Tag Archives: Christianity

Watch and pray!

watch and pray

Gif from Beautiful Pictures of Google Circles.

Could you not but pray for an hour?

In his hour of desperation, Jesus couldn’t count on his disciples to pray. He was in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew they were going to arrest him within minutes. He was so stressed out, he sweated blood drops. He prayed, and he asked his disciples to pray.

They fell asleep.

Do we likewise fall asleep when it is time to pray?

Santa is alive and well

santa claus is alive and wellNicholas gave his money away to help people. The legend is that he anonymously helped young ladies pay their dowry by throwing the money in the window. It fell into socks hanging on the hearth. His good deeds became known, and he was named bishop of Myra in what is now Turkey.

Then he died and went to Heaven, where he is alive and well. Don’t look for him at the South Pole. You’ll only find penguins.

The real gift-giver is Jesus. He’s not bringing a sack of toys. He offers far greater presents: the unpayable ransom of your soul, forgiveness, restoration, blessing, acceptance. Sorry Toys-R-Us, Jesus gives priceless stuff.

The wise men came bringing gifts to Jesus, but Jesus IS the gift to humanity.

No good comes from shaming

shaming

This generation believes — oddly — that humiliation brings reformation.

But Joseph refused to open his — apparently unfaithful — fiance to public scandal. She was found to be pregnant before the wedding, and Joseph knew he wasn’t the father.

Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily -- Matt. 1: 19 KJV. Justice — righteousness — was being considerate and tender with her.

Shaming can be traumatic, emotionally damaging. It is antithetical to God’s plan: He forgives and forgets. His lovingkindness (not severity) is what leads to repentance (Ro. 2:4). We despise the Puritans, and then we practice their worst.

This Christmas give the ultimate gift: forgiveness with forgetfulness. If restoration is your aim, drop the Nazi tactic of shaming.

Gold, frankincense and more

Gold Frankincense and MoreAfter being a Christian for more than 35 years, I can’t really remember anyone ever say this: I need to give more.

No, through more than three decades of rubbing elbows with Christians, most often I hear people brag about how much they have already given. Usually, they compare themselves to others and point out how superior their giving us.

When someone gives quietly (without blowing the trumpet in announcement of his gift, as Jesus said), it inspires me to give.

When someone brags (and usually there’s an undertone of bitterness, as in: they wasted my gift), it’s completely uninspiring.

This Christmas, give without bragging and bitterness. Give God gold, frankincense and more.

Do not be afraid

afraidEvery Christmas narrative in the Bible contains the command: Do not be afraid. The angel says it to Joseph, to Mary, to Zachariah.

To you.

Don’t be afraid of God. He is loving. The commands of the Old Testament are satisfied in the New Testament through Jesus. Christmas is, in the words of the angel, “good news of great joy” because God is forgiving the sins of all who ask. The gap separating man from God is bridged by the cross. Reconciliation is possible. Perfect love drives out all fear — 1 John 4:18 NIV.

God loves you with a perfect love. All you need to do, as with a Christmas present, is open it.

Stop the war (in your marriage)

marriage war

Bring back the lightheartedness, the laughter, the rush of romance, the sensation of feeling in love.

If you have banned that from your marriage, if you evolved through a business-like partnership into dwelling on faults, you are in danger. It is hard for any marriage to survive where love has turned to bitterness and anger.

Without the delicacy and delight, with difficulty a marriage may survive. But where love is renewed and refreshed with romance, it may grow through the years.

Make love, not war.

Missionaries in the Philippines battle gunman with prayer

Jaquith-Daniel-and-Colleen

They were awakened abruptly by the sound of two explosions as a masked gunman burst into Daniel and Colleen Jaquith’s missionary complex in the Philippines and demanded money.

The gunman shot a Filipino pastor in the foot, pointed a handgun at his head, and demanded to be taken to the Americans, according to a report by Christian News Northwest.

The Jaquiths shared about the March 4, 2014 incident on a home visit to Newberg, Oregon recently.

Awakened by the explosions, the Jaquiths were then startled to see the gunman appear in their doorway with the pastor as hostage. “Give me the money, or I will kill you!” he shouted.

In response, the Jaquiths dropped to their knees and began to pray. “Colleen and I were desperate and defenseless there on our bed,” Dan said. “In our desperation we both began to unitedly cry out to the Lord with very loud and intense prayers. I prayerfully went to my knees.” Read the rest of the story.

The missionaries website: http://btti.org

Love never fails

Love never failsHumans have the capacity to love — and the capacity to turn off the love valve. It is a horrifying reality: to stop loving what naturally we love. To be so caught up in drugs and alcohol that a parent neglects a child. To be so embittered by moral failures that a spouse chooses hate.

“The greatest fury comes from the wound where love once issued forth,” said Pat Conroy, author who conducted minute forensics on his own divorce. “I find it hard to believe that this number of people voluntarily or involuntarily submit to such extraordinary pain.”

If love is the most ennobling emotion of all humanity, shutting off the valve the most diabolical. By turning off the valve, you think you are asserting control over your life and destiny. In reality, you become a mini-Hitler annihilating your own race.

Don’t give up on love. God made humans different than animals! The tragic consequence of belief in evolution is that notion we are basically no different than animals, so we can/should behave like animals do. But the human heart shrieks against this wrong-headedness. We are different! We need to receive and give love. To deny it is to lower our image-of-God imprint into the sewer.

God’s love will NEVER fail you. 1 Cor. 13:8 says: Love never fails.

If your spouse has failed you, don’t give up on love. If you parents have failed you miserably, don’t become an unbeliever in love. Bitterness is a deforming solace.

If you have received nothing but despising, you should:

  • Throw yourself on the love of Christ.
  • Give love to other needy people.
  • Keep believing in love.

Love is eternal. Many things will end when we enter Heaven. We won’t take our Taylor Swift songs with us. No Teslas in Heaven. But love, which starts like a spark here on Earth, carries on into a Heaven a powerful conflagration.

I believe in God because I believe in love.

Here’s every element of the series:

1 Cor. 13:4

1 Cor. 13:5

1 Cor. 13:6

1 Cor. 13:7

1 Cor. 13:8

Love always trusts

love always trusts

At some point, too much treachery will kill a marriage. But about a zillion marriages have survived some amount of unfaithfulness. And the offended spouse eventually comes to trust the untrustworthy partner. Infidelity is never acceptable, but it’s always worth it to try to save a marriage — for the children, and for the partners themselves.

Jealousy can tear apart a marriage. Often jealousy breaks out without any reasonable justification. Jealousy is a sin. True love trusts and learns to trust again.

1 Cor. 13:6 says: Love always trusts.

Here’s every element of the series:

Love does not delight in evil

Love does not delight in evil

A sinister side of the human heart secretly rejoices when bad happens to another — and worst case is when it happens to your spouse.

The is the opposite of envy, which angers over another’s blessing. It must rank up there with Hitler’s concentrated evil. The Bible says that married couples are one flesh, and you are mistaken to think that means only the physical union. It’s also emotional and spiritual.

So when good happens to your spouse, it happens to you. When bad happens, bad happens to you too. You are one flesh. Expel such rejoicing from your evil heart.

1 Cor. 13:6 says: Love does not delight in evil.

Here’s every element of the series:

Love is not easily angered

love is not easily angered

Pic from Google Circles. I don’t own the rights to this photo, nor am I making any money on it.

Insignificant habits irritate us supremely in marriage. The she talks, the way he eats. She forgets your favorite spice, he forgets to tuck his shirt in.

1 Cor. 13:5 says: Love is not easily angered.

Dianna and I took a personality test before marriage at the behest of her church. I was angered that I had to take the test. Were they going to tell us we were incompatible and shouldn’t marry?

When the results came in, we were both surprised: You both have above average levels of anger. Honestly, neither Dianna nor I were aware. But as our marriage progressed, we crossed swords often. We had to learn to calm down, to defer anger, to analyze outside of ourselves, to negotiate, to accept each other and stop trying to change each other.

We’ve made it to 24 years, and we’re still devising strategies to get along We’re still working on being less angry.

Here’s every element of the series:

Love is not self-seeking

love is not self-seeking

We have heat-seeking missiles, but a love that is self-seeking hones in on its own destruction. Love gives.

They say it is give-and-take, but if it is to survive, it must give more than it takes. Stop trying to get out of your spouse more. Start trying to give more.

1 Cor. 13:5 says: Love is not self-seeking.

Here’s every element of the series:

Love is not rude/ does not dishonor others

Love is not rude.

pic from Google Circles. I don’t own its rights, and I’m not making any money on it.

The Greek word in 1 Cor. 13:5 that most versions translate “is not rude,” gets translated in the NIV “does not dishonor others.” The ASV spills it “doth not behave itself unseemly.” It is some sort of offensive behavior.

What’s clear is that love is being on your best behavior around those you love. How many times have we hurt with “rude, dishonoring, unseemly” words? Forget about putting your napkin on your lap, words are the things that kill marriages.

If we had truly evolved from animals, words would not have the power the do — for good or for bad.

Today to your family, praise the good and forget about the bad. Don’t let it even enter your conversation. Speak gently, not roughly. Be considerate, not selfish.

Here’s every element of the series:

Mi café favorito es el color de sus ojos

cafe Because this is untranslatable it goes out in Spanish (sorry, I realize that only a few of my followers speak Spanish). I wish to encourage all the marriages to work on restoring romance. Don’t wait for your anniversary or Feb. 14. The devil wants to destroy marriages; that is how he is quartering American society.

Coach again

Lighthouse Church School soccer team

Umm, no. cupcakes are not part of the training regimen. It was somebody’s birthday, and they passed these out before I could say “no.”

I don’t know which is bigger — my passion for publishing the Word or my passion for people. So I’m undertaking the Lighthouse Church School middle school soccer team again this year. Being around people makes my heart tick, especially these delightful youngsters who are all smiles and want to learn.

I don’t think we’ll win trophies because, despite all the enthusiasm, the team is thin on experience. But no matter, human contact can bring divine contact. And that’s what courses through my veins: bringing people to Jesus, helping them make right decisions. Soccer is much more than just kicking a ball around a 100-yard-by-60-yard patch of grass. Through soccer, youngsters can learn life lessons.

Pray for us!

Jesus on blogging

Jesus on bloggingGive love. WordPress only has a “like” button. Blogging is not about you. It is about others. Give like love to others and leave comments.

Keep it short. Much has been written about Jesus, but He Himself? To the point. The sayings of Jesus would fill only a small pamphlet. The gospels about Him are brief and beautiful. On the blogosphere, you’re not writing a college monography that considers every angle.

Use pictures. Jesus spoke word pictures (called parables) that livened up his teaching. Take a lesson from Him.

Multiply. Jesus multiplied loves and fishes. You need to multiply your blog on other social media.

Be patient. Some want to go viral overnight. Jesus worked painstakingly with 12 disciples. Even then, Peter disowned Him at a critical moment. Only after Jesus restored Peter post-resurrection did the investment of time pay out.

Share. I’m troubled by Christians who worry more that their ideas don’t get plagiarized than about the gospel getting spread. Whose message is it anyway? The internet is the place for sharing. If somebody steals your idea, take it as a compliment and work on the next stroke of genius.

Serve your followers. Jesus had 12 disciples to whom He dedicated special attention. Don’t get so big-headed that you forget the people who helped your blog grow and become popular.

Love your enemies. Blogging is not about being a Pharisee, about condemning others and claiming to have the only truth. It’s about sharing ideas and treating others with respect. If your ideas are good, they’ll stand by themselves. You don’t need to be like James and John who wanted to call down fire from Heaven to burn the Samaritans.

John Donne: from rake to Christian

john donne

from wikipedia

My Norton Anthology can’t comprehend a true conversion, so it tends to explain John Donne’s experience with Christ in purely economic terms. He was born Catholic and as such was ill-favored in the new, Protestant England. In order for him to land some well-paying jobs, he needed to convert.

There is probably some truth to this. But on the main, it duffs the most dramatic shift in literature. Donne goes from erotic seduction poetry to striking poems about a passionate love for Christ. The dramatic turn-around in subject matter cannot simply be explained by the ludicrous fishing-for-better-employment theory. An insincere poet could not write so feelingly.

This is what the world does. Because they don’t understand a religious experience, they spin it off as some other sort of phenomenon.

Teaching poetry in Christian schools

I teach English at a Christian high school, but I loathe the Christian books because they cudgel the poor kids over the head with boorish didactic works which make kids’ eyes glaze over. But with the Norton Anthology, I had to encourage students to employ their analyzing capabilities and to “read between the lines.”

Do you understand conversion?

Those people who are dying from Ebola… We know them.

aid to Ebola region

Cheryl Tormey (behind) and Dal Basile, Lighthouse Medical Missions volunteers, with food to be shipped out to Sierra Leone.

With Ebola on the one hand and beheadings on the other, Santa Monica-based Lighthouse Medical Missions cancelled its Fall trip and instead is sending a container of food and medical supplies to West Africa this week.

Dr. Robert Hamilton – a Santa Monica pediatrician who’s braved dangers since 1998 to provide care to some of the neediest people on the planet – was originally eying a trip to Lebanon to care for Syrian refugees. But then jihadists began killing Westerners in retaliation for the U.S.-led air war against the Islamic State.

On the other hand, the usual Fall trip to West Africa was also ruled out because of rampaging Ebola infections.

So Dr. Bob, as locals affectionately call him, figured he could do the most good by simply sending supplies to Sierra Leone, where he has contact with 100s of pastors and church members who virtually work as permanent Lighthouse staff to help local needs 365 days a year. Lighthouse Medical Missions has realized 20 clinics, almost all in Africa, at a total cost of $1.5 million, Dr. Bob said.

Read the rest of the article and find out how to pitch in:  Help with Ebola.

Strong finishers

strong finishers

Luis Suarez is one of the strongest finishers in soccer.

Useless is the team that defends well, keeps possession, gets to goal, but then can’t put the ball in the net. Every team has the need for a strong finisher, someone who consistently strikes on target, someone who bamboozles the goalie.

The finisher may not dribble well, may not pass well, may not have great stamina. That’s not his job. His is to finish all the work up to the goal.

As Christians, we need to be strong finishers. It’s useless to a meteoric rise, a glorious carrying forth, only to die out at the end. God help me to be a strong finisher.

Chinese on the football team

Chinese study in US

Henry with Coach and Coach’s wife after the win.

When Henry got saved, he announced his intention to play football next year. I know football runs deep in our church and school since our head pastor was an NFL player, but is football part of conversion?

Not only did the 100-pound kid follow through, he also convinced three other Chinese students in our Santa Monica Christian school, the Lighthouse, to also play. At first these inexperienced players weren’t much help. They stood around and wondered what to do. Their limited English impeded their learning the game. Game after game, the Saints got overrun.

No more. In fact, it was the Chinese to tilted Saturday’s game. Raymond, a student I host, snagged not one but two late interceptions that helped the Saints overcome the deficit and win. Woohoo! This is the way to evangelize!

Read the full story here.

Our band in the newspaper

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta

The copy of Nuestro Diario Sept. 16 page 4 featuring the band of the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta.

The Guatemalan school my family and I started got into the newspaper today for its courage marching through drenching rain. Their courage, sacrifice and service to Christ is an example to us First World Christians who find all the reasons to NOT soldier through. And they make me proud. I see that 16 years of labor on the mission field was not in vain but left hardcore disciples.

The Liceo Bilingue La Puerta‘s marching band competed and won a spot in the national Independence Day parade (Sept. 15 for Guatemala). And they marched on despite rain that got them wet to the bones.

This was my life | Adorable kids sing Guatemala’s national anthem


Four years ago, I was sent home from the mission field when criminals assaulted my family. Since kidnapping was likely subsequent to the assault, I realized God was sending me home. Today, I am supporting my mother church, the Lighthouse in Santa Monica.

From time to time, I visit the Guatemalan church and school. These are kids I labored 16 years for as a missionary. I hope their song warms your heart like it does mine.

They call him Messiah

sad messiLionel Messi doesn’t talk trash, boast, swag in front of media. He won the most prestigious FIFA Ballon d’Or four consecutive years (2009-12) — the only player to ever do so. He is consistently called the best on the planet.

When the Argentine takes to the field, it is assumed he will make the difference. He will win break the deadlock, befuddle defenders with bursts of speed and magic from his feet. Among those who idolize football, he is called Messiah, a pun on his last name.

But Messi found out he is NOT the Messiah at the World Cup final. Unlike Maradona and Pele, he was unable to carry his team to victory over the German squad. (They aren’t messiahs either, but Maradona thinks he is.)

messi fail

With the German keeper, who won best goalie.

It was evident that Messi found no flavor in winning the Golden Ball for best player. It was said that the only trophy missing from his cabinet was the World Cup, and he returned home without it. When he had chances to score, he struck wide (uncharacteristically).

In a classy display of good sportsmanship, German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger tried to encourage Messi, who looked rigid and uncomfortable listening to him. Maybe he was trying to keep from crying.

messi schweisteiger

Messi and Schweinsteiger

It is a good moment when we humans realize we are NOT God. There is a God who loves you and wants to bless you, but the whole universe doesn’t center around you. We are the creation of God, not the other way around. We need to praise Him, and not receive the praise of man. If you don’t believe in God, then naturally, you are your own god. Enjoy the destiny you bring yourself. You are cheating yourself of the destiny God wants to give you (Heaven, for example).

I feel bad for Messi because he’s generally such a humble (and talented) guy. I also want to pray for him to get to know the true Messiah.

Being chosen

chosenBastian Schweinsteiger had no lack of confidence going into the World Cup Final. Sewn onto his boots, he the words “the chosen one.”

No one can complain. He ran an extraordinary 15 kilometers into 120 minutes of play to stymie Argentina’s dominant midfield. Argentina fouled him repeatedly and seriously in an attempt to slow him down by roughing him up. At the end, his sacrifice contributed to Germany’s 1-0 win to lift the cup.

Previously, only Coach Jose Mourinho had dared to call himself “the special one.” A tactical genius and a relentless braggart, Mourinho drew more titters than respect for being full of himself.

bastion is a bastionI’m not hurling stones today. Instead, I want to remind us Christians that we are both “chosen” and “special.” These soccer stars don’t crack under pressure. They perform because of a seamless confidence.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. — 1 Peter 2:9 NIV.

bastianGod wants us to out-perform the competition, to win (souls). For Germany, Bastian was a bastion. May we likewise brings victories to Christianity.

The prize goes to the most consistent

mario goetz world cup goalIt wasn’t Mario Goetze’s sublimely chested reception of a lofted center or his twisting left-footed volley that won the World Cup for Germany. It was the consistency of its team.

A feat of artistic football perfection, Goetze’s goal will doubtless be chronicled along with the works of Michelangelo. But the mind-boggling shot that beat Argentina 1-0 in extra time was only the fruit of a team that has made soccer into a science.

Goetz World cup 2014

Probably the Argentinians were expecting to go to penalties. Or maybe they were just plain tired. But they left Goetze unmarked late in extra time for him to execute a logic-defying goal.

Germany was the first country to apply America’s sports science (from baseball, football and basketball) to soccer. They scout nationwide talent from 8-year-olds upwards. They methodically develop stars. They rigorously analyze strengths and weaknesses. They practice meticulously every possible play in the free-flowing sport that has no huddle, no time-outs, no plays called from the sidelines.

Argentina seemed only to come to life in semi-finals. With flair and an energetic midfield, Argentina showed moments of brilliance in the final but were unlucky to not finish.

In the end, the Sons of Science beat the Kings of Creativity.

14-germany-cup

The $10 million chunk of goal goes to Germany for the fourth time in history.

Germany defended tenaciously and waited, waited, waited for just one defensive lapse, a moment that came deep in extra time when substitute Goetz found himself unmarked in the area. The baby-faced wunderkind bounced the ball perfectly off his chest and confounded ace goalie Sergio Romero by spinning and smashing the ball into the opposite side of the goal.

The gem of a goal only crowned a winning system.

Bastian Schweinsteiger consoles Messi.

Bastian Schweinsteiger consoles Messi.

I was disappointed because I wanted Lionel Messi to win the only trophy missing from his war chest. I admire Messi for his humility and ability. Plus, he plays for my favorite club team, FC Barcelona.

But I can’t moan much. Germany deserved the final.

Actually, their win answers a great Christian dilemma. If all sins can be forgiven, why try to serve the Lord? Why not consent to your flesh since you can still make Heaven?

The reason is prize goes to the consistent. While you can always make Heaven with some repentance, you miss so many blessings in your life through your disobedience. Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not condemning anyone. We all flub. But I encourage — myself included — to strive to do better. Let’s all (Christians) strive to be more consistent in our service to God. WE will reap the benefits.

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.

Another Argentina showed up

I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

What I saw previously of Argentina in World Cup rounds left me doubting. They were flat. They struggled to beat easy opponents. They lacked the flair that carries teams from the Americas in the Americas to lift the gold trophy.

But fizzless Argentina showed up to play today against Holland and shattered my predictions. (After witnessing the Orange Machine demolish former champ Spain with aggressive defending and laser-sharp passes with unthinkable finishes, I speculated they’d win their first ever).

I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

It was a different Argentina. They looked like electrons shooting around the midfield, dominating most of the game. Unstoppable Arjen Robben met his match in the superb defender Javier Mascherano, whose millisecond-pinpoint tackle deprived Robben of his best chance. Argentina just couldn’t pick the lock of the Dutch defense, and so the game had to go to penalties.

Incredibly, Argentine Goalie Sergio Rojas stopped two shots and thus stifled Holland’s hopes.

It reminded of Samson. Ever flubbing, Samson showed up strong on game day. We live under grace to forgive our sins. When we are needed to step up to the plate, let it be a different us — a Holy Spirit empowered us — that shows up.

The best offense is a good defense

Brazil's defeat

I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Brazil was supposed to crown itself king in its own country. Its brand of soccer an irresistible wave of yellow. Eleven players who dominate possession, who dance past defenders, who weave intricate webs of passing, who strike with precision from close range or with power from distance.

But Brazil was eliminated from the 2014 World Cup by the Germans, who have reduced soccer to a science. Brazil played its usual, open soccer. Defenders were free to making bombing runs forward in attempts to overrun opponents with sheer numbers of quality players. But Germany foiled their plan, finding more holes in their defense than a net designed to hold water. At the end, the greatest humiliation in soccer had been done: 7-1.

I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Now more than before, criticism leveled against the U.S. coach should be silenced. The U.S. lost to Germany, but only by 1-0. Jurgen Klinsmann played a tight defense and achieved a respectable result.

Brazil’s trademark of open soccer got repudiated. If you want to win, you had better defend. If you don’t defend all your lanes, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable to attack.

If we want to execute an attack against the devil, then we had better defend. Defend our marriage and our children. Defend our heart with a guard against worldly entertainment. Defend our soul with persistent prayer, Bible study and church attendance.

Instead of raising the trophy, Brazil crashed and burned in ignominy.

Poetic justice at World Cup

I don't own the rights for this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

I don’t own the rights for this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Algeria scared expected-winner Germany in extra time of octavos knockout stage of the World Cup 2014. Had the northern African nation upset Germany, it would have been justice.

In the 1982 World Cup, over-confident, prideful, and racist West Germany players trash-talked the upstart Algeria team. The Algerians were nomads out of the desert. The Germans would dedicate their seventh goal to their wives, their eighth to their dogs. One player boasted the game would be so easy to win, he would smoke a cigar while playing.

But the Algerians won 2-1.

The West Germans were shocked. In their subsequent game, they colluded with Austria to play a game of 1-goal difference, which was the only option to send Algeria back home and allow both Germany and Austria to move on to the next round. After the first German goal, both teams essentially dilly-dallied with the ball for 80 minutes and never tried to score. Fans, who had paid their tickets to see a great game, were outraged. West German soccer officials recognized it was a “tactical game” and unleashed more racist comments.

I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

I was rooting for Algeria this time. It would have been payback for the evil, the corruption, the arrogance. Unfortunately, not every score will be settled in this imperfect world.

At least this time, the Germans stayed mum before the game. They respected their opponents.

Not until extra time could Germany break through a well-organized and determined squad this World Cup. They scored two goals, but Algeria struck back with minutes of play. It ended a reverse of the 1982 score line: 2-1 in favor of Germany. Algeria did respectably. We ought to respect our adversaries always.

 

Put your failures behind you

I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Chilean Mauricio Pinilla commemorated his World Cup failure — a late strike that would have defeated Brazil had it not bounced off the bar — with a tattoo on his back titled: “One centimeter from glory.”

Why would he immortalize a painful memory? It’s on his back.

I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

As Christians, we must be forward-looking (I don’t think Pinilla is Christian). We must put our failures behind us and strive for better things in the future.

 

The hero of the World Cup

ronaldo haircut

With his World Cup buzz. (I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.)

Forget about U.S. sharp shooter Clint Dempsey. Never mind the incredible saves by Tim Howard. The U.S. men’s national team advances, while Portugal limps embarrassed back home.

Kyle Beckerman's wild hair. (I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.)

Kyle Beckerman’s wild hair. (I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.)

The hero of the World Cup is Cristiano Ronaldo. This is the Hollywood-ready pretty boy I’ve sent to the itamae often for diving, cry-babying and basking in his own image on the replay screen at the stadium.

No longer.

I’m now his enthusiastic admirer. I’m not being sarcastic either. I’m not thinking about how his injury-induced tepid play helped the U.S advance out of the Group of Death, nor how his timely goal ensured Ghana’s defeat (that also helped us).

The pretty boy image.

The pretty boy image. (I don’t own the rights to this pic, and I’m not making any money on it.)

I’m talking about his haircut.

Football players are famous for crazy cuts. You’ve got Kyle Beckerman’s shock of dreadlocks. You’ve got mohawks and numbers buzzed into the side and all kinds of things. When Cristiano Ronaldo showed up with a zig-zag pattern, fashionistas groaned.

Then people found out it was more than just a racing stripe. CR7 mimicked a scar on the head of Erik Ortiz Cruz, a Spanish boy whose $83,000 brain surgery he paid for.  It was tribute and solidarity.

Sadly, people are tolerant of bad boys who score goals and win cups. But when an act of charity is performed, they become cynical and cry foul. "He's just trying to get attention," they say.

Sadly, people are tolerant of bad boys who score goals and win cups. But when an act of charity is performed, they become cynical and cry foul. “He’s just trying to get attention,” they say. (I don’t own the rights to this picture, and I’m not making any money on it.)

Forget about who ultimately lifts the gold trophy. The Real Madrid superstar is the biggest winner of all those brats who disgust with their entitlement and unthinkable salaries. Once and for all, the 2013 Ballon d’Or winner shatters his image as Narcissus.

I can just turn my computer screen off now. I’ve seen the best the World Cup has to offer.

Tear up your prayer list

medical mission The Gambia airport

As we deboarded in The Gambia airport on our recent medical mission.

When most of the requests are already answered by God, there comes a moment of great joy like a graduation.

When your relationship is almost entirely healed. When your children come back to God. When you finally get out of debt. When you finally get into ministry. It may take months or years. But when that day comes, tear up the list and celebrate with a cappuccino.

African children

They were happy just playing with two sticks, smacking them together like drumsticks.

Then make a new list. We’re moving forward and making progress. Today’s satisfactions fill us with hope and faith for tomorrow’s needs. Christianity is a forward-looking faith. Your petitions become praises. You get new petitions. It’s never stagnant, not static, always dynamic.

Prayer as begging

God's healing

Cristal weeps when she feels God’s power healing her.

Why twice?

In every thing by prayer and supplication … let your requests be made known unto God. — Phil 4:6 The synonym for prayer, translated here “supplication” and elsewhere “petition,” is strange for its redundancy.

In Greek it is δέησις (deēsis), which means a need so urgent you turn to begging. You have no other hope. It evokes the utter powerlessness of being prostrated before a potentate who holds your life in his hands. Pleading, nothing more.

Pastor Charlie Forman

Pastor Charlie Forman with Pastor Ludving.

So many times, my prayers cover things I can also cover. These are things I need to get done, I can done. I just want God to help me do them efficiently.

Then there are needs about which I am exasperatingly powerless. About those needs, I tend to get frustrated, get mad, sulk. In fact, if I’m brutally honest about myself, I complain more than I pray.

That seems to me to be what Paul is addressing. Yes, pray, but also plead (supplicate, make petition) to a God who alone can help you. You can trust God for the needs that are completely out of your control.

 

A return to the beginning

image from darrellcreswell.wordpress.com

image from darrellcreswell.wordpress.com

In the beginning, this blog was very narrowly focused on a niche: encouraging pastors and leaders to pray for finances for their ministry. But as I interacted with the blogging community, I was drawn into reaching out with non-thematically related posts.

I believe I will be returning to the Mustard Seed Budget theme. I believe I will start pioneering a church again. So praying for finances to cover costs will start to figure large in my life again.

Everyone loves Psalm 23. But I was struck just now how it basically starts with finances: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. God will take economic care of his people.

Since returning four years ago from the mission field (where I was almost 16 years), my wife and I have done a lot to try to re-establish ourselves in the States. The transition has not been easy. We started with no money. Thank God for a nearby church that gave us food right when we had none.

Isn’t it interesting that this famous Psalm, which many recite for consolation, starts with finances? That shows how important is God’s care of us!

Actually, the Psalm also ends with a promise of financial blessing: Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me all my days. The verb pursue is used everywhere else in the Old Testament to refer to an army in pursuit of a retreating enemy. David is saying that he WON’T be pursued by soldiers, debt, problems. He WILL be pursued by goodness and mercy.

Heavenly cheesecake

heavenlycheesecakeIt’s ironic that the Book about Heaven says scarcely anything about it. One meager chapter is about Heaven. From there, a smattering of verses. That is all. More than anything, the Book about Heaven is more about Earth than anything else. How to live on Earth in order to get to Heaven.

But what is Heaven like? The Bible says precious little. Your guess is as good as mine. Or maybe mine is better than yours. My guess is Cheesecake Factory cheesecake comes close to the delicacies we’ll enjoy there.

HeavenlywaveThere are those who try to make Heaven on Earth. Well, I don’t think we should treat this planet like a disposable rag. But there is a Heaven beyond the Heaven you experience here.

I’ve heard repeatedly theologians affirm there are no dogs in Heaven. After scouring the Bible for years, I can deny this categorically. Theologians might be the people who least understand Heaven of all of us. If you love dogs, I’m sure they’ll be there.

HeavenlycarThe funny thing about my Ford Escort (year? sometime after the invention of the printing press) is that I take it to a mechanic here in Santa Monica where only Porsches, Ferraris and BMWs go. Among all these exotic toys, my humble Flintstone vehicle.

No matter. In Heaven, I’ll have a cool car or two. Why not?

So what’s your version of Heaven? Because all except sin, Heaven will be all and much more than our wildest imaginations.

Cash out — at 30 silver coins

moneymoneymoneyI call it the money mantra. We are continually being reminded that money makes you happy. And more money makes you happier. And so, lack of money is just plain old misery. It gets said so often that it’s widely believed.

Just look at all the fancy homes in Santa Monica or Beverly Hills. Inside there is divorce, unfaithfulness, drug addiction, alcoholism, arguing. They must be happy.

greedJudas decided that he had gamed Jesus long enough and that it was time to cash out on his confidence. The Saducees wanted Jesus dead. Judas had access. He could lead them to arrest Him. And they paid him handsomely for this little piece of intelligence. He must have been happy.

But then something happened that doesn’t fit into the money mantra. Judas hung himself. Well, let’s forget that because money makes people happy.

Or maybe there are things in life worth more than money.

Africa medical mission report #3

Africa medical missionBANJUL, THE GAMBIA — From beginning to end, the animals drove Lighthouse Medical Missions personnel… er, batty.

Bats were the culprits behind the recent lethal Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa. It scared us.

Pigs were to blame for our return flight delay Saturday, getting sucked into the right jet engine. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the flash from the wing. I heard an explosion like a tire blowout. It conjured images of the plane trundling off the edge of the runway and catching fire.

Welcome to standard operating procedure for Lighthouse Medical Missions. Since its inception in 1998, medical practitioners have attended to 50,000 patients. Well, that statistic is not correct anymore. This past week we saw another 1,400 — in spite of Ebola fears working in our minds.

Christians in Africa

I got to pray for Muslims and Christians alike after they saw medical practitioners

Actually, the virulent hemorrhagic fever caused by Ebola prompted two-thirds of our team to take of the unusual step of evacuating on April 3.

The epidemic started when somebody ate a natural incubator of the virus: bats. Eating “bushmeat” is not on my bucket list, but to somebody in Guinea Bissau it must have seemed a delicacy, and that’s how the deadliest virus known to man roared onto the human scene, health officials said.

I stayed with 16 team members who decided to weather out their fears and stick with the original travel itinerary. I was just starting to breathe easy as the Brussels Airline jetliner was picking up speed on the runway. Then came the pop and a thud. Then the pilot slammed on the brakes.

medical team in the Gambia

The Lighthouse medical mission team in the Gambia 2014

“That was scary,” said mission leader, Dr. Robert Hamilton. It was an extraordinary admission for him because I have never known the Santa Monica pediatrician to be afraid of anything. It was Dr. Hamilton who persuaded us to stay in The Gambia.

And he was right. We didn’t get sick from Ebola.

And we were safe on the runway.

This was my first African medical mission with the Lighthouse group. As I interviewed veterans of these trips, I pondered the healthy dose of adventure and misadventure, the knack for getting into unheard-of predicaments, only to escape unscathed, as if cheating death.

Where is the borderline separating “dedicated” from “crazy?”

On The Gambia River.

On The Gambia River.

Then I remembered Marco Polo. He made a years-long journey back from China to solicit capable missionaries to evangelize the Chinese, according to his book. After a year, only two dared to accompany Marco Polo, his dad and his uncle. But at the first rumor of war, the pair fled to Rome, leaving Marco Polo and his family to return alone. I realized we must continue to manage risk. After all, this IS Africa.

Prior to the trip, I had steeled my nerves for the worst gore medicine witnesses. On previous missions, doctors had attended to machete-chopped victims of civil war and even performed a mastectomy with only some lidocane injections. Like Joseph Conrad, I was prepared to say, “The horror! The horror!”

As it turned out, the cases were tame. In The Gambia, where half of the 45-member team worked, we saw mostly pain, fungus, malaria and worms. The other half-team traveled 100 miles by bus to Guinea Bissau and didn’t hardly treat anything worse.

One thing emerged to me as an eye witness. Lighthouse Medical Missions has an impact way beyond the temporary relief of 30 Motrin pills. By coordinating with local pastors, they essentially maintain field workers year-round who teach such principles as hygiene and household budgeting.

Because the pastors are Africans, they work at a fraction of what it would cost to maintain an American. They learn from U.S doctors and pastors and transmit it longterm to the local population.

On Sunday morning at the Lighthouse Church in Banjul, Pastor Alusine Kpewa was teaching on financial savings, a lesson virtually ignored by the poor of developing countries.

“I do not want the child of God to live all your life in debt,” said Kpewa (pronounced Peh-wah).

People can escape the syndrome of the eternally extended beggar’s hand.

As a fruit of twice yearly Lighthouse Medical Mission, there are over a 100 churches, concentrated in West Africa. They are ramping up operations. They have dug wells and founded schools.

So whether it’s bats or pigs harrying us, we must continue to take to Africa the love of God manifested in a practical way.

If you would like to participate with finances or volunteering, check out the webpage www.lighthousemedicalmissions.com . The ministry is a part of the Lighthouse Church and the Lighthouse Christian Academy. Virtually anyone can come on an Africa medical mission, but come prayed up.

This time it was bats and pigs. Next time, it will be something else.

This report first appeared on the santamonica.patch.com

Africa medical mission report 1

BANJUL, THE GAMBIA — From Southern Italy to California to West Africa, Dr. Kevin White’s participation on the Lighthouse Medical Mission is as improbable as it is unusual.

Africa medical missions

Dr. Kevin White in Africa medical mission.

On March 31, Dr. White, a cardiologist and two nurse practitioners attended to 300 patients here, kicking off a clinic that is likely to grow in numbers and seriousness of cases as the week progresses.

A pediatrician from Ventura, Dr. White was a chef carousing in Naples in 1985 when he woke up on a park bench to see an Anglican Church. Surprised to see such a thing in the land of Catholicism and wanting to hear some English, he stumbled in — to find his life totally change through Jesus.

Now instead of serving alcohol, he wanted to serve humanity, so he studied dietetics on the American East Coast, then medicine. When he diagnosed an old missionary from Africa with malaria, the patient told Dr. White that God wanted him in Africa.

So Dr. White set up practice in Southern California with the exclusive purpose of raising money to fund his twice-yearly forays into the Dark Continent. He leads teams from his church. Now, two-thirds of his family is in The Gambia with him — as is two-thirds of his office.

beautiful African children

That’s me with the kids. I fell in love with the kids!

“This is the week I go broke,” quipped Dr. White, who left only one doctor behind manning his office. He now is attending three times as many patients as his busiest day is America — 100 patients a day. The need is critical, and West Africans don’t have access or finances for quality medical attention.

On Monday, there were patients with pain, a snake bite, and a keloid. Though the Lighthouse Medical Missions coordinates logistics with local churches, all are welcome to the free clinics. Gambia’s huge majority is Muslim.

I came to observe and report on their activities. I’m impressed with the level of compassion in every team member’s heart. After a breakneck pace for eight hours, the nurses, high school students, nursing students, a retiree and others were still smiling.

On these trips, medical practitioners are a premium, but no one is useless. At the first hour, I was packing pills. Later I was praying for patients and then sweeping up. It seems not too many of our patients and a few of our volunteers didn’t understand the concept of a trash can.

I’m no stranger to the Third World. I was a missionary in Guatemala for 16 years. But even I had trouble plugging in the fan that didn’t have a plug; it was just two wires that were stuck into the outlet.

malaria pills

Don’t forget to take your malaria pills. (I kept forgetting.)

Try as I might, I couldn’t get them to stick, and the fan kept shutting off.That’s when Dr. White surprised me giving me the tip: Stuff two plastic ear speculas in with the wires to wedge them in. It worked, and doctor and patients enjoyed the breeze.

Yeah, he’s been to 17 Africa week-long trips since he started in 2004. But I was a missionary full time for 16 years in a developing nation. How does he know more than me?

I guess Dr. White’s a certified intrepid medical missionary.

If you would like to help pay for volunteers or medicines, or fund a water project, your tax deductible donation can be made at www.lighthousemedicalmissions.com

NOTE: This article originally appeared on the SantaMonica.Patch.com on April 1.

Image

You can’t stumble…

pray on knees

God gives us

arkofcovenantIn the Ark of the Covenant, there were the law tablets, Aaron’s rod, and a jar of manna. These symbolize:

  • law: God’s guidance
  • rod: God’s favor
  • jar: God’s provision

arkWhat else could we want/need from God? The Ark of the Covenant (not Noah’s ark) represented the presence of God with His people. Now, His presence is with His people, especially in His church.

And that’s we go to church for. That’s what we get from God by seeking Him:

  1. guidance
  2. favor
  3. provision.

 

Comparisons are the worst: Part 2 on self-esteem

Discov ering self esteem

Unperceived by parents, teachers, friends, aptitude tests, my giftings were perfect for what God designed me for. I’m posing with kids in the Guatemala Christian school, Liceo Bilingue La Puerta.

My gifting was not appreciated by anyone in high school. I wasn’t that smart, wasn’t athletic, wasn’t socially adept. What was I? I was overly sensitive. In high school being overly sensitive is not a good thing because you’re no good at the interchange of crass teasing that especially goes on among boys.

I actually thought I lacked a special trait.

Then I discovered my call: to pastor, to be a missionary. And being very sensitive (to God and to others) was a premium. But when I was a kid and took aptitude tests designed to surface giftings, nothing registered.

colegio GuatemalaComparisons are the worst because God made you absolutely unique. This uniqueness is reflected in your fingerprints, in your DNA, in your emotional makeup, in your interests and passions. It flouts comparison. To compare yourself to others is to ignore your God-given talents.

There is only one you on te planet. God made you special to do something nobody else will do. Only you can get the job done. It’s pointless to desire somebody else’s job. ?God didn’t design you for that.

It’s an insult to God to wish to be someone different, to have their beauty, their intellect or their wit. If you are young, take it easy on yourself. Don’t criticize yourself harshly. Wait and see what comes of your life. Strive to do well in everything but don’t panic if others do better in you in many areas. Because in one area, you’re going to blow them away. That’s where you’re a winner.

How to overcome low self-esteem

self esteem lessons

By rigorously defending the key, we forced abler opponents to take outside shots, where they weren’t as strong.

No critic was severer of me than me.

Virtually friendless in high school, I lacked confidence and avoided the risks that would lead me to success. But through the years, I have fundamentally changed (though not totally). Here’s how:

becoming a winner

Zach was the beast on the court. I did what I could to help win.

1. Discover your unique giftings. Eventually I discovered that I did have strengths and gifts, though these were not appreciated by anyone or registered by any test designed to show strengths. This is a Biblical truth: God has NOT made person void of some talent.

Just like parts of a car, you can’t do without even one of them. The car will break down. Each part is critical to proper functioning. Through the years, I saw that I was no exception to this rule. I was valuable and realized God made me with special giftings for my special calling.

Critics may focus your deficiencies. They are blind to your abilities. Too much attention paid to other people can deflate your self-esteem.

loser winner2. Turn around the toxic environment wisely, as best you can. It’s downright discouraging being surrounded by people who drag you down. What can you do? Appeal to your family members to look at positives more than negatives.

I turned around the nay-saying non-family by repeating back to them what they were saying to me. When someone criticized me, I criticized me in the same way. And they were horrorized to hear my self-criticism. It was as if I raised up a mirror to their faces, and they saw how ugly it was what they were doing. They stopped.

3. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Accept yourself for who you are. If people don’t like the fact that I’m sensitive, that’s fine. I’m not going to pretend to be something different. If they don’t like it, then I’ll look for friend elsewhere. Find friends who appreciate you for what you are.

These lessons of life came to the surface with my recent participation in a basketball tournament at the school where I teach. Basketball is not my game, so I tried to get out of it. But my friend, Zach, really wanted me — because he’s a true friend, not because he wanted to win.

Would you believe we wound up winning the tournament. I didn’t believe I had talents for basketball but I used what I had, and Zach did the rest. I’m learning to be less of a self-critic.

Really? Marijuana?

Christian Fellowship Ministries

This is obviously not Tom. Dozens of youth are challenged yearly to go the way of God, not the way of perdition, each year.

At the time, I had no idea that Tom* smoked pot. He just seemed like the sweetest kid. He fervently loved God. He even sponsored a friend to go to camp. At Q300, such “fruit” showed genuineness.

I had no idea of the tempest swirling in his background. The only sign of trouble was that quickly a room-renter in his house complained of being robbed. The amount? Q300.

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta

El Liceo Bilingue La Puerta teaches youth to avoid alcohol, drugs, domestic violence, crime and other ways people look for happiness. We’re not official a reform school, but we have a decent reforming record.

It seemed clear to me who stole it because the amounts were precise. What was weird was that the money was not used for self.

Not long after, I fled organized criminals in Guatemala after almost 16 years of missionary work. I tried to eke out a life in the States and find meaningful ministry. After being away for four years, I visited the church and school we had pioneered with my wife.

Tom tracked me down to thank me. He gave me his testimony. He had been smoking weed when he came to our school, and God had challenged him to come out of a lot of confusion. I didn’t ask about the Q300 though. I forgot.

He had heard I was back in Guatemala, and he personally came to thank me. Praise God for what preaching the gospel can do. Next time you sponsor someone to camp, Tom, it has be your own money.

* Name changed.

When God moves…

… it makes all the difference.

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta banda

With Chinese flags at the front to add some color to the martial gallantry of the drums, trumpets and glaxon bells.

I prayed for years for a bus for the ministry in Guatemala, and finally got one. But it kept breaking down and was more costly than it was worth.

On the other hand, I never tried to form a marching band, even though I liked the idea and said, “Amen!” to the people who suggested it for our school. I basically said, “Whenever God wants to give us a band, He’ll do it.”

banda escolar GuatemalaAnd He did. He brought in a person who wasn’t even saved to teach all the kids to play. Out of candy sales, He raised up money to buy all the instruments. I’m amazed to this day how this miracle happened.

For years now, the marching band has been instrumental (excuse the pun) for outreaches. We march down streets playing and hand out of flyers. Instead of knocking on doors, the people come out to see and hear.

Guatemalan students

After the band marched, the smallest members enjoy a juice from the tiendita next door the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta in Guatemala.

Now that I have been out of Guatemala, the band continues to be a powerful tool. What I wanted and tried so hard to get (the bus), flopped. What I didn’t even try to get (the band) succeeded wildly beyond my imagination.

Look to God and wait. Stop straining to do what you think. Just believe. He will act upon His will.

Legacy

El Liceo Bilingue La Puerta

Students in 2014 in the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta, the school my wife and I founded with so much work. Good people joined and helped us.

I’ve known churches that dive kamikaze when the pastor leaves, so naturally I was anxious. But it’s been four years since I sought refuge in the United States from criminal threat. And the church my wife and I started 20 years ago is thriving. So too the school.

It feels like I died. (At just about anybody’s funeral, all the good things are remembered. When somebody dies, you see what his impact was.)

The Door Bilingual School in GuatemalaNow that I’m visiting Guatemala again, I’m seeing people who I reached out to 20 years ago. They express profound appreciation.

“I don’t know who he is, but I’m going to go give him a hug,” one schoolkid said. The kids thronged me. My eyes misted… Even those who never knew me appreciate the years of toil to establish a work of God.

colegio cristiano Guatemala

He’s Mikey, but I call him “Einstein Hair.” I love that little guy.

People are still getting saved. The school continues to be a safe harbor. The disciples continue to labor to extend God’s kingdom.

For the first time in my life, I can see a legacy. And I ask myself: What will my legacy be in the United States?

Partnerships

Saved gang member

Mario and Alex at the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta today.

When it was his turn to kill in a dark alley, Mario demurred and concocted some excuse. Still, he was a hardcore gang leader.

Meanwhile, Alex got his kicks throwing curve balls that baffled batters in the big leagues of Guatemala. With his young Nicaraguan partner, together they were forming a life with not much direction.

On separate days, both got radically saved by Jesus Christ. They processed through discipleship and became leaders of the Iglesia Cristiana La Puerta. They worked tirelessly, giving their all, everyday. Mario still teaches art in our school. Alex still is assistant pastor and coordinator for the school.

Missionary school Guatemala

With the big smile, teacher Banner with 5th and 6th graders. His life too was touched by God. He too has become a key partner in the ministry.

If you want to achieve great things, you’ll need to partner up with other, similarly-minded human beings. Partnership, in the world, maybe conjures the ideas of corporation profits. On the team, it speaks to supporters who help the stars win.

But in the kingdom it means much more: exponential impact and sweet friendship.

Now that I was forced to abandon Guatemala, they carry on the work. I left, Jesus did not.

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta

The lighting was bad, the smile good. My joy is to see kids in a safe harbor school growing up free from pressures to “grow up” too quickly. There is an innocence on these kids.

Partnership in the gospel is one of the greatest blessings in life. Don’t believe the myth of Rambo, one man single-handedly decimating entire armies. With God, it doesn’t work that way. God describes the church as the symbiosis of differently-gifted individuals who benefit each other and achieve vastly more together than any would alone.

Arrived and blessed in Guatemala

missionary Guatemala

Pastor Isaias came and prayed for a couple to have a child. They had been sterile for a decade. Here’s Salma, who came nine months later.

Shy like a schoolboy, I entered the Christian private school I founded in Guatemala. Would anyone remember me? I was prepared to be seen as a stranger. It had been over a year since I had visited.

Soon the kids crowded me, hugging me, reminding me that I am useful, that this is what I have chosen to live for (not money). Love is my reward.

We are scheduled to preach revival in the coming days, but today was a day of recovery from the red-eye flight. Too anxious to see friends family I had left here when criminals brusquely ended 16 years of missionary work, I rushed off to the school. I am amazed to see miracles in progress. The joy of the kids filled me with joy.

Thank you for praying for miracles in the coming days as we minister the love and power of Christ in this beleaguered Central American nation. Much love to all my friends on the blogosphere.

Find love

friendship loveAs a lonely high schooler, Valentine’s Day was depressing. Friendless and girlfriendless, I looked on others wistfully.

loveI encourage every lonely heart to NOT give up the search for love. You will find love if you don’t give up. Here are the lessons of love I have learned at my modest age of 46:

  1. Erotic/romantic love is NOT the only kind of love.
  2. The love of a true friend can outshine marital love. (By age 22, I had resigned myself to never finding a friend. But I eventually fell into kindred spirits (at church) — and they raised my spirits!)
  3. If you are young and your family comes up short, you can establish your own family with richness of love.
  4. The love of God, though the least tangible of the varieties of love, is by far the best. I encourage everyone to find God’s love. I believe that humans have a hole in their hearts that only God can fill — and we desperately try to fill that void with every wrong and ultimately unsatisfying thing.

So, here’s a Valentine’s Day for you in which you discover love!

Why we pray…

Why we pray

Gratitude is born of the struggle, so when God doesn’t answer immediately, He simply is building towards an emotional outpouring. Don’t waver. Keep praying and believing.

The Bible itself encourages us to persevere in prayer. Jesus Himself taught us to not lose heart.

Photo thanks to easybranches.eu

God is the editor of your life

editorI’ve seen people fight editors. They want to write well. They foolishly think their prose is pure genius and needs no improvement.

I myself have done it. I wrote an article for the UCLA Daily Bruin. A friend shortened it and made it punchier. But I liked the original version. Why? Because it was mine. I reverted it. Years later, with more experience and wisdom, I regretted editing my editor.

I have also been an editor. It’s grievous to me to have writers resist the improvements I’ve made on their copy.

God is the editor of your life. An editor is not there to make you miserable or make you feel stupid. He’s only there to greatly improve your article.