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Final Call (January 4)

Final Call

Welcome to Final Call, a brief, hand-picked selection of news, articles, videos, and curiosities from the Internet and beyond.

VidAngel, Hollywood, and the Future of Filtering

You may be familiar with the video service VidAngel since it has been in the news lately. VidAngel is a service that allows movies and television shows to be filtered to remove objectionable content—violence, sex, swearing, and so on. A number of Hollywood companies have launched a successful lawsuit which has shut down the service, at least for now. This clever video explains why they want to do this:

I haven’t ever used VidAngel since it’s not available in Canada. Even then, I’m not sure removing scenes of sex and nudity really changes the facts of the movie. That’s something I’ve been exploring in a group of articles I’ve gathered together as Sex on the Silver Screen. But there is room to disagree and Randy Alcorn, for whom I have much respect, writes of his appreciation for the service in “Why I Love VidAngel and Am Pro-Choice About Renting and Filtering Movies.”

Let me give you something else to consider when it comes to VidAngel. You may recognize the handsome guy in this video as part of a comedy troupe known as Studio C which is most famous for their absurd Scott Sterling videos: Top Soccer Shootout and Best Volleyball Blocks. Studio C is funded and produced by BYUtv—Brigham Young University Television. The BYU connection lets us in on something important—VidAngel is a Mormon company. And one of their plans, whether or not they win the lawsuit, is to begin broadcasting original, family-friendly content. They have announced three films they’ll soon be offering: The Last Descent, The Abolitionists, and Life on Bitcoin. A little bit of poking around reveals that at least two of these are produced by Mormons. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, of course, but as you may have seen in the film Saints and Soldiers (where a Mormon soldier found refuge in his Book of Mormon), they aren’t exactly subtle when using their movies to broadcast their faith. If VidAngel is positioning itself as a kind of faith-based alternative to Netflix, we’d best be wary that their original programming may just be presenting an alternative to the Christian faith.

To Ponder

“Why believe the devil instead of believing God? Rise up and realize the truth about yourself – that all the past has gone, and you are one with Christ, and all your sins have been blotted out once and for ever. O let us remember that it is sin to doubt God’s Word. It is sin to allow the past, which God has dealt with, to rob us of our joy and our usefulness in the present and in the future.”

—Martyn Lloyd-Jones

New & Notable

No Little WomenNo Little Women by Aimee Byrd (Release date: November 30, 2016). Here is what the publisher says about it: “Why are so many well-intentioned women falling for poor—even false—theology? The Devil has been effectively targeting women from the beginning, so why are they often left to fend for themselves in so-called women’s ministries? Strengthening women in the church strengthens the whole church. Cultivating resolved, competent women equips them to fulfill their calling as Christ’s disciples and men’s essential allies. Writing to concerned women and church officers, Aimee Byrd pinpoints the problem, especially the commodification of women’s ministry. Aimee answers the hot-button issues—How can women grow in discernment? How should pastors preach to women? What are our roles within the church?—and points us in the direction of a multifaceted solution.”

Are You Too Drunk to Pray?

Hey, it’s not me asking. It’s John Piper. Are you?

Quick Clicks

Top 10 discoveries in Biblical archaeology for 2016 (Christianity Today). Depending how you look at it, I’m either a few days or a whole year late posting this. Either way, here are the most noteworthy biblical-archaeological discoveries for 2016.

Across the USA by Train for $213 (Derek Low). This travel blogger explains how he got from San Francisco to New York for just $213 (and how you can, too). I think it sounds incredible. Be warned that one of his pictures shows distant people mooning the train, which is apparently a tradition along the Colorado River. So maybe you’ll want to look out the other side of the train for that leg of the journey.

The 2017 Reading Challenge, And How to Complete It This Year (Nathaniel Claiborne). Nathaniel Claiborne tells about his experience with reading a lot of books last year and how to read more and better in the year ahead.

Climbing a Mountain (Video). People are doing amazing things with drones, but I don’t think I’ve seen anything more amazing than this—a drone zipping up a mountain. It’s a stunning to display the beauty of creation.

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (February 20)

    A La Carte: How hell motivates holiness / The bond of love / How to love our friends in truth, even when it stings / The distorting power of the prosperity gospel / Thinking about plagues / and more.

  • A Difference Making Ministry for Any Christian

    A Difference-Making Ministry for Any Christian

    The experience of preaching is very different from the front than from the back, when facing the congregation than when facing the preacher. The congregation faces one man who is doing his utmost to be engaging, to hold their attention, and to apply truths that will impact their hearts and transform their lives.

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    A La Carte (February 19)

    A La Carte: Courageous pastors or overbearing leaders? / Jesus didn’t diss the poor / 8 qualities of true revival / Why don’t you talk about the sermon? / The idol of competence / The danger of inhospitality / and more.

  • Why Those Who Seem Most Likely to Come, Never Come At All

    Why Those Who Seem Most Likely to Come, Never Come At All

    It is something we have all observed at one time or another and something we have all wondered about. Why is it that those who seem most likely to come to Christ so often reject him? Why is it that those hear the boldest invitations and who have the greatest opportunities so commonly turn away?…

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    Weekend A La Carte (February 17)

    A La Carte: Think you’re immune to adultery? / One of the most hopeful reminders about sanctification / What do we do with dreams and visions? / Have you ever asked your church elders to visit and pray for you? / The neurodivergent believer / Preaching advice for busy pastors / and more.

  • Free Stuff Fridays (Open the Bible)

    This week’s Free Stuff Friday is sponsored by Open the Bible. They encourage you to enter to win a series of books from Open the Bible and Pastor Colin Smith! Included in the giveaway are: For All Who Grieve by Pastor Colin Smith. Written with compassion and understanding, yet honestly facing the difficult questions that…