Justin Bieber Shocks Us Again on 'The Voice' Finale

Justin Bieber Shocks Us Again on 'The Voice' Finale

The Biebs made headlines again recently--thankfully with some positive news. He surprised fans and haters alike with a surprisingly emotional stripped-down piano rendition of his EDM-drenched single 'Sorry' off his latest album Purpose. (He later transitioned into a full-blown performance with the original track and tons of dancers, but the acoustic intro is what I may or may not have played on repeat 10x in a row.)

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An Interview with Dancer Mari Madrid | MariletteSanchez.com

An Interview with Dancer Mari Madrid | MariletteSanchez.com

Keone and Mari Madrid are a married dance duo who have reached millions around the world through their YouTube videos. Most recently, they released a dance video for Justin Bieber's "Love Yourself" as part of his "Purpose: The Movement" short film (released on Bieber's own VEVO channel). The video has been viewed 35,000,000+ times. You might have also seen them teaching workshops, So You Think You Can Dance, X-Factor, Dancing with the Stars, the Ellen Show, Good Morning America, and much more. I was honored to interview Mari, who is a strong woman of God with a beautiful heart. She has a passionate desire to use her craft to create beauty and draw others to God.

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Why We Love Liam Neeson [Guest Post]

Why We Love Liam Neeson [Guest Post]

Liam Neeson is an interesting actor. For one, Schindler’s List was released back in 1993, and he honestly doesn’t look much older now than he did when he acted in that movie over 20 years ago. Second, other than Star Wars:The Phantom Menace and Batman Begins (which I wouldn’t really label as purely action films), Liam didn’t become an action movie star until the original Taken came out in 2008. That’s right—the man became an action film star at the age of 56! That’s incredible! I’m only 38 years old, and I’ve already got issues with sciatica.

But I mentioned Taken, and that movie really was the turning point for Liam Neeson. It propelled him into another category altogether in the eyes of the movie-goer, making him both kick-butt cool, and intensely trustworthy. Let me explain what I mean.

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Shia LaBeouf: Why Prayers Work

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Most likely, you’ve heard by now that Shia LaBeouf revealed that a woman raped him during his #IAMSORRY performance art exhibit in L.A earlier this year.

Now, we’re not about to sit here and say for sure that it definitely happened or that it definitely didn’t happen. Some people are backing up his claims. Somepeople are insisting that it’s all a publicity stunt.

It doesn’t matter whether Shia’s culpable or not, it’s God’s job to deal with the sin. Ours is to protect our little brother (because he’s younger in the faith). How? Refuse to gossip and choose to pray.

Now, I (Marilette) have been a brokenrecord with this “pray for celebrities” topic. But the truth remains, most of us Christians are more likely to point out Shia’s “lack of fruit” in his Christian walk than pray for him. With fists raised, we demand to know: Is he even a Christian?

I love how Hillsong NYC’s Carl Lentz put it, referring to his well-documented relationship with Justin Bieber. “I tell people grace and acceptance does not mean approval. I can accept you as a human being and not approve of your actions. That’s how we’ve been loved. We love because we were first loved.“

My heart breaks again every time Shia talks about his relationship with his Vietnam-vet, former drug-addict, verbally-abusive dad. Can God remove brain and heart damage caused by abuse in minutes? Yes. Does he always heal instantly? No. He often prefers to cycle through healing because it’s better for our faith in the long run. But if Shia doesn’t have protection from us believers (via prayers on his behalf), there’s no way his pain will ever be removed.

I (Alyssa) have to admit that sometimes I cringe when people say, “The only thing we can do is pray,” because what we really mean is: “Oh yeah, it’s absolutely hopeless, but let’s schluff off a prayer so we feel we’ve done everything we can.

A few weeks ago, I was at a morning prayer meeting at my church. Our leader said God wanted us to pray for a young black girl in a pink coat–the leader could see her face clearly. So we did. A few days later, this story about a Philadelphia kidnapping popped up on the news. Our leader watched the news story about how a young black woman was rescued. He saw her face, and realized it was the same woman he’d seen two days before. The kidnapper had killed other victims in previous crimes, but this woman was rescued within days and had no major injuries.

God’s payment plan for intercessors is answered prayer. When you see an incredible response in the world to something you were praying for, you are motivated to keep praying.

I thought that after I wrote the first article about Shia’s conversion, I would stop heavy lifting in my spirit for Shia. But I keep praying and praying hard. I’m praying because God is demanding that I do.

I have known and loved God for over 20 years. I have a strong faith. I have spiritual gifts to use. So like Romans 15:1 says, that gives me responsibility. And if I don’t take that burden, it’s bad news. “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals.’” (Ezekiel 34:1-10).

Weak. Sick. Injured. Stray. Lost. Scattered. Sounds like Shia to me.

Well doesn’t he know better? Probably not.

In prayer, I asked God what is plaguing Shia. God revealed to me that Shia is haunted by a spirit of iniquity, literally lawlessness. What happens when you spend your lifetime longing for approval from an abusive dad; when the movie industry is demanding your best work, only to sprawl you out in the public eye; when truth is preached as a flimsy ideal? You want freedom.

But Satan has a good counterfeit for freedom: “anything goes.”

Shia doesn’t really understand moral lines (which, by the way, also explains the chronic plagiarism). It’s the cry of his generation that doesn’t have any anchor to truth.

In this new article, Shia says he looks up to Joaquin Phoenix. My favorite movie of Phoenix’s is Walk the Line, which shows Johnny Cash’s raging, messy journey out of darkness. I’m still praying for Shia because I believe God is going to use him in a parallel journey.

It’s crucial for Christians to speak life, not death, because our words become reality.

Let’s not abandon our posts of covering our weakest members in prayer. Let’s not let Shia slip through the cracks.

QUESTION: Why is it so easy for us Christians to underestimate and even dismiss the power of prayer? Let me know in the comments below.

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An Interview with Shane Harper | MariletteSanchez.com

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Some may recognize Shane Harper as Josh Wheaton, the in-over-his-head college freshman (God’s Not Dead). Others know him as Spencer on Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie. His latest role on MTV’s Happyland is quickly shooting him up the ranks of Hollywood’s young heartthrobs. 

I’ve always admired Shane’s multi-faceted talent (see here and here), his candidness about his Christian faith, and his ability to seamlessly navigate between “Christian” and “mainstream” media.

In this exclusive interview with MariletteSanchez.com, Shane opens up about about his ideal role, the reaction of the Christian community to Happyland, and his most important life lesson.

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MS: Let’s pretend the best movies you have seen were never made, and were still in the production stage. What script would you want to get in the mail that would make you say, “I have to play this part?"  

SH: Newsies. It’s a movie musical that was released in 1992. Getting to play Jack Kelly would be the coolest! 

MS: How is it going filming "Happyland” for MTV? Tell us a little bit about your character and why you chose that role. 

SH: Filming “Happyland” has been wonderful. It was a short production for season 1 but it was action-packed… long days and late nights were the norm! My character Ian Chandler is “bad boy prince charming”, but he has a good heart underneath the bravado. When I read the pilot, I immediately gravitated towards Ian. It’s always fun to play a character with many emotional layers to them. 

MS: Can you share a time when your Christian values put you in an awkward situation in your acting career? How did that turn out? 

SH: My values as a Christian hinge on the centricity of grace and the gospel of Jesus Christ. The biggest challenges I face all revolve around the temptation of narcism and self-worship. Christianity is all about loving God well, and loving our neighbors. We’re called to serve the people around us but It’s very easy in this business to be self-serving. 

MS: Share a story about a time when your decision to take a mainstream role conflicted with the opinion of the religious community. Would you have done something differently based on their reaction? 

SH:  think my role in this MTV series brings to mind a good example that relates to your question. There have been some interesting remarks from the Christian community commenting on the content of the show, and how they’re “disappointed” I would take a role like this, insinuating that somehow all of the characters I play and all of the narratives I participate in are supposed to share my faith and beliefs. This kind of thinking is the result of looking through the short-sighted, conservative American evangelical lens. That is not a Christian gospel mentality; it’s an us VS. them mentality. Jon Foreman put it concisely when he said, “There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds”. Every narrative has the potential to show us something powerful and important about the human condition. Life is messy and so should art be. The Bible, after all, is filled with messy stories. But we find God’s hand of redemption in all of them. My faith in God leads me to understand the inconceivable value of all people, and it breathes passion into every good endeavor. 

MS: What’s the song that you just can’t get out of your head right now? 

SH: “Ink” by Coldplay 

MS: Who are your top three musical influences? 

SH: Coldplay, John Mayer, Jon Foreman 

MS: Give us your cardboard testimony

SH: In need of grace and mercy. / Still in need of grace and mercy. 

MS: What is the most important life lesson you have learned? What struggles did you have to go through to learn it? 

SH: What’s the truest thing about me? That’s the question I’ve learned to ask myself. The truest thing about any one of us is that we are loved by God. When you know who you are, you know what your purpose is. The cross reminds me every day. 

MS: How are three specific ways my readers can pray for you in the next year? 

SH: That would be so wonderful, thank you. I’m always praying for wisdom. Lately, I’ve been focusing on being patient in all things. And please pray for peace. 

WANT MORE SHANE? Check out this interview with Family Christian, in which Shane describes his Christian upbringing and his personal journey to own his faith, and gives us glimpse into being a vocal Christian in Hollywood.

Why We Must Drop the Stigma of Mental Illness

By Stephanie Jonasson

This is a guest post from Stephanie, my dear friend from college. Stephanie got her start in the field of mental health working as a Mental Health ParaProfessional in a Residential Treatment Program for teens. She has since transitioned into donor development (for the same non-profit health organization) where she spends her time helping the local community better understand what it means to struggle with mental illness.

I’m so excited that Marilette invited me to share my two cents on the recent loss of one of my favorite comedians, and some of the misconceptions that surround suicide and mental illness. The news has been inundated this week with the gory details of Robin Williams’ suicide. I’ve watched as conversations sprang up around me on social media, in the hours after the news broke as people tried to come to grips with what had happened. The opinions I encountered ran the gamut of emotion from anger, which accuses him of being “selfish” for leaving his family behind, to pity, which absolves Mr. Williams of all responsibility for his actions. 

My experience with mental illness is both professional and familial. I have provided direct care for teens in treatment for mental health issues; and I’ve seen the devastation that depression (and illnesses like it) has caused in my family. In all that time, I’ve learned one important thing: people who suffer from chronic mental illness are fighting forces that have literally re-wired their brain chemistry.

They didn’t ask for it, and they can’t just “fix it” – at least not at this point in medical technology. In a lot of cases it can be treated quite well, but I’ve also seen some horror stories where it has taken a lot of trial and error just to get someone stabilized.

Suicide takes a sad mental health story and turns it into a nightmare. Any time someone dies, his or her family and friends bear the grief of that loss. They have to struggle with everything not said and the important moments their loved one will miss. It’s so much worse, however, having to look back and know that this person, for whom you cared so deeply, despaired enough to take his or her own life.  I would do just about anything for the ones that I love, and I can’t imagine the guilt and grief that comes from knowing they were hurting and I didn’t stop it. It’s easy from that perspective to call the one who has died “selfish”. But in most cases, people stay alive longer because they care about the family and friends they would leave behind. They don’t want to hurt the people they love; they just want to stop hurting

Don’t get me wrong: suicide is NEVER the right solution for depression. Suicide doesn’t just “happen” to people, it has to be chosen and carried out. The destruction of self is so against the image of God that we were created to be, that it should be repugnant to all of us. But we can never forget – even in our grief – that it’s a choice some people make because they feel like they have no better alternative.

Living with mental illness is such a frightening experience. Humans are great at intervening in a physical crisis (floods for example) but issues like depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia send people running for the hills. Often when people do notice that something is wrong they respond with criticism for symptoms. This kind of reaction makes experiencing depression like trying to swim laps with concrete blocks on your ankles while the lifeguard yells at you for falling behind. The person battling mental illness needs help and mercy, not judgment. For example: someone might be censured for erratic sleep patterns, profanity, and excessive drinking but it takes someone with experience to recognize the self-treatment of an underlying anxiety disorder. 

As Christians, we should be at the forefront of helping our brothers and sisters who are struggling with mental illness. We know we live in a fallen world where God’s creation doesn’t function as He originally intended. Why are we then surprised when our minds (a physical and biological entity apart from our spirits) are also marred from the effects of the Fall? I’ve heard well-meaning Christians advise people with depression to “pray more” for healing or “joy”. Yet those same people would never suggest a cancer victim solely rely on prayer – to the exclusion of medical and community support – for healing. We have to start recognizing depression and other mental illness as a legitimate health issue, and abandon the stigma that keeps us from talking about it openly.

Community is so desperately important for people who struggle with depression.  An astonishing 50-70% of people will tell someone before they attempt suicide. They don’t have to reach a point where they consider suicide. There is hope. Someone who is centered in his faith, actively seeking help from his community, and receiving medical attention is significantly less likely to commit suicide. (Not saying it couldn’t happen in an extreme case, but the odds are significantly reduced.) But they need to know that they can talk about their struggle without being judged for struggling. 

I grieve for Robin Williams and the family he left behind.  In him, we lost a kind man who inspired us with desktop monologues and infused our lives with humor. I can only hope that his death will continue to foster discussion about depression and suicide, for the sake of everyone out there who is still struggling.

QUESTION: Why do we Christians tend to lump mental health with spiritual and not physical ailments, thereby making it something we can only “pray away”? Let me know in the comments below.

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Why Justin Bieber Needs Our Prayers, Not Our Gossip

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When controversial videos of Justin Bieber surfaced recently (with a young teenage Bieber spouting off racial slurs), he once again positioned himself in the glare of the public spotlight.

In a previous post, I wrote: “I’ve always felt a compassion for young celebrities, [who], like all young people, are in the awkward transition into adulthood, no doubt making mistakes in the process. The only difference? Celebrities will make their mistakes in the scrutiny of the public eye.” Unfortunately, we treat celebrities not as mere entertainers, but as entertainment themselves. The public places them under continuous scrutiny, and we “regular people” feel entitled to criticize their every move.

The fame cycle is intriguing: celebrities are worshipped one moment, and then become the object of ridicule the next. They live in a constant Catch-22. Placed on a pedestal, they are unable to do anything wrong. Placed under a microscope, they are unable to do anything right.

A deep prayer of mine is that one day, Christians would come to view celebrities as real people who carry their own share of brokenness. Whenever a fellow Christian makes a critical comment about a celebrity, I flinch. It stings especially coming from the pulpit. Gossip is a sin, whether it’s someone you know personally or not (more about that here). As someone once said: “If you spend time praying for people instead of talking about them, you’ll get better results.”

I first considered working for Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) full-time upon learning about its founding. Co-founders Bill Bright and his wife Vonette began reaching out to college students at the UCLA campus in the 1950s. Their main demographic was student leaders, especially members of fraternities and sororities. Bill Bright believed that while churches had plenty of ministries serving Skid Row and jails, they lacked existing outreach towards college students and executive leaders. These were the influential leaders of today and tomorrow. No doubt, Jesus cares for the orphans, widows, homeless and the poor. But I don’t think He ever meant to exclude the cultural leaders (Don’t believe me? Brush up on the stories of Nicodemus and The Rich Young Ruler: both powerful, privileged individuals whom Jesus did not turn away).

Besides the video controversy, Bieber has had a rocky year thus far with his January DUI arrest, criminal vandalism (“egging”) charge, and his high-profile on-again, off-again relationship with Selena Gomez. But soon after the controversial videos leaked, Bieber posted an excerpt from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling devotional book on his Instagram account. Just a few days ago, Bieber and Selena Gomezattended a bible study together.

Someone once said that the Gospel is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread for free. Unfortunately, we Christians are quick to point out the sins and shortcomings of celebrities, yet rarely do we take the awareness of celebrities’ flaws as a catalyst to pray for them. Eighteenth-Century Scottish Preacher Oswald Chambers said that “God gives us discernment not so we can judge, but so we can be intercessors.”

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I’m not advocating that we excuse the wrong behavior of celebrities. I simply want to challenge fellow Christians to choose to see past the fame to the brokenness, and as a result, to extend compassion.

Bieber reminds me a lot of David in the Bible. Both are public figures who committed giant mistakes in the public eye. But even after committing adultery and murder, God still chose to use David as a King. In the same way, I believe God still plans to use Bieber in a mighty way in pop culture, not because he is perfect, or the most well-behaved Christian, but because he is a broken human being desperate for God’s grace.

In my own personal life, I’ve been learning that I don’t give hope to others by having it all together. I give hope by being transparent about my flaws, yet being secure in the love and forgiveness that Christ Jesus provides. It has been my prayer for the past several months that Bieber would have a “Gethsemane” experience. As Christian Author Ken Gire says, Gethsemane is “where we go when there’s no place to go but God” (Source). In other words, we usually meet God at rock-bottom.

It’s my deepest desire to see young celebrities like Justin Bieber to arrive at their “Gethsemane” to truly see their need for grace. I would love to see every young celebrity have a similar experience to what Anthony Evans describes in his song “The Way That You Love Me.”

My way, destroying me / I couldn’t see I was my worst enemy / So You took away till my soul ached / And I knew that it was no mistake / Anything that meant anything to me was gone

You love me so much that You let me fall knowing that / I would lose it all and hear Your call / You love me so much that You chase me / When I ran away You captured me / By letting me run to the end of myself /…This is the way, the way that You love me

QUESTION: Would you join me in lifting celebrities up in prayer, to nudge them towards their rock-bottom, and ultimately towards Jesus Christ?

Resources:Intense Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire

What the 'Noah' Film Taught Us About Fear

By Alyssa Plock

This is a guest post from Alyssa, my dear friend and roommate from college. A talented screenwriter and actor, Alyssa has worked as an assistant to Sally Lloyd Jones, author of the beloved The Jesus Storybook Bible. Alyssa currently works as a radio producer in upstate New York. You can read her blog or follow her on Twitter.

In the Message paraphrase of the Bible, Noah’s story begins: “Noah was a good man, a man of integrity in his community. Noah walked with God.” In the blockbuster Noah, the title character played by Russell Crowe neither walks with God nor hears from him. Without God speaking, the whole game changes. Especially in the second half of the movie, Noah trusts not God, but his enemy.

People who have seen the movie may say, “What do you mean? He prays a lot!” Yes, he prays. Then he acts in his own strength which does nothing to alter the wrong path he has already chosen.

The pivotal scene in the movie is where Noah leaves the ark before the flood comes to go find wives for his two younger sons. He enters the nearby camp of men and sees the fullness of evil in the world: girls are sold; bodies are lined in pits; starving people rip live animals to shreds with their bare hands. Noah watches a man grab a piece of flesh and savagely devour it. The man looks at Noah and hisses before going back to his meal. In horror, Noah realizes the man is him.

He comes back to the ark convinced that he and his family are too evil to survive and their only purpose of entering the ark will be to save the animals. The rest of the movie centers around Noah’s descent into madness as he tightens his grip on those he loves.

A dash of discernment would have alerted Noah that what he saw was from Satan not God.  But Noah does not recognize it as such. Every decision Noah makes after seeing this satanic deception is based on fear, and the more afraid he gets, the more control he seeks. The more control he seeks, the more he abuses his family. Fear is what drives Noah to abandon a young woman to her death, isolate himself from his family and stop six inches shy of murder. Although the Noah movie is not a historically accurate portrayal of the biblical story, it does present a vivid warning to Christian leaders not to abandon faith in their decision-making.

Noah illustrates the procession of a leader’s fear-based decline:

1. God gives you direction for your life.

Noah sees the world covered in a flood and later sees an ark.

2. You begin to walk in that vision and start to get excited about it.

Noah builds the ark and puts the animals on board.

3. Satan pitches an alternative vision.

The Noah look-alike in the camp is sending the message: “You and your family are too evil to survive.”

4. You listen to Satan’s false advertising, which is as ancient as “Did God really say…?” in Eden.

Noah believes the message and starts shutting out everything else outside of that vision.

5. Fear quickly slips into control.

Noah decides his two younger sons will have no wives and his oldest son’s wife (an enjoyable Emma Watson) can only come on board because he thinks she’s barren. When he finds out she is pregnant, he vows to kill the newborn child if it is a girl–a girl could keep the line of men going.

6. Faith-filled people begin to annoy you to the point of hatred.

As Noah’s madness deepens, he can no longer tolerate his sound-minded wife (Jennifer Connelly) and daughter-in-law. He cannot stand to be around his family. And his family cannot stand to be around him.

7. Your prayers seem to go unheard.

Noah asks God if he should kill his grandchild when it is born. Later, his daughter-in-law says the rain stopping is a sign that the Creator is smiling on the child, what I believe to be the correct interpretation. Noah is too deaf and blind to the answer, though, because the control has become such a stronghold.

8. Your ministry crashes as you and those under your leadership get hurt.

Noah does eventually show mercy to his daughter-in-law, but after 9 months of torture, she breaks down in the deepest, soul-crushed shrieks, you wonder if she will ever recover. As soon as the boat hits dry land, Noah, still cut off from his family, finds a cave in which to waste away. Eventually, he begins to find his faith again and repair some damage with his family, but some relationships are lost forever.

Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Christian leaders, we must be careful not to drive away the power of God by choosing fear rather than faith. Acting in fear makes us lose the power we had when we were walking in accordance with God’s truth. And letting fear fill your mind is putting that yoke of slavery over those you lead. The Spirit of Christ is a spirit of freedom–He will not stick around if you are driving your ministry forward in your own cowardice.

Is “fear” the loudest voice you hear when making decisions? Cast off that yoke of fear before it does irreparable damage to you and those whom you lead.

QUESTION: Have you ever allowed fear and control infect your ministry or leadership? Let me know in the comments below.

'Dear Hollywood': An Open Letter from Anthem Lights

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Earlier this month, Christian band Anthem Lights released a lyric video for their song “Dear Hollywood” off their latest album You Have My Heart. The band is more widely known for their acoustic covers of pop songs on YouTube (last year, they won Ryan Seacrest’s contest for best Taylor Swift cover of all time with “We Are Never Getting Back Together”). Still, all of their original songs are clearly faith-based. I always had an inkling that they shared my desire to engage an unbelieving culture for the sake of Christ, and not simply create music that preaches to the choir. I no longer have any doubts.

In the Behind The Song video interview, band member Caleb Grimm says the song is “the conversation that we would want to have…if each of us (band members) could sit down with a celebrity.”

The song points to the spiritual emptiness that plagues many celebrities:

Broken hearted but pretending you’re alright / You’ve lived out every dream / But something missin’ / There’s a bigger picture calling you tonight / You could know your worth if you would only listen

The calling to reach out to these people is urgent, for the Bible says that “the human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” (Proverbs 18:14).

In the song, the band also tells Hollywood that “It breaks my heart that you still look away / From the perfect love that’s right there on display.” Jesus Christ is the only one who is able to fill a human being’s insatiable desire to be known, admired, and accepted. Not even the biggest or most loyal fan base can accomplish that.

Besides the celebrities themselves, their fans are spiritually hungry as well. And the artists have the greatest potential to influence those fans for good. Through the song, Anthem Lights also tells Hollywood that “There’s so much good that you could do / With so many eyes watching you /…When all the world is listening.”

Alan Powell, another band member, says that as fellow musicians, the band has an “overwhelming desire to see this medium of entertainment be used in an uplifting way. Tragically,…it’s used to glorify things that are not edifying, that aren’t uplifting to the individual, more specifically, are not glorifying to God.”

To be clear, Alan says, “we don’t mean this in any means like pointing fingers, like ‘Hollywood, you’re stupid.’” Rather, it’s simply to point out the entertainment industry’s potential.

“There’s so much influence that they have,” says Caleb. “In a very real way, entertainers run the world.”

Alan shares his hope for Christians who hear the song. “As a believer, you either feel this way about Hollywood, or you’re like ‘Oh, man I should feel that way,’ or it’s like ‘Yeah, I didn’t know it, but that’s the way I feel.’”

I used to think I was the only person who saw celebrities in this way. But as God once showed Paul, He has “many people in this city” (Acts 18:10). I’m glad to know that I’m not alone.

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How God Redeemed My Broken Dream

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I still remember the day. It was the summer of 2011 in Colorado. Moses and I were two months away from marriage and we sat in a park discussing our future: our pending marriage and my career. The pit in each of our stomachs spoke of the anxiety we were feeling. Unanswered questions flooded our minds. I had no doubt that God was calling us to be married, but knowing that only added to my confusion. God, if You truly wanted us to be together, why would our careers clash like this?

For two years prior to our engagement, Moses had worked at the Christian non-profit organization Cru, developing New York City high school students spiritually via afterschool discussion groups, Bible studies, and one-on-one mentoring. Cru strongly encouraged married couples to become full-time staff members together, because the “job” was not simply a nine-to-five. It required a flexibility to mentor high school students after school, during evenings and weekends. It required swapping a paid salary for a requirement to raise financial support through individual donors. Moses felt an undeniable call to take the plunge. Me? I wasn’t so sure.

I always had a love for helping teenagers develop spiritually, but my deepest desire was to get to the root of the false ideologies force-fed to them via popular music, movies and television. Pop media are the poisoned wells from which teenagers drink their beliefs. Therefore, in college, I made it my life goal to be an entertainment magazine writer.

I’ve also felt a compassion for young Hollywood stars like Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, and the Jonas Brothers. Young celebrities, like all young people, are in the awkward transition into adulthood, no doubt making mistakes in the process. The only difference? Celebrities will make their mistakes in the scrutiny of the public eye.

As a mainstream magazine writer, I hoped to call out the falsehoods of pop media, and eventually befriend celebrities, helping them form personal relationships with Christ. Many teenagers will also emulate celebrities, oblivious to the discontentment and spiritual emptiness lurking beneath the fame, money and glamour–it’s a vicious cycle.

Soon, I landed internships with a Manhattan television production company, an online fashion magazine and the marketing department of a board game company. I had a growing network of media professionals in New York City; God seemed to be opening doors for me to reach all of my goals.

Yet here I was, weeks before my wedding, anxious instead of excited. I applied for the job at Cru, but grudgingly. Frankly, I was mad at God. All those years of praying, of crying out on celebrities’ behalf, would they all go to waste? Would I even get to meet them, to get a chance to be their friends and really invest in their lives? Why would You tease me by allowing me to progress in my media career just to pull the rug from under me?  

My life verse has always been Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” But at that point in my life, I truly doubted whether or not God was out to harm me. Despite how I felt, out of sheer obedience to God, I decided I would take the job at Cru.

I realized that like God testing Abraham with Isaac (Genesis 22), He was asking me to put my career on the altar. Like the Israelites and Baal, I had forged my own idol to replace God (Numbers 25). Making a name for myself as an entertainment journalist, even with the noble intention of using it as a ministry, was nothing short of prostituting my God-given gifts for my benefit–it was not worshipping God. Nineteenth Century Scottish preacher Oswald Chambers put it this way: “Our Lord calls to no special work: He calls to Himself” (My Utmost for His Highest). I became obsessed with my ministry at the expense of my relationship with God, and it took a toll on the health of my spirit.

In retrospect, I can see God’s sovereignty and foresight; He knew that three years later,  I would be a mom of two. The flexible schedule that Cru allows, especially to moms of young children, would no doubt be absent for a full-time journalist. With this blog, God has provided me with the platform to call out the false claims of Hollywood. Not to mention, if I had worked at a mainstream magazine, I would not have the freedom to be as vocal about my faith.

Hebrews 12:2 admonishes us Christians to look to Jesus Christ as “the author and finisher of our faith.” I know God is far from finished with developing my faith. I still haven’t befriended any celebrities. But after that ordeal, I’ve grown to trust God’s character. I can stand firm on the truth that no matter the circumstance, God always has my best in mind.

QUESTION: What dreams have you left behind in pursuit of following God? 

Kellan Lutz Used ‘The Passion of the Christ’ to Prep for 'Hercules'

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Actor Kellan Lutz is mostly recognized for his minor role as Edward Cullen’s vampire brother Emmett in the Twilight franchise.

But this week, Lutz is set to star in “The Legend of Hercules,” in which he plays the mythical warrior demigod.

To prepare emotionally for the role, Lutz says that his Christian faith allowed him to connect more closely to his character Hercules.

“There’s a scene halfway through the movie that’s the crucifixion, where I ask my father Zeus for help. I’m a man of faith, so I would just religiously watch ‘The Passion of the Christ’ and I’d use that,” he tells Variety.

The Legend of Hercules” hits theaters TOMORROW, Friday, January 10.

Buy your tickets HERE.

What the Miley Cyrus VMA Scandal Taught Us About Gossip

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As media coverage finally dies down on the Miley Cyrus VMA scandal, I think this is the best time to put in my two cents.

First, I’m confused with the double standards the entertainment media has. Entertainment journalists will not think twice about Lady Gaga baring her body, while Miley is quickly vilified. Granted, Lady Gaga has made her name by being shocking, while Miley’s claim to fame was Disney’s Hannah Montana. Still, I value consistency over hypocrisy. If only the media would pick their convictions and go with it: Should we praise hyper-sexualized pop music or not? It’s unclear. Instead, publications just flip flop and criticize when it’s convenient to sell papers or gain page views.

But that’s all another topic for another day. To me, the deep-rooted issue at hand here is gossip. It’s not just the media at fault here, but you and me: the readers, the viewers, the water-cooler discuss-ers. Christian or not, we somehow feel entitled to talk down on celebrities, as if they weren’t human.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying there’s no room to constructively critique unbiblical and destructive behavior promoted by celebrities or the media in general. My entire blog’s purpose is exactly that. But we must examine our motives when we thoughtlessly tweet, post or otherwise share our opinion on the latest celebrity gossip. Am I speaking out of a genuine concern for this celebrity or with any hint of malicious intent?

As I like to ask myself: Am I building up this celebrity by making this comment? What if, instead of speaking about this celebrity, I lifted him or her up in prayer?

My good friend Fallon Prinzivalli, frequent guest contributor on this blog, tweeted the other day, “Miley cried during her first live performance of ‘Wrecking Ball.’ Can we all stop pretending she isn’t a human being now?”

Too many of us think celebrities “deserve” all the backlash they receive, that “it’s part of their job.” We forget that they are fragile human beings, not unbreakable demi-gods. The sad thing is that if we were on the receiving end of such harsh comments, we would be quick to object, rightly labeling it as cruel.

As with gossip in “everyday life”: celebrity gossip is destructive to the party being gossiped about (celebrity), as well as the party doing the gossip (us). Celebrity gossip is not a victimless crime; it is destructive to our soul.

Christian author Elizabeth George presented a great biblical defense against gossip in her book A Woman’s High Calling.

According to George, the word “slanderer” is used many times in the New Testament. Its original Greek translation, diabolos, means malicious gossip, “slanderer,” “false accuser”–bringing charges against another, usually with hostile intent.

Titus 2:3 and 1 Timothy 3:11 call us Christians to be “not slanderers,” not “scandal mongers,” “not given to intrigue,” “avoiding scandal,” “not given to slandering,” “who will not talk scandal,” “saying no evil of others.” Can we honestly exclude our judgmental comments about Miley or any other celebrity from these categories?

George narrows down the causes of gossip to the following:

1. Evil Heart (Luke 6:45)

2. Hatred (Psalm 109:3)

3. Foolishness (Proverbs 10:18)

4. Idleness (1 Timothy 5:13)

Are any of these heart conditions driving my temptation to participate in celebrity gossip?

George sums it up like this:

Gossip harms us. When you and I gossip, we incur a huge loss. What kind of loss? We suffer the loss of character, respect, and dignity, not to mention the loss of spiritual growth and usefulness. As an old proverb says, 'Let not your tongue cut your throat.’

As Miley’s VMA incident fades from the media spotlight, no doubt, the media is cooking up another celebrity mishap to blow out of proportion this week. How will we react?

I’ll leave you to reflect on one of my all-time favorite verses: Philippians 4:8.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Leading Ladies: Katie McGrath

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Whether they’re stars on the rise, or everyday women worth emulating, these are ladies we admire and women to keep on your radar.

Next to Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence, Irish actress Katie McGrath is my ultimate girl crush. Not only do I think she’s stunningly gorgeous, but she’s a self-proclaimed “geek” and treats her fans extremely well. She’s more than willing to stop for photos and autographs when asked and will even mail you autographs if you write to her fan mail address (if you’re good to your fans, you’re a star in my book).

Known for her role as the villainous Morgana on BBC One’s “Merlin,” Katie McGrath began her acting career with no training. She got her start working as a wardrobe assistant on Showtime’s “The Tudors.” After being told she should act, she was offered a small part in the series and a few months later, landed the iconic role of the wicked enchantress. “Merlin” has since ended, completing its intended five season run, but during the show’s reign, she also starred in the romantic comedy “A Princess for Christmas.” It’s pretty much the life I dreamed up for myself—a girl from New York heads to a castle in England only to fall in love and marry a charming royal heir? Yes, please!

Click after the jump to find out why you should keep your eye on Katie!

Why we admire her: Katie isn’t afraid to be herself. Whether she’s excited to hop in the Batmobile at San Diego Comic-Con or expressing her love for “Firefly” actor Nathan Fillion, she’s just like us—geeking out over nerdy obsessions and crushing on attractive, talented actors. Hey Katie, looking for some new BFFs?

Why you should keep your eye on her: Katie starred in Madonna’s Oscar nominated “W.E.” and can most recently be seen on the TV show “Labrynth” with “Harry Potter” actor Tom Felton. Set to hit NBC this year, she will star alongside fellow “Tudors” alum and close friend Jonathan Rhys Meyers in “Dracula.” Katie will be playing the flirtatious Lucy Westenra. If you thought the vampire craze was over, you thought wrong. We have high hopes for this series!

Where we’d like to see her next: We’d love to see Katie take on a big franchise—perhaps a YA series adaptation? Maybe there’s room for her in the next “Hunger Games” movie? Or possibly a role in the upcoming “Mortal Instruments” franchise? Not only do we know Katie has the talent for a popular series, but she has the grace and personality to carry the fame with ease. We’re looking forward to seeing more of her in 2013!

Are you a fan of Katie? Tell us why on twitter!

'The Vow' Book Giveaway!

Curious about the true events behind the movie “The Vow”? Win a free copy of the book “The Vow: The True Events That Inspired the Movie”.

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Here’s how it works. Do any or all of the following:

1. Comment under any article on MariletteSanchez.com.

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2. Share any article on your Facebook Timeline and tag the site’s Facebook Fan Page.

OR

3. Tweet a link to any article and mention @marilette.

The more you share, the greater chance to win!

Comment or share as many times as you like. NO LIMITS. Contest ends February 29, 2013, 11:59pm. Winner will be contacted via Facebook message or Twitter direct message and announced on MariletteSanchez.com, Facebook Fan Page and Twitter on March 1, 2013.

Justin Timberlake Reclaims His King of Pop Crown (Grammy's 2013)

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I’ve been a fan of Justin Timberlake since I was seven years old. I’m now 23 and he hasn’t lost any of his ability to charm and woo me into a puddle of mush.I don’t think I can ever watch him perform without a huge cheesy grin on my face. I look like a three-year-old who just met Mickey Mouse for the first time.

Well, this girl felt like she was surprised with a trip to Disney World over the weekend when the King of Pop reclaimed the crown and hit the Grammy’s stage on Sunday night. He rocked the audience with his newest single “Suit & Tie” (sharing the stage with Jay-Z, of course) and kept us entertained with “Little Pusher Love Girl”–which made it’s debut at DirecTV’s Super Bowl party. After his performance, his Target commercial aired and the superstore’s website made his new album, “The 20/20 Experience,” available for pre-order (yes, I’ve already reserved my copy!). The album will be released on March 19th.

Fallon Prinzivalli’s (@iamqueenfal) back-up plan is to be Kellan Lutz’s trophy wife.

Emma Watson Defends Kristen Stewart In Vanity Fair Italia

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Whether you’re a “Twilight” fan or not, you’ve probably heard about the affair that rocked Twihard’s worlds and caused a massive bump in Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart’s relationship. Last year, Stewart was photographed acting a little too friendly with married “Snow White and the Huntsman” director Rupert Sanders. All we have to say regarding this is: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7, KJV)

In the February 2013 issue of Vanity Fair Italia (translation provided here), Emma Watson stood up for Stewart saying, “Those who criticized her are the same people that think that being rich and famous is like being covered in some kind of magic powder that makes life perfect: Nothing can go wrong in your wonderful world. For these people, Kristen deserves all the bad things that have been thrown at her because she had an amazing life and she ruined it.”

Watson continues, “I don’t know how to explain it, but it sure isn’t perfect. I thought that the media picked on her in a very horrible way. Kristen is human, just like everybody else, and she’s so young. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone. It’s not fair to consider them matters of public interest. On one hand, I can understand why it happened: people felt really involved in her relationship with Robert Pattinson. But it’s also true that they both have done everything in their power to keep their relationship as far from the public eye as possible.”

Fallon Prinzivalli’s (@iamqueenfal) back-up plan is to be Kellan Lutz’s trophy wife.

'Boy Meets World' Spin-Off Gets Its 'Girl'

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World, meet Girl! Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) and Topanga Lawrence-Matthews (Danielle Fishel) “have a beautiful, new daughter,” according to Savage’s latest tweet. EW dropped the exclusive last night that 11-year-old Rowan Blanchard will be playing Riley Matthews in the “Boy Meets World” spin-off show “Girl Meets World.”

If you’ve been watching the series since the beginning and have seen every episode at least a billion times to the point where you can quote it (“DUCKIES!” “You’re Cory, I’m Shawn, just like it’s always been.” “They WANT you to take the rolls!”)—oh wait, is that just me?—then you’re either jumping with joy and excitement or biting your fingernails with dread that the Disney Channel will ruin a good (great, incredible, AMAZING) thing. I’m in between. What about you?

Fallon Prinzivalli’s (@iamqueenfal) back-up plan is to be Kellan Lutz’s trophy wife.

Not just for Beliebers: Justin's Emotional Acoustic Track "Nothing Like Us"

Listen here to Bieb’s new, emotional track written for his ex Selena Gomez.

According to Ryan Seacrest,  “[Justin] played the song back for [manager] Scooter [Braun] after he recorded it and Scooter said, ‘This is amazingly compelling and authentic and real and what you’re going through, we’ve got to put it on the acoustic album.’”

At first, Justin deemed it “too personal” to be released. A couple days later, he decided “it was so personal it should be on the album.”

Personally, I’m happy to have the soulful, authentic songwriter and performer Justin Bieber back. Don’t get me wrong, I have my own personal jam sessions to ”Boyfriend,“ ”Beauty and a Beat,“ and ”As Long As You Love Me. But I’ll take this boy with a lone instrument and his voice anyday (a la “Where Are You Now” piano version circa 2009). This is what pop music should be.

Nothing Like Us:

Lately I’ve been thinking

Thinking ‘bout what we had

I know it was hard

It was all that we knew

Have you been drinking?

To take all the pain away

I wish that I could give you what you deserve

Cuz nothing can ever, ever replace you

Nothing can make me feel like you do, yeah

You know there’s no one I can relate to

I know we won’t find a love that’s so true

There’s nothing like us

There’s nothing like you and me

Together through the storm

There’s nothing like us

There’s nothing like you and me together

I gave you everything, babe

Everything I had to give

Girl why would you push me away

Lost in confusion like an illusion

You know I’m used to making your day

But that is the past now

We didn’t last now

I guess that this is meant to be

Tell me was it worth it

We were so perfect

But baby I just want you to see

There’s nothing like us

There’s nothing like you and me

Together through the storm

There’s nothing like us

There’s nothing like you and me together

There’s nothing like us

There’s nothing like you and me

Together through the storm

There’s nothing like us

There’s nothing like you and me together