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:


Read previous post: Swimming into your Future
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Swimming into your Future

Swimming into your Future

After 5 months away from writing here … I’m back!

My alarm goes off at 4:45am. I get up and get moving toward the coffee source. I gather my gear and head to swim practice with the local US Masters team that kicks off at 5:30am. I do this two to three times per week. It keeps me in shape and typically brings me a good deal of pleasure.

The swim team is a great group of folks of various ages, ethnicities and skill levels. There are some very talented swimmers in the pool every day.

Over the last year, I have been struggling with my swim and a cloud of frustration seemed to lay over me. I didn’t notice how bad it had gotten until a couple days ago. I mean, swimming is my favorite sport. I really enjoy it. Or do I? The thought of ‘hanging it up’ had crossed my mind a couple times over the last couple months. That has never happened before.

Every morning when I show up to practice, this hotshot college swimmer jumps into my lane. He seems to only show up to practice when I’m there. Sometimes, I’m warming up in a lane alone and he jumps into my lane. He is way faster than me and he lets me know it.

Boy does this cocky punk get under my skin. Everyday I’m in the pool, he’s there talking smack to me. I get pissed off and begin swimming harder and harder – not concentrating on my stroke. I’m just pounding the water and feel like I’m treading water or (worse) swimming backwards! He just laughs and blazes right passed me, leaving me in his wake. He steals my enjoyment with every lap.

After Tuesday’s practice, I had a conversation with a guy who’s about my age and swims on the team as well. He’s a solid swimmer and continues to swim competitively. I was complaining about my swimming and shared my frustration. You see, I swam competitively in high school and college. I wasn’t always the fastest swimmer but I was a good and I could hold my own. I was sprinter. Short races were my specialty.  However, at 44 years old, I was frustrated and I expressed that to my teammate.

He said, “I’m not as fast as I was when I was younger. But that’s okay – I focus on the future.”  We parted ways and I went home not thinking much of it.

A couple hours later it hit me! I admitted to myself that the hotshot college punk swimmer in my lane everyday was ME. I was trying to compete with a 20 year old me. There is no way I can do that at 44 years old. Do you know what? That is just fine. There are a ton of things I can do at 44 that I could not even dream of doing at 20.

When I jumped into my lane this morning, the college punk didn’t show up. I focused on swimming into the future. It was one of the most enjoyable swims I’ve had in a long time.  I stopped my teammate after practice and thanked him for his encouraging words.  He said, “We just need to keep reminding each other to focus on the future.”

It’s interesting how we let our self-talk influence our mindset.  How past experiences, both positive and negative affect our lives today.  Sometimes it takes a few words from someone else to open our eyes and change our outlook.

Do not let the younger you criticize you today. Past mistakes, failings, triumphs and victories do not define you today.  Focus on the future. As your physical strength quotient declines, your wisdom and experience quotient increases. There is more joy to be had in the future than in the past.

Focus on the future, Encourage someone else today and NEVER EVER QUIT!


“Your own performance is either improved or diminished by the other people in your scenario.”

Dr. Henry Cloud


Read previous post: Essay: Letter to the Emperor – The Rise of the Failed State
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Essay: Letter to the Emperor – The Rise of the Failed State

Essay: Letter to the Emperor – The Rise of the Failed State

Dear Emperor of the East,

You have a choice in this moment. Choose wisely.

Your dynasty will perish by self-inflicted wounds of unlearned lessons from the past. You sit upon the limb of a great tree, yet you saw the branch on which you perch.

Do not make the mistakes of your predecessors. They demolished the foundation on which their empires stood. Understand, you will die a failure, in a failed state leaving a legacy of failure.

The ‘strong men’ of broken empires past and empires falling today are nothing but ‘foolish men’. The fool is marked by pride. His hubris crushes him in shame. Are you such a fool? Does wisdom not call to you from the streets of your empire? Ah, but you think it wise to suppress the voice of truth and ignore the cries of the helpless.

Look to the great north! There is a ‘strong man’ where an empire once stood. It’s economy is in shambles. The Czar’s castles crumble in self-delusion and a philosophy tried and left wanting. He is an autocrat cornered by his own pride. He is food for jackals and ravens.

The parable says, the foolish prince’s pride is his folly. He is deficient in wisdom and humility. He’s defiant of truth – even when empirical evidence points to the coming failed state. History is replete with examples of this futility of the mind and disjointed governance of peoples.

In 50 years, your empire has risen on the tide of the Christian worldview and ethic. The freedom and virtue of that ethic undergirds the very economic foundation on which you rest and enrich yourself. The entrepreneurial spirit does not arise from atheistic materialism, Confucianism or totalitarianism. In fact, the worldview you vainly espouse is rooted in envy.

Envy destroys everything.

Envy says, “If I can’t have what you have, I will destroy what you have and neither of us will have it!” Envy is therefore folly and leads to mass misery. Your worldview was born of envy and the will to power. All are folly and futility.

Your system is bifurcated. You benefit from economic flourishing and freedom but you attempt to crush the very spirit that brings them about. Are you so short-sighted? You can’t have it both ways. Your economic engine is stalling and falling. Your people and the heritage you claim to cherish are fading into the darkness (again). Your future is a failed state in the ashes of human history.

When you are alone, you indulge in the proclivities of your heart. Your thoughts are dark and you must crush the hope you cannot possess for yourself. Your will to power leaves you empty and power-less. You enslave others because you yourself are in bondage to darkness. Therefore, you attempt to snuff out the light to ensure ALL are forced to live in darkness.

Wisdom stands at the gates of your empire and mocks you. Folly is there too. Folly beckons you to follow the crooked path of darkness not knowing over that which you stumble. To see the world through your eyes is to see utter darkness.

“One child for one family” was your empire’s evil decree. Murder was rampant in your midst as little girls were sacrificed on the altar of your materialistic god. Today, your “god” has blessed you with too many males and too few females to replenish your land. You are a dying nation – a dying culture.

You lay siege on the church as you foolishly ignore history. Don’t you know the gates of your hell will not prevail against her? History proves that persecuting the church fuels the fire of its own growth. “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.” The old emperor of your land once proclaimed, “I have rid this empire of Christ and His church.” It begs the question; Who is dead? Is the church dead? Is it not your old emperor who is dead? The old dead emperor is rotting in his grave as the church is mighty in your empire. He was a fool thinking himself to be wise.

Don’t be so foolhardy to follow such empty ideas and crooked paths. They all lead to death. One day you will meet death. It will come upon you like thief in the night. Your body will cease functioning, you will soil yourself, draw your last and be heaped into a hole in the ground to rot and feed worms. You will have lived and died a fool. Is that what you want, sir?

If you heed the voice of wisdom, a new day will dawn for your empire – prosperous new day when the emperor understood that he is but a mist.

Don’t be deceived. Humility, not hubris is the mark of a true leader. The choice is yours. Choose wisely, for he who enables your heart to beat will not be mocked. There is a more dangerous emperor and judge waiting in your path. He can fell you with a word. Or he can redeem you and bring peace to your land.

An ancient king was struck down on his throne 2000 years ago “because he did not give God glory.” There is a more powerful and dangerous emperor who hears the cries of the poor. He has whetted his sword of justice and waiting for you. There is no escape. Will you meet him as friend or foe? The choice is yours.

Listen to wisdom this day while it remains today. There may not be a tomorrow for you. Early morning rains are the sweetest and most refreshing. A messenger has been sent to you with good news that you may not perish. Behold, even now, there is a knock at your door…


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The Little Boy and The Little Lady

The Little Boy and The Little Lady

The following was adapted from a talk delivered on January 20, 2019 at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Ft. Worth, TX. Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

Imagine a baby in the womb – warm and safe. It’s a little boy. He’s not aware of the outside world. He just knows he’s safe.

Meanwhile, his parent’s marriage is falling apart as brokenness and selfishness drive a wedge between his mother and father. The fighting intensifies into a crisis.

With the little boy in her womb, the mother goes to her doctor filled with hurt and fear. She asks physician to get rid of the little boy she is carrying. The doctor replies, “I will not do that.” He sends her away. The little boy doesn’t know how close he came to death that day.

As the fearful young mother leaves the doctor’s office alone, Something inside her changes…

She chooses to keep the child regardless of what happens with her marriage. She whispers to herself, “He is mine! He is my little boy. Come what may.”

And so the little boy is born into chaos and brokenness. His parents divorce but the fighting and turmoil will continue for years to come.

A few years pass by and the little boy begins first grade. The first weeks are a struggle because he gets out of school hours before his mother gets off work. She juggles work and picking him up from school. It’s not working out.

One day when the mom picks up the little boy at the church where the school bus drops off the children, she sees a little lady looking after the children on the playground. She is older, kindly and not quite 5 feet tall. The mother introduces herself and points out her little boy on the playground with the other children. She says to the little lady, “Do you see that little boy playing over there? He is mine.” The mother tells the little lady of her struggles picking up her little boy after school.

The mother asks, “Would you be willing to look after my little boy until I get off work?”

“Of course, I will look after him.” responds the little lady with a warm smile.

And God quietly sends a missionary into the lives of the little boy and his mother.

The little lady cares for him, prays for him and loves him. She shares Jesus with the little boy. In the midst of the chaos and struggles going on around him, the little boy has an anchor.

Years pass and the little lady encourages the little boy to make a decision about Christ and be baptized. He does and there is great joy – at least for a little while…

The little boy gets a little older and leaves home for boarding school far away. The little lady continues to pray and intercede for him. She sends him letters encouraging him and reminding him he is loved by God. He visits when he’s home sometimes.

However, time and distance grow between the boy and the little lady. She is growing old but she never ceases praying for him day and night.

The boy begins to wonder into the shadows and valleys becoming enchanted with darkness. Now, he is at college far from home. He becomes entangled in snares and brambles of sin. The boy meets a girl on his dark path. They have a relationship and she becomes pregnant with their own child.

BUT, THE BOY HAS CHANGED
He has grown selfish and filled with fear, shame and anger. He persuades the girl to kill the child in her womb. With the death of his child at his own hand – something inside of the boy dies too.

The little lady senses trouble. She launches salvos of prayer into the very halls of heaven. But, no answers come into the life of the boy.

Time passes as the void left in the boy’s life is flooded with more darkness, shame and destruction. The boy attempts to remain afloat pursuing worldly pleasures to sedate the pain, as he tumbles into the abyss.

And one day, the little lady who had prayed and prayed for the boy dies and goes to the Father in Heaven. Still, no answers in the boy’s life… Did the sustaining prayers die with the little lady?

Many years later, the boy has fallen into a deep pit in the valley of shadows – exhausted, ashamed and lost. He believes the only way out is to die by his own hand. After all, it is what he deserves.

THEN, SOMETHING CHANGES
In the boy’s darkest moment, mighty God shuts the mouth of the roaring lion. He stays the hand of the enemy and declares, “This one is mine!”

Into this dark valley of shadows, the good shepherd seeks and searches for the one that wondered off. Over the mountains and through the valleys and brambles he finds the one he is searching for. He stoops down and lifts up the lost sheep. And he returns it to the fold with the others.

Do you see that sheep laying torn, bloodied and exhausted so very close to the shepherd’s feet?
Do you see him resting there?

The good shepherd with wounded hands binds the wounds of this sheep. The shepherd looks into the tired and tearing eyes of the trembling sheep and whispers, “I have a plan and purpose for you. From the time you were in your mother’s womb, I watched over you and protected you. I love you more than you will ever know.”

A light dawns on the horizon of the boy’s life. And so the boy stumbles down a path toward God.

Now imagine a magnificent morning in heaven. Absolutely glorious. The little lady goes up to worship and praise the Father with the multitudes. The halls of heaven fill with God’s glory. An angel steps forward to announce that the little lady’s prayer for the little boy has come up for memorial before the Father – a prayer from decades ago – that God would bless, protect and use the little boy.

And so the Father in Heaven listens and sends forth a gentle rain of answered prayer into the life of the boy.

I am that boy.

I STAND before you today under that gentle rain of answered prayer – to bear witness to what God has done and proclaim the Gospel to the nations.

John 3:16

(Feel free to comment and share below)

Images of the Little Boy and the Little Lady

Note: I must note the imagry captured about the lost sheep was inspired by FW. Borhham’s “The Pasture Green a Journey Through Palsm 23”. The imagery of answered prayer as a “gentle rain” was inspired by O. Halesby’s book, “Prayer”.  I highly recommend Boreham and O. Halesby to fellow pilgrims. They will enrich your life beyond measure.

Read previous post: The one who states his case first seems right, UNTIL …
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The one who states his case first seems right, UNTIL …

The one who states his case first seems right, UNTIL …

“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”

(Proverbs 18:17)

Anyone with children over the age of 4 can attest to the proverb above. The first story isn’t always the right story.

Foolishness loves being first;
and Rashness is remiss,
But, Wisdom waits;
and Prudence is patient.

Everyday at 8:55am a little reminder pops up on my iPhone. It reminds me that I will probably be doing a lot of talking today and I should be mindful of what I say.  It reads;

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” (Proverbs 13:3)

Hundreds of words will be uttered from my mouth. As a leader, my words carry influence and authority. They have consequences. Therefore, I need a reminder to watch what I say.

I prefer wisdom over foolishness and prudence over rashness.

“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” (Proverbs 17:27-28)

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” – Mark Twain

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