The Right Hand of God

Chapter 5 of the Book of Acts begins with a disturbing story of a man named Ananias and his wife Sapphira.  They sold some land in order to give the money to the apostles; but rather than give them all the money, they kept some for themselves and told the apostles they sold the land for less.  They essentially lied to God.  Not giving all the money to the church was not the wrong they had done.  Lying to God was their downfall.  As a result of their misdeed, they both fell dead in front of the apostle Peter.  The text does not imply that Peter was somehow responsible for their death.  It seems that lying to the apostle Peter, who had a direct connection to God, was exactly like lying to God’s face – that seems to be a fatal decision.

This makes me wonder about all the times we lie to God indirectly and what the consequences of those actions might be.  Probably the grandest example of this might be our marriage vows.  In a religious marriage ceremony, couples usually make a vow to God to love, honor, and cherish their spouse as long as they both shall live – or something to that effect.  If you consider that statement carefully, it’s pretty easy to short-change God in the delivery of that vow.  Or how about promises we make to God during prayer?  Did you ever promise God you would do something and later realize you simply didn’t have the willpower to follow through?

I know God is well aware of the enemy’s attack on all of us and I suspect He is cutting us all a little slack; nevertheless, Ananias and Sapphira are a harsh reminder of the awesome power of God and His total righteousness.  Praise God for sending His Son to save us from our sins.  I can’t help but think Jesus is working overtime at the right hand of God trying to explain all of our misdeeds.

Chapter 5 of the Book of Acts ends with a powerful demonstration of the commitment to God the apostles had.  The religious leaders who felt threatened by the apostles had them thrown in jail but they were miraculously set free and went right back to their teaching.  When the apostles were recaptured, the religious leaders came to the conclusion that it was probably better to just let them go.

“Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”  Acts 5:38-39 (NIV)

Of course they were right.  You don’t want to get into a battle with God.  But before they let the apostles go they tried to once again impress upon them their disapproval of their teaching.

“They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.”  Acts 5:40 (NIV)

I shouldn’t have to tell you how this story ends.  The apostles actually enjoyed being flogged – they were proud to suffer pain like Jesus.  And did they stop teaching in His name to please the religious leaders?  Of course not!

“The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.”  Acts 5:41-42 (NIV)

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

Search the Word of God

I’m not pointing fingers at anyone.  It often seems to me if any finger pointed started, it would just go in a circle until it came right back to the first finger pointer.  I’ll simply make a general statement that I think is hard to refute.  Religious leaders are sometimes wrong.  Those we look up to as being the most anointed, may not be anointed at all.  Those who write all the books and create their own personal study Bible may have some things wrong.  I don’t think there’s any single person on earth who has all the answers.  Everybody has something wrong.

In the fourth chapter of the Book of Acts, the religious leaders had Peter and John arrested for healing a man who was lame from birth.  Not much of a crime.  But they were proclaiming Godly power.  The religious leaders didn’t like that.

“So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it.”  Acts 4:15-16 (NIV)

The religious leaders decided the solution to the problem was to tell Peter and John to stop healing people in the name of Jesus.  Unfortunately, Peter and John were directed by God and thought it was rather absurd to even consider following the orders of the religious leaders.

A couple of thousand years later, we are left here in this world to figure out for ourselves what is from God and what is a message from religious leaders trying to protect their own power.  Peter and John were much better connected to God than we are today.  Their knowledge of His will came directly to them through the Holy Spirit.  Of course, we are told that all believers have the Holy Spirit living inside of them, and I believe that, but I don’t think it’s the same as the experience Peter and John had – and least not for me.  What we do have to check is that the proclamations of the religious leaders, are the Word of God.  If we follow religious leaders without checking their words against our own personal study of the Bible, we are turning our back on God.

Peter and John didn’t listen to the religious leaders.  They went back to preaching the gospel and continued healing in the name of Jesus.  And their numbers grew enormously into a beautiful loving family of believers – not by following the rules of the religious leaders, but by following the direction provided by God.

“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.”  Acts 4:32 (NIV)

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

Silver and Gold

There is something more valuable than silver and gold.  In the third chapter of the Book of Acts, Peter and John are out spreading the gospel, bringing people to an understanding of what recently happened – the death and resurrection of Jesus.  When confronted by a lame man seeking a handout, Peter provided him with much more than he expected.

“Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  Acts 3:6 (NIV)

Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Peter was able to heal the lame man so that he could walk for the first time in his life.  It’s so vitally important to understand this is not a concocted story to illustrate a point – this is the recording of a historic fact.  There actually was a man who could not walk from birth who was made to walk by his faith in Jesus Christ.

“By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.”  Acts 3:16 (NIV)

The miraculous didn’t stop after Jesus was brought back to life and it didn’t stop after he returned to heaven to be with His Father.  The apostles continued to demonstrate the awesome power of Jesus via their connection to the Holy Spirit. While we still see miraculous things happening all over the world, they are now at God’s discretion.  I have never seen a verified case of a Spirit-filled man healing a man lame from birth.   There is some speculation that the reason for this is those who are trying to do the healing and those receiving the healing, lack faith – we just don’t have the same complete faith these early believers had.  We are so far removed from the original events we have become tainted with skepticism.  Even if it’s only a tiny bit of doubt, it’s enough to dilute our power to achieve the miraculous.

It seems more likely to me that God has decided to take the power to heal out of the hands of man.  God wants us to believe without seeing miracles (John 20:29).  He wants us to trust the word of God.  He wants us to trust the teaching of Jesus.  When we focus our lives on strictly following His commandment to love God and love our neighbor, the power of the Holy Spirit working inside each of us is magnified.  Our miraculous powers are brought to life when we stand together in service to God by doing everything Jesus has told us to do.

“For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you.”  Acts 3:22 (NIV)

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

The Remarkable Ordinary: How to Stop, Look, and Listen to Life

Where is God?  That is a question believers and unbelievers alike ask every day.  Believers wonder why God is not showing up when they need him, and unbelievers are quick to point out God is doing little to solve the world’s problems.  Those who trust the Bible as the Word of God are left to explain Gods absence over the last two thousand years.  Why haven’t we heard from God?  In his book, The Remarkable Ordinary, Frederick Buechner paints a picture that suggests we hear from God each and every day – not just believers, but unbelievers as well.  In fact, we are the language of God.

This book was published in 2017 as Buechner traveled into his nineties.  The editor notes that much of the material in the book was taken from earlier unpublished lectures delivered in 1997 and 1990.  I don’t know how much of a role Buechner played in compiling this work, most of which sounds like the musings of a younger man.  What I do know is that the chapters flow together beautifully and tell the story of his life in a way that opens us all up to understanding the story of our own lives.

These stories are clearly written by a man who has lived a full life that includes success and tragedy.  Those events that shaped his understanding of the world and its connection to God are the tools he uses to share God’s language with us.  When we take the time to look closer at life and not allow it to pass us by unnoticed, we can clearly see and feel God’s presence.  God is our Creator.  He is the Creator of us all.  When you look close at a great work of art you can see the artist’s brush strokes.  In that same way, when you take the time to look closely at anyone in your life, including yourself, you will see the brush strokes of God.  The language of the artist is paint.  The language of God is you and I.  That’s Frederick Buechner’s point of view which is wonderfully illustrated in this thoroughly enjoyable work.

Click on the Category Link below for more Christian Book Reviews

The Unmiracle

God is weaving us all together in complex ways that often go unnoticed.  Every event in our life has the potential to impact another life which can in turn impact another.  Sometimes these connections are seen and other times they go by lost in the mix.  The Unmiracle is one such tale of God working in a small community to weave His love through the hearts of several different individuals.

Kayla Stevenson is the local party girl, well-known for her promiscuous ways.  Kayla has recently attached herself to Danny who believes she is his girlfriend but in truth she is using him to score drugs.  Danny’s former Marine brother, Mike, is back from war and is lost in a PTSD laced stupor of alcohol and pills.  It’s easy for Danny to pocket a few pills for Kayla when he visits his often incoherent brother.  At a local party, Danny supplies Kayla with pills, a drug pusher at the party supplies her with cocaine, and one of Danny’s friends, Dean, supplies her with heroine.  This combination ends up leaving Kayla in a coma and all those involved in supplying her with drugs are exposed to murder charges if she doesn’t pull through.

Danny’s friend, Arin, is the one who saves Kayla from dying at the party by calling 911.  He’s the only one willing to make the call because he’s the only one who doesn’t get high – he’s a devoted Christian.  Arin serves as the thread of God that weaves its way through the hearts of all of these characters.  In the end, it’s Arin’s work that sends Danny to a local pastor for help, and helps Kayla’s estranged father reconnect with his daughter.

The Unmiracle has a complex storyline with a haunting dose of reality.  The problems and attitudes presented are all too common.  What’s uncommon about this film is the deeper thoughts exposed by these characters that drives a narrative of connectedness.  One little misstep can turn your whole life around.  One little positive or negative nudge from a friend or acquaintance can turn your whole life around.    It is when the thread that’s holding us all together is revealed and God is allowed to take control,  that everything changes.

 

Click on the Category Link below for more faith-based Movie Reviews

More than Miracles

The second chapter of the Book of Acts recounts what happened when the apostles were dramatically filled with the Holy Spirit in a display of fire and with the sound of a violent wind.  As a result, the apostles were suddenly able to speak in many different languages and able to share the gospel with anyone, no matter what language they spoke.

“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”  Acts 2:4 (NIV)

Those people watching the apostles speak in various languages thought they had gone crazy.  They had to be reminded of the extraordinary miracle that many had recently witnessed – that is the death and resurrection of Jesus.

“But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”  Acts 2:24 (NIV)

If God can raise Jesus from the dead, he can certainly provide the apostles with the ability to speak in foreign languages.  Once you are connected to God through the gift of the Holy Spirit, you are in a position to be used by God in a miraculous way as well.

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  Acts 2:38 (NIV)

Witnessing miracles was a large component to the growth of the early Christian church.  Another important element to their growth was their devotion to each other.  Not only did they worship together and have meals together, they also actively took part in supporting one another.

“All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.”  Acts 2:44-45 (NIV)

Jesus’ death on the cross as payment for our sins is the greatest gift of love ever given.  His resurrection demonstrated His power as the Son of God and His ability to deliver on his promise to supply us with the Holy Spirit.  That awesome miracle is made real to unbelievers when they see Christians willing to offer support in the same way as the early church.  Jesus Christ has done his part to build the church and now it is up to believers to demonstrate the value of the Holy Spirit by serving others with the love God has provided.

“And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”  Acts 2:47 (NIV)

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

Saved by Grace

Tragedy can push us into making irrational choices that we regret years later.  Lives can be turned around and destroyed by tragedy.  Such is the case with a police officer named Rick, who is the victim of a home invasion that ends the life of his much-loved wife and leaves him on disability when a bullet destroys his knee.  Rick ends up leaving his 10 year-old-son with his mother while he recuperates, but a deep depression drives him into a reclusive life that keeps him separated from his son for five years.

On Thanksgiving, the five year anniversary of his wife’s tragic death, Rick is lost and alone ready to end his misery with a bullet to the head, but God has other plans.  On his trip to a secluded place to end his life, Rick encounters a young woman looking for a ride to see her family on Thanksgiving.  Rick tries to brush her off but in the end realizes he’s the only one who can help her.  The young woman’s name is Grace, and it becomes clear as they travel across town that she has been placed in Rick’s life at this moment for a reason.

On their way to visit her family, Grace has Rick stop at the local high school, at an abandoned dance studio, and at a local church.  At each location they both share memories.  It turns out Grace has some tragedy of her own but her faith in God has carried her through.  Rick has given up on God and Grace makes it her mission to bring him back to the Lord and back to his son who should not be growing up without a father.

Saved by Grace is a beautifully made film with a gentle meandering pace. As we travel across town toward their ultimate destination, we also travel through their lives and watch their spirits grow closer together.  Grace has learned to trust God and seek a deeper meaning to the terrible things that have happened in her life.  Rick has closed the door in the face of God.  Fortunately, God has sent Grace to take him by the hand and bring him home.

 

Click on the Category Link below for more faith-based Movie Reviews

The Masked Saint

The Masked Saint was adapted from a book of the same name that is loosely based on the life of a pro wrestler who left a ten year career to become a pastor. I have not read the book, nor do I know how much of the story is true and how much is fictionalized.  What I do know is this is a unique twist on the faith-based movie genre that taps into a desire many have to fight the bad guys and come out victorious.

In this film version, successful wrestler Chris Samuels, who fights under the title The Saint, leaves his wrestling career behind to become a pastor at a small town church with lots of problems.  The neighborhood is on the other side of the tracks and many unsaintly characters are hanging out on the streets.  The church congregation has diminished down to a handful and most of the finances are being donated by one man, Judd Lumpkin, who believes that gives him the right to control everything.  And to top it all off, Pastor Chris has a hard time delivering a good sermon and the church choir is tone deaf.

This story has a subtle sense of humor that pushes the characterization over the top creating a light-hearted look at otherwise difficult situations.  Pastor Chris first has to do battle with the pompous and controlling big donor, Judd Lumpkin.  Then, in a case of being in the right place at the right time, Pastor Chris rescues a prostitute from a beating being delivered by her pimp.  Later, Pastor Chris comes to the rescue at a robbery in a diner.

When it comes to fighting for the survival of his church, Pastor Chris is coached by an elderly church member they call Ms. Edna, played by veteran actress Diahann Carroll.  Ms. Edna convinces Pastor Chris to get back in the wrestling ring to earn the money needed to keep the church alive.  What we end up with is a pastor who is a wrestler on the side and a vigilante being investigated by the police in his spare time.

The Masked Saint is a well-made film, with good cinematography, quality directing, and some top-notch acting.  The wrestling scenes, like much of this film, are a little over the top, but nicely designed and photographed.  This is a fanciful story about a pastor becoming a part-time crime fighter.  Rather than trying to pass this off as a plausible true life story, a decision was made to develop this concept as a fantasy with a thin line of truth.  Much of the exaggerated circumstances that drive this story have enough realism in them to create a spark of possibility.  In the end, what really comes to life is the idea that complaining accomplishes nothing.  Problems are solved by those who take action.

 

Click on the Category Link below for more faith-based Movie Reviews

Until Forever

It’s not easy to make an upbeat film about tragedy.  It’s not easy to drive home a positive faith message in the face of difficult life challenges; Until Forever accomplishes both.  Faith-based films are at their best when they are willing to confront the hard questions of faith head-on.  Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?  While the answer to this question isn’t expressly provided in this film, it is considered and dealt with in an honest way.

This is the true story of Michael and Michelle who are devoted high school sweethearts.  Their relationship is full of fun and honest emotion.  This looks like a romance that will last forever.  Then without warning, Michael develops a rare form of leukemia and begins living his life in the hospital.  Michelle stays by his side along with his whole family.  A Bible believing Christian, Michael hears a voice from God calling him to minister to others in the hospital.  He begins using his upbeat personality to bring some moments of cheer to his fellow patients.  One patient, an older man named Fenton, rejects Michael’s devotion to God but still becomes his friend with the understanding that he wants nothing to do with the Bible.

In time, Michael’s cancer goes into remission and he is released from the hospital.  Michael’s slightly younger brother, Matt, has been recruited as a bone marrow donor should Michael’s cancer return.  Matt loves his brother and is more than willing to make this sacrifice; however, he is suffering depression issues of his own and the thought of him supplying bone marrow without positive results haunts him.  In the end, Michael’s cancer does come back and Matt’s bone marrow donation is not able to save him.  Coupled with his growing depression, Matt becomes suicidal and it is Michael who has to help him gain control over his despair.

As Michael’s cancer gets worse, Michelle doesn’t want to see her one true love go away.  She makes a suggestion to Michael that they should get married.  At first Michael is reluctant, not knowing if he will live or die; regardless, he follows through with a formal marriage proposal and the two are married even though it is clear he will die soon after.

Until Forever is the story of a man who will not allow his circumstance to shake his faith in God.  He will not allow a bitter old man named Fenton to destroy his faith with his difficult questions.  And he will not give up on ministering to others in the face of his own fatal destiny.  This is also the story of a young woman, Michelle, who never lets go of her love, even when all hope is lost.  It may be difficult to see how this film can deliver anything but tears, but I can tell you sincerely, you will find joy in your tears in the celebration of a life well lived.

Click on the Category Link below for more faith-based Movie Reviews

The Fight Within

It’s always refreshing when you find a faith-based film that travels in a unique direction.  “The Fight Within” mixes the tough and gritty world of MMA fighting with the everyday struggle we all face, overcoming our demons.  Some of us are more in a fight with ourselves than anyone else, and those who have not yet found God are often in a fight with God.

Logan Chandler, a young college student, works as a trainer at an MMA gym that he and his brother inherited from his now deceased father.  Before his father’s death, Logan trained with his father who was once a champion.  Because his father believed Logan had that same talent, he pushed him hard to become a champion himself.  Tragically, Logan’s father died during a training session with Logan.  Faced with always wondering if he was somehow to blame for his father’s death, Logan battles inner voices of doubt.

After a good deal of success in the octagon, winning all of his fights, Logan makes a decision not to fight anymore and stick to training other fighters.  This becomes a problem when the current champion, Hayden Dressler, who happens to train with Logan’s brother at their gym, is offered big money if he can get a fight with the previous champion, Logan. The gym is not a large money maker and the prize money from the fight can help his brother pay the bills, but Logan is adamant about not fighting.  This disappoints his brother who needs the money, and only serves to encourage Hayden to constantly taunt Logan at every opportunity.

The story becomes more complicated and interesting when Logan meets an energetic young girl at his college, Emma Jones.  There is instant chemistry between the two that quickly turns to confusion for Logan when he learns Emma is a devoted Christian with a determination to become a missionary in Africa.  Logan is an unbeliever and now has to wrestle with God to understand why he has been sent down this road.  Emma patiently walks Logan in the direction of Christ and over time he gives his life to the Lord in an alter call at Emma’s church.

This budding romance seems to be pushing Logan in a completely new direction, until Hayden shows up again, this time taunting Emma to try to force Logan to fight for the big money prize.  Going after Emma is the last straw for Logan and he finally agrees to the fight.  Logan’s brother goes to work training him for the big fight and the inevitable victory.  Logan has conquered his battle with God and with himself, punctuating the transformation with a decisive victory over his worldly nemesis Hayden.

The Fight Within is an innovative bit of storytelling that looks at faith from a totally new perspective.  I could quibble with some of the story elements that tended to abbreviate deeper character development, often with a music montage.  Nevertheless, the overall narrative held my attention and triggered honest emotions.  Some of the best scenes were the well-choreographed fight segments.  That bit of realism served as a conduit to pull me deeper into the story. This film has a nice mix of faith, romance, and action.

 

Click on the Category Link below for more faith-based Movie Reviews

Lifetime Cruise

Imagine you’re on an enormous cruise ship filled with thousands of people ready to depart on a trip across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to the UK.  Now imagine your mom knows the ship’s captain and has arranged for him to give you a private tour before the ship departs.  Because you have a special mechanical interest, the tour will be of the engine room – you want to see what makes the ship work.  When the tour is over, the captain disappears up an elevator on his way to the bridge and you return to the deck of the ship to watch as it pulls away from the dock.  As the massive floating city makes its way out of the channel, you rest assured that the captain, with whom you have a personal relationship, is in control and will safely guide the ship to its destination.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth to show and teach us how His kingdom will come about.  His ministry was a complete tour of the engine room.  He showed us how things work.  His death on the cross as payment for our sin, and subsequent resurrection from the dead, established Him as king of God’s restored kingdom, which is to come upon His return.  For now, Jesus has ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God; just like the captain who went to the bridge to guide the cruise ship across the ocean.  Jesus is now guiding His followers from His position next to God.  Those followers are connected to Him through the working of the Holy Spirit inside every believer.

Luke, the author of the Gospel of Luke, was a close companion and fellow worker with the Apostle Paul.  After he finished his gospel account, he continued writing the history of the first 30 years of the Christian church in the Book of Acts.  Luke addressed both books to someone named Theophilus; and while there is no record of exactly who Theophilus was, we do know that it is a Greek word meaning “loved by god.”

“In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.”  Acts 1:1-2 (NIV)

When you read the Gospel of Luke or any of the other three gospels, you quickly discover Jesus was not simply a preacher of words – He was a man of action.  Luke tells us he wrote about all that Jesus began to “do and teach” and now in the book of Acts he tells us how Jesus continues to operate from heaven by empowering all his followers with the Holy Spirit.

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Acts 1:8 (NIV)

As followers of Jesus, we are to “do and teach” in the same manner that He demonstrated throughout His ministry here on earth.  We are to be “witnesses” to his death and resurrection.  Jesus conquered death!  Jesus is not a past tense teacher – He is alive and in control.  And we are to spend our time serving others as He did every day of His life here on earth.

Like the enormous cruise ship, we are traveling across a vast ocean to another world known as the Kingdom of God.  When we arrive, Jesus will be our king and all will be well.  Until that day, we are to trust that Jesus is in control and follow his continued direction via the nudging of the Holy Spirit.  We are not supposed to stand around waiting for Jesus – we are to take action on His behalf and complete His mission to spread the gospel to the world through word and more importantly, deed.

 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”  Acts 1:11 (NIV)

 

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

 

If You’re Gone

Lillian White, a teenager in an American small town, has fallen in love with Brad Lee, a boy a year older, that she didn’t care much for initially.  In his younger years, Brad was hanging out with the wrong crowd, but once he found Lillian things changed.  On the night Brad graduates from high school, he pronounces his love for Lillian and she reciprocates.  However, what looks like a beautiful young love blooming, suddenly becomes a nightmare when Brad turns up missing the next day.

As it turns out, the police are not too concerned with an 18 year old boy who doesn’t return home, especially one with a juvenile criminal record – something Lillian was unaware of before a detective shared the information.  As the days go by with no word from Brad, Lillian becomes frantic and joins in the search that involves the whole town.  In Lillian’s mind, the number one suspect in Brad’s disappearance is his old troublemaker friend known as Lizard.  When questioned by Lillian, Lizard claims he doesn’t know what happened to Brad, and maintains his story when questioned by the police.

Months pass and Lillian’s fixation with finding Brad puts a strain on her relationship with her best friend, Anna, and threatens to disrupt her faith in God who seems to be ignoring her prayers.  Eventually, after several months of unresolved emotions, Lillian makes a decision to let go of Brad and simply treasure the time they had together.  A mysterious stranger in town, a teenage boy named Chris, has befriended her and helps her see beyond her grief.  Her friend Anna also convinces her life must go on.

This story concludes with a complete explanation of the circumstances around Brad’s disappearance and I’m going to leave those details a mystery in this review.  This is really a story about the choices people make and what are the convoluted reasons for those choices.  In the end, Lillian comes to grips with all that’s transpired and moves on with her life with a renewed understanding of life and how unpredictable it can be.

If You’re Gone is a compelling mystery, that moves through a broad range of emotions.  The small town setting tends to magnify the personal stories in a way that draws the viewer deeper into the story.  As the characters work through their reaction to Brad’s disappearance, it’s hard not to look inside yourself and consider how you might respond.  While this story centers on a teenage romance, the impact of these events takes a toll on mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends.  All of these relationships are dealt with in this story, generating a complex web of pain, sorrow, and hope.  Throughout this ordeal, faith is the thread that holds the participants together and helps them keep going.

 

As yet unreleased COMING SOON