My Netflix Had No Chill

Written By Tiffany Rogers, USA

Let me tell you a story: A young woman comes home after a long day. She sets her things down, throws her hair up, and changes into comfy clothes in record time. Breathing a deep sigh of reliefshe grabs her laptop and flips it open. The screen illuminates, showing the last webpage she visited: Netflix. 

The familiar words appear on the screen: Playback Timed Out. Her muscle memory kicks in and she hits “refresh” as the episode she fell asleep on continues, right where she left off. 

This is how she spends her evening. Maybe she eats, maybe she showers, and maybe she talks to some people. But at any given moment, and especially in bed getting ready to fall asleep, she is watching Netflix. 

The end. 

Now, let me tell you a secret: For months, that girl was me.

Don’t get me wrong; I had a social life, I had friends, and I even had a boyfriend. But when people asked what my “hobbies” were, I had to lie by deflection. I said things like, “Oh, I enjoy reading. I write sometimes. I love the outdoors!” Because I certainly couldn’t tell them, “I literally spend all of my free time watching The Office on Netflix.” 

Here’s the thing: Netflix was my escape from life, from stress, from feelings, and from people. I used the shows I watched on Netflix to keep fear and depression at bay. If I was watching Netflix, nothing could hurt me. 

I know that sounds extreme because it was extreme. Netflix was my therapy, my shield, and my safety. I couldn’t even go in the kitchen to make food without bringing Netflix with me to play in the background while I cooked.

That was my reality. But it wasn’t that I was a lazy bum without anything better to do. It was that at the root of my incessant Netflix binge, something was terribly wrong. Something was awry in my heart, and it caused fear and depression to hover over me like an individualized dark rain cloud, and Netflix was my perpetual umbrella. 

Then, something happened. The relationship I was in was crumbling. I had known for a long time it wasn’t right, and I suddenly found myself at a place where everything I held dearest was slipping through my fingers: my future, my plans, my pride and my love.

That breakup was how the Lord got ahold of me. For a long time I knew I needed to turn back to Him and finally listen to His voice. He had been whispering into my soul, like a parent whispers too closely in a child’s ear when chastising at a dinner table, and the whisper makes them flinch and squirm because it tickles, but not in a funny way. I couldn’t ignore it anymore.

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves, He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:11-12) 

In my life, I had stopped seeking God. I chased feelings and intuitions instead of prayerfully asking the Lord for guidance and peace. I listened to my own overly emotional and foolish heart over listening to the wisdom and discernment of the Holy Spirit. In no uncertain terms, I was running. I had found what I thought I wanted, and I didn’t want to hear what God had to say, for fear it would contradict my desires. 

And on the surface of it all, I Netflixed the days away. While my heart was wasting in torture and turmoil, I naively believed the longer I watched Netflix, the longer I could put off the change I knew needed to happen. 

As a result, I gladly gave Him the attention I once rendered to Netflix and all my social media platforms. I found a year-long Bible reading plan and started reading the Bible as well as embarking on some devotionals. I also dove into Christian books by authors like Gary Thomas, John Bevere and Timothy Keller, among others. I used that time instead to seek Him diligently. My desire became to know Him intimately and to grow my love for Him unlike ever before. Now, I can humbly say that God is my greatest love, and my desire is for Him. 

Maybe for you it’s not Netflix. Maybe it’s Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Maybe your job is your shield, or your spouse is your escape. Maybe a hobby, an addiction or a toxic relationship is causing your growing separation from the Lord. In any case, I want to challenge you to look inside your heart. Ask yourself honestly if you’re running to anything before running to God for guidance, safety, and peace. Is anything besides Jesus taking the first place in your heart? 

If so, be encouraged. Just as you are sick of running and hiding behind something or someone, Jesus is just as eager and ready to receive you with open arms. Matthew 7:7 tells us: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” It is a breath of fresh air knowing that as we seek Him, we find Him. He doesn’t hide Himself from us, rather, He pulls us out of our deep ruts (which we often create ourselves), and places us right next to Him with nothing but love in His heart and tenderness in His eyes. 

Are you ready to make a change? Here’s a prayer you can follow:

Lord, forgive me for placing other things or people on the throne of my heart. I surrender to You, and my desire is for You to be my greatest love. Give me courage to remove whatever is taking up my affection, that I may replace it with my earnest love for You. Teach me to love You more than ever before. I want to know You, God. Reveal yourself to me through your Holy Spirit, that I might grow in closeness with You, my Heavenly Father. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 

This article was originally published on the writer’s blog  here. This version has been edited by YMI.

Turning Away From My Bisexual Desires

Illustration by Emilia Ting

Written By H.Y, Singapore

The first time I had feelings for someone, I was only 14. I remember her being a little older than I was. She wasn’t particularly pretty, but she was tanned, had very cute dimples when she smiled, and was good at sports.

But there was one problem: I am a girl too.

It was only years later that I realized I was attracted to both genders—I have had crushes on guys as well. But somehow, the attraction towards females always felt more prominent. Naturally, I struggled to come to terms with what I was feeling. I was confused and couldn’t make sense of it. I mean, all my other female friends were talking about the boys they had crushes on—why was I different?

In the beginning, I tried to convince myself that what I felt was admiration, not romantic feelings. After all, she was cooler than I was and I probably wanted to be like her. I was in self-denial and refused to acknowledge the fact that I had feelings for her.

However, as time went by, I realized that I would find opportunities to see her more frequently or speak to her. I found myself walking past her classroom for no good reason at all or pushing my group of friends to sit closer to her group of friends at break time.

At the time, the feelings were foreign to me. I felt alone in my journey, as I didn’t have any friends who struggled with the same thing. Also, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) movement hadn’t caught on then, and not many people had “come out of the closet”. I was (and still am) very apprehensive about sharing my feelings—till today, my parents do not know that I experience both opposite-sex attraction (OSA) and same-sex attraction (SSA).

However, in the midst of my confusion, there was one thing I was certain about—what the Bible says about homosexuality. I grew up in a Christian family and went through Sunday School and Youth Group. My church pastors did not mince their words on what the Bible constituted as “ungodly”. Although I don’t recall a particular sermon or Bible class study on this topic, I knew for a fact that homosexuality was not what God had intended for mankind.

Leviticus 18:22 clearly states: “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.” Throughout the Bible, it is clear that God created male and female for marriage and destined for sexual relations to happen in the context of marriage (Mark 10:6-9).

We are instead told to “flee from sexual immorality” and honor God with our bodies, which are the temples of God (1 Corinthians 6:17-20). Hence, I know that it is against His will and design for me to act on my same-sex desires.

In the beginning, I was confused and questioned why God thought it was wrong. Why did He create me to experience attraction to both genders if it was wrong? Why didn’t He make me normal?

I will turn 20 this year and I still struggle with my feelings. I cannot say that I am out of the woods yet. In fact, I’m far from it: There is not a single day when I am not reminded that I still experience both OSA and SSA.

Attractive people are all around, whether pretty girls or cute guys. They still catch my eye and I am still tempted to indulge in my own fantasies of what it would be like to get together with them.

I’m still an imperfect work-in-progress and I definitely do not know everything about this topic. Nevertheless, after reading many Christian articles on it and reflecting on my own journey, here are three reminders I’ve found to be helpful when I’m struggling:

 

1. Anchor my identity in Christ

I must admit that the growing acceptance towards LGBT individuals in our society and increasing calls for them to embrace their “real identities” is very tempting. However, as a Christian, I remember that I’m first and foremost a follower of Christ, not a follower of men or myself.

Once we get our identity right, everything falls into place. Since I’ve embraced my true identity as a child of God and not a bisexual, I’m no longer easily swayed by how I feel. Jesus came to die for my sins to make me His and give me new life. My new-found identity in Christ can now take precedence over my feelings. Hence, I have never really felt the need or the urgency to “come out”.

Being conscious of my identity in Him also reminds me that I now have the power to resist sin. Although I admit that it is difficult to do so, I have the ability to choose to behave like His child, and not pander to my own desires.

 

2. Acknowledge that I am unable to resist temptation through my own efforts

Of course, I need to take active and intentional steps to prevent myself from falling into sin. For me, this involves not meeting someone I find myself developing feelings for exclusively, and unfollowing certain attractive influencers on Instagram.

However, such methods are never enough. Thankfully, we have a lifeline: God. When we cry out to God in prayer, He hears us. Matthew 26:41 tells us to be watchful and prayerful so that we don’t fall into temptation.

Jesus reminds us that although “the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak.” Because we are human, sin is so natural for us that we need supernatural strength to turn away from it. And this strength can be found in Christ.

When I’m tempted, I’ve learned to pray and commit my sinful desires to God. I cry out to God and ask Him to grant me His strength to obey Him. Sometimes, I’ll take time to be still and say a silent prayer of repentance and a request of willpower to resist the temptation.

 

3. He is pleased when I obey

Of course, it is very difficult to turn away from what seems to be the most natural thing to do. But I don’t resist sin simply because the Bible says it’s wrong. It’s also because I know that my Father is pleased when I obey Him.

In fact, God delights in our obedience more than He delights in our sacrifices and acts of service (1 Samuel 15:22). Our obedience is an act of worship and is evidence of our love for Him (1 John 5:3). This motivates me to obey Him.

Like many Christians struggling with bisexuality, I wish God would take these feelings away altogether. That would make my life much easier. I would not have to struggle to turn away from temptation.

However, I believe that I will be truly restored only when I meet Him in Heaven and sin is removed from me. For now, God gives His children the power to resist temptations and achieve victory over our sins (1 Corinthians 10:13). Sin is no longer our master (Romans 6:14) and we can choose to no longer be slaves to sin (Romans 6:6). We can choose Jesus over sin.

One day, I will finally hear my Abba Father say: “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). I look forward to that day, when my earthly sacrifices will finally be all worth it.

Game of Thrones: The Enemy Beyond the Wall

Image credit: HBO


Written By David Samuel

It’s winter, and the enemy is coming. The wall will not protect you, because this enemy is powerful. It is not afraid of dying, because it is already dead. It is led by the king of the night, who fears nothing, not even the most powerful weapon in your arsenal. It is coming to kill everyone. Everyone. What do you do?

If you’re a sensible person who sees the danger clearly and who puts your faith, heart and mind ahead of your personal ambitions and emotions, the answer is obvious. You try to unite everyone to fight this enemy, because it is possibly more powerful than all the living combined. But if you’re a small-minded, throne-obsessed individual who can’t see beyond your personal goals and ego, why, the answer is also obvious. You continue in your petty battles behind the wall, fighting kith and kin for a pathetic seat of power, forgetting that the biggest enemy is out there, marching inexorably towards the wall.

Welcome to the Game of Church.

Thrones! Sorry, I meant Thrones!

Okay, I have to confess that I’ve been watching HBO’s widely-watched TV series, which has run into Season 7, the finale of which was aired this week. The adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy novel series, A Song of Ice and Fire, is a long-running fantasy saga about several dynastic families fighting for power, land, dominance, and independence. First aired in 2011, the HBO production has shattered viewership records in many of the 170 countries it reaches.

The success of GoT, as its fans call it, has been credited to the perennial popularity of fantasy themes, the amazing sets, skillful direction and cinematography, and ensemble cast. Oh, and the copious amounts of sex, nudity, and extreme violence.

That’s why I said “confess”. The series has raised as many controversies as it has won awards (38 Emmys and counting), for its brutal depictions of incest, rape, and torture, among other things. Not surprisingly, this has prompted many pastors, church elders, and Christian commentators to appeal to believers not to watch the Game of Thrones. I can see where they’re coming from, so I’m not suggesting it’s okay to start watching it. Neither will I agree or disagree with those who see nothing wrong with watching GoT. If you’re in this camp, you’d probably point out that there’s no point avoiding the topics of rape, incest, murder, and brutality—why, that’s hardly anything compared to the real world!

(Good thing is, most of the cast have been beheaded, sliced up, stabbed, burnt, crushed, shot with arrows, and eaten up by wolves by now, so there have been a lot less sex and violence in this season.)

So I’m not going to go into whether or not you should watch the Game of Thrones. If you have been watching it, however, I’d like to suggest that there is at least one lesson in the series that is worth thinking about. And it’s about unity—not just in the world, but also in the church.

There is an enemy out there. He’s the ruler of the darkness (the even scarier version of GoT’s Night King), and he’s got an army of the dead (in-joke alert: that’s what they’re referred to in the show) marching towards us. And what do many of us do? We squabble among ourselves, fighting over petty things like who should sit on the church council and how much we should spend on a church camp. We take brothers and sisters in Christ to court over what they say. We exchange complaints about elders and submit petitions on why one leader should be kept and another should be sacked. It’s hard not to wonder if the Night King is already among us . . .

It’s no wonder, then, that unity among believers is mentioned so many times in the Bible. In Jesus’ parting prayer for His disciples, one of His concerns was for them to stay united in the face of persecution and attack. “Protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are . . .  May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me,” he prays (John 17:11, 23).

That Jesus would compare the unity between believers to the unity among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit shows how critical it is—and not just to church growth. Our unity reflects the Trinity’s glory; disunity will only bring dishonor to God.

Paul, too, repeatedly stresses the need for unity in his letters to the Corinthians, the Ephesians, the Colossians, Romans and Philippians (eg. 1 Cor 1:10, Eph 4:11-13, Col 3:13-14), as do Peter and John.

In this season of the Game of Thrones, Jon Snow, one of the protagonists, spends much time going around trying to convince the others of the danger behind the wall. Stop your fighting, he pleads, because we will all die if we don’t unite to fight the real enemy. But it seems that few believe him, and even fewer want to give up their pursuit of the Iron Throne.

Will Jon Snow succeed in Season 8, which wraps up the saga? With the show’s tendency to kill off even the most popular characters, it’s really hard to guess. Perhaps the more important question is: Will the next season of the Game of Church go the same way?

What Should Christians Make of Secular Music?

Written by Ruth Lidya Panggabean, Indonesia, originally in Bahasa Indonesia

It is the first lesson we learn as Christians: we live in a fallen world that is full of sin. It is therefore no surprise that popular culture is full of books, music, and movies that contradict the Bible’s standards.

When it comes to music, does this mean we can only listen to Christian songs? Does listening to secular music make us sinful?

As with all things, we must look to the Bible for answers. Before we watch, listen to, or read anything, let us consider three verses.

 

1.  “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

I have recently begun assessing the music I listen to. Before listening to a song, I read all the lyrics first. Then I ask myself: “Do I agree with the message behind this song? Is it okay if I use these lyrics in my daily conversation?”

Previously, I did not even bother checking the lyrics of the songs I listened to. As long as I liked the melody and especially if it was popular, I would sing it without question. I would also upload my covers of these songs onto social media.

But that all changed when I participated in a lyric-making camp a year ago. I learned that every songwriter has a story behind their work, and that they are trying to deliver certain messages through the lyrics. Music affects a human being’s heart, soul, and mind far deeper than we can imagine; it doesn’t just affect our mood but can even affect our perspective. As a listener, we need spiritual sensitivity to decide whether the messages and stories in a song are in harmony with the Bible or not.

When I was heartbroken, there were some songs that I listened to on repeat, because the lyrics of and stories behind those songs were similar to my experiences. However, rather than being encouraged by them, I fell deeper into sadness. Later, I found out that this piece of wisdom had been written in Proverbs 25:20, “Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.” There was nothing wrong with the songs that I sang, but in the midst of my brokenness, I fixated on the poetic lyrics and the sad melody of the song. As a result, not only did it fail to make me happier, these songs dragged me even deeper into sadness.

Often, we only pay attention to the beautiful melody and poetic sentences, instead of scrutinizing the main message of the song. But we ought to thoroughly evaluate the concepts contained within a piece of music. By using this principle, we can also find secular songs that contain messages and stories that do not contradict the Bible. Such songs usually give us inspiration and highlight positive values.

So ask yourself: does the song I’m listening to remind me of God’s kindness in my life?

 

 2. “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive” (1 Corinthians 10:23).

It is true that the Bible does not prohibit us from listening to any kind of music, but we also need to be wise in selecting the songs we listen to. Christianity is not about a list of what you can and cannot do, but it is about the relationship between God and man. Every choice we make in our daily lives, including what kind of music we choose to listen to, will reflect the quality of our relationship with God.

There is an analogy that goes like this: There are two wolves living close to each other. The first wolf symbolizes darkness and sin. The second wolf symbolizes faith and love. If these two wolves fight against each other, which wolf do you think will win?

The answer: the wolf that has been fed the most.

After all, the choice is up to us. Which part of our lives do we want to build up?

When I was heartbroken, neither the songwriter, the singer, nor music industry was at fault. Back then, I should have turned to God and His endless love. But I turned to sad songs instead.

Today, I don’t have much time to listen to music. So I have decided to select songs that remind me of God amid my busyness. I have some Christian and secular songs on my phone that I can play anytime. My favorites are songs by a group called Symphony Worship. “I Sing Hallelujah” is one of their songs that has given me strength during the many times I was drowning in my own worries. As for the secular songs, I often listen to Monita Tahalea. One of her songs, titled “Not Alone”, has never failed to encourage me, because that song always reminds me of my best friends.

 

3. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

I believe that Christians need to be up-to-date with the latest trends and issues so that we can be relevant to our environment—but this doesn’t mean that we have to agree with everything that this world tells us.

Don’t be afraid of being considered uncool when you refuse to agree with things that contradict God’s will, and this includes song lyrics. In fact, being clear of our stand when it comes to music provides an opportunity for us to share our faith with others; music can be a means for outreach, on top of being a means to inspire and encourage ourselves.

Music is my passion. I sing secular songs at certain events, upload videos of songs that I covered to social media, and even watch a concert every once in a while in order to get some inspiration. But I am careful to select songs that do not contradict with my Christian values.

To my fellow Christians who love music, I know how hard it is for you to keep holding onto Christian values in this day and age. But this is actually your chance to share Christ’s values with other people. It could be writing Christian songs, living holy lives in the entertainment industry or simply, choosing not to listen to and endorse songs where the lyrics may be questionable.

Do not seek acceptance and love from people around you, but seek God’s praise and acceptance as we make full use of the grace He has given to us. For from Him and through Him and for Him are all our talents. By reminding ourselves of this, we can produce responsible work.