Pop Culture

Is This the Next Susan Boyle?

Remember when Susan Boyle first walked on stage at the Britain’s Got Talent auditions and proved that looks can be deceiving? Well it happened again last week!

This time it’s in the person of Jonathan Antoine, a shy 17-year-old who has suffered years of bullying in the school yard on account of his weight. At his side was Charlotte, his loyal friend who has made it her business to stand by him whenever she can. When asked afterwards if this was a life-changing moment for them, Jonathan smiled and said “yes”, while Charlotte looked at him with a smile and said, “Yes, I think for you!”

Watch the life-changing moment in the video below and share your thoughts…

Bible Apps

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 79% of American church goers are internet users and 86% are cell phone users. These numbers are actually higher when compared with those of non-church goers. Yes, we truly live in a digital age and there is an app for much of what was once print. The same is true for the Bible. In fact, there have been over 40 million downloads of the YouVersion Bible App since it’s inception, allowing millions to read the Scriptures on their smartphones, iPads and other digital devices.

I have to admit that it’s been hard for me to read the Bible digitally, but I have to say that I have enjoyed the tremendous resources that a Bible app brings. From reading plans, to the availability of different translations at the touch of a finger, to my recent discovery of the audio playback function, I have begun to slowly adapt to its use in my day-to-day life. And I believe I’m just skimming the surface, when you compare the free resources available for on-the-go Bible reading.

If you haven’t downloaded or discovered these amazing apps yet, here are a few to check out:

YouVersion: Created by LifeChurch.tv to be a free resource that gives people a tool to integrate Bible reading into ones mobile lifestyle, YouVersion offers a great variety of translations, languages and Bible reading plans. In addition, there are integrated platforms to bookmark favorite verses, take notes and integrate your Bible reading into social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

 

Bible360: This amazing new app combines resources from the Glo Bible, Zondervan and Survivor producer Mark Burnett. Featuring the NIV translation, it offers 360 degree virtual tours and animated maps, as well as a journal option and integration with social media.

 

 

Bible.is: Featuring video footage from 61 segments of The Jesus Film Project, Bible.is also includes daily Bible reading programs, interactive tools and the ability to take notes as well as share socially.

 

A Day on the Internet

Here’s an astounding graphic that the people at MBAonline have put together representing what literally happens in a 24 hour life cycle on the internet. It’s an interesting study of how our society tends to think, interact, communicate, and consume information. The times have certainly changed.

Lessons I’ve Learned from Disneyland

For the last three years I have had the privilege of being an annual pass holder at Disneyland! Being that we only live eight miles from the Happiest Place on Earth, we have enjoyed countless days laughing, riding roller coasters, making memories, and visiting with friends.

This year we’re going to let our passes lapse and probably won’t renew for a while. So with our passes expiring, I did something I’ve never done before, I went to Disneyland by myself for one last visit before they did. I went to pray, dream and recount the incredible memories I have of this place. And in the process, I wrote down some of the things I learned from Disneyland that relate to church and leadership.

So, in no specific order, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from Disneyland…

  1. Pay attention to the details – Disneyland is in the details! From hidden Mickey’s to trimmed trees in unique shapes and sizes, Disneyland pays attention to the little things, which serve to enhance the overall experience of their guests. Scripture tells us that God even knows the very number of hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30) and throughout the Bible, God is concerned about the details. The details communicate care, creativity, and create memorable experiences for people.
  2. Create a hospitable environment – Disneyland is all about hospitality! They’re genuinely happy to have you as their guest and go out of their way to make you feel welcomed and valued. They make your experience fun and engage their guests in a variety of creative ways. They truly live out the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”
  3. Never stop innovating – Disneyland was way before it’s time when it first opened in 1955. However, they have never stopped imagineering. In my three years as a season pass holder, Disney has done a variety of big projects to improve their parks. From adding a whole new land in California Adventure, to introducing the World of Color and 3-D to Star Tours, they live out their motto of, “moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…..And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
  4. Listen to your guests – You think by this point Disney knows all they need to know about running a theme park, but they are constantly seeking to gather information from their guests, seeking to discover more about their interests, needs and preferences. In addition, cast members are also very careful to listen to casual conversations. Over the years, a server or guest services member might catch that we’re celebrating an anniversary or birthday and I can’t tell you how many times they have done something special for us without any solicitation or mention. These little touches go a long way to create special memories for families and guests alike.
  5. Creatively tell the story – Disney tells amazing stories and their stories take you places you can’t otherwise go while engaging the senses of sight, sound, taste, smell and touch! Their stories capture our hearts and imagination and I think the church can learn a lot from them about telling the story of God to a whole new generation.

There truly is something special about Disneyland! And while our passes may be expiring, I know there are still many memories to be made and lessons to be learned from this incredible land of adventure, fantasy and dreams.

A Biblical Perspective on Marriage

In Genesis 1:26-28, God tells us the story of his design and purpose for humanity when he says,

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

As humans, we are made in his image and likeness of God and as such we are to reflect Him to one another. In Genesis 1:26-28, God tells us something about his design and purpose for marriage, and since God is the designer of marriage, it’s important that we look at what he has to say on the subject.

Today, I had the opportunity to speak to a number of engaged and seriously dating couples on the biblical perspective of marriage. Based on the book, Seriously Dating & Engaged by Roger & Becky Tirabassi, we discussed the type of partner that God wants to be to one another in the context marriage.

Here is a brief review of all six of those qualities we discussed. God desires us to be…

  1. A Perfect Partner – From the creation account, we can see that it has been God’s design that a man and woman be brought together such that they complement one another. (Genesis 2:20-23)
  2. A Permanent Partner – There are no throw away marriages! Marriage is a sacred covenant and it’s to be formed for the purposes of which, God the Divine Author, has ordained as well as blessed. (Matthew 19:4-6)
  3. A Dependent Partner – In marriage, our thoughts need to be for each other, rather than ourselves. Our plans mutual, our joys and sorrows shared. (1 Corinthians 11:11-12)
  4. A Loving/Respectful Partner – The husband is to love his wife. The wife is to respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:31-33)
  5. A Sacrificial Partner – Marriage is to be a mutually submissive relationship in which the man and woman reflect the image of God to one another. (Ephesians 5:21-23)
  6. An Equally Yoked Partner – In marriage a couple needs to be going the same direction, with the same set of ideals, beliefs and values. A common faith needs to be foundational. (2 Corinthians 6:14-17)

We can’t take our cues on marriage from our culture. We need to take our cues from God, who created this sacred covenant and blessed it. If you’re not convinced yet, perhaps this spoken word might hit home…

Oscar Night

Everyone loves a party! I especially love themed parties. So tonight I am really looking forward to the Oscar party at our friends Vinnie & Kirstie’s home in Long Beach! To make it fun, everyone has been asked to bring a completed ballot of who they think is going to win this year’s coveted gold statues. This is the 2nd Annual, so reputations are on the line, and I am seeking to pull from a 3rd place finish last year to a 1st place finish this year. However, I am finding myself conflicted in finishing up my ballot. Torn between casting my vote for who I want to win and who will likely win, because I want to win the door prize!

Thanks to a friend, who is part of the Screen Actors Guild, Jennifer and I have been able to view many of the nominations up for an Academy tonight. So we go into this party better prepared than last year. However, the one category I am wrestling with the most is Best Picture. Usually these are easier to pick for me, but this year, I am trying to get into the mind of the Academy and wrestling over whether they will the recognize a film that gives a nod to their industry, The Artist, or give gold to a film that chronicles the civil rights movement in the south during the 1960’s, The Help.

Regardless of who wins, we’ll have a blast with some good friends, while enjoying some yummy finger foods and friendly competition. Oh, and we’re bringing chocolate pie to celebrate the win of The Help for Best Picture!

So, who do you hope wins big tonight?

Remembering Whitney

Let’s begin by saying that I am not, nor have I ever been a Whitney Houston fan and prior to her passing on Saturday, February 11, I didn’t even own one of her songs or albums. However, as a music enthusiast, I admit that I was very well acquainted with her music and understood the impact of Whitney Houston upon American pop culture. She was a diva, a pop sensation and inspired a whole new generation of singers, like Alisha Keys and Jennifer Hudson, who admired her voice and her contributions to the music industry. So when someone like this passes, as a pastor you pay attention to see how the culture will respond and remember her. And I must confess, I somewhat got caught up in all.

My heart was heavy for her loss and I resonated with a tweet that Barbara Streisand sent that evening, “It is heartbreaking that she, in the end, could not find the joy in her life that she gave to millions of people with her music.” Such a beautiful woman, with an amazing gift of song, but who in the end, couldn’t find victory in the earthly struggles of her flesh. But I also knew Whitney to be a woman of faith, whose mother, the great gospel singer Cissy Houston, raised in church, and whose friends, especially the Winans family, continued to shape and form her faith as she became a superstar. And while she wrestled with drugs and had her moments in the spotlight, I was comforted in the fact that my God keeps his promises, and has told us that our salvation is not based on what we do, but upon what Christ did at the cross and that once we receive Jesus’ free gift of grace through faith, we are secure in Him.

What I was not prepared for though, was how God would so quickly use this tragedy for His glory, as millions of people throughout the world would get to experience church because of the four hour nationally televised service for Houston from her home church in Newark, NJ. At first, I was put back that her services would be televised at all, but then I understood. I got it. So for “research” sake, I tuned in this past Saturday to experience it, and found myself completely blown away and blessed by the fact that no one compromised the message or the design of the service for the sake of the multitudes and in turn brought “church” to the world. Yes, though Whitney’s own life saw its share of darkness, her passing set a stage for the sharing of God’s light and love to others. And what I saw was beautiful!

Best Commercial of Super Bowl XLVI

Super Bowl commercials are almost as much of a tradition as the game itself. Given the $3.5 million price tag for a 30-second spot, companies put a lot of creative energy into these commercials to make their ad buy count. Some inspire, some entertain, some flop and leave us wondering why?

With everyone seeming to preview their commercials prior to the Super Bowl, I have to admit this years selection of commercials were a little anti-climatic and I missed some of the fun that comes with seeing them for the first time during the big game. But it was fun to interact with friends and family on Twitter and Facebook about who we thought deserved the crown for best commercial of the game.

While I didn’t select it as my overall favorite, I was thrilled to see Sling Baby win as part of the Doritos’ Crash the Super Bowl Contest, since my buddy Bob helped edit that piece. In my book, Sling Baby ran a close second, and definitely had the IT factor on a much smaller budget. However, with the 70 or commercials that ran during Super Bowl XLVI, the Volkswagen commercial was my overall favorite! What was yours?

Conan

Got to connect with my friend Brian Chandler today. Brian and I used to serve together at Lakeside Church. Brian now serves locally as the worship leader at Mosaic in Hollywood. Since we’re both serving churches in the Los Angeles area, we spent the afternoon talking about life, ministry and our experiences in Southern California. Later we enjoyed a taping of Conan at Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank. Had a fantastic time being part of this studio audience and we both actually landed on national TV! You can catch us about 50 seconds into this segment, which was part of the opening monologue.

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