What is Good, True and Beautiful

What is Good, True and Beautiful

In times of cynicism, banality, negativity and outrage there are two kinds of people. There are those who race to the bottom and make things worse. Then, there are those who elevate the cultural conversation and take action.

A few bad actors don’t make an entire group of people bad.

Don’t judge a philosophy by its misuse.

What is meant for good can be used for evil and vice versa.

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.

Worldview matters. A vital key to understanding reality is to know what is good, what is true and what is beautiful. Only when we know those core essentials can we create a vision of restoration and act on it.  C.S. Lewis said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”

Engage reality – create solutions, combat evil, restore people and relationships.

Ask these four questions

1. What is good you can celebrate?

2. What is missing you can contribute or create?

3. What is evil you can stop?

4. What is broken you can restore?

Develop these three life skills

  • Wisdom (the art of living well in light of objective truth – in community, in our cultural moment)
  • Discernment (identifying the nature of things – good or evil)
  • Moral Courage (the will to stand for what is good, true and beautiful)

Goodness, truth and beauty find their source in God. When you look at a world in crisis, ask yourself; What is Good, True and Beautiful?  When you experience brokenness,  understand that it’s not supposed to be this way.  Ask the four questions before racing to the bottom.

Elevate the conversation and respond with your heart set on restoration.

Practice – Training 

Next time you sit with your family for dinner, ask each person to share something good, true and beautiful they’ve experienced today.  Challenge them to focus on these things over the next week – to see their reality differently.  When we know what is good, true and beautiful – we can frame solutions to all the bad stuff and negativity in our world. Our ministry is based on a good, true and beautiful God.  Its from that foundation that we deal with sin, brokenness, evil and pain.  Our mission is reconciliation and restoration.

*Note: The ideas in this post flow from Colson Fellows course study and talks given by John Stonestreet (Colson Center).  I am thankful for those who stir the hearts and minds of men to think carefully in our culture.


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PSA: How Deep Fake (AI) could turn your child’s photos into virtual porn

PSA: How Deep Fake (AI) could turn your child’s photos into virtual porn

Can I have your undivided attention for 8 minutes?

Can you really believe in what you see?  Did you ever think you could be the star in every Leonardo DiCaprio film?  Now you can!  It’s called ‘Deepfake‘ AI technology. Rather than trying to explain the technology, just click play on the video below. Posted by Allen Xia on Twitter, he uses an AI app called Zao to superimpose his face on Leo’s body in various movie scenes. Generated in under 8 seconds, this video uses a thumbnail photo of Allan.

 

The Situation

Having viewed the video above, imagine the face of your child superimposed on to someone else’s body using AI technology.  The scenes are made against their will and beyond your knowledge for the benefit of those who exploit and harm children.  DeepFake AI technology can be used to create images and videos by those who wish to bully, blackmail, exploit, entrap, or groom our children.  This is the worst kind of identity theft.

The Reality

Artificial Intelligence commonly referred to as ‘AI’ is quickly transforming from a sci-fi fantasy into a current reality.  It will impact every human-being on the planet.  AI is a powerful technological tool. Will it be for good or evil, for benefit or detriment?  We don’t know yet.  However, law enforcement is concerned, the Federal Government is concerned, nonprofits and NGOs are concerned.  Should parents be concerned?  The answer is ‘yes!’

Proper Concern

As many of you know, I advocate for internet safety and vigilance when dealing with these new forms of technology. In particular, understanding how our children (minors) interface with smartphones, internet capable devices and social media is vital.  In addition, we must understand and address their vulnerabilities and our responsibilities on an ongoing basis.  We must understand threats and risks of offering this powerful communication portal into their lives to early for the wrong reasons.  These technologies are changing us as humans.  But, that discussion is for another time.

My family practices internet safety by limiting where my wife and I post photos of our children on Social Media. We ask the same of the rest of our family.  In doing so, we raise awareness of the risks in our community.

Addressing Risks

Having served for 3 years on the leadership team of the 5 Stones Anti-Trafficking Taskforce under the Ft. Worth Police Department, I am well versed in the child exploitation and trafficking space. Smartphones, unlimited internet access and Social Media platforms can be a risky if not deadly for our children. If this frightens you, it should. I’ve seen dozens of cases where children are being exploited online by bullies and pimps. The children come from every demographic, ethnicity, socioeconomic sphere, all ages and every neighborhood.  Exploitation is not limited by borders or wealth (see Jeffery Epstein or visit your local law enforcement officer).  We know the risks of sharing data and photos online.  We know the risks of devices in the hands of children.  Heck, I have a hard time putting down my smartphone.

We need a paradigm shift in our thinking.  Parents must lock arms and unite against technology’s ability to allure our children (and us).

Accurate Perspective

Imagine posting a public photo of your child the same way you see an advertisement on a public billboard. You are putting your prize possession on display for the world to see. With the current advances in AI technology (DeepFake), someone you don’t even know can transform an innocent image of YOUR child into a degrading and disgusting pornographic film by superimposing your child’s face onto a video image. By the time you discover the exploitation, its too late. Thousands of perverts, traffickers, sex-buyers and criminals will have viewed the video. Videos spread on the dark web and in private chat rooms where they are bought and sold. There is nothing you can do except prepare to deal with your child’s lifelong trauma.

Imagine your child on an auction block to be sold.  In short, this is happening on the dark web and social media sites.  But, you can mitigate the risks.  You are the solution.  You can be a hero for your child.  It will require GRIT and discipline on your part as you talk with your children and partner with them as they grow older and demonstrate responsibility. Encourage them to lead in the family and school.

Solutions: Be Vigilant not afraid

  • Be aware of what you post online.
  • Be careful to post using proper privacy settings when using Social Media.
  • Use internet filters and monitors on your child’s devices for school and home use
  • Consider delaying giving your child a personal smartphone  until 16-17yrs old (depending on their maturity and responsibility).
  • Here are other devices that can be used for safety until they reach age of responsibility
  • Older Kids: The child pays for the phone (responsibility), the parents control the data plan (accountability).
  • Never allow a minor child to be on the internet alone, at night in their rooms.
  • Know the access code to your child’s devices and perform random searches with their full knowledge. Talk about it.
  • Talk to them about the dangers of exploitations.
  • I-Empathize curriculum for 12 and over: www.iempathize.org
  • Model healthy interactions and teach them the warning signs of online grooming and exploitation
  • Gather like-minded community to get trained in online safety: Local Law Enforcement and DHS often have trainings
  • This is what our community did to start the conversation: www.traffickingstartshere.com
  • Learn how pornography affects the brain, the heart and world: www.fightthenewdrug.org
  • Need further help – feel free to contact me or comment below

 


Additional Resources:

TECHNOLOGY AND CHILDREN
TECHNOLOGY AND CHRISTIANITY

TECHNOLOGY AND AI NEWS:


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It’s always an inside job

It’s always an inside job

I used to think that Facebook was my problem. 

Surfing the newsfeed experiencing a new emotion with every little swipe of my thumb, I’d get a little hit of dopamine.  It felt great in the moment.  

Over time I recognized that I had a problem. So, when I went overseas in August I deactivated my Facebook account and did not re-activate until nearly two months later.  At present, I rarely check the platform.  Yesterday, I logged in for the first time in a week to check messages and I decided to scroll the timeline.  Not much has changed.  I got bored after about 5 minutes and went on about my afternoon.  Addiction defeated, problem solved right?

Last night I was alone at the ranch while Kat and the kids were at her folk’s house. Usually, I’d be outside doing something but the weather was nasty.  So, I was stuck inside the house.   I had some choices to make.  I could watch a movie, I could catch up on news on my iPhone or I could sit down and try to finish a book called “Hearing the Spirit” by Christopher Ash.  All decent options.

I rarely watch TV, so I crossed watching a movie off my list easily, no problem.  I scrolled the news and read the paper earlier in the day.  No need to do that.  Reading a book was the most profitable activity I could do as the day drew to an end.  Simple enough.  Let’s read!  I prepared to sit and read for an hour before going to bed.

At some point between making a hot cup of Rooibos tea, sitting in my easy chair and opening my book, I picked up my iPhone to check on the weather. Then, I began reading the news. 

The battle was on! 

I realized that the instant gratification and the dopamine release of scanning news on my smartphone had won over the delayed gratification and long-term benefit of reading a book.  Like a naughty child, I took the culprit (my iPhone) to the other room and put it down.  Problem solved!

I went back to my comfy chair and picked up my book.  Then, I thought, “What if Kat calls with an emergency?”  My phone is in the other room, I’d miss the call.  I’d better keep it with me while I read.  I got up and retrieved my iPhone from timeout.  In the short walk from the other room where the phone had been to my chair, I decided to check the weather again.  After all the wind was howling and it may freeze tonight.  A few moments later, I was watching a news video on some media channel.  I had been ambushed!  It was an inside job!

It’s always an inside job!

My problem isn’t my iPhone or Facebook or Apple News.  My problem is my heart.  If I am honest, the dominant characteristics of my desires are worldly.  Yes, I have a few Godly desires.  But the shimmering allure and distractions of the world draw me away from God.  There is nothing wrong with smartphones, social media or reading the news.  However, when self-centered passions, instant gratification and ruling desires overshadow my desire to know God, my life becomes disordered and worldly in nature.

Worldliness is being devoted to affairs, activities and concerns of temporal existence over our spiritual lives.  A life rooted in worldliness leads to emptiness, frustration and sadness.

As I prepared to pray this morning, I was lead to James 4 (Warning Against Worldliness).  I read the passage and something changed.  A light clicked on in an old forgotten room of my heart.

Worldliness and disorder ooze their way into our prayer life like an infection.  We know the passage; “You have not because you ask not…”  I hear many Christians (myself included) throw it in conversation or prayer when a need arises.  In response, we say, “Amen and Amen!” 

Is that what James 4 is about?  We don’t have because we don’t ask? 

You ask and do not receive, because you ask WRONGLY, to spend it on your passions.” 

James 4:2b-3 ESV

We ask wrongly for the wrong things because we have yielded our hears to worldly passions.  Therefore, our disordered prayers are rooted in worldly desires deep in our hearts dressed up in a veneer of “Christian lingo” and out of context Bible passages.  God does not answer prayers that run counter to His nature and His revealed will in scripture.

Why do I pray for more stuff in my life to distract me from God?  Because I’ve allowed worldly desires to ambush my pursuit of God.

How worldly is your prayer life?


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Hashtag Culture – A better way

Hashtag Culture – A better way

When something bad happens, you will see #hashtags rise like bubbles in a glass of soda.

Today, the path of least resistance is to get emotional, post a hashtag and move on. There is no follow through.  There is no justice.

Hashtags can be detrimental to a cause if used improperly
When influential people, particularly political types begin using hashtag and memes, it communicates that someone is actually doing something about a problem. The problem is nothing is actually done.  It gives the appearance of action without any substantive action.

In 2014, the terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped 300 girls from their boarding school in Nigeria.  Famously, the “Chibok Girls” became known around the world. It appears everyone was speaking out and demanding their freedom. This is a healthy response to injustice.

A few weeks later, like the bubbles in the glass of soda – the outrage and hashtags vanished.

What ended up happening?
Essentially nothing. Boko Haram, the media and others exploited the girls. Were they released? Nope. Four years later, over 200 girls are languishing in the hands of terrorists. In addition, Boko Haram is holding hundreds of other children captive that are not counted with the Chibok Girls. What about them? Where is their hashtag?

The problem with a “#hashtag” movement is that it is all about emotion, it contains no plan and no perseverance. There is no real commitment because the hashtag itself is transient and short-lived by design.

Hashtags are created to trend on social media until they are knocked off the top by other trendier hashtags.

Not all hashtags are bad. However, if you want to create a movement, don’t make the hashtag the main driver. A hashtag is a spark.

If you want to drive cultural change or advocate for the freedom of the Chibok Girls, you better have a ton of fuel to keep the fire burning until the objective is realized. It may take months or years. Nothing good comes easy. How committed are you?

A better way:

Build your tribe, plan your mission and pursue your cause relentlessly. When you’ve made some decent progress, add a hashtag.

 

Note regarding image: I believe First Lady Michelle Obama’s response to the kidnapping of the Chibok Girls in 2014 was a healthy and good response to this injustice.  However, it indicated something was being done at the top of the international power structure.  We all failed to follow through in fighting for their freedom.


Read previous post: Generational dysfunction how we can use stories
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Generational dysfunction how we can use stories

Generational dysfunction how we can use stories

Generational dysfunction begets generational dysfunction, until the cycle is broken.  This is not relatively true it is empirically true across cultures.
Politics and economics are downstream from culture. They are lagging indicators.

To affect culture, people use stories. Some of those stories are true and some are untrue. Stories and narratives tell us what to believe and why.  Finally, stories generate culture at the leading edge of culture.

We must tell true stories to combat lies.

Stories we tell will determine the future of our culture and whether or not the cycle of generational dysfunction continues.

Resource: Nate Wilson – Storytelling and ‘the Aroma of the Gospel’

Three strikes and you’re NOT out – comeback from failure

Three strikes and you’re NOT out – comeback from failure

In his book on leadership Lieutenant General Hal Moore said,

In the game of baseball, three strikes and you’re out. Not so in the game of life. Three strikes and you’re NOT out.”

I can tell you from personal experience that “failure” properly understood is a set up for a comeback.  When we fail, we tend to give up.  But, is “giving up” the right thing to do when we strike out?

You only strike out when you decide to give up on yourself.

15 years ago, I gave up on myself. I was at the end of my rope after living a selfish and self-destructive life. I had decided that I had struck out, my life was over. Years prior to meeting my wife, I had been a willing participant in the abortion of my own child. I was a liar, used people and I turned to drugs and alcohol to sandbag the shame and pain. I was one step away from quitting. I believed the only way out of my despicable life – was death.

I believed that everyone had given up on me, I was living a lie, I had nothing good to offer and I had given up on myself. It was over – I could hear the umpire shouting, “Strike three, you’re out!”

Early one morning in 2003, I had descended into the darkest moment in my life. I saw death as the only way out.  However, in a blink of an eye, I was reminded that someone very important had not given up on me.

God – He hadn’t given up on me. In fact, he loved me and could transform the destruction and chaos of my life for good. In the midst of darkness there was a point of pure light – that light was hope. And like a lifeline from heaven, I held fast to that tiny glimmer of hope and God pulled me out of the dark tempest and set my feet on solid ground.

God reminded me that I was far from being out of the game. He gave me more hope. I could be forgiven. I could be used by God. A murderer could be transformed into a missionary.

“Three strikes and you are NOT out!”

15 years later, I have learned to boldly step up to the plate and swing for the fences because I am a redeemed and restored child of God. He loves me and wants me in the game. Why else would he send his only son to die for a wretch like me?

John 21 is my favorite chapter in the entire Bible. Previously, Peter had denied Christ three times before his crucifixion. Peter believed he had struck out as a failure. This wasn’t true. The risen Christ called Peter to himself and restored him and affirmed him. He put him on mission. “Three strikes and you’re NOT out Peter … Follow me.” And Peter did and we can too.  Peter’s failure was a set up for a historical comeback!

What does this mean?

It means It’s not too late. Jesus Christ invites us into a personal relationship with him that has NOTHING to do with our past, present or future performance. In the final analysis, It has everything to do with accepting his grace gift, trusting him and following him. When you blow it in life, remember three strikes and you’re NOT out.

  • How do you feel about people who have failed, including yourself?
  • How do you think God feels about people who fail?  The Bible is full of human heroes who failed.
  • Do you desire to get up to bat and take a few swings?

In closing, I want you to take some swings and so does God. He is the God of second, third and forth chances.

Forget what the world and culture say about failure. God will not be mocked. Ask Jesus into your life. Trust what he did for you on the cross. Believe that he can transform and renew you. He will enable you to swing for the fences in his game for his glory.

God has a plan and a purpose for your life no matter how you have failed. Get off the bench and get into the batter’s box and take a swing for God’s sake!

Want to watch a message by one of our team on this subject?

Link: “It’s not too late” – Dr. Cody McQueen


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