Month: September 2018

REVIEW: “Unbroken: Path to Redemption” is inspiring

Louis Zamperini isn’t the type of person you’d expect to see at a Billy Graham Crusade. But he is the type of person who needs to be there.

“God is my enemy,” he tell his wife.

Zamperini, though, says he has reason to be angry at God. A bombardier during World War II, his plane crashed at sea due to mechanical failure, forcing him to survive on raw fish and birds as he drifted aimlessly on a raft for 47 days. And when he did find an island, he was captured by the Japanese, placed in a prison camp, and brutally tortured for two years. On multiple occasions, he nearly died.

Now he’s back in the United States, trying to find hope and purpose in life during post-war America. But without a college education, he’s having trouble finding a job. And thanks to a recent injury, his track-and-field Olympic dreams are over, too.

So Zamperini turns to alcohol to hide his sorrows. Instead of looking for a job, he visits bars. He also hides money from his wife and his favorite adult beverages in the toilet tank.

Louis Zamperini is an angry, bitter man who has few goals in life, other than to return to Japan and kill his captors. His wife, sensing hopelessness, wants a divorce.  

Then a miracle happens. She invites him to the 1949 Los Angeles Billy Graham Crusade, where he accepts Christ. Soon, he’s considering the unthinkable: traveling back to Japan to forgive his captors instead of killing them. Will he find the power to follow through and do it? 

The film Unbroken: Path to Redemption (PG-13) opens this weekend, telling the true-life story of Louis Zamperini’s return to America. It is a sequel to the 2014 hit movie Unbroken and has the same producer (Matthew Baer), even if it does have a new cast. It is based on the bestselling book by Laura Hillenbrand. The film stars Samuel Hunt (Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D.) as Zamperini; Merritt Patterson (The Royals) as his wife, Cynthia; and Will Graham, the grandson of Billy Graham, as the famous evangelist.

It was made in partnership between Universal 1440 Entertainment and two faith-based companies: PureFlix and The WTA Group.

The movie opens where the 2014 film ended. The war is over, and veterans like Zamperini are trying to get their lives back on track.

Unbroken: Path to Redemption is well done and inspirational. Will Graham calls it “one of the greatest stories of forgiveness outside of the Bible.” I agree.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)


Moderate. Zamperini has flashbacks to his days of being tortured and being hit, although none of the scenes are grotesque. He and Cynthia have an argument; he pushes her to the bed. He throws items off the dresser. 


Minimal. A beach scene includes a few women in 1940s-style swimsuits. We see men without their shirts. Louis and Cynthia kiss several times.  

Coarse Language


Other Positive Elements

Zamperini comes from a family of faith, and we hear them pray in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Cynthia – often an unsung hero — considers but later rejects divorce as an option.

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

Zamperini drinks alcohol and visits bars.

Life Lessons

Unbroken: Path to Redemption is full of biblical messages: forgiving those who have wronged you (Louis) and never giving up on someone who needs help (Cynthia pursuing Louis), among them. The perils of war and post-traumatic stress disorder also are major themes, along with the need to reach out to veterans and military families.     


The Apostle Paul’s testimony likely ranks at the top of the most dramatic conversion stories of all time. But if we are to take Will Graham’s advice and consider stories outside of Scripture, then I suspect Louis Zamperini’s life would rank pretty high. In the filthy Japanese prison, he was regularly beaten and tortured. One time, he was told to hold a beam over his head and if he dropped it, he would be shot. Another time, he was treated as a lab rat and given experimental medicines that caused severe pain. Covered with lice and mosquitoes, Zamperini was given just enough food to stay alive. He weighed less than 100 pounds when the war ended.

But because his sins were forgiven by Christ, he was compelled to forgive his captors – the very men he formerly hated and wanted to kill. It’s a powerful example of the Gospel.

Someone once said that “the glory of Christianity is to conquer by forgiveness.” That’s what Zamperini did. Eventually, he became a Christian evangelist.

Cynthia, too, is a hero in this story. Without her patience and her desire to forgive her husband, we likely never would have heard of Louis Zamperini.

What Works

Zamperini’s appearance in front of the Japanese is powerful. Also, Will Graham is stellar as his grandfather. The 1949 Crusade was a turning point in Billy Graham’s ministry, and filmmakers did a great job recreating it.

What Doesn’t     

Some of the flashback/nightmare scenes. A few of them work, but the others are odd.  

Discussion Questions

1. Do you think you could have done what Zamperini did?

2. Is there someone you need to forgive? What’s holding you back?

3. Why is forgiveness sometimes so hard? What do we lose by failing to forgive? What do we gain by forgiving?

4. Do you sense God is wanting you to be a “Cynthia” for someone?

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG-13 for thematic content and related disturbing images.

REVIEW: “God Bless the Broken Road” pays tribute to military families

Amber Hill is a depressed, single mom who has no time for church. Honestly, though, she doesn’t want to go, anyway.

Two years ago, she was a joy-filled Christian at her small church, where she played the guitar, led the choir, and spread smiles wherever she went. Her demeanor changed when her husband, a member of the U.S. military, was killed in Afghanistan. She hasn’t been the same person since.

Amber still has a Bible on her nightstand, but she doesn’t read it. She also doesn’t sing or smile, either. Instead, she goes through the motions of raising a young daughter while juggling her job at the local diner.

When her friends try and lift her spirits, she rejects them.  

“I tried putting my faith in God,” she tells them. “Look where it got me.”

And now she’s being threatened with eviction from her home – the very home where she built so many wonderful memories with her husband.

What will it take for Amber to rediscover her faith in God?

The faith-based God Bless the Broken Road (PG) opens in theaters this weekend, telling the story of a widow who is struggling to cope with life until she reaches rock bottom and finally accepts the help of others. Along the way, she also meets the new man in town – a race car driver – who provides a spark of joy to her and her daughter.

It stars Lindsay Pulsipher (Hatfields & McCoys, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) as Amber; Andrew W. Walker (Snowed-Inn Christmas) as her romantic interest, Cody; singer Jordin Sparks as her friend, Bridgette; Robin Givens (God’s Not Dead 2) as her friend, Karena; Madeline Carroll (I Can Only Imagine) as her daughter’s teacher; and former NFL star LaDainian Tomlinson as her pastor. It was directed by Harold Cronk, who also directed the first two God’s Not Dead films.

The movie serves as a tribute to veterans while combining elements popular among a conservative audience: faith, stock car racing (Cody is a NASCAR driver sent down to the minor leagues), and country music (the movie is based on the popular song by the same name).

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)


Minimal. We see a recreated battle scene. We see someone shot and killed. A car race ends with a crash.



Coarse Language


Other Positive Elements

The Gospel is at the core of the movie, from the opening scenes to the final moments when Amber – who had been avoiding details of her husband’s death – learns how he died in combat. We also see Amber’s pastor deliver a sermon on rescuing those who have strayed from the church.

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

A child runs away from home.

Life Lessons

God Bless the Broken Road provides positive messages on reaching out to people who are hurting, coping with tragedy, and honoring veterans.  


There are at least three faith-based movies about veterans releasing this fall, but God Bless the Broken Road is the only one that spotlights the death of a military member and its aftereffects. It can be difficult to watch. Amber’s daughter, Bree, wants her mom to bounce back to her cheerful self, but she finds it impossible to do. So she lays in bed each morning, staring at the ceiling.

Scripture is filled with passages commanding us to put the interests of others ahead of our own interests (Philippians 2:3, Matthew 20:26-27, John 15:12-14). The film reminds us to reach out to the brokenhearted. The film also does a nice job paying tribute to those who are willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice and put their life on the line each day in military service.

LaDainian Tomlinson, an NFL Hall of Famer who played college football at TCU and is outspoken about his faith, said he was thinking about members of his family who are in the military while playing the role. He wants the film to encourage military families. 

“I kept that in mind when I was doing this film — just how much of an impact it will have for my family members, my friends, that are in that same situation [as Amber]. Even if they don’t die and even if they do come back, they’re still away from their family for a long time,” he said. “And that’s a struggle for many wives and children to have their father or mother away, serving our country.”

What Works

The movie’s portrayal of Amber’s struggles seems authentic. The car race scenes, too, are well-done. The movie’s military message will be particularly touching for moviegoers with military ties.

What Doesn’t

Some of the spiritual dialogue falls flat and doesn’t seem genuine.  

Discussion Questions

1. How many people were responsible for rescuing Amber? What can that teach us about reaching others who are coping with tragedy?

2. What would you have told Amber? Would you have said what her friends told her?

3. Name some ways the church can help those who are struggling financially.

4. Name some ways the church can encourage military spouses and families.   

Entertainment rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.  

Rated PG for thematic elements and some combat action.

Try a little boredom

Aren’t we restless people? I think that restlessness has expanded with our ability to go and know and hold endless long-distance conversations. When we can do something, we want to do it and eventually feel like we must. That’s what I think when I see people sitting at a nice restaurant under romantic candlelight punching their phones. Some fuss about this latest technology and how it changes our brains, but I do think that is not a new thing. We long for something more.

On the surface this seems like the opposite of contentment. Paul’s famous statement in Philippians 4 sets a high standard for satisfaction apart from circumstances. Does that mean that Paul would have been equally happy with or without an iPhone X?

While I don’t rage against our current level of “connectedness,” I do think we’ve crossed a line of immediacy and unlimited access that’s revolutionary. What we’ve lost is down time, or boredom, if you prefer. Boredom was the bane of childhood by the middle of July each year. Parents were oppressed by whiny kids who didn’t like any of the choices available. There was “nothing to do.” The choices have exploded in number and scope but I still hear of children with nothing to do. We want more. At this stage of life I’m never bored. The mid-summer experience of childhood looks remarkably like peace from this view.

Let me recommend boredom to you. This is the time when you can hear the still, small voice in your head. It’s the time when you are convicted, encouraged and reminded by the Holy Spirit of those things you’ve learned during busier times. Quiet periods can be the times when you plan or think creatively about things you’ll need to do another time. With practice it can be a time when trivial things like viral videos no longer break in to your awareness. My boring time is often during a road trip, driving or even waiting for a plane. My co-workers experience this by receiving several annoying calls from me as I have ideas or just-remembered commitments to address. It’s productive and reflective. The urge to reach out to someone distant can be curbed until you actually have something to say. The need to be affirmed or amused by others can be set aside for increasing periods of time, with practice.

Unless you learn to do this I’m not sure how a person even prays or worships. I’ve seen folks come to worship with Bluetooth devices in their ears; others text sermon quotes or send photos of the music service. How do they stay where they are mentally if they never stop thinking of all those people “out there”? It’s an honest question because I know mature and godly people who do stuff like this. It doesn’t work for me.

The desire for more is not bad. Improvement is a byproduct of a specific dissatisfaction, as is innovation. These are God-given urges that reflect his image in us. We were made to improve broken creation. Men and women should not be comfortable with broken or unfinished things. But maybe the constant amusement available to us is like junk food that fills up our desire for something more without satisfying the appetite. It seems that way generally.

Here are some ideas from someone who neither affirms nor denies being an aspiring Luddite:

  • Unless you’re a Navy SEAL or on call for a heart transplant, consider leaving your phone in the car during church, or at least powered off.
  • Ban electronic friends from meal times, that is, if you are eating with someone in whom you have the slightest interest.
  • Try turning off the radio for an hour or so while driving. Just think about stuff, listen and pray (with your eyes open please). A bonus might be that you begin to notice all the ominous sounds your car makes to warn you of its impending demise.
  • Kill the beeper that announces new emails. It’s Pavlovian, I swear.
  • Read a book (one made of paper) written by someone who died before you were born.
  • Take a walk without ear buds.
  • Consider a tech-free night each week, especially if you have kids in the house.
  • Stop texting while you’re driving. OK, I know none of you do but somebody sure does.

There is no irony in the fact that this column is posted online and that you may be reading it on your phone. I have no essential beef with the newest tech, but I am concerned at the price we often pay for non-stop stimulation. If our marvelous inventions are worth using, they are worth using wisely, in moderation and to our spiritual benefit. 

Reach Texas: Your State Mission Offering

Most people would agree we don’t get four seasons in Texas. However, I think we have three—hot summer, January and February. Or you might say the four are Football, Football, Football and Football. Whatever your interests, September says it is fall. 

Each fall the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention observes a week of prayer and offering to “Reach Texas.” This special state offering supplements the Cooperative Program. The CP provides the lion’s share of what we do together in Texas and beyond. Sending 55 percent of Cooperative Program dollars to the Southern Baptist Convention is a wise investment of mission dollars. The International Mission Board depends upon the CP to fund the 3,500 missionaries who share the gospel in some of the hardest places on earth. 

On our continent, the North American Mission Board seeks to plant churches in the North and West, especially in under-evangelized cities. Our six seminaries provide financially subsidized biblical training to 15,000 students through the CP. Although a small portion is provided to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptists have a voice for life and freedom in the public square because of the CP. The SBC Executive Committee operates a lean ministry to carry out the wishes of the messengers between annual meetings. Yes, the Cooperative Program allows churches to extend beyond our state and around the world.

The 45 percent invested in Texas is accomplishing kingdom work. On any Sunday, around 100 funded church planters are preaching the gospel in various languages amid growing suburbs and changing neighborhoods. The largest line item in the SBTC budget is new church plants. CP helps churches who seek revitalization also. In all, more than 100 church ministries are resourced through the Cooperative Program. Pastor and staff assistance is available because churches care by giving through the CP. With all of this said, why have a Reach Texas Offering?

Reach Texas dollars enable us to underwrite the costs of missions and evangelism that exceed the CP budget. Listen to some testimonies.

Shane Pruitt, SBTC director of evangelism, states that this summer was the greatest camp year ever. He shares a testimony of how a student named Saul Williams attended M3 Camp at Glorieta with a group from Rock Hill Baptist Church in Brownsboro, and how Saul was saved during one of the night services. Saul is a star football player at the school and a natural leader. During a time right after worship when churches gather to reflect on the service and share testimonies, he shared his testimony of salvation with the other students in his group. He told them how he surrendered his life to Jesus that night. He told them it was time for them to stop running from God and surrender all to Jesus. Six more students made professions of faith right then. 

Generous people giving through the Reach Texas Offering helped make the camp possible, investing in these souls and in future leaders. 

After all of the camps were completed, more churches sent in their camp decision cards. Current numbers are all-time highs for M3 Camps: Total decisions: 603; Salvations: 178; Calls to ministry: 96; Total attendance (all three weeks combined): 2,865.

Another praise enabled by the Reach Texas Offering is the SBTC local church-based collegiate missionaries. Through the efforts of your missionaries, 105 college students were baptized last school year. This is astounding! Another school year is here. Collegiate missionaries are ready to go because of the RTO. 

Doug Hixson, SBTC missions and church planting director, shares this testimony about Grace Church in Waco. Grace affiliated just a few years ago. They are very passionate about planting churches. Recently, the senior pastor told a church planter who was leaving to replant Grace Church in Hewett that he could take as many people as he wanted. His direct quote was, “Even if you take them all, we will start over if that is what it takes to reach Hewett with the gospel.” Grace Church Waco is sending 75 people to replant this new church. This church plant along with others is partially funded through the Reach Texas Offering.

“Proclaiming the Name of Jesus!” is the theme for the Reach Texas Week of Prayer and Offering. Actually, that is the only theme we should ever have as a community of believers in Jesus. Every church must decide how they are going to divide their resources. Local ministry is essential. To carry out the command of Jesus, a church must be about disciple-making locally and globally. One of the best ways to do that is with other churches through the Cooperative Program. For Texas, giving through the Reach Texas Offering, you provide needed extra funds for disaster relief, revitalization and many other areas of missions.

Pray for me, for your SBTC staff, church planters, revitalization pastors, collegiate missionaries and others during the Reach Texas Week of Prayer. Prayerfully give so that together we can see the 18 million Texans who do not know Jesus hear of God’s amazing grace.  

Loving people in the workplace

Eight hours of your day are spent with the same people day in and day out at your workplace. Are you leveraging your time at work for the sake of the kingdom? Many Christians desire to share Jesus with people around them but just don’t know how. It’s much easier than we think to be a witness for Christ at work. It starts with knowing people. 

As you look around your office this week, how many of your coworkers do you really know? Here are a few ways you can be intentional in knowing and loving those around you.

  • Know the simple things. Do you know their spouse and kids’ names? When is their birthday? What’s their favorite snack? 
  • Know the deep things. What’s their story? What are they most passionate about? What makes them most afraid in life?
  • Know the spiritual things. What do they think about the church? Who do they say Jesus is? Do they have a Bible?
  • Know the personal things. What do they do on their weekends? What makes them tick inside? What are they hurting over right now? 
  • Know the random things. What’s their favorite sports team? What kind of music do they like? Are they an introvert or an extrovert?

Many of these things you can’t learn just by listening to their phone calls. Take a coworker to lunch and get to know them for real. You see, when we know people—really know them—we will see the opportunities to minister to them that we would have missed otherwise. Is a holiday coming up? Does their family live out of state? Invite them to celebrate Thanksgiving with your family! Do they love baseball? Do you have a team in your area? Buy them tickets to go to a game with you. 

Find ways to connect with your coworkers everyday in the office to build a relationship, then look for opportunities to take that relationship outside of office hours. Then, when you’re at the Thanksgiving table or sitting at a baseball field, share Jesus with them! 

Your workplace is a mission field to which you have been assigned and Ephesians 5:16 tells us to “make the most of every opportunity.” Will you be intentional to befriend those God has already put in your path and talk to them about the hope found in Jesus this month?   

Autumn Wall is an author, speaker, worship leader, pastor’s wife and mom of three in Indianapolis. She is the co-author of Across the Street and Around the World.

SBTC annual meeting provides fellowship opportunities Nov. 12-13

HOUSTON–As the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention holds its annual meeting, Nov. 12-13 at Second Baptist Church North Campus in Kingwood, conducting business isn’t the only item on the agenda. Messengers will also have opportunities to fellowship and network while sharing meals at multiple events.

Pastors age 40 and under and their wives are invited to the NextGen Roundtable & Reception on Monday, Nov. 12.  From 3:15 p.m. to 4:50 p.m. Roundtable Talks & NextGen Wives Worship will take place in Building B, Second Floor, followed by a reception and panel discussion from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. in Building B, room 212, with speakers Terry Turner, Matt Boswell, and Gregg Matte. The NextGen events are free with registration available online.

The Church Revitalization Dinner will be held from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 12, in the Family Life Center. Hosted by Kenneth Priest of SBTC and Mark Clifton of the North American Mission Board, the dinner will cover “Revitalize and Replant.”  The SBTC Revitalization Team will be available immediately following the dinner for questions. Cost is $10.

All pastors, church leaders, and church members of SBTC churches and guests are invited to the SBTC 20th Anniversary Reception on Monday, Nov. 12, at 9 p.m. in the Family Life Center to celebrate 20 years of mission and ministry through Southern Baptists in Texas.

On  Tuesday, Nov. 13, the free President’s Luncheon will be held from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. with breakout sessions at various locations. Attendees will be able to select two 40-minute breakout sessions on relevant topics.

The Missions Dinner, featuring a panel discussion on “Texas Churches Planting Texas Churches” will convene on Tuesday, Nov. 13, from4:45 to 5:45 p.m.  The panel members include current SBC President J.D. Greear of Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C ; Terry Turner of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church; Nathan Lino of Northeast Houston Baptist Church in Humble; and Aaron Scarbrough of Graceview Church in Burleson. The panel will be moderated by Doug Hixson. Cost is $10.

To register for all meals, visit

SWBTS search solicits advice

FORT WORTH—The search committee named to recommend the next president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will hold their first official meeting Sept. 10-11 with prayer being the main focus, according to chairman Danny Roberts.

“On behalf of the entire presidential search team of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, we ask you to partner with us in prayer,” Roberts shared on Aug. 31, suggesting language that might be offered, quoting from Matthew 28:19:

“Mighty Father, lead us to the man You have chosen for Your great school. Give us wisdom and clarity to recognize Your will and follow it in the process. We ask that, as a result of this calling, You will use this man to train and encourage many men and women to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Roberts reminded that the email address of will serve as a means of communication with the search committee for suggestions, nominations or resumes. “It is suggested that you do so by Oct. 1, 2018. All that we receive by this date will become part of this initial process,” Roberts added.

The nine-member presidential search committee announced Aug. 23 by trustee chairman Kevin Ueckert includes three Texans, including Roberts of North Richland Hills, Jamie Green of Katy and Philip Levant of Hurst.