I have been given the opportunity to do some reviews on some books from a few different publishers. Some of them do not quite fit into the focus I have for Living Infuzion, but obviously have some good information. Here are some of my perspectives on some pretty good books! Enjoy!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

90 Minutes in Heaven - The Movie

Here is the link for the movie trailer:

On September 15, I had the opportunity to go and see the movie 90 Minutes in Heaven, based on the book by Don Piper.  It stars Hayden Christensen and Kate Bosworth as a Christian husband and wife.  He’s a pastor, firm in his faith and looking to plant a new church.  On his way home from a conference, his car is hit by a truck, and he is killed.  In the chaos of sorting out the accident on the road, another pastor comes along and asks to pray for the man in the car, Don Piper, who emergency workers have already said is dead.  They are only awaiting the coroner to make the pronouncement official.  Pastor Piper was left as dead for about 90 minutes, but comes alive when prayed for.

The bulk of the film is about the struggle that the couple goes through during his recovery.  He is severely broken.  The conflict comes in a few places: Pastor Piper in his pain and agony, versus his desire to let himself die and go back to heave… his home, and how does a pastors’ wife and teacher manage her husband’s recovery, and kids and support structure and bills and his desire to just die?
In general, I thought this story was good.  It’s almost too hard to watch because of such turmoil that the couple is able to overcome.  But they did overcome.  I think at points the film was a little too slow.  It could have been about 20 minutes shorter.  There was a technical flaw in one scene that was distracting.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this film, but I thought there would be more about heaven.  I go back and forth with this.  I thought there should be more about heaven, but at the same time I’m always leery of putting heaven on screen because I don’t think our imagination can do it justice from a film perspective.

As a Christian, I hope many others will see this film about perseverance in time of struggle, and how the faith of others can bring us through the toughest of times.  Seeing Pastor Piper at the end of the film in excellent health and preaching was very encouraging.

Thanks to Graff Martin for the passes to get to see the film.  This has been my honest review.  

Friday, January 2, 2015

Burning Questions: Exploring Where the Evidence Leads

“Burning Questions: Exploring Where the Evidence Leads”, is a DVD series put out by Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM).  This is a course in apologetics and it has six episodes that are about a hour each: 
Episode one: Is there a God?
Episode two: God and science, 
Episode three: The problem of evil, 
Episode four: Which religion is true?
Episode five: Can we trust the Bible?
Episode six: Who was Jesus?

Dr. Andy Bannister hosts each episode and he speaks to representatives of major faith communities including Christians, Muslims, Hindus, atheists and others.  He purposely and thoughtfully asks their opinions regarding each of these issues.  I’ve seen many of these courses of study over the years, and these apologetics DVDs have one thing that stood out to me and that is that there was no mockery and that all questions are asked in a way that is respectful and people are genuinely interested in what the other perspective is.  I think that helps forward dialogue and understanding of both sides. Now people may not agree and that’s obvious because an atheist cannot agree with the Christian with respect to the existence of God but the perspectives are at least examined and looked at. 

Episode one is about the issue of whether there is a God.  The interviewer speaks with people from several perspectives, but obviously in the format of hour-long DVD, you can never get into the depths of the reasoning that goes along with each perspective. It is very interesting to scratch the surface.

Episode two talks about the idea of God and science and about how for far too long the idea of God and science have been promoted as in opposition to each other where in reality science in many cases started out from people that were followers of God and exploring his universe.  God and science are very compatible. It is philosophy and worldview that are really the difference.

Episode three talks about the problem of evil.  This is something that from an apologetics perspective, the issue must be really defined. What is evil? How do we know something is evil? What sources do we use to measure evil against? How do other faiths weigh in on this issue? 

Episode four addresses one of the more sensitive issues of which religion is true. Not all things can be true when it comes to faith.  

Episode five speaks to the reliability of the bible. If people actually looked at the bible objectively they would see a book that is very reliable especially when weighed against the other ancient documents. It is not the bible itself that people object to but the moral claims of scripture when applied to their life. 

And Episode six speaks to who Jesus is in history and in scripture. The Christian faith weighs heavily on this.

Any course like this could only start (or continue) study of these weighty topics, but the way it is structured leads the student from the broad topic of God leading them a step at a time into the person of Christ as the evidence suggests, and then leading them to a relationship with Him.

This is a great resource for opening discussion and assisting in addressing the objections of the skeptic. Check out http://burningquestions.ca for more details.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Heaven Is for Real – The Movie

I was given the opportunity to screen this movie in advance of release a few weeks ago, and I am grateful.  I didn’t really know what to expect, and to be honest, I really get skeptical with stories like this.  I’ve heard a bunch of these experiential “Heaven” stories over the years growing up in the church.  So the key, I think, is that you have to come at them from a biblical perspective.  What does the Bible say about heaven, and how does it say you get there?  (Of course, there are any number of other stories of people that died and claimed to have gone to hell and then were brought back to life.)  When you use the Bible as the standard for the measure of Heaven, and look at how it says to get there, and then you look at the stories of people that are telling their story of what they saw on the operating table or during whatever experience.  I’ve read a few wild stories and when they contradict (usually) claims of Jesus, I just disregard the story--just fiction.

In this story, a minister’s family struggles financially in a small church.  Pastor Todd Burpo does odd fix-it jobs to supplement his income.  He is an active community leader, a fire fighter, and loves softball, like any red-blooded American.  Life and struggles and sports injuries happen and through it, the family remains strong.  Their four year old boy (Colton) falls ill with a high fever, and acute appendicitis.  He is rushed to the hospital.  Sonja, the pastor’s wife, calls all the people she knows to ask them to pray for her son.  Todd goes to the chapel at the hospital and has a pretty honest time with God.  He has endured the financial hardships, the injury suffered on the ball diamond, and now he is angry at God, thinking God would take his son from him.

On the operating table, Colton has a vision (The film is clear that he never died on the table, it is a vision) of going to heaven, of seeing angels, of sitting on Jesus’ lap and talking to him.  As the story unfolds, Colton describes things that he could not have seen.  He was on the operating table.  Of course, Todd takes some of this as wild imagination of a child.  Pastor Burpo chooses to be skeptical, and he goes to see a psychologist to ask questions of her.  He wants to find some way to explain away all of his son’s experiences with reason and logic.  He disregards the possibility that his son did have a vision, or that heaven could be real… as he would preach every Sunday.  But how could his son describe his mother crying on the phone as she called people to pray?  I suppose it’s not too far-fetched for a child that has been to hospitals with his dad, to imagine his mother asking people to pray for him as he is sick.  How could he know about his father yelling at God though?

Colton describes other things to his family as well.  He meets people in heaven, and is able to confirm details that others wouldn’t know, and at the very least they are things that Colton didn’t know.  
As Todd comes to grips with the possibility of his son having a vision of heaven, he begins to share the ideas in church, and rather than embrace the hope of heaven that Christians should, there is more opposition from them to the point of wanting to have him removed as their pastor.  Opposition comes from the community in the form of ridicule, and even from Todd’s wife in the form of her needing him to worry about life here, on earth, in the now.

As I watched, I thought “Nothing makes someone question what they really believe like actually coming face to face with it”, and I think that is what this film is about at its base.  It’s encouragement to the Christian.  It is evidence to the skeptic.  It is a feel-good movie of comfort to all that have lost someone.  

This is the weak point that I found for the film.  There is no clear message of how someone can get to heaven.  We are in the lives of a Christian family, but not once do we find out how someone can get to heaven in the film.  I imagine that is to reach a wider audience for the film.

It is a great story, and it does make me want to dig deeper into what happened.  For the purposes of this blog post, I have not consulted many other sources for perspective, just what I saw in the film, and how that sat with me.  I intend to read the book, and look into some of the other perspectives in more detail.  I have seen, as usually goes on in the Church, that there is a lot of back and forth arguing over the validity of this film’s story.  In the end of it all, the film brings people to the point of discussion about what they believe in the afterlife.  Christians especially should come to a bit of comfort resting in their faith of being face to face with their saviour.  

What do you think?

Movie Site: http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/heavenisforreal/

Book Site: http://heavenisforreal.net/

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Love Comes Calling - Siri Mitchell

"A girl with the best of intentions. A heart set on Hollywood. An empty pocketbook.  That's all it takes for Ellis Eton to find herself working as a telephone operator for a look-alike friend. For Ellis, this job will provide not only acting practice but the funds to get her a start in the movies. She's tired of always being a disappointment to her traditional Boston family, and though she can't deny the way he makes her head spin, she knows she's not good enough for Griffin Phillips, either. It's simple: avoid Griff's attentions, work, and get paid. But in typical Ellis fashion, her simple plan spirals out of control when she overhears a menacing phone call...with her very own Griff as the target.  With an endearing heroine as her lead, Siri Mitchell takes readers on a madcap tale of love and discovering one's true desires!" (Publisher's Description)

I really enjoyed this book.  Ellis is a girl who tries so hard to do the best she can and live up to the expectations put on her by her family, but struggles woth being scatter-brained.  I found the idea of how someone with ADHD would have been viewed in the 20s very intriguing.  I enjoiyed how the book was written through Ellis' eyes, so we can see how she tries so hard to do what's expected of her but to no fault of her own she can't.  I loved learning more about the prohibition and the hello girls.  Another wonderful book by Siri Mitchell!!

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.  Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group"

In The Shadow Of Jezebel - Mesu Andrews

"In a kingdom controlled by cruel and manipulative women, one princess will discover the power of truth and love. Trained as a priestess in the temple of Baal, Princess Jehosheba strives to please the demanding Queen Athaliah, daughter of Jezebel. But when a mysterious letter from the dead prophet Elijah predicts doom for the royal household, Jehosheba realizes that the dark arts she practices reach far beyond the realm of earthly governments. Forced to marry Yahweh's high priest in order to further Athaliah and Jezebel's power plays, Jehosheba enters the unfamiliar world of Yahweh's Temple. Can her new husband show her the truth and love she craves? And can Jehosheba overcome her fear and save the family--and the nation--she loves?  With deft skill, Mesu Andrews brings the Old Testament to life, revealing a fascinating story of the power of unconditional love." (Publisher's Description)
Another wonderfully woven biblical tale written by Ms. Andrews.  The heroine, Jehosheba is due to become the next high priestess of Baal until a plan concocted by her mother and her grandmother Jezebel sees her married to the High Priest of the Jewish Temple.  Having been used all her life by an unloving mother and a demanding false god, she struggles to believe in the loving Yahweh and her new husband Jehoiada.  At 432 pages, this book is full of rich biblically history.  I highly recommend this book to people who like biblical fiction. It is well researched and full of wonderful tidbits and pictures.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.   Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group".

Shadows Of The Past - Patricia Bradley

"While she's stalking the truth . . . someone is stalking her. Psychology professor and criminal profiler Taylor Martin prides herself on being able to solve any crime, except the one she wants most desperately to solve--the disappearance of her father twenty years ago. When she finally has a lead on his whereabouts, Taylor returns home to Logan Point, Mississippi, to investigate. But as she works to uncover the truth, someone else will do almost anything to keep her from it. Nick Sinclair pens mystery novels for a living, but the biggest mystery to him is how he can ever get over the death of his wife--a tragedy he believes he could have prevented. Now that his estranged brother is the only family he has left, Nick sets out to find him. But when he crosses paths with Taylor, all he seems to find is trouble.  Join the chase as Taylor and Nick search the murky shadows of the past for the keys to unlocking the present--and moving into a future they never imagined." (Publisher's Description)

I am always excited to try a new author and Ms. Bradley did not disappoint.  Shadows of the Past is the first book in her Logan Point series.  Taylor and Nick both carry a lot of family baggage in their lives.  Taylor's father disappeared and Nick is still dealing with the death of his wife and the strained relationship with his brother.  When their paths cross, both are very guarded and suspicious of the others motives but must learn to work together to figure solve who is stalking Taylor. This book is filled with twists and turns and totally surprised me with the answers to the disappearance of Taylor's dad.  I highly recommend this book and look forward to the next in the series!!!

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group".

No One To Trust - Lynette Eason

"She doesn't know who she's running from--and the man she loves may be someone else entirely.  Summer Abernathy wakes up one morning to find her husband missing, three men in her home intent on finding him, and the life she's been living based on a lie. Which Kyle Abernathy did she marry? The computer programmer she met in line at the bank? Or the one who was apparently using that image as a cover?  The search for her husband--and answers--takes Summer ever deeper into a world of organized crime where people are used one moment and discarded the next. And with her deepest relationship of trust already shattered, Summer doesn't know who to believe. " (Publisher's Description)

Yet another wonderful, suspenseful read by Ms. Eason!  This book was really hard to put down. One more page turned into one more chapter, then one more chapter.  The roller-coaster that Summer is put in is fraught with danger and intrigue.   Not knowing who to trust, Summer has to put her trust in God and learn to forgive the man who she thought she married in order to survive. This is book one in the Hidden Identities series and I cannot wait for the second. 

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group”.