I grew up in the era of televangelists like Rex Humbard and Oral Roberts. They were the pioneers of what was then the only streaming screen – the TV. Today we live in the era of Instavangelists. They are evangelists on Instagram and TikTok. Our screens have changed, but we’re still drawn to a spiritual force and the wonder of God through the lens. Unbelievers watch too. Sometimes with disdain and sarcasm, but sometimes they watch with curious interest.
God ultimately wants us to know Him personally. He wants our heart to know His heart, which sometimes means going through pain and suffering to hear His voice within us. In our mentally cluttered media culture, it’s when we take the time to search, go through suffering, and ultimately are forced to turn off our screens that God’s voice finally cuts through. It’s why Satan – the deceiver keeps our screens and the noise on 24/7.
Christian media leaders and communicators have learned much about communication since the early days of televangelists. I actually believe there is more honesty in today’s Instavangelist culture as they choose to share not just the joy and goodness of God, but also the reality that we live in a broken, difficult world. I’ve seen many Christian leaders publicly share what a life lived fully alongside Jesus looks like; it is a life of service, forgiveness, compassionate love, and joy in the middle of suffering and uncertainty.
Life changed during the pandemic.
Young people who have been raised without knowledge of God or the spiritual world, became curious as they were suddenly confronted with incredible fear and untimely death in the world around them. Many who had been led to deny the existence of God and placed their faith in science or the government to solve their problems instead found them untrustworthy. Many who had never paused long enough to consider praying or reading the Bible stopped as their worldview was shaken and shattered. They began to ask if God was real. Was there a higher power, and possibly a deeper meaning to existence? Was there some truth to what those instavangelists were saying?
Social media is designed to tout a “me culture.”
As we begin a new year, can we, who are confident in our faith through God’s proven provision, become more effective instavangelists? What if we, who “know the truth and how the truth has sets us free” (John 8:32), began to use our social media accounts more strategically to tell others that it’s not about “me,” but about the God who breathes within me? What if we shared with them the reason why our life has purpose and meaning? What if our personal “television studios” proclaimed God’s ability to overcome disruption, suffering, devastation, and death, and that life wasn’t about the “here and now” of our imploding world, but in the world to come when King Jesus returns?
Depression and suicide rates are soaring today, and gender identity dysphoria is rampant. TikTok, culture’s latest life-sucking platform, can only be watched for a short time before what we post is gone. Yet the average global TikTok user spends 3.5 hours daily watching videos that are largely mindless, meaningless, and will vanish. Could this continual use of vanishing videos be a subtle message to users of their life? That it’s a vapor and here and gone before ever being seen and known? Is the constant need to check these vanishing stories keeping us from seeing what is eternal – the everlasting, all-seeing God?
Will God’s voice be heard before it goes away on TikTok or Instagram stories?
The reality is that our life on earth truly is a vapor; we aren’t here long. But it is definitely not meaningless. Our Creator God sees and knows us. Hagar, a woman in the Old Testament, names God El-Roi, the God who sees (Genesis 16:13). What if lovers of God become Instavangelists or TikTokvangelists and began sharing this revelation of an ever-present, eternal God? That He is real and He transformed their life? What if believers posted how God was with them during disasters, health or financial crises, through grieving, and times of endless uncertainties? What if they shared a peace that was unnatural, and a calm beyond their understanding during those times? That they knew the “Who” that held their hand and holds their future? What if the followers of Jesus posted of God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, and hope? What if they invited their followers to watch an online church service or posted how a scripture verse challenged their thinking? Like this verse, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 23:8)? And… what would happen by chance, if in 2023, their scrolling eye stopped and instead of finding something silly and meaningless, they found freedom, truth, and peace everlasting?
What if… they found the Light of the World behind their screen?
As I travel to exotic and historic sites, I’m constantly observing “selfie models” taking pictures of themselves, wanting to be seen and to become “influencers” online. The Bible calls it our “flesh.” but we call it “selfie” in today’s language. It’s a visual reminder of how much social media has affected the culture and how it feeds our insatiable egos.
The bottom line is that we are all afflicted with self-centeredness.
None of us are exempt. It’s part of living in our fallen world because of sin’s entrance. Paul tells us that our “flesh” is often in conflict with our spirit, which wants to break free from selfishness but continues to see it rear its ugly head (Romans 7:15). As we mature as believers in Jesus, we become more aware of how our egos get in the way of becoming all that He wants for us, and how our self-centeredness separates us from knowing Him more deeply. Confronting our ego issues can be excruciatingly painful, so we deny our selfishness or make excuses for it. Overcoming self-centeredness requires facing ourselves honestly, choosing to change how we think, and sometimes changing whom we associate with. But if we want to know God deeply, which is His greatest desire for us, it’s a must. This is why the many self-appraising personality tests, including the Enneagram, have become so popular. In many ways, though they seem enlightening and beneficial, they can be dangerous and self-elevating.
Our “flesh” hates change. (more…)
It is easy to become a victim of empty promises and lies in the media and entertainment industry. It’s often not a question of “if” you’ll be cheated or taken advantage of; it’s “when.” Anger is an easy button to push, but when the root of bitterness is bitten, it can cause irrefutable damage.
Stories can help us forgive, keep our integrity and move on.
I frequently look at classic fairy tales to find lessons hidden in them. Like parables that Jesus told, many fairy tales have lessons and wisdom to learn from as we examine them more closely. They can teach us about choices and circumstances that occur in our lives, many of which can happen beyond our control.
The story of Rapunzel is one. It was made famous by the Brothers Grimm in their fairytale book for children, but it’s believed that its roots lay in the third-century Italian story of Saint Barbara, whose father thought her so beautiful that he locked her away. The story through the centuries has had many versions with many different storylines. Most recently, Disney retold the story in their animated version entitled, Tangled.
One of the lessons most popularized from the story is that you can’t keep children from the world’s evils. But I think many have missed other hidden lessons. It’s a story of choosing to take risks and make life-changing choices. It’s a story of being set free from bondage caused by sinful acts done to us, whether intentionally or not. Most importantly, it’s a story of climbing up and down the ladder of forgiveness and love and our ability to maintain our integrity and move on despite what’s happened in our lives.
We often see unforgivable acts that cause pain and suffering as singular actions – “the straw that breaks the camel’s back.” However, if you examine unpardonable offenses, one finds that they are usually caused by more profound issues of repeated and layered actions. One of the many versions of Rapunzel’s story tells of her mother, who refuses to eat and yearns only for a root growing in the witch’s garden during her pregnancy. Out of love and concern for his wife’s health, Rapunzel’s father repeatedly steals the witch’s magical root, gets caught and must surrender their child to the witch who locks her in a tower. The love of the prince is Rapunzel’s only escape from her bondage.
Unconditional love is the healing balm for repeated offenses.
Rapunzel’s beauty and eventual saving grace are revealed in the power of her hair. Her hair, like God’s unconditional love, is never cut off but keeps growing longer and stronger year after year. It is her hair that the prince uses to save Rapunzel. It is God’s never-ending unconditional love for us through Prince Jesus that rescued us from our eternal separation from Himself. Jesus was God’s ladder of love used to reach and free us from sin’s bondage. Rapunzel’s hair was woven – braided in three substantial sections of hair which allowed her to be rescued. God’s love and forgiveness are also interwoven with the strength of three – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit which provide us with an unbreakable bond.
It’s our inability to escape our sins that requires God’s never-ending forgiveness.
Jesus, our ladder of love and forgiveness, is thrown to us daily so we may escape the entrapment of sin. As long as we’re entrapped in this world, we will never be able to stop making sinful choices. Our only hope is to recognize our need for God’s escape ladder – Jesus.
The book of Hosea in the Bible tells the story of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness for us. Often misunderstood because of its sexual themes, Hosea is far from a tale of sexual lust and fantasy consequences. Instead, it is the story of God’s unrelenting forgiveness for our continual sinning. He may allow our deserved punishment, but He’ll never abandon us.
Stories make us think and hear God’s voice.
God used the parable of Hosea and his marriage to a prostitute for us to understand the height, length and depth of His love and forgiveness, and the reason why Jesus came and sacrificed His life for us. Prince Jesus scaled sin’s tower to reach the depths of our hearts. Then God commands us to forgive just as He forgave us. He urges us to fix our eyes on Jesus, who empowers us and allows our eyes to be opened to those entrapped in the bondage of their sin and to forgive those who have caused us pain and suffering. It enables us to turn from anger and the root of bitterness we may have eaten and then clasp onto God’s powerful, forgiving love. Like the voice of the prince whom Rapunzel heard while in her tower, God allows us to hear His unique voice and the heart song of Jesus.
On February 24th, The Influence Lab will host producer Cindy Bond of Mission Pictures International in a free online event. Her newly released film, Redeeming Love, from the best-selling novel by Francine Rivers, was inspired by the book of Hosea. I will interview Cindy, and we will examine the challenges of making the movie and how its story of forgiveness and love is so needed in our culture today. Redeeming Love, like the story of Rapunzel, reveals the effects of evil, choosing to obey God’s direction and not our own, and how His plans for us bring renewed life and a way forward.
Can you hear the Prince of Peace’s voice in your life? Don’t let unforgivable acts keep you entrapped. God desires you to be set free and to live happily ever after.
Don’t miss the Influence Lab webinar featuring Cindy Bond on February 24. Sign up today for this free on-iine event! Register here.
Do you have trouble setting boundaries and trusting God with your career choices? With decades of experience in corporate America, Dr. Debra Dean is an expert at integrating faith in every aspect of life. In this INNER VIEW, she candidly shares the lessons she’s learned to become a successful leader who influences others for an eternal difference.
Bio – Dr. Debra Dean is a Christian, first and foremost, wife and mother. She is co-founder of His Kingdom Matters, president and CEO of Dean Business Consulting, and adjunct professor at Regent University. Dr. Dean served in corporate America for 25 years. Her most recent position was Director of Business Transformation nested in the Business Intelligence Department.
Dr. Dean is a published author and public speaker. Her TEDx talk Restorative Justice and Disrupt HR presentation Respectful Pluralism: Including Everyone relates to her faith at work passion. Dr. Dean has received numerous awards, including the Colorado Springs Business Journal 2020 Women of Influence Award and the 2020 Global CEO Excellence Award: Most Influential Business Consultancy CEO. She was nominated in 2019 as an operational excellence leader with OPEX Week: Business Transformation World Summit, and in 2018, she won the Outstanding Reviewer Award for Management, Spirituality, and Religion.
Dr. Dean was born and raised in Kentucky, spent nine years in Iowa, and currently resides in Colorado with her husband Steve and their youngest son Gavin. They have six children and four grandchildren. Her mission statement is to “Inspire each person to identify their human potential and pursue authenticity while living a life of eternal focus.”
Kathleen Cooke: We all think we are smart until things flop. What has God taught you about trusting Him for the unknown and seeing failures as opportunities for what He desires for us and not what we thought we wanted for ourselves.
Debra Dean: God is teaching me to trust him. It is so easy to get distracted with self-doubt about my ability or calling, but God is teaching me to trust that He has a plan, and I need to follow His plan. When I left corporate in 2018, I thought I was following God, but I got off track and started my business instead of God’s business. The past few years have been lessons of listening, praying, trusting, obeying, surrendering, and being willing to let God provide and guide me. I’m a hard-headed woman, so this is hard. But, when I surrender and trust Him, everything else works out much better. In December 2020, I had a call from a woman that worked with the White House Faith & Opportunities Initiative. We had planned an agenda for the call, but she started crying. I could hear how overwhelmed she was with work and life in her voice. She asked me, “Where are all the Christians?” She was fighting a good fight in D.C., but she felt all alone.
This gave me fuel to move from my business to God’s business and launch His Kingdom Matters in June 2021. Wow! When I trust God, BIG things happen. I did not want people to feel alone or unequipped with fighting the Christian battle in our world today. I have prayed and asked God for wisdom and guidance, and I trust that He divinely pre-plans all the content in the ministry. We start with Bold & Courageous and move into Revival. In retrospect, there is no way I could have come up with this content. It is God. Trusting Him is still a struggle I face daily, but when I trust Him with all aspects of life, He delivers miraculous works.
Kathleen: You have worked in leadership positions in the corporate business world for many years. What are some key things you have learned in your career journey? (more…)