“Born in China” – Stunning cinematography but…

Born in China
Directed by Lu Chuan
Disneynature, 2017, 76 minutes

A few weeks ago, my wife and I saw the very good film, “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” and one of the accompanying previews was for “Born in China,” which looked very good. When we mentioned the movie to our five-year-old granddaughter, she knew all about it and wanted to see it, too. So Friday evening, the five of us (my wife, our oldest son, our 18YO and 5YO granddaughters, and myself) packed into my wife’s Jetta like sardines and went to see “Born in China.”

This nature documentary follows a year in the the lives of a panda bear and her cub, a snow leopard and her two cubs, a golden snub-nosed monkey, and a herd of “chiru” antelope in the backwoods of China. The scenery and photography are breathtaking – what a Creator we have! – and the stories are fascinating. However, the struggles between predator and prey are way too graphic for young children. The MPAA association goofed by awarding this film a G-rating. It’s definitely too violent for a 5-year-old.

Something else bothered me about this movie. A couple of times the narrator interjects an Eastern philosophy, “cycle of life” monologue explaining how some Chinese believe the spirits of dead animals are carried up and away by red-crowned cranes to eventually become new animals. Wow! So Disney is now introducing its young audiences to reincarnation? Lovely. There’s also a mention of Eastern religion’s concept of the ying and yang. These references to Eastern religion are going to fly over the heads of most young children but they are causes for concern, along with the sometimes very graphic displays of animal survival. For older kids, the reincarnation references could be used as an excellent “teaching moment” opportunity after the movie.

After the show we stopped in at a nearby Chipotle for burritos all around (no scolding comments please, I ate only HALF of mine). It was my first visit to Chipotles and I liked it very much. No qualifiers on the food!

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Weekend Roundup – News & Views – 4/29/17

Benny Hinn is the poster child for the shyster, false prosperity gospel. Who actually gives money to these people (Hinn, Osteen, Meyer, Copeland, Dollar, etc.)? Don’t the people who follow and support these crooks have ANY discernment?

I differ with Jeffress on several things including his constant push to involve the church in politics and patriotic nationalism, but he’s absolutely right about Jimmy Carter’s universalism heresy. Too bad Jeffress went soft on Catholicism (see here), a MUCH MORE dangerous influence than Jimmy Carter.

It’s very odd that several of assassin John Wilkes Booth’s co-conspirators were Roman Catholics, especially in that era. Some have claimed Jesuit involvement but no conclusive historical evidence has ever been found. To make such claims without historical proof is irresponsible. There’s already enough unimpeachable evidence to indict Roman Catholicism as an apostate church without resorting to conspiracy theories.

Roman Catholics like to present themselves as champions of religious freedom here in the United States, but in all other countries in which Catholics were in the majority and in league with the civil governments, the religious freedoms of non-Catholics were suppressed (to put it mildly), even into the 20th-century.

Catholic traditionalists continue to fight pope Francis’ assault on “infallible” doctrine. Yes, cardinal Muller, Francis did change the “infallible” doctrine of no communion for remarrieds albeit in a very devious and underhanded kind of way.

Catholicism quibbles over mountains of minutia such as which knee is the correct one to genuflect with before the “blessed sacrament,” but doesn’t teach its people to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone.

It takes a year’s worth of indoctrination in the complicated ins and outs of the legalistic Catholic system before an adult can be baptized but the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone is so simple even a child can understand it.

Francis is attempting to stack the deck before he bows out. He’s trying to change Catholicism to stanch the exodus referred to in the article below AND to solidify Rome’s leadership of worldwide ecumenism.

Catholic parishes are merging and closing all over the U.S. Over 1000 Catholic churches have closed in the U.S. since 1995 and the number grows monthly.

Catholics kiss all of these physical objects as acts of religious piety. In Catholicism, the focus is on the material rather than the spiritual and many of these practices were borrowed from paganism. We must accept Jesus Christ as our Savior by faith alone. All of these rituals and pious religious practices to try to gain favor with God and Mary are dust in the wind.

The Conversion Center: Still Reaching Out to Catholics after 65 years

After my wife and I accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior in 1983, we began attending an independent fundamental Baptist church in the area. The church’s information table was stocked with tracts and the latest issues of “Our Daily Bread” and “The Sword of the Lord,” a newspaper geared toward independent fundamental Baptists. Inside “The Sword of the Lord” were advertisements from Christian outreaches to Roman Catholics including The Conversion Center (Donald Maconaghie), Mission to Catholics (Bart Brewer), and Christians Evangelizing Catholics (Bill Jackson). Coming from a Catholic background, I was thrilled to see there were ministries devoted to reaching Catholics for Christ. I immediately wrote to all three ministries requesting their catalogs of available books and pamphlets and to be added to their mailing lists. This was obviously before the internet era. All the materials I received were a blessing to me at the time.

I eventually soured on what I was hearing from the pulpit of our IFB church, which sadly resulted in my walking away from the Lord for many years. In the interim, Bart Brewer of Mission to Catholics went home to be with the Lord in 2005 at the age of 80 although his website is strangely still available with a note saying it was last updated in 2006 (see here). I’m not sure of the status of Bill Jackson although a note posted in 2007 on the Apprising Ministries website states Bill suffered a second heart attack. There’s no trace of Jackson on the internet after that and the website for Christians Evangelizing Catholics is no longer operational. The Conversion Center continued to faithfully send me quarterly newsletters during my very long prodigal “season,” much to my discomfort (praise God!), and the ministry continues to this day.

The Conversion Center was founded in 1952 by Alex O. Dunlap, and was led many years by Donald F. Maconaghie (d. 2001). The current director is Mark Reno. The Conversion Center reflects hardcore independent fundamental Baptist beliefs and previously offered books from Chick Publications via its on-line store. The organization also upholds KJV 1611-Onlyism like many other IFB churches and groups. The Conversion Center has recently updated its website (see here), which includes on-line copies of its quarterly newsletter (see photo). Gone is the long list of book and pamphlet offerings but there is a very large assortment of tracts written for Catholics. I don’t agree with The Conversion Center’s endorsement of Chick publications and its view on KJV 1611-Onlyism, but I certainly do support their outreach to Roman Catholics with the Gospel of grace.

In addition to The Conversion Center, there are several other ministries that reach out to Roman Catholics with the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. See my Links page here.

Are Catholics “born again”?

It seems to me the term, “born again,” isn’t as popular in Christian circles as it was, say, thirty or forty years ago. Christians these days will say, “I’m an evangelical” rather than “I’m a born-again Christian.” Back when I was a Catholic teenager and young adult, Catholic friends, family, and myself were bemused by all the people claiming to be “born again.” “That’s so ridiculous,” we said. “Is a person supposed to crawl back into their mother?,” we mocked, not realizing we were repeating Nicodemus’ question in John 3:4. As Catholics, we had very little Bible knowledge because our church never encouraged us to read Scripture.

Several years later, through God’s Word and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, I came to the knowledge that I was a sinner on my way to hell and I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith alone. At that wonderful and blessed moment, I was born again! My Savior’s perfect righteousness was imputed to me, I had no righteousness of my own. I have eternal life and fellowship with God through my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. All genuine Christians understand a person is born again, spiritually reborn, at the moment they accept Christ.

However, Catholics have an entirely different concept of what it means to be “born again.”

On the Catholic talk radio show I listen to, you’ll periodically hear the following question and answer:

Caller: Father, I was talking to my Protestant friend the other day and he asked me if I was “born again.” What should I tell him?

Priest: [with indignant anger] You tell him you were born again when you were baptized!!!

The Catholic church teaches that baptism (which occurs at infancy for the vast majority of Catholics) washes away all sin and then by subsequently participating in the church’s sacraments (eucharist, confession, confirmation, last rites), a Catholic allegedly receives graces which allegedly give them the ability to avoid sin so that they can hopefully be in a “state of grace” (without serious sin) immediately prior to death so as to merit Heaven. For Catholics, salvation is a process, which involves a lifelong effort to “cooperate with grace” and obey the Ten Commandments and church rules. But a Catholic can never have assurance of salvation because they don’t really know if they’ve done enough to be in a “state of grace” from one day to the next. Bible Christians know we could never be in a Vatican-defined “state of grace.” The only person who ever walked this Earth who was without sin, “serious” or otherwise, for even one hour was Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God.

The Catholic definition of being born again (i.e., baptism followed by a lifelong process of ritual and works) is antithetical to the Biblical teaching of accepting Jesus as Savior by faith alone in a moment of time (and then following Him as Lord).

I’m sure there are some Catholics who become so discouraged by trying to obey their church’s religious laundry list that they finally just collapse at the feet of Jesus and beg for His forgiveness and salvation. They’ve been saved in spite of their church, not because of it. No Catholic will find salvation by adhering to their church’s standard faith-works theology.

Of course, sitting in an evangelical church pew doesn’t make anyone a Christian, either. Everyone must individually accept Christ as Savior by faith alone.


Question: “I am a Catholic. Why should I consider becoming a Christian?”
https://www.gotquestions.org/Catholic-Christian.html

Denying reality

Way back when I was eighteen-years-old, I weighed 160 lbs., which was pretty skinny for someone who is 5’11” tall. Over the years I started to gradually pack on the pounds. Can anyone else relate? The waistline slowly expanded from 30” to 32” to 34” to 36.” By 2000 I weighed 190 lbs. A few years later, I crossed the 200 lb. hurdle and my doctor announced to me that I was officially obese. OBESE?!?!?! How dare he put me in that category! NO WAY was I obese, I was just slightly overweight. I’ve continued to eat (too) well and my weight went up to 215 lbs. and even my size 38” pants were starting to feel tight. I reluctantly visited my doctor two weeks ago for my yearly physical and he was like, “Dude, do you want to have a retirement or not?” Okay. Yup. I get it. I need to eat (much) healthier, lose some pounds (about thirty-five), and exercise (what’s that?)

Not to get too personal, but all these years I’ve been observing myself in the full-length bathroom mirror after a shower and squinting my eyes and thinking, “Yeah, a little chunky but certainly not OBESE.” Well, the mirror doesn’t lie even though I tried my best to ignore or mask what it was telling me. I think I was holding in my stomach during most of my encounters with mister mirror. When it comes to our faults, we often lack objectivity (e.g., Trump obviously thinks his crazy comb-over looks great). My doctor could easily see that I was obese, but I couldn’t. So my first step in getting healthy was accepting exactly where I’m at physically. When I look in the mirror now, I see exactly what it’s telling me. Ouch! And I’m also using a weight scale again. I frankly didn’t want to see what it had to show previously and avoided it like the plague.

Okay, so now I’m trying to do things right. But this coming to grips with my true physical reality reminds me of how I often misperceive my spiritual reality as well. God’s Word is a mirror that reveals the state of my walk with the Lord. I think a lot of the time I squint and squirm and try to fool myself that I’m walking closer with the Lord than I actually am. The Holy Spirit will use God’s Word to let us know what to work on, but we need to stop the posturing, admit to the Lord and ourselves where we’re at, and get on with it with joy in our hearts. No, this isn’t a guilt trip. The Lord wants us spiritually healthy and the best way to do that is by following Him.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24

If you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone you’re probably thinking you’re doing a pretty good job of obeying your way into Heaven. But the reality is no one can obey the Law, even for a single day. The only Person who perfectly obeyed the Law was Jesus Christ. He died for your sins and rose from the grave beating sin and death and He offers eternal life and fellowship with God to all those who accept Him as Savior by faith alone.

Baby Doll: “Sometimes, big shot, you don’t seem to give me credit for very much intelligence at all. I’ve been to school in my life – and I’m a magazine reader!”

Baby Doll
Directed by Elia Kazan and featuring Karl Malden, Carroll Baker, and Eli Wallach
Warner Bros., 1956, 114 minutes

All of Elia Kazan’s previous eleven films contained some type of hard-hitting social message. With the farcical, dark comedy, “Baby Doll,” Kazan would break the mold.

Plot

Middle-aged, Archie Lee Meighan (Malden), is at the end of his rope. He had bought the dilapidated Mississippi Delta plantation mansion, Tiger Tail, with plans to renovate it for his child-bride, Baby Doll (Baker), but a modern, syndicate cotton gin plant has put the small independent ginners in the area, like Archie Lee, out of business. Compounding his financial humiliation is the publics’ knowledge of Archie Lee’s wedding pledge to Baby Doll’s father not to consummate the marriage until her twentieth-birthday, just a few days away. But Baby Doll is repulsed by the financially strapped and increasingly unhinged Archie Lee. The last straw comes when all of their furniture is repossessed. Even the Black folk of the area hold Archie Lee in derision.

Archie Lee gets revenge for his misery by burning down the syndicate gin. The owner, Silva Vacarro (Eli Wallach), suspects Archie Lee is the culprit and the very next day arrives at Tiger Tail with a convoy of raw cotton. While Archie Lee is gleefully occupied processing the cotton at his broken-down gin, Vaccaro and Baby Doll remain at the mansion and he coaxes her into signing an affidavit admitting her husband was responsible for burning down the syndicate gin. That evening, Archie Lee returns to the mansion, and with the affidavit safely in his pocket, Vaccaro goads him to the breaking point. Archie Lee grabs his shotgun while Vaccaro scoots up a tree. When the local sheriff hauls Archie Lee off to prison, Vaccaro victoriously proclaims he’ll be back the next day with more cotton to gin. Baby Doll turns to her demented Aunt Rose Comfort (Mildred Dunnock) and says with a mixture of hope and despair, “Well, let’s go in now. We got nothing to do but wait for tomorrow and see if we’re remembered or forgotten.”

Commentary

“Baby Doll” was quite controversial when it was released in 1956. The Catholic church gave it a C – “Condemned” – rating, meaning anyone who saw the movie committed a “mortal” sin. Francis Cardinal Spellman, archbishop of New York City, ordered parish priests to position themselves in theater lobbies to intimidate parishioners from seeing the movie, although we now know that Spellman was personally racking up a truckload of “mortal” sins “behind closed doors” at the time. Due to the controversy, “Baby Doll” was pulled from theaters after only a short run. My, things have certainly changed. “Baby Doll” would probably earn no higher than a PG-13 rating today.

Baker, Dunnock, Tennessee Williams (screenplay), and Boris Kaufman (cinematography) were all nominated for Oscars. Malden is excellent as the tragically comic foil. The movie was filmed in Benoit, Mississippi and the nearby abandoned Burrus Plantation Mansion, which has only recently been renovated (see here). As in many of his other films, Kazan used local citizens to augment the cast, including many African-Americans. There are several examples in the film of the segregation of the Deep South in 1956. It’s ironic that Archie Lee seeks swift justice for the perceived wrongs he has suffered while the segregated Blacks of the town must silently endure systematic abuse from Archie Lee and the rest of the White population.

Additional thoughts from a believer

Although it’s a simple farce without much of a plot or message, “Baby Doll” is ultimately about revenge and justice. Archie Lee seeks revenge and justice by burning down what he sees as the cause of all of his problems, the rival syndicate gin. Vaccaro seeks revenge and justice by seeing that Archie Lee is successfully charged with arson. Baby Doll wants to extricate herself from her hopeless situation and sees in the suave Vaccaro a possible escape.

Can a follower of Jesus Christ garner anything from this “tiger’s tail”? Elia Kazan may have been an atheist but his films often had excellent critical insights into the “human condition.” How much of our energy goes into striving to rise above others through our jobs/careers and number of possessions? How much of our self-worth is tied to money, the things we own, and social status? When we suffer loss or embarrassment, is our kneejerk reaction to seek revenge? How many of our undesirable circumstances are the “other guy’s” fault. How much do we live by, “Doeth unto them before they doeth unto you”? Why does it feel so good to hang onto a grudge?

We are all sinners full of self-serving hypocrisy and until you can admit to that, there is no hope for you. But God provided a way out from the eternal punishment we deserve through His Son, Jesus Christ. Accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior by placing your faith in Him alone.

“I did not come to call the [self-proclaimed] righteous [who see no need to repent], but sinners to repentance [to change their old way of thinking, to turn from sin and to seek God and His righteousness].” Luke 5:32 AMP

Ben Seewald reaches out to Catholics again!

After a very long prodigal “season,” I returned to the Lord in 2014. That same year, our oldest son hooked us up with Netflix. I can’t say I watch a lot of Netflix but I did make it a point to watch the “19 Kids and Counting” show featuring the Duggar family. I watched the first four and a half-seasons until The Learning Channel yanked the show from Netflix.

The Duggars didn’t talk a lot about their religious affiliation directly, but if a viewer paid attention they could gather that they were independent fundamental Baptists who adhered to Bill Gothard’s and Doug Phillips’ ultra-conservative Christian Dominionist/Reconstructionism. Coming from an IFB background myself (although much less hardcore than the Duggars’), I was fascinated by the show. Among many other IFB distinctives, the girls weren’t allowed to have short hairdoos or wear pants. I could argue secondary doctrinal issues with the Duggars but at least they uphold the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ ALONE.

The series premiered in 2009 and ran until May 2015 when news headlines revealed oldest son, Josh Duggar, was involved in several scandalous transgressions. A spinoff show, “Counting On,” carries on the Duggar saga, focusing mainly on married daughters, Jill and Jessa.

I recently saw that Jessa’s husband, Ben Seewald (see photo), is making headlines once again with remarks about Catholicism. Back in 2014, Seewald posted some comments critical of Roman Catholicism on his Facebook account, which caused a firestorm among 19 Kids and Counting’s Catholic fans. I see in the recent article below from a virtual gossip rag that Ben has posted on Facebook and Instagram that he’s currently reading James White’s excellent “The Roman Catholic Controversy: Catholics and Protestants – Do the Differences Still Matter?” (see my review here) to further educate himself regarding Catholicism’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit and Catholic fans are up in arms once again.

Up until about fifty years ago, most evangelicals were very aware that Catholicism’s gospel of sacramental grace and merit was a false gospel. But because of the ecumenical push by Rome and some Judas evangelicals, the differences between Catholicism’s false gospel and the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ ALONE have been blurred in the minds of many. It’s now considered unkind, unloving, and intolerant to warn Catholics that they are on the wide way to destruction. I admire young Ben Seewald for upholding the Gospel of grace despite undoubtedly enormous pressure from network executives and family to keep his mouth shut.

Persevere in the Lord, Ben Seewald! There’s already way too much cooperation, compromise, and betrayal within evangelicalism.


Ben Seewald: Duggar Husband Studies To Refute Catholicism While Jill and Derick Evangelize to Catholics
http://www.inquisitr.com/4166855/ben-seewald-duggar-husband-studies-to-refute-catholicism-while-jill-and-derick-evangelize-to-catholics/

A 2000-year-old testimony to God’s truths (now in brilliant virtual color)

Our youngest son, Steve, has served in the Air Force for sixteen-years and has been all over the world. My wife and I had the opportunity to visit him when he was stationed in Aviano, Italy back around 2004. Aviano is about sixty-miles north of Venice in the northern part of the country. After a few days in Aviano/Pordenone, we took a train excursion to Venice and Rome. The highlight of our short stay in Rome was walking through the Colosseum and the nearby Roman Forum. On the east end of the Forum, on the Via Sacra, standing fifty-feet tall, is the Arch of Titus, erected in 81 A.D. to commemorate the military success of the Roman general (later emperor), Titus, during the First Jewish War (66-74 A.D.). Titus had ransacked and completely destroyed the Temple complex in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Historians say the spoils of the Jewish Wars helped finance the construction of the Colosseum, where many of the early Roman Christians were martyred.

There’s a carved relief panel under the Titus arch which depicts Roman soldiers carrying the confiscated treasures of the Temple, including the table of showbread and the lampstand/menorah, through the streets of Rome. Even though I was not walking with the Lord at that time, I was still AWESTRUCK to stand underneath the arch and gaze at this panel, a two-thousand-year-old testimony to the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy:

“And He said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.'” – Matthew 24:2

Last night, I was reading the latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, which featured the cover story, “True Colors: Digital Reconstruction Restores Original Brilliance to the Arch of Titus.” We mistakenly assume ancient Roman buildings originally appeared as plain stone edifices as we see them today, but recent research reveals building and monument exteriors were often decorated with vibrant colors. A team of scientists examined the victory parade panel in the Arch of Titus and discovered traces of yellow pigment on the menorah, indicating the entire panel had been painted. Using computer enhancement, the team was able to digitally restore the panel as it may have originally appeared (see photo). Being somewhat of a history nerd and a Christian, stuff like this absolutely fascinates me.

For the past two millenia, Jewish visitors to the Forum have bitterly resented the Titus Arch and its victory procession panel. When Jews visit the arch, they have been known to proclaim something along the lines of, “Titus, you’re gone, but we’re still here. Am Yisrael Chai! The people of Israel lives!” Israel was re-established as a nation in 1948, one-thousand, eight-hundred, and sixty-seven years after the death of Titus.

“He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” – Isaiah 11:12

The Lord doesn’t hit the people of the world over the head to show them He’s there, but He’s given us remarkable signs if we would pay attention.

Weekend Update – News & Views – 4/22/17

In 2000, former-president, Jimmy Carter, announced that he was severing ties with the Southern Baptist Convention because it had ruled that its affiliated churches could not ordain women as pastors. But here it is, seventeen years later, and Carter is still teaching Sunday School class at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia, which states on its web site that it’s affiliated with the SBC, although it reserves the right to “ordain whom they perceive as gifted for ministry.” Carter is now suggesting that former Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi (d. 1948), a committed Hindu, may be in Heaven. What Bible does Carter teach from in Sunday School? It’s definitely not the same Bible I read and study. We’re seeing the heresy of universalism making increasing inroads into “evangelicalism” (e.g., “The Shack”). There’s about 47,000 churches in the SBC and they range in belief from solid Christian orthodoxy on one end to Rick Warren’s ecumenical apostasy on the other.

Now that Hanegraaff has joined the Greek Orthodox church he needs to do the honest thing and remove himself from the supposed “evangelical” Christian Research Institute and the “Bible Answer Man” radio show.

Churches that include denominational affiliations in their names just don’t cut it with young “seekers” these days. The Saddleback/Willow Creek/Peter Drucker marketing model dictates that churches not only drop denominational labels but also doctrinal distinctives.

Week after week I’ve been including stories on Catholic conservatives’ growing disenchantment with pope Francis. He’s trying to keep the ship afloat by making some pragmatic changes, even if the changes involve previously “infallible” dogma.

It’s ironic that this Catholic college is uncomfortable about its yoga classes while ecumenical evangelicals can’t get enough of Catholicism’s “contemplative spirituality.”

Speaking of contemplation, the Catholic church has had thirty years to formulate and enact a decisive response to its pedophile priest abuse and cover-up scandal. But the fetid wound just keeps on oozing. What parent in their right mind would ever leave their child in the care of a Catholic priest?

Many people are strongly attracted to sacramental ceremony and ritual. For many, religion equates to an elaborate liturgy, robes, and incense rather than a personal saving faith in Jesus Christ.

I’ve written many times about Roman Catholicism’s very sad misinterpretation of John 6 and the Last Supper passages. Receiving Christ is accepting Him as Savior by faith alone, NOT eating Him! Catholics say Jesus’ words MUST be interpreted literally in John 6:35-59, but if that were the case, salvation would just be a matter of lining up every Sunday morning and eating a communion bread wafer just as once-faithful Catholics, Adolf Hitler, Al Capone, Tomás de Torquemada, and Rodrigo de Borja (pope Alexander VI) used to do, because Jesus certainly stated, “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (John 6:51).

This week, Russia’s Supreme Court upheld an earlier Justice Ministry order banning the Jehovah’s Witnesses from operating on Russian territory. All JW property will now be immediately confiscated by Putin’s government. Putin is also clamping down on other religious groups that compete with the government sanctioned Russian Orthodox church including evangelical Christians. Will Putin outlaw evangelical Christianity like he has the JWs? Last year he signed a law which restricts evangelism to church properties. Similar persecution could happen here in the U.S. in the coming years for churches that hold to increasingly unpopular Biblical “hate speech” regarding homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and apostate denominations.

Something better than fame and fortune

Pickin’ Up the Pieces: The Heart and Soul of Country Rock Pioneer Richie Furay
By Richie Furay with Michael Roberts
WaterBrook, 2012, 274 pages

Despite a sterling musical pedigree, Richie Furay (few-RAY) never made it to “superstar” status. As a talented member of the short-lived Buffalo Springfield band, he was overshadowed by Stephen Stills and Neil Young. After Springfield imploded in 1968, Furay formed Poco, a pioneering country-rock band that was too country for rock-and-roll radio and too rock-and-roll for country audiences. But then Furay watched in jealous amazement when the upstart country-rock band, The Eagles, rose to the very top of the rock charts in 1972. With Furay’s next group, David Geffen’s CS&N knockoff, the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, Richie was hoping to finally catch the elusive golden ring but then an unusual thing happened; Richie accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and his life took a completely different turn. Furay has been pastoring a Christian congregation in Colorado since 1983.

In this book, Furay traces his journey from his childhood in Yellow Springs, Ohio to his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Fans of Buffalo Springfield and Poco will enjoy his many detailed memories and insights. But Furay makes it clear he found something much more meaningful and enduring than fame and fortune when he accepted Jesus Christ. There were still many heartaches and disappointments in his life but Richie now had an anchor, a Friend, who sticks closer than a brother. Some Buffalo Springfield and Poco fans will resent Furay’s Christian witness, which is prevalent throughout the book, but others will benefit from it. I’ll always fondly remember this book as one of the gentle nudges from the Lord leading to my return to Him in 2014.