Anticipating 2016’s Pop Culture Gems

Anticipating 2016’s Pop Culture Gems
2016 looks to be incredible! Glancing through the forthcoming movies, tv shows, albums and books, this new year looks like it’s going to be filled with fantastic pieces of pop culture for us to enjoy. Here’s what I’m looking forward to:
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BOOKS

COMIC BOOKS

  • Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Marvel)
  • Faith by Jody Houser, Francis Portela and Marguerite Sauvage (Valiant)
  • Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death by Amy Chu & Clay Mann (DC)
  • Swamp Thing by Len Wein, Kelley Jones & Michelle Madsen (DC)

MOVIES

MUSIC

2016 can also see new records from Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, Frank Ocean, Red Hot Chili Peppers, M. I. A., Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Haim, Wiz Khalifa, The Killers, Kings of Leon, Kanye West, The Strokes and Gorillaz.

TELEVISON

How to Read Your Bible in 2016

How to Read Your Bible in 2016

I often hear Christians say they’ve never read their entire bible. Polls show anywhere from 40 to as many as 80 percent of believers are yet to read their bible from cover-to-cover. So, instead of making some New Year’s resolution that let’s be real you’ll most likely give up on by the time February rolls around, why not resolve to read your entire bible?

Some days will be a breeze. Others will be like grinding teeth. Still, learning the discipline of regular bible reading is not necessarily something that will make you holy in and of itself. However, by daily sitting down to read God’s word for an average of 10.7 minutes per day, it allows you the opportunity to hear from God as well as be challenged and changed by it.

Here are some tips and plans for reading your entire bible in 2015:

 Tips

  • Choose an easy translation. Find a translation that you can easily understand, perhaps one that is different than the one you study from.
  • Forgive missed days. If you miss a day (you will miss a day), don’t give up altogether. Instead, find a time when you can catch up.
  • Pray. Ask God to show you more about Himself while reading His word.
  • Read with others. Read with your spouse, your friend or someone else.
  • Reflect. Once your done with your daily reading, reflect. Whether it be journaling or simply thinking, at the end of your readings, ask yourself, “What’s one thing that God showed me about Himself?”

Plans

  • The Bible Project Reading Plan. The Bible Project is one of my favorite and coolest resources for improving our understanding of the Bible’s themes and individual writings as well. This plan includes an amazing and concise video with beautiful art that you watch every few days as well as scripture passages. The video serves as an introduction to the section of the Bible you are about to read over the following few days. Here’s a quick summary video of what it looks like:

The Bible Project has a few different layouts of their plans here as well as options for the videos to emailed to you on the morning you’re scheduled to watch them. If nothing else, I encourage you to check out their videos when you have a few moments. You will not be let down.

  • Bible Reading Record. This is more of a checklist than a laid-out plan. It allows you to keep track of your progress as you go. If you read three chapters a day and five on Sunday, you can read the entire bible in a year.
  • Chronological Bible Reading Plan. Read the bible in what is believed to be chronological order (if you didn’t know, the bible is not put together in chronological order). Also, download it to your iCal or Google calendar.
  • ESV Daily Reading Bible. Crossway put together a beautiful bible that divides the scriptures into daily readings. Following the M’Cheyne plan, this again will take you through the entire word in one year.
  • Historical Bible Reading Plan. Read the Old Testament the way they would in ancient Israel and the New Testament writings in the order they were written.
  • M’Cheyne Plan. Read one chapter in four different sections of scripture each day for an entire year. Also, download it to your iCal or Google calendar.
  • My Bible Plans. Customize your own plan and sync it with your iCal, email it to yourself daily, listen to it while you exercise or drive and more.

Loving Your Social Media Neighbor

Loving Your Social Media Neighbor

We’ve all had those opportunities: someone has posted a controversial photo, a seemingly racist/hateful status update, or attached a right-or-leftwing extremist “article” or propaganda-like video that clearly lacked credibility. You ask yourself, “Do I comment and start another Facebook-Feud (Twitter-Tango or Instagram-Instafight) or do I technologically bight my lip and move on?

A Samaritan and a Jew

In Luke’s account of the life of Jesus, the author describes a time when Jesus addressed a similar scenario. Once again, Jesus was being hounded by religious leaders searching for bait that would be Tweet-worthy or even make Buzzfeed’s Trending category.

Luke narrates that the religious law expert sought to “test Jesus” asking Him, “Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?”

Jesus knows his antics. This isn’t the first smart-Alac he’s encountered nor will it be the last. He defers to the Old Testament writings, questioning, “What does the law of Moses say?”

The religious expert correctly responds by essentially saying love God and love your neighbor better than you love yourself.

After Jesus affirms his answer, the religious leader goes down swinging, questioning Jesus one last time, “But who really is my neighbor?”

Jesus goes on to tell a story about a man who is now known as the Good Samaritan, a man that portrays who Jesus ultimately would be to humanity: a lover of His enemies, those who were dead-set against Him and everything He stood for. This Good Samaritan placed his enemies before Himself in His finances, time, reputation, and personal reservations among others. Picture an African-American man helping an injured leader of the KKK during the ’60’s. This man disregarded the cultural norms of His day and the potential anger he had towards this person for the sake of his enemy’s well-being as a human being.

So what does this have to do with social media?

Loving the Tweeter Next Door

Loving our neighbor better than we love ourselves is difficult. After working fifty hour work weeks or going more than full-time to school while juggling family or dating relationships, taxes, groceries, bills, insurances and car maintenance, it’s easy to forget to pay a bill let alone to love our neighbors.

Even more so, I think social media poses an imaginary divide between us and our neighbors. For some reason, we seem to see the people we engage with on Twitter or Facebook not as the human beings on their phones or computers. Instead, there is a digital barrier between the people we interact with on social media, between our screens and theirs.

Sometimes I wonder: if Jesus would’ve came to earth in the 21st century instead of the 1st century, how would He have answered that same religious leader’s question (assuming that religious leader was born alive in the 21st century as well)? How would He say the great commandments, loving God and loving our neighbors, should affect the way we engage with other people on social media?

While I’m still thinking through what this looks like on a practical level, here are some tips to better love your social media neighbor:

Tips

  1. Weigh. Consider whether it’s even worthy of a response. In a month, six months, a year, is the content of this post going to matter? Is the post or person I’m considering confronting going to have a lot of negative impact on those who are viewing it? If so, do I respond in a public post to them that everyone may see? Or do I write them a loving message or text? Or do I call and/or set up a time to talk in person with them?
  2. Wait. If I find myself doubting whether or not I should respond to a post or even write something myself, I type up a potential draft, save it, and walk away for awhile. Whether it be an hour or a day, I know I need to be sure about what I’m about to post.
  3. Ask. Find someone that you trust to be honest with you (not your gossip girls but someone more like your spiritual correctional officer) and ask them to look over what you’re considering posting. Ask if they think it’s wise and beneficial? More often than not, I ask my wife to look over a potentially controversial blog post or comment, not because I simply don’t want to offend someone—sometimes people need that—but because I want to ensure that what I’m saying is wise, beneficial for the person/s I’m engaging with, and has God’s kingdom in mind.

Why I Never Sleep On the Sofa

Why I Never Sleep On the Sofa

These past few months, I’ve been delivering pizzas as a second job. Aside from myself, every delivery driver is a high school or college-aged, single guy.

Every now-and-then, a couple college guys will ask me questions about my wife, our relationship, and what it’s like to be married.

A topic in particular, although posed in a humorous manner, seemed to stand out during our conversation. We were discussing what it was like to fight with your spouse. One had inquired whether my wife and I ever got to the point where we would yell at each other. I answered honestly. He followed up by asking if I ever had to sleep on the sofa.

I shared with them my personal sofa-sleeping philosophy:

I never sleep on the sofa when my wife and I are in the middle of fight. No, it’s not because I want her to sleep on the sofa instead of me.

I choose not sleep on the sofa when my wife and I are fighting because I want to communicate to her and remind myself that, regardless of how I may feel, what words may have been said, or what may have been done by either one of us, we are committed to each for life.

Sometimes, I may have to sit in the living room or go on a walk to cool down before I go to sleep. However, I never let a temporary fight come in between our lifelong commitment to one another.

I also choose to do this because I think it is a tiny shadow of how Jesus loves His people. I am in no way saying that I am always or ever Jesus in this equation.

Rather, I simply see how Jesus chose to love unloveable people and in response to this inconceivable love, I choose to show love to my wife even when it kills me.

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting.

– Ephesians 5:25 & 26

Christians and Their Phones

Christians and Their Phones

My wife and I are avid Chipotle enthusiasts (aka we eat there multiple times a week).

Recently, as my wife and I were in the midst of enduring the restaurant’s seemingly unconquerable line, I couldn’t help but notice how many people were on their phones. Regardless of whether they were with loved ones or braving the line solo, an overwhelming majority of people defaulted their attention to their phones rather than the people standing right next to them. Even when many people approached the front of the line to place their order, their attention was often still diverted between their phones and the people crafting their delicious burritos.

It drives me absolutely crazy when I observe this: people attempting to order food and coffee or purchase groceries while looking at or are even in the middle of a phone call. As someone who has worked in customer service for seven years, I can testify that there are not many ways to make someone in customer service feel less-than human than being on your phone while they’re trying to help you.

Unfortunately, as I’ve spent time with Christian friends, I’ve found that we as a whole don’t treat people in customer service any differently.

Observing this frustrating trend becoming more of a standard everywhere I go, I can’t help but wonder how Jesus would handle these situations.

Jesus at a Coffee Shop

I can just picture it.

Jesus rolls into a café one morning with his disciples. The baker’s dozen get in line behind a handful of people. A couple of the disciples are checking their iPhones for the tenth time in the last ten minutes to see if anyone new has liked their status update on Facebook—perhaps Facescroll. Of course James and John are going back-and-forth about whose Instagram picture of Jesus walking on water is better.

As the group approaches the front of the line, the barista greets Jesus, “Hi, how are you?” Before Jesus can answer, His phone begins to ring.

Let’s press pause.

What do you think He does? Does He ignore the ringing call or the barista standing three feet in front of Him? What if the call is important? What if Jairus is calling about His ill daughter?

Sure, the scenario may be humorous and exaggerated  but the principles behind the questions are similar: would Jesus ignore the very people standing momentarily in front of Him to attend to whatever alert or notification He received on His phone?

What Love Looks Like

The question boils down to how can we best love those around us?

In a letter of John’s, a disciple of Jesus, He stated: “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

According to John, to really love someone means to give up your life for other people, placing their needs and well-being above your own. Real love disregards that text message or SnapChat because there are other people standing in front of you with real names, real stories, and real souls worthy of real love.

I can’t help but think that, without losing eye contact with the barista, Jesus would click off His ring tone, and reply, “I’m good. How are you?”

My Summer Reading List

My Summer Reading List

Summer time often permits each of us extra free time than usual. Many choose to get ahead—or simply catch up on—reading. This summer, I’ll be attempting to read through each of these:

Faith

Craft

Leisure

Encouragement From Ephesians

Encouragement From Ephesians

These past few weeks, I’ve questioned myself a lot.

Up until recently, I’ve served and been a leader in ministry for nearly seven years, often in a vocational manner. Suddenly, I find myself serving coffee and delivering pizzas for a living (these are two different jobs for the record). In my limited view—perhaps my prideful soul may be indicted in this as well—my finite scope of life can sometimes prohibit me from viewing seasons similar to this as anything short of a step backward.

Questions like “who am I?” and “what the heck am I even doing with my life?” began flooding my thoughts. Have you ever felt or thought this way?

As I began thinking through this season of life, the Spirit made it evident that my joy in life was dependent on myself. My purpose in life was being defined by what I do rather than by what God already did through Jesus.

I decided to read through and meditate on Paul’s letter to the church in the city of Ephesus. While reading it, I sought to write down every single truth that God declares through Paul about who we are as Christians. I wrote the truths 1) in present tense to remind me that they are not foreign existential concepts but present-day realities and 2) in plural first-person to remind me that these truths are not solely about me but more importantly about we, God’s people.

Three pages of notes later, the letter was incredibly life-giving, holding over forty fantastic truths about who we are in Jesus.

If you’ve recently been confronted by a similar foe, I encourage you to read through these truths. Ask the Spirit to give you a richer understanding of what this means and a profound joy in God Who made it possible:

• We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms (1:3)

• We belong to Jesus (1:3, 6, 13, 2:13, 6:1)

• We are loved by God before He made the universe (1:4)

• We are chosen by God before the universe was made to be made holy in His eyes (1:4, 11)

• We are adopted into God’s very own family through Jesus (1:5 & 5:1)

• We are a great pleasure to God in our adoption (1:5)

• We are recipients of God’s kindness (1:6 & 2:7), most notably through what He did for us in Jesus

• We are spiritually free from the power and penalty of sin through the blood of Jesus (1:7)

• We are forgiven of all our failures because of the sin-atoning blood of Jesus (1:7)

• We are recipients of all wisdom and understanding (1:8), namely God’s emptive plan through Jesus (1:9 & 10)

• We are under the rule and authority of Jesus (1:10)

• We are recipients of an inheritance from God because of Jesus (1:11 & 18)

• We are hearers of the truth (1:13)

• We are saved by God (1:13 & 2:8)

• We are bearers of the actual Spirit of God (1:13), the guarantee that God will fulfill His promises

• We are God’s own people (1:14)

• We are given a future (1:18)

• We are the body of Jesus, filling everything everywhere with His presence (1:23, 2:16, & 4:6)

• We are made alive because of God’s great mercy in raising Jesus from the dead (2:4), giving us newness of life

• We are raised to life along with Jesus (2:6)

• We are seated with Jesus in the heavenly realms (2:6)

• We are one with Jesus (2:6)

• We are God’s masterpiece (2:10)

• We are recreated in Jesus (2:10)

• We are brought near to God because of the blood of Jesus (2:13)

• We are inhabitants and bearers of God’s peace (2:14-19) spiritually, racially, socially, etc (3:6 & 10)

• We are at peace with one another of all ethnic, racial, and class backgrounds (2:14-16)

• We are citizens of God’s holy community (2:19)

• We are God’s house (2:20)

• We are joined together, carefully becoming a temple for the Lord (2:21)

• We are a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit (2:22)

• We are free to enter God’s presence without fear because of Jesus (3:12)

• We are called to be holy (4:1)

• We are one body (4:4)

• We are filled with one Spirit (4:4)

• We are all called to a glorious future (4:4)

• We are each given specific gifts to bless and build up the local church (4:7, 12)

• We are becoming more and more like Jesus (4:15)

• We are each a unique and valuable part of God’s body (4:16)

• We are a new people (4:24)

• We are given a new nature (4:24)

• We are made in God’s likeness (4:24)

• We are full of light from the Lord (5:8)

• We are being cared for by Jesus (5:29 & 30)