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Archive for the ‘Christian films’ Category

The movie, Heaven Is for Real, opens today in theaters all across America and I would encourage everyone to go and see it. Back on July 6, 2011, I wrote about how the book, on which this film is based, impacted my wife and me, so I am reposting that account here today. Grace and peace to you all, and may your hope and assurance of a heavenly reality be rekindled and strengthened.

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I was shopping at Costco recently when I stopped by the book section and spotted the book Heaven Is for Real, about a little boy, Colton Burpo, who underwent emergency surgery for a misdiagnosed appendicitis that nearly took his life just short of his fourth birthday. His story had been featured on several recent TV programs, so I bought the book and read it in one sitting.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 9.42.29 AMWhen Colton made it through surgery, his family was overjoyed at his miraculous survival, but they were surprised and astonished during the following weeks and months as he began to detail his extraordinary experience of going to heaven during surgery.

He described leaving his body while under anesthesia during surgery, and described exactly what his parents were doing in separate parts of the hospital while he was being operated on. He described being in heaven, meeting people whom he had never met in life, sharing events that happened even before he was born, and described details about heaven that matched the Bible, even though he had never read the Bible because he had not yet learned to read.

One of the events in the book that affected me deeply was when Colton’s father, Todd, described the evening when Colton came into the living room and stood in front of his mother, Sonja, and said to her, “Mommy, I have two sisters.”

His mother replied that he had only one, his older sister, Cassie, but Colton was adamant. “No, I have two sisters. You had a baby die in your tummy, didn’t you?”

“Who told you I had a baby die in my tummy?” asked his mother.

Colton explained that when he was in heaven a little girl ran up to him and wouldn’t stop hugging him. “She did, Mommy. She said she died in your tummy.”

Todd and Sonja were very surprised, for two years after Sonja gave birth to Cassie, she became pregnant with a second child, but miscarried two months into the pregnancy. Eleven months later she gave birth to Colton, but neither Todd nor Sonja had ever told their son about the miscarriage, figuring that he was too young to understand.

Seeing his mother’s bewildered expression, Colton assured his mother, “It’s okay, Mommy. She’s okay. God adopted her.”

“Don’t you mean Jesus adopted her?” Sonja said.

“No mommy. His Dad did!”

Sonja was overwhelmed to learn that the baby had been a girl, and asked Colton a number of questions, including what she looked like (answer, like Cassie, but with dark hair like Sonja’s) and what her name was.

“She doesn’t have a name,” replied Colton, “You guys didn’t name her.”

“You’re right, Colton, we didn’t even know that she was a she,” Sonja said.

At this point, I paused in my reading as tears began to stream down my cheeks. I went into the living room and asked my wife, Diana, to read the four pages describing Colton’s account of meeting his sister in heaven.

While Diana read the pages, I went back into my study and my tears came freely as I thought about our own experience losing two babies to miscarriages.

I had been married twice before meeting Diana, and had produced two daughters from the first marriage and a son from the second. When I married Diana, she was 37 and had never been married nor had she ever had a child. She was hoping that we would have children, but I had been unwilling to have any more children.

But three years later I relented and we decided to try to have a baby. We were joyful when we learned that she was pregnant and for the next two months we lived in anticipation of this addition to our family. But after these two months the baby miscarried. The cause—fibroids in the uterus.

We tried again, she conceived, our hopes rose, but again the same thing happened. For the second time, Diana was devastated by the news, and mourned the losses for months.

After Diana finished reading the four pages, she came into my study and I could see that she, too, had been crying quietly. We hugged for a long while, until Diana said, “I’m glad that I named our babies.”

“You did? I don’t remember. What were their names?” I asked.

“Katherine Elizabeth Coy and Andrew Daniel Coy. The doctor told me that the first baby was a girl, and even though we didn’t know for sure the gender of the second baby, I felt very strongly that it was a boy.”

She paused for a while, and then added, “Even then I knew without a doubt that some day we’ll meet Katherine and Andrew in heaven!”

What was it about reading Colton’s experience meeting his sister in heaven that moved Diana and me so profoundly?

We had always believed that young children who die—including both wanted and unwanted unborn babies—have a special place in heaven. Though there is no direct Scripture passage to support this, a passage such as Psalm 139: 13-16 inspires us to believe in a heavenly Father who loves and cares for us, and has a plan for each of us, even from as early as our beginnings in the womb:

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.” (New Living Translation, NLT)

Though we had always believed that we would be united with our babies and other loved ones in heaven, reading the eyewitness account of Colton moved us emotionally and joyfully, and intensified our faith that we would some day meet and recognize our children, Katherine and Andrew.

Most comforting to us is our belief that Katherine and Andrew, along with Colton’s unnamed sister and all the other named and unnamed babies are okay, for Jesus’ Dad adopted them!

Best of all, are Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:14, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” (NLT)

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Here’s a movie trailer for Heaven Is for Real:

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I know the power of a movie showing God’s love to the world.

As an angry, volatile teenage delinquent in 1961, I was brought to my knees in tearful surrender to Jesus Christ as I responded to his love that I saw portrayed in the film, Angel in Ebony, about Samuel Kaboo Morris.

As I describe in my memoir, I sobbed uncontrollably for over an hour after the film, for I felt the heavy weight of my sins pressing down on my being, sensed Christ encouraging me to surrender my sins and guilt to him, and felt his presence and his love enveloping and warming me.

I saw the anger and hatred I felt towards my parents, my willingness to commit murder in my thoughts, the pleasure I got from bullying and intimidating others, my obsession with pornography, and my vow to lose my virginity that year. All these confronted me, and I acknowledged them to Christ and begged his forgiveness.

Slowly the burden lifted, the sobbing subsided, and a sense of peace filled my being, and a great inner lightness and joy lifted me. There was a strange mixture of feeling totally spent and exhausted from my weeping, yet there was a lightness and new vigor that began to surge through my body, and by the time I rose from off my knees, I was a new person in Christ, a forgiven child of God.

There is another film that is having an even greater impact on individuals around the world—JESUS, a two-hour classic movie about the life and ministry of Jesus based on the Gospel of Luke.

Produced by Campus Crusade for Christ as The JESUS Film Project, the 1979 film, JESUS, has been translated into 1,145 languages, shown in over 200 countries in the peoples’ own languages, with the result that more than 200 million men, women, and children have made decisions to follow Jesus Christ.

According to the folks at The JESUS Film Project, every eight seconds another person somewhere in the world makes a decision to follow Christ after watching JESUS. That’s 10,800 people per day!

How is this possible?

Thousands of churches, mission groups, and denominational agencies around the world are using DVDs and video tools to show the movie in churches, homes, towns, villages, tiny communities, or just anywhere Christian workers can find an audience of one or more individuals not yet reached for Christ.

Many requests to show the movie are coming from local Christian leaders in some of the most restricted and hostile nations towards Christianity, many in the 10/40 window—the area located between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator populated by predominantly Muslims, Hindus, Budddhists, Animists, Jews, or Atheists.

There are many stories on record at The JESUS Film Project of God changing lives through the movie JESUS, including the following story:

About 250 people had gathered in the small community hall of a mountain village in one of the most dangerous regions in the world for Christians. A Christian team had brought a DVD of JESUS, to show to the villagers.

After the movie was shown, the team was about to invite the crowd to accept Jesus Christ as their savior, when a man sitting on the floor stood up, opened his shirt, and revealed a suicide vest of explosives strapped to his chest.

Panic erupted in the room.

“Wait! Wait! Don’t leave!” the man shouted. “I’m not going to blow myself up! I need to tell you what just happened.”

It took several minutes for the panic to subside, and the man went on to relate how he had heard that Christians were going to show a blasphemous film, so he got approval from his religious leader to attend the showing and detonate the bomb in the audience.

“When the film started,” he continued, “I reached for the detonator and tried to push the button, but as I watched the film, Jesus turned and pointed right at me. He called my name and said loudly, ‘Don’t do that . . . follow me.’

“Over and over I tried. Every time I reached for the button he pointed to me and said, ‘Don’t do that . . . follow me.’ My hand froze every time. I couldn’t move my thumb. I gave up and just stayed to watch.

“Now I believe. I want Jesus to be my Savior. Can you help me know more about him?”

The team leader agreed, and after the man took off his vest and disarmed the explosives, the team not only led the man in accepting Christ as his savior, but they also led the 250 members of the audience in commitment to Christ.

That’s the power of a God-inspired movie—people surrendering to Christ after seeing and hearing the Gospel of Christ in their own languages.

That’s why I’d like to encourage you to help The JESUS Film Project produce more of these DVDS and video tools so that Christian workers around the world can continue to show this movie to millions more people.

Please go to http://jesusfilm.org and explore their website, read more of the amazing stories of how God is transforming lives through the film, and learn about the ministry’s needs and how you can help.

Your help could impact countless numbers of people for eternity.

Grace and peace.

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Having spent the last four weeks polishing the final draft of my memoir before sending it back to the publisher, I decided to watch the DVD of “The Hiding Place,” directed by my late friend and mentor, James F. Collier, whom I mention in the memoir.

Jim, as he was affectionately called, had the kind of Christian film career to which, I believe, God had called me. Jim had directed a string of successful feature films for Billy Graham’s Worldwide Pictures, that were instrumental in inspiring and leading many people to Christ.

Hearing my testimony of how I became a Christian through a movie, “Angel in Ebony,” and how I left my career as a pastor to become a Christian filmmaker, Jim took me under his wings when I was a graduate film student at UCLA, and was always available to critique my scripts, advise me, and encourage me as a young filmmaker.

I tried for several years to find investors for one of my films, and when an investor finally promised to put up $1.5 million to make the film, it was largely due to Jim’s help and presence during my presentation.

But when the deal eventually fell through, I was so deeply disappointed and depressed, that I questioned my calling and considered quitting filmmaking.

It was at this low point in my life that God used Jim to bring a special word of encouragement to me. Though I don’t have Jim’s exact words recorded, his advice went something along these lines:

“My brother,” he said (he always called me brother), “one of the things that I have observed in life and in reading the Bible, is that God doesn’t always call us to be successful in the way the world views success, but he always calls us to be obedient. As a follower of Christ, you are successful when you are obedient to him. And in that obedience, you’ll have to wait on his timing for things to happen, not your time schedule; and in learning to wait and trust in God’s timing, you’ll learn patience.

“Don’t despair when God seems slow in acting. Just continue to obey him in your daily life. Be patient, and wait for him to act in his perfect timing, for he knows best. You might have to go through some tough times, but stay the course, be faithful, and trust him.

“Moses had to wait forty years tending sheep in the desert before God called him to deliver the Israelites out of Egypt. And David had to wait twenty-three years after God anointed him as king before he became king over all of Israel, and some of those years were spent as a fugitive, hiding in caves from Saul who wanted to kill him.

“So, my brother, wait, be patient, be prepared for a long journey, and above all, trust and obey the Lord through whatever difficulties he might lead you.”

Jim’s words of advice and encouragement have remained with me.

In May 1991, I received news that Jim had died at the age of sixty-two. He and his wife, Jean, had moved up to their ranch in Creston, north east of San Francisco, and while he was checking his property one night, fell down an embankment where he was severely injured. He lingered in the hospital for a few days, but died within a week.

I was greatly saddened by his death, and remembered clearly our meeting at which he gave me such encouragement when I was at one of my lowest points of my life: Wait. Be patient. Be prepared for the long journey. Trust and obey Christ as he leads through the difficulties of the long journey.

That message can also be found in Jim’s movie, “The Hiding Place,” the true story of Corrie ten Boom, who survived the Nazi concentration camps after her entire family was killed for hiding Jews in their home in Holland.

I encourage you to get a copy of the DVD and watch this very inspirational film. Or you can click the links below and watch it on your computer in the following order:

Trailer: watch?v=YWg47sLwlHk&feature=related

Clip 1: watch?v=hhVC9q_ZlDs&feature=related

Clip 2:watch?v=yRgD4z8F3rA&feature=related

Clip 3: watch?v=XoFwNeiAm04&feature=related

Clip 4: watch?v=rNG-L7wIibA&feature=related

Clip 5: watch?v=d-FYG-nTGx8&feature=related

Clip 6: watch?v=SJopT76slTw&feature=related

Clip 7: watch?v=VyXe4txpt9I&feature=related

Clip 8: watch?v=yKbIpfW3fa8&feature=related

Clip 9: watch?v=Qm_ruUyXThA&feature=related

Clip 10: watch?v=wHc_jmRXsMU&feature=related

Clip 11: watch?v=-EN3MlRBGHM&feature=related

Clip 12: watch?v=uj6M-AxQATA&feature=related

Clip 13:watch?v=xjRCuXoZUrA&feature=related

Clip 14:watch?v=aKHRVl5QMa4&feature=related

Clip 15:watch?v=kXYV435Fe3U&feature=related

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