Tag Archive: culture


Just a few short months ago I shared a blog post concerning Bachelor Brad and Emily’s relationship. While all seemed to go well on the show and at the final rose ceremony, things started to break down after the show. This is somewhat to be expected as the show kind of creates an artificial environment where the participants are somewhat sheltered from real life. It seemed in the final show that although Brad and Emily were struggling with their reentry into real life they were working through these issues in a consistent and responsible fashion.

Something happened just recently however; tabloids first reported that Brad and Emily had finally called it quits and this was followed up by an interview with Emily during last Monday’s episode of The Bachelorette. Emily’s request was that she wanted to tell the story just once and then put it to rest.

There is no doubt that the constant media attention and hounding was detrimental to this relationship. I cannot comprehend what this would be like and so I cannot comment on this aspect of the relationship. What puzzles me however is Emily’s description of what went wrong; it doesn’t really seem like anything went wrong. Emily said that she and Brad talk and text often, she still cares deeply for him, she would defend him should people talk bad about him, and Brad will continue to play a role in her life for a long time to come. It sound like they have become quite good friends…and where I come from that is the foundation of what could potentially make a really great marriage.

The only ray of light that Emily shed on this matter was that she felt life with Brad would be too unstable for her and her daughter. Emily stated that when anticipating a temporary relocation to Texas to be closer to Brad she wanted to have an apartment and other necessities all lined up prior to her departure; it seems as though Brad did not share this same desire to have life preplanned. Emily also mentioned her reluctance to move in with Brad right away…I can only speculate how this very countercultural behavioral impacted their relationship. Finally, Emily confessed her lack of confidence in Brad’s long-term affection for her; she was not confident that Brad would still want to be with her 6 weeks or even 6 months out. Yet they remain good friends; on this point I must confess I am confused.

Once again The Bachelor/ette has provided us with some interesting reflections on the state of love and marriage within our culture. I commend Emily on remaining strong and true to her morals and to the ideal of life she has for her and her daughter. It is better to know now that she and Brad wanted very different things in life than to get in too deep (i.e. married) and then pull the plug.

I honestly get the sense from both Brad and Emily that they entered this relationship with only the best motives and truly wanted this to work. Perhaps the failure of their relationship was a result of cultural expectations mixed with tabloid harassment? I just cannot figure this one out completely and from Emily’s tone I think this will be the last we hear from her… any thoughts?

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Our youth ministry at EGCC regularly participates in hands-on ministry endeavors so that our students have an opportunity to experience a practical side to their faith. We have assistance numerous times at the local soup kitchen, we have operated two short term missions trips to the Dominican Republic during March Break (2008 & 2010) and we have participated in other local events. This summer we are doing something that we have never done before: we will attempt to plant a Jr. High Youth ministry at a sister church in the city!

This is the plan: we know from the body of research that exists regarding teens and faith that students are most receptive to faith in Christ in their Jr. High years (i.e. ages 10-14, grades 5-8). It makes sense therefore that this is out target group. We are in the process of planning an entire week long Jr. High day camp to be held at our sister church and staffed by a mix of volunteers from our youth ministry and their youth department. This will be held from August 22-26. We will blitz the surrounding neighborhoods with flyers & posters as well as engaging the online community with a Twitter account, Facebook page, custom website, and a YouTube promotional video. All of this will be coming online shortly.

What are we expecting for an outcome? We are praying and expecting that significant relationships will be initiated between our sister church and their surrounding neighborhood. We want to see this week long summer camp turn into a weekly Jr. High ministry at our sister church; plans are already underway for this to happen. Ultimately we want to see these Jr. High students grow into well discipled Sr. High students and bring a new dynamic of youth and leadership to come alongside of the existing leadership at our sister church. These are ambitious plans…but all things are possible!

What can you do to help in this effort? If you are a teenager that attends Emergency Ministries, we need a few more volunteers to work on preparations as well as running the events during the week of the day camp. If you are not a teenager please pray for us, our sister church, the neighborhood, and the ministry staff that will carry on this program in the fall.

As with most other youth event, I will provide a daily blog update during the summer missions project so that you can keep on top of what we are doing and so that you will know how to pray for us that week. Stay tuned for more info!

This afternoon I had the pleasure of officiating my second wedding ceremony since being ordained by the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada in May of 2009. As with my first wedding, my wife was also a bridesmaid and so the experience was all the more special as we shared it together.

The couple that was married (Brandon & Nancy) are great friends of both Mandy and I; the time we spent together doing the pre-marital prep and planning the wedding ceremony were certainly highlights over the past few months.

Since I have only had the opportunity to speak at two weddings I do not have a terrible amount of experience with this; however, both times I have shared thoughts concerning love, marriage, and commitment in the real world. These thoughts have emerged from the Scriptures and have certainly challenged some views of love present in our popular culture. Here are some excerpts of what I shared this afternoon:

 

…The portrait of love as portrayed in the word of God (1 Corinthians 13) seems almost as if it were a fairy tale. Who would not want to be on the receiving end of love like this: love that never get easily angered…love that keeps no record of wrongs…love that always trusts and always perseveres…when we look deeper into this kind of love described in the Scriptures we realize that if we are expecting to receive that quality of love we must also be individuals who give that kind of love; herein lies the problem…

 

…Though Scripture records that it was Eve who was first tempted by the serpent to disobey the only law of their society, Adam did not appear to hold this against her or against their relationship…despite the wrong the Eve had committed – a wrong that would have severe consequences for Adam as well – Adam still protected Eve on the verge of her original sin being confronted…

 

…The words of Saint Peter as recorded in his first book, chapter 4 verse 8, are especially pertinent…Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. There will be days when you will get on each other’s nerves…there have likely already been those days. There will be days when you will say and do things that you will need to apologize for and the other will need to forgive…

 

…Let nothing and no one come between the vows and the bond that you are making today. Do not let yourselves be your own stumbling blocks and continually strive for that perfect ideal of love found in the Scriptures…

 

My prayer is that Brandon and Nancy will have many years of blessings and happiness and that God will grant them the strength and courage to overcome the days when the sun does not shine so that they can be an inspiration to all of those who come after them…and perhaps a few who have gone before.

Congrats guys!

Good morning readers! I have a bunch of things on my mind today and so I thought that I would let them all out for you to see and hear about. Here we go!

1. If you were in Monkey Barrel this past week we talked about VAMPIRES! No, we are not setting the Bible aside and now preaching from popular media. What we are doing is taking popular media and demonstrating how lines up or does not line up with a Biblical worldview.

Now that you are done having a heart attack about us talking of Vampires in Monkey Barrel, let me tell you what we talked about. First, we discussed the various occult-like beliefs and behaviors associated with the whole world of vampires and its somewhat close association with Wicca. These are things that our Biblical worldview tells us are very real and certainly not good, pure and noble pursuits. Secondly, we saw that there are a variety of other practices associated with Vampires that are perhaps not spiritually-related but nevertheless contradictory to our Biblical worldview. Finally, we noted that those who engage in a lifestyle of fantasy and use that as a mask to avoid the pain of real life here and now are not doing themselves any good whatsoever. We need to pursue life with Jesus Christ, not fantasy.

A full discussion about this will be posted next week once I present this material to the Emergency Ministries group.

2. The second thing on my mind today is the Royal Wedding! Not the dress, not the hats, not the people, not the ring, not the weather, not the kiss, not anything like that…..come on now, what about the Royal Wedding do you think I would deem worthy for including in this blog post? ……..the sermon by the Bishop of London! I encourage you to review a few excerpts from the wedding sermon delivered earlier this morning at Westminster Abby as I was quite impressed with the truth about love and marriage presented to millions of viewers today. You can see some excerpts at http://www.officialroyalwedding2011.org/blog/2011/April/29/The-Bishop-of-London-s-Sermon

3. The third and final thing on my mind this morning is a new blog series that I have been thinking about and will begin to write shortly. I want to put the idea out there now to increase your expectation and whet your appetite. I plan to write a series entitled “The Top 10 Threats to a Teenager’s Faith”. In this series I will draw from my experience of 10 years working with teenagers to highlight some common pitfalls I have seen over and over again with the anticipation that perhaps it may assist some teenagers and parents from repeating the mistakes that others before them have already made.

That’s all for this morning!

p.s. I have noticed that my Katy Perry post from well over a month ago is STILL getting many hits every day and is currently my most popular post. Perhaps you’d like me to review more artists in the near future?

Great night last night at Emergency Ministries! I felt like some of you really ‘got it’ last night when I was talking about the unique message of Jesus Christ. Let me reiterate what I meant to say.

To start with, I need you to give me a thumbs up or a thumbs down for each of the people in the following pictures…based on whatever criteria comes to mind (smart, ugly, pretty, old, young….good, bad…).

Have you noticed a trend here? You gave thumbs up to people who you thought had done enough great things to deserve that. You gave a thumbs down to those people who you thought had not done enough good things or perhaps have done too many wrong things. This is logical human nature…is it not? We have to earn our own keep; we get repaid good things for the good we do and evil things for the evil we do.

Our culture has given a trendy name for this: it is called karma. In actual fact, this notion of karma has nothing to do with the message of Jesus Christ and is actually opposed to what Christ came to declare. Somehow our worldview has shifted…

This notion of karma comes to us from the Hindu faith, which says that we will be repaid for our life’s actions in equal measure; good for good and bad for bad. The Hindu faith also says that after this life we will be reincarnated into a new form that will depend on our actions in the previous life. This is interesting because we were created in the image of God and so what higher form could one be reincarnated into than humanity? Could we become God himself? No…scripture says that there is only one God and we will never become that.

A few other faith groups have impacted our worldview instilling this “I must be good enough” notion. Within Islam there are five pillars that devout believers must fulfill to earn the favor of Allah.

1.     Recite a profession of faith many, many times.

2.     Do the salat prayer five times each day while facing Mecca.

3.     Donate to charity.

4.     Fast during the month of Ramadan.

5.     Make one pilgrimage to Mecca.

No matter what your life’s circumstance, you MUST carry out these five pillars or else be subject to the potential wrath of Allah.

Even more interesting is the Buddhist faith. The basic tenants of this faith are these: life is suffering and suffering comes from desire for things. There is a way to make suffering end by eliminating all desire. Buddhists must always strive to have the right beliefs, say the right things, have the right motives, avoid the wrong things, make the right kind of effort, think about yourself the right way, spend time doing the right things…and you HAVE to do ALL of this ALL BY YOURSELF!

Basically being Buddhist is like being a Vulcan on Start Trek; eliminate every unique and personal shred of who you are to achieve perfect peace.

All of these faith groups appeal to our rational senses of earning our keep and getting nothing that we do not deserve. Essentially we are on this rat race of trying to hold our lives together. We have work, school, family, appearances, desires, likes, dislikes, arguments with friends and people…and at the end of the day we need to emerge unscathed and a complete person that has it all together. At the end of this we wonder why so many teenagers are silently dying inside with feelings of being alone, misunderstood be parents, feeling not good enough, easing the pain with alcohol, drugs, cutting…and some with suicide.

It’s real tough to do everything the right way all the time…right?

Let me tell you about something that just does not make logical sense but should blow your mind.

Jesus Christ says that his ways are not our ways. (Isaiah 55:8)

Jesus Christ says that he looks on the heart.  (1 Sam 16:7)

Jesus Christ says that we’re never going to have it all together on our own…that’s normal. (Romans 3:23)

Unlike every other belief and faith system on this earth, Jesus Christ gets you and me. This is probably because Christ is the one that created us. The way out of this rat race of always trying to do things well enough on our own is to give direction and leadership of your life to Jesus Christ. This is more than just agreeing to a new set of beliefs; there is a spiritual change that takes place in the world when one person gives direction of their lives to Jesus Christ.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. (Romans 8:9)

We do not have to do everything on our own; the Spirit of God comes to live inside the spiritual part of our bodies and helps us with change. Instead of condemning us when we fall short (as is the case in the other faiths discussed here) the Spirit of God reaches out with compassion and says, “Lets do better next time”.

This is all much more refreshing than having to do everything good on our own all of the time.

So you see, being ‘good’ or ‘good enough’ has nothing to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead it’s about being different. It’s about building something great using the blocks that you have been given. It’s about having spiritual direction from the one that knit this whole world together. It’s about falling off the path and then getting back up and carrying on further than before. It’s about going on a journey together to somewhere new instead of just spinning our wheels stuck in the same place or going around in a circle and always coming back to the same spot.

In Jesus this becomes reality.

It seems that Facebook has been the topic of some interesting media coverage lately. It is not surprising that Facebook is in the media for some reason; there are over 500 million users worldwide! Certainly this must be an administrative nightmare at the best of times.

Let me tell you about three recent news reports. The first report that caught my eye this morning was on CBC.ca and was entitled “Facebook Depression raised by MDs for teens” (http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2011/03/28/facebook-social-media-teens-children.html). The premise of this article is that medical doctors are now starting to see a phenomenon in teenagers that is similar to depression but is caused by devastating experiences with social networking. This is how something like this might work: a teenager signs up for a Facebook account and can then sees the pictures and postings of their friends or others they might know from school who do not have strict privacy settings on their profiles. Perhaps this teenager reaches out and requests friendship with several of his/her classmates and is rejected or simply ignored. Maybe there is a group event that is initiated but this person is not included on the invite list. Or, perhaps after posting pictures of himself/herself or family events others respond with hurtful or degrading comments.

This is essentially the online equivalent of getting picked last in gym class…times a million because everyone in the school will see it in their newsfeed over and over and over again. More than just one event in time, offenses that take place on Facebook are present indefinitely and the hurt can be relived each time it is viewed or talked about.

Is this for real, you might ask? Well, let me tell you about the two other reports that have been in the news recently.

The second and third reports are both from the Chronicle Herald (Nova Scotia’s provincial newspaper published in Halifax, NS). One article was published on Friday March 25th and was entitled “Is Lower Sackville teen’s suicide a result of cyberbullying?” (http://thechronicleherald.ca/Front/9020294.html). The other was published on Saturday March 26th and was entitled “Online bullying, suicide link probed” (http://thechronicleherald.ca/Front/9020297.html). All of this after a 14 year old girl from Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia killed herself this past week. At some point after her suicide there was a memorial page started on Facebook and numerous comments attributed her death to cyberbullying. Now, family members and her principal are questioning these reports stating that other factors likely contributed to this death…which makes me wonder… if just days after the death we can be so certain about what contributed to it, why then did we not reach out two weeks ago to prevent it? Anyhow, I digress. The fact is that there is a perception that cyberbullying certainly contributed to this unfortunate ending of life and the RCMP in Nova Scotia are following up this lead.

Here are my thoughts on all of this: it is for good reason that Facebook has a policy that you must be 13 years old to have an account and that even those individuals who are older than 13 should still consult with their parents as they experience Facebook. I know for a fact that many teenagers somewhat embellish pictures, ages, and other features about themselves on Facebook…I know this because I know these people in real life and I also follow many (many, many…) teenagers on Facebook and see the glaring discrepancies.

Social media in itself is not to blame for the depression or suicide described above. Facebook, or the less popular (and less monitored by adults) social network found at formspring.me, are tools that can be used for much good. Mandy and I connect with family that live a great distance away using social networking tools.

Here are some beginning thoughts to keep safe while using the benefits of social media:

1. Be true to who you are! Post pictures, posts, and birthdays that are accurate! Misrepresenting yourself online can never lead  to good things. You are unique and special in your own way and you don’t have to pretend to be something that you are not.

2. Treat bullying seriously. Bullying is never ok, and just because it isn’t face to face (but on Facebook instead) it still hurts and obviously has devastating consequences. Don’t do it, don’t believe it, and don’t stay silent about it!

3. Involve parents and other people in your online activities. Don’t ever let your online habits become so secretive that you are not talking with parents and others that you trust about what is taking place online. Parents, talk to your kids about their online habits just the same as you would about the friends they see in real life and the places they go in real life. As someone said, Facebook is the new ‘corner store’ where teens go to hang out.

Lets strive to make sure these past news reports never become future headlines once again.

For any of you who may not know who Rob Bell is, let me begin by saying that he is perhaps one of the more creative, out of the box, and relevant deep thinkers in the Christian faith that I have seen in the last few years. He seems to package charisma, oratory skill and decent content all in one package that truly makes a person want to re-evaluate their life and to come to know God in a fresh way. Bell is also the writer of the NOOMA videos, short videos about topics in the Christian faith that are structured in such a way to make you think for yourself. I first encountered these videos as a seminary student and have used them multiple times in youth ministry to spark discussions.

Bell is an author too. He has written numerous books including Velvet Elvis, Sex God, Jesus Wants to Save Christians, and others. His most recent book, Love Wins, was just released on March 15th, 2011, and has sparked an amount of controversy in Christian circles. The controversy is twofold: (1) the claims that the book makes appear at times to step outside of what would be considered Christian orthodoxy, and (2) Bell’s reputation (especially with the emerging generation) coupled with his charisma is such that I suspect he could convince a drowning man to buy a case of aquafina…or dasani…or both

Rob Bell’s influence on our culture is what it is; it cannot be changed and we cannot fault the man for being who he is. Some of the content of this new book however makes me squirm. I say that I am almost defending Rob Bell because I don’t think the book is as bad as some are making it out to be; however, it certainly does push the boundaries in several areas.

Lets start with the good stuff. There are some really great things in this book. First, Bell encourages us to rethink our talk about heaven and hell. The full motivation and mission for our Christian life here and now ought not be to escape hell and get to heaven as fast as possible (contrary to some of those great old hymns of the church…and this comes from someone who still does enjoy hymns!). The hope of the New Testament Christians was not to escape earth and go to heaven but rather they looked forward to participating in a new kingdom on earth that was governed and lead by Jesus Christ. When Jesus was crucified, resurrected, and went back to heaven, their desire was for the approaching day of his return where they would participate in a new kingdom on a perfected earth that was governed and lead by Jesus Christ. Bell wants us to recast our thinking about hope so that it not so much about ‘there and then’ but participating in something ‘here and now’.

Jesus said it best himself: “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15, NIV). Jesus Christ’s presence on earth changed things; it brought the kingdom of heaven closer than ever before. From this point on we see an increase in spiritual things on earth: healing, resurrection, gifts of the Spirit. There is a dynamic feature of the kingdom of God that is presently breaking into our world on a regular basis and participation in that kingdom ought to be our greatest motivation and mission…not just getting out of here as quickly as possible.

The journey is as important as the destination.

Now, lets dig a little deeper. Bell is accused of being a universalist in his theology (i.e. all will end up in heaven at some point, love will win). He denies this and I (think) I believe him. He does spend time in his book talking about human existence apart from God and what that looks like…I can only assume he imagines that some will continue to choose this existence?

There are two things however that he indisputability argues for that I am not quite so sure about: Bell speculates about the possibility of repentance even after death and speculates about the fact that many people from other faith groups (Islam, Buddhism) will be given equal position in the kingdom of God when Christ returns. Bell actually does more than speculate: he attempts to convince his readers to consider the idea that life could be this way. He calls it a ‘better story’…

Neither of these thoughts is new in Christendom and space does not permit a full examination of either of these here. The first is complete speculation and does not seem to have biblical merit. The second is more murky; most Christians would suggest that though we are all born into sin Christ will accept unto himself those souls who die before having the ability to choose or not to choose God. We talk of an ‘age of accountability’ although attempting to place a firm number on this is difficult and likely not useful. What I believe that Bell is appealing to here is the notion that some people in some parts of the world and in some faith groups may recognize that there is a higher power than themselves but not know exactly what the nature of this higher power is; they have never heard of Jesus. Bell speculates that if a person has not had an opportunity to hear of Jesus, despite their age, God will look favorably upon their spiritual pursuits. I think however in our world of information and social networking that this case very much a minority. Most Muslims follow Islam not because they have not yet heard of Jesus but because they choose Allah over Jesus. This is a fatal flaw in Bell’s argumentation.

Bell’s unique writing style, almost poetic, and confident way or writing (without any citations or references except a list of ‘you should read this’ books at the end) gives somewhat of a false authority to what he has to say; the fear is that Bell’s compelling style and the voice that he has in the young adult generation of the present day is going to lead to spiritual confusion en mass. I must say that I am concerned about the same thing.

This book is not for the faint of heart or the easily influenced…but if you can read critically and are ready to exercise your faith (and perhaps clarify some aspects that you were a little rusty on) I would encourage you to analyze what Bell has to say here.

Shane Bertou is facilitating a discussion of this book chapter by chapter on his blog at http://www.shanebertou.wordpress.com. They are currently on chapter 1 and will be moving to chapter 2 this week. I am going to try and follow this conversation and perhaps add to it. I invite you to do the same.

Japan: God’s Wrath?

Many people are now talking about the crisis that struck Japan just a week ago. I myself have been enthralled with http://www.cnn.com and http://www.cbc.ca as they share pictures and stories of the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear emergency that is all converging in just one week! This has certainly been an extremely unfortunate week for all of those living in Japan.

In the midst of crisis times like this there is always much talk about why. We saw the same thing happen after Katrina, which devastated New Orleans, and especially after the 9/11 events in New York City. I remember being in seminary during the aftermath of Katrina and watching a taped message where a pastor declared that Katrina was God’s judgment rained down on “sin city” as it was called. My classmates and I remember thinking that this was perhaps a hasty remark; I cannot remember the last time any human being knew the mind of God clearly enough to assume that he/she knew God’s motivation for causing/watching/allowing (whatever word you use, although I prefer the latter) whatever calamity takes place on earth. Furthermore, if Katrina was indeed God’s judgment on New Orleans, why just that city? Why not Los Angeles too? Is there something inherently better in the people of LA? Why not the town that I live in or the town that you live in? Are we better than those in New Orleans?

Although I have not yet heard a pastor declare such a statement regarding Japan (I have not gone looking for a statement like this either), I have perused a few blogs this week that have indicated such a sentiment has indeed been expressed. So, on top of all that those in Japan have had to deal with (and indeed are still dealing with) we need to heap a boat load of offense on them saying that if they had been good enough little boys and girls the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster would have been directed to a more evil nation? Being “good enough” does not grant anyone favor with God anyways!

The religious demographic of Japan is primarily Shinto and Buddhist with a small minority of Christians and Muslims. Likely some will use this statistic to say, “see, I told you God was bringing calamity upon such a pagan nation!” This is somewhat inconsistent with our own Christian scriptures however. Consider these passages:

Matthew 5:45b “…He [God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Luke 13:4 “…or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?”

Job 1:20 “…The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

There does not seem to be an indication that human tragedy is focused exclusively on the just or the unjust, the repentant or the non-repentant. The fact is that we live in a time when the perfect kingdom of God is still just on the horizon (though visible) while the imperfect kingdom of humanity lingers. Thus, we see glimpses of both of these in our world: we observe sunrises and sunsets each day, we enjoy beauty, love, friends, family, we rejoice over new life created, we see lives changed in a moment and we see health miraculously restored to people both through medical intervention and other unexplainable sources (i.e. God). At the same time we observe relational strife, murder, abortion, rape, abuse, suffering…earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear disasters. The bible teaches that there is an approaching moment in time when there will be a complete merger between the kingdom of God and the kingdom that currently is (with the kingdom of God replacing and making all things new [Revelation 21]); until then however we must live in a world that experiences the reality of both kingdoms.

I wonder if there is a place on earth where disaster could strike and no one would attribute it to sinfulness? Canada…not likely. United States…been there and done that already. Israel? You might be able to make a case for God’s protection of his covenant people but yet we see that they too experience strife in this world also.

I put this topic out for discussion to a number of theology students at Vanguard College; I asked them what they would do if someone approached them in the foyer this Sunday asking about God’s role in the Japan disaster. One keen student suggested something that is somewhat refreshing for times like this.

Stephen Adam said:

“…we hear about so many people dying through this tragedy, but I wonder how many people God saved when he heard prayers. The news will focus mostly on the large number of dead and the destruction, but who knows about some small family that miraculously survived by Gods hand.”

Now there is something to think about. While it rains on the just and the unjust alike, we know that “…the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

Continue to pray for the people of Japan so that they can recover well from this terrible disaster.

Just about a month ago Emergency Ministries hosted a small weekend conference talking about the effect of media (i.e. music, video, magazines…) on teenage culture. Brett Ullman (www.brettullman.com) was our guest speaker for the weekend and he challenged many of us to examine the media that we allow to impact our lives. Some media has a great message about the way the world is and our role in it; other media has a distorted view and does not communicate truth about life. We were also challenged to think beyond the labels of “Christian” and “secular” when it comes to media; great messages can exist within “secular” media and some not so great messages can exist within “Christian” media.  This certainly makes decision making in our lives a little messier; however, you might be surprised with what you come up with in the end.

Last night after watching Glee, Mandy and I briefly discussed different musical artists with our houseguests. I am a music lover and sometimes I get caught up with the energy and music of a song without realizing what the song is actually saying about life. Here is a prime example of this: last night on Glee one of the competitors at regionals did the song “Raise Your Glass” by Pink. The song is full of energy and musical competence and I must say that I liked Glee’s rendition…although I have never really listened to the words.  I decided this afternoon to check it out and see if I had landed myself a “secular” song that has a message I can affirm

After doing my research…I seem to have been a little off base with this one. The whole song is a call to misfits and underdogs to rise above cultural stereotype and enjoy their distinctive and unique life (“raise your glass if you are wrong, in all the right ways, all my underdogs”). However, the alternate approach to ‘life’ portrayed in the song is about as shallow as the life that Pink is calling her “nitty gritty dirty little freaks” to come out of; it seems that she is calling them to a life of partying and indulging in senseless role reversals (in the video there is a scene where human breast milk is being fed to young cows). While the message of this song may be catchy for a while I don’t think it has the substance to make a lasting positive impact on our culture.

So…I decided to give it one more shot. I remember last night talking about the song “Firework” that was highlighted on Glee a few months back. I had forgotten which artist had recorded the song but after a simple google search I discovered that it was Katy Perry. When I read the lyrics I became convinced that I had discovered just the kind of song I was looking for: ‘secular’ in its label but with a very truthful, noble, and inspiring message. The message of the song is this: if you ever feel down and out like you’ve blown it for the last time, there is still hope for you! You are unique and cannot be replaced so don’t check out of life. You just have to find the light inside of you and let it shine…like a firework! This is the essence of the whole song; there is no obscene language and no reference to substances or sex to take away pain or hurt. This is a life giving and life inspiring song that I do feel has the substance to make a lasting positive impact on our culture. I also think it fits the Philippians 4:8 test:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (NIV)

Kudos to Katy for giving us such an inspiring message!

In saying all of this I am not suggesting that Katy Parry should become a role model of morality and taste for teenaged culture. (In fact, there is one short segment from this song’s video that I think we could do without…I’ll let you decide which one).  I am somewhat perplexed that the same girl that sang this song also sang “I Kissed a Girl (and I liked it)” just a few years ago. Nevertheless, I am reminded of something that my systematic theology professor would tell us students in seminary: all truth is God’s truth. What he meant is that wherever in life you find something that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable…that is evidence of God’s fingerprints on humanity and we can celebrate that together. We can look around in our culture and find pieces of truth here and there and use these to say to people, “this, my friend, is the way!”

Unfortunately truth and lies can come out of the same mouth; I guess this is just another reason why our faith is in God and not in each other.  I believe however that truth shines brightly no matter where it is found. When our faith is in God truth will be evident and we can use this as a witness to God’s ever-present interaction with our world.

So, listen and be encouraged by Katy Perry’s talent and the truthful and admirable message she declares in her song “Firework”.

There are a few topics that I cannot help blogging about: youth ministry, parents of teenagers (though I have no personal experience I have seen lots), Christian apologetics…and popular media. I am not sure how it all fits together but one thing can be sure, you will find it all here! Keeping that in mind, here are my thoughts on last night’s season finale of ‘The Bachelor’.

Last night I was painting our kitchen while listening to the final results of this season’s ‘The Bachelor’ unfold as Mandy sat in the living room silently (and at times not so silently) cheering on Emily, her favorite. I’ve blogged about this show before because of the sometimes strange views on love that it portrays. Last night was somewhat different however as the final girl standing, Emily (much to Mandy’s pleasure), displayed real class in fighting for what she felt was honor, respect, true love and commitment from the guy that she obviously does care for.

Two things emerge from Brad and Emily’s relationship that I think our culture should pay close attention to. Let me take a moment to share these with you.

On her final date with Brad, Emily questioned him about his readiness for not only a committed relationship with her but also about his readiness for fatherhood. You see, Emily has a little girl whose dad passed away before she was born; it is therefore very important for Brad to realize he is not only getting a wife but also a family. Emily pointed out that life would not always consist of fun, games and travelling the world (as they have on the show). There will be times that are no fun and times that they will argue about many things. I love what Emily did here because she shattered the picture perfect world of ‘happily ever after’ that seems to be promoted by shows like ‘The Bachelor’ and many others by infusing a small does of reality into reality TV. Life and love are not always fairytales; they both take work and sometimes that work is not fun. This does not mean that life and love are any less worth pursuing.

Brad’s reaction to Emily’s dose of reality was a little shocking: he was offended that Emily would think that he was not ready for all of this. He came around eventually, however, I think Brad was a little too idealistic to assume that having never been married and having never had kids that he could just jump right into marriage and fatherhood without missing a beat. As one who has been married for almost 7 years and been a father for just over 2 years, I can say that you don’t really know what you expect until you get in the thick of it. Sometimes it is more wonderful than you could ever imagine and sometimes its more difficult than you ever dreamed. As the show drew to a conclusion last night we all saw that Brad was beginning to realize the truth of Emily’s reality speech and he handled it with true class: he is willing to do what it takes to make their relationship work. This is the substance of reality!

The second thing that I think was so classy last night was Emily’s reaction to watching the whole season of ‘The Bachelor’ from home (they tape the show prior to airing it…Emily knew Brad had picked her before the show aired). Her question to Brad was this: If you say that you fell in love with me early on during the show (and he did say that), there were many things I saw you doing with other girls that I think you should have saved just for me. Monday night because an incredibly difficult night for Emily as each week she watched Brad take other women on dates and share moments with them that she would rather have not seen. She said it best when she told Brad that she knew this would not be the “Emily and Brad falling in love show” but she did not realize that he was going to give the producers so much other material to work with.

I give props to Emily for standing up for her share of honor and respect. I also give props to Brad for not letting her go when it would be easy to find many other women whose standards for love are much lower than Emily’s. Despite the rocky path that their relationship has taken over the past two months the two of them indicated that they are willing to put in the time and work necessary to become a better person for the other.

Last night was supposed to be their wedding ceremony, but Emily said that they still had to work some things out before that happened. According to Brad, letting Emily go is not an option and so the two of them will continue to strive to become better people for each other and for the sake of their relationship.

It is going to take work; however, that is the nature of true love! Congrats to ‘The Bachelor’ for infusing our culture with such an honest reality of love. I pray that Brad and Emily continue to have the resolve to see this through until the end.