Good News

thai rescueYesterday the good news was confirmed: all of the 12 boys from a soccer team and their coach perilously trapped in a Thailand cave for 3 weeks had finally been rescued.

I, like so many others, had been breathlessly following the case of the young boys across the news the past few weeks.

When I first heard about the story the boys were still missing and unaccounted for, disappeared after going on a recreational adventure through the caves with their coach.

A few days later the missing were miraculously found. But it was not clear how or even if the young boys could be rescued.

The best case scenario was the adolescents would be forced to go on a harrowing dive through the complex tunnels that would scare even the most experienced Navy SEAL team. Worst case the 13 trapped might have to wait out the rainy season in Thailand and try to stay alive for a few months until the waters in the cave cleared out.

Incredibly though, all 13 trapped were rescued over the course of the past few days. Thousands of volunteers descended upon the scene to serve, to brainstorm, and to contribute whatever they could to rescue the lives of these brave young boys. Soldiers, divers, cooks, missionaries from all different countries came together to form a rescue superteam.

Humanity at its best.

The real beauty of it all is how no one seemed to question the mistakes these boys and their coach made by traversing this highly dangerous terrain.

No one blamed those who were trapped for their mistakes. No one questioned the worth of their lives, even after a rescue diver tragically died in the midst of preparing the escape route.

The countless volunteers just jumped right into the work and refused to stop until every possible attempt had been made to safely extract the lost.

As I watched the news unfold I could not help but see this entire story as a parallel to Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep.

In Luke 15:3-7 Jesus tells the story of a shepherd who leaves behind 99 sheep just to find one other who is lost.

There is no question in the shepherd’s mind of the value of this lost sheep.  There is no berating the sheep for its foolishness in getting lost. There is no doubt that he will do everything to rescue the animal.

The story is a parable for how far Jesus goes to rescue those who are lost and bring them home to Him, no matter how far gone they are.

When it comes to eternity we’ve all made mistakes far bigger in our lives and gotten lost far deeper than the Thai boys did.

Yet Jesus promises to pursue us with the same around-the-clock reckless abandon of the cave rescue mission. No matter what sort of mess we’ve gotten into with our lives He devotes every last one of His resources to rescue us and redeem us.

I thought of these parallels to Jesus’s teachings before the boys were saved, just reading about the rescue efforts in general. I prayed that all those involved would come out the other side safely. But even if they had not, the message displayed by the rescue efforts would have still told a beautiful story of mercy and grace.

Now with the boys’ rescue the message is amplified. Good news is celebrated.

Of course this good news will fade from the headlines as it always does. Within a few days most of us will have forgotten about all of this business with the boys in a cave (until the inevitable big budget movie is made of this tremendous story, naturally).

Everyone, that is, except for the 12 boys and their coach, their families, and those who risked their lives to rescue some overly adventurous kids they’d never met before.

For them this good news is etched into their timeline – a life-shifting event they will never forget.

And that I think ultimately is the message of the lost sheep story: for the Good News to truly make an impact it must be experienced individually.

For Good News to stay in the headlines, it must penetrate the heart. It must occur through a genuine connection and life event – one person at a time.

We must pursue the lost one by one, proclaiming the Good News to all who need to hear it, whether they deserve it or not. We must fight to bring it to those who are lost deep in the back of ragged caves, whose rescue seems impossible.

We must not judge the lost we are pursuing or question the mistakes they made. We must simply pursue them as Jesus would pursue us and as the Thai people pursued their young boys – seeing value in every individual life, working together despite our differences to do whatever it takes to mount a rescue effort, taking one step at a time into the darkness without losing hope and trusting in the Lord to bring the lost into the light.


My 15 Seconds With Springsteen

img_0130It’s a little ironic that I ended up meeting Bruce Springsteen at a used record store. 

Last week I had the incredible opportunity to attend a meet-and-greet with The Boss at a store outside of Atlanta called 2nd and Charles – a place where you trade in used cds, records, books, movies and games for a fraction of their original value. 

I’ve been a Springsteen fanatic for close to 8 years now. But it wasn’t always that way. When I was in high school I went through a phase of trying to expand my musical tastes. In doing so I purchased a copy of “Born In The U.S.A.” to dive into the world of the E Street Band.

I listened to it for about a week before I decided Bruce Springsteen wasn’t for me. I traded in the cd for some spare change at a store just like 2nd and Charles. 

I had no idea that one day years in the future I’d be so obsessed with the New Jersey rocker that I’d be willing to stand in line for nearly 4 hours simply to shake his hand and take a picture with him.

Even though I paid $40 to only get about 15 seconds with my idol (more on that later) I thought the experience was worth so much more than I paid for it.  Continue reading

The Story Never Ends

(It’s WrestleWeek on POP GOD! In celebration of WrestleMania 32 this Sunday we’ll be looking at the intersection of faith and wrestling. You don’t have to be a fan to hop in the ring on this journey. Read on to see how this fake sport provides real lessons for anyone who’s ever grappled with God.)

wm main eventOn Sunday April 6th, 100,000 people of all ages, races, genders and nationalities will congregate upon Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. This happening could possibly set an indoor attendance record. The fans crowded in will scream and cheer for 6 hours until the main event where 2 middle aged warriors will set foot in a predetermined battle inside a structure known as “Hell In A Cell”.

This, my friends, is WrestleMania.

If you’re not a wrestling fan this must seem bizarre to you. How is that professional wrestling can possibly draw so many fans to its biggest attraction? How is that the WWE Network is one of the top 5 streaming video services in the world? How is that WWE’s signature show “Raw” has been on the air for over 20 years and over 1,100 episodes?

The answer is actually quite simple. It’s all because in pro wrestling the story never ends. Continue reading

What Would Jesus Watch – 9: The Passion Live

Welcome to “What Would Jesus Watch?”, our podcast series overanalyzing the overlooked genre of Christian Cinema.

passion liveThis week Kate and Alex return for an emergency podcast covering the glorious ridiculousness of Tyler Perry, Trisha Yearwood and Chris Daughtry performing “The Passion Live!”

Yes Fox just broadcast a “live” modern musical retelling of the last days of Jesus’ life using the music of Train, Jason Mraz and Hoobastank so we had to cover it in painstaking detail. We name our favorite and least favorite performers and musical moments, talk about the uncomfortable acting and argue over whether or not Jesus would be a modern day “bro”. We also cover whether or not the true message of Easter was proclaimed and share some Prayer Requests for who we’d like to see in next year’s version of “The Passion Live”.

If you didn’t catch “The Passion Live” you’ll still be able to enjoy the podcast. But if you’d like to prepare you can watch the full musical on or search On Demand and other streaming providers.

Follow along on Twitter and on Facebook to see what movie we’ll be watching next or to offer us your suggestions or comments!

To Subscribe on iTunes click here or search for Pop God Podcasts on the Podcast app or in iTunes or listen on Podbean Continue reading

Following Jesus On The “Bridge Of Spies”

It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what people think. You know what you did.  

Tom Hanks’ character James Donovan utters these words to a young POW towards the end of the excellent movie “Bridge Of Spies”. The soldier had been trying to explain to Donovan that he did not waver from his loyalty to America during his captivity.

os-bridge-of-spies-trailer-tom-hanks-20150616What Donovan tells the young man is that the opinions of others don’t amount too much in the long run. People will think what they want to think. What truly matters is what your conscience tells you. That’s all you can really control.

This is exactly how we’ve seen Donovan go about his business over the course of the film. The opinions of his bosses and his enemies don’t matter much to him. He simply wants to do what he believes is right for the good of his clients. Continue reading

The War On Christmas

GUEST POST: Today’s contributor to The 12 Blogs Of Christmas is my fellow blogger Scott Higa. Scott writes over at The Christian Nerd and I’ve become a huge fan of his work over the past year or so.  His posts and his dedication are a huge inspiration to me. He also hosts The Christian Nerd Podcast which drops every Monday that does a fantastic job mixing nerdy entertainment news with serious faith-based discussions. Don’t hold his aversion to egg nog against him; follow along with his blog and on Twitter anyway. Enjoy his contribution to POP GOD:

33d0ee244ee9e7a24189092d8f74f53e_400x400Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace and goodwill, yet some people want to treat it like a warzone.

There was that fool complaining about Starbucks’ cups who brandished a gun in a store.

There are those who loudly proclaim “Keep the Christ in Christmas.”

And we have the constant reminders that Jesus is the reason for the season.

Now I wholeheartedly believe that Jesus is the reason for the season. The reality that God sent his Son to earth to be our Lord and savior is utterly amazing. I have heard the true Christmas story every year since my first Christmas in 1981, and I’m still blown away by God’s great love for us. He saw us trapped in sin and darkness, but sent his Son to bring the light and love that would set us free.

That’s awesome and worth celebrating year round, not just in December.

In fact, the true Christmas story is so amazing that any alleged war against it is bound to fail. So we don’t even need to enter into the fray; we can simply let Christmas be Christmas. Continue reading

What Would Jesus Watch – 1: The Encounter

(Click Here if you can’t get the link above to work)

Christian cinema doesn’t have the greatest reputation.

Even though faith-based movies have exploded in popularity ever since the success of 2004’s “The Passion Of The Christ”, the genre has rarely received much critical acclaim.

Still there seems to be a booming marketplace for films which touch on faith-based issues. Many of them even attract A-list actors like Christian Bale, Sigourney Weaver, Russell Crowe, Emma Watson and Nicolas Cage.

All of this got us to thinking:

What Would Jesus Watch?

Are these movies any good? Are they just looked down upon because of a Hollywood bias against Christianity? Or are they worthy of the bashing most critics give them?

Join hosts Alex and Kate Doriot on this new podcast as they explore the high, the low and the “Huh?” of Christian cinema one movie at a time, giving a fair chance to faith-based films big and small.

Though Alex and Kate come to the podcast with a sense of humor, the goal of What Would Jesus Watch? is not to make fun of bad movies.

Instead, the purpose of the podcast is to encourage those willing incorporate faith-based themes into their art and inspire them to strive for excellency when doing so.

Each week we’ll celebrate what worked in bad movies, what didn’t work in good movies and explore the impact this rapidly growing genre of films can have on our faith. It all begins today with our debut episode!

Ever wonder what it would be like to hang out at a diner with Jesus? Pretty exhausting, apparently!

That’s the lesson learned in our premiere episode as we watch the 2010 film “The Encounter”.

It stars legendary wrestling superstar Sting and tells the story of 5 weary travelers convening at a mysterious diner run by Jesus himself. What will they discover about themselves over the course of dinner? Is Jesus a good burrito chef? How long will it take for Jesus to multiply a loaf of bread? And why isn’t Jesus more attractive? Find out all of this and more on What Would Jesus Watch! Continue reading

God With Us

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, “God with us”). – Matthew 1:23

IMG_4601The mission of this blog is to explore the presence of God in the present. I believe we are able to do that because He is still present in our present. He is still Immanuel. He is still with us.

The meaning of Immanuel is exactly the reminder I need by the time December 24th rolls around. At this point I’m just about always running empty on the Christmas spirit, especially this year. It’s been a wild 12 months. I’ve turned in my notice to 3 different jobs this year (I’ll be starting a new one in January). I’ve moved away from the only place I’ve ever truly called home. I’ve married my best friend and begun the wonderful and challenging journey of being a husband. As excited and thankful as I am for where I’ve come over the past year I’m just as exhausted and confused about how to handle where I’m going. When I’m burnt out and ready to kick the Christmas tree over, I keep reminding myself of His promise that has remained true year after year. God with me. 

I know the same is true for many of you reading this. When we spend our days looking down only at our phones and what our own hands are working on we all lose sight of what’s going on around us. So look around. Look at the way He reveals himself in music and movies. In Lexus commercials and in lumps of coal. In socks and underwear. In all of the chaos and confusion and commercialization He’s there, with each of you, if you are willing to look. God with you.

The presence of Immanuel was never meant to be a short term present. It’s not like the stop-motion cartoons we love which come around once a year or the 24/7 Christmas music stations which temporarily takeover the radio dial. Just because His physical manifestation went away, that doesn’t mean He’s actually gone anywhere. His spirit is like Christmas lights hung year round, ready to be turned back on at a moment’s notice. When the stockings come down and the ornaments go back in the attic, remember His name. Open up the book and read it out loud: Immanuel. God with us. 

Immanuel. In the present, as in the past, and so in the future. God with me. God with you. God with us. 

Thanks for joining me on this journey through the 12 Blogs Of Christmas. Follow along for the next part of the POP GOD journey in 2015. Merry Christmas. 


What Jimmy And Jesus Have In Common

1341-EW-FallonJimmy Fallon – Entertainment Weekly’s 2014 Entertainer Of The Year. It makes sense now. Fallon has reinvigorated The Tonight Show with a sense of joy and clips that go viral on a regular basis. He’s righted the ship of NBC late night after 5 years of shakiness between Conan and Jay Leno.

But if I had told you 5 years ago that Jimmy Fallon would be the most beloved entertainer in America, you would have laughed harder than, well, Jimmy himself when he breaks up during a sketch.

Believe it or not Jimmy Fallon wasn’t a huge hit when he took over “Late Night” in 2009. Continue reading

Why Homer Simpson Has To Die

Homer-Simpson-Images-540x405Homer Simpson has to die. 

You may think this is a crazy thing to say. After all, The Simpsons have been in a bit of a renaissance of late.

First there was the “Every Simpsons Ever” marathon on FXX, which shattered ratings records for the struggling cable network. Then the cast celebrated 25 years on the air with a live performance of classic musical moments from the show at The Hollywood Bowl.

Just last night featured the highly anticipated Simpson family crossover on an episode of “Family Guy”, which, aside from a bizarre and laugh-less fight scene between Homer and Peter Griffin. was surprisingly clever and funny.

Plus there was the actual season premiere of “The Simpsons” which garnered a good amount of mainstream buzz for promising to kill off a major character.

Of course, despite a few teases, Homer Simpson didn’t die on either episode. And I’m not saying I want to live in a world where “The Simpsons” actually kills off their patriarch.

I just think to truly be appreciated that “The Simpsons” must die.  Continue reading