Healed By Grace 2 on DVD

From time to time, I have the opportunity to review a new faith movie release. This one, Healed by Grace 2, is the sequel to Healed by Grace. To be honest, it’s not the best production level. But, the heart and message is there. [Note: don’t miss the ticket giveaway below]

Do you have the capacity to forgive a hurtful wrong?

 

Truth is, forgiveness helps us as much if not more than the one who caused the hurt. And, beautiful things can happen when forgiveness is extended. Our faith is centered around it and this movie addresses it.

As daughter Jesse is approaching her 15th birthday, she’s made it clear that all she wants is a horse — a painful revelation to mother Brandy as she’s left that past behind (or so she thought) with a hurtful history with her estranged father Gauff that put rodeo before family. To complicate things, Brandy just received a terrifying cancer diagnosis, but hides it from her daughter. Enter Jesse’s father who puts himself between a rock and a hard place as he tries to satisfy Jesse’s passion for horses and rig a potential reconciliation between Brandy and her father. So, he sets up a training summer camp at his father-in-law’s facility. It creates a humorous awkwardness for the father, and at the same time, opens up the past once again for Brandy, forcing her to confront her father and decide whether to extend the forgiveness Gauff is looking for.

A few things bothered me in this movie: 1) the Lord’s name in vain with two OMGs casually thrown out and 2) a mock “making out” session in the ending outtakes. They should have known better and to me disqualifies it for an entire family viewing.

Take a look at the trailer:

Available now on digital. Available on DVD on Sep. 18 at these online retailers:


Want to win a 2 DVD Combo? Simply enter below. Hope you win!

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WINNER ANNOUNCED TUESDAY MORNING, 9/11/18.

Going Amish

The Amish are more on target than today’s church.

 

Whom have I in Heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You.

—Psalm 73:25

 

Love that Verse, but how does the author of that Psalm (Asaph) get there? I know my heart runs the gamut of things I desire on this earth.

Last week I visited an Amish market in La Plata, Missouri. It was a large farm with lots of kids playing, the men and boys out in the field (it was a work day for them), leaving the women and a wide age-range of girls milling about from the home to the barn to the market. Some teen girls in fact wandered into the market and picked up one of the music boxes for sale a couple aisles over from me. They played song after song, using it as accompaniment to their singing. The three of them went through several tunes — even Christmas carols without hesitation or threat of another person judging them.

All of them were barefoot and wore the same rich blue modest outfits. One of the young girls held onto a baby only a handful of months old, likely freeing up at least one of the mothers who I imagined was with several other women in the main house preparing that evening’s meal. They politely walked by, greeting us with a very distinctive Amish-German accent to their English.

It was a different world. No technology to speak of, just the basics — staples of life. Instead of a smartphone loaded with MP3s, they relied on a music box. I knew a little bit about them going in — that electricity and cars were off limits, but got curious about their lifestyle and what drove them to live this way, so simple…so different.

I think the Amish people have it 75% right and I think we have it only 25%.

 

I read up about the history of the Amish and my wife dug up even a deeper background. What we read so amazed me at their level of commitment to their faith — that it consumes their every facet of existence. Their dolls don’t have facial features, teaching the kids at an early age the importance of not having “idols” with the likeness of an image before them. They don’t have pictures of others for fear it might mimic an idolatrous tone, much less a boy band poster or Star Wars memorabilia. Their buggies are homogenized so status is minimized. The apparent lack of jewelry and makeup they feel helps keep attention from being drawn to them. Even at their funerals they don’t share the highlights of that person’s life for fear of elevating one person above another.

There’s plenty to parse and criticize about the Amish. For one, they isolate themselves when Jesus told us to go into the world to make disciples of all men. Yet, at the heart, they take their faith seriously and that’s hugely to be admired — even modeled. These are humans, so I’m sure that even though they’ve done everything to level the playing field and put God first, there’s still politics, heartbreak, and brokenness.

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.

—1 Peter 2:11

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

—John 15:19

 

It really had me taking stock of how overwhelmingly we surround ourselves with every temptation and distraction and then wonder why our faith doesn’t feel vibrant. Truth is, if we’re honest, it’s not important to us. For the most part, today’s Church is part time — not fully committed. Not in love with God. We’ve become just as much like the world that we’re virtually indistinguishable. Perhaps the world doesn’t hate us as the Verse above says because we’re just like them.

1 John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.”

We’ve packed our days with activities and overstuffed our homes and garages with so many things of this world that it’s no wonder our Bibles gather dust. There’s no time left over for God. But, we’re not to find left over time for God anyhow, we’re to give Him the first fruits of our time. As it is, our televisions and Facebook see more of us than God ever does.

Hey my friend, I’m not pointing the finger at you. I’m looking at my own life and my own heart and seeing how very far I fall short.

What if we took our faith seriously and questioned all that is in our lives? Sadly, most of us won’t. It’s like when Jesus said to the rich young ruler in Mark 10, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” He couldn’t. He was in too far to let go. Are you? If we call ourselves Christian, then we follow Christ, not the THINGS of the world. Like the Amish, let’s put down the iPhone, reject the addiction to Facebook and the countless hours in front of the television. Let’s not have the pursuit of  “things” always in the forefront of our mind, giving us constantly tiring goals to strive for — “things” that never truly satisfy and lead to more pursuits of endless stuff.

A couple Verses to consider:

Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. —Ecclesiastes 5:19

That tells me that it’s OK to have possessions and enjoy them. As Billy Graham once said, they just shouldn’t possess you.

Then He said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me.” —Luke 9:23

 

What if our homes looked more like an Amish person’s? The Amish at first glance seem like a total fringe people group. But, in God’s eyes, is their behavior fringe or is ours? What if we put the brakes on all (seriously…ALL) areas of our life and one by one bring them back online only after we questioned every facet in light of our faith. We’d look like freaks — Jesus freaks. But you know what, that opening Verse would make a whole lot more sense to all of us.

Steps of Faith

We’ve all been there — convinced that God has given direction to us. We follow, but it’s not what we expected. Was it a wrong turn or did I misinterpret whether I truly heard from God?

“My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.”

John 10:27

 

That’s where accountant Faith Houston is at. In the dramedy movie Steps of Faith, she’s been given clear direction from God to pursue a job at the Steps of Faith Hippotherapy farm. (I didn’t know what that was either, but it’s a farm dedicated to pairing animals and children for therapy purposes). Trouble is, Faith is uneasy around animals…and children. Humor and angst surround her determination to make it at this farm.

The movie starts out a bit shaky with a bit of poor production and some bad acting, but quickly picks up and pulls you into her life story with humor and a budding romance with a surprise. Oh, and Ted Lange of The Love Boat fame stars in this.

Overall, it was a great movie with a good faith message of holding on to what God has asked of you — even when it gets tough and you’re not sure you’re on the right path anymore. That IS called faith. It’s fairly family-friendly, although some comments such as “get a room” when the mom and dad are kissing made me uneasy as a dad.

Steps of Faith is out on DVD, so look for it online. But, you have a chance to win a copy by entering below. Winner will be announced on Facebook this Thursday at the aHeartCompletelyHis page. Hope you win!

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What Are We Cultivating?

The story of David and Bathsheba. It was a dark time for the man whose heart was once a reflection of God’s. It’s a passage I read through this week and amidst the familiar story,

something unexpected jumped out at me this time around.

 

2 Samuel 12 says (with God speaking), “I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.”

You can just hear the grieving heart of God: why did you sin David? Why didn’t you just ask Me if your heart wasn’t fulfilled with all that was already at your disposal?

That passage gave me hope. It tells me that when sin is in view and we’re tempted to look away from God’s direction toward something so alluring, stop and tell Him what’s on your heart. Ask Him to reveal why your heart is desiring something outside of what He’s already provided. It doesn’t matter what that sin is — it’s a counterfeit for the true fulfillment only God can bring to your heart. If we’re desiring it, then we’re just being drawn in by the lies that somehow there’s something better than what God has to offer. Really?

Going that route had consequences as it does for us today. Just a couple Verses later, God stated that “the sword will never depart from your house… .” From that point on, there was constant turmoil in David’s kingdom and personal life in what could have been a blissful fellowship and protection under God’s hand. That passage sounds all too familiar to Genesis when Adam and Eve chose to believe the lie in the garden — whispers from the enemy that God is somehow holding out on something more fulfilling. That too resulted in banishment from God’s best.

So, what is taking root in our hearts? How often do we counterfeit a close, passion-filled walk with God for the things of this world competing for our affection? Instead, God’s saying here to pursue Him. Talk with Him and take refuge is in His Word. It’s transforming. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” And the amazing Psalm 1:1-3: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.”

Is our delight truly in God? Do we have roots forging a path into the rich soil of God’s Word? Do we meditate on His Word day and night? We should. Seriously! We do it in other areas of our life, consuming television and social media until we’re full to the brim and it’s all we reflect upon throughout the day. Reading the Bible, taking it to heart, reflecting on what you read throughout the day, and praying about what you read will keep it top of mind, but also have a far more impacting result in your heart. Are you willing to try it? Just read a couple Verses for two weeks every morning or every evening. Find a regular time and make it happen. You will be amazed at a God that meets you in that moment. James 4:8.

David had a relationship — a fellowship with God that had him listed as one of the greatest men of our faith. Yet, he failed. That’s scary. We can’t relent for a moment in keeping our eyes fixed on Him. Deuteronomy 6:5, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

 


Sidenote: Isn’t it so amazing to find these kind of Verses in the Old Testament? I used to think the Old Testament was just that — old and perhaps not as relevant as the New Testament. So wrong! In fact, I find it provides such a profound glimpse into God’s character and heart. His love for David is the same that He has for you and me. 

American Idol

If you hear the word idol you might immediately think of a golden calf or something people worshiped in ancient times. Makes no sense, right? Why would a society build something, sit before it day after day and worship the very thing they created with their own hands? Today we call that television. Ouch. OK, perhaps we don’t “worship” television, but if you were to travel back in time and tell those people how we spend hours in front of our devices tethered with wires going into our ears or sit motionless in front of a box with a cable leading to a satellite dish, they’d think we had flipped.

The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods.

Psalm 16:4

 

An idol explained in the Bible may look far different than an idol in today’s world when it’s really anything that takes us away from God. One definition says this: any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion. If ultimately God created us to be in fellowship with Him, then it stands to reason we’re fulfilled the same way, by that same fellowship. When our fellowship with God isn’t healthy, we often seek that fulfillment “harmlessly” elsewhere — television, music, sports, social media, yoga class, or worse (if there is something worse than yoga class) — anywhere that we can feel validated. Problem is, it’s trying to replace that need with something counterfeit that doesn’t truly fulfill. I never truly took Solomon at his word in Ecclesiastes, but each year of my life, I find his words increasingly validated that without God, all is vanity and meaningless.

 

So, two things:

  1. We’re missing out if we’re filling our lives with things that take up time we could spend with God. Why do we do it to begin with? It’s a “sugar rush” — immediate gratification rather than cultivated relationship. It’s like a diet of cotton candy, we’d get filled up, but not with something that would properly nourish us. Over time, we’d see the devastation it would have on our health.
  2. People who fill their lives with anything other than God typically never end up with a good result. “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts…” (Romans 1:24). The path ends far away from God. If we’re not filling our hearts with God, we’re likely filling it with what the enemy has put right at our fingertips — even things seemingly innocuous.

The good news is that while we’ve been on all the carnival rides of life, God has been there patiently waiting for us to come to our senses. In fact, it was Jesus who told the story of the Prodigal son in Luke 15 where a son had squandered his inheritance on “wild living” and was forced to return to his father…a father who was beside himself with joy when he saw his son return. And, it’s very likely He’s been pursuing us. Earlier in that same chapter in Luke, Jesus tells of leaving the 99 sheep just to find the one who had wandered off. He loves us that much!

Talk with God, read His Word and run back into His open arms. Think of the passion in which we pursue so many things in our lives…doesn’t He deserve that same fervor and more? We’re truly missing out if we don’t pursue Him with every fiber of our being today.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).

The Last Thing I Wanted

The last thing I wanted was a men’s study. Been there, done that. It just never seemed to build my faith much to grab store bought donuts and church coffee that was the best Folgers had to offer only to retreat to a table where we read through a study walking us through chapter by chapter something that never really seemed to hit home with me and lacked depth. All this with guys that co-dependently leaned on each other’s sin. (As long as someone else is struggling, why overcome it?) Yay, sign me up!

OK, I was a bit judgmental. I’ll admit that. Why couldn’t I have been the catalyst of change to facilitate deeper discussion? The truth is, I wasn’t there myself. I had nothing to do with men’s studies for more than a decade…or Folgers. That all changed when I read a description from my church with the phrase, “Become a self-feeder.” That struck a chord with me. At the time, I was going to church for what the pastor and worship experience “fed” me — even rating my experience on how entertained I felt. I wanted to find a faith that dug deeper, fed myself and could help even feed others. I was intrigued by what that study might entail and hesitantly signed up with my cursor hovering over that submit button much like you might a mortgage application. [click]

What I experienced when I showed up sent chills down my spine…What had I done?

 

It was a packed room with about seven roundtables and six or seven guys crowded around. I remember that because as I scooted my chair in, I pounded my knee against one of the legs so hard, it instantly made me feel sick. As it came time for me to share my background, the nausea made my voice a bit warbly, which seemed to mimic the emotions of a broken man. It all worked. The setting was a bit like that first day in school where you don’t know anyone and really aren’t sure what you’ve gotten yourself into. The class began. Alan, the leader, introduced himself and the study. As we went further into the description and the introductory video, I immediately felt I might have signed up for the wrong class. A book was handed out. Suddenly I was transported back more than a decade where I was surrounded by guys, a book and bad coffee. What had I done?

I had no idea that what I signed up for would transform my life!

 

By the end of the first class, I realized that the book was just a few weeks’ read introducing a method to studying the Bible. In fact, this class was going to read through God’s Word in a year. I vacillated whether this was a good thing or to bolt. It didn’t seem to fit with the “self-feeder” description (I didn’t realize how untrue that would be). More than a dozen thoughts shot through my brain within thirty seconds, which is a lot of traffic up there on any given day. I came to the conclusion though that in all my years since becoming a Christian, I had never read through the Bible — just the New Testament and tons of Verses parceled out throughout my life. “It might not be all bad,” I thought to myself. I was in…I needed that kind of push.

This study didn’t just start through Genesis and run through Revelation. Instead, it mixed Old Testament reading with New Testament and sometimes Psalms or Proverbs. In reading through, I began to see a more cohesive picture of God’s plan. Then, I noticed how Old Testament and New Testament, although different covenants, dovetailed so amazingly. God’s character, His heart, His love for me, all came through clearer than ever when reading through rather than the piecemeal approach to Scripture I had taken most of my life. It was weird honestly, because it wasn’t at all what I expected — even Old Testament Verses resonated deeply. I could finally see a bigger picture of what God was up to and His desire for me. My heart was transformed from rules to relationship.

It’s three and a half years later and I’m going through the Bible a third time now. I honestly look forward to it every day. It feeds me. Those guys at my table — every single one of them — are still in my life and we’ve kept it going by meeting every other week for breakfast and time in God’s Word. It wasn’t the study I thought I was signing up for. It was far, far better than I could have imagined. I never thought reading the Bible would be something I would enjoy because I never gave it a chance. Sure, there are tough parts with less action, but even in those I can see God’s heart.

The takeaway: don’t just think about reading the Bible, do it! Rather than just starting in Genesis and reading straight through, consider a reading plan that can help break things up so you can see the progress through your Bible. And, above all, stick with it a couple weeks. That video we saw at that first class mentioned that most things become habit after a couple weeks. True enough. Finally, give God the best part of your day. If you’re a morning person, that means morning time. If you’re a night owl, read at night.

It was the last thing I wanted, but the very thing God knew I needed.

You’ve Read the Book, Now See the Movie

It’s not often someone has a complete 180 degree change of heart. That is, unless God intervenes. The story of Paul is riveting because of that. We see a relentless persecutor of the early Church — standing by as Christians are brutally killed — become one of the most ardent leaders of The Way and a compassionate envoy of LOVE. Facing severe persecution, Paul gladly put himself in harm’s way if it meant that one more person might hear about Jesus. [Note: don’t miss the ticket giveaway below]

 

 

He’s a real life hero of the faith and really of mankind.

 

And that’s why it’s exciting to see his journey come to life on the big screen through Paul, Apostle of Christ coming to theaters Friday, March 23. And, this one has the backing of Sony/Affirm, so it’s well done. James Faulkner plays Paul and you might recognize Jim Caviezel (Passion of the Christ) in the role of Luke. Sony/Affirm hasn’t provided me with a pre-release copy of the film, so I can’t wholeheartedly endorse the it. But, from the trailers and corollary material provided, I certainly am anticipating a strong, inspirational portrayal of Paul and the early Church, albeit possibly graphic at times.

He has survived so much—floggings, shipwreck, starvation, stoning, hunger and thirst, cold and exposure—yet as he waits for his appointment with death, he is haunted by the shadows of his past misdeeds. Alone in the dark, he wonders if he has been forgotten . . . and if he has the strength to finish well.

 

Want to make it more exciting? Read the Book first. See how the early Church started and how Paul’s transformation began. Just two chapters a day and you’ll be done in two weeks. Four chapters a day and you’re done in time for the premiere!

 

Want tickets? Simply enter below. Hope you win!

 

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WINNER: Congratulations to Julie for winning a pair of tickets to see Paul, Apostle of Christ coming to theaters this Friday, March 23!

Note: I am thankful that Sony/Affirm is providing me with a couple tickets and other minor compensation with items related to the movie. I wanted to be transparent about that, although it doesn’t change my excitement for this film!

Something More.

I’ve been wanting to write a blog for sometime. Not because I have deep thoughts on faith that everybody needs to hear or that I have everything figured out. Ha — it’s when I conclude that, that I find just the opposite. And, I know this world isn’t in need of another blog post and another perspective. But, I’m hoping this one will be different — one that I wish would have been there for me.

Finding faith in this world is a tough prospect. It’s not modeled hardly anywhere. And, when you think you see it, it’s often a facade or a mask someone put on. It has no depth. If you’re like me, you have faith, but what next?…I’m just not feeling it. That’s where I was.

Do you want something different for your faith? Something more? Me too.

 

I think half the time we don’t live up to our faith because we don’t fully believe it. It’s not real to us. Why is that? It’s a complex question and perhaps different for each of us. But a simplistic answer: I believe we fill our lives with everything else but God and then wonder why we don’t feel close to Him. He’s always there, we’re not.

For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.

2 Chronicles 16:9

 

Read those words carefully and let it sink in. Is your heart completely His? Mine isn’t, but I want it to be. I want a heart that God is pleased with and not be satisfied with pickeled Christianity that has us comparing notes on Game of Thrones rather than a Verse in Romans. Can our faith really be that relevant? Absolutely!

I’ve been on a path for something different in my faith over the past seven years. It’s been an amazing and tough journey — one in which I think I’m just starting out, really. But, my faith has become real to me. Knowing I was coming out of a forest, I left some breadcrumbs along the way — insights I’d like to share in this blog. I’m not a theologian. I’ve never been to seminary. I’m just an everyday man who loves his God and knows that my God loves me and you DEARLY.

More about me: I’m not one for churchspeak. Honestly, I’ve had enough of it. I’m sick of fake Christianity. I don’t like reading books on faith because that’s someone’s perspective, not someOne’s perspective. I get my walk and bolster my faith in fellowship from the guys God has put in my path, through prayer and from God’s Word itself. I’m inspired by a wife that loves me, prays for me and is always encouraging me. I’m an amazingly blessed dad, cheered on by two boys that God uses at just the right moment in my life. Sometimes it’s just a tangible hug. Other times, it’s a profound word of encouragement. I very much enjoy coffee — especially with God’s Word next to it.

We’ve all been to Bible studies that are just codependency meetings and no one grows. Let’s make this different and not look back. Join me on this trek and let’s take some steps together. I promise not to have long posts — I like quick reads myself! Check back in a day or two and we’ll start. I’m really looking forward to this! Oh, and join me on Facebook if you would at Facebook.com/aheartcompletelyHis.