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Posted 12/5/15 at 11:00 AM | Jack Wellman

5 Great Sports Movies With Christian Themes

Here are what I believe five of the greatest sports movies with a Christian theme in them.

Facing the Giants

Facing the Giants might be one of the greatest sports movies with or without a Christian theme, although this movie certainly does have a Christian influence in it. There is a definite faith-based theme in this movie and with the lyrics of Casting Crowns and Third Day and four other artists’ included in the soundtrack proving this point, Coach Grant Taylor has always had a losing season in football with the Shiloh Eagles and this year, it only got worse. Coach Taylor now faced pressure from the school and he faced trouble at home. It’s only when some stranger enters his life that his faith is renewed and he comes up with a plan to make his players believe that God can help them turn their season around. That’s exactly what happens. They begin to believe…and believe in one another too. That’s when the greatest challenge of all comes. FULL POST

Posted 12/4/15 at 2:01 PM | Audra Jennings

Confessions of a Bad Wrapper: How One Dad Got Creative by Embracing his Awfulness

Guest Article by Bob Smithouser

Hi, my name’s Bob, and I’m a terrible gift-wrapper.

Every Christmas, as we prepare to celebrate God’s perfectly wrapped gift to us, it’s been the same, sad story: My creases aren’t tight. There’s tape everywhere. And any present lacking natural 90-degree angles is guaranteed to have unsightly wrinkles and bulges. I’m a holiday hack. And it’s been 11 months since my last failed attempt at curling ribbon.

For years I tried to hide my incompetence by packing everything into shoeboxes first. That worked until the Christmas my young daughter peeled back cheerful reindeer paper to find her new stuffed animal crammed, face down in a Nike box. She thought it was dead because it couldn’t breathe. A little mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and everything was fine, but I needed a new way to conceal my severe gift-wrapping impairment. My response was the “Frankenpresent.”

This frugal accident from the mid-2000s remains a family tradition to this day. The idea arose because I hate wasting paper. It bothered me to throw away those little strips and squares barely big enough to cover an iTunes gift card. One year I gathered enough scraps from various sheets and rolls to wrap a DVD—a patchwork monstrosity that looked like it had lumbered out of a mad scientist’s laboratory. It was intentionally awful. The kids loved it! Now it’s a seasonal source of pride to be the one who receives Dad’s Frankenpresent.

Hooray for Digital Gifts

A more modern parenting challenge involves packaging “digital” Christmas gifts for our kids. Downloads. Online subscriptions. On the plus side, those of us with severe wrapsy (I’ve been told naming my illness is the first step toward conquering it) are thrilled anytime we can put away the paper and dispense with those tape dispensers. No crooked corners. No sloppy seams. No public ridicule.

Odyssey Adventure Club

Indeed a digital gift, such as a yearlong membership to Focus on the Family’s popular Odyssey Adventure Club, already saves me a trip to the mall. Just a few clicks on oaclub.org and my whole family is hooked up to over 800 audio dramas and enough fun activities to make my kids forget all about the Disney Channel. But because the process of ordering subscriptions like this is so easy, a lot rides on the presentation of such a gift. Once again, a little creativity is in order. The key elements are anticipation and surprise:

Send children on a treasure hunt.

In lieu of tearing open a pitifully wrapped present, my kiddos enjoy the chance to follow a series of clues or riddles to their digital prize. Give it a try. Put the first clue in a greeting card. Let it direct the child to a mysterious slip of paper in the sugar bowl, in the microwave, or under their pillow. Anticipation builds as the string of clues continues. Six or seven should be plenty. Otherwise, cries of “Are we there yet?” will make Christmas morning feel like a road trip across New Mexico. But have fun. Make your clues rhyme. Use pictures. Be sure to put your computer or mobile device at the end of the trail, where the push of a button will bring their gift to life.

Hide characters or logos in your tree.  

When our daughter became old enough to have a Facebook page, we created a decoration out of the social network’s logo and hung it on our tree. Christmas morning we told her to search for a new ornament. Finding her name spelled out alongside that icon was like a rite of passage. Likewise, cutting out images of friendly Adventures in Odyssey characters (you can find them online) and hiding them in the tree is a great way for your children to discover that they are now part of a safe, spiritually rich, global community in the Odyssey Adventure Club.

Do you constantly find yourself cutting giftwrap too small, then trying to cover the bare spots with ribbons and bows? Join the club. Let’s face it, not everyone has what it takes to score points with a perfect wrapping job. But if those of us suffering from chronic wrapsywill creatively embrace our limitations and choose God-honoring gifts our kids love, it can be a very merry Christmas.


Bob Smithouser, Focus on the Family
Bob Smithouser

Bob Smithouser has served at Focus on the Family for nearly 25 years and spent the majority of that time pioneering and expanding the media review ministry of Plugged In — including 16 years as editor of its award-winning magazine and four as host of the popular podcast. A columnist, speaker, author and proud dad, Smithouser has also co-hosted the Official Adventures in Odyssey Podcast since 2006. His love for Odyssey and teaching children about Jesus led him to accept his current position, producer of the Odyssey Adventure Club.

Posted 12/3/15 at 4:26 PM | Todd Friel

Somebody Needs to Set Jesus Culture’s Worship Music on Fire

From Chapter 8 of “Judge Not.” Available at www.wretched.tv

Listen to many of today’s hit worship songs and you will notice a lot of fiery references. Why? Because Charismatics love the word “fire” and Charismatic groups like Hillsong, Vineyard, and Jesus Culture are the most powerful influences in contemporary Christian worship music.

The Bible typically defines fire as actual fire or a symbol of judgment. Either way, you do NOT want God’s fire to fall on you.

Charismatics seem to use the term “fire” to describe a warm, passionate feeling about God. If Jesus Culture gets their wish, they will either be scorched by flames or judged by God. But that doesn’t stop Jesus Culture from asking God for lots of fire.

You will also notice that fiery Jesus Culture music has romantic undertones to it. Here is their romantic flamer “Fire Never Sleeps.”

I see that hope is coming so pull me from the ashes, ignite my soul Please, burn away the darkness cause love is like a furnace where Your fire never sleeps Burn oh my soul; set me on fire Burn oh my soul; light up the fire Burn oh my soul FULL POST

Posted 12/3/15 at 4:14 PM | Audra Jennings

Captivate Children’s Imagination and Deepen their Faith this Christmas

Odyssey Adventure Club

What’s on your children’s Christmas wish list? As excited as they might be about that new toy, as every parent knows, the thrill of the gift will eventually wear off. Focus on the Family and Adventures in Odyssey have created the perfect gift for those who want to give their children or grandchildren a present that will provide year-round fun with eternal impact.

The Odyssey Adventure Club (OAC) offers families 24/7 access to 25 years’ worth of Adventures in Odyssey (AIO) episodes in a safe online environment where children can explore and learn.Christmas really is the perfect time to tap into your children’s imagination while infusing faith and fun into their day . . . and every day of the year.

To celebrate the holidays this year, the OAC is offering free content for everyone, including an Advent calendar, a broadcast download with tips to create a memorable Christmas, AIO cutouts and Christmas stocking stuffer cards.

Membership to the OAC costs just $9.99 a month — or even less if parents make a six-month or one-year commitment. Enrollment provides more than enough content to keep kids engaged throughout the year:

  • Access to exclusive content and first looks at books and select Radio Theatre dramas.
  • On-the-go access to the OAC app for both iOS and Android users.
  • 24/7 streaming access to nearly 800 AIO episodes.
  • A new, members-only AIO episode every month.
  • A subscription to Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse Magazine, and more.

In keeping with AIO’s rich heritage of teaching children about biblical principles — such as the importance of giving — a portion of each OAC membership benefits Focus on the Family partner organizations. Here are a couple of examples of what has been accomplished through Odyssey Adventure Club members:

The Odyssey Adventure Club wants to reach beyond fleeting entertainment this Christmas, partnering with parents in helping their kids grow deep in faith and find their place in God’s story.

To learn more about the Odyssey Adventure Club, visit www.oaclub.org, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Posted 11/30/15 at 4:04 PM | Mark Ellis

Christian football receiver sets new record for UCLA, offers thanksgiving to God

Jordan Payton

By Mark Ellis and Michael Ashcraft

When Jordan Payton outstripped UCLA’s record for receptions, he thanked hard work, his parents and God.

“Just a true blessing – something we all set out to do when you play football if you want to leave a legacy wherever you’re at,” Payton said. “For me, just staying dedicated, staying true to myself, trust in the Lord. He was just blessing me by allowing me to break the record.”

Payton caught his 194th pass on Nov. 21, surpassing the previous benchmark set by Craig Bragg in 2001-04. With seven catches for 105 yards, Payton helped the Bruins upset Pac-12 leader Utah and keep alive UCLA’s hopes for a championship game.

After four years at UCLA, Payton has caught passes for 2,600 yards and 13 touchdowns. With size, strength, speed and sticky hands, he has also caught the attention of several NFL teams.

Rising fame has not shaken him from his Christian roots. FULL POST

Posted 11/23/15 at 1:58 PM | Brian Wallace

Video Is Changing

Everyone with a smart phone can make high definition videos these days. Learn all about the changing world of video from this infographic!

Posted 11/18/15 at 5:45 PM | Mark Ellis

Bieber’s latest concert ‘like a church service’

The reflective pop star

By Mark Ellis

Recently, 21-year-old pop sensation Justin Bieber made a stunning turnaround in his relationship with Christ. In a soul-baring interview with COMPLEX magazine, he said he was leaving behind the tabloid headlines and had made dramatic turn in his walk with Jesus.

In connection with the release of the singer’s new album, “Purpose,” his sold-out concert at Staples Center November 13th had a distinctly spiritual flavor, surprising many observers.

“What the vaguely billed event at Staples Center felt most like was a church service,” reported Mikael Wood, a reviewer for The Los Angeles Times.

Friday’s show started when Bieber rode his skateboard to a smaller stage near the center of the arena. He did an acoustic performance of several new (and old) songs and premiered a film highlighting each track from “Purpose” with distinct dance numbers for each song. FULL POST

Posted 11/18/15 at 11:27 AM | Todd Friel

Ten Problem With Manipulative Altar Calls

From Chapter 10, “Judge Not” by Todd Friel,available now at www.wretchedradio.com/store/judge-not

The music weeps, the preacher pleads, “You have a God-shaped hole that only Jesus can fill. Won’t you please ask Him into your heart?”

Then comes the predictable, “Who is going to break the ice? Who will be the first to come to this altar and make Jesus your Lord and Savior?”

As souls shuffle to the front of the church, we celebrate another successful harvest. But not for long.

Three months later, nobody has seen our new “converts.” The fol- low-up committee calls them and encourages them to attend a Bible study, but to no avail. They have no interest in the things of God. We label them backsliders and get ready for the next service.

Maybe it’s time to rethink the nineteenth-century invention we affectionately dubbed “the altar call.”

Ten Problems with Manipulative Altar Calls

Posted 11/11/15 at 3:15 PM | Todd Friel

Youth Group Madness

By Todd Friel Excerpted from “Judge Not,” available Nov. 16.

How low can evangelical youth ministries go?

• A mega-church youth pastor put peanut butter in his armpits and had the kids lick it out.

• Kids at youth groups were coerced into drinking Coke through their friends’ used socks.

• Kids at youth groups vomited as they ate brown blended food out of a baby’s diaper.

Tragically, these scenes are not anomalies. They are part of a long-established church trend called “Youth Group Gross-Out Games.” This is the modus operandi of countless juvenile youth groups led by juveniles.

If you think I am exaggerating, here are just a few of the gross-out games recommended at one youth ministry website. These are the actual descriptions.

Banana Barf: Have two or three volunteers put a whole banana in their mouth, instructing them not to eat it. Then put a pair of panty-hose over each volunteer's head. Have them squish the banana through the tiny holes in the hose into a trash bag. This game is hilarious, because when you take the pantyhose off the students' heads, the banana still stuck in the hose is smeared across their face! FULL POST

Posted 11/9/15 at 6:40 PM | Jack Wellman

5 Good Places To Find Or Watch Christian Movies

Jack Wellman, 2015

Here are five great places to find or to watch good Christian movies.

Christian Film Database

If you’re interested watching good Christian movies on DVD then you might think about buying them instead of renting them or waiting till they show up on TV and there might be no better resource than Christian Film Database (christianfilmdatabase.com). You’ll find solid Christian movies like War Room, Woodlawn, A Matter of Faith, Son of God, The Color of Rain, God’s Not Dead, Saving Christmas, and probably just about any good Christian movie you remember having watched. Of course, just because it’s a Christian movie doesn’t mean that it’s always clean. In some of my viewing experiences, the movie was rated G but the language, although not vulgar, was full of euphemisms (swear word substitutes) and “oh my God’s” so reading reviews of your prospective purchase is a very good idea. And movies like Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ are very good for adults but they are not appropriate at all for children because of the intense physical violence. FULL POST

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