The virtual world of the church growing
…church leaders are realizing the capabilities that are out there to get the message of salvation to the masses…
It doesn’t seem that long ago that many churches, including my own, thought they were on the cutting edge of worship technology when we put away the traditional hymnal and began singing off of the big screens. Well helping people pursue God these days also means keeping up with the growth of technology-even some churches moving into e-worship applications. Granted, in the past, the journey of knowing God better has not always emphasized technology. But that’s changing because church leaders are realizing the capabilities that are out there to get the message of salvation to the masses…at least the masses that have the technology.
First, among the e-worship applications are the Bible apps themselves. You’ve probably seen some of these like Olive Tree Bible Reader for Android or iPhone that has a couple of different versions, commentaries and you can highlight passages and take notes. YouVersion has several different versions you can read side-by-side, reading plans and devotionals. E-Sword can put up to 4 versions on the screen side-by-side. Blue Letter Bible gives you some 20 translations with Hebrew and Greek available and gives you study charts, and outlines. This Christian Chronicle article has more to check out.
But just like a lot of news organizations have done, some churches are now coming out with their own customized apps for smartphones and tablets. According to app developers about 150 churches have their own customized app for it’s members and it looks like there will be more to come. They see it as a way to better keep their members informed with adult and youth group activities and download encouraging messages via podcasts to listen to when they have time.
E-worship tools are not bringing the gospel message to those in China or a remote village in Africa right now, but it is proving to be an encouraging tool for those living in the tech world who want to use media fill their minds with practical and biblical messages anytime they want.
Here are a couple of my favorite religiously based apps that encourage me on a daily basis. Family Life Today and Focus on the Family.
Downton Abbey: A Smash in America
As someone who is a member of the media and is generally surrounded by a variety of different programs, I’ll tell you there is a lot of truth to the phrase, “so many channels, so little to watch.” There is a lot of low-end stuff out there that is taking up a lot of channel space. But with the close of Downton Abbey season 2, there is no question that I’m not the only person who is craving good stories, crafted with great characters that are played with quality actors and actresses. It doesn’t hurt that I especially enjoy period movies, but this is indeed a phenomenon that producers from all walks of the entertainment industry should notice if they really want to tap a market that could reward them in the biggest way.
It is sad that much of the entertainment industry is set on making a statement, or just merely pushing the envelope to “shake up the establishment.” But the makers of the Downton Abbey series have touched on an idea that at first glance looks conventional, but on the contrary it’s actually counterintuitive these days. Downton Abbey season 2′s conclusion proves that a great story executed well doesn’t need to be edgy or graphic or be following celebrities around to find out what toothpaste they use. I was surprised to see that in Britain, the conclusion of Downton Abbey season 2 which included a much talked about Christmas scene between Matthew and Lady Mary came in second in viewership on Christmas Day to some show called EastEnders that unfortunately sounds closer to the typical offering by American TV producers. Just goes to show you some people just won’t eat steak when there are twinkies hanging around.
If you haven’t heard by now, Downton Abbey is one of the most highly acclaimed TV series ever here in the states with 6 Emmy awards and 4 Golden Globe nominations. It’s made watching PBS Masterpiece Theater cool again- for some people who are concerned about that. Downton Abbey season 3 is already being shot and while critics are calling it just another type of soap opera, it certainly doesn’t feel like it. When you talk to someone else about the story line, it may sound like you’re describing one, but the way it is shot and produced makes it feel like a top flight motion picture with a tapestry of primary and secondary story lines. And it certainly doesn’t have the sleaze we come to expect with the day time soap scene. Bottom line, if you like a good story that has an appeal to both men and women, it would be worth your while… you’ll get pulled into a “jolly good” story.
You can start from the beginning of season 1 by going to websites like Netflix, Hulu or PBS online and watch the entire first two seasons. Or if you want to take a virtual tour of Highclere Castle where Downton Abbey is shot, it’s an interesting look at the real setting of where the series has been shot.
P.S. In case your interested, Shirley MacLaine will be the new addition as the crew is already filming the third season.
"War Horse"- Spielberg's Christmas Gift
The newest Spielberg release War Horse is coming to theaters just in time for families to slide into the Christmas holidays to escape for a couple of hours. I took my wife and 12-year-old boy to the special screening of the film since it won’t be released until Christmas day. This is a period movie set before and during World War I and focuses on a young man, Albert Narracott played by Jeremy Irvine and the horse that he raises and teaches to unlock and harness an indomitable spirit that carries him through a great deal in this movie. While the main character “Joey” the horse, is an unquestioned hero, there are a number of heroes in this movie and a good number of villains as well that help tell a rather complicated and intertwined story that tests this horse to the core.
In general, movies that feature animals can be a little sappy and unrealistic because the story tends to want to pin human type emotions and logic to them making them not as believable, but this movie somehow works because Joey responds to the kindness from both sides of the war, not just the guys wearing the white helmets. The movie does have some inspirational moments that will provoke some tears and in my sitting of this movie produced a couple of rounds of applause. While Spielberg’s director stamp is seen in a number of ways in this movie, it is a little bit predictable and lacked some of the unexpected twists that many of his films have included. Even the ending of the movie, without giving it away, was shot in a dramatic red sky background with the actor’s silhouettes finishing the movie in a way that made me think I was watching the end of Gone with the Wind.
Despite these shortcomings, this is a well made film that tells it’s story in a dramatic and effective way. It’s rated PG-13 for war violence that could be disturbing for kids younger than middle school, but nothing like we’ve seen in other Spielberg war films. Something else to consider, especially if you or your kids are horse lovers. It may be tough to watch Joey being abused as a beast of burden hauling heavy artillery uphill and at one point gets caught up in a spiderweb of barbed wire. My wife really liked the movie because it was not only a good believable story, but it underscored human traits you don’t see in films much these days…like honor and respect for family, friends and having the courage to do something you’re afraid to do. My son thought it was entertaining and said his favorite part of the movie was when a British soldier and a German soldier each braved beyond the protection of their war trenches to free Joey from that barbed wire.
It’s a little over 2 hours long, but it doesn’t seem like it. I recommend this film giving it three and a half stars out of 5. I know it’s not perfect, but this is a jewel compared to the shallow or self-consumed genre that comes out many times in theaters these days. A great family movie if you’re kids are not too young.
Cool Tech Gifts-What Kids Want
So what is on your Christmas list this year? Well if you’re like one of the many people Nielsen surveyed this year it is going to be high tech gifts. And our youngest generation is really smitten. According to the latest Nielsen study, after clothing, kids 6-12 years old are putting things like an iPad, iPod touch and iPhone at the top of their list. At least their craving for tech gear has not overcome their basic need to look good. You have to think that might be skewed a bit more toward the pre-teen crowd where image, self and otherwise, is really emerging.
While cool tech gifts will be a part of gift shopping for a long time, we parents also need to partake in these choices for our kids in moderation.
Kids need variety and they need to move.
When you look at this list, you will see that gifts like bicycles, in-line skates, footballs or basketballs are just not there. Maybe classified as secondary gifts? The closest thing to an active gift on this list is the Nintendo Wii. Those Black Friday shoppers cramming through department store doors at dark’o clock in the morning likely weren’t after a baseball glove and ball right? By the way, is it just me or does it seem a bit hypocritical to make big box store employees work on any part of Thanksgiving day so people who should be home with family being thankful for what they have, are instead getting worked up in a frenzy fighting for more ? Cybershopping has struck fear in brick and mortar stores these days so they’re scheduling chaos in people’s lives and holiday time to “survive.” Actually I think some retailer is just one big ad campaign away from stealing consumers hearts and money by declaring “we’ll be closed all day Thanksgiving so everyone can be with family, but look out when we open at 9 am on Black Friday because you don’t want to miss this!!”
Don’t get me wrong…I love those cool tech gifts too, but I think our worship at the altar of technology has led us to lose a sense of what’s physically good for our minds and bodies, including our kids, and robs our appreciate of the good things in life that we already have been blessed to possess.
Free Spongebob Episodes? Study Says There Is A Cost
It was interesting that in some of my research on this story that one of the most searched word combinations that people put into their search engines is “free Spongebob episodes.” Of course free is a popular word nowadays with the economy the way it is, but it seems many parents aren’t considering the other cost. The cost to their young kids that comes with watching shows like Spongebob Squarepants. It’s not something some parents want to mess with…some are even in denial that TV has such noticable effects on kids.
The study has been in the media for weeks now, but it essentially concluded that after watching a few minutes of an episode of Spongebob Squarepants, the children showed a noticable lack of mental function compared to kids who watched something slower paced. My kids never watched much Spongebob, but I could tell the difference in their demeanor and attitude after watching a “yappy” 30 minute program that at first look seemed harmless. Free Spongebob episodes? you can search for them or any other similar show but there is a cost. That cost, in my opinion, began when the target audience for cartoon shows began to be blurred in the early 90s when “The Simpsons” hit the air. Sure it was a cartoon, but anyone can listen to the dialogue and know it’s really not meant for kids. But the cartoon format makes it seem harmless to parents and inviting to kids. Spongebob’s appeal is much the same way. The humor can even be somewhat sophisticated and the kids can even understand it, but there’s a huge temptation to copy that humor and behavior at home or school.
Nickelodeon says the program is aimed at kids 6-11, not 4 year olds like the survey involved. Do they really think that there aren’t 4 year olds out there watching the show along with it’s 6-11 target demo. The study’s lead writer says that age group was used because it’s when most kids begin to develop their sense of self control and appropriate behavior. My three kids have passed the Spongebob-like appeal, but it’s something else that makes parenting more difficult than it has to be…all for the sake of entertainment. Free Spongebob episodes? Nope, the price is just paid differently.
Want to look at the study? Click here
Android Cell Phone Apps-Reason For Caution
….accessing Android cell phone apps really can set up users for some trouble if they are not careful.
The Google Android cell phones have been a popular smartphone platform for some time now. But now they’ve become popular with a rather unsavory element in the fast moving world of cyber-hacking. The first half of this year the cybersecurity company McAfee says that threats to network security, and in particular personal smartphones, has produced an atmosphere of change and chaos. It says the Android phone has now emerged as the number one target of hackers wanting to embed malware in smartphones and unlock personal information.
The most popular way it’s being done is by harmless looking applications or “apps” that can be downloaded through a number of different internet sites. While the makers of the Android platform tout the open style of it’s architecture, accessing Android cell phone apps really can set up users for some trouble if they are not careful. Notice I said “if they’re not careful.” I’m not here to tell you not to buy an Android smartphone or even a Blackberry which is setup in a similar way. Just make sure that you buy and download your Android cell phone apps from the original source. The non-original,alternative sites can load these kinds of phones up with all sorts of malware that will render your phone useless. And when security companies are calling the situation chaos, you know they’re probably having a tough time addressing all the new ways these parasites are sending out their dirt.
Windows Phone 7 and Apple don’t have these issues because they have a tightly control library of apps that don’t get in their respective stores unless they are squeaky clean. They may not seem quite as open and free with as many choices as the internet based Android cell phone apps, but the quality control of the apps is not an issue. If you do have an Android or a Blackberry phone a good mobile security system is a must. You can download one here. Lookout Mobile Security is free and effective.
Health Habit For Kids-Adults: Less TV
This may sound like a no-brainer, but an easy good health habit for kids and adults could be less TV. And a recent survey has an interesting twist to illustrate that concept. Researchers in Australia have likened television with the ugly habit of smoking. They do that by equating an hour of TV to 22 minutes shaved off your lifespan. Remember back in the 70s when the stop smoking campaign got off the ground and they told us that a single cigarette cuts 11 minutes off your life. While evidence mounting over the years has confirmed that cigarette smoking is a killer, it’s interesting that it takes only half of what T.V. viewing does.
The Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study led by Dr. J. Lennert Veerman of the University of Queensland involved 11,000 people aged 25 and older and found that Australian adults watched 9.8 billion hours of television in 2008. That’s an average of about two hours a day. It also found that if those people gave up those two hours a day of TV, they got back an average of 1.8 years of life for men and 1.5 years for women. Now theoretically if you surveyed children, the number of hours would likely be substantially higher, but what that would do to their lifespan is a big unknown. But health habits for kids include viewing habits that are being molded in their younger years and cemented as adults.
Obesity is likely the big reason behind this study. Watching TV is a sedentary activity…uh, pastime would be a better word. There is nothing about what exercise in addition to the T.V. viewing might do to those results, but watching T.V. in itself is not directly hazardous like smoking is. But health habits for kids or adults don’t usually start on the living room couch watching the tube.