Red Notice (review)

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red-notice-9781476755748_hrRed Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice by Bill Browder

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With a special talent for sniffing out stock that would make money for his clients, Bill Browder and his company Hermitage Capital did very well beginning in the mid-1990s from their headquarters in Moscow. Then came November 13, 2005.

That day on his return to Moscow from London, Bill was detained at the airport and kept overnight with no food, water, or explanation. The next morning rough officers escorted him to the departure lounge and put him onto a flight back to London.

It was the beginning of an ordeal that lasted for years and put him in the bad books of Putin himself. Though Browder had begun fighting the dishonest Russian oligarchs while still working in Moscow, the backlash he experienced then was nothing compared to what happened next.

A raid of his Moscow office (after he was kicked out of Russia) and the office of his lawyer resulted in his companies resurfacing registered to new owners. They went after him for tax evasion of millions. However, a tax audit proved he had over-paid his taxes. This set him and his Russian lawyer Sergei Manitsky on the track of a crime ring of corrupt police officers, bankers, and petty criminals. Unfortunately, the chase ended in murder.

This book opened my eyes to the rotten center of Russian business. I’m sure that criminals like computer hackers are considered the lightweights of white collar criminals in a land where the decay starts at the top.

An interesting sidebar to the book: one of Browder’s contacts in Moscow and to whom he told his initial story of corruption was Chrystia Freeland. She was Moscow Bureau Chief of The Financial Times when she interviewed him (1998-ish). She is now a Liberal MP and has recently been appointed Canada’s Foreign Minister. She is also persona non grata in Russia.

The YouTube video linked below was made by Browder in 2010 to help expose the complicated web of criminal activity. It adds background and clarity to the story of this fascinating and disturbing book: Russian Untouchables – Episode 1

 

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An Insider’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare (review)

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An Insider's Guide to Spiritual Warfare: 20 Battle Tested Strategies from Behind Enemy LinesAn Insider’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare: 20 Battle Tested Strategies from Behind Enemy Lines by Kristine McGuire

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When, one day, a man asked Kristine McGuire, “What is spiritual warfare?” she was surprised. McGuire, who describes herself as aware of spiritual things since childhood, had never realized people might not be attuned to the spiritual dimension and unaware of the battles taking place in that realm. Her difficulty in coming up with a good answer for her questioner challenged her to study spiritual warfare. An Insider’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare is the result.

The book consists of five sections that contain a total of thirty chapters. Within them she discusses spiritual warfare from many angles. These include defining what it is (Chapter 1 of Part 1 “Life in the Spiritual War Zone”); examining the “Weapons of War” (Part 2, subjects include “The Belt of Truth,” “The Breastplate of Righteousness” etc); naming “Common Battlefields” (Part 3, topics include “Suffering,” “Worry and Fear,” and “Lust”); exposing the enemy’s tools in “When Supernatural Meets Natural” (Part 4, topics of pagan culture, familiar spirits, ghosts and more); and, finally, challenging us: “Take Back Your Ground” (Part 5, subjects include overcoming war-weariness and praying the Bible).

Sprinkled as text boxes within the chapters are the 30 Battle-tested Strategies promised in the subtitle.

Example: “Strategy Point #1: As God’s adopted child, you have the right to call out ‘Abba Father!’” – p. 26.

At the back of every chapter is a “Your turn to Reflect” segment—five questions that invite the reader to interact with and apply what they have just read. Some chapters also tag on a relevant Scripture passage and a “Take Action” section.

The book ends with a bibliography of sources for supplementary reading and a topical index.

I found the book logical in idea development and easy to understand. McGuire’s voice is passionate and compassionate as she speaks out of conviction and personal experience. Here, for example in the chapter “The Subtle Influence of a Pagan Culture,” she talks about how even Christian culture has, through avoidance, begun to accept the occult:

“Although some Christian apologists and teachers have been warning the Church of the influence of mysticism and the occult in the Church for years, such warnings have often fallen on deaf ears. Many say there is no such thing as paranormal activity, witchcraft, divination or spirit communication, often placing all occult activities into the category of fanciful tales or outright trickery.

“This is how occultism is gaining, and has gained, a foothold in many Christian lives. We have a community of believers with limited knowledge of the Bible. They have questions. When they do go to their pastors seeking answers, or with stories of paranormal experiences, they are rebuffed” – p. 159.

Section four, where McGuire tells stories about her own involvement in the occult helps us see the pathway in and out of occultic deception. Her voice of experience in these matters sets this book apart from other books about spiritual warfare.

At this time when paranormal subjects are getting lots of book, internet, and TV attention, we really need the kind of testimony and teaching that McGuire gives in her book. It is an excellent resource for Christians old and new. For the experienced believer it is a good review of spiritual warfare basics. For the new Christian it is for a clear explanation of what spiritual warfare is, and how and why we need to be involved. For all it is a challenge to holy living in every part of life.

I received An Insider’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare as a gift from the publisher, Chosen Books, for the purpose of writing a review.

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Eyes to See (review)

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Eyes to See by Becky Keep (with Tim Keep)It was an afterthought that prompted Becky Keep to ask the nurse practitioner to check five-week-old Jesse’s eyes. An observant grandma had commented that those baby eyes didn’t seem to be following normally. That last-minute request set the Keeps on a four-year journey that they never dreamed they’d be taking. Eyes to See: Glimpses of God in the Dark by Becky and Tim Keep is the story of that journey.

Through the book we experience the hills and valleys of their Jesse’s battle with retinoblastoma—cancer of the eyes. We ride the ups and downs of the many times the Keeps were told that the latest treatment seemed to be working only to discover that the cancer was back. We live with them through their on-again, off-again plans to return to the Philippines, where they were missionaries. But this book is much more than a riveting story. For in it we wrestle, along with Becky and Tim, with the mysteries of God’s dealings with people. Some of the things that I took from this story:

– The amazing way circumstances fell into place so that Jesse’s condition was discovered as early as it was. The chain of events was set in motion long before Jesse was even conceived.

– The goodness of God to the Keeps through family, friends and their church home, wherever it was.

– God’s way of providing an answer, e.g. a place to live, a job, often in the nick of time.

– The discussion of divine healing.

If there is one issue that people who believe that God’s healing power is available today grapple with it’s how do we explain when physical healing doesn’t happen. The Keeps went through the wringer here as people recommended a multitude of remedies, berated them for their lack of faith and scolded them for praying for healing “according to the will of God” insisting that this kind of prayer was “symptomatic of wavering faith, faith which should never expect to receive what it asks for” – p. 58.

This brought them to a realization of what seems to me the gem takeaway from the book, expressed in what Tim heard from God as he meditated on the story of Jesus who delayed coming to Bethany so that He was too late to heal His friend Lazarus (from John 11: 40):

“’My Son, I don’t want you to worry about my intentions toward Jesse or My will for your family. Nor do I want you to keep measuring your faith. What I want you to pray for right now, and the only thing I want you to pray for, is for My glory …. I want you to pray that through this difficult trial, men and women will see the embodiment of My life, My peace, My joy and My enabling grace” – P. 71.

Becky Keep tells the story with the skill of a seasoned storyteller, drawing us into their family’s life and experience through personal memories and anecdotes. There is also a section of black-and-white photos.

The story has a happy ending, or maybe I should say ‘continuation.’ Jesse appeared with his mom (along with the Collingsworth Family: Kim Collingsworth, mom of that musical clan, is Becky’s sister) at this year’s Gospel Music Celebration in Red Deer Alberta (July 13th). Jesse, now 15 years old, played to thousands, talked about his musical ambitions, and later signed copies of Eyes to See.

This is a book anyone, young or old, could read and enjoy. It would be especially meaningful for people struggling with health issues, particularly in their youngsters. It is a story of hope in God who gives the best healing of all—the healing of hearts.

Eyes to See: Glimpses of God in the Dark is available at Amazon.com

Collingsworth Family - 2013

The Collingsworth Family smile encouragement …

Jesse Keep - 2013

…as Jesse Keep plays piano. His mother, Becky Keep (author of Eyes to See) and weekend organizer Wayne Dyck look on.

Jesse Keep - 2013

Jesse Keep – up close (via the crowd monitor)

Eyes to See endorsement from Kim Collingsworth

Eyes to See endorsement from Kim Collingsworth