The Problem with Celebrities

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God encourages us to love all, despite color or occupation or class. He says to love our “neighbor.”
 In our interpretation of the Bible. very few would argue that a “neighbor” doesn’t need to literally live next to you.
But for some reason, we aim to love our neighbors all over the world, but we neglect to intentionally honor one specific group:
Celebrities.
How do you talk about your neighbor?
Now, how do you talk about celebrities?
There are successful businesses run on  berating and gossiping about these neighbors. When you go and buy food to nourish your body and feed your family, the one entertainment source that is available at check out is one that takes pride in slandering these people (and being the FIRST to do so)
And whats worse- we justify reading about them and gossiping about them. We say that they did it to themselves because thats the business they’ve entered…as if the desire to act and sing automatically qualify them for a life of slander and pressure.
We also like to point out that they are role models for children. We say they should be upstanding citizens because they are teaching children what is cool. And then when Disney stars star smoking pot, we express complete disappointment in them and call them “idiots” or we say “oh, I hate her.”
My beloved sisters and brothers in Christ:
Do we say the same things about the cool kids at high school? Do we, as adults, go talking around town about how 17-year-old Billy started dating Sophie and how she is ‘totally not pretty enough’. Gosh, I hope not. And I don’t think we do.
So why do we justify this with people who like singing or dancing or have nice instagrams (or whatever people get famous for)?
I think we have to look in ourselves for this answer. I think many feel like so many people adore them, so they deserve to be evened-out a bit. When people get excited about buying Justin Beiber tickets, someone will say “ew, no, i don’t like him. He’s awful.” We slander people that we feel get ‘too much’ praise that we don’t agree with. But this is a terribly unhealthy habit. We do not need to ‘even out’ the perception of anyone, in our neighborhoods, or in the broader world. We can say that we wouldn’t act identically to celebrities- to children and influenceable people….just as we do about bullies at a high school and the ‘cool’ kids doing pot. We don’ need to slander or berate (or in fact say anything about them that we wouldn’t say to their faces).
If anything, the behavior that is sending a LOUD and clear message to children… is our gossip and our hatred. Are we sure we want to teach children that THIS is how we treat neighbors? Because, though they may live far away in Beverly Hills, they are children of their parents and children of God.
Rather, we should be minding our own business. We don’t like how a celebrity leads their life? Great…it is OUR job not to follow them. They aren’t making anyone follow them. If you are nervous about kids being impressionable, be proactive in denouncing the celebrity’s behavior…but you don’t need to berate the PERSON. Its sending the message that hate is the answer when we look to protect ourselves and others.
The answer is love and guidance. We do not need to follow famous people. We can recognize these neighbors for who they are: people. Why are we in the business of idolizing/slandering people to begin with?
Instead- though you cannot control their actions, you can control yours. We can watch how we talk about people, including celebrities. We can watch our tongues, and whats more: pray for them. We can speak about them the way we would want someone to speak about our family. Finally, we can resist the social change that a famous person may be encouraging NOT by insulting them…but by being stern against the unideal social change.
Let’s pray for them and rebuke drinking, premarital sex, drugs, etc… but lets not lower ourselves and gossip and slander, for any reason.

 

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Boldness: brave or not

What comes to your mind when you hear this: Godly Boldness.

Believing differently then anyone else believes and not hiding it. Telling the truth at the risk of getting attacked or causing danger to come to others. Rejecting the logical decision because you are hearing from the Lord and although it doesn’t makes sense you choose to obey. Having no answer for people when they ask you what your plan is because you are waiting for the Lord to reveal the plan. Continuing to do what God says even when you begin looking like a fool to everyone around you. Refusing to act on what you are able to figure out with your own brain power not because you have no idea what to do but instead because you know its very possible that your will is not Gods will. Having the smarts to come up with socially acceptable business, career, and life plans but putting them all behind you in order to come before the Lord and ask for His plan for each of your years. Refusing to even seek to know who wronged you in the midst of hurting over it and choosing to focus on looking for the lesson God is teaching you. Resting at peace because of the knowledge that God is just rather then restlessly seeking vengeance. Adopting may children without having any large savings or college degree simply because you it is right to not leave them abandoned. Risking everything you own for your God given passion even when their are no guarantees having no reservations and holding nothing back. Working for no salary for a year despite having a large family to provide for in efforts to save countless lives and not even counting it a risk because of the knowledge that God does not call us to do something and then make it impossible. Paying no mind to the need for sleep, food or any other basic necessity and giving all hours of the day and night to the needs of strangers.
These are some of the most intense acts of boldness I have seen in my life and in the lives of those closest to me. These are things that have stopped me in my minds tracks leading me away from the fleshly desires I would have turned to and leading me towards a new mind that made no sense to most people. A mind of boldness that would one day be called mindless despite the fact that I was learning a level of mindfulness and thoughtfulness I had never before experienced in my spiritual walk.
These acts of boldness put to death what is earthly. Godly boldness renews the mind because it is in fact not natural to the old mind. The old minds practice fear and confusion while the new minds practices love, power, stability, hope, and peace. 1st Corinthians 14:33 gives us the wonderful news that confusion is not from God and this therefore gives us our next step which is to reject confusion and a bi-product of that is the automatic loss of fear that comes with confusion which makes complete sense especially when you see 1st Timothy 1:7 which confirms that fear is also not from God. Godly boldness could be viewed as a superpower in some ways because it seems like those who charge forward with it are not even feeling the coals under their feet. The Holy Spirit definitely gives some crazy courage in times of need but that does not mean all those who experience fear are somehow excluded from closeness with the Lord or the renewing of their minds. I would actually dare to say that moving forward in Gods commands when you are still experiencing fear, AKA the equivalent of a soldier marching forwards despite the fact that he is shaking in his boots, is actually just as much of a “superpower”.

Whether or not you would call yourself a courageous person you are still called to the renewing of your inner self which means that in the end you are still called to boldness, brave soul or not.

I know this is the place where most people may want to stop reading because we are getting to grounds of denying ourselves EVERYTHING. At first glance that is in no way shape or form desirable. I understand because I am one of the people that marches while shaking in my boots. Thoughts of putting myself first and different fears attack me regularly and although I am immune to these attacks through the putting on of the armor of God(daily…although sometimes I forget my shield) I am not unaware of them and they do take up some of my focus. I am no spiritual iron woman of any sort. As much as I might wish I was a fearless and brave child of God all the time I still remain a shaky little leaf much of the time who has to practice recognizing truths on the daily to keep the forward movement going.

I have definitely come close to thinking there is something wrong with me for that repetitious self reminding but to my delight I have found verses that not only relate to daily struggling but actually command daily commitment to renewing the inner self. I would go so far as to say that spiritual boldness and the daily renewing of the inner self cannot exist one without the other. 2 Corinthians 4:16 attests to this belief. Not only does it speak about the inner self being “renewed day by day” but also goes further to explain that it is for the purpose of us not losing heart and this is quite the discovery considering that the losing of heart is a direct symptom of fear which is to be overtaken with power, love and a stable mind! (2 Timothy 1:7) Now if you go backwards to Romans you can find that being conformed to the world is also a direct symptom of failing to renew your mind(12:2). This verse reveals more abilities given by the practice of renewing your mind. It uses the word transformed. It says “by testing you may discern what is the will of God”. Is this not demanding boldness from us? In order to be bold in a Godly way you MUST know the will of God otherwise your boldness can easily be many other things besides Godly and according to this verse again we must: “be transformed through the renewal of your mind and through testing you will know what is the will of God…..”. I realize that boldness is considered to be something only certain people are “gifted with” or “called to” but I beg to differ.

Now lets look at the meaning of the word transformed. Not in English but rather tracing back into the historical and original language in which it was written: Greek. The word is μεταμορφόω. We are talking about a verb that is spoken in present tense and with imperative meaning. It is present tense and it is a verb! This means that “transformation” should be a present thing and an active thing but if boldness and a renewed mind were meant for only certain people shouldn’t Romans 12:2 be directed at particular people rather then no particular group being addressed? If boldness was meant to be easy for those “gifted” or “called” people (or anyone for that matter) then why on earth would we be called to a type of transformation that is present tense AND a verb? Should it not at least be past tense? Maybe active at the time of the transformation but then finished? But that is not at all what we were given by the word. We were called to a presently active transformation which demands a presently active effort towards renewing of the inner self. So whatever it is that puts the fire in your spirit or on the other extreme, the shaking in your boots I have a challenge for you to take every thought captive, renew your inner self actively, and march forward whether you feel brave or not. The Lord will give you everything you need (2 Peter 1). But don’t forget your shield! (Ephesians 6:16)

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Not My Bitterness To Hold

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So many times in life, I looked at someone worshipping and it made me a bit angry. They have hurt me, how are they acting like this- swaying in the tune and being ok? How are they ok with how they are treating others? It seems so fake to me.

Before I know it, the song is over and I have spent the whole song… of worship, at church… concerning myself with whether or not THEY were authentic in their worship.

Maybe I’m alone in this specific act, but I think we all can say that we have taken time out of our day to decide whether someone was bad, guilty, fake, or at fault in some way.

I think that it is a fine and good thing to identify bad treatment and to distance ourselves. I’m not talking about that… I’m talking about the times when we view a PERSON (not treatment) and think it is our responsibility to decide who they are and what they deserve.

Really, I think it’s that we sometimes hold the burden of bitterness.

Even if we have forgiven people for their treatment of us, we can still see them in life, and because of the way they hurt people or forget God, we think: do they really deserve this good? Are they deserving? 

These thoughts come from a justice-minded place. Being justice-minded is normally a beautiful thing where we can stand up for people against injustices of the world. But in this case of deciding that a person deserves bad, being justice minded is actually taking on God’s role. God never gave us the burden or responsibility of deciding if a person should receive bad or good based on their deeds.

This burden of bitterness is holding us back from pure love.

Because Jesus takes on all of our burdens, I believe he wants to free us from this bitterness. I believe He wants to be the one to worry about whether or not other people are held accountable for their actions.

WE have been making our lives a whole lot more miserable by taking on a job that isn’t ours. Simply, what we are put in charge of is praying for people. Besides that, when we have thoughts of bitterness like, ‘they don’t deserve that award because they didn’t even do anything!’ we can tell ourselves, “This burden of bitterness is not mine to carry.”

Because it IS a burden. It is not helping you. Yes- you may feel like you have a better idea of who you can trust… but you knew that before the bitterness. This bitterness is just a way for them to feel punishment. As tempting as it is to be the one who gives punishment, that is not our job.

Free yourselves from this burden. When you have bitterness, tell God, “actually the burden of deciding stuff like this is yours, not mine.” God has so many things he wants to bless you with, and your mind is being taken up with things that are hurting you. And when we are with those people that we have been hurt by, allow yourself to take space if you need it, yet not hold bitterness. Those two things are different, and your mind is powerful enough to just remind you to take space, without simultaneously convincing you that they are awful.

Thank you God that you took this burden. That our minds can be free from the burden of deciding what someone is deserving of. We trust you with that and we ask that you teach us to pray for those people. We love you, God.

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Cling

Cling to your child. Cling to your momma and daddy. Cling to your big brother or sister. Cling to your husband or wife. Cling with all your love. Give it everything you’ve got. But what do I say to an Orphan? Cling to who? Cling to what? What do I say to a single person with no best friends or close-knit family? Cling to yourself? Cling to your work?

The list goes on. We are surrounded by people who have no one to cling to (or at least that’s what they think). Seeing Valentine’s Day is upon us I refuse to write just for Eros lovers. Everyone reading this has at one time or another had the strongest desire to just have someone to love whether it be a close mom-daughter relationship, a rock solid brother in Christ or a “come over anytime” mission minded grandparent. We long to love in a way that I believe is best described by the word cling.

For clarity throughout this article let me tell you what definition of this word I’m using. Unlike the word “clingy” which makes people think of unhealthy obsessive type relationships, I am choosing the word “cling” in the way it was meant to be hard working, attentive, and unconditional when it was used in describing a lifelong commitment: marriage. But what I know from my own life experience as well as from talking to others is that the desire to cling is rooted in the needs of childhood stages up through adolescents; it is a powerful and Godly desire that lives in all of us and it lives in many circumstances, not just marriage.

We are all not so different. I need Agape love and so do you. Phileo (brotherly) and Storge (parental) love, too. But when instead we hold ourselves back from opening up in depth and set limits because of fear of regrets, we set ourselves up to never get to a place where we show on the outside who we are on the inside. Where we can pour into each other. It is here we lose “hand in hand”, we lose “my house is your house”, we lose food for our souls from many dinners we never invited anyone to sit at.

From my experiences of having lived in Zimbabwe I have experienced a way of life right here in 2017 that I imagine would make most of us think of the 1950s (minus the electricity). THIS is a world where people cling with all their hearts. For example, here is an everyday conversation between two village neighbors passing each other on the dirt road:

Bennet: Hello my friend, how are you?

Belo: I’m OK brother but I just came from Shumi’s place and she has no food today. I was only able to give her half my bread loaf because me and my mom have not yet eaten either.

Bennet: OK, I don’t have any food but let me walk to my relatives place some miles away to ask them for some mangos from their tree. They also have very little food but I know they will let me pick a few mangos!

Belo: OK! that’s great! I will talk to a few others as well. She will not remain with nothing by the end of the day.

Do you see this network of care? It is a type of Godly clinging. All those involved may have little to nothing but they will never go a day without checking on each other and splitting a loaf of bread between families is an ordeal full of smiles as they have formed a habit of caring for each other and instinctively cling.

Now of course things are not going to go that way in an American society where people can survive physically without each other for the most part. However what I am witnessing is that despite our 1st world, 21st century, independent abilities to take care of ourselves we are not in actual fact caring for much of anyone let alone ourselves.

Falling asleep talking about all of life’s challenges and victories with a friend, or singing spiritual songs until you are yawning together, are things that remind us all of our childhood. Or maybe if you were lucky, you had a best friend like that in college. My point is: our need to care for each other and our need to be deeply open with each other grows as we do, but we cut it off and tell ourselves, “No! we are now grown ups!” Orphans have to try to deny their need to cling at a stage when they could want nothing more than then a proud dad, a protective adoring big brother or a close knowledge of God. But we are all humans. I have seen this for myself. From orphans in Africa to Americans “no longer dependent” we all run for cover trying to protect ourselves all alone where no one can break our trust, attack us in any way, steal from us, or disapprove of us. It’s there where I see so many sitting alone whether surrounded by belongings or in an orphanage room having nothing to surround them. Everyone seems to be seated there yet still having a deeper seated longing in their hearts to cling.

I know it’s scary. I know it’s easy to feel broken to the point that the thought of not “protecting yourself” might sound just plain stupid or crazy. Trust me, I know. I have sat in that place many many times wrestling with myself about whether or not I could survive my trust, love, and openness being hit with yet another sledge hammer. But something I have discovered over the years is that having to take my heart to the “hospital” over and over again us better then shutting it down all together. I have also learned that taking my heart to the hospital is not isolation (although it certainly calls for high doses of God time). No, the hospital is the place of clinging. Clinging to God. Caring for others (more blessed to give than receive) and being open with people who can counsel with their life experiences and knowledge of the scripture.

Every time I turn to the Bible, I learn all my heart’s weakness and strengths. One day when I had to take a good hard look at my broken pieces, I saw something I had never seen before. My heart was starting to cling even stronger when it was broken. Like a vision I saw my heart as a mirror shattered, and as all the pieces lay together, only then was it was able to stay together and shine in MANY DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS rather than just one.

So this Valentine’s Day I am putting out a call for all of us to check on each other, be there for each other, be brave enough to be with each other in complete openness of heart, letting everything you do be done in love. I challenge you to leave behind the lonely protection you once called your hearts recovery room and I pray you go out to the hospital of Cling. It is there you will be blessed and be a blessing. When we cling to one another as Christians through this life on earth our hearts become so strong it becomes something to stop and stare at for others. We go from being the patient to being the understudy of The Great Physician.

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Author’s Note: Happy Valentine’s Day dear brothers and sisters. Now go out and dare to cling, and please pray for me as I go cling to these orphans and teach them to trust and love one another.

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The Iron Side of Love

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Acquiring a socially acceptable degree of calm has been a lifelong project for me.

During my teenage years I recall a general underlying theme of being simply too prickly to be around, too outspoken, or simply too opinionated.

Don’t get me wrong! I had learned a good deal of wit and gimmicks that often worked when I wanted people to like me, and I could keep them there for a while.

The trouble came when I discovered that a person had viewpoints that differed from mine.

I was just so incredibly right, and they were so unbelievably wrong! Why couldn’t they see that? And with thanks to an innate and deep-rooted obligation to fix the world, I couldn’t help but point out the colossal gap between that person’s erroneous opinion, and my gospel truth.

Sometimes I would be in the back seat of a taxi in Cusco, and the driver would mention that he was Catholic—that was, if I didn’t see a rosary and/or other religious articles hanging from the rearview mirror.

I would take a deep breath, let the silence grow cumbersome, and then say, “So uh…how does being a Catholic make you different from everybody else in the world?”

And from there the argument began.

Slowly it dawned on me that being right could be very unpopular.

As a direct result, I solemnly donned the melancholy cloak of the persecuted prophet.

Surely I was justified? After all, I had facts, reason, and the Bible behind me.

Over time, though, you can get the idea of how burdensome this burden became. Every time a person distanced themselves from me, the beauty of being a rejected witness of the truth dwindled further.

I got tired of it.

I can imagine that I’m not the only one who knows this feeling, or a feeling similar to it. I imagine this is one form of capitulation that I share with countless others who find that the reward of being “right” is outweighed by the isolation resulting from unpopularity.

I began to hold back. I refrained from speaking my mind. I would never truly accept the things that I saw as offending the God of the Bible, but I became increasingly tolerant of them; because no one enjoys conviction during a time of enjoyment!

I was tired of being the one guy who pointed out everything wrong; or, as with strangers, it felt like such unrewarding labor to take a stand with an establishment that had grown associated with solemnity, prejudice, hypocrisy, and general boredom.

 

At present, ask anyone who’s been with me who doesn’t know better, and they’ll tell you that I’m extroverted and good around people. Christians and non-Christians alike can at least feel comfortable around me, if not better. I can’t remember the last time I had a full-on heated discussion with someone—which, in days of yore, was a frequent occurrence.

The journey from the awkward, abrasive introvert to who I am now is one that I’m infinitely grateful for. It’s part of my testimony now; because, in a brief branching from the main theme of the article, my attempts to fix the world came from a platform of insecurity and fear.

So… what can be said for fire?

I’ve spent so much time and effort into blunting the edge off my personality… is there a chance that it was all spent in the wrong direction?

 

This is a thought that has troubled me from time to time.

But here is where I need to make a distinction, both for my sake and for any reader who can relate.

Once upon a time, when I spent time worrying about earning acceptance from God.

Having grown up with missionary parents, I knew the facts well. I knew you didn’t earn God’s love or salvation by works. I knew that neither of those two are dependent on the amount of work you put into the ministry.

Wouldn’t it be nice if head knowledge did the trick?

Maybe, but head knowledge simply isn’t enough. I was working to attain a right place with God, and years of effort and desperation brought me nothing at all. I could preach all day on the identity that we already have in God, and go to bed that night aching and hollow.

The hollow drove me to grasp out for acceptance.

 

Skip a few years forward, to the present day.

I wish I could infect others with the gospel like the flu virus on a really bad day.

I wish that five minutes with me was all it took to radically change people’s lives for God. I wish, I wish, I wish.

I pray all the time for boldness, and for the ability to speak perfect truths at the perfect time. I’m still convicted when I read the Bible. I long to light people up with the best kind of fire.

There has occurred a fundamental change, though, in the drive that pushes me forward.

Whereas once upon a time, long ago and far away, I reached out to the world from a platform of fear, my new platform is love.

We don’t acquire our identity by the amount of reaching out we do. We reach out to others because of our identity.

Jesus was, in my opinion, the bravest man to ever grace our planet. Mostly people associate Jesus with unrelenting love, which is spot on, but also running parallel with his courage.

Jesus had every chance to escape pain. He had every chance to keep his mouth shut, let the world be, and float along. Leave alone the huge globs of guts it must have required to face the cross, and think about the things He said! He preached without looking back.

He preached love, and kindness, and mercy, but he also preached repentance, and holiness, and he rebuked. The things Jesus said sometimes made people turn away from him.

Jesus never apologized, and He never stopped. Why? Because a at the very beginning of Christ’s ministry, there was a little incident down by a river in Israel.

God told the world who Jesus was. He said “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

See, that affirmation didn’t slip from Jesus. It was what kicked off His ministry, and it was the platform He taught from.

See, Jesus wasn’t all smiles and kindness. There was a rough side to Him. There was an unpopular, challenging, cutting edge to the Son of God, an edge that is just as necessary for healing as lancing a wound, or removing a splinter.

The world needs the iron side of love.

But before you give the world what it needs, I want to encourage you to go find your river.

Jesus could only give the world true love because He was the son of God.

You will only be able to give the world what it needs when you know who you are to the most important Person.

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