Vetting Movies through Entertainment Standards

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This last semester, I had to write a movie analysis for my Small Group Communication college class. To my surprise, the pre-approved movies had “R” or “PG-13” ratings. A mature-rated movie was not necessary as any movie featuring a leader would suffice. I was shocked that my Christian university would only suggest graphic movies. After researching the PG-13 movies, I quickly determined that their graphic content violated my entertainment standards. Thankfully, I was able to choose a different movie with my instructor’s approval.

I think my university selected these movies because their students are adults, and supposedly adults should be able to handle “PG-13” and “R” rated movies. According to our culture, it is suddenly appropriate to watch graphic movies upon turning eighteen. For some reason, I think that people feel more grown up when they watch movies with graphic content. However, watching “R” or “M” rated movies does not make someone more of an adult. Rather, vetting entertainment choices and setting personal boundaries makes a person more mature.

I’m not saying that we should judge movies just based on their official rating. I think that everyone (once they reach an appropriate age) should see The Passion of the Christ and Unplanned, both of which have an “R” rating. I’ve also learned a lot from anti-sex trafficking documentaries which are worthy of an “R” rating.

Each movie must be judged on an individual basis. I have a basic rule for determining if I will watch movies with graphic content. I carefully avoid movies that use gratuitous content just for shock value, but I will consider viewing movies that contain graphic content if they are recounting a historical event or exposing a real-world issue. These movies have a purpose for their graphic content beyond just hooking the viewer.

Everyone is responsible for setting their own standards in alignment with their moral convictions. Christians should study the Bible and make entertainment choices based on Biblical principles. Whether or not someone is a believer, they are responsible for determining their own standards, then standing firm on those standards.

Don’t ever be afraid to stand by your standards. When I have rejected movies due to questionable content, I have been pleasantly surprised at how supportive people were of my decisions. But even if people are not supportive, it’s their problem, not yours. Protecting our minds from toxic content is always worth the extra effort and the risk of being rejected by the people around us.

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My Change of Opinion on Birth Control

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Because I am currently single and saving sex for marriage, I have absolutely no need for birth control. But I am learning about birth control because I believe it is important for women to understand contraception before they have to choose for themselves if they will use it. Women will make better choices if they have time to research before they are under pressure to decide.

I have always been under the mindset that once married, I would probably use birth control. This seems like the obvious course of action. After all, doesn’t every woman use birth control at some point in her life? While I have always believed that any kind of birth control that may cause an abortion is evil, I didn’t see anything wrong or dangerous about birth control itself.

In my musings about family planning, the Duggar family would always come to mind. Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar do not use any kind of birth control. It appears that their married children have followed in their footsteps. The Duggar family has nineteen biological children, and most of the married Duggar children had a baby within their first year of marriage. I admire the Duggar family, but the thought of having nineteen children or having a child within the first year of marriage is scary to me. This is probably why I thought I would use birth control once married.

However, I recently discovered information that changed my opinion on birth control. Even though most people support birth control, it is dangerous to blindly accept society’s approval of contraception. After all, there are always at least two sides to every issue. Birth control is actively promoted in our society. But just because “everyone” supports something does not guarantee that it is the correct course of action. Rather than following the crowd, everyone should do their own research and develop their own educated opinion.

Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director, gave an intriguing speech on birth control that reformed my perspective. As a former Planned Parenthood director, she actively promoted birth control, but now her beliefs have completely changed. While I could write more about Abby’s speech, I couldn’t possibly convey her incredible message in this short blog post. She skillfully weaves facts about birth control into her own story. Abby is a hysterical, engaging, and honest speaker. Whether birth control is something you are actively considering, or it has never crossed your mind, I highly recommend watching this speech.

Here is the link:

Abby Johnson speaks up about birth control

In case the link does not work for you, the speech is titled, “Abby Johnson speaks up about contraception” and is on the YouTube channel Natural Womanhood.

God’s Sunlight – Our Key to Emotional Peace

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As a loving Father, God wants His children to experience emotional peace and mental soundness. The key to this emotional peace is found in the Bible. Because God’s Word is deep and rich, we can continually mine from it and discover new truths that impact our lives. Psalm 84:11 is one such verse that holds unending power. It says, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold form those who walk uprightly.” Because this verse reveals that the Lord is our sun, we can enjoy all the different benefits of the sun in our emotional health.

The sun brings cheerfulness.

As an Arizonan, I quickly tire of gloomy, overcast days. When the sun is shining, the world seems to be a more welcoming place. Even a challenging day seems easier when the sun is fully present. Thankfully, as Christians we do not have to depend on the physical sun or our natural circumstances for our daily joy. As Psalm 84:11 points out, God is our sun, and He is with us no matter where we go. As we live in God’s light, we will naturally display God’s joy to the people around us. Just as the character Pig Pen in Peanuts affects everyone around him, we can affect people with our aura. Because God’s light is our emotional stability, it can shield us from depression and negative emotions.

The sun provides comfort.

Alongside light, the sun also gives the physical sensation of warmth, an absolute necessity for both a comfortable existence and survival. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is our comforter. Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”  Everyone loves warm hugs, and God gives the best warm embraces. We should not hide from God’s light; we should embrace it! When we surrender to His light, we will find rest in His mighty arms.

The sun cleanses the dark places.

Tourists on a sunny beach do not hunker down in their hotel rooms: they bask in the sun. We can be honest and vulnerable in God’s presence because His light is not destructive. Rather, it illuminates the dark places in our lives which He wants to mend and transform. God’s love melts away the ice that has encased our hearts, giving us peace, tenderness, and restoration. His love destroys the vices that have kept us in bondage, our own worst conditions and character flaws. Our loving Father will not leave us in the dark. Rather, He wants us to experience and live in the comfort and warmth of His love. He does not greet us with condemnation, but rather the opportunity to repent and be made new.

Because God is our sun, we do not have to live in the emotional darkness of anxiety, depression, worry, and grief. When we stay close to God, He will blast away our darkness with the light of His love. All we have to do to enjoy this love is simply bask in God’s warm, welcoming presence. Even when we do not feel loved, we can rest assured knowing that God’s love is endlessly shining down on us.

Cast Your Burdens on God Because He Is Your Dad

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As a child, I had a serious addiction: quarter vending machines. I now realize that these machines’ prizes are not actually worth a quarter, but a decade ago I adored them. My parents would generously take me to the store just for the quarter machines. The little things in life can bring a surprising amount of pleasure, like the killer collection of bouncy balls and animal pencil toppers that I accumulated.

The only problem with a quarter machine addiction is it requires an ample reserve of quarters. As a little kid, I always wanted to have all my quarters available in case we ran across a quarter machine, but I did not want to lug around my ultra-heavy sparkly purple purse. So what did I do? I took advantage of my generous parents and cast my purse onto them to carry.

I felt no hesitation whatsoever to throw my heavy burden onto my parents. Why? Because I know that they love me unconditionally and want to help me.

This carefree casting of a weighty burden reminds me of our relationship with God.  1 Peter 5:7 tells us that we should be casting all our cares upon God because He cares for us. In Romans 8:15, Paul tells believers that God has given us an invitation to call Him Father. And as a loving Father, God wants to care for us and take our burdens away from us. God was not forced to become our Father. According to 2 Thessalonians 2:13, He willingly chose to adopt us, paying the ultimate price for our redemption. He was not pressured into saving us, but rather joyfully chooses to love us.

We can boldly approach the throne of grace just like a little kid approaches their parents when they want something. We do not need to analyze our request to ensure that it is important enough for our Father’s attention. He has ample time and attention, enough to number the hairs on our heads (Luke 12:6-7). As frivolous as it sounds, He even has the time and attention to keep track of all the birds in every corner of the planet (Luke 12:6-7). God cares enough about His creation to be intimately involved. If God cares enough to track all the birds, don’t you think He cares enough about us to keep track of our lives?

Jesus paints a beautiful picture of Him carrying our burdens in Matthew 11:28-30 when He says “Come to Me, all [you] who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke [is] easy and My burden is light.” God’s goodness extends beyond just taking our burdens off our shoulders. He exchanges our burdens with blessings. Psalm 68:19 says that God daily loads us with benefits. God’s overabundant love is shown in His extravagant care for us.

When I am weighed down by the burdens of adult life, I should remember the carefree kid version of myself. Back then, I had no problem thrusting my problems onto my parents. Now that I am an adult, I should willingly cast my cares onto God, who loves me and cares for me. After all, God never expects us to handle our burdens because He knows that only He is strong enough to make our heavy cares light.

God’s Sunshine Illuminates Our Path

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The Bible is full of rich revelations just waiting for our discovery. One day, I realized that I had overlooked the power in Psalm 84:11, which says, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold form those who walk uprightly.” While the entire verse is amazing, one phrase jumped out to me: “the Lord is a sun”. It is so easy to speed read over this powerful phrase, but when we stop to meditate, we realize the importance it can hold in our lives. After all, the sun holds many different aspects that we often take for granted….   

Guidance 

My least favorite part of the day is when my alarm clock goes off before the sun is up. It’s not so much the getting up that stinks, but rather stumbling around in the dark trying to find the light switch. We realize how much we need light in our daily lives when we try to function without it for a few minutes. Thankfully, God’s light prevents us from stumbling around in life. When we seek His direction, He shows us where to go and what to do. According to Psalm 119:105, God shows us the way through the light of His Word, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Protection 

We live in an undeniably dark world. But because the sun constantly resides within us, we do not have to be afraid. In fact, the light that we carry can make the world a little less dark. Because God’s light surrounds us, we do not ever have to be afraid. As Psalm 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Light protects us from danger. It gives us guidance in life, showing us which decisions may lead to danger in the future. In Proverbs 4:18-19 God promises to guide the righteous, but hinder the wicked, saying, “but the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto perfect day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know what makes them stumble.”  

Clarity 

God’s light not only protects us from dangerous situations; it also clarifies confusing issues. God’s light dispels the murkiness of confusion in both our personal lives and the church. This clarity provides clarity amid a confusing world. As 1 Corinthians 14:33 says, “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” In John 11:9-10, Jesus tells His disciples that if they walk in the light, then they will not stumble around in the murkiness. When we do not know what to do or what to think, we can depend on God’s peace to give us clarity in the confusion.   

Best of all, we can share these attributes of the sun with the people around us! The sun in us is bright and noticeable. It is our testimony of what God has done and is doing in our lives. Jesus says in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” It is impossible to hide the physical sun; thus we should never cover up the sun in ourselves. We did not light ourselves. Rather, God sparked our candle so that we might reflect Him in the world. As we follow God’s light on our path, we can lead others in the way of life.  

Rebirthing – Precisely What We Need

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Oftentimes psychology perceives man’s deepest needs but fails to provide sufficient solutions to the problems. I discovered an example of this last year during my college psychology course. As I was reading the textbook, I stumbled upon a fascinating, yet troubling, psychotherapy treatment called “rebirthing”. My textbook briefly defined the steps of rebirthing as, “Reenacting your own birth, screaming, having body parts manipulated” (1). Supposedly, this treatment is supposed to, “promote attachment and reduce traumas remaining from birth,” (1). The textbook also mentioned that this treatment is not considered to be scientifically sound.  

Although very controversial, rebirthing is common enough to gain the attention of large organizations like the National Center for Biotechnology Information and WebMD.  

At its best, rebirthing seems strange and nonsensical. At its worse, it is deadly. A ten year old girl died of asphyxiation after a 70 minute brutal session of rebirthing therapy where her therapists tried to simulate the birth experience. (2)  

While this treatment seems to be causing more harm than good, it is attempting to address a fundamental human need. We all need a fresh start.  

While reenacting one’s own birth is completely ineffective, there is a way to become completely brand new, irrespective of age. But this solution is not mental – it is spiritual. God recognized our need to be made new when He sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins.  

In the Gospels, Jesus even uses the terminology “born again” to describe the drastic transformation He offers all people. In John chapter three, Jesus is approached by a leader of the Jews named Nicodemus. Nicodemus wants to know more about Jesus and the way to salvation. Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3:3 that, “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus, startled, argues that no one can literally be born again. Jesus responds in John 3:5, saying, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus was obviously not talking about physical rebirth, but a spiritual renewal. 

Rebirthing treatment is addressing one of the most fundamental needs of human beings – the need to be made new. In a way, psychotherapists have realized a fundamental truth that we have known for thousands of years. We really do need to be born again. We need to completely eradicate the scum of our old man and become a new creation as 1 Corinthians 5:17 says. While psychology may have recognized the issue, only Jesus can give people the chance to be born again. Psychology was on track in theory but mistaken in method. Nothing in this natural world can bring about a new start. Only spiritual transformation through Jesus can make people new.  

 

References  

1) Grison, S., Heatherton, T., & Gazzaniga, M. (2017). Psychology in your life (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Norton Publishing. 

2) Josefson, D. (2001). Rebirthing therapy banned after girl died in 70 minute struggle. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1174742/ 

The Spiritual Aspect of Caring for Our Bodies

vegetables-1085063_1920.jpgEating healthy is no easy task. America’s obesity rates prove that our culture is opposed to healthy eating and self-control. According to the CDC, 71.6% of American adults aged 20 and over are overweight or obese. Food has become an idol. Obviously, the numerous diet solutions, campaigns, and weight loss surgeries have not resulted in substantial, lasting change. Sticking with any diet plan is incredibly difficult in an adversarial culture. Thankfully, God cares deeply about our daily concerns and struggles, like taking care of our bodies. The Bible contains powerful truths that can embolden us to push against the culture of unhealthy eating and practice self-control in our eating habits.

  • Food does not offer true comfort.

Romans 14:17 tells us that, “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Unfortunately, people often use food for comfort instead of depending on God’s peace. Calorie and fat laden foods are literally called “comfort foods”. We often seek emotional energy and strength from food, even when we have consumed sufficient calories. Our quest to attain emotional peace from food will never result in long term satisfaction. If we continue a habit of stress eating, the long term consequences will be downright dangerous. Thankfully, we do not have to count on food for comfort or energy. In John 14:27, Jesus promises His followers an incredible gift: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Unlike comfort foods, Jesus’ peace is everlasting and does not include weight gain.

  • Discipline equals long term rewards.

Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening–it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” (NLT) Resisting treats is never fun, but the end result is always worth the temporary discomfort. Programs like Weight Watchers fail because they mistakenly attempt to eliminate the discomfort associated with losing weight. After one of my friends signed up for Weight Watchers, I walked into her kitchen to see packs of chocolate chip cookies and cheese puffs, all bearing the Weight Watchers label. Everything included in the Weight Watchers bundle was highly processed. In an effort to make shedding pounds painless, Weight Watchers is missing the point. With portion control and a regimented plan, it is possible to lose weight eating processed foods, but this deprives the body of essential nutrients that are only found in fresh foods. Taking care of our bodies and eating nutritious foods can be difficult and time consuming, but the rewards of a healthy body and sharp mind will save us time (and hospital bills) down the road.

  • Avoid temptation.

Romans 13:14 says, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” To put this in modern day language, if there are Oreos in your home, than you will eat Oreos. Self-control consists primarily of establishing boundaries before temptations arise. Having a plan enables us to say no as soon as the temptation arises. During my year of being seventeen, I did not eat desserts or candy. Knowing that sweets were off limits before I attended events or celebrations empowered me to resist the temptation when the dessert table came into sight. Having a plan is essential to sustaining self-discipline. Creating boundaries for ourselves before encountering the temptation strengthens our self-control in the heat of the moment.

We are not alone in the fight to protect and nourish our bodies. God knows that we need strength outside of conventional wisdom and common sense. God’s word not only provides spiritual wisdom, it also gives us practical advice to handle our daily issues like eating. Jesus knows our weaknesses and has provided strength to overcome our own bad habits. The Bible’s spiritual truths are the best guide for navigating all of life’s decisions, including how we should care for our bodies.