Taylor Swift's 'Reputation': Are sensuality and bitterness really the pillars of a strong woman?

Taylor Swift's 'Reputation': Are sensuality and bitterness really the pillars of a strong woman?

I've followed Taylor Swift’s career from the beginning. I’ve admired her flair for storytelling, her ability to transform the mundane details of everyday experience into profound life lessons. I’ve also admired her knack for creating an endless number of catchy melodies. Being a fellow millennial woman, I feel like I’ve gone through the awkward transition from insecure, adolescent teenager to self-assured woman right alongside her. Yet I can’t help but feel that each of our brands of womanhood are worlds apart.

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Rapper Lecrae Releases Surprise Mixtape 'Church Clothes 3', Features Secular Producer and Artists

Rapper Lecrae Releases Surprise Mixtape 'Church Clothes 3', Features Secular Producer and Artists

How does Rapper Lecrae manage to make time for all these projects? This morning, Lecrae surprised his fans with a new mixtape, 'Church Clothes 3' produced by S1 who has worked with the likes of Kanye West & Jay-Z. The project also features an eclectic mix of both "secular" hip hop artist and Christian artist collaborations, including E-40N'DambiPropagandaJohn GivezJGivensJackie Hill Perry and Lecrae's labelmate KB.

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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 Moriah Peters | MariletteSanchez.com

An Interview with Moriah Peters | MariletteSanchez.com

I recently had the honor of interviewing the beautiful and talented musician, Moriah Peters. We talked purity, modesty, marriage, and listening to God’s voice. I was so blessed to find a kindred spirit in her, since we share a deep passion to inspire young people to be deeply committed to Jesus Christ. She released her first music video TODAY for her single “Brave.”  Be sure to check it out and share. 

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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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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

'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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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.

Panic! At The Disco's Spencer Smith Admits Addiction, Helps Others

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When Panic! at the Disco released their latest music video for their newest single, “Miss Jackson,” fans had one question: Where’s Spencer Smith? Smith, the band’s drummer, and front-man Brendon Urie have been in Panic! since its creation. And while Urie is often thrown in the spotlight–where he seems to thrive–Smith is not usually far behind. In the promo pictures for their new album, it’s only Urie. In the “Miss Jackson” video, it’s only Urie. One look at the band’s Instagram account and it’s mostly Urie. Is Panic! going through another member change?

Upon further investigation, fans found Smith at the end of the video, in a group of what were thought to be extras. He has a brief on-camera appearance along with Dallon Weekes–a recent addition to the band after losing two original members to creative differences. And while this didn’t ease some of the die-hard fans worries, yesterday we heard from the man himself.

In an

open letter

posted to the band’s website, Smith admits to battling addiction for the past four and a half years. He writes that it started with smoking weed and drinking a little too much alcohol to get to a place emotionally and mentally where he felt normal. While on tour, he says his depression and anxiety “became much worse, and I used alcohol to attempt to numb it." 

After a traumatic health issue arose in a loved one roughly two years ago, Smith found himself taking Vicodin and Xanax daily. He believed he could self-medicate his way into being happy. He thought if he felt happy and outgoing, everyone else must see the same emotions and wouldn’t realize he was simply chasing a high to run away from what was causing his depression.  Smith writes that he quickly "became a serious addict,” and it only got worse when touring with Panic! stopped.

“Wake up: Take a pill to have the energy to get out of bed. Leaving the house: Make sure I have enough pills to last till I get back. I had back up pills in my car, my backpack, all over the place in case something happened to the ones I had on me,” Spencer writes. “I couldn’t go more than 8 hours without feeling painkiller withdrawals. I was taking a dangerous amount of pills while drinking to chase that high, and just like with any other substance, the higher the high is, the lower the low is. What started out as a way for me to numb anxiety and depression had become the major cause of it.”

Last fall, Smith entered treatment with the support of friends and family and he’s currently sober. He writes that his goal is to “relate to anyone who has experienced addiction personally or with a loved one.” His honesty, sincerity, and transparency has already had an impact on his fans who have shown an outpouring of love via the band’s social media channels. 

“…Anxiety, depression, and addiction are not picky. They plague people of all ages from all walks of life. But, you can recover!! So, please seek help if you’re suffering personally,” Smith urges. “It gets better one day at a time.”

Even though he doesn’t owe anyone this letter, he’s willing to share his powerful story to help make a difference. It’s something we greatly admire. Thank you, Spencer. We’ll see you on tour.

You can read Spencer Smith’s full letter

here

. Panic! at the Disco’s new album, “Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!” releases 

October 8th

 worldwide.

Lecrae: Engaging Culture or Forsaking Christ?

Lecrae: Engaging Culture or Forsaking Christ?

It’s not often that mainstream media show interest in a gospel artist. But at this year’s Grammy Awards, MTV and XXL Mag took notice as Christian rapper Lecrae won “Best Gospel Album” for Gravity.

“[He] has done well to exist within hip-hop’s secular sphere” said MTV, highlighting Lecrae’s past collaboration with DJ Don Cannon and rapper Big K.R.I.T., and his participation in BET’s Hip-Hop Awards Cypher in 2011.

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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.

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