I wasn't sure what to expect when I sat down to watch the DVD Finger of God. I immediately noticed the quality cinematography and the filmmaker and director Darren Wilson's easygoing commentary and humor. It was off to a great start, but this film just got better and better. Wilson says in the beginning that to him "God was kind of an invisible friend whose greatest hits had happened a long time ago." He wondered why God still did the miraculous, so he set out to capture miracles on film.
He films people receiving gold teeth, and jewels, gold dust and even manna, people being healed. He travels across the United States and to Africa, to China, to Eastern Europe witnessing and documenting the miraculous power of God at work today. read more
By John Loren and Paula Sandford, Charisma House, softcover, 320 pages, $14.99.
Books on parenting tips and marriage advice abound on bookstore shelves. But John Loren and Paula Sandfords' approach examines the entire structure and interaction of the Christian family. They emphasize that Christian values must be the basis of every aspect of the family, from marriage to discipline to nurturing and everything in between. The Sandfords stress that Christian families develop and thrive when each member first focuses on his relationship to God, and that parents should not try to be perfect, depending instead upon allowing Christ to lead and work within the family. But they don't limit their teaching to just the traditional family. They also discuss such topics as divorce, remarriage and grown children returning to live at home. The Sandfords provide wise insights into biblical principles from which all Christian families can benefit. Click here to purchase this book. read more
By Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell, Regal Books, hardcover, 224 pages, $22.99.
With Easter approaching and modern skeptics still questioning Christ's resurrection, this volume by a leading apologist (and his son) provides reassurance of the truth of those accounts. Released simultaneously in editions for teens (Jesus: Dead or Alive?) and children (Jesus is Alive!), this heavily researched book is divided into three parts. They explore the need for the resurrection, its personal meaning and the evidence of this event. Mature believers may want to skim the first two sections to delve into the last half concerning the evidence. Of note is the chapter where the authors review facts that must be reckoned with in any discussion of the resurrection. They also address various attempts to explain it away, documenting ways in which critics have relied on fancy or personal opinion to attack its veracity. Ultimately, the McDowells show how historical accounts and scriptural testimony line up at the same place--the resurrection is for real. No other explanation can account for a church that survives 2,000 years after Jesus rose from the grave. Click here to purchase this book. read more
Kari Jobe's voice is smooth and airy but there is no fluff to her music. The rich lyrics are enveloped by easy melodies that will replay in people's heads and hearts long after the CD has stopped spinning. Jobe knew since she was 10 years old that she would be a worship leader, and her calling and gift are clearly evident on her debut CD. She kicks off the album with the upbeat "I'm Singing," with the chorus: "I'm singing to the God who brings redemption to the nations / Kings and oceans bow to Him in praise / And I'm singing to the God who wrote the book on our salvation / To the One who covers me in grace / I'm singing / Praise, Praise to the Savior / Praise to the Lamb of God / Praise in all of His splendor / Praise for saving my life." With the ballad "Beautiful" it's as if we are sharing a devotional moment between Jobe and God as she surrenders "everything that's of myself" and simply worships. "Everyone Needs a Little" is a lighthearted song that reminds us that in the midst of our needs He is there. This worshiper exudes joy--even in surrender and vulnerability. She offers a collection of upbeat praise songs and worship ballads that first and foremost honor the Lord, but also encourage and renew believers. Jobe is surely an example of what it means to worship in spirit and in truth. Click here to purchase this CD. read more
When recording artist Norman Hutchins sensed God calling him to pray every day at 5 a.m. in early 2006, he didn't know why. But when complications from a delicate eye surgery left him completely blind that same year, he soon discovered the answer.
"The Lord said, ‘Norman, no matter how gifted and talented and anointed you may be, you are no good to Me if you don't take care of you.'"
Hutchins, 46, is referring to his battle with diabetes, a disease he was diagnosed with years ago. The singer said for six months he depended on his wife, Karen, and others to escort him to his pulpit where he preached every Sunday during the ordeal. He says loosing his sight forced him to repent for not taking care of the body God gave him. read more
Lionsgate and Golden Circle Films Starring Renée Zellweger, Harry Connick Jr., Siobhan Fallon, J.K. Simmons and Frances Conroy Rated PG for brief language
Finally! A romantic comedy I can recommend. New in Town is certainly a chick flick but it's not so sugary sweet that guys will gag. It's cute, fun ... and it's actually funny.
Lucy Hill (Renée Zellweger) is the ultimate power woman. She's into fashion, fitness and her career. When her company decides to restructure one of their manufacturing plants, Lucy volunteers to oversee the process on site. She knows that her success in this temporary assignment will guarantee her a big promotion. read more
By Jack Hayford, Charisma House, softcover, 240 pages, $14.99.
As Nehemiah looked at the ruined walls of Jerusalem, he was overwhelmed at the devastation of the great city, but he realized he could not leave it in such a defeated state. In Rebuilding the Real You, Jack Hayford parallels Nehemiah's construction efforts with the Holy Spirit's work in rebuilding and strengthening the believer's life. Nehemiah had to develop a plan, furnish supplies, encourage the people, defend against attacks, and see the project through to completion. Likewise, the Holy Spirit provides everything needed to rebuild and restore a ruined life. Hayford gives insightful, interesting analysis of the history and importance of Jerusalem and its fallen walls and Nehemiah's divinely appointed role in the restoration. By studying Nehemiah, Christians gain a practical, eye-opening example of the Holy Spirit's desire and ability to transform a broken life into a powerful testimony of renewal. Click here to purchase this book. read more
A trip to India inspired Martin Smith (Delirious frontman) and wife Anna to help the poor, and CompassionArt was born. Smith invited 12 well-known musicians and songwriters to create songs with the condition that all proceeds generated from them would permanently be donated to the poor worldwide. Half the revenue will be distributed to four projects: Hand of Hope, Ray of Hope, Stop the Traffic and Watoto. The other half will be given to support ministries chosen by the individual artists. Paul Baloche, Israel Houghton, Steven Curtis Chapman, Matt Redman, Michael W. Smith and Darlene Zschech were among the songwriters involved. Additional artists were invited to participate on the CD. Some standouts: Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant sing together again on “Highly Favoured.” The Watoto Children’s choir adds the perfect touch to this and other songs. “Friend of the Poor” is a heartfelt cry, performed by Andy Park and Leeland Mooring. Tim Hughes and Chapman lead the declarative “We Won’t Stay Silent.” “Fill My Cup” is sure to build believers’ faith. Included is a bonus 50-minute DVD documentary with artist interviews and more. An accompaniment book, The Art of Compassion, features the songwriters’ thoughts on compassion and justice. The artist lineup alone makes this album a must-have; but the story behind these songs makes it a collection like no other. read more
This live album from Freddy Rodriguez was recorded at the Champions Center in Las Vegas where he is worship leader, and it begs the question, "Can really predictable worship music still be really good?" If this doesn't sound like an Israel Houghton album, nothing does. But Rodriguez--who has a wonderful voice that at points sounds strikingly similar to Houghton's--is very talented, and this album is remarkably clean-sounding, vaulting Rodriguez into the top tier of this subset of praise and worship. Light in the Darkness opens with a glitzy gospel tune and ends with one, and in between listeners are treated to a straightforward set of songs that range from brassy, upbeat praise to mid-tempo, pop-infused tunes to slower ballads. The album is most interesting when the songs offer, in a nod to Rodriguez's heritage, Latino flourishes. It's especially enjoyable, for instance, when he switches to Spanish halfway through "Lord You Are Amazing." Rodriguez is pretty amazing here, too.
Heather Headley grew up in Trinidad as a preacher’s kid. “I literally was born into the church. ... My bedroom was the wall to the sanctuary,” she says. She lived with an understanding of Christ but as she got older she started to understand why her parents were so happy in church. “You start figuring it out because it now becomes a part of your life,” Headley says. It wasn’t easy being a preacher’s kid, but she adds: “I’m glad I grew up with the morals we had. I’m glad I grew up under that kind of regimen and instruction. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Headley and her family moved in 1989 from Trinidad to Indiana, where she participated in high school theater before going to Northeastern University to major in communications and musical theater. In her junior year she left to be an understudy on the Broadway show Ragtime. The following year she won the role of Nala in The Lion King. That performance led to her landing the title role in Aida, for which she won a Tony for Best Actress. She recorded two albums for the Broadway shows as well as two solo albums and won a Grammy for her debut R&B album. read more
Charisma editor picks best movie of the year! Slumdog Millionaire, which was nominated in 10 categories, won eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. Below is J. Lee Grady's review of this rags-to-riches story.
Fox Searchlight Pictures Directed by Danny Boyle Rated R for some language and scenes of violence
It’s not a Christian film, but Slumdog Millionaire gets my vote for the best movie of 2008 because it deals so honestly with the issue of exploited children.
Set in modern India, it is the story of Jamal (Dev Patel), a low-caste boy raised in the slums of Mumbai amid religious violence and cruel poverty. Orphaned and with little schooling, Jamal and his brother eke out an existence by begging in the streets, riding on top of trains and giving bogus tours of the Taj Mahal to naive tourists.
Fireproof is the story of a couple on the verge of divorce. Caleb and Katherine Holt (Kirk Cameron and Erin Bethea) have each allowed stress and temptation to dampen their love and respect for the other, and neither seems to know what to do or is even willing to change. Any chance of saving their marriage seems slim. In a last-ditch effort, Caleb turns to his dad for advice. His dad offers him a 40-day challenge—the “Love Dare”—which comprises daily actions Caleb can do to restore his wife’s heart and hopefully save their marriage. Caleb reluctantly accepts the challenge and at first only half-heartedly follows the steps. Eventually he is truly transformed, but it may be too late to save the relationship. Fireproof has grossed more than $33 million since its theatrical release in September. The DVD bonus features include deleted scenes, jokes and pranks, a discussion guide, commentary, and more. Other resources based on this film, including The Love Dare study, are also available. read more
22 Weeks (Empyrean Films) packs more punch in 38 minutes than some films three times as long. This is not a feel-good movie. It’s based on real-life abortion experiences. It chronicles primarily the story of a young woman who decides to have an abortion. When her baby is born alive in the abortion clinic restroom, she realizes she has made a terrible mistake and begs the clinic workers for help. They do nothing. Ultimately, her 22-week-old son, whom she named Rowan, dies in her arms. At a recent screening, Ángel Manuel Soto, who wrote and directed the film, said that as soon as he heard this woman’s story he knew he had to make the film. Plans for the film include expanding it to feature length. 22 Weeks is not easy to watch, but it could be a valuable resource for churches or anyone with a call to crisis-pregnancy ministry. Click here to purchase 22 Weeks. read more
By John Hagee, Charisma House, hardcover, 256 pages, $21.99.
Problems. Challenges. Hard times. Call them what you like, but they are inevitable in a Christian’s life. In Life’s Challenges Your Opportunities, John Hagee provides valuable insights into dealing with these situations. Hagee focuses on the principle of “promise, problem and provision.” He explains that when God makes a promise, it is followed by a problem that refines and purifies the believer to a point where God’s provision can be received. Using a balanced mixture of personal stories and biblical accounts, Hagee clearly illustrates that problems are not to be avoided, but are to be faced straight on with the knowledge that God is using them to develop the Christian’s divine destiny. Difficult times signal the beginning of a spiritual growth period that leads to a victorious ending. Hagee’s step-by-step guidance gives much-needed hope and encouragement for troubled times ahead.
By Mark Hitchcock, Multnomah Books, hardcover, 208 pages, $19.99.
In the Late Great United States: What Bible Prophecy Reveals About America’s Last Days, Mark Hitchcock, author and frequent lecturer on prophecy themes Mark Hitchcock provides a straightforward review of the many questions and concerns people have about America’s role in the last days. According to the author, the Bible doesn’t specifically mention the U.S. as having a prominent place in the end times. This may indicate that America could fall from power in the last days. Hitchcock provides further evidence of the nation’s possible collapse with the current economic crisis, America’s reliance on foreign oil and the threat of Islamic terrorism. Although this may seem gloomy, Hitchcock says that Christians can find hope in knowing what will happen to them when they leave this earth. He also names three things Christians should do to keep America protected and under God’s favor for as long as possible: Remain vigilant in support of the state of Israel, continue to spread the gospel, and do all they can to practice and promote righteousness. With its personal yet realistic tone, this book is very informative and viable in a time where people want real answers.
Excerpts from The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns
It is important to put the American Church in perspective. Simply stated, it is the wealthiest community of Christians in the history of Christendom. How wealthy? The total income of American churchgoers is $5.2 trillion. (That's more than five thousand billion dollars.) It would take just a little over 1 percent of the income of American Christians to lift the poorest one billion people in the world out of extreme poverty. Said another way, American Christians, who make up about 5 percent of the Church worldwide, control about half of global Christian wealth; a lack of money is not our problem.
A few years back I had the opportunity to spend some time with former president Jimmy Carter. World Vision was collaborating with Habitat for Humanity on one of their massive "blitz build" projects in the Philippines, and I was assigned to work on the same house as President Carter. As we worked, he shared that he had just been asked to prepare a speech that would answer the question, what is the greatest challenge facing humankind in the twenty-first century? It was 1999, and the world was focused on the beginning of the new millennium. I was quite surprised at the former president's conclusion. He believed that the greatest problem of our time was the growing gap between the richest and poorest people on earth.Let me start with the good news. You're rich, we're rich, and the Church in America is rich. And now I am sure you are thinking that I am wrong, that you're not rich, and neither is your church. But bear with me, because wealth is always measured in relative terms. Brace yourselves for this good news! If your income is $25,000 per year, you are wealthier than approximately 90 percent of the world's population! If you make $50,000 per year, you are wealthier than 99 percent of the world! Does this shock you? Remember, of the 6.7 billion people on earth, almost half of them live on less than two dollars a day.
If you earn $50,000 per year in America and you don't feel rich, it's because you are comparing yourself to people who have more than you do-those living above even the 99th percentile of global wealth. It's also because we tend to gauge whether or not we are wealthy based on the things we don't have. If we think we need a bigger house or apartment, a nicer car, more clothes, or the ability to go out for dinner more often, we don't feel "rich." Again, it's all relative to our expectations. When you realize that 93 percent of the world's people don't own a car, your old clunker starts to look pretty good. Our difficulty is that we see our American lifestyles as normative, when in fact they are grossly distorted compared to the rest of the world. We don't believe we are wealthy, so we don't see it as our responsibility to help the poor. We are deceived.
There is much at stake. The world we live in is under siege-3 billion are desperately poor, 1 billion hungry, millions are trafficked in human slavery, 10 million children die needlessly each year, wars and conflicts are wreaking havoc, pandemic diseases are spreading, ethnic hatred is flaming, and terrorism is growing. Most of our brothers and sisters in Christ in the developing world live in grinding poverty. And in the midst of this stands the Church of Jesus Christ in America, with resources, knowledge, and tools unequaled in the history of Christendom. I believe that we stand on the brink of a defining moment. We have a choice to make.
When historians look back in one hundred years, what will they write about this nation of 340,000 churches? What will they say of the Church's response to the great challenges of our time-AIDS, poverty, hunger, terrorism, war? Will they say that these authentic Christians rose up courageously and responded to the tide of human suffering, that they rushed to the front lines to comfort the afflicted and to douse the flames of hatred? Will they write of an unprecedented outpouring of generosity to meet the urgent needs of the world's poor? Will they speak of the moral leadership and compelling vision of our leaders? Will they write that this, the beginning of the twenty-first century, was the Church's finest hour?
Or will they look back and see a Church too comfortable, insulated from the pain of the rest of the world, empty of compassion, and devoid of deeds? Will they write about a people who stood by and watched while a hundred million died of AIDS and fifty million children were orphaned, of Christians who lived in luxury and self-indulgence while millions died for lack of food and water? Will schoolchildren read in disgust about a Church that had the wealth to build great sanctuaries but lacked the will to build schools, hospitals, and clinics? In short, will we be remembered as the Church with a gaping hole in its gospel? read more