The Story of Star Wars Is Our Story

For those who grew up in the era of Star Wars, the 40th anniversary of the space opera franchise is something to celebrate. Even if you’re a latecomer to the series, enticed by all the hoopla and impressed with the last two Star Wars movies, you can appreciate the 40-year history and the accumulated achievement of nine films, dozens of books, countless games and apps, plus the endless array of licensed merchandise. One estimate puts the value of all Star Wars films and products at $41 billion, or just over a billion dollars for every year Star Wars has been around.

These are staggering numbers, but there’s another even more impressive number: One. Millions of people have experienced Star Wars, either by working on the creative side of production or paying for the consumer products, but the genius of Star Wars comes from just one source. And it isn’t George Lucas. In fact, it isn’t a person, but a story.

Yes, George Lucas wrote and directed Star Wars: A New Hope, the movie that started it all. And he also wrote outlines for nine stories. But the original story was not his idea. It came from a place long ago and far away.
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No God But One

Nabeel Qureshi’s 2014 memoir, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, described his heart journey from Islam to Christianity and became a New York Times bestseller.

Now he recounts his intellectual and theological journey in the follow-up book entitled, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? (Zondervan).

Qureshi details how an analysis of the history and theology of Christianity and Islam reveals stark differences between the world’s two largest religions.

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The Power of Books

Two events occurred this past week that bring to mind the power of books. On July 25, Tim LaHaye died, and six days later, at precisely 12:01 am on July 31, the eighth Harry Potter book was released.

LaHaye, of course, was the creator and co-author of Left Behind, a series of 16 books published between 1995 and 2007 that became the bestselling series of Christian fiction books in history, with 80 million copies sold to date.

The first Harry Potter book was published the year the last Left Behind novel was released. In the nine years since, more than 450 million Harry Potter books have been sold worldwide, making J.K. Rowling’s iconic books the bestselling general fiction series of all time.

For its part, Left Behind had an enormous impact on Christian publishing and bookselling, showing that fiction books with biblical themes could find a wide audience, while bringing new customers to Christian bookstores at a time when the retail landscape was changing. Harry Potter encouraged a new generation of readers and spawned countless films, ancillary products, even a theme park.

That’s pretty powerful stuff, and it all started with two series of books.
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Lauren Daigle Garners "Top Christian Album" Award

Lauren Daigle, Centricity Music artist, took home “Top Christian Album” How Can It Be at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards held at T-Mobile Arena on May 22, 2016 in Las Vegas. Facing competition from fellow artists TobyMac (This Is Not A Test), Joey + Rory (Hymns That Are Important To Us), Chris Tomlin (Adore: Christmas Songs of Worship), and Hillsong United (Empires), Daigle was also nominated for “Top Christian Artist” along with Casting Crowns, MercyMe, Chris Tomlin, and the winners, Hillsong United.

“Music is changing my life more and more each day,” says Daigle. “I'm recognizing the value in being able to communicate through a language that every human on the planet can experience in some form. It's such an honor to see the response of those who have listened and connected with the sounds. Seeing this transfer of communication is priceless. Thank you, Billboard, for allowing the opportunity!”

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Midnight Special film review

This review is by Jacob Kindberg, a film director known for Sing Over Me, a documentary about worship, identity, and the transformative power of the Gospel.

With “Midnight Special” internationally renowned indie director Jeff Nichols makes his first foray into the Sci-fi genre, and for the most part it is a groundbreaking success. The film is smart, unpredictable, and thrilling, but its emotional resonance is hindered by its obscurity and a fumbled third act. With strong performances across the board, a taut script, and incredible visuals, it is a good film that might have been great.

Nichols regular Michael Shannon turns in a typically stellar turn as Roy, the father of Alton, a young boy with mysterious powers played by Jaeden Lieberher. The story follows father and son as they run from multiple groups interested in the child’s unique abilities, including a religious cult and the federal government. Rounding out the incredible cast is Adam Driver, who plays an NSA specialist, Joel Edgerton, a childhood friend of Roy who helps the duo flee, and Kirsten Dunst, Alton’s mother.

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In the Heart of the Sea

Oscar winner Ron Howard (“A Beautiful Mind”) directs the action adventure “In the Heart of the Sea,” based on Nathaniel Philbrick’s best-selling book about the dramatic true journey of the Essex.

In the winter of 1820, the New England whaling ship Essex was assaulted by something no one could believe: a whale of mammoth size and will, and an almost human sense of vengeance. The real-life maritime disaster would inspire Herman Melville’s Moby- Dick. But that told only half the story. “In the Heart of the Sea” reveals the encounter’s harrowing aftermath, as the ship’s surviving crew is pushed to their limits and forced to do the unthinkable to stay alive. Braving storms, starvation, panic and despair, the men will call into question their deepest beliefs, from the value of their lives to the morality of their trade, as their captain searches for direction on the open sea and his first mate still seeks to bring the great whale down.

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Twenty Years of Amazon

by Stan Jantz

It’s been 20 years since Amazon launched a website that changed the world. Okay, that may be overstating things a bit, but it most definitely changed my world. I was the happy owner of a large chain Christian retail stores, doing business the way booksellers had been doing business for centuries: stock a bunch of books, provide a nice environment in a good location with a friendly, knowledgeable staff, and you were pretty much guaranteed to be successful.

When Amazon.com was launched, I was curious, so I registered just to see how it worked. Remember, in 1995 there were no search engines, no Google, no ecommerce of any kind. Smart phones wouldn’t appear for another 12 years. There was just the Internet and email, and both were more novelties than necessities. So the notion of buying my favorite commodity through a computer fascinated me.

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God's Not Dead 2

(Los Angeles, CA) Pure Flix, the largest independent faith film studio, just wrapped production for God’s Not Dead 2: He’s Surely Alive. This film is the highly anticipated follow-up to the immensely successful God’s Not Dead, which grossed over $60 million last year at the box office. God’s Not Dead 2 features a star-studded cast that includes: Melissa Joan Hart (Melissa & Joey), Jesse Metcalfe (Dallas), David A. R. White (God’s Not Dead), Hayley Orrantia (The Goldbergs), Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters), Sadie Robertson (Duck Dynasty), Robin Givens (Head of The Class), Fred Thompson (Law & Order), Maria Canals-Barrera (Cristela), with Pat Boone and Ray Wise (Robocop).

Other returning cast favorites include: Trisha LaFache (Amy Ryan), Benjamin Onyango (Reverend Jude), Paul Kwo (Martin Yip), and Newsboys (Michael Tait, Duncan Phillips, Jeff Frankenstein, and Jody Davis).
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Prepare Him Room

One of the great joys of the Christmas season is the arrival of special guests. It may be a son or daughter who has been away at college or in the military. It could be a favorite aunt or uncle who has flown in for the holidays. Friends might be coming to share a holiday dinner. Whoever it is, you anticipate the arrival of your guests and prepare yourself and your home for their coming. And finally, when you hear the knock or the doorbell, you jump up, eager to welcome your loved ones into your heart and home.

That spirit and emotion are at the heart of Advent, a way of celebrating Christmas that may be new to you. Perhaps you’re aware of Advent but don’t know a lot about what it means or what you’re supposed to do about it. When you hear the word, you probably think of candles and calendars. While those are often involved in the celebration, they are merely symbols of what Advent is all about

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After Earth

“Danger is real. Fear is a choice.” This limpid tag line of the most recent production from team Pinkett Smith, serves as a beacon that keeps the viewer and the story on track.  After Earth, opening this Friday, is the latest in a series of Talmudic-like morality tales from the high achieving family. Beginning with The Pursuit of Happyness and continuing with Seven Pounds and even the remake of The Karate Kid, each of these recent films focuses on delivering tips for a successful and fulfilling life to its audience. Happyness was about self-confidence. Seven Pounds focused on redemption and the connection between giving to others and forgiveness. After Earth is about the idea that fear is a construct of the mind that can be overcome by refusing to give the unknown outcomes of the future any power in the present.

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