Tag Archives: Christian

The way to maturity is to become like kids

Jesus joyJesus says plainly: Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven – Matt. 18:3 NIV.

US researcher Robert Provine has found that kids laugh 300 times a day. It sounds to me like Jesus wants us to have more joy (I confess I myself am overly serious).

What’s surprising is that 1 Peter 2:2 exhorts Christians to “grow up” in their salvation. So it’s clear that Christian maturity involves becoming like children: they don’t harbor grudges, they love freely, they laugh.

Going on 24 years of marriage

marriage anniversaryIt’s one thing for young pups in love to send each other “forever” memes. We need to see older mature (?) married couples still in love. My wife and I celebrate 24 years this month. Praise God! It is not always easy but always worth it to work on it instead of throwing it away. My kids agree too.

Yeah right! Maternity leave is ‘freer time,’ so volunteer as volleyball coach

Lindsey Christian | LCA volleyballLindsey Christian gave birth three months ago, so – naturally – she volunteered to coach LCA’s girls’ volleyball team.

“I loved volleyball,” said the 2002 LCA graduate. “I felt like it was time to give back.”

Time to give back? Right after having her first baby?

“I saw my mom (AD Pam Sommer) looking everywhere for a coach. I was on maternity leave, so I had the most free time I’ve ever had. I realized I could do it,” Lindsey said. “Okay, so maybe I’m a little bit crazy.”

Read the rest of the article.

Win or lose, give glory to God

david luis praysNobody expected the embarrassing 7-1 loss of Brazil to Germany World Cup semi finals. But as critics groaned and Brazilians cried, another unexpected event transpired. Brazilian defender David Luiz dropped to his knees and prayed.

Amid a gaggle of self-lovers, braggarts and primadonnas who make up soccer’s elite, it’s refreshing to see genuine Christians.

To thank God publicly for a victory is admirable. To thank God for a defeat is maturity.

david luis supergoalAfter all, it’s only a game, though the way people follow it — and the way money is thrown at it — you’d think it was god.

And God is not a game. If we lose, let us remember that God doesn’t favor any team. He wants people to get in relationship with Him, starting now and continuing on into Heaven.

david luiz free kick“My faith in Jesus gives me strength to keep on going out onto the field and to do my best, but I also want to inspire others – that is what God inspires me to do,” Luiz gold Christian Today. “For me, true life is found in the relationship with Jesus Christ. I believe that everything in life belongs to God and he has a clear plan for us if we follow him.”

I like that more than seeing Argentina win tomorrow.

Brazil lost, as expected, to Netherlands today. Defense was shoddy. But Luiz is winning at a game that is much more important than soccer.

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Be a prayer warrior

prayerwarrior

Scheduled victory

Enjoying In-N-Out afterwards is a Lighthouse sports tradition. Nate (rt) proved his Fall injury has not hampered his bursts of speed on defense.

Enjoying In-N-Out afterwards is a Lighthouse sports tradition. Nate (rt) proved his Fall injury has not hampered his bursts of speed on defense.

Rob and Adrian were decisive

Adrian and Rob were decisive

Tex cut surgically through their defense.

Tex cut surgically through their defense.

People are congratulating “my” 9-2 win last night. I just shrug. The truth is that “I” didn’t win with Lighthouse Christian Academy soccer.

The AD did.

The AD — Athletics Director, for those who don’t know the lingo — won the game. She scheduled it.

Pretty much all I did was shuffle our lineup so as to NOT score any more goals. In the first 20 minutes — one-fourth of the game — we had made 7 goals. So to lessen the humiliation for the other team, I pulled off good players and threw on beginners. I pulled attackers back into defense.

The lopsided victory was no coaching genius. It was guaranteed even before we started simply because we had superior players.

It felt like the gospel. God as AD schedules us trials that we are destined to win. We may celebrate on the field, but it was God who ordained everything to begin with.

To be sure, God schedules defeats for us too. To teach us humility, patience, effort, dependence on Him, etc.

You can have your cosmovision of universal randomness. I like being a Christian.

Richard Wurmbrand tells of being tortured for Christ

imagesOut of 14 years in jail under the Communists in Romania, I spent three years alone in a cell 30 feet below ground, never seeing sun, moon or stars, flowers or snow, never seeing another man except for the guards and interrogators who beat and tortured me.

I seldom heard a noise in that prison. The guards had felt-soled shoes, and I did not hear their approach.

images-1I had no Bible, or any other books. I had no paper on which to write my thoughts. The only things we were expected to write were statements accusing ourselves and others.

During that time I rarely slept at night. I slept in the daytime. Every night I passed the hours in spiritual exercises and prayer. Every night I composed a sermon and delivered it (to myself).

I had a faint hope that one day I might be released…

images-2To be in a solitary cell under the Communists or the Nazis is to reach the peak of suffering. The reactions of Christians who pas through such trials are something apart from everything else.

———————————————–

Blogger’s Note: I stumbled across this book With God in Solitary Confinement, with the most unattractive cover, and discovered a gem we need to remember. God’s servants are suffering greatly around the world. They are an inspiration for us to live more whole-heartedly for the Lord. He died in 2001.

What’s the greatest feeling?

Photo thanks to PatriciaDDrury

On the verge of my wedding, an older friend told me the three happiest moments in life were: marriage, the birth of child, and becoming a grandparent.

Harrison Sommer, former a trial lawyer, opined that the greatest feeling is relief. When he wins, he gushes relief — he will get paid; the stress and uncertainty is over.

Photo thanks Climb St. Louis

I vote for forgiveness. It is something like all of the above-mentioned emotions.

Being forgiven is a part of love, more mature than falling in love, more undeserved than  having a baby or a grandchild. Not everyone who feels love, experiences this subgroup of special love called forgiveness.

It is a compounded relief. Relief is when you’re sweating it out to see if you get it. With forgiveness, you simply don’t stand a chance to get it, but you get it anyhow.

I have been forgiven by my wife. And that is how we are still married today, 22 years later. Anyone can fall in love. Anyone can leave (married) love to go experience the immature rush once again, thinking that’s all there is to love. Not just anyone gets the special privilege of forgiveness and getting a chance to continue with the choice of your youth.

Of course, God’s forgiveness on mankind, available instantly, is the most powerful. If you haven’t yet experienced it, by all means, do so today. He sent Christ to the cross in order to forgive us our sins. All we need do is ask.

 

Climbing without ropes

Like Spiderman, climbing sensation John Bachar moved quickly up the overhanging rock wall, sometimes sustaining his entire body weight with just a couple of fingers. And he did it without ropes.

When I caught up with Bachar in 1988 for interview on the dangerous sport called free-soloing, he philosophized about the freedom from cumbersome protective gear. He waxed about feeling at one with nature. It was a rush, other-worldly, like a drug.

An amateur rock climber myself, I made no plans to try it. Too many times, I had “popped off the rock” — insider lingo for losing your grip — and been saved by the combination of harness, rope, anchor and belay.

After years of feeding off the intoxicating sensation of brushing with death, Bachar fell fatally in July of 2009. Many other proponents of this extreme sport have similarly died. It would appear foolhardy to shun safety while scaling 100- and 1000-foot rock walls only for bragging rights.

Not only do I use ropes, I also go to church. I see in this body of believers a safeguard. The day I come crashing down, I have brothers and sisters to bear me up. I’m always “on belay.” (I personally am incredibly prone to crashing down.)

Others prefer to unencumber themselves of the church, to go it alone in life. It may feel restrictive, but that same restrictiveness is a safety.

A wimpy gifting

Pastor Charles was talking about how each Christian has at least one gift from God, and how we all need to use our gift to help out in the church. As I was listening to the sermon, I realized I must have the gift of criticizing.

The church really needs someone to whip everyone into shape, so immediately after the service I marched off to let Sister Winnie know that as the cleaning lady for the church, she was doing a very poor job. I pointed out a certain area that she had left dusty and disorganized from Saturday.

She broke out in tears, but no matter. I went off quickly to tell Elder Eli that his Sunday School teaching was particularly boring and that he ought to add more jokes into it. I turned my back on him eager to continue using my gifting from God. I found Walter and told him his tie did not go with his pants. Timothy was right there listening, so I finally told him that the way he laughs annoys a lot of people in church, and that he should learn how to laugh like a normal human being.

He turned red with anger, but, hey, the truth hurts, right? I was looking for Sister Martha to tell her to stop judging others when my dad caught up with me and pulled me out to the car by my arm. He gave a big lecture about not hurting people’s feelings. But I told him that I was just exercising my gifting. He was pretty mad at me.

So, here I am, trying to figure out where I went wrong. Boy, just when you try to do something right, everyone doesn’t know how to appreciate you. Here’s what I say: A prophet is not without honor except in his own household.

The hardest thing

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the Unite...

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945.

The easiest thing is to quit.

It requires no courage, no effort, no optimism, no reassessment, no analysis, no second attempt, no positive enthusiasm, no uphill battle.

My soccer team practiced on the beach

So much of Europe just surrendered as Nazi tanks rolled in. They didn’t even try to fight for their homeland. But England was whipped into resistance by Winston Churchill. He said: Never, never, never, never, never give up! He promised the Nazis war by air, war by sea, war by land — on the beaches, over the plains, in the forests, in the cities, room by room, if need by, until the last Nazi fell or withdrew.

I coach a high school soccer team. We are small school, so there’s no talent pool. A few are good, another few are athletic, some are total beginners. We go up against some really good teams. Last season, a typical loss was 10-1. This season, some players have already decided that we have lost.

If you KNOW that you are going to lose even before your feet touch the field, then you WILL fulfill your own prophecy. No wonder some of the kids goof-off at practice, crack jokes and skip training. It’s all pointless, anyhow, right?

I think David saw possibility where others saw only death. He wasn’t afraid to take on a 9-foot tall giant named Goliath. And he took him out.

Quitting may be easy. But it provides no reward, no satisfaction, no triumphalism, no heroics, no solace, no hope, no joy. There’s nothing better than winning by upset. To get that, you have to believe in yourself.

Setback? Step forward!

Why do they call it a “setback” if in reality is a necessary step to move forward?

The king of setback is of course Joseph. He dreams of greatness and leadership. Instead, he narrowly escapes death and winds up a slave. If that weren’t bad enough, he then is thrown into prison. He spends some 20 years in forced labor and then as a convict.

But the dude never stops dreaming. In fact, he interprets dreams. Overnight, he’s freed from jail and set upon a throne second only to Pharoah. He orchestrates a seven year famine survival for nations and brings the fledgling nation of Israel down the the Egyptian incubator. Four hundreds years later, they’re a few million, ready to take possession of the Promised Land.

Every step was necessary. Any one of them could have caused moaning. Discouragement could have overpowered the poor kid’s heart. But Joseph maintained perspective! They shackled his hands but never his heart.

Don’t despair with today’s setbacks. In reality, they are steps towards tomorrow’s successes.

Daniel’s secret

Anybody who attains wild success these days, writes a book and explains the “secret.”

The Prophet Daniel was second in power in the Persian empire, trusted like no other counselor. More than just competent administration drove him to the top. His secret was prayer.

Three times a day, he neglected his insanely busy schedule to make time for God. This is an important reminder to us Christians who are trying to advance the kingdom of God. A recent survey found pastors pray on average only seven minutes a day.

King David, likewise, sought God’s face as a #1 priority. When he failed to do so, he fell into

sin. Christ also needed time alone with God. The busier they were, the more the Biblical heroes found time to pray.

This is difficult because it is counter-intuitive, especially here in America, where we are barraged by the message that time (working time) is money. Make (more) time for God today.

 

Sock water

They call it sock water. The idea is that the Guatemalans make coffee so weak that it approximates the post-laundry runoff.

I like STRONG coffee, you know, the kind that approximates black ink. When I sip a cup, I want it to feel like

Don’t want no weak coffee

heavyweight punch. My body pulsates, my mind sharpens, the spoon dissolves, the aroma causes furniture to levitate.

Strong coffee has saved my marriage! Without it, I mumble and grunt to my wife. With it, I am a chatterbox! She likes to talk with me. She doesn’t like a Neanderthal grunter husband.

Are your prayers STRONG or weak?

Oh yeah!

Don’t get me wrong. Some prayer is better than no prayer. And I’m not quite ready to say God prefers espressos. But maybe your prayers, honestly, are more unfeeling religious duty without much zing. Distill the caffeine jolt of faith!

If you like weak coffee, don’t be offended. The comparison is meant to encourage better

May the froth be with you!

praying, not insult your tastes! Cheers! Drink up!

Cookie philosophy

Those cookies were so delicious that I, a UCLA undergrad, wanted the whole bag for myself. But as I hoarded and ate, I realized the Diddy Riese cookies from Westwood just weren’t so good all by myself. They were much tastier if I ate them (shared them) with another person. Selfishness and greed ruined the treat.

Cookies are the vehicle to philosophy??? What is true of cookies is true of finances, of everything you have. When you share with meaningful people, when you share with a meaningful cause, it makes your life much more pleasurable. The reason why Scrooge is such a powerful persona is because he resonates with so many people.

Share today! Don’t wait for the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future to visit you. Break out the stash of cookies and spread around the happiness. Whatever your wealth, whatever your talent, it will be tastier to you if it is shared.

 

Undiminishable riches

I LOVE this photo!

A theologian said God’s resources are so unimaginably vast that no matter how much you take, you cannot in the least reduce the sum of them.

So when God says “no,” it is NOT because He doesn’t have. It may be the request is bad (like a baby who demands more ice cream than is good for him: “I WANT!”). Or it may

Step up your ministry today — through prayer. (Thank you to whomever I stole this photo from. I forgot who you are to give you credit. You have awesome photos!)

be that His “no” is really “wait.” God wants to build patience and character in us, so He doesn’t respond instantly.

Jesus is unflinchingly unequivocal: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you – Matt. 7:7 NIV. A resounding “yes!” will greet every request. But He doesn’t say when.

I track the success rate of my prayer requests. Sometimes I downright dumbfounded: everything I asked for. I asked for more students in the school where I teach, and He answered. I asked for finances f

Add some bite to your effectiveness! Pray!

or my church, and He answered. I asked for a certain troubled youth to come around to Jesus, and He answered.

You may think prayer is for grannies who have nothing better to do. I think prayer is greater efficiency than spinning your wheels in sand. At your disposal is unlimited wealth. You can only exploit it by praying.

Happy Helloween

We were zombies. That is all.

Now, we are Christians. We are NOT better, holier, smarter, prettier — none of that. Sometimes we strike you as judgmental, shrill, annoying, killjoys, prideful, hypocritical. We are an abysmal reflection of the Father’s love.

But we definitely don’t want to be exclusivists. We want to welcome you with open arms to this marvelous life we have discovered, many of us serendipitously. We walked around living dead. The life we lived we thought was life; we found true life in the Son. We don’t want to exclude you from the Light, above all else.

Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” – John 3:3 NIV. Being born-again means we were once dead, though alive. Now we have come to true life in Him! Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and THE LIFE. No one comes to the Father except through me. — John 14:6 NIV. Jesus doesn’t say He’s a list of rules; He’s life. What’s more, He’s THE life. If you think you’re living life without Him, you still haven’t discovered the best life possible.

Start your life today! Love, joy and peace you never thought possible are yours for the taking right now. We are no longer zombies. You can join us.

Wimpy blog: Getting the most out of the ‘text’

When mom asked me if I liked the sermon on Sunday, I replied that I really enjoyed the text. She thought I meant the scripture, which was my attempt to confuse her. Because the truth is that I didn’t hear any of the sermon; I was busy texting the whole time.

As you can see, it wasn’t a completely a lie. All I can say is that it was a good thing mom kept cooking and didn’t ask anything else about the sermon, because I would have been hard-pressed to make things up.

I really thank God that I have one of those unlimited text plans. I think Jesus said to pray always, without ceasing. The way I see it I’m doing something like that. I’m somewhat Biblical because I’m constantly texting with my friends. That’s the “without ceasing” part of the verse.

Hey Jesus, here’s my msg 2 u:   :)

Bomb them or evangelize them

When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them – Luke 9:54-55 NIV.

A sharp contrast separates his disciples from Jesus — and that chasm remains today. While the “disciples” want to send bombs off to wipe out entire cities, Jesus proposes forgiveness and evangelization.

America has some Christian foundations, but all we can muster is war against Middle Eastern nations. We have no love to give. Let’s not expect anything good to come from the continuation of the Crusades. Until we share the gospel with these peoples, the hostilities will continue, and we won’t be able to expect safety at home any more.

Stop condemning others. Give them love. Someone said recently that America now spends yearly as much on mascot Halloween costumes as it does on missions. But the budget for military attacks is unlimited. Why do we do this? Because it’s easier to bomb peoples and just wash our hands of them.

In reality, I’m not taking a stand for or against military defense. I AM taking a stand against negligence on the behalf of Christians to pray and send missions. If we have no gospel to give, then we are left only with bombs. Jesus was willing to go to the cross for people’s salvation. What are we willing to do to spread the gospel? Because we are unwilling, we prefer to laud the use of bombs.

Find happiness. Serve others.

Jean Paul Sartre

Jean Paul Sartre wanted to be remembered fighting for causes of humanity around the world. This is quite ironic because he and his cohorts espoused existentialism, a philosophy which can affirm no other reality other than self-existence and self-affirmation.

Our modern world, without even knowing the profundities of philosophy, has basically adopted the existentialist outlook. But people largely haven’t caught on to helping others. You see, if all you can really know is between your ears, then you can live for yourself, please yourself, serve yourself, because you don’t even know if others exist, much less God.

existential despair

existential despair

The Bible is antithetical to all this non-sense. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. – 1 Cor. 10:24 NIV. If you exist, you DON’T exist for yourself but for others.

When I was in high school, my teachers indoctrinated me with existentialist teaching. It troubled me. As a youngster, I still didn’t have depth or perspective to see through the veneer of sophisticated arguments. I’m glad I held on to Jesus through the years.

Not so, many friends. The onslaught of teaching evolution, Marxism, existentialism and the like was the fusillade they didn’t survive. Those authors and teachers pointed students to a “reality” void of any purpose other than self-actualization.

Christianity does many wonderous things for you and to you. But eventually you are to mature and join Christ’s work in helping others. When you get to that point, you will discover the greatest happiness humanity can know: the satisfaction of serving God and people. Stop focusing on your self.

Turn brown to green

The Israelites were experienced with deserts. For forty years, they tramped to and fro until their bodies lay scattered across the Sinai wasteland. Elijah and John the Baptists headquartered their ministries in the desert. Some people actually think brown is beautiful.

But the rest of us are enchanted with lush paradise, a pine-covered mountain cut by a waterfall, a Hawaii island with rich volcanic soil great for growing pineapples. God promises to turn brown into green.

He will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD
– Isa. 51:3 NIV.

Jehovah Jireh promises to turn the unproductive land into a championship garden. If your ministry is going through a financial desert, God makes the waters flow. He fertilizes and transform sand into loam.

Where sand swirls in dirt devils today, a gurgling rush of water will empty into a pool ringed by greenery. Pray and believe towards that end.

Slavery success

Since when is slavery a path to riches?

God made the Israelites into slaves for 400 years — and this was His plan to make them rich! After enduring 10 successive plagues, the Egyptians were all to eager to be rid of their slaves and so they sent them off with loaded with gold and bedecked with jewels.

God prophesied to Abraham about this: After (the period of slavery) they will come out with great possessions — Gen. 15:14 NIV.

Well, ministry is not a six-digit career. But God can make the riches gush out of the unlikeliest places. He makes water come out of the rock, gold coins come out of fishes mouths — and wealth out of slavery! Ministry is NOT as bad a slavery, so don’t be afraid to fulfill your call for monetary fears.

And, when you pray for finances, it’s never a problem for God, though we fret needlessly. He can even make slaves into millionaires!

Don’t wait till you’re dead…

Jump in! (to help others)

… to figure out how good it is to do good!

It’s wonderful and fun to serve self. But many people never discover the greatness of giving.

I believe in Heaven! I look forward to continuing wondrous life

Bro. John Mira wakes up early Sunday mornings to lift up hearts at the “New Beginnings” rehab home in downtown Los Angeles.

in an even better place with loving people having lots of fun. We’ll worship God and have a blast!

It seems some will regret the wastefulness of their lives only too late. We should realize our potential for good now, not later. You have health and energy! Why not spend of your money, of your time, to do some good in the world!?

Poke through the clouds of oppression, into the light!

Give to the needy! Serve in a soup kitchen. Help out in a drug rehab home! Volunteer coach a soccer team. Work in a church. It will infuse you with so much positive energy and zest for life! Stop  grousing about how bad is your spouse or house. Stop looking to “get more out of life” and look to give more to life.

Make an impact in our generation!

John F. Kennedy inspired a generation with these words: Ask not what you’re country can give to you. Ask what you can give to your country.

Can we recapture altruism? Or has giving become “all-false-ism?”

Leftovers!

You’ll like these leftovers! They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over — Luke 9:17 NIV.

The most overlooked detail is the leftovers. Five thousand men were fed with only five loaves and two fish. But don’t miss the detail that they wound up with more at the end of the meal than what they started with. In mathematics: 12 baskets > 5 loaves + 2 fish.

That’s God’s provision — more than enough. He gives you for the journey afterward. We marvel at the 5,000 fed; we tend to miss to cache of grub to be stored away in the refrigerator.

When you pray for finances today for your ministry, pray for enough for your needs and then some leftovers for future needs! That’s the kind of God we serve!

Believe a little more

Release your faith!

This is the only human part.

If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us, says the father of a boy tormented by a demon.

‘If you can’? replies Jesus. Everything is possible for him who believes.

To this light rebuke for lack of faith, the father quickly and wisely reacts: I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief! Mark 9:22-24 (NIV and paraphrase).

Pursue faith

The man is teetering on the brink of success or failure, healing or continued sickness. The great challenge for him — his only participation in the arrangement since God is going to do all the rest — is to believe just a little bit more.

We have little to do as Christians. We do nothing but accept Jesus to be saved; we don’t earn it by good works. We do nothing but pray to receive miracles. We don’t earn them.

Just a drop more of faith

Virtually our only effort is to muster faith, to stir ourselves up to belief, to convince ourselves that God’s word is right and our reality is wrong. More faith.

This is the only human part. Because the other part — the actual performing of the miracle — that’s God part. Can I believe just a little bit more today?

It’ll grow

Plant a seed and watch it grow.

If I were to tell the truth, when I first went to Guatemala 18 year ago, I couldn’t believe for more than 25 people to come to church. My faith was low.

Within the second year, we were running 100.

Now, church attendance didn’t stay at 100. It went back down to 25. But it grew more than I expected. Today, I am back in the States, and the church is still growing. We have a school with 150 kids. The church is running up to 60 people. My stateside church just sent Pastor Steven Fernandez and Diane down to help out with the work. I visited to help them get established. I was astonished at what God will do.

Your labor in the Lord is not in vain – 1 Cor. 15:58 NIV.

I was the kinda guy who when he planted a seed, sat there waiting impatiently for the plant to pop out. And when it didn’t, I grumbled that food doesn’t come from agriculture after all. Hahahaha! How long did it take the for the giant sequoias to grow?

But sticking with it proved a meritorious method. And God brought the growth.

Every prayer you pray is like casting a seed. Sit back and patiently wait for it to grow.

Not big nor difficult

For God, it’s…

Whether big or small, any miracle is equally easy for God. Just because your petition is “big” or “difficult” doesn’t mean it is any harder for God. Since he is all powerful, nothing is beyond His capabilities.

The reason why “small” miracles seem “easier” is a matter of us — not God. WE believe because it is small. We DON’T believe because it is “big.” But the size of the miracle is irrelevant to Supreme Power.

Let’s move some mountains!

Therefore I tell you, WHATEVER you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours – Mark 11:24 NIV (caps mine). Not every saying of Jesus appears in all the Gospels, but this one features throughout — and it even gets repeated in some of the Gospels. It’s as if God really wanted to underline the truth that WHATEVER or ANYTHING is possible for Him.

So today, pray and believe.

Life without struggle

 

Without struggle, there is no life.

Get used to struggle. Feel comfortable with it. Don’t run away, whine or complain because struggle is bound to be part of your life. We live in a fallen world. Life without struggle? No such.

Prayer is a key to triumph, not avoidance. David had his struggles. So did Noah. Daniel didn’t slip past it. Elijah went to the cave because of it. Jesus had the mightiest of all struggles. Paul was stoned and left for dead. John was exiled to Patmos.

Nelly and Pastor Ludving

My greatest, latest struggle has been for Nelly, the wife of the pastor who took over my Guatemalan church. She has off-the-charts arthritis and a recurring hernia. I grew anguished as I heard about her difficulties. But I was just in Guatemala and saw her laugh. She delighted in cooking food for me. We shared wonderful fellowship with her husband. I realized everything is going to be all right. My faith had been slipping. The struggle is great. I should keep my faith level high and not grow discouraged.

If we realize we can’t avoid struggle, we can embrace it. It is like the gym. Lifting weights makes muscles grow. Struggle makes faith grow.

 

Courage to face the day

Some need their energy drink. I need prayer.

It would be too easy just to resign myself, to stop fighting, to “read the writing on the wall.” Nothing will stop approaching disaster. Give up, accept it, God is not going to do it this time. After praying for Nelly’s hernia for a year, nothing has happened.

If I don’t go to prayer, I have a depressed day without faith. Murphy’s pessimism takes over my mind and heart. I get discouraged. Prayer pulls me out of the abyss. Prayer reminds me to rally faith in my heart, to believe, to continue to believe. Prayer reminds me that God gives last minute, glorious answers. Stay on track to faith.

As fast as a speeding train

The railroad company built a shield out the back of the car to lengthen the slipstream.

Charles Murphy became  the first man to ride a mile in a minute on a bicycle in 1899. He did so by laying wood planks between rails on Long Island and riding in the slipstream behind a speeding train. He proved his boast: the greatest limitation for the cyclist was not athleticism but wind resistance.

On the carpet of wooden planks laid for the event

Having completed the feat, Murphy was clasped and dragged from his still-moving bike into the back of the racing train. “I lay motionless, face down, on the platform. I was all in. I was half-carried to a cot at the end of the car; the roar of the train was challenged by hysterical yells. Grown men hugged and kissed each other. One man fainted and another went into hysterics, while I remained speechless on my back, ashen in colour and sore all over.”

It was a grand moment for cycling. Also, it was heyday for physics. By defeating wind drag, the cyclist could go faster and faster and faster.

Here’s a metaphor: prayer eliminates barriers, resistance, drag and other natural and human constraints on the man of God. The more you pray, the faster your ministry goes. It took Murphy and the Long Island Railroad a while to set up optimal conditions for the exposition record-breaking ride. But once they did, glory was won in less than 60 seconds. You may need time to set up “optimal conditions” in prayer that will flash in revival quickly.

The stampede

 

When thunder clapped, it sent the vast cattle herds of the Old West into a panicked stampede. At night, stampedes were guaranteed death because the animals would hurtle blindly into a river or off a cliff.

It was the cowboy’s job to race his horse to the front of the stampede and make the cows turn into a large circle where eventually the first cattle followed the last cattle. Thus, each cow, following the one in front, kept running in a circle until, exhausted, they fell down and rested.

It was a terrifying job to rush breakneck into complete darkness. But there was no other way to save the cows. It reminds of the pastor, who springs into action praying to offset the coming judgement of God over his church.

Prayer should be constant. It is also emergency-based. A prayer warrior is a cowboy.

 

Squatters and invaders

The Guatemalan poor have no land, so they gather a mob and all move in at once onto unoccupied land. These squatters are called “invaders,” and their removal from private property frequently leads to blood-shedding. They cling desperately to a place they wish to call home without having any right to be there.

This is a Biblical comparison, not a political commentary. Demons are invaders. They have no right, but they simply move in, through sin, and occupy the human heart and mind. They must be opposed and evicted with force. They cling desperately to the spot they have laid claim to.

When you pray, it is no grandmotherly knitting. It is doing violence to the kingdom of Hell. It is demanding they obey the rightful law of God, forcing them to submit to God’s superiority. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. – Matt. 11:12 KJV.

Canaan walk no cake walk

I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. — Josh. 1:3 NIV.

To this wonderful promise, there was just one problem. The Israelites had to fight for it. The Canaan walk was no cake walk. They would establish DOMINION by endangering their lives. Blood, sweat and tears.

You too have the magnificent promise that you must establish dominion in your ministry. God will grant it. But it will not be an easy war. It will be long, arduous, painful — and underfunded.

Prayer is taking dominion. Don´t be surprised that demons don´t give up easily. They go down fighting. Really, they have nothing left to lose (they are destined to hell irremediably), and they fight like it. Pray more, pray harder, in the bank line, while driving, in a lull during that meeting. Every prayer is a sword strike against the enemy. Every prayer is another demon of the millions you must expel. Every prayer is finances for your ministry. Don´t pray a Caribbean hammock prayer; pray a war prayer.

What has God called you to? That is your Canaan in which you must fight to win dominion. God will grant it. But it will cost you dearly.

A tale of two brothers

Adolf and Rudolf Dassler inherited shoe-making from their dad, but they didn’t inherit love for each other. Adolf broke off their partnership and founded Addidas, while Rudolf founded Puma — both in the same German town of Herzogenaurach.

A rare photo where both brothers, left and middle, appear together

Their intense sibling rivalry led to unprecedented shoe wars waged through stepped-up bidding battles for the hottest athletes. In an attempt to stave off the spiraling sponsorship costs, both made a pact to not pursue Brazilian soccer genius Pele.

Pele led the Brazilians to World Cup glory in 1970

But Rudolf betrayed it. He paid $120,000 for Pele in the 1970 World Cup to ask the ref to not whistle the beginning so that he could tie his shoes. As worldwide television looked on at the cause of the delay, Puma won a publicity coup without parallel.

His brother never forgave him. The two are even buried in the farthest opposing extremities of the town cemetery.

Can’t we get along??? Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven — Matt. 18:19 NIV. We ought to get along at least enough to pray together.

The Dassler brothers only tamed their family war with the appearance of Nike, which blindsided them and stole huge shares of the athletics market. Only when the devil shows up, will we get along?

Would that Christians were weaver ants

From National Geographic

When weaver ants sense danger, it’s all hands on deck to protect the queen. They dogpile her in a protective ball of warriors, willing to cede their lives for the good of their leader. You see, the queen is the principal reproducer of the colony.

Do we protect our pastor, the principle reproducer of the church, this way? Sadly, all the warrior ants of the colony/church often attack the pastor and cut him to pieces instead of protecting him!

Mother Nature can teach us about Father God! If we will only pay attention to the lesson. We ought to defend our pastor, understand that after all he’s only a man. We pray for him, uphold him, encourage him, give him gifts of money as he needs.

Too many Christians have the mega-church mentality. We want a superstar pastor whose smooth and cool with no rough edges. We want a demigod, not a man of God. We need to be patient and loving with our pastor and stop demanding superhuman. capabilities. Let him have his feet on the Earth. Instead of complaining, pray for him!

We have not even begun to give!

 

Someone recently gave a handsome sum of money to a Third World church, and then prayed, “To whom much has been given, much is expected.” Since I lived 16 years in the Third World, I have a different perspective than most: We cannot apply this verse to others, only to ourselves.

I know firsthand how the Third World church lives: dirt floors, open sewage, malnutrition, roofs that fall in during a downpour. Christians serve 17-hour days. They walk to and from church 5 miles, through inclement weather, in danger of thieves.

How dare we? How dare we impose on Third World Christians a burden we would not lift ourselves? When we Americans feel like we have given until burnout, we are still FAR better off than 95% of the world.

Today’s blog is brash call to introspection. It is also a rousing cry to continue giving. Banish burnout from your mind and heart and continue to give. Because after all is said and done, we (Americans) only ever give of our excess.

 

When you reap what you didn’t sow

Money is a problem for us, not for God. We quote to our kids that money doesn’t grow on trees or appear out of thin air. But for God it does. He can make money appear from nowhere.

I harvest crops I didn’t plant and gather crops I didn’t cultivate. — Matt. 25:26. Many know God as the “God of the Harvest.” But do you know that He is also the “God of the Harvest that He did not Cultivate” and the “God of the Harvest You did not Cultivate.”

He can bring a windfall at any time — usually just in time (it always seems late). The word “windfall” is derived from the Middle Ages, when peasants were forbidden to chop wood for cooking. When a wind whipped up, it often blew down the necessary firewood. It was called a “windfall.”

God’s Wind, his Holy Spirit, will blow finances your way. Just pray. God’s harvest of unknown origins will be reaped into your barn. Just pray. Don’t chafe under the mounting bills. Trust and keep working for souls.

Wimpy blog

A funny thing happened in Sunday school yesterday. Elder Eli was teaching about being your brother’s keeper from Galatians 6:1: Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.

As he expounded, a lot of us teens kept looking at each other with our eyes wide open, almost laughing, because it’s his kids who are the biggest trouble-makers. Basically, Mr. Eli was teaching us to tell on the youth who are messing up. It was funny because he didn’t show any signs of realizing the irony. He believes his kids are the angels of the church .

The other thing was not so funny though. We can’t tell on HIS kids because they’re bigger than my group of friends AND once you rat out someone you get a bad rap in the church so that no one wants to be your friend. Not that Harry or Phillip are friends of mine to worry about losing them.

I’ve grown up in church, so I’ve heard this lesson before. But you can’t actually apply some of the things of the Bible. You have to sort of filter the Bible and make adjustments for reality, you know? The unwritten rules are what’s important.

 

Rip down the evil insignia

Apostolos Santas acted with daring. He and a friend tore down the Nazi flag on the Acropolis on May 30, 1941. His brash courage inspired thousands to resistance fighting against the Axis domination.

Many historians say it was not the Russians or the Americans who won World War II but it was the Greeks. After all, the trouble they caused to the Nazi War Machine mired them down and slowed their blitzkrieg into Russia.

It’s not worth to live by cowardice. Make a brazen move to live for God, and stick to your guns. Don’t just let the evil powers dominate your life, your ministry. Stand up and fight — in prayer! Are we not fighting for people’s freedom (from Satanic domination)?

For his bravery, Santas was condemned but never caught by the Nazis. He was canonized as a hero, not only for the Greeks, but for freedom-fighters everywhere. Dare to stand for what you believe. You can run away from troubles until you die, but history belongs to those who act.

Dagon’s down

Crisis reigns in Israel. Not only have they lost the Philistine war, the ark of the covenant, Israel’s one great treasure, has been captured. Now, it lies deep within enemy territory, in their temple, a tribute to their god, a mockery to the one true God. True believers are in disgrace.

A depiction of Dagon

But when there is absolutely no hope, God’s not panicked. Instead, He uses the hopelessness to glorify Himself. The first night His holy ark is in a pagan temple, he makes the idol Dagon bow before it.

When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! They took Dagon and put him back in his place. — 1 Sam. 5:3 NIV. The Philistines don’t get. They think it’s a fluke.

A replica of the ark

But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained. — 1 Sam. 5:4 NIV.

Things are about to get worse, and the Philistines grow terrified. The message is clear: You don’t make a trophy of the one true God to honor false gods. That is what the Philistines learn.

They sent it back on a cart pulled by cattle, who with no guiding, took it straight back to Israel.

The Israelites learn that God can act alone, without any human intervention. At the end of the story, the Philistines send the ark back to Israel voluntarily. There is no military raid to recover it. No high-level diplomatic negotiations. No agreement to exchange war prisoners. To the Israelite perspective, it is starkly an Act of God.

Maybe you need an Act of God for your desperate circumstances today. Instead of wringing your hands, fold them in prayer. Instead of anxiety, let quiet trust reign in your heart.

God doesn’t need you. He needs only your prayers.

Measure of greatness

Greatness in the world is vastly different than greatness in the Kingdom of God. In fact, the two outlooks are in direct conflict.

My pastor once was a college football player. At that time, greatness was the privilege to tread the turf of a Rose Bowl Tournament.

Now, greatness is sharing the Word of God over breakfast at Fromin’s Delicatessen in Santa Monica with a few early risers. It is a privilege.

If greatness for you is money, your goals may bring you into conflict with God’s word. You may call yourself a Christian but the majority of your effort is, in fact, not to advance His kingdom.

Your view of greatness is your vision for life.

Unlocking Heaven’s riches

How to unlock the unlimited riches of Heaven for my ministry? Theologically, it is simply a matter of asking. But then there are other factors: perseverance, attitude, seeking God. To get it all right can feel like picking a safe.

By no means are we stealing from God. But sometimes our immaturity gets in the way. Sometimes, selfishness, wrong motives, capriciousness, unforgiveness and an evil host of other reasons block that instant answer we desperately want. Some people seem to get answers easier than others, some get more money than others. It’s as if they know the combination to the safe.

I don’t aim to explain — or even know — all the answers here. I shoot only to encourage. Continue praying. Strive to line up all your attitudes and motives with the Word of God. Persist day after day. These are correct.

The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. – Rom. 8:27 NIV.

Yes! We are weak! Sometimes, we don’t know how to pray!

In this verse, pentecostal commentators see the groanings as “tongues.” Others say they are just groanings. Whatever the case, you ought to practice your interpretation. What is clear is that we do not always know how to pray, and the Spirit is there to help us.

In other words, God wants us to get to the answer even more than we do (though it may not seem like it!). So get the Holy Spirit to help you. If you’re going to “make off” with Heaven’s wealth, you’re going to have to find the right combination!

‘Immortal’ cells

Normal cells cease to replicate at about the 50th cell division. Not so with the HeLa cells, which are immortal. Taken from a cancer from Henrietta Lacks in 1951, these extraordinary cells are cultivated in lab cultures and propagate endlessly. They have been useful in research for the polio vaccine, cancer, AIDS, and gene mapping. HeLa cells have given so much to humanity, and they just keep giving.

Henrietta Lax

Shouldn’t Christians be like that? There are people who burn out on their donating. At some point, they get frustrated with the endless need for their finances and start looking out only for number one. There are pastors who weary of self-sacrifice for the good of others; they start doing more for me. After replicating about 50 times, they’ve had enough.

Let us pray for resiliency today. We should be the workers who “bear the heat of the day” and don’t complain to the Vineyard Owner about getting the same wage as the Johnny-come-latelies. He who stands firm to the end will be saved. — Mark 13:13 NIV. Don’t just start the race gloriously; finish it satisfactorily.

Zero-point faith

Contained within a barrel of water is enough static energy to fuel the U.S. economy for a year. Contained within in every CC of the universe is the Zero-point energy equivalent to 100,000 of our suns burning for 1 million years. The trouble with these energies is how to liberate them.

Contained within a common Christian is enough prayer power to bring the U.S. to revival. Contained within in every CC of the church is prayer point power equivalent of Book of Acts Revival world wide. The trouble with these energies is how to liberate them.

In the case of static or Zero-point energies, principles of physics impede their unleashing — at least, for now. In the case of  individual or group prayer, principles of laziness and carnality impede their release — at least, until somebody really decides to lay a hold of God.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you — John 15:7 NIV.

Hasta la victoria, siempre

For decades, Che Guevara was the most maligned figure by the CIA. An Argentine instrumental in Castro’s Cuban revolution, Guevara stood for communism, the toppling of governments by “popular uprising,” even the overthrow of the USA. To be honest, his picture struck me with fear back in the day when I was a teenager. But the Cold War has gone, well, cold. A re-evaluation might be permitted without war-whipped paranoia.

“El Che” was an inspirational personage. Free from the weight of wanting materialistic comforts, he fought unreservedly. His slogan, in Spanish in the title, is translated: “Towards (unto) victory, always.” Not even death would deter him from trying for triumph.

You may not like his atheistic humanism, but you ought not to dismiss his life — such sacrifice, such fearlessness, such passion. Where’s the Christian nowadays who matches his commitment?

For Guevara, self-denial meant dying, executed by Rangers in Bolivia, where he had tried to spark revolution. For us, “sacrifice” means getting out of bed to go to prayer. It means turning off the TV to read the Bible. Are we willing to go to the most God-forsaken lands to bring a revolution of Christian truth?

Nowadays, the insignia of Guevara has become watered down, a harmless symbol for adolescent rebelliousness. He’s become as mild as Pancho Villa or Bob Marley. My hope would be that our Christianity would retain its edge and not go mild.

Prayer is unamerican

 

The soul of America is do-it-yourself. From the pioneers to the engineers, from the entrepreneurs to the politicians, the self-made man is the highest ideal. Rambo personifies the one-against-all, triumph-by-my-own-resources mentality. In the 1800s Horatio Alger Jr. promoted the “rags to riches” storyline in his popular novels, always of a character who was amply rewarded for his self-reliance and hard work. Whether it be defeating infectious diseases or inventing military drones to bomb terrorists, Americans know we can do it all — by ourselves.

No wonder prayer enjoys such small popularity: its essence is to rely on God. Throughout the classroom, the media and circles of friends, we are told directly and indirectly to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Then in church, we are told to let God pull ourselves up. Depending on another — even if that other is God — runs contrary to our common sense.

Consider the marvels of prayer! How much do you depend on yourself? How much on God? Chuck Colson, President Nixon‘s hatchet man, was shocked when he read the Bible for himself and discovered that his favorite “verse” actually is NOT in the Bible: “God helps those who help themselves.”

People who live off of handouts get scorned. But what about if the handout is from God?

 

The prior enemies

The LAST enemy to be destroyed is death — 1 Cor. 15:26 NIV (caps mine). It should be obvious that if there is a LAST enemy, then there are PRIOR enemies.

The last of the unholy horde, death will be killed. Before that — in other words, NOW — other enemies need to be eliminated: scarcity in your ministry, stingy giving, doubtful offering, poverty mentality. These are enemies of your ministry because they are holding up, limiting, blocking the advancement of God’s kingdom.

We need to proceed against these enemies now — in prayer. They should be destroyed with no further waiting. The Bible specifies that we should NOT subdue death because that is reserved for the End. But we mustn’t hold off the rough treatment of other enemies that must be defeated before the end. Be violent in your upper room with these spirits that are strangling the flow of money.

A stage call: powerlessness II

 

Hannah bore the misery of powerlessness. Childless, she cringed under the withering scorn of those around her and even doubted the love of her husband. There was nothing she could do about it — no fertility doctors back then. In prayer, her lips quivered so bad that the chief priest mistook for a drunk woman.

Powerlessness is the story of salvation. We are absolutely powerlessness to fulfill the law and earn our way to Heaven. So Christ came down from Heaven to do it for us as a man. Powerlessness, then, is the essence of Christianity.

So don’t be overly distressed in a moment of utter powerlessness. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong – 2 Cor. 12:10 NIV. Powerlessness is the stage call the Powerful One. He will appear on scene and vanquish all things that have cornered us and deprived us of our dignity.

Hannah’s prayer got answered. Silencing her rival, she gave birth to Samuel the prophet — and a few more kids afterward. Her rancor turned to rapture.

 

Nothing less

With phenomenal power, God resurrected Jesus. No lesser power is at your disposal when you pray.

He has called you (to) … his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms. — Eph. 1:18-20 NIV.

Ephesians makes it plain. Your prayers have access to NOT an inferior power but the very same might of the resurrection. Now, here on Earth. Is there anything impossible for this power that even undoes the ultimate finality? Devils are dismayed. That’s why they sweat the overtime furious workload to keep you out of prayer — at all costs!

As soon as you prayer, the same power that resurrected Jesus will be channeled toward your needs. Hell trembles at the thought! I’m no historian of revivals, but what I know is that they were fueled by prayer. Do you want revival? Pray.

Do you want finances? Pray. Do you want healing? Pray. Do you want deliverance? Pray. The only thing that can stop prayer is YOU (if you stop praying).

Amazing Granada

Granada at night

Granada is the most enchanting place. The Alhambra citadel complex with vast gardens and huge medieval structures graces this Southern city in Spain. It was here that I first met Europe. It was here also that God taught me about prayer.

As a penny-pinching missionary, I never thought I

Part of the Alhambra complex

could visit the Old Continent. By preaching for Bro. Gregorio Ponce, I got housing, transportation, and tour for free. There I saw Carlos V’s palace, a circular structure with an amazing echo when you’re in the exact middle.

There I learned once again how to pray. You see, I was worried. For some reason, I feared that

Part of the Alhambra complex

while I was cavorting in Spain, my church back in Guatemala would go to pot. So I prayed like crazy. When I got back to my church, it was better than ever. Not only had it not crumbled from within, it had blossomed in my absence.

So I didn’t need to be there in person because God was there in person. His Holy Spirit was tending the sheep in my absence. All I did was pray. Prayer is amazing stuff. You can accomplish much more with prayer than you can with your own strength.

Carlos V’s palace

I cherish the memories of Granada — the beauty of the city AND the beauty of prayer.