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Current Affairs Parenting Uncategorized

Miracles From Heaven – The Movie

Recently I was asked to review the upcoming movie Miracles from Heaven set to be released on March 18, 2016. The movie is based on the true story of a 12-year-old girl named Anna Beam living in Burleson, Texas. In the movie, Anna is suffering from a physical abnormality where her intestines are unable to digest food properly. Because of this, she relies on feeding tubes to keep her alive and active. Without giving away the full plot (see the trailer here), Anna falls into a large, hollowed out tree and has a near death experience. When she awakens she discovers that the fall has cured her from her disease. This is a story about faith in God and the many ways that He moves in the life of the Beam family as they live with the diagnosis that is given to Anna by her doctor.

The film stars some big names in the film industry including Jennifer Garner (Television series Alias and various movie roles), Kylie Rogers (The Whispers), Martin Henderson (Off the Map) and comedienne, Queen Latifah.

I must admit that as I began the movie I was doubtful about its direction (it begins with a church service that didn’t feel quite right. I think maybe it was the unrealistic congregation that responded in a way that was just a bit off). However, after the first 10 minutes the movie quickly gained momentum and I was thoroughly moved throughout the film by it’s touching, and often heartbreaking, story line. The film is directed by Patricia Riggen (Disney Channel’s original film Lemonade Mouth) who does a fantastic job keeping the emotions stirred by focusing on:

  • The faith struggle of Anna’s mom, Christy;
  • The strong belief by Anna that Jesus is with her throughout her struggles (especially in a very emotional scene between Anna and a cancer-ridden little girl in the hospital);
  • And the strong belief of Anna’s father, Kevin, who’s faith in God assures him that somehow, everything will work out.

In the last 15 minutes or so, the movie touches very briefly on Anna’s experience where she goes to Heaven and sees some of the wonders of what Heaven will be like. The primary focus of the movie, however, is on the emotional bonds shared between a God-fearing family (primarily between Anna’s mom Christy, and her) who deal with a real-life crisis that defies a worldly explanation as to its purpose.

I would highly recommend this movie. Miracles from Heaven provides a dignified, real world look at how Christians struggle with life’s difficulties and, in the process of these difficulties, see God move in miraculous ways. I left the movie feeling inspired with the hope of Heaven, assured of the goodness of God, and filled with a renewed passion for my faith. A faith that tells me that even though God moves in ways that I often do not understand, I can be assured His ways will ultimately bring glory to Himself and will bring light to a lost world.

Oh, and by the way, don’t go into the theater without a healthy supply of tissues. You’ll need them!

Children’s Ministry Current Affairs Leadership Uncategorized

Tweetable Leadership – A Review And Thank You To Jim Wideman

One of my all-time favorite books in the Bible is the book of Proverbs.  What I love most about it is that there are hundreds of bite-size nuggets that give you so much to think about in just a few words, nuggets that are key to living a successful Christian life.

Over the last couple of days I have had the privilege of reading through the new book by Jim Wideman entitled, “Tweetable Leadership”. When I received it in the mail, I opened it up and immediately felt right at home as I saw literally hundreds and hundreds of bite-size statements packed with wisdom and knowledge on how to be a successful leader within Children’s Ministry.

This awesome book is divided up into seven chapters dealing with a wide range of leadership topics such as leading by example, how to keep your life simple to do more, how to stay spiritually healthy, and probably my favorite chapter entitled “What old Jim wishes young Jim knew”. In addition to the bite-size sayings within each chapter, each chapter also concludes with 5 to 6 pages that are traditionally written and packed with insights from Jim.

I would highly recommend that you pick up this book, but I must say that you need to be careful with it. Go ahead and sit down and read through it once, but don’t let the overwhelming amount of information discourage you. This is a lifetime worth of information that you will need to take some time incorporating into your ministry. Take a few of the principles and apply them over a month or so, then continue to add along the way. Trust me, I can honestly say that after 22 years as the children’s pastor here at Fellowship Church, these are the things that will make you very successful over time.

Thanks Jim, for taking the time to put this great book together. I appreciate all that you’ve done for kids ministry in the 19th, 20th and 21st century…just kidding, you’re old but not that old. 🙂

You are an Absolute Children’s Ministry Rockstar!

Children’s Ministry Current Affairs Parenting Uncategorized

A Parent’s And Childrens Pastor's Response To The Supreme Court Ruling On Same-Sex Marriage

gay marriage

Yesterday my good friend, and fellow children’s pastor, Brian Dollar wrote up a fantastic article on how we as parents, and children’s pastors, can respond to questions our kids may pose to us about same-sex marriage. I was thinking of writing an article like this myself, but, to be honest, I couldn’t have done a better job, so I asked Brian for his permission to re-post it here. You can check out the link to his blog at the bottom of the article for more great stuff.

Hope this helps you as much as it helped me!

How do I talk to my kids about this?

On Friday, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States determined that marriage between homosexual couples would be legally recognized in all fifty states. No doubt, our kids are hearing all about this topic both on the TV and, many times, on the playground.  It’s hard for any parent to control the context in which their child may have conversations regarding this important topic.

Many Christian parents have struggled with the question, “How do I talk to my kids about this?” Likewise, many Children’s Pastors have struggled with the question, “What is my responsibility in this? Should I discuss ‘Gay Marriage’ with the children in my Kids Church?”

Some thoughts for Children’s Pastors:

I think you have to be careful what issues you are addressing in Children’s Church “as a group.”  So many children are at different points in the journey regarding both mental and emotional maturity.  When you address something as weighty and serious as homosexuality and gay marriage to a large group of kids, it is very difficult to do so in a way that is appropriate for EVERY child.

In addition, many parents (as they should) want to be THE ones to discuss topics such as this with their kids.  I understand, many parents DON’T ever discuss it with their kids.  That’s unfortunate.  However, you don’t want to undercut parents by addressing it publicly in a large group of kids.  This should be something that parents include in their general talks about “Biblical Sexuality” with their kids.

Of course, if a child asks you a direct question about it – treat that just like you do any other question about sex or sexuality.  Answer with, “I would be happy to share my thoughts with you about this subject.  Let’s talk to Mom or Dad when they come to pick you up.  Perhaps together, we can answer your questions in a healthy way.”  Then, follow the cues of the parent.  If they do not wish to discuss it right then and there, follow their lead.  Allow them to do so on their own terms and in their own timing.

An alternative to discussing this with the large group is to offer a special class or “discussion” in which you allow parents to sign their kids up to attend.  Encourage parents to attend with their children.  Rather than coming at the topic in a negative manner (i.e. “We are AGAINST gay marriage”, etc.), discuss the topic within the overall umbrella of God’s plan for our sexuality (“God created male and female to complement one another.  Marriage is the life-long commitment between one man and one woman.”).

The topic of “gay marriage” and “homosexuality” is a difficult one for kids.  Yes, it is becoming much more commonplace and a topic that they are hearing more and more about, but it is also very polarizing.  While we don’t ever shy away from the Truth, we also must be wise and careful when dealing with the youngest among us.  We want clarity, not confusion.

Some thoughts for Christian Parents:

Depending on the age of your child, they may or may not be aware of the Supreme Court decision. They may or may not be aware of the subject of “Gay Marriage” at all.  Don’t feel pressure to bring the topic up to your child simply because it is in the news, all over Social Media, etc.  Your child may be too young to even consider the conversation.

If your child asks you a question about it, address it. However, if your child is in the 4th Grade or above – they are GOING to hear about it. Kids love to talk about things that seem “taboo,” so it is better for you to be the FIRST one to speak with your children about this issue. It’s a lot harder to deal with when you are having to UNDO the misinformation your child may have already received from friends or the media.

As you have this conversation, remember:

  • Don’t freak out! – Don’t overreact and freak out! I see too many parents flip out over things like this. Don’t go on a diatribe about the “liberal agenda” and the “LGBT Conspiracy.” Just calmly share with them how, although some people choose to live their lives in contradiction to what God planned and the Bible teaches – our goal should be to pray for them, show them God’s love, and display God’s character in everything we do. Don’t flip out! Children take their emotional cues from you, the parent. Although there is reason to be concerned about our nation and community regarding this issue, God is STILL on the throne. There is no need to panic!
  • Don’t only give PART of the story! – Don’t simply say, “We believe that Homosexuality is a sin.” Explain to them what “sin” really is – “CHOOSING to live outside of God’s plan and purpose for your life.” Sin is the willful choice to disobey God’s commands. Revisit the story of Adam and Eve and how sin and temptation has been a problem for human beings since the beginning of time. Remind them that, although people make choices that are the opposite of what God has commanded, Jesus came to die on the cross so that ALL sin can be forgiven. All we must do is admit our sin, receive forgiveness, and CHOOSE to follow Jesus every day!
  • Don’t focus on the DON’T! – More important than the fact that “We DON’T believe that ‘Gay Marriage’ is right,” children need to hear what we DO believe. They need to hear that God has a plan for marriage. He created male and female and desires that they come together for a life-long partnership with God as the Head. God wants to bless the family unit with His presence on a daily basis. It is a sacred institution, and no law, decree, or court can change what God has planned since the Creation of the human race.

A reminder for us all:

Children are watching you during this critical time. In fact, THE WORLD is watching Christians during this time.  If they see you addressing this issue with anger, bitterness, or (God forbid) hatred in your words or tone of voice, that will send a confusing message to them.  After all, God is Love.  He created EVERY man, woman, boy, and girl.  He loves them ALL!

Remember that Ephesians 4:14-15 (NLT) states, “Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.”

That is our mandate as the Church….to speak God’s truth with love.  Just because the truth of God’s word is different from the beliefs of others or the ruling of a court doesn’t mean we should join with others who choose to resort to name-calling, picketing, belittling and hate. As children of God, we need to be careful that our speech, tweets and posts are speaking the truth in love. We need to T.H.I.N.K. before we tweet.

The Church should respond in the same way that God instructed the children of Israel in 2 Chronicles 7:14:

14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

We can’t force others to be humble – but we can be humble.

We can’t make people pray and seek His face – but we can.

We can’t force people to turn from their wicked ways, but we can and should clean up our ownlives.

When we do, God promises, He will hear from Heaven and heal our land.

The answer to this world’s problems and America’s problems is Jesus. Share Jesus. Share His love. Share the difference He has made in your life. Trust that when people encounter His grace – they, too, will be changed!

For more great parenting or children’s ministry posts check out Brian Dollar’s Blog!

Children’s Ministry Current Affairs Uncategorized

Teaching Creationism To Kids

Recently, a couple of questions have come up from Elevate users asking about which lessons teach the Creation story and which can be used to teach Creationism. In Elevate, we believe in teaching kid’s God’s Word as early as possible, and because of this, we have several lessons that teach the Creation story, the story of Noah, and an entire series on those Bible stories for younger age groups. These Bible Lessons don’t include specific apologetics when it comes to Creation, dinosaurs, or the worldwide flood because we are providing you as the teacher with the flexibility and time to discuss the lesson as your ministry decides.

For those of you looking for lessons specifically about Creation and Noah’s Flood, here are the ones from Elevate, based on age group:

Creation Lessons for ages 3-6 – The Roanoke Jones Jr. series is eight lessons on the overview and story of Creation. It is probably our most comprehensive lesson plan for Genesis 1. Another lesson on Creation is Lesson 1 from the series Upsidedown Town Jr.

Noah’s Ark Lessons for ages 3-6 – The entire series of Port of Call Jr. is the story of Noah spanning all the way from the building of the ark to the rainbow. Other lessons where the Bible Stories are about Noah can be found in Upsidedown Town Jr. Lessons 5 and 6.

Creation Lessons for ages 6-12 – There are three lessons on Creation for this age group. Allaso Ranch Lesson 3, Adventures in Science Lesson 1, and Zooplosion Lesson 1.

Noah’s Ark Lessons for ages 6-12 – There are two lessons from the story of Noah for this age group. The Great Skybridge Showdown Lesson 2 and Zooplosion Lesson 8.

If your ministry already has these series, you can create something similar to what we do at Fellowship Church – we put together a few weeks we call ‘the Best Of Elevate’, and pick different series. Or if you need to purchase these series, you can find them all on ElevateAtChurch.com.

For those of you interested in more information on Creationism vs. Evolution – there is a place called the Institute for Creation Research that has a local center in the Dallas area. They have several resources on their website: http://www.icr.org/.

Current Affairs Parenting Uncategorized

Moms' Night Out – The Movie

Last night my wife, two daughters, and parents sat down and watched a pre-screening of the movie Moms’ Night Out. I’m not sure what is happening in Hollywood as of late, but three great Christian family films have hit the theaters recently. Heaven is for Real, God’s Not Dead, and coming Mother’s Day – Moms’ Night Out. To me the most exciting part is that, like Christian music, there are finally some high quality, faith-based films entering into the mainstream genre. And, with the success of Heaven is for Real debuting as the top new release this past weekend and number two movie overall, I hope that the trend will continue.

Here are my thoughts on Moms’ Night Out:

When I looked at the cast of the movie and saw that my favorite hobbit, Sean Astin, was going to be in it, I was immediately impressed. Add to this Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond), Sarah Drew (Gray’s Anatomy), and Trace Adkins (Country Music star) and this had the making of a top-notch film. I have to admit however, that when I sat down to watch, I still had a lingering doubt…is this just going to be a Hallmark movie gone to the big screen? Is there a way that someone is still going to mess this up?

What I discovered from start to finish was a well thought through plot and a hilarious story line. The verbal and slapstick humor caused all of us in the room to laugh out loud more than most comedy movies we’ve seen (we just watched the Secret Life of Walter Mitty a couple of nights earlier, and although we did laugh quite a bit throughout, it wasn’t near as much as we did during Moms’ Night Out.) Just for the fun factor alone this movie will be well worth the price of a movie ticket, both for you and all the members of your family. However the greater thing about the movie is that there is a deeper purpose to it than just making you laugh. The message is a heartwarming story of a discovery that we all should put aside our expectations of what we think a successful life looks like and just live the life that God has given to us, to the best of our ability, and look for the joy that can be found within it’s design.

In Moms’ Night Out the main character, Sarah Drew, feels like a failure, she has everything that she’s ever wanted in life and yet she still feels like she is not as happy as she thought she would be, or should be – her life is crazy. But, by the end of the movie, and a night of hilarious antics, she realizes that although her life will never be perfect, if she can keep the perspective that what she is doing is exactly what God wants her to be doing, she will find joy in whatever situation she find herself in.  That sounds like a message we all could learn from.

Moms' night out movie trailer

Take Home and Application:

1- Husbands take your wife, and your mom, to go see Moms’ Night Out, and then take a moment to affirm in them that they are very, very important.

2- Parents, take your kids to this movie and afterwards talk to them about the fact that our lives on this earth will never be perfect. Don’t set expectations on how you think your life should be, take your life as it is and do your very best to enjoy the many wonderful moments that come along with it. Teach your kids that if we only look at the negative things of life and the failures that come with them, our Christian life will fizzle. But, if we instead thank God for the life that we have, looking for and treasuring the positive things in it, our Christian life will be a sure success.

I highly recommend Moms’ Night Out. Go out and support it and let Hollywood know we want more of the same…the cool thing is, if that happens, it will only get better and better as it goes.

Current Affairs Parenting Uncategorized

Heaven is for Real – The Movie

A month or so ago a good friend of mine, David Almgren, asked me to do a preview screening for the upcoming movie “Heaven is for Real”.

I’m sure by now many of you have seen this movie trailer at the theater and when you saw it you probably said to yourself, “Hey that looks like a pretty good movie…I wonder if it’s done by Christians?”

Well no, not necessarily, and yes, that’s okay!

The movie, directed by Oscar-nominated Randall Wallace, is being released by Tri-Star Pictures and contains some pretty heavy hitting actors such as Greg Kinnear (also Oscar Nominated) and Kelly Reilly (of Sherlock Holmes fame). The movie has been given a hefty advertising budget which Sony has used wisely (unless you haven’t heard of it – then for you, not so much).

Heaven is for Real - Official Movie Trailer

For those of you who may be unaware, “Heaven is for Real” is about a little boy (Colton Burpo) who went to Heaven and came back to tell about it. Here is a brief rundown:

Heaven is for Real is the true story of the four-year old son of a small-town Nebraska pastor who experienced Heaven during emergency surgery. This boy, Colton Burpo, talked about looking down to see the doctor operating on him and he also saw his dad who was praying in another room. The family didn’t know what to believe, but soon the evidence was clear.

In Heaven, Colton met his miscarried sister whom no one had ever told him about. He also met his great-grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born. He shared impossible-to-know details about each. Colton went on to describe the horse that only Jesus could ride, about how “reaaally big” God and his chair are, and how the Holy Spirit “shoots down power” from heaven to help us.

Told by Colton’s father, often in Colton’s own words, the disarmingly simple message is that Heaven is a real place, Jesus really loves children, and to be ready because there is a coming last battle.

The book “Heaven is for Real” has sold over 8 million copies and has spent numerous weeks as #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List.

Recently I had the privilege of spending a couple of hours with Todd and Sonja Burpo and I came away thoroughly impressed with both of them (they’re Elevate users by the way!). Their genuine heart for getting this message out is very inspiring. After talking to them, I came away renewed and refreshed by their passion for Jesus that has survived amidst the negativity from some within the Christian body. I can honestly tell you that they are great people, with a great heart, and a great love for reaching others with the love of Christ. They are REAL people with a REAL story and I was honored to meet them both.

Now on to the movie itself – here is what I wrote as a review:

     “Heaven is for real is a gripping movie regarding human doubt and the ultimate reconciliation of belief with every day life. From the pulpit, Pastor Todd Burpo has preached on Heaven his whole career. However, when his son, Colton, makes a claim that he actually went to Heaven, there comes a gut wrenching reality check as to whether Todd believes in Heaven enough to make an alteration in the way that he lives. Once he does, he must then convince his congregation to do the same.

    I believe this movie will cause each person in the audience to think more about Heaven in his or her day-to-day life. I also believe that it will bring the viewer to a realization that everyone needs to have an eternal perspective on their life; to understand that there is life beyond the grave, found in Jesus Christ, and that our actions on this earth will ultimately affect our eternity.”

Movie Review – Mike Johnson

Would I recommend this movie? Absolutely! “Heaven is for Real” is a wholesome movie that will open up dialogue within your family about Heaven and the joys that await us when we get there. When you arrive at the theater don’t expect a Salvation Message, because you won’t find it. However, you will see Jesus Christ clearly presented as the Son of God.

As a parent I would use this movie as an opportunity to talk to your child about the glorious gift that Jesus gives to us when we accept Him as our Savior, and that gift is Heaven. Also, be sure to ask them questions about what they think Heaven will be like and what they want to do when they get there. Let their imaginations fly, and listen carefully, because after all, children in their innocence may know more about the Kingdom than any of us.

In closing, take a look at this clip of Colton singing (he’s got a great voice). I think you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Current Affairs Uncategorized

Prisoner To Our Fast Food Culture?

1 Corinthians 6:19 & 20 “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (NLT)

Read Daniel 1

“It’s just too hard to find healthy food.” “I just don’t have time to cook.” “I’m on a see food diet – everything I see, I eat.” Many of us treat food and eating as if we are held prisoner to the fast food culture around us. But Daniel actually was held prisoner! And he managed to find a way to honor God with what he ate. Scripture doesn’t fill us in on the details of why Daniel found the food “unacceptable” (verse eight). It could be that the food had been sacrificed to idols and used in the worship of Babylonian gods. It could be that it violated Jewish dietary laws Visit Website. It could be that it was simply unhealthy. The point is that Daniel knew that by eating the food, he would be defiled and dishonor God. Today we live in a shifting sea of fitness guidelines. The super-food of one decade, is the health-risk of another. Daniel wasn’t concerned with following the dietary fads of the world, but he was concerned with honoring God with what he ate. We should follow Daniel’s example.

Note: This devotional is taken from the Elevate series, Dojo Kids.

Children’s Ministry Current Affairs FC Kids Leadership Parenting Uncategorized

They're not "JUST kids", they're future leaders

Recently, I had the opportunity to present a message at Fellowship Church entitled They’re Not “Just Kids”. In it I presented the fact that our children are our nation’s and world’s future leaders, and the qualities and values we invest in them now will determine their success in life, and the success of our future.

This message is one that EVERY PERSON who has a child in their life needs to hear! For those of you who work with children within a ministry, or for a living, I hope this encourages you and reminds you again of the importance of what you do. For everyone else, I promise you, it will forever change how you look at children!

Current Affairs Parenting Uncategorized

Are Movies Becoming More "Christian"?

I love movies! And it looks like Hollywood might be getting the message that the movies that bring in the most money are those that a family can go and see together. Since I have always loved going to movies with my girls, I like the trend that I am seeing. Read on below…

Movieguide® has recently released statistics about changes that can be seen in the movie industry over the last 20 years.

Here are a few of the statistics:

  • Since 1991, there’s been a 425% increase in the number of movies with Christian, redemptive content that reflect a Christian biblical worldview – with a 20% increase in just the last five years.
  • From 2005-2009, movies with a very strong Christian and redemptive worldview averaged $65.3 million, while movies with a strong negative or anti-Christian worldview averaged only $23 million.
  • In 1995, movies with a strong Christian and redemptive worldview were earning an average of $21.14 million, but by 2009 that number had increased to $80.3 million.
  • In 1996, 12 of the Top 25 movies at the Box Office were R-rated; in 2009, only two of the Top 25 were R-rated. Conversely, in 1996 only three of the Top 25 movies had a strong Christian and redemptive worldview, but in 2009, 18 of the Top 25 had a strong Christian and redemptive worldview – a 500% increase.

For the complete list of Movieguide® statistics, click here.