“Miracles From Heaven” – Movie Review

Miracles From Heaven

I was honored to be sent a “screener” version of the upcoming film, “Miracles From Heaven.”   I was unfamiliar with the true story it is based on, so I was watching from a completely ignorant perspective.

This movie was produced by the same folks that brought us “Heaven Is For Real.”  It has many of the same elements that I totally appreciated about that movie:

Excellent Acting –  Jennifer Garner, Queen Latifah, and the rest of the cast (especially the young actress, Kylie Rogers, who plays Anna Beam) nail this film.  They brought me nearly to tears multiple times (and I DON’T cry in movies).

Beautiful Cinematography – This movie has some of the best shots I have ever seen in a faith-based movie.  Apparently, the director has done some films for the Disney Channel, but this movie looks nothing like anything you would see on that network.  It was brilliantly shot.  Every scene evokes strong emotion.

Great Story –  The story of the Beams dealing with their daughter’s mysterious sickness is one that so many parents will identify with.  Their faith is tested, their family dynamic is disrupted, and their future is in question.  As you watch the movie, you are truly taken on an emotional roller-coaster of emotions.

There were several elements about the movie that I wasn’t pleased with.  The pastor (played by John Carroll Lynch) is a nice guy, but is portrayed as a bit shallow.  His “preaching” is also a bit shallow (more like small-time storytelling and entertainment).  The church looks almost identical to the church used in “Heaven Is For Real.”  But, that scene is totally saved by some incredible music played by the church’s worship band – which happens to be Third Day.  :-)

Overall, I was extremely pleased and entertained by this film.  It is definitely family-friendly, faith-based, and well worth the money you’ll need to shell out to see it.  I highly recommend that you do!  “Miracles From Heaven” releases on Wednesday, March 16th.   Here is the official trailer for the movie:

 

 

“Fresh Prince Of Time Change” (parody of “Fresh Prince of Bel Air”)

Fresh Prince Time Change

 

So many of you watched our other “Time Change Sunday” Parody Video (“Time Change Funk”) and asked, “Do you have more?” Well, yes we do!  Here is a great parody of the TV theme song, “Fresh Prince Of Time Change” by Will Smith.  This one stars one of my best friends, Shelby.  You’re gonna love this hilarious video that reminds everyone to Spring Forward on Time Change Sunday! Enjoy!

 

“Time Change Funk” (Parody of “Uptown Funk”)

TimeChangeFunk

Every year, our church does a great job at poking fun of Time Change Sunday (the day that clocks Spring an hour forward and for some reason people freak out because they are losing an hour of sleep).  To keep people from forgetting and ultimately being late for church that day, we create crazy videos to remind everyone.

The last few years, we have done parody songs and videos of the hottest pop songs of the day.  Well, this year is no different.  For your entertainment, here is a parody of “Uptown Funk” (Grammy award winner for Song of the Year 2015).  You’re gonna love it!

 

Jumpstart Your Bible Reading In 2016 (FREE WEBINAR)

Jumpstart 2016

Happy New Year!

Lots of people make New Year’s Resolutions (or goals…or plan-of-attack…or fresh start). Whatever you call it, for Christians at least, Bible reading is typically somewhere on the list.

Is time in God’s Word on your list? Do you have a plan? (Hint: You need one.)

I want you to start well…so you can sustain a vibrant time with God all year long (ahem…and longer). That’s why I’m hosting a brand-new, FREE webinar This Friday at noon (CST).  I will be interviewing one of the foremost experts in this area, Keith Ferrin.  Keith is an author of several books and has developed many tools that will help you in your pursuit to make God’s Word a PRIORITY in your life this year. 

These are some of the questions Keith will answer…

  1. Is it really possible to enjoy the Bible?
  2. How do I keep my mind from wandering?
  3. Where do I start if I’m new to the Bible?
  4. What do you recommend for people who have been around the Bible a long time?
  5. What translation do you recommend?
  6. How do I remember what I read?

Are you in? Register today!

Can I ask one small 30-second favor?  Will you help me spread the word over the next few days? (I want heaps of people to hear this!)

You can also simply copy/paste this link – – into an email/text/etc. and that will send people directly to the registration page…or you can share this blog post via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Google+. 

Thanks! I am so excited I can hardly wait for this FRIDAY!

 

Most Popular Posts Of 2015

2015 leaving

It’s hard to believe, but 2015 is almost over.  What a year it has been.  I am so honored that you choose to share some of your precious time with me as we journey together.  Each person who reads this blog is committed to reaching the next generation with the message of Jesus in the most powerful and effective way we can.

I took some time to check out which of my posts were the most popular in 2015.  It was a banner year for this blog as we added thousands of new followers (and closing in on 30,000 total – crazy!).  Here are the TOP FIVE posts from 2015.

#1 Post of 2015:  “Are You Teaching Your Kids A False Gospel?”

#2 Post of 2015:  “A Children’s Pastor’s Response To The Supreme Court Ruling”

#3 Post of 2015:  “Parents Allow Four Year Old Boy To Become A Girl”

#4 Post of 2015:  “All About Time Change (Parody of ‘All About That Bass’)”

#5 Post of 2015:  “T.H.I.N.K. Before You Tweet”

Thanks to YOU!  You are the ones who “voted” by visiting and sharing these posts.  Continue to help spread the word.  Feel free to share on Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere you can!  God bless, and Happy New Year!  I can’t wait to see what God does in 2016!

I would love to hear from you!  What topics would YOU like me to cover in 2016?  Leave a comment here!  I will choose one comment at random to win a $100 Shopping Spree on our High Voltage Kids Ministry store (deadline is January 2, 2016)!

4 Dangerously Negative Effects Of Divorce On Children (And What You Can Do About It)

DIVORCE

As I’ve worked with children for over twenty years, I’ve repeatedly seen how news of their parents’ divorce shatters their world.  I wasn’t ready to deal with it as an adult (my parents divorced when I was 25), and I’m sure it’s even more difficult for a child to process this world-changing information.  Everything they know, everything they depend on for emotional stability, is lost in an instant.  They may have detected major issues in the parents’ relationship for years, or perhaps one parent was suddenly shocked to discover a history of infidelity for the other.  Whether the decision to divorce is immediate or drawn out, it devastates everyone involved.  Quite often the parents are so traumatized they don’t know how to help their children cope.  It’s always a tragedy, no matter how amicably the split happens.

A recent study shows that in the broader American culture, 43 percent of marriages end in divorce, and depending on the state, between 26 and 47 percent of children live in single-parent homes.[1] More than 2,000 blended families are formed every day, but more than two-thirds of those fail within six years.[2]

By studying God’s Word, we can all agree that divorce is never God’s plan. I don’t think it’s ever anyone’s plan. Nobody gets married thinking, “I sure can’t wait to divorce this person one day.” God’s desire is that marriages thrive and last “until death do us part.” Unfortunately, divorce happens. When it does, it affects everyone involved. Often, it disproportionately affects the children in an extremely negative way.

I’ve seen the devastation of divorce in the faces of parents and their kids.  Confusion, resentment, discouragement, and depression are common results.  If those emotions aren’t resolved with love, honesty, and time, it deeply affects future relationships.  Hurt people hurt people, and they often don’t even know why they have difficulties in relationships.  In the lives of children, a few of the most common results of divorce include:

1) Increased stress

No matter what age children are when their parents announce the breakup of their home, kids are never emotionally prepared for the shock. Stress shows up in many different ways. Relationally, kids may become defiant, or they may withdraw. Emotionally, they may become hardened and defiant, or they may regularly burst into tears. Physically, the stress often finds the weakest part of the person’s body; headaches, stomachaches, and other gastrointestinal problems are common. Even the most mundane, everyday decisions can become difficult.

2) Lack of stability

When parents split up, the most secure point in the child’s universe is shaken and destroyed.  God has made us to be relational beings, and the home is the first and foremost place of rest, comfort, and security.  When that’s disrupted, the child naturally questions the validity and reliability of everything and everyone.  In addition, the child is suddenly forced to move back and forth from mom’s house to dad’s house, finding it difficult to ever feel settled and often feeling like a pawn in their blame game.

3) Eroded or shattered trust

When their security crumbles, children may put up walls and refuse to trust anyone, even those who are the most stable, loving people in their lives.  Or in contrast, they may trust too much, putting their faith in untrustworthy people in the hope that trusting someone will make them feel safe again.

4) Irresponsibility or hyper-responsibility

Everything the kids have known has been turned upside down.  The parents have been trying to teach their kids to be responsible, but now the children wonder, What’s the use?  They may neglect homework, cleaning their rooms, taking showers, and doing the normal things they’ve been doing for years.  Or they may react in the opposite way, trying to earn their parents’ love by being overly responsible.  Some kids use their exemplary behavior as a bargaining chip in an attempt to get their parents to reconcile.  It’s magical thinking, but it shows the desperation of the child to restore a happy home.

Grandparents and other extended family members can provide much-needed stability and support during the confusing and painful time before, during, and after the divorce, but be careful.  Some extended family members become furious at “that man” or “that woman” for hurting their beloved son or daughter, sister or brother.  Extended family members may be a great source of wisdom, insight, and hope, or they can throw more gasoline on the fire of resentment!

So, as Kids Pastors, what can WE do?  

  • PRAY!  Pray that God will be the Lord of every home.  Pray that parents will see Divorce as an absolute LAST resort.
  • TRAIN!  Train parents what the Bible teaches about the sanctity of marriage and the importance of family.  Help them see the effects of a future divorce on their children.
  • ENCOURAGE!  Encourage parents to seek wise counsel when dealing with marital issues.  Encourage them to see a Christian marriage counselor.  Normalize counseling as a means to “allow someone else to speak into the issues from a fresh perspective.”  Marriage and Family Counseling have received an unfair stigma. Counselors are there to help lead through life’s toughest issues when our emotions and judgement are cloudy.

For more on this subject, you can pick up a copy of my book, “Talk Now And Later:  How To Lead Kids Through Life’s Tough Topics.”  There is an entire chapter on “How To Talk To Kids About Divorce.”  I believe every parent should read this chapter.  Whether it is YOUR family or one that is close to you, Divorce hits us all.  We must be prepared to help mitigate these negative effects that Divorce has on our children.

TNAL Cover 3D Box

[1] Statistics: http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/acrosstates/Rankings.aspx?ind=100

[2] American Blended Family Association, www.usabfa.org/Default.aspx?pageld=188238

 

An Illustrated Advent: Engaging Activities for the Season

advent
Today’s post is a guest post by my friend, Adam Walker Cleaveland.  Adam is a pastor, artist and blogger. He lives in Chicago with his wife (also a pastor) and their almost–4-year old son, Caleb. You can find Adam online at awcillustrations.com or adamwc.com.

After working with children and youth for over twelves years in four different churches, I was beginning to feel called out of parish ministry and into something new – something different. Around that same time, I began to rediscover my childhood love of art, drawing and watercolors. It had been probably twenty years since I’d sat down with pen and paper and spent time drawing.

Illustrated Children’s Moments began when I started drawing illustrations to give kids during children’s sermons/moments at the church I was serving as associate pastor. Kids really connected with the style of my sketches, and parents told me that their kids were bringing up the stories throughout the week – more than they normally would. You can see some examples of the types of illustrations I create for this use here, or check out the images below:

EXAMPLES

A few months ago, I began to wonder how I could create something for churches and families to use during Advent, that would help bridge the gap between church and home. Everyone who does done work in children or youth ministry know that the bulk of spiritual formation that happens for kids really happens at home. Parents obviously spend much more time with their kids than children’s ministry volunteers, and so however pastors and churches can support families in that role is crucial.

On November 16, I’m going to be launching An Illustrated Advent: Engaging Activities for the Season. There will be two editions: the Church Edition and the Family Edition. There will be some overlap between content, but they are meant to be used together. A church might use some of the activities during worship or their Sunday School programs, and then kids would have other activities throughout the week at home to do with their families.

I’ve also created a series of Advent coloring sheets that are designed to be used for each of the four weeks of Advent (Hope, Joy, Peace and Love). I decided to enlarge one to 4’ x 3’ and my 4 year old son took it to his preschool Sunday School class at church a few weeks ago, and the kids all had a blast coloring on it.

Coloring

 

Sheets

My hope is that through this new venture, I can create original and fun artwork that will appeal to young children, and provide ways to support parents trying to find ways to continue the spiritual formation in their homes.

The best way to stay updated with everything is to join the email newsletter list at Illustrated Children’s Ministry. If you sign up – you will receive five free illustrations so you can get a sense of the style and how you might use them at church, home or school. You can sign up here.

Adam Walker Cleaveland is a pastor, artist and blogger. He lives in Chicago with his wife (also a pastor) and their almost–4-year old son, Caleb. You can find Adam online at awcillustrations.com or adamwc.com.

One Of The Best Stewardship Decisions A Church Can Make

 

child stewardshi

God has entrusted to each of us a certain amount of time, money, and talent.  What we do with these resources is called stewardship, which is the “wise investment of resources in order to reach the maximum amount of return.”  George Barna, the nation’s leading church demographer, found an astonishing fact while doing research on evangelism.  He wrote:

“We discovered that the probability of someone embracing Jesus as his or her Savior was 32 percent for those between the ages of 5 and 12; 4 percent for those in the 13- to 18-age range; and 6 percent for people 19 and older. In other words, if people do not embrace Jesus Christ as their Savior before they reach their teenage years, the chance of their do so at all is slim.”[1]

This means children are one of the largest, most strategic, and responsive mission fields in America today.  Many churches are investing far more time and money in trying to reach adults and teens than they are children.  This plan doesn’t seem like good stewardship.

Imagine having $1000 to invest in mutual funds.  Your financial advisor does his research and tells you that if you put your money in Fund A, you’ll get a 32% return.  But if you put your money into Fund B, you’ll get a 4% return.  And if you put your money into Fund C, you will get a 6% return on your investment.  Which fund would you choose?  Only a fool would put his money into the fund that was going to yield the smallest return.  This, though, is the spiritual investment strategy of many churches in America.  They put their time, money, and resources into the adults and teens, while giving the kids’ ministry only token resources.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying, “Forget about teens and adults.”  Those ministries are vitally important.  I was saved as a fifteen year-old kid.  I have a daughter, Ashton, who is 15 and a son, Jordan, who is almost 14.  I understand the importance of a strong student ministry.  From a standpoint of wise stewardship, however, the largest harvest of souls for our investment is going to come from investing in children.

I pray that more churches would be wise in their investment into the kingdom.  I pray they give their kids’ ministries the focus, attention, and resources they need to do an effective job of communicating the gospel to the largest and most fertile mission field in the world!


[1] George Barna, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions (Regal Books, 2003), 34.

Can You Really Fall In Love With Reading The Bible?

Bible Dust

I didn’t always enjoy reading the Bible.  I know – it’s really BAD for a pastor to admit this.  Just to clarify, it’s not that I disliked the Bible.  It’s just that I saw it as more of something I NEEDED to do rather than something I WANTED to do.

We’ve all been there.  Our Western mindset causes us to make reading the Bible something to be achieved and knocked off the list.  We make a grand goal of “reading the Bible through in a year,” but barely get through the book of Numbers before we abandon that and skip to Proverbs.  We look at the best-selling book of all time and treat it like an owner’s manual rather than a treasure map (which it  most definitely is).

My good friend, Keith Ferrin, is one of the most passionate people I have ever met about the Bible!  I had the opportunity to interview Keith a short time ago.  I asked him how his journey into “falling in love with the Bible” began.  His story is inspiring.  I think you will be challenged by his commitment to God’s Word, but you will also say, “I can do that.”  It’s an incredible interview and VERY practical.  Keith’s goal is simple:  “To help you ENJOY the Bible.  If you enjoy it, you will read it more.  If you enjoy it, you will talk about it.  If you enjoy it, you will be more consistent in your time with God.  If you enjoy it, you will apply it!”

Keith has just launched something that I think you need to check out!  He has launched an 8-part video “Relational Bible Study” course.  It is such a revolutionary idea that many of you can benefit from.  You can check it out here!  Don’t delay!  This opportunity is only available for a few days!  The deadline to register for this incredible online course is Wednesday, September 30th!

A Church That’s Not Afraid To Talk About Racism In America

racism panel

This past weekend, my church (First Assembly of God in North Little Rock, Arkansas) hosted a panel discussion on one of the hot button issues of our day: RACISM. What followed was an hour filled with open conversation, shocking statements, raw feelings, surprising confessions – ALL done with the most incredible grace, mercy, and love that only followers of Christ can do.

If you think anyone chose to shy from the difficult facts, you couldn’t be more wrong.  Sit down, watch, and prepare to be challenged and encouraged.  God is at work in HIS Church!

Watch the entire video here:

video - racism panel