Show Me the Father–Movie Review

What’s your father story? We all have one. A good father is an extremely important figure in the life of a child. He provides, affirms, encourages, guides, blesses and leads. Those who are fatherless, or who have an earthly father who does not fulfill this God-given role, will face more difficulties in both secular and spiritual development. We all tend to see God through the lens of our earthly fathers. A poor role model may cause us to have low self-esteem and trouble in trusting God.

In this documentary film, you will learn the father stories of a number of Christian men. Some are good, and some are not. The good news is that, even if we have had poor fathering, we can choose to emulate our Father in Heaven. He is always there for us, and He will provide the blessing, affirmation and guidance that we all crave and need.

VERDICT: 4 STARS. Overall, this film was inspiring, interesting, and well done. One of the men interviewed was Tony Evans, a Baptist, so there will be some small, theological differences for Lutherans.

For more reviews of Christian films see:

My Brother’s Keeper–Film Review

The Chosen Season One — Review

The War Room – it’s all about prayer

Walking the Bible–Film Review

This documentary is intended to be a companion to the book by Bruce Feiler with the same name. I read it years ago. The author embarks on a 10,000 mile journey, visiting locations where some of the stories of the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) took place. He travels to Mesopotamia to imagine scenes from Genesis; to Egypt to follow the path of Joseph; and finally, to the Sinai Desert where the Israelites wander for forty long years. Readings from the Scripture are interspersed throughout.

As part of his adventure, Feiler meets and consults with a variety of experts to gain answers to his archaeological and scientific questions. However, along the way his journey becomes more of a spiritual quest. Seeing the land brings the Bible to life for him, and he realizes that the important thing is not the destination — it is the journey itself, the opportunity to grow closer to God. The stories are not just ancient history, they teach universal truths that are still relevant to us today.

VERDICT: 4 STARS. Even if you know a lot about the Bible and the evidence of archaeology, you’re sure to learn something. I did!

For more movie reviews see:

I Still Believe–Movie Review

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood — Movie Review

Overcomer–Movie Review

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The Chosen Season One — Review

There has been a lot of hype in Christian circles about this series, so my husband and I were eager to watch it. The acting is quite good, and the biblical characters come to life realistically — not as idealized heroes, but real people with flaws as well as strengths. Of course, in order to flesh out the story, events and people have been added that are not in the biblical account; I understand this is necessary in this type of production However, in my opinion, too much liberty was taken Things happen in the wrong sequence and the wrong location; the timeline is off, Biblical quotes are used in a different context and sometimes attributed to different people When depicting history I expect even a fictional account should stick as close to the known facts as possible–maybe that’s just me

I believe the creators did attempt to retain the spirit of the Gospel, but I was still disappointed and probably won’t watch Season Two. My concern is that this rendition will confuse many viewers, especially those who are unfamiliar with the Bible.

VERDICT: 3 STARS. You may enjoy this series, but be aware that it is far from accurate biblically.

For reviews of Christian movies see these posts:

Breakthrough–Movie Review

90 Minutes in Heaven — Movie Review

Small Group–Movie Review

My Brother’s Keeper–Film Review

Travis Fox, a soldier, returns to his home town after the death of his best friend, who was killed in an IED attack. Travis also lost his parents several years earlier in a tragic car accident. He suffers from PTSD and has lost his faith in God. Through the help of Tiffany, who runs a veteran’s ministry, and her pastor, his belief is restored, and he finds both love and a reason to continue living.

The film deals with some difficult issues, such as suicide, grief and gang involvement. Unfortunately, they are addressed in a way that is superficial and sugarcoated. Every problem is quickly resolved, and struggles are minimized. The characters are not well developed.

There are some theological issues for Lutherans as well. Travis is rebaptized by immersion, despite having been baptized as a child. During the church services portrayed, the congregation applauds at the end of the sermon! I don’t know if this is normal for some denominations, but I certainly haven’t observed it happening in a Lutheran setting.

VERDICT: 2 STARS. Predictable and unrealistic. It’s a feel-good Christian film, if that’s what you like.

For more Christian movies see:

Fatima — Movie Review

Overcomer–Movie Review

Unplanned — Movie Review

Billy Graham–Film Review

This documentary film is one of the PBS series, American Experience. Billy Graham has been called “the protestant pope” and “America’s pastor.” He died at the age of 99, a national icon.

The film focuses on his rise to prominence and how he came to influence both national politics and the evangelical movement. Many factors including his good lucks, charismatic personality, and gift for evangelism played into his success. Early on, William Randolph Hearst publicized his revival in Los Angeles, boosting attendance and turning him into a religious celebrity. He firmly believed that the United States was meant to be a positive influence in maintaining world peace, and that capitalism and Christianity were allies. To this end, he cultivated the friendship of politicians and encouraged church members to vote and elect moral leaders who shared their Christian goals.

The Watergate scandal left him deeply disappointed in President Nixon, who he had supported vigorously. After that, he became more cautious about endorsing particular candidates, and evolved a more global outlook, taking revivals to England and many other countries.. At one point, he was considered the most well known person in the world.

Many clips of Graham are used, as well as interviews with historians and family members. He is not presented as a hero, but a person who pursued the work he felt God had given him with persistence and confidence.

VERDICT: 4 STARS. It was an interesting perspective, but don’t expect to learn much about his personal life.

For more movie reviews see:

Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood — Movie Review

Harriet–Movie Review

Unplanned — Movie Review

90 Minutes in Heaven — Movie Review

This movie is based on the true story of Pastor Don Piper. While driving home from a conference in the rain, he is involved in a terrible car accident. Responders to the scene find no pulse and wait for the coroner to arrive and pronounce him dead. After 90 minutes, a pastor arrives and asks if he can pray for the dead man. As he prays and sings a hymn, he is startled to hear Don singing softly along with him! Most of the movie is spent detailing Pastor Piper’s long and difficult recovery. Confined for months to bed with a fixator attached to his leg, he battles with depression, and learns to accept help from others. He also struggles with whether to reveal an amazing experience. While he was dead, he visited heaven! Finally he describes this event to his best friend, who encourages him to share ut with others.

If you’re looking for a lot of details about heaven, you won’t find them in this film. Pastor Piper does describe a happy reunion with many who had preceded him in death, beautiful music and a peaceful sense of God’s presence. He no longer had any concern or anxiety about the life he left behind. He did not want to return.

Convinced that he was sent back to reassure and comfort others, he has spent years traveling to churches and telling his story. There is a short clip of the real Don Piper at the end.

VERDICT: 4 STARS. His story is very believable, but the movie drags at times.

P.S. There is also a book written by Pastor Piper with the same title, if you would rather read about his experience. The movie follows the book quite closely.

For more about heaven see these posts:

The Hope of Heaven

Heaven is a World of Love by Jonathan Edwards — Book Review

Martin Luther on Heavenly Blessings

Reclaiming Life: Faith, Hope and Suicide Loss–Film Review

This film discusses the pain, loss and grief that results from suicide. The speakers are Kay Warren, co-founder of Saddleback Church; Marjorie Antus, author of ‘My Daughter, Her Suicide and God; and Ronal Rolheiser, a Roman Catholic priest who is a best-selling author and columnist.

The film is divided into short sections, with each person narrating their own perspectives and experiences with suicide. Some of the topics covered are:

*What kind of person commits suicide?

*The stigma of mental illness and suicide

*The need for forgiveness — both of the person who died and yourself

*The role of the Christian community in recovering from a tragic loss

*Bible verses that comfort

*Regaining hope

*Serving others who have experienced a similar loss

Not everyone will navigate this experience in the same way. Kay Warren said the analogy of a bus trip was helpful to her. Each person is sitting in a different spot on the bus, and notices different things out the window closest to them. How a person grieves will depend upon their personality and their relationship with the person who died. A parent’s grief will differ from the grief of a sibling, for example. It’s important to accept where others are in the process and not expect them all to react the way you do.

Included with the disc are some resources that include suggestions for caring for survivors of suicide loss, and responding to a person who may be at risk for suicide.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. This would be helpful for those going through suicide loss, and those who want to help them. This is a situation that is often ignored because people are so uncomfortable discussing it.

For more about Kay Warren see:

Dangerous Surrender by Kay Warren–Book Review

For more about dealing with grief see:

The Night Lake by Liz Tichenor–Book Review

The Gravity of Joy by Angela Williams Gorrell–Book Review

A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story–Movie Review

After reading a book by Lizzie Velasquez (Dare to be Kind by Lizzie Velasquez–Book Review), I decided to check out this documentary about her life from the local library. Lizzie has a rare syndrome that prevents her from gaining weight, and as a consequence of looking very different, she was shunned and stared at from an early age. When she was 17 she discovered a YouTube video calling her “the world’s ugliest woman.” Worse yet, many viewers of the clip posted hurtful comments like “kill it with fire” and “why didn’t her parents abort her?”

Lizzie’s father, an active Christian, counsels her to forgive and channel her energy into promoting positivity online. She starts her own podcast and becomes a motivational speaker whose TEDx talk is viewed by millions.

The film focuses heavily on her campaign to promote a federal anti-bullying bill, and her collaboration with Tina Meier, whose daughter hanged herself after a cyber-bullying incident, and congresswoman Linda Sanchez, who sponsored the bill.

As I said in my book review, I’m not sure I support all of Lizzie’s opinions. I would have to do more research on the anti-bullying bill — it sounds good, but how is bullying defined and who defines it? My fear is that “anti-bullying” could lead into the ability to punish or silence anyone who expressed negative ideas about your or your beliefs, interfering with free speech. It’s something that should be talked about and approached, but cautiously.

That being said, Lizzie is an inspiring person, and the world needs more people like her. This movie would be great to watch with older children or teens because they need to hear her messages:

  1. Be yourself
  2. Be positive
  3. Be kind
  4. People who are hurt you probably have hurtful things going on in their lives
  5. Set goals and focus on them– don’t be deterred by the negative comments of others

In fact, we all need to hear these things.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. Watch this movie with your family and friends, and support Lizzie by spreading kindness

For more movie reviews see:

Son of God — Movie Review

Selma — Movie Review

Entertaining Angels– Movie Review

Small Group–Movie Review

This film can be best described as a bit of Christian fluff.  Scott, a documentary film maker, arrives in Georgia with his wife and young daughter.  His backer is hoping to expose Christian hypocrisy, but Scott just wants to discover the truth.  He reluctantly agrees to join the small group program of a local church, secretly filming their meeting and discussions.

The theology presented is definitely not Lutheran (of the ‘make a decision for Christ’ ilk), the church services depicted are mere Christian entertainment (in my opinion) and the plot is predictable.  The men bond over a camping trip (where they behave like ten year old boys), while the women start a yoga studio.  Of course, the deception is discovered to the dismay and disappointment of the group members.  However, in the end, a positive documentary is produced, Scott is baptized, the redneck next door neighbor turns out to be a lovable medic, the prodigal bunny belonging to Scott’s daughter Casey returns, and all is forgiven.

There are a few touching moments involving a mission trip to Guatemala, and the premature birth and death of a child, but other than that, everything is neatly wrapped up and resolved exactly as one would expect.

I have belonged to a number of small groups, and am aware of their transformative potential over time.  However, this movie simply didn’t capture the depth of the experience for me.

In keeping with the theme for this month, I would say the life challenge presented here is betrayal, and the difficulty of forgiving in light of the hurt that brings.

VERDICT:  2 STARS.

For other movie reviews see:

Tolkien–Movie Review

Selma — Movie Review

Son of God — Movie Review

Silence — Movie Review

In the 17th century Christianity was illegal in Japan. Two Portuguese Jesuit priests travel there in hopes of locating Father Cristovão Ferreira, their mentor, who is rumored to have committed apostasy.  They also hope to spread the gospel. Upon arriving, they find several groups of secret Christians who are delighted to have priests once again.  However, eventually the authorities get wind of this. One of the priests is killed;  the other, Rodrigues finds Father Ferreira, who has indeed renounced Christianity.  It then documents his spiritual struggle as he tries to decide if Father Ferreira is right — is it wrong to evangelize people who will then be tortured and killed for their beliefs?  Is Christianity a belief system that simply can’t flourish among the Japanese?

This movie is long (almost 3 hours) and can drag at times.  In my opinion, the greatest value was being exposed to the mistreatment inflicted on people in places where Christians are persecuted.  This was hard to see, and something I think we tend to forget in the West.  In the end, because his refusal to apostatize is causing the Japanese Inquisitor to torture and kill Christian villagers, the Father Rodrigues gives in.  His prayers are met with silence.  He doesn’t know what decision is right.  He and Father Ferreira help the Japanese sort through trade goods, making sure Christian items aren’t smuggled into the country.  They marry Japanese women and appear to lead Buddhist lives.

Forty years later Rodrigues dies and is given a traditional Buddhist burial.  However, at the end, his wife slips a cross into his hand.

What are we to think?  Possibly he remained a secret Christian, but did he convert or serve others as a priest?  If he remained an apostate, how was he be received by God? Is the best decision to save lives or save souls?  What if you can’t do both? The ending is unresolved (silent) so you can imagine what you wish.

VERDICT:  2 STARS. A dilemma that should have created empathy somehow left me feeling detached and a bit bored.