Archive for the ‘Faith/Christianity’ Category

failing-grade-mNot many of us particularly want to fail at anything in life…and for me that goes for anything from my marriage, family, career…and all the way to checkers and video games.  Bottom line…I like to win!  And if we’re being truthful, well…don’t we all?  We live in a society where we reward people for just about anything, and in fact, in our attempt at fairness and equality, we’ll give out medals and ribbons just for showing up!

Now for the record, I do think there’s some benefit to downplaying the ‘win-at-all-costs’ attitude, especially for those parents that try to live vicariously through their children.  But I also think our society has gone a little overboard with the paranoia that not rewarding a 17th place finish may just hurt little Timmy’s feelings and crush him for life!  It’s a delicate balance for sure as a parent to reward and strive for the right things, yet to also acknowledge the realities that not everyone wins at everything in life.  We’re dealing with that in the lives of our children right now.  Yesterday we were at a family bbq and games night at our church, and there was a game where you could win a glass jar with a goldfish.  One of our kids won…the other came up short.  You would have thought it was the end of the world to not take home a $.50 goldfish!  But to offset the remorse of the kids who didn’t get a goldfish, they did end up walking out with a ‘consolation’ prize for…yep…just stepping in line and trying.

Again, I think it’s good to offer rewards, but when our kids are raised in an environment that can’t tolerate any mention or notion of failure, it really causes me to ask; “what kind of kids are we raising, and will they be able to handle the inevitable rejection and failure that awaits us at some level in life (school tests, job interviews, rejection letters from post-secondary schools, dating relationships, sports…)?”  I mean, even the bible makes it pretty clear that it’s not the goal of a devoted Christ-follower to just be in the race, but to strive and press on towards the prize (Heaven, a life in pursuit of Christ…hearing God say “well done good and faithful one…nice work!).  At some point you have to make a decision as to whether or not you’re gonna actually get in the game and do something…there’s not much fanfare mentioned in scripture for those who simply ‘participate.’  But that’s a discussion for another post!!

So I found it refreshing today when I found this article from Rhett Smith waiting for me in my inbox.  Rhett is a professional counselor and author, and contributes to numerous article on family and parenting with the Fuller Youth Institute.  His article adeptly addresses the same question I asked above, and elaborates on the theology and fear of failure, as well as what parents can do to actually embrace failure as sacred and fertile ground for growth in our lives, and our kids.  You’ll also find some helpful action steps to take as a family so you can start the process of assessing failure as a tool to move ahead, not behind!


Two articles found their way to my inbox (and attention) this week that both dealt with the area of sexualization among young men and women.  If you have any access to media (TV, internet, etc…) or simply walk the streets and venture into shopping malls, you’ll notice that vast array of marketing sexuality, with teens as the main target (both as consumers and advertising).  Market research has long ago figured out that sex and sensuality sell, and they know teenagers and younger adults are the bait and hook.

You can’t turn the TV on without watching some program or commercial that doesn’t feature some form of aggressive sensuality aimed to sell their product.  Whether it’s an Axe commercial with half-naked women caressing a shirtless guy, a beer commercial with ditsy ladies in skin-tight pool fashion, or pretty much any show or commercial with gratuitous cleavage, skin, or involving a ploy to party and have a promiscuously good time!  Even allowing my kids to watch YTV is getting riskier with some of the programming and advertising they allow.  So as a parent, I’m glad The Source 4YM launched these two articles within a couple of days of each other, and sought to arm parents and youth workers with some good knowledge and awareness ammo.

The first articlePromiscuous Programming Promotes Promiscuity: Sex Education Via CBS and MTV, details the plight of what programmers and marketers are throwing at our culture today, and how they are influencing a generation of young minds and eyes.  This post kind of fires back at the “it doesn’t really affect me” comment from teenagers when they’re confronted with the reality that what they watch and see can, and does, affect them.

on-screen promiscuity promotes promiscuity in real life.” (soon-to-be published study from Ross O’Hara in the Psychological Science Journal)

Here’s a couple of things Smith and McKee (from The Souce 4YM) noted in their article;
An Increase in Inappropriateness 70% of the shows depicting full nudity aired before 9pm this year (aka “family hour”), compared to 50% of last year’s program.  Bleeping and muting of the F-word increased from 11 instances in 2005 to 276 in 2010. That 2,409% increase in F-bombs!

Defending the Dirty– CBS President Nina Tassler took criticism for the comedies she admits are “a little risqué,” but ultimately defended them by saying, “The fact that there is such strong ratings growth for all of them means that those shows are resonating. It means that the characters are resonating. It means that their dialogue is really landing with audiences. The shows are laugh-out-loud funny.” 

The Results of Risque TV– According to Pediatrics’ 2010 research:“Seventy percent of teen shows contain sexual content, Strasburger added, “and less than 10% of that content involves what anyone would classify as being responsible content. There’s no mention of contracting an STD (sexually transmitted disease) or the need to wait to have sex until later.”

And as usual, instead of simply announcing sour news, they leave parents and youth workers with encouragement and practical suggestions in how we can address the issues.

The second article, The ‘Right’ Kind of Porn is from Jonathan McKee, who never shies away from tackling tough issues, especially when it involves sex and sexuality!  His article was fueled by a piece in the Huffington Post which basically makes the claims that in today’s sexually charged culture, porn isn’t that bad as long as it’s the ‘right’ and appropriate kind of porn.  Really??  So now there’s the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ kind of porn…and who exactly gets to define what’s appropriate and inappropriate porn?  As Jonathan encourages us to in his post, I also encourage you to read the entire article (linked above) so that Vivian Diller’s words aren’t taken out of context (author of Huffington Post article).

An interesting challenge facing parents, but one that made me wonder not only about the “right”versus “wrong kind” of porn, but about how our young daughters fit into this discussion. How does the changing landscape of “what’s out there” influence the way young girls view their own maturing bodies? And, maybe even more worrisome, does it shape their perspective on what is arousing to others?  -Vivian Diller

I share McKee’s admonishment re: some of Diller’s thoughts in raising awareness of the pressure and false-perception the over-sexualized and sensualized culture is sending to young girls and women that is negatively affecting their self-image and value.  But just as Diller makes some positive overtures about the damage that the pornographic and sexual culture is having on young girls (and boys), she then endorses (at least inadvertently) a show like HBO’s Girls.  Like McKee, I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater…but you’ve got to draw a line somewhere, and I think Diller not only crosses the line…she’s pretty much wiped it clear.

One of the most refreshing things about the HBO series Girls — while highly graphic and out there sexually — is that the male and female stars are not only far from perfect physically, they don’t even seem to care that much. Perhaps, from a certain perspective, writer and producer Lena Dunham is leading teens toward what might be called “politically correct porn,” a healthier, more realistic vision of sexuality that in the future may support, rather than undermine, their authentic sense of self.” -Vivian Diller

But I’ll let you read the article and you can decide for yourself what you feel is right, wrong, appropriate, inappropriate…and what is true in this realm of sexuality.  If you’re a parent of a teen, or you work alongside them, then you’d better at least know about shows like Girls.  We need to know what kind of messages they are sending to young viewers…potentially your sons and daughter, or young teens you work with and care deeply about…and how these shows are a major player in how they view their own sexuality and moral boundaries.

It’s been almost 2 weeks since the tragic and senseless theater shooting in Aurora, CO claimed the lives of 12 innocent people looking for nothing more than taking in an action flick.  In our digital world where world news travels at warp speed, we hear about tragedy on average of 2x per day, it’s no wonder that, among other things, the onslaught of social media has played a role in de-sensitizing us to tragic news.  What was a front page world-news story 2 weeks ago, has become an after-thought in the minds of the many who were so shocked and emotional when the news broke.

I was thankful to receive the following post in my inbox this morning from Dare2Share’s Greg Stier, in which he helps bring some perspective, and reminders, about what we can learn and how we can respond as Christians in the aftermath of tragedy.  Fortunately the tragic events like the Aurora shooting are extremely rare, yet we have experience with tragedy (directly or indirectly) likely a few times a year (i.e. death of a loved one or the loved one of a friend/colleague, loss of job/home, serious injury, violence, etc…).  How we respond in the aftermath of tragedy, both for ourselves, and in the presence and care for others, is of utmost importance and significance.

I pray we all know and experience the peace and love of Christ that is available to anyone and everyone in the midst of sorrow, tragedy, loss, anxiety, and pain.  May we be carries of this message of love and truth wherever we go, whenever we have opportunity!



something that results or follows from an event, especially one of a disastrous or unfortunate nature; consequence: the aftermath of war; the aftermath of the flood.¹

Or what about…

The aftermath of a massacre?

Here we are as a nation, as a culture, and as individuals…trying to process an event that defies what most of us could even imagine in our darkest dreams.  A madman overtaken by the clutches of a murderous psychosis ends the lives of 12 individuals who were guilty of nothing other than seeking enjoyment from a much anticipated film.

First there is the shock and utter disbelief. How does this kind of thing happen?  Could it have been prevented somehow?

Then the insatiable craving for answers sets in.  What was the shooter like?  Who were the victims?  And of course, the relentless media coverage is there ad nauseum to plaster every minute detail of the tragedy in our face. Yet no amount of information will get at the answers we are all seeking.

Trust me, the complete solution to this puzzle won’t be revealed on this side of eternity.

But in light of that, how do we anchor ourselves in the aftermath of the Aurora massacre that left us adrift in a sea of anxiety, doubt, fear and questions about the presence of an all powerful and loving God?

May I suggest two thoughts on which to dwell as we all continue to wrestle with how to harmonize this unspeakable incident with our internal dissonance?

First, remember that our faith is expansive enough to engulf every fear and question imaginable.  In the Bible, the men and women who walked closest to God also carried some of the deepest doubt – especially the one described in Scripture as “a man after God’s own heart”:

Psalm 10:1 Why do You stand afar off, O LORD? Why do You hide in times of trouble?

Psalm 22:1 My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning?

Psalm 44:23 Awake! Why do You sleep, O Lord? … 24 Why do You hide Your face, And forget our affliction and our oppression?

Psalm 74:1 O God, why have You cast us off forever? Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture? … 11 Why do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand?

Has your heart echoed the feelings of King David?  Good!  An eternal God is big enough to handle our uncertainties about this temporary existence.  But remember that God is not Google…you can’t just input an inquiry and expect a nicely wrapped godopedia type answer.  In fact, much of the healing comes simply from knowing we have the freedom to ask.  That’s why David answers his own questions about God with this response:

Lord, my heart is not proud;
my eyes are not haughty.
I don’t concern myself with matters too great
or too awesome for me to grasp.
Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself
 (Psalm 131:1-2).

At some point in our struggles with tragedy it is possible to cross a line.  God is in control even in the chaos.  He is sovereign but He is not a micromanager of human existence.  When you approach the line between pleading and pride, it is best to sit in silence and acknowledge that God is God-

and we are not…

Secondly, consider the fact that when great evil occurs, it should serve as a warning of the greatest calamity that will ever take place – spending an eternity in hell:

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:1-3).

This tragedy in Jesus’ day was a result of a sociopath named Pilate, who murdered innocent Galileans while they were worshipping God. Basically, this was the cultural equivalent of a public shooting. When this calamity occurred, the crowds wanted answers – and God Himself was on the scene.

What is amazing, though, is that Jesus doesn’t even try to explain the causes or solutions to the calamities. He purposely avoids going into a social discourse about the disintegration of society, or the effect that the violence in the coliseum has on people. In fact, He doesn’t even launch into a sermon about free will and God allowing bad things to happen.

Instead, Jesus speaks to this situation with a reminder of ultimate destiny: “…unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Does God Himself not know God’s answer on the subject?  Not at all. He simply had a completely different perspective on tragedy, which is one that we must consider, as well.

Jesus didn’t look back and try to piece together the causality of these events. Neither did He issue a current political statement regarding immediate actions to be taken by His Father. Instead, He looked forward in order to remind everyone about the ultimate question: what will happen to me and my friends when we die?

In the aftermath of the Aurora shootings, remember that there are and will be many complicated and puzzling aspects that cause us to question the foundations of our reality. Yet in the midst of all the tragedy, questions, and confusion, keep Christ’s perspective close at hand. We must:

Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16).

The days were evil then and they are still evil today…but take heart my friends! We’ve been given a great opportunity to share the light of the gospel in the midst of darkness.

So may THE Cause shine like a beacon in the shadowy days of 2012.


Moving past a terrible event like the Aurora movie theater shootings takes time, and even then there can be a lingering sadness in our hearts.  But in the midst of this, let’s remember that the light shines brightest in the darkness, and it’s in times like these that many people are most open to hearing the gospel.



PRAY Father, we know that You have experienced the loss of a child when Jesus died on the cross.  Help us be the life giving and hope restoring people to a world that struggles to make sense out of a tragedy such as this.  Please open doors for us to share the gospel as people process this tragic event.

READRomans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

GET  Why is the World So Screwed Up? For more help with this topic, check out this previous Soul Fuel article about why God allows evil in our world.

Hollywood’s newest ‘Rom-Com‘, Magic Mike, is set to open at theaters across North America this Friday (June 29th), and you can be sure you’ll see a large crowd of women and teen girls standing in line opening weekend.  The movie stars Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, Alex Pettyfer, Cody Horn and Joe Manganiello, and was created by directed Steven Soderbergh.  Magic Mike is based on real-life chronicles of Channing Tatum’s early years as a 19 year-old stripper in Florida, and take viewers on a backstage journey into the business side of the…ahh…business of male strippers.

Okay…so quick break here…this is not a plug for the movie, nor is this simply a ‘heads-up’ to parents that a movie like this is coming to a theater in your city/town.  No this is bigger than that.  This is about taking a look into the morality of our culture, or lack of it, and asking ourselves some point-blank questions.

As he usually is, Jonathan McKee was right on the cultural cue in addressing some pressing issues this movie raises. Because at first glance it seems like a feel-good movie (no pun intended!) with a cute story-line that exposes (again…no pun intended here…but it does have a zing!) the behind-the-scenes realm of the male stripping industry.  And it’s a pretty   dubious industry to say the least!

But what is a Christian to do about a film like Magic Mike?  Do we listen to reviews of the media world telling us it’s a cool date night flick with a compelling story to tell?  What kind of message is Soderbergh selling us in Magic Mike?  What does a movie like this say about morality, purity, character, and the value/self-worth of people?  I’m not suggesting you should go see this flick, but I am encouraging you (especially you parents out there) to know the cultural effects a movie like this can, and will, have on our youth.

There is a clear message being sent, and it’s one of individualismnarcissism, vanity and Hedonism…a pretty much anything goes philosophy for the greater good of the individual and their life pursuit.  Here’s a quick glance at McKee’s article…

Hollywood has always put an interesting spin on stripping. Movies like Strip Tease attempted to cast a compassionate understanding of the life of a stripper. Even the blockbusterIndependence Day featured a stripper in one of the supporting roles. Jasmine (Vivica Fox), the girlfriend of Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) survives the alien attack, rescues the first lady, and in getting to know each other, Jasmine proudly proclaims that she’s an exotic dancer. The first lady apologizes, embarrassed. “It’s OK,” Jasmine quickly retorts. “I’m not ashamed of what I do.” She rubs the head of her son. “Anything for my baby!”

So stripping is okay when you’re supporting a kid, right? Silly of all those pretty waitresses to be waiting tables when they could make so much more money on a pole! “

You can read the rest of the article, The Messy Morality of Stripping here.  So…what do YOU do with a movie like Magic Mike?

The folks @ Epipheo have put together a pretty cool video that addresses an issue that needs to be talked about a whole lot more than it currently is, especially within the church.  In our digitally and instantly connected world, there’s a brutal fact going largely unnoticed, or even worse, ignored…that young girls age 11+ all over the world are being trafficked for sex.  Of all the talks and topics I’ve addressed over the years in youth ministry, I think I may have talked about the issue of the global sex trade maybe twice in 11+ years.  That’s gotta change!  Today’s youth, more than ever, have the power to make change happen…and their voices need to be heard!

Recent US stats indicate that 1 out of 4 girls have been sexually abused, which means a quarter of the girls in the average high school or local youth group may have had sexual experiences forced upon them for the very reasons outlined in this video.  The mission and vision at Epipheo is to “reveal truth in a way that changes people’s lives.” So if the truth that’s revealed in this video takes place, it could actually change the lives of thousands of teenage girls in our own cities and towns.

So hopefully you’ll consider sharing this video in order to help raise awareness for the Epik Project.  Together we can all play a part as we stand together against teen sex trafficking!  Perhaps this will ignite an Epik Canadian Project!