Isolated Together

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

Believe it or not, there once was a time when people had to talk in person. Face-to-face, breathing the same air, in the same space, and hold eye contact. Crazy right? It was a time where people did this crazy thing called personal communication. A blissful span of time where when one person wanted to interact socially with another person, they would actually interact with that person socially. But that all changed with one simple, yet immensely influential tool: social media.

It is the connective tissue of the 21st century. The webbing of the social spider that travels back and forth across the internet. In today’s world, it is not too hard to go about your day without being confronted by the ripple effects of social media. Whether it be Facebook, Instagram, Kikme, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube or the like, their presence is well known to almost everyone. Yet have we ever stepped back and asked “Just as there are good side effects to social media use, can there be bad ones as well?”

Unequivocally, the answer is yes. While social media has paved the way for great advancements in society such as the expansion of globalization, introducing us to the information age, a more-informed public, and instant communication. On the flip side, it has also brought with it negative side effects with short and long lasting impressions on modern mankind. For the sake of time, I will focus on three briefly in this blog-post: the physical effects, the sociological effects, and the spiritual effects. First let’s start with the physical effects.

The Physical Effects

If it was not apparent already, social media has over time altered human anatomy and the way we move about in life. This can be seen in how some people have severe curves in the vertebrae due to slouching over a computer desk (or a mobile device) when interacting online. This curvature is evident in their backs or necks, along with the rise in the general population being diagnosed with some form of nearsightedness. Various studies on this issue have concluded that “Between 1970 and 2000, myopia — nearsightedness — prevalence in the U.S. rose from 25 percent to nearly 42 percent among people ages 12 to 54” (2) and with the spike of online interaction via social media, the numbers have continued to climb.

Other common symptoms include, but are not limited to obesity, attention deficit disorder (ADD), and even more serious addictions that are directly caused by the abuse of social media. These more serious addictions that stem from the gateway drug of the digital world range from substance abuse to an increase in anxiety related mental health issues in adolescents. This is due to such variables as the amount of information available online through hyper-networking, the brain seeking different stimulations to hit high dopamine levels, and the addictive nature of social media leading to misconstrued fantasies. Studies now show that Gen Z is one of the most depressed and least sexually active generations too, which can be indicative of the effects of social media. In the long run, social media is changing us physically.

The Sociological Effects

Allen and co. in the Australian Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology 31 [(1):1-14 · July 2014] conducted an experiment exploring the effects of social media on adolescents (i.e. Gen Z) and concluded that

Mixed findings are reported regarding the role that social media plays in fostering social connectedness, which suggests that young people may experience both positive and negative psychological outcomes. As a result, this article argues that online tools create a paradox for social connectedness. On one hand, they elevate the ease in which individuals may form and create online groups and communities, but on the other, they can create a source of alienation and ostracism (3).”

This ostracised Gen Z has formed a socio-conscious isolated togetherness where they are together, but isolated in attention and activity. Similar to how people disengage on an airplane flight, they are all heading to the same destination with the same people for a specified duration of time, but are completely removed from social interaction whatsoever with their fellow neighbors. Why?

Hard to say, but being isolated together is something we all do in certain situations like riding the bus or waiting in line at the DMV, except now Gen Z does it to friends and family. Not total strangers, but those closest to them both in culture and community. Doesn’t that seem a bit odd that they would rather stare at blue lit phones, than enjoy the company of their loved ones? For Gen Z, we are setting the example that this is normal and they are following our lead.

Regardless, social media also plays off of this “us vs. them” mentality innate in all of us by giving us an outlet to feed our egos in moments of complete social isolation. We can pretend we are together with someone we know virtually, when in reality we are alone with strangers or even with no one around. Odd how instead of expanding our social circles when introduced to new personalities in our world, we keep our small circles squares and inevitably block ourselves into our own tiny bubble castles with those we would rather talk to, instead of talking to those people.

It’s amazing how Christians still wonder why evangelism is dead in the West. We chose to preach to the church, instead of the community. We would rather exchange cute quotes with those who believe what we believe, than share worldviews with those whose beliefs delineate from our own ideas regarding what is true. A pluralistic society like America can quickly become poisonous if the bridges that bring us together are burned down in the face of filtered tolerance.

The Spiritual Effects

This is the most important effect and I see it a lot. Less praying and more posting. Although social disconnectedness is bad, along with physical deterioration from electronic overuse, nothing is worse than spiritual separation. As we spend more and more of our time online, we spend less and less with God. We prefer tweeting, rather than serious study of God’s Word. We would rather check Instagram for hearts, then check our hearts for sin.

This spiritual separation is our ultimate devolution and is yet another blockade from connecting with our great God. With all of our attention on ourselves, we blur the line between who we are and who we say we are to the world. As we jump into the matrix of the digital world, we place our masks on and dance along with the masquerade of happiness that so many of us lie about. A lot of us pretend to be content and happy, yet our “good vibes” cannot rebuild this spiritual separation.

The only cure to this disconnect with God is to disconnect from social media and all other distractions that draw us away from God. We then are able to reconnect with God when we are at a distraction-less state and ready to commune with our Maker. For the sake of our spiritual channel of relation to God, we may need to cut down on our consumption of social media and our desire to connect digitally.

Conclusion

By this point, you may think I am some sort of Amish, “technology is Satanic” types of people that completely avoids anything modern. That could not be farther from the truth. In fact, I use social media all the time! It’s my job as a content creator and I use it frequently for ministry too. The only reason I would be against social media use is when it affects me or others physically, socially, and/or spiritually. If one or all of those factors are hindered, then it is time to unplug and fix those because your body, your social circles, and our God matter more than viral videos.

Is social media bad? No, not at all. Does it have both good and bad connotations when using it excessively on a daily basis? Yes, it does.

Like fitness, the pursuit of being physically healthy and in shape is not bad at all. Indeed, it is really good for you and has lots of benefits. But when someone decides to workout every single day for hours on end they hit a point where their conventional habit turns into an addiction with negative effects. As Dr. Holly Parker, a Harvard University psychologist and certified personal trainer, once said in an article for Fox News, “The benefits you want from working out—getting leaner, stronger, healthier—reverse when you don’t take breaks” (4). Put plainly, too much good can be bad. Use social media however and whenever you want, but take a break when needed.

In short, it really is a balancing act as you use social media to touch base with loved ones and meet new people, while in the same respect getting instant news and entertainment. With that, there has to be a point where you must decide when you have had enough for one day. Take a break and do something else. There is no need to be online 24/7.

It’s not healthy to stay wired all the time. For once, take a break for not only your own sake, but for the sake of others. Learn to understand the value of life and time by taking moments throughout your day-to-day routine to appreciate the simply astounding things no app could ever capture. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. http://www.thegazette.com/subject/life/health-social-media-affects-the-teens-tweens-physical-and-mental-health-20150226
  3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260289323_Social_Media_Use_and_Social_Connectedness_in_Adolescents_The_Positives_and_the_Potential_Pitfalls. See both this link http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/social-networks-and-health-communicable-but-not-infectious and this link http://www.med.upenn.edu/chbr/documents/AmyGonzales-PublicHealthandSocialMediaTalk.pdf for more information regarding the effects of social media on our sociological state of being.
  4. http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/09/27/how-much-working-out-is-too-much.html

Three Trees

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

This is a tale of three trees.

One tree grants the beholder immortality,

While another gives knowledge of morality.

This tale begins in a garden.

At first there is only a human,

But he becomes accompanied by the mother of women.

As the two wander,

They begin to wonder,

And curiosity begets the female traveler.

For of the three trees, only one came with a warning.

The tree of life being one of the many meant for eating.

But the tree of good and evil symbolized mankind’s future erring,

With the underpinnings of sinning.

For the serpent of old has arrived,

Bringing with him his own pride,

That so happens to be why he died.

With the snake slithering past every leaf,

Is the ever encroaching presence of the prince of thieves.

As the cunning snake dangles downward,

The woman ever so slowly goes forward.

As the Devil invites her to taste and see,

She avoids her chance to run and flee.

With the slither of Satan’s lies,

Came Eve’s enraptured eyes.

As she aspires to be wise,

Her desires begin to rise.

The fruit is within Eve’s hand,

As she is one bite away from being damned.

With the very first bite,

Eve realizes that the Devil was right!

For when she ate of the fruit,

Eve soon discovered this strange compute.

From knowing only good,

The woman has only added fire to wood.

As the decay began that day,

Eve no longer had a say.

Her goodness had been tainted by sin,

And too would it be in all humans built-in.

Once sin took its foothold,

Eve did not want to stand alone in the cold.

So she gave to her man,

And suddenly took his unblemished lifespan.

Pretty soon the two were no longer good,

Yet if they could go back they would.

But it is too late now,

For man is now putting his hand to the plow.

For we are dust,

All because of lust.

To dust we shall return,

Before some will forever burn.

Although a few will get to waltz into a glorious new home,

Far more beautiful than the pinnacle of Rome.

This new home is for the Christian,

And with every fleeting moment there is a new addition,

Due to the adherence to the Great Commission.

For Adam gave life to sin in every human,

While Jesus gave His life for sin that we can be born again.

He did this so that we might be grafted into salvation,

In order to bring about the redemption of His Creation.

Since the day we brought forth this ruckus,

The Father has sought to bring about justice.

So the Father sent His Son Jesus,

To save us from the Fall in Genesis.

You see he died on the third tree,

A cross that changed history,

Jesus atoned for all on Calvary.

This all began because of a choice between two trees,

And the choice was left to Eve.

So when the snares of sin come swarming like bees,

Consider the consequences of your actions please.

Footnotes

  1. The Three Trees (1643) by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

The Coin Argument

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/21/2019

I have heard many ask “If God exists, then why is there so much evil in the world?” and there are many responses to this question all throughout history. There are even great Christian thinkers like Alvin Plantinga and Ravi Zacharias who have delivered great responses to this problem of evil. If I was asked this question, here is one way that I would respond and that is with the coin argument.

If God exists, then why is there so much good in the world? The question in its very nature is problematic because it relies on a partial-variable. It depends on the assumption that God and evil cannot both exist.

If this assumption is true, then God and good cannot both exist. Thus, leaving the universe amoral, which we all know is a flawed and true conclusion. It is true based off of basic deductive reasoning from our previous premises, yet flawed because evil and good are both quite evident in our universe.

For examples of evil look no further than the horrors of war, famine, pestilence, natural disasters, and the like. For instances of good look no further than the sacrificial love of a mother for her child, giving to those that are in need, treating others the way you want to be treated, and so on. The existence of evil and good is too evident in the world to ignore.

Let me use an analogy to further my point: let’s say I have a coin. You say that if I flip this coin 100 times with it landing on heads every single time in a row, then there must be no coin maker. Now I say if I flip this coin 100 times with it landing on tails every single time in a row, then there must be a coin maker. Let’s surmise that such a scenario occurs where you’re right: the coin lands on heads 100 times in row. Does your conclusion logically make sense that there is no coin maker? No and neither would mine any more so than yours because it is focused on the coin’s mathematical probability of landing on heads or tails. When the focus should shift to “where did we get the coin in the first place?”

That’s the root issue here. Where do objective moral values come from in the first place? For the sake of time, objective moral values will be abbreviated to OMV. In my analogy, the coin represents OMV and likewise each side of the coin represents one side of those OMV (heads = objectively negative moral values -> “evil” and tails = objectively positive moral values -> “good”).

Therefore, as is the case with all things there must be an objective standard to determine what are objectively negative moral values (evil) and what are objectively positive moral values (good). This objective standard can only be 4 things: from something less than myself [nature](1), from something equal to myself [individual](2), from others equal to myself [society](3), or from something greater than myself [God](4).

Now, how am I obligated by something less than me [nature](1) to obey these OMV? There’s no need to be obligated by nature since nature is beneath mankind. Why should I lower my standards to comply with values of nature? When something within nature kills it is survival of the fittest, yet when we kill it is murder. So, should I obligate myself [individual](2) to these OMV? Do I have that absolute authority? If so, I myself can remove that absolute authority if I want to, which throws out the second conclusion all together making it obsolete.

Then can others [society](3) obligate me to OMV? Why does the majority have that absolute authority over the minority (myself)? How does a single variable like majority vs. minority suddenly change who can enforce OMV? If there is a society that can, then which one? And if there is one, what happens when that society eventually crumbles like every society before it has in the past? Thus, this objective standard must be greater than myself [God](4) because it (He) is superior to me and can rightfully demand obedience to these OMV as He is greater than I.

Hence, evil and good can only exist if there is a set of OMV determined by an objective standard [God](4) that can enforce these OMV onto us. This is the most logical and reasonable conclusion. God as the objective standard gives us the ability to discern what is evil and good. Without Him, nothing is sin while everything is live and let live. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/

The Lovely Trinity Argument

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/21/2019

This blog-post is a little different than past blog-posts in that I will be showing you briefly my first argument for the Christian Trinity. My argument is called “The Lovely Trinity Argument” and was heavily inspired by the works of C.S. Lewis, especially his arguments in Mere Christianity. The argument resides on the central question found in premise seven and is actually what I asked myself a few years ago when the original concept for the argument began to take shape in my mind. Shout out to my friend, Kevin King, for helping me fine-tune my argument to make it as logically airtight as possible. Here is the argument down below presented in a premise-by-premise structure like almost all other philosophical arguments:

The Lovely Trinity Argument

By Christopher Cribari

  1. Before Creation, there was God (✝).
  2. God was alone and nothing existed, except for God before Creation.
  3. Therefore, God is the objective standard for all things pertaining to morality and the like, including love because He is all that existed.
  4. Thus, God is love (✝), love is God*, and God is all-loving.
  5. Love is an action expressed towards an object.
  6. Love is actively expressed from person to person.
  7. But if God is love, love is God, and God is all-loving, who would God love?
  8. A Unitarian God cannot love Himself because He is one person.
  9. Thus, God would need to be 2 or more than 2 persons to actively express love, in order for God to be love, for love to be God, and for God to be all-loving.
  10. Therefore, God is one being (✝), but multiple persons.
  11. But in order for love to be expressed for others to see, there has to be a third party or person.
  12. Thus, a Binitarian God cannot love another person without a third party or person to validate that love.
  13. Therefore, God is one being, but three persons (✝).
  14. Hence, the doctrine of the Trinity is true because it validates that God is love, love is God, and God is all-loving, while at the same time affirming that God is triune.
  15. For God is a Trinitarian God: one being, but three persons.

Argument Footnotes

* = C.S. Lewis penned “love is God” in his work, Mere Christianity, in chapter 4 of book 4 entitled “Good Infection.”

✝ = Biblical References

  • Premise 1) Genesis 1:1, Hebrews 1:10
  • Premise 4) 1 John 4:8, 16
  • Premise 10) Deuteronomy 6:4, 1 Timothy 2:5a
  • Premise 13) 2 Corinthians 13:14

Well, that is my argument for the Christian Trinity and I hope it helps you wherever you are in relation to God. If you would like to hear my newer argument for the Christian Trinity, click here. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. Disclaimer

Bitterness and How It Broke Me

Updated: 5/21/2019

I hate John Cribari. Well, I used too. Let me explain in detail what I mean by that statement. You see for the longest time I had a bitter hatred towards my older brother, John Cribari, and it nearly decimated me. But before I explain my personal story of bitterness, let me take you back to the beginning of this whole story.

My brother John and I at one point in our lives were like two peas in a pod who did everything together. We were the best of friends and loved playing with each other in our youth as boys usually play. Some days it would be a race in our grandparents backyard to see who was the fastest and other times we would play pretend at the apartments we lived in at Thousand Oaks, CA imagining that we were protecting Helm’s Deep from thousands of Uruk-Kai. He was usually Boromir or Aragorn, while I was usually Faramir or Gimli fighting off swarms of foes left and right.

The neighbors were never really fans of our imaginative adventures, so we would sometimes include them in the action and just pretend they too were Uruk-hai. That didn’t end too well most of the time, but then again how do you stomp the minds of children whose whole childhood was woven by the influences of mighty men of fiction and history? Men like Maximus Decimus Meridius, William Wallace, Joshua of the Bible, David’s Mighty Men, and so many more that inspired my brother and I to be men of valor who stood for something. Men that stood for the oppressed and fought against the oppressors of this world that meant nothing but harm to others. This is the way that our parents raised us during our childhood and into adulthood.

Yet, at a very early age our times in boyhood were not so squeaky clean like I wished they could have been. At the ages of 7 and 8, sometime in May of 2005, our old friend David from Thousand Oaks introduced us to pornography among other things that would forever leave a mark on us. For about a year, summer to summer, we would watch pornography at his house for hours and then return home all while under our parents noses. We quickly realized two things at the end of that year: we were not being the men of valor our parents raised us to be and that we needed to stop.

So at the end of the summer of 2006, we made an oath to each other and to God that we would stop swearing, watching pornography, and all the other junk that we did behind our parents backs. The way we sealed this oath was ironically by cursing as much as possible and as loud as possible for 60 seconds. No seriously. That’s how we sealed our oath with the one true God about changing our old ways by getting it all out of our system. So we thought at the time was the most logical decision. We were 8 and 9 at this time with our birthdays shortly coming up in June.

Shortly after our birthdays, I got saved at Calvary Chapel Oxnard’s VBS at the end of June in 2006 and to be honest I do not know when my brother got saved in his life, so you’ll have to ask him yourself if you ever have the pleasure of meeting him someday. But I can say that our lives did change from that point onward. We would study the Bible every night before bed for hours as we read of our favorite heroes like David, Gideon, and other Biblical men who were men of valor. It was in this great season of our lives that we went through 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, and 1 & 2 Chronicles during a time of getting right with God. These studies were usually led by John who has always been the extrovert and initiator among the two of us when it comes down to it.

It was not until we moved to Colorado in July of 2007 that things began to change for the worse between us and inside of ourselves as we were entering middle school. We began to go back to our old ways even after having sworn to God to never return to those truly foolish ways. For me, it was during the second half of 5th grade that I slipped back into pornography and it was not until the second half of 8th grade that I truly stopped that godless habit. While this happened to me, John was badly influenced by the world in middle school and he even told my Dad not to let me go to public middle school due to how bad it was for him there. To put it bluntly, he got hurt and permanently marked by the world. For our family, it was really hard to watch him enter this prodigal son type of season where he dabbled in both the things of God and the things of the world.

Now as we both were slipping down the slope of sin during this time, everyone thought it was just John who was struggling with the influences of the world, but I too was struggling as well. The thing is that people only thought John was prodigal because they saw with their physical eyes, but if one were to look with spiritual eyes at this time, then they would have seen that we were both being prodigal sons. We were both sinning heavily, yet only one of us had outward symptoms that others could physically see. As my parents were scrambling to fix their eldest child, they never truly realized that they had another prodigal son: me.

So over that period of time I grew very bitter towards everyone, especially my brother John. I grew bitter towards my parents because they were trying to help John, but didn’t bat an eye to help me from my perspective. Being diagnosed with Autism at 1½ , asking for help from others has always been extremely hard. I have always felt like the “special needs” child who never could keep up with others my age and that I was always dependent on others for help. 

The way I countered this emotionally painful aspect of my life was to never seek the help of others by being a “lone-wolf” of sorts because I thought that people were unreliable and were holding me back from being like all the other kids. So I taught myself a lot of things like how to ride a bike in 6th grade and how to write legibly. This is something that I still struggle with as a grown man who is still not like everyone else. I grew bitter towards others because it seemed like they had it all together which just reminded me that I didn’t have everything together.

While my bitterness grew for those people in my life, it never truly reached the amount of filthy bitterness I had towards John. I blamed him for leading me astray and alienating me from the world by being home schooled for all of middle school. I blamed him for breaking his oath to God, for hurting our family with his actions of outward rebellion, and in a sense for leaving me behind as I once followed his example when we were right with God.

I felt so isolated during those long 3 years and wanted to get back at him for all he did to me. So I ignored his existence, I brought up strife in our family in order to isolate him like I was isolated, and in a way made him the black sheep of our family. Sadly as I reflect on this period of time, it worked and he became the black sheep that our family was ashamed to be affiliated with for a long time.

It was not really until the summer after 8th grade that I rededicated my life to God and my sinful habits became past habits, but the one thing I did not let go of was the bitterness towards John. During the summer, I grew a lot as a Christian in my faith and went all in as far as learning the truth went, but the bitterness stunted my growth like an anchor to a sinking ship. I could have been so much stronger in my faith as I was entering public high school, yet like Jacob when he wrestled with God (1), I would not let go of this bitterness and instead clung to it even more than before. 

As I attended Eaglecrest High School for 2 years, John was already going there and was very well known there. Every teacher I had would ask “Are you John’s brother?” or mistake me for John all the time because of our facial similarities. I wanted to deny it a lot of the time, but I always accepted my family relations with him. It was humiliating because I didn’t want anything to do with him during this season.

I find it ironic that as all of this was going on, I as a freshman in high school was anointed by God to lead the Christian club at our school called “First Priority” for those 2 years. Funny how God can use someone as flawed as me to reach people flawed like me. And use me He did as I became known as “Bible-Man” by my peers at school, relentlessly defending the faith and even had several debates at school in the courtyard. A courtyard  I would later nickname “The King’s Court” because the Holy Spirit would do some crazy stuff through me during those debates. 

Anyways, as freshman year was ending my bitterness was at its peaking point. Myself being clouded with my false assumptions, hatred, bitterness, and all out rage towards John led me to the decision that I had to stop him from hurting our family anymore. So I plotted to kill him and and had every intention to do so. That intention and desire grew and grew as the summer of 2013 came by when my bitterness had hit its absolute peak.

But God had other plans and on July 10th, 2013 God did something I never saw coming: He protected John from me and the intentions of my selfish heart. Similar to how God did the same for Israel (2) when He stood against the Egyptian armies as they hunted Israel down. 

Before that day though, God had given me a series of 4 dreams that were exactly the same each time in May, June, and July of 2013. In the dream, I heard a voice say something of a warning and that I shouldn’t do something. It’s hard to remember the exact wording, but the message was quite clear: don’t hurt John. 

Next in the dream, I was looking from a first person perspective and saw that I was lying in a hospital bed. Then I looked around and my entire family was in the room surrounding the bed I was laying on. After that I would wake up, but the message was clear and despite it I clearly disobeyed God because my heart still had the intention to kill John.

It was a late Wednesday night and the family was coming home from church, except John and my younger brother Nathan were home that night and didn’t go to church. As my family was pulling onto our street, we abruptly stopped because there was a large tree branch across the road in front of our house and our neighbors house. So we all jumped out of our truck to pitch in and move the branch from the road onto the sidewalk with our neighbors helping too. 

After moving that branch, we helped move other branches that were scattered across the road because there was a windy storm that was brewing during church and was ending by the time we came to help that had nearly destroyed the cotton-wood tree right across the street from our house. Once the debris had been removed from the road there was one problem: there was a large, loose branch hanging in the cotton-wood and hovering over our neighbor’s car.

So our neighbor moved their car and my Dad pulled out his ladder to shake the branch down while everyone was clearing the area. It was at this moment that everything became complete chaos as the small branch was being shaken down by my Dad. The entire tree shook, the wind came back which caused it to shake more than before, and then one of the main branches, reportedly 20 to 25 feet in length, fell. 

As the largest branch began to crack in the darkness of the night, everyone scrambled left and right. The scariest part was that no one could see it, so we all just fled in every direction from the tree hoping it would not hit us. As I looked up, I barely saw the top of the tree, so I sprinted from where I was standing in the street going full speed. Little did I know that the branch was falling directly my way. 

Then everything went black, but I was fully conscious. It was just pure darkness for about a minute, yet it felt like forever. For a second, I thought to myself “Crap, the atheists were right. I’m dead and there’s nothing.” Soon my state of nothingness ended and I was awoken by the excruciating pain of the neighbors moving my broken body from the street and onto my driveway, but they soon just put me back onto the ground because there was not much they could do.

The emergency responders soon came and took me to the hospital where I stayed for several days. The morning after the accident I woke up and it played out just like the 4 dreams I had beforehand. I woke up in a hospital bed with my family surrounding me wanting to see how I was doing. It was absolutely mind-bending to know the dream and have it unfold before my very eyes because of the evil intentions of my heart. It was after this humiliating moment in time where my bitterness began to fade as I was deeply humbled by God. For about a month, I wore a neck brace and even for the first two days of school as a Sophomore in high school which only added to the embarrassment of it all. God had broken me along with my bitterness.

It took a long time for my bitterness to go away completely though and it would take almost 1½ years before my bitterness finally left completely. Although it was in that time that my bitterness for John was slowly, but surely being replaced with love for John. It was not until November 15th, 2014 after John and I got into an argument that I broke down. I couldn’t handle hating him anymore. 

My only option was to love him at this point in my life because I was so hurt by my own bitterness that I grew weary after having had it for so long. It was this night where I told him everything and asked him for forgiveness for all that I had done. He did the same for his own mistakes and we after years of conflict were finally reconciled as brothers no longer at odds with one another. It truly was one of the greatest days of my life because the burden of bitterness that had been upon my shoulders was replaced by the security of forgiveness.

For the past 10 months our lives have both been on a resurgence since there is nothing holding us back now. John is currently in California playing college football at Moorpark college, pursuing a degree in Kinesiology, and working on receiving a certificate for Personal Training. I am currently pursuing my AAS in Directing/Writing at the Colorado Film School, preparing for my next Strongman competition, and hoping to become the Lecrae of Hollywood so to speak by making quality films that reflect the Creator. We even have a friendly competition between us to see who is the strongest whenever we workout. Now that it is love that binds us and not bitterness, we have the God-given opportunity to seek our passions as men of God, men of valor.

You see bitterness is a lot like raising your fist up in the air at someone you hate and then repeatedly punching yourself in the face. For one it looks really stupid and it accomplishes absolutely nothing. James, the brother of Jesus, once spoke about bitterness in his letter to Christians dispersed throughout the known world and said the following about the matter:

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (NASB James 3:13-18).

If there is bitterness in your heart then hear from me and let go of your bitterness. Don’t do what I did and try to solve problems in the feebleness of your mind. God is love and therefore I now strive to reflect that love as a “Little-Christ” in every relationship because it is God who abides in me. Molding me into the man of valor I have always desired to be in my life as I grow older and older.

To John I say this: thank you and I love you more than ever before as my big brother always watching out for me. You were never close to the perfect example, but neither was I or ever have been for that matter. But it is the very fact that you tried to be a man of valor like the ones we read of and pretended to be that matters. 

Your boldness has helped me breakthrough my own shyness and introverted habits as I have grown older. You taught me many things in my life that I am truly grateful for like that one time we stood in a parking lot all day as you showed me how to catch a football. Always caring for others and not afraid to give it your all in whatever you do. Thank you for the wrestling smack downs, the brotherly pep talks, and especially for the consistency in your life as you strive to be as real as possible in every aspect of your life. I love John Cribari. Well, now I do. Until next time, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. Genesis 32:24-32
  2. Exodus 14:19
  3. Disclaimer

Legalism: Movies + Music

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/21/2019

Although there are many global issues I could write about that are very prevalent in the world today, today I would like to talk about an issue that may seem minor, but can result in cataclysmic effects in Christianity. The issue I want to talk about is legalism. Since legalism is too large of a topic on its own, I am going to narrow down my discussion to two things: movies and music.

This post was inspired by a couple things and experiences from the past. Namely an open letter written by John Givez to Christian Hip Hop that was posted by Rapzilla (2) and a conversation I had with my good friend Jeremiah. In John Givez’ open letter to CHH, he touches on the stigma that is attached to him because everyone considers him to be so edgy that he has lost his spiritual edge, so to speak. That the way he operates and lives his life is not like the typical white, suburban, Evangelical-Christian. You know, that typical generalization and stereotype of every Christian in America. Take me for instance: the guy that looks like the 99 cent version of Leonardo Dicaprio, but who also always looks like he either just got back from the gym or is about to go to one.

Yet as Christians, we project these misconceptions of what a Christian should look, talk, and act like. These legalistic type and their keyboard warriors decided to call out John Givez for the way he lives his life and the way he goes about impacting the culture. So John Givez wrote a response letter to answer his skeptics. Then after reading the letter, I talked to my friend Jeremiah about legalism which led to a discussion on movies and music.

We talked about how we feel convicted by certain things that the other is not convicted to such an extreme degree. For instance, my friend is not comfortable watching an R-rated movie usually, but I on the other hand don’t mind depending on why it is rated R. Then when it comes to music we are again at opposite ends of the spectrum, but the positions are reversed. I cannot listen to music with foul language, but my friend is a lot more open to it then I am which is fine. I mean, I have no place to call out my friend for listening to music with foul language, if I watch movies with foul language. Right?

Now I am a film fanatic and I actually went to film school, so I am biased towards watching films over listening to music. I grew up watching war movies with my Dad and brothers late at night all throughout my childhood. War movies like Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart, We Were Soldiers, Gladiator, and so on that were very R-ratedWhen it comes to music on the other hand, I am a lot more cautious and skeptical to what I listen too.

In fact, I could count how many secular artists that I listen too off the top of my head on a regular basis. So now I ask myself, “Why is it that I am so restrictive towards music when it comes to whether or not it is Christian creators, but when it comes to my movie collection it is exclusively secular?” Why is that? Why do hold to this double-standard like a lot of other Christians?

I know for me personally that I honestly hate nearly every movie made by Christians because they are usually garbage, with the one exception being The Case For Christ movie which was actually pretty good. That may play a part in why I have more secular movies in my possession than secular music because there is a smaller supply of quality, Christian-oriented films that are also good. When comparing how many Christians are in the movie industry versus the music industry, it is pretty evident where the quality is best. In general, Christians in the movie industry are a joke compared to the Grammy-winning Christians in the movie industry.

Going back to legalism, when does someone go too far in what content they consume like movies or music? When is it okay for a fellow believer to correct another believer in love on what they are participating in? The best answer I can come to is that someone who has gone too far in whatever they are doing, is someone who is a) not glorifying God and b) is not reflecting Christ. If you can listen to secular music or watch secular movies, and not be hindered spiritually then go for it. If not, then you might want to reconsider what you are interested in as far as movies and music go.

For me, I have set up certain boundaries to ensure that I do not stumble into sin by going too far when it comes to these two mediums of art. This includes reading reviews from Common Sense Media (3), which is a website that tells you the content of most media and to what degree of content. For instance, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol has a 4 out of 5 stars for violence on Common Sense Media‘s review of the film, which means there is a lot of violence throughout the movie.

It could also be how you started your relationship with Jesus and became a Christian that influences what your specific borders for certain non-essential beliefs are going to be in your life. For example, I have these old family friends whose sons had such violent tendencies that just watching violent films would influence them to act extremely violently towards each other. So for that family, violent movies were not allowed because it tempted the two brothers into sinning towards each other.

Paul the Apostle wrote about legalism in two different places: Colossians 2:16-23 and Romans chapter 14. In the end, I could continue to discuss and try providing answers, but really I cannot truly say why I have certain standards for these two different mediums of entertainment. I will need to investigate and understand what pulls me away from God and draw borders accordingly on my own. One way you could go about finding safe boundaries for yourself is by studying these two passages in the Bible and understanding what hinders you or what doesn’t hinder you as a Christian. Like always, I hope this helps you if this is something that you struggle with in your life. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://rapzilla.com/2015-08-john-givez-pens-open-letter-to-christian-hip-hop/
  2. http://www.rapzilla.com/rz/news/38-backstage/11361-john-givez-pens-open-letter-to-christian-hip-hop
  3. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/
  4. Disclaimer