Why You Can’t Change Your Gender

Man and Woman

(Content Warning: This post deals with mature themes of sexuality and sexual orientation)

Oh National Media, how we love thee for thy spotlight shining on issues here today and gone tomorrow. Directing our attentions by saying “Squirrel!” and the populous running to that story like a dog from Pixar’s UP. This most recent direction of Vanity Fair’s Magazine Cover has created quite the stir. The story isn’t surprising really, as it addresses fundamental questions regarding who we are.

You Can Change Your Biological Sex

While the U.S. is in awe of the physical change that has been wrought in and through this individual, fiery arguments have developed as to what to call Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner. Who he is. What his legal name now is. And so forth and so on. What is not disputed by either parties, is that he is biologically, now a female.

Thanks to science, it is possible to accomplish incredible things. Biological 3-D printing is opening up transplants with the possibilities of no patient rejection. We understand more of our creation than ever before. But with that understanding in a fallen world, we’ve seen twisting of application of science- like the person we see today.

Ever since Roe v. Wade, society has operated under the impression that people have rights over their own bodies to any extreme. Scripturally however, this body-owning mindset could not be further from the truth. We are but stewards of the physical shells in which we have been given. Granted, from a Christian perspective, this truth is simple to grasp. It is communicating this truth to the world is what has been and always will be- a difficult task.

You Can’t Change Your God-Given Gender

The truth of the issue is that each one of us was created by God with a specific gender in mind. That is, one’s soul apart from their biological shell. Society would say the first is dependent upon the other. The Bible says otherwise. In heaven it is said there will be women and there will be men. Yet, we will be as brothers and sisters. Will who we are in heaven be determined by our current biological setup when we die? Of course not.

One can certainly be a male or female anatomically. Yet, that can in no way determine whether our soul is that of a man or a woman. Our God created soul transcends the mere body in which we live. Our body will eventually be cast away and rot like everything else in this world regardless of whether or not we change core bodily functions or appearances.

That’s why a person can change their bodily appearance all they want, yet still be like what Christ said- a tomb inside. They are still that same lost, desperate, and hopeless individual. Trying to find meaning in things which will not satisfy. Trying make an impact in a manner which won’t last.

I’d challenge you not to get lost in the physical particulars like so many have, but to look deeper into the personal struggles which this person and so many others face. We have a huge opportunity here to be shining examples of Christlike compassion and boldness. Let’s not squander it arguing about what bra size Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner wears.

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Why We Are All Sheltered

Why we are sheltered

As a former Homeschooler, I still get the “Sheltered Question” occasionally. Sometimes it crops up as a social aspect, other times it is my lack of knowledge regarding the latest cultural fad, and others it goes back to simply not knowing this random famous song. Society claims we, the Homeschooled Christian, are sheltered and to be honest yes. Yes we are. But here is another truth.

Everyone is sheltered from something- be it good, or bad. 

This realization fully hit me back when I worked for an Autobody/Repair shop. Some of the nastiest stories and language I ever heard came from that place. Stories of orgy, drunkenness, blasphemy, flat out immorality, and perversion of the simplest phrases. These people were sheltered though too. Obviously not in the ways of the corrupt and lost world to which society entreats us to join, but sadly, in the joys of life which I had lived my life under. Joys of strong family, peace in life, and an eternal hope.

I grew up sheltered under the Umbrella of the Christian walk. An Umbrella that provided everything I needed in life to not only be happy, but to live confidently and with conviction. What a contrast it was to see another sheltered individual under the umbrella of the world; beaten, torn, tattered, and pulled about whenever the wind blew in the slightest. It was heart breaking at times, to see the miserable lives they were living, stumbling about in the storm of sin, and even acknowledging their lives, to put it in family friendly terms, “Stunk”.

How about we stop apologizing for and being embarrassed of our sheltered lives?

What perplexes me to no end now, is why we often refrain from sharing our umbrella with those who need it. When we see that person stumbling in the storm, getting soaked by their worldly decisions, why not offer our shelter to them? Why not say “Yup! I may not know your shelter, but I do know mine. Why not give it a try?

Know I’m not saying we should be completely culturally irrelevant in the world which we live. There are two ditches- Knowing nothing, and knowing everything. Both, per usual regarding extremes, are flawed. We must seek out things in culture which we can turn to Christ, like Paul did with the Romans. But we must also rest confidently and assuredly in our own sheltered nature of Christ, and not use “cultural relevance” as an excuse or crutch. I praise the Lord I grew up in the Sheltered way that I did. If more of us pondered this intently, we’d have a lot less apologies, and a lot more outreach. Because the only shelter really worth being under, is Christ’s.

Why Conviction Isn’t Enough

Walking in the Spirit Conviction

I’m finding more and more people living “According to their Conviction” these days. It seems to be the new phrase that has replaced “I’m free in Christ” or at least, become a matching phrase meaning the essentially same thing. Many people live according to conviction.  This is good, as we are free in Christ to live apart from sin. We are to be free from this sin, not to desire things which are unlawful, and yet also not live with a spirit of legalism. The one extreme “I can do anything I want” to the other extreme “I must still keep the Torah to be clean” are flawed mindsets which must be overcome if we are to properly live walking in the Spirit.

Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free. Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.  ~Galatians 4&5~

So often in our lives though we mix up, or at least do not properly reconcile, what it means to live according to the “Conviction of the Spirit” Paul speaks of in Romans and Galatians. There are clear evidences of what living according to your heart’s desires looks like. There are also clear evidences of what Spirit given Conviction looks like. What we must not do, is be deceived into thinking our sinful heart’s desires are biblical convictions given by the Holy Spirit.

For if we mix the Spirit’s conviction with our heart’s desire, then we will stray into sin over and over. Because we all know, the heart is incredibly deceitful. 

What are the evidences then? How can we be sure that we are walking that straight and narrow path of honoring Christ with our whole being? Well, one reason I love Paul, is he was a list guy. Like me. In the book of Galatians he outlines in detail, what evidences of the spirit and heart (flesh) look like.

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions,factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. 

Honestly, the evidences are quite clear. One I think is the most prevalent or at least, see most often, is selfish ambitions. Selfishness can be contrived and drawn up in many different ways to look like it is in fact, not so. Which takes us back to the core of ourselves- what does the heart look like? Is it meek and submissive? Is it selfless and honoring to others? We can only truly know our hearts when we line up our actions and true desires with scripture’s standards.

Which brings me to the last bit of this post… What are our standards? What does it mean to live according to conviction by the spirit practically? Remember that passage when the Priests came and questioned Jesus? (paraphrasing here) They asked Him incredibly insincerely  “Great teacher, what is the greatest commandment?” to which Christ replied brilliantly, per usual, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength. The second is like it- love your neighbor as yourself. Upon these rest the rest of the Law.” There, in plain black and white, is our standard. Is what we are doing in Love of the Lord, AND in Love of all others. It is such a simple, yet quite challenging truth. If what we are doing is out of a genuine Love for the Lord first, then others. You will be following the commandments the Lord has set in place.

Finally, here’s the bottom line I’ve concluded about this topic- If a conviction does not align with greatest commandments, you’re doing it wrong. And that wrongness should be changed- not based on what feels right, but what is known to be true. Then, and only then, will one be able to live according to the convictions Paul speaks of over and over. Convictions serving not the flesh, but the Spirit, glorifying Christ.

Christianity, Nudity, & Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones Wallpaper

Content Warning: The following post contains much material that deals with nudity, sexuality, and other mature themes. While I believe I’ve presented such material in a tasteful, rather than graphic, manner, be aware this post is certainly not the typical “G” rating that I strive towards in my writings. 

Games of Thrones. There may not be a hotter topic of discussion regarding TV shows among Christian circles. If you are out of the TV-Show loop, Game of Thrones has been described by Kit Harrington (an actor of the series) as “It is a beautifully crafted epic Fantasy. With plenty of raucous sex thrown in.”  Epic fantasy, raucous sex, not even mentioning the violence that exceeds the “R” rating scale (if that is possible.) What more could you ask for? Content aside, many Christians I know watch this series mainly for the given reason; “The story is incredible!” While the Game of Thrones yarn may be a good one, it amazes me how many professing followers of Christ watch, and even go as far as to promote, this series even with the inexcusable content it contains. The fact is that Game of Thrones shows vile immoral sex and deplorable nudity and consequently, the people who watch the series develop an insatiable lust for more and more of the show.

Here’s the deal though. Game of Thrones isn’t the problem. HBO isn’t the problem. It is much much deeper than one series which will be over in a few years. The problem is a complete moral disconnect from what we watch on TV. We view people without clothes, and, as Christians, we think this acceptable? I observe many Christians have no qualms with nudity in movies and television. They justify it by playing the legalism card, saying it does not affect them, and even go so far as to compare it to the stories of the Old Testament (thereby making it okay.)

These attempts at justification are disturbingly naive or indignantly ignorant. In either case, let’s unpack this sensitive, albeit crucial topic. For if we do not draw our line at viewing nudity and the promiscuous acts which often go along with it, then where is that line drawn?

Why Not Nudity?

In order to actually begin to dwell upon this topic, we have to first ask ourselves; “Is there anything wrong with public nudity?” I mean, God created us, our souls, and our bodies. He created Adam and Eve without clothes too. Surely it isn’t that bad. Actually, it is that bad, and we are given a moral law to abstain from viewing people in the nude. This is of course wrong, given the context outside of marriage.

When Adam and Eve sinned against God, their eyes were opened because of that sin. They had lost their perfect innocence and what was the first thing they realized? They were naked and they were ashamed. Public nakedness after the fall has always been shown in Scripture as shameful and demeaning. God also gives commands various times in the Old and New Testaments that, if someone lacks clothing, we should cover him. God set this standard by clothing Adam and Eve.

Digging even deeper, We see, in Job 31, an example where even gazing at a young woman (other translations use “virgin”) would break his holy covenant with his eyes. In Habakkuk  2, there is condemnation in looking upon people who are without clothes. Ham looked upon (an intentional look) the nakedness of his father Noah, and was cursed. Our reaction to nudity should not be even a passive gaze- even that has been declared as sin by God. But rather an active covering. Following the example God has given us.

So you don’t like the Old Testament verses. You’re free in Christ. I get that; I am too, in fact. Here’s the deal though; Christ did not abolish God’s moral Law. He fulfilled it and commanded us to have “not even a hint of sexual immorality among you.” Romans 1 sets a great example of how dangerous it is to, instead of getting as far away as possible from a potential sin, see how close to the edge one can get.

Obviously, I fail at this; everyone does. That does not excuse us from intentionally viewing such immorality with our eyes when you know it will be shown again, and again, and again … Sexual immorality is not just sex. It is thoughts, lusts, and the viewing of nakedness. If it is not so wrong to watch nudity on TV, what is wrong with going to a strip club on the weekend? The input is the same- sinful on all counts. TV just throws in a story to make it more entertaining and give people justification.

The Big Excuse

So you’re still with me so far; still reading at least. I’m sure some of you are thinking this:

Austin, viewing nudity doesn’t cause me to have lustful thoughts about those people. It doesn’t affect or bother me. Paul says meat for some is sinful, and for others it isn’t. It depends on your conscience and is a matter of conviction. I simply don’t struggle with it.

Okay, I’ll take you at your word, as I can’t judge the heart. Say viewing promiscuous sex, shameful nudity, and the like does not conjure up in your mind lustful thoughts. On the one hand, the Bible is clear, since the fall of Adam and Eve, nudity was, and is meant to be associated with sexuality (which is good in proper context.) On the other, viewing such things causes no apparent lustful or sexual thoughts to enter your mind.

When our God-given natures do not line up with our personal declared moralities, we have a problem, and a big one at that. God has put into us sexuality. In the the proper context of marriage, we are told and shown it to be a great thing in Scripture. We are not called however, to let our sexuality be reduced to the state of neutrality of a desensitized state. No one is just naturally immune to the pull of sexuality. In this day and culture though, people have been so steeped in it, that many have lost the natural desire and appreciation for our sexual natures that God has created in us to partake in. How sad it is that this gift of God has been viewed and abused to a point of where one, even a professing Christian, can look at and watch a person in the full nude, and go “meh”, and feel nothing.

That isn’t personal conviction- that isn’t even self control. That is a soul that is so desensitized and is living with a heart so deceived, that it has become sexually neutered in the mind. Have we forgotten that our heart is deceitful above all things? That we are to flee any kind of sexual immorality, instead of trying to reason through it by ourselves? It truly pains me to see so many Christians failing to understand the glory of what God has created. Continuing in this, sexuality will lose the precious meaning that was originally intended.

A Call to Accountability

So, where am I going with this? Essentially, I believe we need to continue to proclaim to all, but especially our brothers and sisters in Christ, to pray about what we watch. Notice, I didn’t say think. We as humans can reason out of any situation if we let our minds justify enough. Especially in this case of media, we need to be vigilant in asking, “Is what I am viewing sinful?

While many aspects in films can be discussed, and I believe do apply to the illustration that Paul gives regarding meat; nudity and sex are not one of them. It isn’t faked, and to look on it is sin. We need to start asking those good questions to one another in a sincere and loving way. Asking about the “why” they watch such sinful content and if they know what Scripture says about it. I’m not perfect in this area, I’ve seen things which I wish I could take back, take Braveheart for instance, and the most recent X-men (which I’ll be reviewing shortly). Those viewings are from a lack of pre-reading diligence, but are in no way excusable. Even accidental viewings are to be repented of- we are still responsible for those. I am still responsible for those.

We are also responsible for keeping each other accountable in Christlike love. Starting from the spot where we all acknowledge we all have struggles, and we are all struggling together to walk in a manner glorifying to Christ. Game Of Thrones has no place in that walk. Nudity has no place in that walk. Therefore, let’s work together to call those stumbling in these areas to get back on their feet. This proclamation will certainly come with ridicule, being called legalistic, intolerant, or even losing friendships. Through Prayer and loving concern though, we can successfully work towards this reality. One step at a time, because our victory is in Christ, and he has already won.

The Depth of Gandalf’s Sacrifice

Gandalf_the_White

*Lord of the Rings Spoiler Alert- if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, know there are spoilers below.*

I’m going geeky on you guys today. Lord of The Rings style, focusing on perhaps the most memorable scene from “The Fellowship Of The Ring”. Gandalf is one of my favorite characters in the books for various reasons, but perhaps the most so because of his sacrifice found in “The Fellowship of The Ring” Below, is the excerpt the Film.

A lot is going on in this short few minutes of the film, and much is missed by a lot of friends that I talk to about this scene. Tolkien, if you know the mythology he created for this world, intended so much more to be taken from this. Gandalf is not a wizard in the sense as we perceive it, but rather a supernatural being- more appropriately compared to an angel. He, one of the five “wizards” were sent to protect middle earth from the servants of Morgoth. Morgoth is the supreme evil in middle earth who rebelled against the law Eru (The One, The Father of All) created. The Balrog were fallen beings that were of the same origin of the wizards. However, they were twisted and corrupted into foul creatures of darkness and shadow by Morgoth to wreck havoc upon middle earth.

Now that you’ve gotten your dose of LOTR geekery… ;) Watching the scene again shows it in a whole new light, doesn’t it?Early on, Gandalf doesn’t want to go to Moria. Why? Because he knows what lives there, and apparently, has been avoiding it- his duty, for some time which he gather from Saruman. But he does, he confronts the creature, and sends it plummeting to the abyss. Then he is pulled off the ledge, gets a solid handhold, and hangs for a second. This is the point where I really first understood what Gandalf was doing in regards to his loyalty to his friends, and his duty to Eru. He could either climb back up and aid his friends in their quest, or let himself fall to confront his unpleasant and deadly task.

He chooses to trust, and fall.

To me, the choice to let go of the ledge, fall and confront death and fear so confidently shows the power of pursing the purpose one has in this world. In Gandalf’s mind, he not only sacrificed himself, but he had to trust he wasn’t sacrificing his friends for what he was supposed to do. And then, after he does what he has been commanded, he dies. No almost death, no super suffering injury recovery… He dies.

What happens next though, is nothing short of glorious. Eru sends him back to the friends he knows, “at the turn of the tide.” As the white, Gandalf knows full well what the end will be of this battle, and that gives him a presence which is powerful and rallying. But having died, he also knows what is on the other side, and how to be a comforter to those who need it. The fight with the Balrog was not necessary so that an evil being could be removed form the world, but so that Gandalf could deny himself fully, and therefore be redeemed in a way which yields a fruit so beautiful, it makes death seem like something… Not so bad, after all.

Why I’m not a Homophobe

r-HOMOPHOBIA-large570

Disclaimer: Due to the ever changing standards of political correctness, I may use words which are not considered to be such. I do this not out of malice or degradation, but out of  the simple means of communicating a point or lifestyle. Thanks for your understanding. 

A cultural movement is being discussed quite a bit in the news and legal circles today. This is due to the large amounts of judges ruling laws against homosexual marriages unconstitutional. It has happened in Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia, and I am sure more states will be added in the future to come. The truth is unavoidable, the gay lifestyle is becoming more and more accepted with the American people. Regardless of your political persuasion, as a Christian, this is saddening, and as a historian… Frightening.

What gets me most though, is when I see Christians not condemning such a lifestyle, but rather embracing it and supporting it. Any Christian well versed in scriptural principles easily sees that the gay lifestyle is indeed sinful. That much is virtually indisputable. Whether it comes from Nature or nurture does not matter. Sin is sin, and should be treated as such. However, the responses to this sin are often sinful inandof itself. I’ve seen, and at times been in the mindset of fearful reactions, arrogant dismissals, and apathetic thoughts. All of which should be condemned just as much as the gay lifestyle itself.

When you react to sin with sin… all you get is a bigger mess.

Politics and legality of marriage aside, as legalizing something doesn’t change the biblical truth of it, I think we all have struggled as to how we should approach someone living in this sin. The biggest stumbling block I’ve seen for most, and experienced myself, is the aspect of fear. Ironically, when you are fearful, it is quite difficult to love someone. As perfect love is the only thing which casts out fear. Love it however, much more powerful than fear.

See, I’ve found in recent years that people living in sin hardly care about condemnation of others, because they are so wrapped up in self. This can be true for Christians even in times of great struggles. We can condemn people all day, but we might as well be beating a wet towel against a brick wall. Sure, it will leave an impression where it hit, but evaporate quickly with no lasting effect on the wall itself. However, all acceptance (in the pursuit of love) is just as useless and perhaps more damaging, as you enable their sin more.

Per usual, Christ embodied the perfect balance of love and discussing sins. He showed us Love isn’t mushy and soft, sometimes it hurts. We never saw him go “What?! You’re a tax collector?! Sorry, I just can’t associate with you anymore.” Rather, we see him eating and drinking with some of the people considered to be the worst in terms of morality and lifestyle in that culture. Now, I’m not saying you should invite a couple over for dinner. (though, it could be a very powerful tool of testimony and you should do so if you feel called) What I am saying is we should stop completely freaking out inside when someone proclaims they are “Gay”, and instead perhaps reach out to them like we would any other individual who is in need of Christ.

We should treat them just like any other person lost in the world living in sin. We should be a shameless living testimony to them and make sure they know we don’t approve of their lifestyle- but that doesn’t mean we put them in the “Do not witness to” box. They are just as approachable as any other person. I’m not a homophobe because I know who I am in Christ, what He commands me to do, and how to do it. And those commands don’t include closing myself off to an entire group of people just because they are more public and shameless about their sins than most.

I’d say live in love- not fear, humility- not arrogance, and concern- not apathy and we might, just might, begin to impact yet another “that lost cause” (as someone once told me) for Christ. Then behold His glory in the redemption of those people, as we’ve seen hundreds of times over in times before. All because we cast out fear, and started living in Love- Christ’s Love.

Commercialized Love- American Edition.

Annual-Obligation

The following post contains immense amounts of sarcasm.
Proceed with caution.

Ah, Valentine’s Day. That special day where you give a special someone a special gift to make them feel especially loved. Nothing says “I love you” like being randomly and spontaneously romantic on a pre-determined National Holiday of romantic demonstration. Nothing says “I love you” like giving a box of unhealthy fattening substances in the not so similar shape of a vital organ. Brings a new definition to “Eat your heart out?”, doesn’t it?

Call me an eeyore, cynical, or just a plain scrooge, but America’s celebration of love on Valentine’s is about as artificial as flavors found in Fruit Loops. Love isn’t even advertised to be celebrated through achievements, experiences, or struggles. Rather it is done through chocolates, fancy meals, and overpriced flowers(Nothing Says “I love you” like killing beautiful flowers, shoving them inside a vase where they slowly die of malnourishment, which results in rotten vegetation less than a week later. ) That’s not a confirmation of love, that’s a bribe of affection. 

What irks me most isn’t the misunderstanding about what love is- we’ve seen that messed up for years now. Valentine’s day preys on every person’s inmost fear- the fear of rejection. Whether we see someone alone, married, or dating there root message, and fear, is the same: “This person may not really love you… they need to buy you gifts to prove it!” Gifts don’t take away that fear though, because that isn’t real, perfect love.

Perfect love casts out fear. I’ve said it before and again, because it is worth saying. Having a day to celebrate love, based on fear, simply doesn’t work. Unfortunately, that’s what an American Valentine’s Day has come to represent. Every scenario in this holiday has the other questioning the motive. No present = They are not thoughtful. Regular Present= Ordinary view of me. Big Present = Do they think they have to buy my love?!… The list goes on.

Now I’m not against the principle of Valentine’s Day- that is, to celebrate the gift God has given us called “Love”. I’m simply against how our society approaches it. I’m all for showing that you love someone more than usual during certain times… but not because Society says “This is the day to do it“. If your faith and love in someone is shaken because they didn’t get you the right thing this V-Day… Maybe, just maybe, the gift isn’t the problem.

Or, I could be completely off base and not realize that large boxes of chocolates and dozens of flowers do indeed solve all of life’s relationship problems.

What do you think?

The Winner of the Creation Debate

Creation-debate

Last night two brilliant minds went at it with the world watching. Watching, to see which idea is more credible- Evolution, or Creation. Both sides were presented very well, and fairly through the course of the debate, and both ideas presented clearly and effectively. In the end though, when it came to declaring a winner, a quote among social media circles has gone around and around… Each side using it to declare that the winner was indeed the person they initially agreed with.  The quote is this:

Moderator: “What would ever change your mind?”
Ham : Nothing.
Nye : Evidence.

In this simple question, we see boiled down the essence of not only the debate, but also the two world views contained therein. For Ham, Creation is an undeniable Truth proven through the world around us and by scripture. He recognizes the fact that Faith is necessary for this belief, and that faith is the core of his belief. For Nye, Evolution is a proven concept. And until something disproves it, that is where his belief will lie. Thing is, Evidence of Creation is hardly conclusively proven through hard evidence. Therefore, he too actually answered nothing- just in a more acceptable way.

Neither man entered this debate expecting to change another’s mind. And I would say 99% of viewers watched with a presupposed, concrete view of how this universe originated.  If they agreed with Ham, they thought he was brilliant and Nye baffoonish. If they agreed with Nye, they thought he was devastating, and Ham ignorant.

See, public debates based upon worldviews and ideas rarely change minds. That isn’t their point. The point of a public debate is to get people talking. Get them thinking. Get them discussing with others about theses ideas so important to humanity. If all one gets out of a debate “Yes! The guy I agreed with was so right!”, then I must say- you completely missed the point. Few things convince a man more of his position than hearing an “expert” he agrees with side with it. The point isn’t in “Who won.” Because there is no winner in something like this.

The point is to find someone who watched and discuss it. To discuss and explore both sides whether you agree with them or not. Specifically, as Christians, to give a defense of the hope we have in us. Not to smack someone upside the head with why they are wrong, but to explain why we hold to what we believe is right. Anyone can tear at another side, but to build up your own? That takes conviction and knowledge- two things which take time and effort.

So whether you were in the Nye Group or the Ham Group. Talk to someone about this topic. Focus on why you believe what you do, and explore why the other side believes as they do. I say the Truth always wins in the end. It is our job to seek it out, whatever your starting point may be.

I Know Your Secret Identity

Source: http://www.ekantipur.com
Source: ekantipur.com

Almost everyone has a secret identity today. This identity appears all over the world, many times a day, many places at once. It can be similar to the real individual, or completely different as a whole. They can be this person one moment, and become who they really are in the next. Have you guessed what it is yet? Your secret Identity is who you are online.

The internet has changed life as we know it, but more that than, it has changed people as we know them. How they communicate, interact, and behave have all been effected by this world uniting tool. With the development of social media, people today- you and I, have developed identities which we wish to convey to those who “Follow” us.

More often than not in my experience, I’ve seen these identities completely different than who the person is in real life. They live a double life, with a secret Identity. They praise their parents in person, then mock them in a post. They speak with grace and humility in person, but type with harshness and pride in online debates.

I’m sure you know of these people. Or if you’re like me, even thought to yourself “Yup, I’ve done that sometimes”. Thing is, to a point, we all have a  secret identity online. It is amazing how much control we have over how people view us and what we let them see as reality. Is it any wonder people love places like Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc so much? It is a controlled environment where if you want, can keep yourself looking like an incredible saint. You create your identity based on what is important to you. That can be powerfully productive, but also potentially dangerous.

As with everything we do, we either do it for ourself, or for Christ. When we create ourselves online, we have the power to show who we are in Christ, just like in real life. The difference is, we choose what we show about ourselves. We can choose to be real, showing struggles and successes, or choose to be fake- showing everything we do right, and neglect the failures. We have the great opportunity and responsibility to be a living witness in the virtual world interacting with others, just like we do in the physical world.

Let’s make sure we are working to turn our secret identities into our true identities. Not the other way around.

 “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth freshwater and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.
~James 3~”

My Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2013

2013 Brought some excellent films, as well as some less than desirable ones. I watched many of these 2013 releases, so thought I would share with you some of my favorites, and tell you why.

#10 The Croods

Perhaps out of all the films of 2013, this one surprised me the most.  The commercials advertised this movie as one with a lack of any real value- focusing on prevalent nonsensical humor rather than a greater goal. Instead of finding this, we find this movie is packed with strong family values, great themes of hope and faith, and quite bit of good humor as well. Definitely one of the better animated features of 2013.

#9 Turbo

This movie is anything but sluggish. A rather weird idea of a snail traveling faster than a race car results in a optimistically fun adventure full of never giving up, never settling for status quo, and the  learning the value of brotherhood. If you can get past the sheer impossibility of the snails in the movie, you’ll find it an excellent choice to grab and enjoy as a family.

#8 Hunger Games: Catching fire

The second movie in the Hunger Games trilogy. Through peril, sacrifice, and political rebellion we watch this movie redeem itself from the first. While the end is not yet seen, Catching fire offers some excellent messages regarding hope and just rebellion against government. Be warned, it ends with a rather bad teaser. ;) 

#7 Frozen

Frozen has some very positive and powerful themes, conveyed through stellar animation we’ve come to expect from Disney. Well written, albeit a bit predictable… Watch it with a sharp mind, because it is the subtleties you want to watch out for. If you have a active mind though, you can enjoy the true love shown while disregarding the extra junk mail that comes along with it.

#6 After Earth

Another rather unexpected favorite this year, After Earth tells the story between a father and son learning about each other in the face of death on a post apocalyptic earth. Very similar to Thor in terms of content and themes, we are shown through exciting events and adventures just what it means to face and conquer fear, and how to grow up in that process.

#5 Thor: The Dark World

Thor and his friends return to defend against an ancient Darkness, which is darkness itself. Full of beautiful symbolism of Light vs Dark (i.e. good vs evil) we are shown evil truly is terrible and strong, but can never stand against light. Well written, acted in good humor, and with some surprising plot twists, this movie easily made it into my favorites.

#4 Star Trek: Into Darkness

Dark titles seems to be a trend this year in Hollywood. Another much anticipated sequel, we find Captain Kirk at odds with a man named “John Harrison”. A ruthless vagabond and war criminal, Harrison seeks to destroy star command from the inside out. We watch young Kirk learn what it means to be a true leader (not a boss) through failures and successes. With impressive cinematography and first class acting, watching the story unfold is a real treat.

#3 Monster’s University

Everybody loves the underdog. In Monster’s University, we see Mike start as that underdog and strive to become something more. A true Pixar masterpiece, we are plunged into the monster world and seriously and humorously taught about excellence in all things, honest teamwork, humility, and much more. It is in my opinion the best animated film of the year, and definitely one to enjoy for years to come.

#2 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Part Two of the Hobbit films being created by Peter Jackson, This movie brings to life Tolkien’s classic tale, with a considerable amount of PJ story telling added in. Purists I am sure will despise the series, but in some ways, I feel Mr. Jackson has made it more real. Pulling from threads all over Tolkien’s world (including books like the Silmarillion) we are drawn into a world where a Hobbit confronts a Dragon- and lives.

The astounding brilliant stupendousness of the creation of Smaug and middle earth in the video world, the dozens of themes which seem to have been pulled straight out of scripture, and the brilliant acting by Martin Freeman as Bilbo lends this to be an easy #2 best film of the year in my book.

#1 Man of Steel

Of all the movies I’ve seen this year, Man of Steel stuck, and still sticks with me the most. The story of Superman has always been an amazing one to me. A man who can do anything, serves people weaker than himself. His body may be like steel, but his heart is one of love. Every action he makes, he makes out of love for someone else, and never for himself. All of this, guided by his parents.

A true servant and literary “Christ Figure“, we see through Man of Steel a man who is super not because of what he can do with his body, but because of the character of his heart. It is by far the favorite of mine of the year, and has made it into my favorite movies of all time as well.

So those are my favorites, what were some films that you enjoyed this past year?