ways you can ensure that you don’t become a slactivist:

1) Don’t Forget

It’s amazing how quickly we forget things. You might read a story about sex slavery in Thailand that upsets you. You share the story online, and you might even pray about it. But how will you feel in 2 hours? In 2 days? Or 2 weeks? The danger of social media is the mass quantity of messages you hear, and because of this it’s hard to keep anything in focus. When you truly desire to change something, don’t let the next Miley Cyrus publicity stunt replace it in your memory. Write it down in your prayer journal, pray about it daily, and keep looking for ways to make a difference.

2) Put your money where your mouth is

Many causes require more than word-of-mouth, they require funding. Philippians 1:3-6 says this, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Most scholars believe that this “partnership” Paul refers to is a financial one. Later on, Paul refers to their donations as “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.”

The reality is, you can’t be everywhere and help everyone. But you can support people who are serving in places you can’t reach. Do take the time to research and consider the organizations and people you choose to give to, and remember that God will carry the work you helped start with giving unto completion.

3) Get your hands dirty in your local community

You may not be able to resolve racial tensions in Ferguson, but you can work to increase freedom in your own community. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the problems of the world – there are so many issues I cannot possibly solve them all. The reality is I’m not supposed to solve everything. I can, however, actually make a difference in my own neighborhood, and so can you. Engage with the people in your life and seek opportunities to change things.

4) Actually go to the community in need

If there is a place or situation God has truly laid on your heart, prayerfully consider actually going to that community. The older I get, the more I realize that no problem has a silver bullet solution. If you truly want to make a difference, you will need to build relationships and listen and work for an extended period of time. This is no small challenge and requires substantial commitment. Most likely God is calling you to your own community, but every so often, He calls people to another city or country.

5) Choose Carefully

Being a slactivist for some causes is perfectly fine, as long as you’re still an activist for something. Becoming an activist takes time, however, so you must choose carefully. I am horrible at this and frequently spread myself too thin. Don’t make this mistake, but instead bathe all your decisions in prayer and choose how you will make a difference with wisdom. A while back, Brian wrote a helpful guide to identifying your calling that is an excellent start.

6) Remember that prayer actually works

I sometimes feel like prayer is a cop-out, like I’m not really doing anything. But again, the Bible is clear that prayer matters and God listens. The great revivals were all preceded by outpourings of prayer, and nothing we do can compare with God’s ability. If anything, I need to pray more. I often pray for something once and then forget about it. But we must make every effort to pray with passion for God to bring healing, justice, and peace.

7) Make Disciples

Jesus made a famous command (or commission) before leaving us in Matthew 28. It wasn’t to go and post stories to social media, but rather “Go and make disciples.” There is nothing short and sweet about discipleship: it requires time and life-on-life relationships. Very few of us will ever be able to impact millions or billions of people at once, however, we can each have a deep influence on 4 or 5 people in our life. Once you have invested in others, once you have changed their lives, they can begin discipling people as well and you will begin to see multiplication.

Discipleship is the method Jesus gave us to change the world. A pastor in Atlanta, Randy Pope, oversees a congregation with more than 5,000 members. In his book, Insourcing, he actually states that if the elders came to him and said, “you must choose between pastoring the church and discipling your small group,” he would choose discipleship. Why? Because it works – it changes lives, families, and even communities.

Leave a comment: What do you think about slactivism?

Img source: By Rauglothgor (Own work) CC-BY-SA-4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This past weekend I was reminded how amazing God is.

For those of you who don’t know, I live in Christchurch, New Zealand. It’s winter here, and they have some impressive mountains. Snow skiing is my favorite activity of all time, but growing up in Atlanta didn’t present many opportunities. New Zealand, however, is another story.

We drove down to the town of Wanaka and spent two days on the slopes. The weather and the scenery were unbelievable: blue skies, clear lakes, snow capped peaks. It was like Psalms 104 happened in front of my very eyes. I spent the entire two days with my jaw in a permanently dropped position.

Treble Cone overlooking Lake Wanaka

And the crazy thing is, the trip almost didn’t happen. Why? Because it was inconvenient.

We have no vacation days left, which means we couldn’t take a day off work. In order to ski two days, we had to drive 5 hours after work on Friday and then 6 hours after skiing on Sunday. We pitched the idea to people, and most said we were crazy.

But once I was outside, surrounded by God’s incredible creation, I had no regrets. It was one of my favorite weekends of all time, and I couldn’t help but remember one of the first lessons I learned when we moved to New Zealand:

A full life will not come looking for you. You need to actually get up and go after it.

Step outside your front door

When we arrived at our new home, I was somewhat naive about this. It was a land filled with mountains, glaciers, rivers, Lord of the Rings locations, and more. I just expected to walk off the plane and into an adventure. But after being here a few weeks, the most exciting thing we had done was a bike ride through the park.

I sat on the couch in a bad mood, wondering why we hadn’t experienced more adventure. We came out here to live fully! The answer to my problem, however, was right below me. Since arriving, we had made little effort to get off our couch and out into the world.

We didn’t come here on vacation, we came here to establish a life. But despite the epic nature of our new country, the life we were establishing was just boring. I realized that it does not matter where you are – Atlanta or New Zealand – unless you make the effort to live fully, you won’t. 

Here are a few practical things I noticed this weekend that contribute to living fully. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but definitely part of making the effort:

6 Keys for Living Fully

1) Embrace the inconvenience: Our culture loves convenience. From where I sit, I have a nice footrest, can turn on the television, watch a Braves game, surf the internet, play candy crush, read a book, and more. Most of my greatest memories, however, did not occur because of convenience. They took work, effort, and a willingness to get out of my comfort zone. If there is an idea bouncing around in your heart or mind, but you aren’t sure it’s worth the effort, then just stop debating and go for it. You’ll either love it or learn from it, but either way it will be better than doing nothing.

2) Go with People: God created us for community. While things like social media and texting can keep us connected, they can never replace genuine relationships. I find that most things in life (eating, traveling, working, exercising, worship, etc) are always better when done with good friends. Interestingly, I also find that good friendships are created when you do most of those things in life with people. Our 6 hour, post skiing car ride was fantastic – we were exhausted, but we ate burritos and talked about the important things in life the entire way.

3) Enjoy Creation: I find it so much easier to connect with God while in nature. As Psalms 19:1says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” No matter where you live, I believe you can find the beauties of God’s creation. It could be in the mountains or beach a few hours from home, or it could be in your neighborhood park. It could be a local river, or it could be the people in your life God has made. Our first home was a garden, we should make efforts to spend time in His creation.

4) Be a bit reckless: I could get in trouble for this, so let me clarify: don’t do anything illegal or to hurt others. That being said, sometimes you need to go against conventional wisdom if you want to live fully. Some would consider a weekend trip to Wanaka reckless: we might be tired at work on Monday, it could be horrible weather, we won’t have time to get chores done, and so on. The trip was a bit of a gamble, particularly in regards to weather, but the reward was totally worth the risk. Following Jesus also goes against conventional wisdom, but this time, the reward is infinitely greater and more secure because of his love for us.

5) The Experiences: I find most people prefer to spend money on material goods instead of experiences. We obviously need some material goods, like food and clothing, but I find experiences so much more valuable than having the latest iPad or biggest television. Everyone has limited finances, but I highly recommend you give priority to experiences you can share with people you love. The memories and the moments will last so much longer than the latest tech gadget.

6) Take time to soak in God’s glory: It can be easy to take things for granted. Sometimes we get so focussed on our particular tasks for the day that we fail to notice the beauty of what God has done in our lives. As I said, I love skiing and wanted to get as many runs in as possible, but I kept forcing myself to stop and look around and soak in God’s goodness. What has God done in your life that you might be missing? How is He working in the people around you? In the city or town you live in? Life is busy, but we must always find the time to pause and give thanks and praise for what He has done.

Your turn: What is your favorite activity when you want to live fully?

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?

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.


nehemiah-book-coverEnjoyed this post? Then make sure you check out the new eBook that explores Nehemiah and his leadership on a deeper level. Lead Like an Exile: 15 Leadership Principles from the Book of Nehemiah is a 15 day devotional, and each day explores a specific principle of leadership. It’s written by Evan Forester, one of the top #LiveFully writers and available for free from our partner site, Embracing Exile. Download now >>

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

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?

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.