Many parents would agree that children should wait until they are older to see the acclaimed movie The Passion of the Christ, which graphically depicts the horrible violence that Jesus Christ endured before giving His life on the cross.
For the most part, children in our culture are privileged enough to be insulated from the reality and “scariness” of death.
Death and life, however, are at the core of the Christian message exemplified by Good Friday and Easter and remembered each Sunday. How much does your child understand that message?
Children need to know that dying was Jesus Christ’s reason for living on earth. They also need to know about Jesus’ resurrection three days later. As a parent, you can have the wonderful privilege of talking with your child about these important truths. The Easter season (which only begins with Easter Sunday) is great time to do this.
The following mini-lessons are designed for you to download, print out, review with a Bible in hand and then read with your child. These lessons will help you give your child a greater appreciation and understanding of the purpose of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection.
Ultimately, these five mini-lessons will encourage your child to join God’s family.
- Lesson One: Just Judge — Loving Father (pdf)
- Lesson Two: Why Did Some People Want to Kill Jesus? (pdf)
- Lesson Three: Was Jesus Innocent or Guilty of Blasphemy? (pdf)
- Lesson Four: Dying Was Jesus’ Reason for Living (pdf)
- Lesson Five: Jesus Took My Place (pdf)
These mini-lessons are intended to help parents to excel in their role as spiritual leaders for your children. Focus on the Family is a primarily donor-funded ministry, and their online resources are provided through the generosity of our supporters.
At the tender age of 5, Annabel Beam was diagnosed with antral hypomotility and pseudo-obstruction motility disorder, a rare incurable condition that resulted her being admitted to the hospital serveral times each year. But a life-threatening fall and a trip to Heaven in 2011 changed everything, and now her miraculous recovery and experience is headed to the big screen in “Miracles From Heaven.”
“Miracles from Heaven” is set to prove that there is hope in times of struggle and darkness and an even greater hope awaiting in Heaven.
God’s power to perform miracles in people’s lives every day, as the testimony of Annabel Beam reveals in the film about one girl’s miraculous healing after a tragic fall.
While climbing a hollowed-out cottonwood tree with her sister a branch gave way, sending young Annabel 30 feet head first deep into the tree, trapping her inside. After an all-night rescue mission an emergency fire crew harnessed Annabel out of the tree and rushed her to the hospital in an emergency medical helicopter.
Kicking off a slew of miracles, her fall left no injury and healed her disorders. Furthermore, Annabel revealed that while she was unconscious, she visited Heaven, saw relatives and met Jesus.
Christy Beam, Anna’s mother, tells the supernatural story in the book, Miracles From Heaven, and a film of the same name, which will hit theaters across the country on March 16. The film stars A-list actress Jennifer Garner as Christy, Martin Henderson as Christy’s husband, Kevin, and Kylie Rogers as Anna.
The following is an edited transcript of Christy’s interview with The Christian Post in which she shares the family’s frightening plight, Anna’s miraculous healing and their new found ministry to share hope with others ahead of the film’s release.
CP: Miracles From Heaven started as a book and now it’s a movie, how amazing is that for you and your family?
Christy: It is so very amazing! It is such an honor that our story is being used to offer hope to so many. I receive messages from all over the world that the book has changed someone’s life. I cannot wait to see and hear the results after people see the movie.
CP: People sometimes have a hard time believing that all things happen for good, can you briefly walk us through your thoughts and emotions from when Anna had the fall up to when she was pronounced healed?
Christy: After the fall I was just so grateful for the miracle of her walking away without any injury. I was often thanking God for his unending hand of mercy and protection for Annabel. It took me a while to come to accept that she really was healed — the fear of accepting she was healed — and it just being coincidence or a fluke terrified me. It came to a point there was no denying the reality of Annabel’s healing.
CP: While Anna was stuck in the tree you and your family prayed, what can you tell people about the power of prayer?
Christy: I can tell you that God absolutely hears each and every one of our prayers! At times I more cried out to God than prayed, but He knew my heart and He knew my anguish. Once I accepted the hard to believe reality that God loves Annabel more than I do, I felt we had a common bond in prayer.
CP: What was your initial reaction when Annabel said she saw relatives and Jesus in Heaven?
Christy: The very first thing that popped into my head was, ‘How hard did you hit your head?’ But of course I would never say that. The things Annabel shared about her Heaven experience could not have been made up. The details were too intricate for a 9 year old. The more she talked the more I had no doubt Anna had truly lived what she was sharing with me.
CP: You and your family believe her healing was from God but doctors couldn’t explain what happened. What do they think happened? Did they acknowledge that it was divine?
Christy: Officially, they simply said they don’t know what happened. One of her doctors said, ‘I am really glad she fell in that tree.’ Another doctor told me: ‘Jesus must have been with that little girl in that tree.’That is what is so amazing about the miracle — no one truly knows. It had to be a God thing.
CP: What can you say to someone who is having a hard time believing that supernatural experiences like Anabelle’s are real?
Christy: Annabel is absolute living proof that miracles still happen. In fact, Annabel likes to say, ‘God is still in the business of doing miracles.’ I would challenge them to read the book, Miracles From Heaven and see the movie in theaters and then see what they say. It is so hard to deny the undeniable.
CP: How did this increase your own faith?
Christy: Through everything I realized how faithful God truly is in the lives of his precious children. I looked back over the years of anguish we had endured and began to see all the small miracles that went on around us daily. It encouraged me to live a life as faithful back to Him. Because of that clarity I now challenge other people to look up during their times of challenge and struggle. Don’t miss the miracles going on around you daily. He is faithful.
CP: Prior to everything that happened, did you ever anticipate that a divine miracle would be your full-time ministry?
Christy: No. I absolutely believed in miracles, I just never thought one would happen in my life. [I thought] those things happen to other people, not an ordinary person like me.
CP: What can we expect from “Miracles from Heaven” the movie? What do you hope people take away from it?
Christy: I hope people walk away inspired to see those small miracles while they are waiting faithfully on the big miracle in their lives. I hope people take away that there is always hope in times of struggle, challenge and darkness.
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‘I can’t do this.’ For many years, this was my reality. But it was a lie. A simple truth changed everything for me. It can for you, too.
I can’t do this. I’m not good enough. I’ll never be a success. These lies keep us from living, working and dreaming. It doesn’t have to be this way…That idea that my parents instilled in me not only helped me overcome my challenges and insecurities, it blew off my limitations and opened up the world to me.”
Alongside programs like “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards,” Netflix now offers users another type of content: Christian sermons. The online video streaming service added lectures by four popular Christian pastors in early December.
“I believe if Jesus were on planet Earth today in the flesh he’d be on Netflix,” said Ed Young, one of the pastors, in a phone interview.
Young spearheaded the effort to get Christian talks onto Netflix. He said he believes, like Jesus, he should find ways to appeal to the masses. It’s that attitude that makes the partnership with Netflix an unsurprising, if unprecedented, convergence of evangelical faith and popular media.
“It fits with patterns that are long-established,” said Stewart M. Hoover, director of the Center for Media, Religion and Culture at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Hoover pointed out that evangelical churches have been quick to adapt to radio, then television and other technologies as they have developed.
Young’s Dallas area-based Fellowship Church is no exception. Young has penned more than a dozen books; he has had television programs on the E! network and other cable channels; he hosts iTunes podcasts and offers video content on YouTube and Roku. He has also gained attention for media stunts such as his 2012 “bed-in,” when he and his wife spent a day in a bed on the roof of their church to generate discussion around sexuality in Christianity.
“Jesus said that we should become fishers of men. If I’m going to catch the most fish, I’ve got to put a lot of hooks in the water,” Young said of his many media projects. “But I’m most excited about Netflix right now.”
Young’s “Fifty Shades of THEY” Netflix series includes five episodes. The pastor paces a colorfully lit stage, offering jocular interpretations of Christian teachings to an audience of hundreds. The three other series have similar formats.
In “#DeathToSelfie,” young, T-shirt-clad pastor Steven Furtick talks identity. Georgia pastor Andy Stanley addresses working through challenges in “Starting Over.” And in “Winning Life’s Battles,” evangelical icon Joyce Meyer preaches to a massive auditorium.
Like Young, the other three pastors have media teams, YouTube videos, active social media accounts and personal websites to connect visitors to more content.
Young said he and his team started dreaming of Netflix about a year ago. Netflix was receptive to the idea, he said, and it was not hard to bring other Christian pastors on board with the plan either.
Paul Huse, executive director of marketing for Joyce Meyer Ministries, said Meyer’s team was pleased to take part.
“More and more people are cutting the cord,” Huse said. “Even though we’re on six or seven cable networks, more people are moving away from that and we want to be where they can still access us.”
Netflix did not provide many guidelines in terms of content for the episodes but did ask that the programs avoid product promotion or invitations for viewers to make donations, Huse said.
The move to Netflix made sense for the pastors, but for Netflix it’s a logical fit too, said Tom Nunan, lecturer at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television and longtime Hollywood producer.
“Most people perceive Netflix as a competitor to HBO or Showtime,” Nunan said, pointing to the original edgy, adult content that has earned the platform industrywide recognition. But in many ways, Netflix is the opposite of traditional networks, which target specific niche audiences, Nunan said. “Netflix is trying to be all things to all people.”
Nunan added that the entertainment industry has profited from religious content since the days of Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments.”
“Spirituality, generally speaking, is very good business,” Nunan said.
David Clark, executive media director for Ed Young’s Fellowship Church, says it has a two-year contract in which Netflix pays the churches for the shows. He declined to specify the amount, except to say that it was “nothing astronomical.” Still, he added that it was a much more preferable arrangement than the traditional cable TV model, which usually required large costs on the churches’ part.
Representatives from Netflix declined to give an interview for this story but issued a statement saying, “Titles are continuously being added to the service to meet the diverse tastes of our more than 75 million members around the world.”
Young hopes access to those users might attract new followers to Christ.
“We’re always working to try to market to the people who normally would not go to church,” Young said.
But Hoover predicts the new sermon series are more likely to attract Christian customers to Netflix than they are to convert Netflix users to Christianity.
“Evangelicals tend to think that because they are in the public media they’re going to cross over to more mainstream audiences, but evidence shows that they’re mostly just preaching to the choir, and I think that will be the case here,” Hoover said.
But for Young, the goal is clear: He plans to continue bringing Christianity to popular media in whatever forms technology provides.
“Jesus was the most creative communicator in history,” Young said. “If we’re taking a page from his playbook, the church should be the most creative entity in the universe.”
(Katherine Davis-Young is a contributor to RNS)