I Love YouTube

YouTube geralt via pixabay

I like to watch flash mob proposals and acapella singing groups and funny movie clips. But what I really love about YouTube is the chance it gives me to watch great sermons, new and old, by pastors from all over the world. I watched one recently by Philip Yancey called Rumors of Another World, delivered at the University of California Veritas Forum several years ago. You can find it here:  Let me re-tell my favorite story from that talk, though, the one that struck me most. 

A group of high ranking US health officials met to discuss the greatest threats to long life and well-being here in our country. They made a list of the top problems, including the seven listed below.

·                Smoking and tobacco use

·                Obesity and poor dietary choices

·                Drug addiction

·                Alcohol abuse, including drunk driving and fetal alcohol syndrome

·                Stress based hypertension

·                Sexually transmitted diseases

·                Violent crime

As they pondered solutions to these life threatening and life altering issues, one member of the think tank shed a very different light on the subject. That man was Dr. Paul Brand, a physician who spent years in India working with those who suffered from leprosy. Dr. Brand explained that, while the list I’ve just shared with you is perfectly valid in the US, a similar committee in India would come up with a very different threat roster. That list would include: 

·                Malaria

·                Leprosy

·                Polio, until very recently

·                Smallpox

·                Yellow Fever

“If I went to that group,” Dr. Brand said, “and declared ‘I can get rid of those problems,’ they would say, ‘Wonderful. Then we would live in paradise!’” 

How blessed we are here in the United States! We’re virtually free of all those dreaded diseases. But what have we done? We’ve replaced them with a whole new set of problems that we’ve brought on ourselves. To this, Philip Yancy says, (my paraphrase) “I’ve come to see that, if God designed this planet and our bodies, he did it to give us life to the fullest…I used to think of God’s way, his definition of sin, as a way to keep us from having fun. Now I see that it’s a way to keep us from hurting ourselves. The church teaches us the best way to live.”

So, today, I challenge us all to take a look at that list of US problems and begin, by God’s grace, to eliminate any still lingering in our lives. God’s way IS the best way, and he means for us to take care of ourselves as we live in obedience to him.

Photo by geralt via pixabay.com

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Movie Week

 

film-1392143__480 movie week pixabay

I have quite the husband. He joined me in watching all three of my favorite movies last month. All three! Even though we own them—and have watched them multiple times—we laughed and loved every minute. Then I got to thinking, why those three?

Well, first of all, here’s my list of winners:

The Family Man (PG-13 2000) earned a separate blog post at this site in 2013 because of my favorite quote, “I choose us.” This Christmas tale follows Jack (played by Nicholas Cage), a Wall Street Executive who gets a chance to glimpse the life that might have been. Bonus: The kids in that movie are almost as cute as my grandchildren.

A Good Year (PG-13 2006) This cinematic beauty introduces us to Max—both as a youngster and as a wildly successful London stock broker. The adult Max (Russell Crowe), having inherited a vineyard in Provence, is forced to remember his past and re-evaluate his present life. The movie isn’t as heavy as the description makes it sound. There’s plenty of humor woven into the message.

The Kid (PG 2000) This one appeals to the sci-fi/fantasy buff in me. Bruce Willis plays a self-absorbed jerk who doesn’t even realize what he’s missing until a mysterious kid shows up and…Well, I can’t really tell you what happens next. You’ll have to see for yourself. Watching Lily Tomlin as his secretary adds to the fun, though. If you haven’t seen it, don’t let anyone talk to you about it. They might spoil the terrific ending.

Why are these three movies my favorites? Perhaps because of their common story threads:

  • Family trumps wealth.
  • Love softens the hardest heart.
  • Relationships are where the real joy begins.
  • Kindness counts and often pays off rather well.

These are “secular” movies, and I’ve listed a few warnings about their ratings below. Still, they reiterate lessons many of us learned in Sunday school:

  • Love one another.
  • Be faithful in marriage.
  • Value family and friends.
  • Practice kindness.
  • Enjoy children.
  • Be careful not to love money.

So, if you’re looking for something to do next time the movie bug bites, consider my favorites. And let me know yours. I’ve got plenty of popcorn waiting, and I’m always looking for a good recommendation! Have a great week.

Photo by kalhh via pixabay.com

While on a Treadmill…

white-male-1856182_1280On a recent rainy Saturday, I headed to the gym and slipped on my headphones. Sometimes, to distract myself from the boredom of the treadmill (just being honest here!), I watch Netflix. Sometimes, I watch a sermon. I chose a sermon that day and started streaming one by Francis Chan It was a great talk on obedience and sacrifice, delivered in his usual way—disarmingly casual, surprisingly funny and always in-your-face challenging. But on that Saturday, it wasn’t a sermon by Francis Chan that renewed my resolve to trust in our loving lord. It was, of all things, an ad for the movie “Hellboy.”

Since I’m not an aficionado of those movies, I can’t tell you which sequel Hollywood is offering this month. What I can tell you is that, as I began to jog along on a noisy sweat machine, the flat screen TV in the corner of the room caught my eye. There in poster-like fashion, bold against a brightly colored background, was this announcement:

ON APRIL 12, OUR FATE IS IN HIS HANDS.

I had to laugh. I was about to spend 30 minutes listening to what would unquestionably be a fantastic sermon by a well-known pastor, but nothing was going to stick in my mind that day like those few words. Because, of course, on April 12th, and every other day as well, our fate IS in his hands. (I hope you’ve figured out by now that I don’t mean the hands of Hellboy!)

Those words are one of the keys to our walk of faith, the reason we can be at peace no matter what is going on around us. Our fate is in the hands of the Lord who loves us. Not in our hands. Not in the hands of any enemy or even in the hands of a loved one. In HIS hands. Ultimately, at all times, whether we see it or not, our Lord is at the helm. And isn’t that the most wonderful news?

So, on April 12th, and on every day thereafter, I hope you will join me in remembering—perhaps with a bit of a chuckle over the source of these words—

OUR FATE IS IN HIS HANDS!! Care to comment? Just click here.

Photo by pixabay

The Herbie Guy Strikes Again

vw bug unsplash @karol smocyznskiWhat does the name Dean Jones mean to you? He was inducted into the Disney Legends Hall of Fame nearly 25 years ago, so maybe you associate his name with That Darn Cat or Blackbeard’s Ghost. Have you ever seen The Love Bug, that first beloved Herbie movie which, incidentally, was one of the highest grossing films of 1969? Dean Jones played racecar driver Jim Douglas alongside comedian Buddy Hackett and a very lively Volkswagen Beetle.

Dean Jones provided the comforting voice that will read the New Living Translation of the Bible to you via YouVersion anytime you want to hear the spoken Word. ‘Talk about a great way multitask while driving to work or doing dishes! But now I’ve discovered my favorite Dean Jones gift of all.

St. John in Exile.

What can I say to convince you to forgo your favorite video entertainment sometime this week and choose to watch this gem instead? “St. John in Exile” is a one man play, filmed beautifully before a live audience without, as I understand it, any editing. Dean plays an aging John, author of both the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation, exiled on the island of Patmos.

  • He reminisces about his time with Jesus, relates his experience of the crucifixion and the later loss of fellow apostles.
  • He speaks of the triumph available to believers even when imprisoned in a damp and uncomfortable cave.
  • He shows you Jesus!

By the end of its 90 minutes you will have laughed, learned and worshipped. I love the way this film entertains, encourages and educates all at the same time. And I’m amazed that one actor could carry out such a feat without a supporting cast.

Go, go, I say! Trust me on this! It’s free to stream on Amazon Prime. The rental and the hard copy DVD are both on sale here at Christianbooks.com.

Oh, and next on my viewing list? The Most Reluctant Convert, C.S. Lewis portrayed on stage by Max McLean.

Enjoy! Enjoy! And then tell all your friends, including me, what you thought of St. John in Exile. You can add your comments here.

And So We Sing!

prairie-dog-1470659_1280 sing pixabayHave you seen the movie “Sing”?  I smiled throughout that whole film. Perhaps I was simply amused by the thought of Matthew McConaughey as an entrepreneurial koala bear, but I think it was the music that lifted my spirits. My brother has been a worship leader for years, yet I am just now beginning to grasp the power of music, and the importance of music in the Bible. Check out these verses:

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30).

“Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:18b-19).

Those verses don’t treat music, and singing in particular, as something we are meant to do once in a while, under our breath, when no one is listening, or sometimes in the shower. The Israelites appointed music makers and singers to full time positions! Music must be important to God. Those verses make me think it is important to all of us.

Pandora’s Box

I was the last in my family to get a smartphone. A fan of pocket-sized flip phones, I made the trade when I knew my grandson was on his way. (I wanted a way to watch him grow via photo and video and chatting apps.) I never dreamed that Pandora would become such an important tool in my life. My two favorite stations are (‘probably dating myself here) “Instrumental Praise Radio” and “Michael W. Smith Radio” (unless I’m with 1-year-old Nick, in which case “VeggieTales Radio” wins.) If I’m a bit down or weary, the music encourages and energizes me. If I’m simply in need of a background reminder of who is in control of my day, Pandora does the job. And if Nick is cranky? Yep, Veggietales helps! Most of the time the music is simply a delightful way to spend time praising God.

Music. Singing. I’m adding more of it to my day as I work, rest, or play. I see now that this is yet another way to obey our Lord and glorify him. Won’t you join me? (And if you have a favorite station, let me know, and I’ll give it a try!)

Lovely Day

Levites siteThe sign at the corner said “Gospel Brunch.”

Steve’s take: “I wonder how much gospel vs. how much brunch. Maybe this is just an Austin start-up band looking for a place to play.”

My take: “I’ve been wanting to try Threadgill’s anyway, so let’s give it a try.”

And so, on a sunny Sunday during our month of “Let’s consider Austin,” we walked down the road to a vintage BBQ joint, wondering if we should have gone to church instead.

Oh, my goodness! (And I’m not talking about the omelets.) We were in for a treat.

The Levites ( http://www.levitelab.com/bio )sang their sermon with hearty helpings of encouragement, conviction, and just plain fun.

  • “Keep Your Mind on Jesus.”
  • “Lay Your Burdens Down.”
  • “Don’t Worry. Be Happy.” (Because you trust the Lord).
  • “Lovely Day”

That last one surprised me. It’s clearly a romantic love song, yet it has become a worship tune for me  now. Its message is this:

Sometimes I wake up with my mind burdened by the seemingly impossible challenges ahead of me. Then, once I’ve looked at you, I know everything will be okay.

Doesn’t that pretty much cover how our best days begin? We rarely wake up to face a day free of all difficulties, but we always wake to a chance to remember Who is really in charge. We have a choice, each morning, as to what our focus will be. And when we make the right choice, many of our days can be lovely.

Because I take copyright laws seriously, you’ll have to go here  to read or here to listen to the full lyrics written and performed by Bill Withers in 1977. I hope you’ll take the time to do so. Then I hope you’ll take yet another moment and post an answer to this question: What “secular” song has become a song of worship for you? I would love to know!