Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Grace Card Movie: Review

"A Missed Opportunity."

That was the words my good friend told me as we walked out of the theater after watching the recently released movie, "The Grace Card".

Before I give you my impression of this film I am under no illusion that everyone will like what I have to say. To this day, my review of Fireproof has received more comments than any other post.

My review of this film will only focus on one aspect. I will leave all of the rest up to others but I want to focus on the spirituality of the movie.

Why do this? For several months up to the release of the movie, many ministries and churches said this was a "must see" movie. As the opening weekend approached, I received dozens of e-mails from various sources promoting the movie. I will tell you that I was excited about it. As the Director of a ministry to law enforcement, there was great hope for this film which revolves around two officers in the Memphis Police Department. I opted not to promote the movie until I saw it and I sincerely hoped that I could promote this movie as a wonderful Christian movie.

Sadly, I cannot do that.

I have become cynical through the years when it comes to movies that are promoted as "Christian." While almost all of these movies promote a moral theme and are generally considered good family movies, I almost never see one that presents the Gospel. One exception was the movie Fireproof. In fact, you can see the gospel presented in this movie on the right side of this blog.

Before I begin to speak about The Grace Card, let me first say that I do appreciate everyone that had something to do with this movie. Considered a low budget film ($500,000 to make) and using volunteers from The Calvary Church of the Nazarene in Cordova, Tennessee, this movie was very good. You never get the feeling it was low budget and the plot was interesting and unique. I do recommend that you go see this movie and if your children can handle the adult themes that revolve around police work (police pursuits, shootings, drug deals), I would recommend it for them as well. If you are debating this movie for your kids, it will help to read the review from Focus on the Family first.

With that said, this movie is not a Christian movie. It is a moralistic movie; It is a movie with a very positive theme but it is definitely not a Christian movie.

The Grace Card is touted as a Christian film and is described as intending "to illustrate the everyday opportunities that people have have to rebuild relationships and heal deep wounds by extending and receiving God’s grace."

I would agree that this movie met that description but God's Grace was never explained. In fact, "Jesus" was said in a couple of prayers but you will not get an explanation of who Jesus was from this movie. You are never told that Jesus was God, that He lived a perfect life, that He was crucified on a cross or that He rose from the dead.

I was insulted at one point in the movie when a family prayer to Jesus turned into something that "Ricky Bobby" would say in Talladega Nights. I was pleased to see a more serious prayer to my Lord Jesus Christ by the wife right before she was going to bed but the first prayer was bothersome. I'm sure the "heavy" theme of the movie called for humor at that point, I just wish they wouldn't have done it at the sake of what is a very honored and humbled activity.

"Mac" is the main character and he is a 15 year veteran of the Memphis Police Department. His son was killed 17 years earlier and to say he has problems is an understatement. His wife describes him as "angry" and we get many glimpses of not only that but undertones of racism. Mac is partnered up with a full time officer and part time preacher, soon to be Sergeant Sam Wright.

As I said earlier, the plot is good and as a veteran of a large municipal agency, I enjoyed the police scenes and found much of it to be realistic including the "angry" officer's attitude and problems. The issues discussed in this movie are real and I have no doubt this movie can help others.

One person told me today that this movie will open a door for he and his son to discuss matters of salvation and I agree with that. This movie can open a door but this movie does not present the Gospel or anything about sin and judgment or who Christ is or what Christ can do for sinners. It fails miserably in this area and that is unfortunate.

This movie had scenes of preaching and of one to one discussions and there was plenty of opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. The theme was forgiveness but that theme is not solely owned by Christianity. Many religions discuss this and quite frankly you had to pay close attention to know that Christ was the God being dicussed. If it wasn't for two prayers said in Jesus' name, you simply would not have known that the made up God of any other religion wasn't being used. We simply never get to the character of God in this movie.

At Mac's lowest, his partner tells him that he has "two options.....Curse God and die or quit fighting him."

Mac asks "why would He (God) let two little boys die" as he breaks down crying and his partner said he didn't know. That answer is honest and I appreciate it because many things God does are hidden from us but this was the climax of the movie and I expected something more.

This was the opportunity for the preacher, Christian, Sergeant and partner to share the good news. After all the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). It is rare that God presents these moments in life. A man completely broken and lost. What an opportunity but as my friend said....An opportunity lost.

Instead, Mac says "I'm so sorry God" and his partner simply says "You are forgiven because you asked for it." Of course there is no biblical basis for this. A sinner can ask forgiveness all day long but if they do not "repent and believe" (Mark 1:15) it does no good. They are both then shown going to the alter and praying a prayer that we cannot hear.

It is assumed that Mac is now a converted Christian. His life improves. His son is healed from what was earlier thought to be a gun shot that was going to kill him and the movie ends in church with Mac and his wife on the front row. Happiness is all over their face and Sam is once again preaching but Christ and the Gospel are not proclaimed.

Now we know that while salvation does bring peace we also know that it can bring chaos and trouble. After all, Jesus said that if the world hates you know that he was hated first (John 15:18). Of course there is nothing wrong with showing a "happy" Christian but that is not always the situation.

This review will not be popular among many Christians but I do pray that we ask ourselves a few questions.

Why do we grab on to movies, etc. that serve as good moral lessons but the Gospel is left out?

Why do churches spend thousands of dollars on a movie (or many other things) that would not present the complete Gospel message? A message that God uses to save souls.

First, I do not think that the church involved in this movie meant to do harm and I have no doubt they love Christ and want the best for those seeing The Grace Card. It is difficult for me to understand why so much effort and energy would go into a project and the Gospel is left out? Is that not why we do outreach? Maybe the movie was never made to tell others the Gospel and then I can understand it but I have to only assume that it was since it is labeled a "Christian" film and many ministries are promoting it as such.

Some reading this may say that the movie did have the Gospel in it and to that I would ask you to read the Book of Acts or anywhere else in the Bible. Do you ever see the Gospel being presented as "I'm sorry God" and now you are saved? Trust me, before God saved me I was sorry to Him plenty of times but that in no way meant I was saved.

The most evangelistic part of the entire movie was the closing scene. The movie ends with a dark screen and these words placed on the screen: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;"

That is absolutely true and I so appreciate the film makers placing it at the end of the film. It was simply my hope that during the film that unbelievers would have been told who Jesus was, what He did, why we need Him (sin) and what our response must be to be saved (repent and believe).

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2010 Book of the Year: The Kingdom Leadership Institute Manual

Each year our ministry chooses a book that has had the most impact on us. Previous winners have included "Family Driven Faith" by Voddie Baucham and "Adopted For Life" by Russell Moore.

This years selection is a lesser known title but that does not diminish its importance. The Kingdom Leadership Institute Manual, by Rev. Rusty Lee Thomas, is a powerful, Gospel Centered book.

Here is how William J. Federer described it:

"Life is not a playground. It is a war zonea clash of worldviews competing for the souls of men and the destiny of nations. Fundamentally, the crisis of our time is one of leadership. The KLI Manual: Raising Up Leaders a Time Like This Demands is a spiritual field manual designed to train Christian leaders who will not shrink back in the day of battle. Are you concerned for this generation, adrift on a sea of turmoil with no purpose, vision, or sense of destiny? Do you yearn for God to replace their apathy, lethargy, and indifference with courage, vision, and a clarion call to vital service for King Jesus? The KLI Manual: Raising Up Leaders a Time Like This Demands will give you hope for a godly future. 'Rusty Thomas's passionate voice cries in the wilderness of America. His message carries a clarion call that challenges our young to advance the Christian faith and the liberty it secures for our nation."

We interviewed Rev. Thomas last week. You can listen to that passionate interview here.

We also want to give a copy of our 2010 Book of the Year away. Please make a comment on this post. We will select someone to send the book to on February 22, 2011.

You can always order the book and help support Rev. Thomas here.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Tactical Vest Giveaway

We recently outfitted the North Alabama Emergency Response Team with tactical vests. For additional information you can visit

Racine Police Participate in AOG Project

By now, you are likely familiar with one of our outreach projects, The Armor of God Project. As of February 3, 2011, this project has given away 1733 ballistic vests for free to law enforcement.

Our ministry and specifically those involved generally receive very positive feedback for the work involved but I want to take this time to be very clear about who gets the credit & glory.

Several individuals including one church (Calvary Baptist Church) donates each month to help us run this project which is almost all costs associated with the shipping of donations of vests and to the shipping of vests to individuals. It is through the generosity of them and the departments that give us vests that the credit should go to.

Those departments range from very small to large and this week we received one of our nicest donations from the Racine (Wisconsin) Police Department.

As you can see, the vests we received from Racine are still in their original boxes and most of them were new or like new. It was an incredible gesture by an agency that wants to help others.

It takes more than the agency and the financial donors. It takes someone in the agency that sees the need and has the passion to make it happen. For Racine P.D., it was Lt. Kurt Maurer who communicated with me several times and did an excellent job of preparing the vests for shipment. Two weeks ago, Officer Amy Taft, from Elmira P.D. (New York) not only sent us over 80 vests but also raised the money to ship them to us. It is just simply incredible to be a part of.

Now for the glory part. All of the glory goes to Jesus Christ. He and He alone is responsible for this project continuing and all of the glory goes to Him. Thank you Lord, for letting our small ministry to be a part of something so special.