Clayton and Keeley are my good friends and a married couple whom I admire greatly. Both are working models and actors based in New York City, who also happen to be Christians. It is an incredible privilege to know such strong followers of Christ who take seriously their mission to be God’s salt and light in the entertainment industry. If you missed Part 1 and Part 2 of their interview, be sure to read that here and here. This is Part 3, where they share with me how being married has expanded their influence, why they thrive in New York City and how we can be praying for them and the entertainment industry.Read More
By Kevin Young
This is a guest post by Kevin Young. I’ve known Kevin since I was a freshman in college, when I volunteered at Cru High School and he was my Director. Since then, he has not only become a trusted spiritual mentor, he is a true father figure to my husband Moses and me. He’s also a very talented writer. You can read his blog here and follow him on Twitter.
I had invited him, along with a small team of others to a school called Thomas Jefferson, in East New York, known for violence and poor graduation rates. The week before I had helped a dazed and bloodied student off the floor after she had been beat up, her blouse ripped, eyes glazed over. This was no place for the faint at heart, and so when I asked him to do classroom talks, I was curious to see how he would be received by some of the toughest kids in New York City. What I saw changed everything. While I sat in that broken school desk, I heard a voice inside.
“Do you see their eyes, how they identify with him? They know he understands them, they know they have found someone to follow.”
And I knew I had found my Jeremiah.
His name is Moses Sanchez, and he lives with his wife Marilette, and their two children in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The best part of the story is how God led us together, but the most important part is how an older man needed to step aside, and let a Jeremiah take his place.
Moses’ story begins in the Bronx, and a flat out sprint trying to ditch the cops. He had just witnessed his mother’s arrest, and she had screamed to him, “run!” Next stop foster care, but if you know anything about Jeremiahs, they don’t stand still. He would disappear on long subway rides across the city, running, always running—at seven years old. A couple years later he made a soft landing into a Christian home, into the arms of a mom who took him in and adopted him as her own. Moses could have become a statistic, part of a number on a print out—one in four foster kids in NYC end up homeless. But God had other plans. Over the next several years He led him to families who loved him, cared for him, and shaped him. At his wedding, he had four sets of what he calls his ‘mom & dad,’ all for different reasons, and all brought into his life in the nick of time. That ceremony was a baptism of tears, a celebration of God’s amazing grace. I’ll never forget his words to his real mom. “I love you, because you loved me enough to send me away.”
These sovereign foundations give Jeremiahs an early, mature and determined faith to speak to God and man without fear. As Moses tells it, he needed $10,000 for each of the two years remaining at The King’s College. He wouldn’t continue there without it. He prayed. Literally in the same week, not knowing anything about his need or his cry to God, I met with a ministry partner, a long time friend of Cru, who said he “had an idea.” “I’d like to give $10,000 a year to the King’s College to scholarship an intern to work with your ministry.” I immediately thought of Moses. “But should I split the investment,” I thought, “involve more than one?”
The following week Moses and I were standing outside a school in lower Manhattan, and had just met a junior gang member named Manny. He was short, mean looking, and scowled the way kids like that do, in order to keep a healthy distance, command respect. After my attempt at reaching out, I asked Moses to tell his story. I needed to know if he had the stuff to deliver in evangelism. I remember Manny moved his sight from me and stared him down. Moments later, after listening to Moses, he was wiping tears from his eyes. “Your story man, it’s, it’s mine, too,” he said haltingly. This time the little voice was louder.
“Here is the future of ministry to New York City’s 1.2 million students. And by the way, give him the whole amount.”
All through his internship, Moses told me he was going into teaching when he graduated. I prayed God would show him otherwise. But his vision seemed stronger than my invitation to join our team, and so off he went. It broke my heart, honestly tore a hole in it. I didn’t know if it was selfish, or maternal. We had spent so much time together. While my insides were aching, the voice whispered. “Wait, I have more to teach him.” When I got an unexpected call from him several months later, I thought it was just to catch up. We sat in our favorite spot at LuLu Bean Café in Brooklyn, and he told me through tears he was out of God’s will. He needed to re-engage with us.
For some unknown reason, in that moment I saw several years stretched out all at once, and Moses stepping up to a place of leadership—into my post! I felt threatened, relieved, but mostly awe. Fear gripped me, a wonder in the wisdom and persistence of God upon a young man’s life, and the patience in an old man. When the voice spoke this time, “He is the man,” there was nothing to say.
I didn’t tell anyone what I had heard. It was a lonely burden I kept for many months. A great mission needs a great young soul to drive it, nurture it, call others around it, and ultimately to believe God for it. Today’s Jeremiahs need the older guard to step aside and let them lead. And so, the time came all too quickly, when God demanded that hard step of me.
“You are asking me to leave the city I love."
"Yes,” God responded, “but unless you leave, this young man will never fail enough, nor suffer enough to be great enough to carry my will.”
Epilogue: This spring I handed Moses a baseball, symbolic of the way a manager takes the mound and relieves one pitcher and installs the next. It’s his turn now, and I have a hunch he’s going to pitch a better game than me. I’m so glad. He’s already doing things I only dreamed of. This Jeremiah happens to be called Moses, but his story is only part of a larger one unfolding today. We who are older, wiser and more invested must ask God to open our eyes to see how we can give the Jeremiahs around us a place to lead, then get out of the way. They may be untested, but they are undaunted.
QUESTION: In what way is God calling you to let go in order to let Him to have His way with a ‘Jeremiah’ in your own life? Let me know in the comments below.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Bonus: Check out their mash-up of this year’s most popular Christian songs.
Related Article: Lecrae: Engaging Culture or Forsaking Christ?
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?
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.
“[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.Read More
“Imagine the power of a unified #Church.” - Hillsong United