Editor’s note: Please be aware that AFA Journal reviews are not endorsements. A few reviews this month carry serious cautions, but they deal realistically with issues on which it is critical that the body of Christ be informed.
May 2021 – Trafficked: A Parent’s Worst Nightmare
Allison (Sophie Bolen) is turning 16, and her mother (Kristy Swanson) wants to celebrate with a lavish birthday party. Yet plans quickly change when Allison meets her new online “boyfriend” who sells her to a sex trafficker. When police do not work fast enough, Allison’s parents hire a private investigator, John Belton (Dean Cain), to find their missing daughter.
Based on a compilation of real-life stories, Trafficked: A Parent’s Worst Nightmare is a cause-driven drama that will open viewers’ eyes to the vile business of human trafficking in America. There are some faith-based elements in the movie, but its overarching goal is to draw attention to a dangerous crime while urging viewers to do something about it. At traffickedfilm.com, free resources are available for churches and parents. Be aware that other films are also titled Trafficked.
Extreme Caution: Rated PG-13, Trafficked contains multiple uses of profanity, God’s name in vain, and derogatory slang. Under-age girls and women are sexualized and sometimes wear very immodest clothing. The film also includes violence, implied rape of a minor, suggestive sexual content, and drug and alcohol usage.
Intense and sobering, Trafficked is not a family-friendly movie, and AFA does not endorse the objectionable content in this film. However, AFA believes the film sheds a much-needed light on the grim reality of sex trafficking. It showcases how girls are lured in, how parents can be naive to trafficking, how families are affected, and the role social media and online activity play in this $30 billion a year business according to the film.
Centered: Trading Your Plans for a Life That Matters
As the highest paid center in the National Football League, it looked like Jason Brown had it all. But things were crumbling around him as the pressure of a long-distance marriage began to take its toll.
In his newly released autobiography, Brown tells the story of walking away at the height of his multimillion-dollar football career to answer a distinct call from God – to become a farmer. Believing that he had put away enough money to safely follow a dream that seemed eccentric at best, Brown quickly found himself totally dependent on God for both resources and direction.
Laced with Scripture and poignant self-revelation, Brown’s story strikes the heart of anyone who is looking for a life centered on faith, family, and meaningful service to others. But Centered is not a story for the faint of heart. Brown and his wife surrendered all in pursuit of living a life that matters. It was a challenging journey.
But in the end, the seeds the Browns sowed on their thousand acre North Carolina farm reaped an unbelievable harvest in their marriage, their family, and their community – through their donations of fresh produce to feed hungry kids and their families.
Centered: Trading Your Plans for a Life That Matters may be purchased through online and retail booksellers.
At Lighthouse Point
At Lighthouse Point (Three Sisters’ Island, Book 3) by Suzanne Woods Fisher is a delightful continuation of the story of Camden, Madison, and Blaine Grayson. Even though At Lighthouse Point is a stand-alone novel, readers will be welcomed back to the familiar world of coastal Maine to learn one more lesson on faith, family, and friendship from the Grayson sisters.
In this book, Blaine comes home to pursue her dream and help her family at the same time. Very quickly, though, Blaine’s plans to open a prestigious restaurant within her family’s lodge fall apart. But if she and her sisters can let go of their own dreams, they just might discover that God’s plans are better than anything they could have imagined.
At Lighthouse Point is available in early May at online and retail booksellers.
Empires of Armageddon Trilogy
In this imaginative work of fiction told across three books (Ishmael Covenant, Persian Betrayal, and Ottoman Dominion), author Terry Brennan weaves a complex and action-packed tale of end-time prophecy, political corruption, and intense battles in both the physical and spiritual realm.
DSS agent Brian Mullaney promised his wife and daughters that they would settle down in Washington, D.C. But when a terrorist strike occurs under his watch, he is transferred to the Middle East, a move that puts his faith and his marriage in jeopardy. After being assigned to protect the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, a strong Christian man named Joseph Cleveland, Mullaney is encouraged by this wise man of God to trust in God’s protection and sovereignty over his life.
That trust is needed when both Mullaney and Cleveland find themselves caught in the middle of a conflict that centers around an ancient prophecy about the end times. A prophecy held inside a mysterious metal box is said to be lethal to any who touch it.
As Mullaney and Cleveland fight to preserve history in the Middle East, their foe, an ally of demonic powers called “the Turk,” is countered by the angels of heaven. The gospel and the sovereignty of God are shown to be ultimately triumphant, and the saving power of Jesus Christ shines strong in the face of evil. This fantastic story will be enjoyed by fans of Joel C. Rosenberg and Frank Peretti.
Cautions: While Brennan weaves a powerful Christian message throughout his books, some scenes describe extremely violent confrontations with terrorists, descriptions of demonic powers, and a bit of politically correct dialogue.
Church People is an uncomfortable but surprisingly realistic, fictional look at the church and its quest for popularity. Abandoning the gospel for gimmicks, senior pastor of Sand Hills Neighborhood Church is determined to do whatever it takes to attract large crowds – even planning the crucifixion of a real person during the Good Friday service.
Guy, played by Christian comedian Thor Ramsey, is the youth minister of this marketing-crazed mega church. Guy cuts his speaking tour short after realizing that his ministry has become more about his own fame rather than making the gospel known. This realization thrusts Guy into an all-out mission to put an end to the pastor’s worldly shenanigans and prove that the gospel alone is enough.
Church People weaves other weighty topics into the storyline including humanism, lust, romance, a broken engagement, adoption, an estranged parental relationship, and unwed pregnancy. The film takes a very light-hearted, sometimes over-the-top, satirical approach to all these issues that are very real in the church today. NSYNC’s Joey Fatone provides comic relief as the church’s worship leader while Stephen Baldwin’s character as a church volunteer brings a more serious – strangely angelic – balance to the film. In the end, the film takes a serious tone with its redeeming message about putting one’s hope in Christ and not in self.
Church People is rated PG but does merit some caution due to the inclusion of a few off-color comments that may make viewers uncomfortable, especially in the context of the church.
The film is now available to purchase for streaming at watch.salemnow.com.
The 10 Best Decisions a Single Mom Can Make
Being a single mom is messy. Often, good, solid, biblical advice on this topic is hard to find. In The 10 Best Decisions a Single Mom Can Make, Pam Farrel and PeggySue Wells tackle this much-needed subject with grace and offer practical, biblical advice to women facing the challenge of single motherhood. After single motherhood affected Farrel and Wells differently, they wanted to use their experiences to encourage other women. This guide can help mothers better understand how to navigate their newfound lives with biblical truths and hope for the future.
The 10 Best Decisions a Single Mom Can Make includes testimonies from single moms, ways to keep families rooted in the Word, and how important it is especially for single moms to stay in the Word.
Each chapter concludes with a “Peaceful Moment” section encouraging mothers to take time to apply what they have learned. Available at online retailers.
A Stained Beauty: The Church Ancient and Present
This extraordinary volume surpasses any other I have read or heard about that tackles the subject – gleaning lessons left by the early church to feed contemporary renewal. Regarding his title, author John Stumbo, president of the U.S. Christian and Missionary Alliance, admits that “stained glass saints” didn’t appear in early church windows.
However, the ornate glass masterpieces are a common symbol of the church today. And Stumbo’s apt double entendre in his use of the word stained is an arresting metaphor. He plainly illustrates how, from Acts forward, the church has wrestled with sin and salvation, beauty and brokenness, glory and shame.
The writing style is engaging and extremely lay friendly. Countless Scripture and content-heavy footnotes add value to the book. He traces nine churches (or groups of churches) from Jerusalem to the seven churches in Revelation.
It isn’t always a comfortable read. For example, he poses this probing question for today’s church: “If intense persecution comes, will we … see opposition as an opportunity to more boldly live out our faith?”
Still, it informs, engages, and encourages. And yes, it challenges, which we all need. Available at thealliancestore.com or 800.247.4784.
Feathers (a cancer diary)
Author Susan Evans’ Feathers: Through the Fire With God was published posthumously last year by her husband Jack. His hope is that her faith and her journey with cancer – in life and in death – will point others to hope and courage rooted in God’s Word.
A unique and gripping element of this brave lady’s journey is that Jack Evans compiled countless photocopies of her journal pages, sticky notes, family-and-friend photos, and Scriptures she relied on during her illness.
That homey, personal design format gives the book a magnetic appeal for cancer patients and families of cancer victims.
The latter part of Feathers is composed primarily of a chronological series of entries from Susan Evans’ emails with family and friends.
The title was inspired by Psalm 91:4 – “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” Available at online booksellers.