Monthly Archives: February 2013

Veteran actor Corbin Bernsen completes film on minister who walks away from God

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By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (ANS) — If you are fan of American TV dramas, you will immediately recognize veteran Hollywood actor, Corbin Bernsen, for his role as divorceCorbinBernsen attorney Arnold Becker on the NBC drama series days on L.A. Law, and also for his role as the retired cop Henry Spencer on USA Network’s comedy-drama series Psych. You may have also seen him as Roger Dorn in the films Major League (film), and Major League II. He has also appeared regularly on other shows, including General Hospital and Cuts.

In fact, he has appeared on over 50 magazine covers and earned both Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, hosted Saturday Night Live, and appeared on Seinfeld and The Larry Sanders Show.

Bernsen was born in North Hollywood, California, the son of Harry Bernsen, Jr., a Hollywood producer, and veteran soap actress Jeanne Cooper, who plays Catherine Chancellor on The Young and the Restless. He graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1972. Bernsen is also a “double Bruin,” having received both a BA in Theatre Arts and an MFA in Playwriting from UCLA.

But there is another side to the tough exterior of this Hollywood fixture, and that is his faith-filled film, Rust, which is about a minister who walks away from God, a journey which takes him back to this hometown where an incredible tragedy has rocked the small population and landed his childhood friend in a mental hospital.

Rust is a 2010 drama written and directed by Bernsen, in which he played Jimmy Moore and was released direct-to-video on Oct. 5, 2010. The film takes place in a Canadian town. The film is about how a midlife crisis of faith rocks his life’s calling, and former minister Jimmy Moore. But can he get to the bottom of this mysterious fire that has shocked the population and clear his boyhood friend Travis?

It is unique story of friendship and calling, and Rust (http://rustmovie.com) may well be Corbin Bernsen’s most personal project to date. Funded by and set in the real-life Canadian town of Kipling, Saskatchewan (and featuring local citizens in prominent roles), Rust was inspired by the spiritual journey that Corbin has been traveling since his father’s death in 2008.

So knowing this, it was hardly surprising to find Corbin Bernsen on the Red Carpet at the 21st annual Movieguide® Faith & Values Awards and Report to the Entertainment Industry held on Feb. 15, that attracted many celebrities to the occasion the Universal Hilton Hotel, a skip and a hop from the heart of Hollywood, aka “The Movie Capital of the World.”

So, as I talked with him, I first of all asked him why he was at the event, and he replied, “I’m presenting an award for a performance that has as faith influence in it, but I’m here because also because I’ve supported the Movieguide® Awards and Dr. Ted Baehr [its founder] and everything he’s done for thirty years to influence Hollywood. This kind of [family-friendly] film making — which is part of storytelling — can be not only good for business. It is not only good for people, but good for business.”

I then asked Bernsen, who has been married to British actress Amanda Pays since 1988 (they have four sons), if he felt that Hollywood had played a role in all the violence we have seen recently in the United States.

“Well,” he began, “I think we’re definitely culpable to some degree. However, it’s like anything in life and that is that you can’t put your finger on just one thing. For instance, was it an AR-15 weapon that’s out there that somebody [was said] to have used. Is that what really killed a child? No, that isn’t; it was an individual who had fallen from humanity. However, in that way, yeah, video games and movies have had an influence.

“I’m not a Pollyanna guy,” he continued. “I’ve been in them and I’ve produced them and I support them. But there’s also a place where you draw a line with who sees what. A lot of that comes down to parenting; to controls; and how old somebody can be to do something. But any kid, in including my 14 year old, can get his hand on stuff and that’s just crazy.

“When I was a kid, we used to play ‘army’ and take a stick and turn it into a gun. So there’s a part of human nature wanting to be a bit cavemen, battling it out for the cave and for food and that’s not going to escape us.

“But all these things are there and I’m not saying they have to go away, but they have to be controlled by parenting and tempered with allowing some light into a life as well.”

Jerry Mathers is still the ‘Beaver’ after all these years

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By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

Jerry Mathers will always be remembered as the loveable “Beaver” Cleaver from the immensely popular TV show, “Leave It To Beaver,” but the actor recently said in an interview that Hollywood needs to create more family-centered programming.

“I think it’s very important that we still have movies that families can go to see like I did when I was a kid on Saturday mornings,” Mathers told ASSIST Ministries founderJerry Mathers Dan Wooding.  “We should be able to let our kids go to the movies and not really wonder what they’re going to be seeing. It is something that I think our kids deserve.”

Mathers showed his support for attended the 15th annual MOVIEGUIDE Faith & Values Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry in Hollywood on Feb. 15.

The actor told Wooding, “Adults should be able to see whatever they want to see, but I believe that there should also be some programming that you can take your children to and not walk away and go, ‘Ooh, I wish I hadn’t seen that’, especially when they’re young.”

The Sioux City, Iowa, native played Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver, a suburban boy who always seemed to find himself in trouble. Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont, both deceased, played Beaver’s parents, June and Ward, and Tony Dow played Beaver’s older brother, Wally.

Clockwise from left, Barbara Billingsley, Tony Dow, Hugh Beaumont, and Jerry Mathers

Wooding said in his article, when the series was not renewed at the beginning of the 1963-64 season and many of the series stars wanted to move on to other projects, Mathers entered Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif., and from there he served in the Air Force National Guard (1967-1969). He was mistakenly reported as killed in action during the Vietnam War, but all of his duties were stateside. After leaving military service he attended and graduated from the University of California at Berkley in 1973 with a BA in philosophy.

Mathers said family-friendly TV and movies are a niche market that needs to be filled with people with great ideas that need to be supported. Therefore, parents can take their children to see the movies and not end up disappointed.

Learn more about Mathers at www.jerrymathers.com and MOVIEGUIDE at www.movieguide.org.

Jenkins: Goodbye procrastination, and say hello to proclamation!

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By Phyllis Jenkins
Special To Inside The Pew

As we move forward into 2013, there are some habits that need to be unloaded and left behind. One of those habits is procrastination. It’s a word that we don’t like to bePhyllis Jenkins reminded of, but we secretly hang on to it. Many of us believe we know the meaning of procrastination, but I heard a definition that will forever be engraved in my mind. Bishop Rosie O’Neal shared that God gave her the following definition of the word procrastination. She said, “It’s the behavioral by-product of a lack of understanding about the delay of an opportunity which is grace. It is the arrogant assumption that God owes you another chance to do tomorrow what He gave you a chance to do today.

WOW!

You might want to read that definition again-slowly and apply it accordingly. Make the proclamation that you will press forward into your purpose and calling without delay in 2013. Philippians 3:14 said, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

Prayer:

Dear Father in Heaven,

Thank you for another opportunity to be obedient to your calling and purpose for my life. Please forgive me of ‘all’ the things I left undone because of procrastination. As I move forward into 2013, I will not delay another opportunity of grace given by You. I will no longer minimize my purpose by putting it on hold. Thank You for Your Love, Grace & Mercy.

 

In Jesus Name I pray,

Amen.

Over-comer, Believer, Dreamer, and Encourager are just a few words that describe Phyllis Jenkins. She is the founder and president of the Powerful Journey Organization, where she empowers women to live a balanced life by helping them: Find their Passion- Focus on What Matters Most and Flourish in their Calling. Phyllis is also the publisher of the Powerful Journey, an online magazine. She inspires, equips and enlightens audiences of all ages through her practical and powerful presentations. With her captivating energy, she offers strategies which will fuel your Journey with Purpose, Preparation and Perseverance. She is a featured author in the Allen Public Library 2009 and 2010 ‘Write-On’ Literary books. Her first children’s book (co-authored by her 6-year-old grandson), “Rudy’s Unforgettable Flight” is available in bookstores. Contact her at phyllis@phyllisjenkins.com.

For the children: Titles encourage, inspire, and connect

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By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

One of my favorite groups growing up was New Kids On The Block. Remember them?

During the brainstorming of my book review column, NKOTB’s song, “This One’s For The Children” came to mind. Then, I thought about all the Christian titles I havegirlsbooks received from authors over the past three months which reiterate God’s love for children. Remember, God said in Isaiah 54:13, “All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.”

Parents, if you are looking for books that will nurture your child’s understand of the Almighty’s grace and love (and there are many), these titles are an ideal start.

“Perfectly Unique” by Annie F. Downs
(Zondervan; $9.99 USD)

In her debut release, Downs takes personal stories and uses them as a catalyst to teach young girls to embrace the way God made them. She affirms to young readers that God made us each as individuals and we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). I found the book to be very encouraging to young women because there are so many messages that girls and women have to change who they are to be accepted. God made you; love yourself. Downs, who is a former elementary school teacher, made the best choice to life stories to make an impact on the reader. Exercises and relevant scriptures guide readers along. Among the many endorsers of the book is Hillary Scott, lead singer of Grammy-winning country trio Lady Antebellum. “This book will touch your heart, encourage you, and challenge you to let your Heavenly Father pursue you as his daughter.”

As a side note, Downs is currently embarked on the Girls of Grace Tour where she will make stops at churches and various venues to spread the Christian message to sixth- to 12th-grade girls. Her next stop is slated for Feb. 23 at Christ Church, 15354 Old Hickory Blvd. in Nashville, Tenn. Downs also has dates set in March for Birmingham, Ala., and Augusta, Ga., and Allen, Texas, in April. Visit http://www.girlsofgrace.com/ for more information.

“Helping Man … The Beginning” by Jalen Butler (author and illustrator); co-written by Katina Butler
(Joseph’s Coat Productions, $12.95 USD)

It is wonderful to see a child writing a book to minister to children. This is exactly the purpose of 7-year-old Jalen Butler. The Denton, Texas, elementary student wroteHelping Man Book “Helping Man …” to “help people and please God.” With the Bible as his guide, Butler takes readers into the world of Helping Man, who is always on a quest to save the day. On his quest for peace, Helping Man also has to battle his nemesis, Mogular. As a parent, I appreciate the “kiddie feel” of the book, from the illustrations to the message. Butler’s book has gained attention in the Dallas area through appearances on local NBC affiliate (NBC-5) and Christian radio (KWRD 100.7 FM). He’s also gained a legion of fans at his elementary school. As for all the attention, at the end of the day, Butler can only thank God. “I’m just doing what God has blessed me to do.” Learn more at www.facebook.com/HelpingManBook.

“The Sweetest Story Bible” by Diane Stortz and Sheila Bailey; narrated by Roma Downey
(Zonderkidz, $22.99 USD)

One of the greatest way to show our children God’s love for them is to tell them the stories of the Bible. My daughters love to hear the story of their namesakes, Rebekah (Genesis 24) and Lydia (Acts 16). Authored by Diana Stortz and illustrated Sheila Bailey, the story Bible brings the characters of the Bible to life for your children. At the end of each story, Stortz lists Sweet Words and Sweet Thoughts for girls to remember. At the end of God’s Ten Rules (Exodus 19-20, 24, 31), children are reminded “God knows what is good for us.” The deluxe edition also includes an audio CD read by “Touch By An Angel” actress Roma Downey.

Tonya Andris is book editor for Inside The Pew. To suggest titles or comment on this review, email her at pewnews@aol.com.

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Proposed U.S. tax reforms could devastate charities

Published by:

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

WASHINGTON, DC (ANS) — The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee is considering comprehensive tax reforms that will directly affect charitable giving – including

Ruth Thomas

Ruth Thomas

“limiting the tax rate against which contributions may be deducted; a dollar cap on total itemized deductions; [and] a floor below which contributions may not be deducted.”

The restrictions could be devastating for charities like SAT-7 (http://sat7usa.org), which broadcasts Christian satellite television to over 15 million viewers in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as our ministry, ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) – www.assistnews.net.

On Feb. 14, Ruth Thomas, VP for Finance and Administration at SAT-7 USA, testified at a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee in Washington, D.C. She discussed the far-reaching importance of charitable deductions, as well as the integrity and efficiency with which non-profits like SAT-7 operate.

“Non-profits have struggled since 2008 because of the Recession. To hamstring the public’s generosity at this point would severely impact the good work of thousands of non-profits to change the law in such a way that limits the ability of non-profits to do good with well-established efficiency and effectiveness will mean that needs will go unmet, or must be addressed by more government spending, with less efficiency,” she told committee members.

Thomas manages the SAT-7 USA office in Easton, Md. She has been with the organization for 10 years. As a non-profit finance officer, Ruth works with the President, Board of Directors and International CFO to maintain a high level of transparency and accountability to SAT-7’s donor base. She ensures that the internal workings of accounting, marketing and development operations at SAT-7 are functioning properly.

SAT-7 has achieved a 4-star rating with Charity Navigator© for the past three years, has had BBB© accreditation since 2011, and is a member in good standing with ECFA® since 1999.

“Please join us in praying for the wisdom and discernment of the House Ways and Means Committee members, as they consider possible reforms for charitable giving tax laws,” said a spokesperson for SAT-7 USA.

To read more about the hearing, please go to: http://waysandmeans.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=318995

Lee: One must first be whole before connecting with another person

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By Donald Lee
Special to Inside The Pew

To anyone anxious about getting into a relationship without first being a complete person: Understand that you cannot be good to anybody else until you can allow God to

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto" (Matthew 6:33).

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto” (Matthew 6:33).

do a work on the inside of you.

When you allow God to smooth out your rough edges, you won’t subject yourself or your children to domestic abuse. When you allow Him to work on you, your tolerance level for foolishness drops to zero. You begin to understand that it’s not about you running a household in your own understanding, but instead about you allowing Christ’s headship to be the final authority in your family. It’s about kingdom principles being applied in the home.

Singles, if your desire is to be married or in a relationship that potentially leads to marriage, the best thing for you to do is to get into the presence of God — to strive to do what is pleasing to Him. Once you get hooked up with Him, then He knows how to connect you with the one who best complements you.

If you’re praying to God for a mate after having submitted yourself totally to His will for your life, the person He has for you will have a spirit that’s the right fit for who you are, and it has nothing to do with sex. It’s just an overwhelmingly special, holy feeling that grips the both of you, a result of having consulted with God sincerely before proceeding.

And when you seek God first before seeking a relationship with someone else, the Lord defines you (see Matthew 6:33). He lets you know who you are. That saves you the heartache that comes with permitting someone else to damage your self-esteem through the definition of you that he wants you

Donald Lee

Donald Lee

to have rather than the one God has given you.

When you allow God to prepare you for someone else, you’ll have a greater appreciation for that person and vice versa. And you can “see” one another. In other words, the two of you can see into one another’s hearts and discern agape love, an authentic, heavenly love — the kind of love that is best expressed through people who are committed whole-heartedly to the Lord.

So, the best way to significantly increase the likelihood of your entering into a truly loving relationship is to simply put God first. He will make you complete.

Donald Lee, co-author of the relationships book “Married to Commitment,” is founder-pastor of Kingdom Living Christian Center in Dallas. He can be contacted at

pastordonjlee@yahoo.com or (225) 773-2248. Visit him online at http://www.christiancouplesconference.com. Follow him on Twitter at @donaldj_lee. You can also write him at P.O. Box 211186, Dallas, TX. 75211. 

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Daily: Some thoughts on surprise resignation of the Pope Benedict XVI

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By Dennis Daily
Special to ASSIST News Service

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. (ANS) — As a journalist who was raised in a Catholic home and went through 12 years in Catholic schools — and, like many Catholic boys,

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

thought he wanted to be a priest at one time – I am watching closely the events that are happening in the wake of the resignation of the Pope.

I awakened to the headline, “Pope Benedict XVI to resign, citing age and waning energy.” For there it was in black-and-white in the Washington Post, “Citing failing strength of ‘mind and body,’ Pope Benedict XVI stunned his closest aides and more than 1 billion Catholics by resigning on Monday, becoming the first pope to do so in nearly 600 years and ending the tenure of a formidable theologian who preached a gospel of conservative faith to a fast-changing world.

“Keeping with his reputation as a traditionalist, Pope Benedict delivered his resignation – effective Feb. 28 – in Latin, to a private church body in Vatican City. ‘I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me,’ he said. ‘For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of bishop of Rome, successor of Saint Peter.'”

On hearing this news, I was startled for several reasons:

First of all, since this is only the second time in 2,000 years that a Pope has called it quits, I realized instantly that this was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. Actually, it’s a once-in-many-lifetimes kind of thing.

From a pure journalistic standpoint, this was QUITE a story.

Secondly, I began to realize all the things that must be going on in the Vatican to prepare for the election of a new Pope.

I’m fortunate, when I was in high school, a nearly ordained priest came to the parish and he taught religion to us. You have to remember that most Catholic kids, and others who go to religion-sponsored schools, have to attend a religion class every day. No Sunday school for us Catholic kids.

The young priest assigned to my high school would eventually, in later years, go on to teach at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.

It didn’t take long for us to realize that this youthful priest was a real rebel — a fire-brand.

He had spent his seminary time at Collegium Canisianum, located in beautiful Innsbruck, Austria.

It’s funny, after all these years, I can still remember his mailing address there, when he went back for a while as part of a project: Tschurtschenthalerstrasse 7. I guess had his school been on White Street of Alps Boulevard I would have never remembered its address.

Actually, Kress was more than a fire-brand. Some in the parish thought he was a radical. His sermons were full of questions and doubt that troubled many of the older members of the parish.

One week, after wondering aloud from the pulpit if there really HAD been a “Great Flood” and if the “Noah Story” were just a great parable, my own grandmother went to the pastor, Kress’s boss, asking that he be sent to some other parish.

Part of his reasoning about the existence of a Great Flood was based on similar stories in myriad other cultures. He seemed to be more excited about relaying the liberal Catholic thought in which he was immersed during his time in Innsbruck, than delivering a traditional sermon that would warm the hearts of the congregation.

But, that was Father Kress.

The reason he enters the story here, is that during those years in Austria, Kress had worked among many members of the Catholic Church there who were helping to prepare for the Second Vatican Council … that great assembling of religious leaders of all stripes, from around the world. It had been called lovable Pope John XXIII.

Kress’s seminary years were spent during an intense period of debate within the church. The conflict, of course, centered on whether the liberalization of the Church was indeed necessary.

John Paul XXIII had used an Italian word to describe what he wanted to do at the council; that word was “aggiornamento,” or “updating.” But the then roly-poly Pope who, while a bishop, had saved the lives of countless Jews who would have been swept up in the Holocaust, wanted more than an updating. He told media that he wanted to “open the windows and let some fresh air into the church.”

Liberals in the church in Europe were thrilled at the Pope’s announced intentions. They were even happier when John XXIII invited observers to the council from every known religion in the world.

Conservatives were worried that the Church would make a decidedly leftward shift. The church had already begun to look more catholic (with a small “c”) and more universal in John XXIII’s time; he had increased the number of bishops and cardinals from Third World countries and worked for the canonization of saints from lesser-known areas of the world.

So, we students in the 1960s, during the Vatican Council, were given a running play-by-play of what was going on in the halls of the Vatican by someone who had been in the thick of planning for the multi-year re-examination of the status of Catholicism.

We would watch news reports and Father Kress would point to the TV screen and say: “Oh, look, there’s Cardinal Konig,” or, “There’s Cardinal Frings.”

Kress had worked with these men, especially with Frings. The cardinal, who was from the archdiocese of Cologne, Germany, had graduated from the Canisianum and maintained close ties with the school.

Frings, at the time, was one of the closest of confidants of another priest from the region, a teacher and writer who, at the time, was perceived to be on the liberal bandwagon.

That priest was Fr. Joseph Ratzinger, today’s Pope.

Frings and Ratzinger and two other liberal thinkers, Hans Küng and Edward Schillebeeckx, were Fr. Kress’s heroes.

Shortly before the first session of the council opened, Frings had given a speech in Genoa, about the First Vatican Council. It called in 1868 by Pope Pius IX, ostensibly to deal with a quickly changing world in the height of the Industrial Revolution.

Frings looked at the impact of that first council and wondered if Pope John XXIII was simply re-opening an old concept, putting a modern-day “aggiornamento” spin on it.

When the Pope was informed about Frings’ speech, he summoned the clergyman to the Vatican. The session was not negative, as Frings had feared. John XXIII actually liked the speech. Frings thanked him. He didn’t tell the Pope that the speech had been written by his friend, Fr. Joseph Ratzinger.

After leaving high school, and those five-day-a-week sessions with Fr. Kress, and the daily play-by-play of what was happening in Rome, my thoughts of the Second Vatican Council faded.

Occasionally, I would have dinner with Fr. Kress, during the time that both he and I lived in Washington, DC.

I remember one evening when he wondered what had happened to all the fire-brand liberals of the European church over the years. He told me that many of them had “converted” to the conservative cause. One of them was the man who would one day become the first German-born Pope in a long time … and who would startle the world by resigning.

There will be a lot of “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” over why Ratzinger is leaving his post. As a close adviser to the late Pope John-Paul II, the current Pope saw his predecessor grow weaker and weaker and shakier and shakier, while still trying to minister to his flock.

I am sure that Pope Benedict didn’t want to be that kind of Pope.

It will be interesting for all of us, though, to see what kind of role a former Pope will play in society. The last time anyone had a chance to witness that was 77 years before Columbus first sailed to the New World.

 

Dennis Daily is a lifelong journalist and radio news anchor and programmer. He spent 20-years with UPI (United Press International). During most of his tenure there he worked for the now-defunct UPI Radio Network. During several of those years he served as the network’s Religion Editor. He previously worked as a national spokesman for the USDA in Washington, was a Congressional Press Secretary, all-news anchor and producer for “The Larry King Show.” Long associated with religious programming, Daily returned to his hometown in southern Indiana for 26 consecutive years to anchor and produce five hours from four churches on Christmas Eve. For several of those years the broadcast was relayed around the world via Armed Forces Radio. After his two decades with UPI he went back into local radio in California’s San Joaquin Valley. He now lives in Palm Springs, Calif., where he is semi-retired. He continues to do freelance radio work, voicing daily reports on various topics. Dennis also produces the Religion & Ethic s Minute based on the stories of the ASSIST News Service. He can be contacted by e-mail at: newscaster@earthlinknet.

 

American Christian pastor imprisoned in Iran fears supporters have abandoned him

Published by:

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

TEHRAN, Iran (ANS) The American pastor sentenced to eight years in Iran’s Evin prison is unaware of the groundswell of international support for him, and insteadSaeedAbedini fears he’s been abandoned, according to relatives who met with him this week.

According to Fox News, Saeed Abedini mentioned his doubt during a visit with relatives on Monday. It was a second time he was allowed to see members of his extended family since he was convicted. Abedini expressed apprehension and concern to his relatives about his fate and openly asked if there were international efforts to secure his freedom, according to advocacy group American Center for Law and Justice (http://aclj.org).

The story said that it is believed that Abedini’s downtrodden spirit is due to abuse and brain-washing techniques used by prison officials.

“It is no surprise that the Iranian prison guards are engaging in this kind of psychological abuse. We know that Pastor Saeed is undergoing physical beatings and torture. And we know there is growing concern about his health,” Jordan Sekulow, executive director for ACLJ, told www.FoxNews.com.

“Now, a troubling report that the guards are trying to take away his hope — by feeding him false information about his fate — trying to convince him that no one cares — that efforts to secure his freedom have ceased. This tactic is predictable, but also very tragic.”

“What the Iranian guards will never tell Pastor Saeed is that there’s a growing international network of support. … We continue to urge President Obama to personally call on Iran to release Pastor Saeed. And now that Secretary of State Kerry is on the job, it is time for him to follow through on earlier statements demanding that Iran release Pastor Saeed,” he added.

Abedini also has been unable to communicate with his wife, Nagameh, and their two children since being sentenced.

“When I heard this from my husband, I cried. It broke my heart. Behind those walls he feels helpless and relies on us to be his voice. It is so easy to feel forgotten in the walls of the prison. Please help me make sure he is never forgotten,” she said in a report posted on ACLJ’s website.

Abedini, a 32-year-old father of two, denied evangelizing in Iran and claims he had only returned to his native land to help establish an orphanage. Authorities pulled him off a bus last August and threw him into the notorious prison in Tehran, the story continued.

“The exact crimes he was accused of only became public late last month, when the prosecutor outlined charges that Abedini undermined the Iranian government by creating a network of Christian house churches and that he was attempting to sway Iranian youth away from Islam,” added the Fox News story.

“Supporters of Abedini believe the charges stem from his 2,000 conversion to Christianity and his involvement several years ago with house churches in Iran.”

Although Abedini’s lawyer has appealed the sentence, experts following the case think Abedini’s only chance at freedom lies with a grant of clemency from the religious clerics that rule Iran.

According to Jeremy Reynalds of ASSIST News, the American Center for Law and Justice recently reported award-winning musicians, Christian radio stations, and concerned citizens all across America and around the world are trying to get #SaveSaeed trending on Twitter and encourage people to sign the petition at www.SaveSaeed.org to free Abenini.

Reynalds said Ricky Skaggs, TobyMac, Bart Millard (Mercy Me), Kevin Max (DC Talk, Audio Adrenaline), Steven Curtis Chapman, Skillet, Rhett Walker Band, Air1 Radio, and thousands of others are helping to #SaveSaeed.

Hughes: The ‘ark’ of the Christian life

Published by:

By Paul Hughes
Special to Inside The Pew

Editor’s note: This essay is excerpted from the short ebook The Boat: A Parable.

Not God is the phrase they use in AA for realizing we are, well … not God.

Not God is also the answer to the question, What is wrong with people, this place, my parents, our upbringing, education, choices and decisions, and probably our shoes, while we’re at it?

Not God.

We had come at the beginning of our lives to see and say there is something wrong with God, or the world entire, or with Christians. Then we decided two out of three are bad, and maybe we’d better do something about it.

God wins.

So we begin to obey.

We study, memorize, go there and get the shirt. We join core groups, X groups, cell groups. We get our very own gen-you-whine accountability partner. We make promises, make plans, make it a little way in that way … then we make problems, make new promises, we make pacts with God, we make progress.

We begin to doubt.

Hath God said …

Ye shall surely die?

*

Oh Lord, what fools we mortals be.

Or Man, how numbingly average art our sins.

Obedience becomes a snare. You take care of the Church, and the Church will take care of you.

*

Obedience is the rat race and, as Lily Tomlin observed, even if you win you’re still a rat. And rats desert a sinking ship, as you may know. Perhaps dissent is the answer.

Except dissent can get you thrown off the ship entirely.

*

So for a long time (it has seemed to me) I have thought principled and consistent dissent the highest lyric of our Christian life. It is not. The highest form of that life is trust.

Did we not trust at the first? Yes, a smidge. That’s what makes it kind of round and paradoxical and fun: it ends there, and in a small way it started there.

Like Frederick Buechner’s locution on love —

The beginning stage of love is to believe there is only one kind of love.
The middle stage of love is to believe there are many kinds of love, and the Greeks had a word for each.
The ending stage of love is to believe there is only kind of love.

But at that first we lived by sight, not by faith. Functionally, I mean — consistently and most often — we depended on what we could see, not on Whom we believed. We could see rules and law. We could know (visibly) when we did X there was (also visible) penalty Y and solution (again visible) Z.

These were manmade mostly, but I don’t mean that as dig. We did our best.

But at that time — during, as I’m calling it here, Obedience — we didn’t do His best.

For that we needed to begin to question, to doubt again — to, as I’m calling it here, Dissent.

And Dissent is crucial and it did a lot in the life of Jonah.

But it isn’t the highest form of the Christian life.

And so we come to Trust.

*

In obedience we lived by sight not by faith. We began to suspect there was something wrong with God, or the world entire, or at least with other Christians. Two out of three ain’t bad we said. We begin to dissent.

But it’s in trust we realize that while the “two” are still Christians and the world entire … the third isn’t God.

It’s us.

We stand humbly with Pogo on that one. As we move from dissent to trust, we realize it’s not God who’s all jacked, but we ourselves. Ourselves alone, as my Irish forebears might put it.

*

Each of the three — obedience, dissent, trust — aren’t just linear but advancing. The move from first to second is, I believe, easier than from second to third.

And I like the image of the wave, with its occasional crashing. Because you can surf waves, and sail them, and even, it has been reported, walk upon them.

*

We start in faith über-obediently — which, yes, is like saying “very unique” … but truthily we know people, Christians, who took sin rather more seriously at the start until we realized (just as Adam and Eve had done?) that it doesn’t always result in our immediate death.

This is obedience, and it’s good and necessary and can even save our lives.

Later we say a Christian “makes his faith his own,” or she comes into a maturity unknown and previously unowned. Of course we’re not always comfortable with the conclusions someone comes to when thinking different; their thoughts are not our thoughts.

That’s dissent, and it can be a difficult time; it can even end up killing us.

Then there is Peter. We can be reliably uncertain about what he’s going to do, because trust means we do not always know ahead of time, or agree when we find out — but in the moment we do it. How can such behavior be charted out except to say we get out of the boat?

So there we have trust. It includes elements of both obedience and dissent.

And it is life itself.

*

Noah, Jonah, and Peter.

Three sailors who can show something of the arc (no pun intended) of our Christian life: a parable — but not a parabola. It’s a gradually ascending, oft curling, occasionally crashing, line. It’s like a wave, really.

*

You’re in this boat …

 

Paul Hughes is a writer in Southern California. He’s made more than a dozen books and ebooks, available here and here. His website is here.

Fantasia among gospel celebration performers; Lewis honored

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By Grelan Muse Sr.
Pew Talk Radio

NEW ORLEANS, La. – Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis won a Super Bowl with his team on Feb. 3, but the win is not the only accolade the now retired three-time defensive player of the year earned in New Orleans.

On Feb. 1, Lewis was honored with the Lifetime of Inspirations award during the 14th Super Bowl Gospel Celebration. The event was held at Lakefront Arena at University of New Orleans.

An extremely emotional Lewis accepted the award from his eldest son, Ray Lewis III. The all-pro was joined on stage by his two daughters, younger sons, and his mother, Sunseria Jenkins.

Lewis shared with the audience the importance God plays in his life and the relationship he has built with his family. He discussed a conversation he had with his biological father that changed his life.

“One day I went on a six-hour ride with my biological father. I wanted my dad to tell me all the things he had to say to me that he didn’t tell me as a child and all the pain he had within him. I wanted to hear it. After that, we put it in the past. Now, we have a better relationship.”

Lewis said the move also helped him become a better father to his children.

“I encourage you all to be responsible for rearing their children and teaching them respect. Be a parent and not just their friend.”

The bond Lewis has with Jenkins has always been his strength. He said he started lifting weights at an early age to become strong enough protect her from an abusive relationship.

Lewis is only the second person the celebration has honored. He joins former NFL coach and current Sunday Night Football analysis Tony Dungy as the other award winner.

The NFL-sanctioned gospel celebration featured a star-studded show with Grammy winner Fantasia as the headlining act. The singer said it was a blessing to be able to appear in the show.

“My life has been up and down. I had to make God the center of my life. Doing so, I had to go back to my foundation, the church and singing gospel music and re-establish the relationship I had with God,” Fantasia told Pew Talk Radio during a brief interview on the red carpet. She attended the event with her mother, Diana Barrino.

Additional performers included Donnie McClurkin, Bishop Paul S. Morton, Lecrea, Myron Butler, and Pastor Marvin Winans. Kirk Franklin will serve as host of the music portion, with “The View” co-host Sherri Shepherd as MC for the event.

The NFL Players Choir also performed selections for the audience. The choir, in its sixth year of existence, includes former and current NFL players and coaches.