Martin Luther King Jr.’s challenge to the church today

Martin Luther King Jr.’s challenge to the church today

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” continues to be relevant in our cultural moment. His words challenge the church to embrace it’s full purpose. The extent to which the Gospel of the Kingdom is proclaimed and integrated into the life of the church is the extent to which the church is relevant and effective in society.

The quiescent church is the gateway to injustice, brokenness and disorder. The witness of the church should be felt throughout the culture as the Gospel message empowers believers to pursue justice and reconciliation, serve the needy, create beauty and restore what is broken.  The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin transforms the believer.  This Gospel, rightly lived out will teach, sanctify and transform the society in which believers dwell.  It will be distinctly ‘sacrificial’, restorative and bold in its expression.

Martin Luther King Jr. operated from a distinctly Christian worldview.  It informed his purpose, his view of reality and drove his behavior.  This nation has benefited from his worldview and his actions.  His challenge to the church echoes today.  Dr. King knew what he was about.  Do you know what you are about?

We know what our salvation saved us from (eternal separation from God’s presence, goodness and joy).

But a better question is;

What is our salvation for?

[Put another way, what is the purpose of our salvation?]

Read: Martin Luther King Jr. ‘Letter From Birmingham Jail’


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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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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.


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Father and son – A Voice in the Darkness

Father and son – A Voice in the Darkness

Last weekend, I took my 9 year old son (Nelson) for an overnight camping adventure at our ranch.

I had three objectives. First, to invest time into my son’s life. Second, teach him practical outdoor skills while feeding his sense of adventure. Third, each activity was designed to point him toward authentic manhood. All the while, pushing him outside his comfort zone surrounded by God’s amazing creation.

Upon arrival, I gave him a gift. It was a small field med-pack with a headlamp (red light), a striker, one chem-light (aka: glow-stick for all you ravers), a multi-tool, a small LED light to illuminate the inside the bag at night, a zip-lock with several cotton balls soaked in Vasaline petroleum jelly, a small first aid kit, a wrist compass and a two-way radio. I instructed him to keep the pack with him at all times.

Before sunset, our first lesson was to learn how to start a fire without conventional ignition, like matches or lighters. We gathered rocks, tinder and wood. Then I demonstrated how to ignite a tinder ball using a striker and a cotton ball covered in Vasaline.  Nelson practiced a few times before dinner.

Night came and temperatures fell. Stars filled the clear sky. Nighttime noises in the country surrounded us – crickets, frogs, locusts, owls and coyotes

We dawned our packs and made our way down to the pasture gate in the darkness. I instructed him to turn on his red-light head-lamp and close the pasture gate behind him. I prayed and read Bible passages about loyalty, leadership and humility over him. We turned on our two-way radios and tested our comms. Loud and clear.

“What are we going to do, dad?” he asked with a great deal of uncertainty.

As I put the compass on his wrist, I said, “Son, I am going to walk 250 yards down the path. You will stay here until I call on the radio. When I call, you will begin walking on a southwest heading, keeping on the path. Do not wonder off the path. As you know, there are cactus, snakes and trip hazards out here.” I continued, “Down the hill, there is a tree with a green chem-light hanging in it. I will meet you there.”

Coyotes were howling all around and the moon was not quite high enough to give much light. The red headlamp only emits enough light to illuminate the ground a few feet in front of you.

With his voice a little shaky, he uttered the words I expected, “Dad, I’m a little scared.”

I replied, “Son, there is nothing to be afraid of – this is just a new environment for you.”

I continued, “You have your radio and red light. You will be able to hear my voice and talk to me on the radio. You won’t be able to see me. But, I will be able to see you. Stay on the path, use your radio and your compass. I’ll meet you in a few minutes at the tree. I love you.” I shut off my headlamp and made my way into the darkness.

You will be able to hear my voice and talk to me on the radio. You won’t be able to see me. But, I will be able to see you.

When I arrived at the tree, I made the radio call to Nelson. I could see his red light up the hill begin to move toward my position. He radioed that he was still afraid. I encouraged him to keep walking down the hill. “I can see you. You are doing a great job son. Keep going!”

As he approached our meeting point under the tree, he couldn’t see me in the darkness. So, I called out to him without the radio. Nelson trotted over to me. He was so excited, I was too. Hive-fives and hugs around the board. I congratulated him and read Bible passages on purity, honesty and self-discipline to him.

After a drink of water and another radio check, I told him we had a second objective – further into the pasture. The terrain is rocky with a little creek running through it. There would be another tree with a chem-light hanging in it. I walked ahead into the dark to the meeting place and called him over the radio to begin walking. He could hear my voice but couldn’t see me. But, I could see him.

He arrived at the tree excited and confident. I instructed him to take off his pack, get out his striker and fuel. “Are we going to start a fire here?” he asked. I replied laughing, “YOU are going to start a fire!” We cleared a small space and he gathered tinder. With minimal guidance from me, he assembled a small bundle and put the petroleum jelly soaked cotton ball in the center. After several minutes of failed attempts, he produced a giant spark that landed in the center of the bundle. We had fire!  The boy had built his first fire.  I could see his self-confidence and satisfaction on his face.

As we hovered over the tiny flames, I read scripture about excellence, integrity and perseverance over him and I prayed. He was so excited. We put out the tiny fire, put on our packs and headed back to the pasture gate where we had begun.

This time Nelson would lead the way and I would follow. We talked and laughed as we walked in the darkness. Looking forward to building a camp fire and roasting some marshmallows. We would sleep beneath a blanked of stars.  Nelson had conquered fear, learned something about listening to the father’s voice in the darkness and learned perseverance through fear and adversity.

 

Further consideration…

Maybe you are in the darkness right now. The darkness can be a dreadful place. However, our heavenly father can see us and we can hear his voice in darkest night. You can call out to him. He will answer.

Special Note: The ideas for this activity with my son originated with a book called “Raising a Modern-Day Knight” by Robert Lewis and operations with Ironcenturion. Thanks guys for your creativity and leadership.


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A message for men that you don’t want to hear

A message for men that you don’t want to hear

Note: I’ll be the first to admit my own responsibility for being a part of the problem in the past. I’m lovingly, yet sternly challenging you to read and consider what I am saying. After thoughtful consideration (perhaps 24-48 hours), if you disagree – that is fine. Articulate your disagreement if you like.  Emoting is a sign of immaturity and my response will call out immaturity.  If that causes a bit of anger to well up in your little heart, so be it.  You need to learn to deal with anger and this conversation is not for you – yet.

Boys are crying out for help!

Over the last 50 years, our moral revolution has attacked the sanctity of human life, destroyed the family and diminished the father’s role in society. So, males are nothing more than animals that have sex at will with whomever they want, pursue immediate gratification and comfort, relish violence and affluence and move on like a swam of locusts.

Today boys, as young as 8 years old are immersed in pornography, addicted to violent games/movies and have ZERO respect for human life. As a result, girls (and  boys) are objects for their personal gratification, other children are targets for destruction and parents exist to feed and pamper them.

Our boys need to be rescued from this toxic culture and men who have abandoned their responsibilities need to repent and be restored.  We need to admit we need to help each other.

No matter how you slice it – Males hold all the cards.

We are paying the price for the “moral revolution”. This revolution is rooted in nothing more than personal immediate gratification (of males – primarily).  It says,

“I want what I want and I want it NOW… And I will use the veil of reproductive rights, feminism, sexual freedom, personal autonomy, marriage, coercion and political volition to achieve my personal gratification – be it comfort, affluence, power or orgasm.”

Our children are paying dearly with their lives. Make no mistake – the cost is high for “if it FEELS good, do it” culture. It is no accident that we have arrived at this very moment.

“A poor sailor blames the wind.”
It is also no accident that adult males are molesting and demeaning women, abusing children, stealing, doing drugs, lying under oath, murdering and going to jail at high rates.  We raise our boys according to the rules of the moral revolution and when our boys become adults infused with the ‘values’ of the revolution and act out of those impulses – the moral revolutionaries make an ‘out-cry’ and blame everyone except themselves.  A worldview that blames systems, things and institutions for society’s problems is rejecting any personal accountability.  They will deny this but there will always be a ‘but’ to avoid personal responsibility.

 

How about raising boys who know what it means to be authentic men?

A man does not give into passivity, he takes responsibility for his own actions, he practices personal accountability and integrity, he is humble, just, kind, self-disciplined, leads courageously and focuses on a cause greater than himself. A man is the voice for the voiceless, a protector of the weak and a provider.

Stop the cycle of blame. In order to raise men of honor and integrity, we must look ourselves in the mirror and ask how we are going to help raise boys into authentic men. It is an issue of our hearts. Boys are crying out for help. Let’s help them by modeling manhood for them – teaching and challenging them to become the courageous men they are created to be.

Ignore the screaming of the moral revolutionaries – they will never stop screaming. That is what they do – they rage against everything. They will not stop raging until they destroy everything – including themselves.  I’m not sorry for pushing back against the disjointed and dangerous worldview driving the ‘moral revolution’.  As a matter of fact, I’m going to challenge it with extreme moral force.

Dave Ramsey once said,

“We all have a red-faced screaming child inside us.  That child’s name is ‘Immaturity’.”

It’s not too late.

Our future depends on our personal accountability today.  

  • How am ‘I’ going to raise my son to be man?
  • How can ‘I’ support the fatherless who have no role model?

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Should not I pity America, that great nation?

Should not I pity America, that great nation?

Read the headlines from around our nation. What do you see? You see anger, hostility, confusion, selfishness and violence. We are seeing riots and division. What are we not seeing? We are not  seeing compassion, caring, or charity.

2800 years ago in ‘the great city’ of Nineveh, we see an evil and cruel people. The entire city was heartless and cold. The lack of love and compassion and a bent toward violence and selfishness is described as sin. Nineveh was within a hair’s breadth of experiencing God’s judgement and destruction. And who could blame Him? If you saw a city full of people filled with rage, hatred, violence and cruelty toward each other, wouldn’t you just want to end it? Why didn’t God go with the ‘nuclear option’ in Nineveh? I would have!

How would you describe the ‘tone’ in our nation today?
Would you describe it as charitable and peaceful or toxic and divisive?

We are a nation divided. The media is helping to drive the division. As a Christ-follower, I must counter this division with a comprehensive worldview anchored the word of God. I am called to think redemptively and pursue reconciliation through God’s love. Why is it so hard?

Here’s the problem. I struggle with my part. When I am constantly called names or told that I am racist, intolerant, etc. or characterized with the latest straw-man fallacy, I grow angry because I am none of those things. If I am honest, I must admit I harbor ill-will toward the people who believe I am those things. That is my sin.  I must own up to it.

God was compassionate and Jonah was not!
God called Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah hated Nineveh (a sin) and ran from God (a sin). He eventually ended up in Nineveh (a miracle). His mission was to call for the people to repent and turn to God. In doing so, God would relent from destroying the city, a demonstration of His compassion and love for all people. Nineveh was headed for destruction but God showed compassion.

The people of Nineveh turned to God, He relented and the city was saved! Furthermore, the city prospered. When God showed compassion, Jonah was angry because he didn’t see the people how God saw them. Jonah wanted the city judged and destroyed. Essentially, he was no different than the cruel hateful people of Nineveh. I have to claim that sin for myself.

My part as a Christ-follower 
2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (Note: I understand the context of this passage is related to Israel. Therefore, I am not outlining a prescriptive use but a descriptive framework of how to understand repentance, prayer and seeking God when we sin – pointing to His mercy and grace.)

People’s part: People who claim Christ must humble themselves, pray, seek and turn (repent) from sin.
God’s part: He will hear, forgive and heal.

I believe Christ-followers across the nation have humbled themselves and prayed over the last year (2016). I don’t know if we are actively seeking God’s face or turning from our wicked ways. I hope we have.  Have you personally confessed the anger and pride in your heart? Frankly, I am writing this to myself.  It is a struggle.

Perhaps, this is my call to the people of God. “Hey church, we bent our knee in humility and prayed. Maybe God is relenting and showing us his compassion. Now, we must be obedient and see this through. We need to seek God’s face and turn from our hatred and divisiveness. We must not boast but reach out in humility and love to a people God loves. And we must act right now! Forget what people say about you, act redemptively and in the spirit of love immediately!”

If we demonstrate God’s love through how we love others, who’s to say how God’s spirit may move upon the people of our nation?

The king of Nineveh said, “Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”

God’s response?
“When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.”

What is my response? Is it an unrelenting anger, like Jonah?

God is compassionate and we are not!
You see Jonah really struggled with getting on the same page as God. We all do.

The last sentence in the book of Jonah ends with a question, “And should not I (God) pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

Please allow me a bit of liberty to apply the final verse if I may.

And should not I (God) pity America, that great nation, in which there are more than 320 million people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much wealth?”

I am convinced that we are being tested and challenged. We have the greatest opportunity in generations to reach our nation with the love of Christ.

Please note, this post is a message to Christ-followers (aka, the Church). I do not expect non-believers believer or understand this. But, a believer should consider it and mediate on what God has to say in this cultural moment.

Reference: 2 Chronicles 7 and the Book of Jonah