Tag Archives: church

Friendship is the bomb!

friendsThis side of eternity, the greatest thing is having friends.

Strawberry yogurt, chocolate and the Sabbath

Sunday sundaeI had forgotten how good strawberry with chocolate was. Fortunately, I poured dark chocolate chips, Snickers bits, and chocolate syrup over my yogurt last night. A treat like this is for once a week.

The sabbath principle is that human beings need rest. They also need a bit of fun. God gave us one day a week for that, and to seek His face. Sometimes Americans want to have fun every day of the week — hence our obesity.

frozen yogurt and God

My sweet wife eating sweets.

Sundays and sundaes

Personally, I’m a workhorse, a workaholic. Left to myself, I feel guilty if I’m not rendering some service to the Lord. Fortunately, my pastor exhorts me to take a break. Maybe you need a break? When was the last time you took a break from secular concerns to seek God’s face in a Sunday sermon?

Giving is good for you

give bloodI always knew that giving blood was good — for others. Frankly, I’m surprised to learn of the health benefits of giving a pint of your 10-11 pints once every two months or so:

  • It reduces risk for heart disease by keep iron levels in check.
  • It lowers cancer risk (again, the iron content).
  • It burns 650 Kcal.
  • You get a free check-up!
  • Do-gooder feeling does a body good.

In eight weeks, your red blood cell count is automatically replenished! Why dont’ more people give?

The truth about giving blood also applies to donating, whether to a charitable organization or a church. Whether you want to save abandoned dogs or abandoned souls (my choice!), giving is good for you.

Being liked

being likedCall me insecure, but I’m the type who wants to be liked by everybody. The reality is: not everybody is going to like me.

In fact, sometimes lots of people are disgusted with me. After all, I’m just a human being.

Jesus asks us to love those who hate us. Sometimes the people who are supposed to love us, pour rejection out. This is hard to handle. It requires maturity — more than I have. But it’s something I can shoot for. Christianity is not about being perfect but aiming for improvement.

I’d rather live a sermon than hear one

The End of The Day

Pic from http://www.michaelandersongallery.com I don’t own the rights to this photo, nor am I making any money on it.

There are Christians who love to hear sermon after sermon after sermon. Is this Christian entertainment? Do they ever have the chance to put into practice what they hear?

The purpose is the sermon is to affect actions; church is about change. There are things we should DO and things we should NOT DO. Christians must ACT in this world. Faith without works is dead. – James 2:20. If never translated into action, what good is it? It’s like the super obese. Food is good, but it’s purpose is to give us energy to DO. Too much food is unhealthy.

Your best life now starts with Jesus

your best life now

With broken stones, broken hearts

broken stones altarGod asked the ancients to build Him an altar with broken stones.

To us, He asks us to build one with broken hearts.

Are you the dog or the cat?

When it comes to viewing God, some people are like the dog and others like the cat. The dog loves his master, waits patiently for him, serves him gladly. The cat thinks he is the master, that all the care and food that his owner lavishes on him means he is god.

Sadly, too much of American Christianity is self-serving. Now it’s true that God wants to bless his children. But sometimes He gives them trials. And ultimately, we are to serve Him, even sacrifice ourselves to get the gospel out.

Rejection chain

rejection1Jepthah was run off by his brothers. He was an illegitimate son. When he became a man, he carried out great exploits, vanquishing Israel. But he never healed his hurting heart, and in consequence rejected his daughter. His lack of family love led him to a wrong-headed idea of an unloving God. He made a stupid vow (to sacrifice whatever came first out of his house to greet him when he returned victorious from battle) and instead of repenting and recanting his vow, he stupidly carried it out. He killed his daughter.

The greatest danger of rejection is NOT how lousy we feel. It is that we will do the same to others. As the saying goes, hurting people hurt people.

Supposedly, the church is a refuge for hurting people. Instead, it turns into a lair of cruel critics. I don’t leave the church because there is no where better to go. After all, Christ left His church. Nothing else.

I wish to be different: loving, accepting, patient, comprehending, optimistic with people, seeing the positive and not the negative.

Don’t think I’m touchy-feeling. The naked truth is I have rejected too many people in my time. God, forgive!

I am determined to change. I am determined to praise my children instead of criticizing them. I am decided to see good in everybody, to be patient with problems, to love the unlovable. It is not easy. I must pray every day before the day begins because, if not, bile flows from this wicked mouth of mine.

True change is not a glib meme or a mantra. It takes work and, I believe, divine assistance.

Do you fit in in church?

dropping out of church

Photo credit: http://authordebbieyoung.com/2014/01/22/why-doing-a-jigsaw-puzzle-is-a-bit-like-writing-a-book/ (I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it.)

A jigsaw puzzle piece decided he didn’t want to hang out with his brothers. He wanted to go off and discover his destiny elsewhere. Things were too rigid in the jigsaw puzzle. He wanted freedom. He knew that in the world he would make a huge splash and he didn’t need his fellow pieces.

And so, the beautiful picture had a glaring omission. Fellowship was broken, and God’s anointing, which flows where there is unity, was blocked. And the puzzle piece never was beautiful anywhere else.

God designed you for a purpose. You may have other dreams that can draw you away. You are most beautiful where God has placed you. Don’t drop out of church.

Can we just stop hurting people who come to church to heal their hurts?

I don't own the rights to this image. I got it from http://mafietta.com. I'm not making money on it.

I don’t own the rights to this image. I got it from http://mafietta.com. I’m not making money on it.

All over the blogosphere, and talking to people outside of church, I find people who have been hurt in the very place where they should’ve been helped.

Yikes!

Honestly, we look more like the Pharisees than Jesus, who ate with tax-collectors and stopped stone-throwing at prostitutes. Of course, the Bible points to a moral standard that must be upheld by the church, but many times it’s simply a pastor’s ego, a leader’s power trip, that offends.

If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea – Matt. 18:6 NIV.

I haven’t left the church. I wish and pray to see the church changed.

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.

Old guys rock with God

old manFirst, an post-menopausal woman gets pregnant, even though her old husband doubts angel Gabriel’s announcement. Then an old prophet comes up to see the baby Jesus. Another elderly lady, a prayer warrior constantly in the temple, also coos over Jesus in Luke’s gospel.

The old guys ushered in the Age of Aquarius — I mean, of the marvelous Age of Grace. The old guys heralded it, waited for it, saw its dawning. God used the old guys.

They weren’t dumped in a retirement home. They weren’t mocked for old people habits. Maybe they talked incessantly of the “good old days.” Maybe the complained about new-fangled devices. Maybe they had their senior moments.

Regardless, God used them. And He wants to use you.

It’s fabulous that new generation of leaders rise in the church. But let’s not marginalize the older generation.

Oh, I forgot (!). In the interest of self-disclosure, I’m 47. And I don’t want to be excluded from whatever God is doing.

In case you don’t know…

nothing can separate us from the love of GodAbsolutely nothing can/will/shall separate us from the love of God.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,fn neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Rom. 8:28-29 NIV.

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.

 

Image

Your bad attitude is NOT cute

bad attitude

Racism is sin: the NBA, soccer and the church

No room for racism in church

Clippers owner Donald Sterling (tarnished sterling). Ironically, his girlfriend is part black. Apparently, it was she who recorded his racial comments and leaked it to news agencies.

Hooray for the NBA. Commissioner Adam Silver fined Clipper owner Donald Sterling $2.5 million and banned him from the NBA for life after the real estate mogul was recorded making racist remarks against blacks to his girlfriend.

Dani Alves fights back against racism

Dani Alves shows Villareal fans that he won’t be thrown off his game by racial taunts. Barcelona came from behind to win 3-2.

Hooray for Dani Alves. The left defender from FC Barcelona mocked racial taunts. When a fan from the other team attempted to provoke the Brazilian by throwing a banana at him during a game (message: you are a monkey), he picked up the banana, took a bite and kept playing. Footballers in support took pictures of themselves eating bananas and posted them on Instagram. The fan has been banned for life from attending soccer stadiums.

no racism in church

NO racism in church!

Church, take heed! I have been mortified by brothers who, thinking they talk in confidence with me because I’m as wait as a freshly bleached sheet, share their evil racism with me. There is no room for racism in the church. It is a sin. For too many years, “apologists” accommodated and justified slavery with a wicked twisting of the scriptures.

I’ve got news for you. In Heaven, all the races live together in harmony. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. — Rev. 5:9.

no racism in Heaven

There’s no racism in Heaven

If you secretly harbor thoughts of the superiority of one race, repent of your sin before God and convert in a truly loving Christian.

God forbid that the NBA and a Spanish soccer club be more loving towards rejected people than the church.

Sterling may fight back. He can dicker over due process. He can prosecute whoever illegally recorded his conversation (presumably his girlfriend). But his doom has been decreed. He’s not going to make much headway.

Gracious welcoming back

Red Badge5His acute fear was being confronted for having run the first day he saw battle. But Henry Fleming in The Red Badge of Courage was warmly welcomed. There was no mocking derision for his cowardice. His poor lies were accepted easy enough. Why?

Because any body was valuable. So what if he ran the first day? He would be valuable the second day, so his comrades didn’t bother with his inconsistent excuses. In fact, on the second day, Henry led the charge. He proved his courage, his manhood.

RED_BADGE2That’s the way people should be received back into the church. It matters not under what howling circumstances they left. They may have disgraced grace itself, but we shouldn’t scowl. Open arms is what is needed. Why?

Because any body is valuable in the war against Satan.

And because it takes courage to go back to the place of your failure.

Image

Forgive

forgiveness

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.

The lost one

saved

Not one of the lost ones in the church in Guatemala.

At 11 years of age, a former student told his little brother and sister to not move while he hung himself in front of them. The tykes obeyed.

What angst or demon would a boy to such unthinkable horrors as rival the Holocaust? I cannot comprehend. It tears me up inside. What could we have done to avoid this?

We don’t win every battle. We lose some badly. Amid the exultings of success stories lurk the blackest stains of those who chose not to listen to the word of God, who opted for worldliness instead of godliness.

Guatemalan kid

The Iglesia Cristiana La Puerta works to save kids from the lostness of the world. Happiness results. This is what moves me.

I’m sorry, but I can’t get excited about a celeb’s fashion faux paux. When you have lived ravages, it’s impossible to dwell on the frivolous.

It galls to hear atheists revile Christians as a great evil. I assure you: It was not a Christian that drove that kid to twisted thoughts, emotions and actions. It was something sinister. It was something we Christians fight against.

Christian Fellowship Ministries

Resting after a soccer game, these youth are part of the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta Christian school in Guatemala.

Can you be moved to act? Christianity needs Christians who are not side-tracked by selfish desires, who take up the weight of prayer, who take the Good News of hope to the streets.

We lost one. Near you, there’s one who’s on the verge of being lost. Only you are within reach to help, if you will let yourself be moved.

Be a storm chaser

brave the stormWhen it comes to God’s kingdom, we shouldn’t shirk from the adventure. No fear should makes us cower. We should be “bold as lions” and thirst for the things we are most afraid of.

Is it tithing? evangelism? discipleship? church planting? ministry? Take it on, and ride the storm. Don’t seek the comfy life of never challenging the devil. I’d rather die on the warfront than in a retirement home bed.

Dare for more in your Christian walk. Risk for Christ.

Who you are

who you are when you are aloneWhen you are alone, you are weak, vulnerable, defenseless. Contrary to popular Christianity, this does not “reveal” the real you. It may reveal what the devil wants to grind you into.

Who you truly are is your most heroic moment in life. You wouldn’t have achieved that great moment if you had not the character inside. That’s who Jesus wants you to become more and more. He wants you to repeat the command performance.

triumphHow many times have grown distraught because we have believed we “are” who we are when alone? The trouble with this idea, perpetuated in Christian books, firstly is that it’s not in the Bible. The Bible teaches we are weak and should keep ourselves surrounded by people who are going to encourage and nurture the better self inside. What army leaves a soldier alone and abandoned and then blames him if he loses the war?

Too much condemnation has been piled on by authors who think they’re clever by quoting this cliché. Please stop now.

Be freed into joy and realize that your best moment in life is who you are. Your high point augurs good things for your future. Believe in God because He believes in you.

My heart goes out to them…

Cannabalism

Though my heart goes out to the multitudes who have been hurt by “toxic” churches, I am not among those abandoning the church. If Christ instituted, going AWOL cannot be part of the solution, regardless of damage done. You may need to change church, not leave it entirely.

I belong to the group seeking reform for the church. When I see reform, I wish to reform myself. I, a sinner, need to change. I am part of the church. As I change and become truly more Christ-like, the church will better reflect His love.

So many of my posts challenge unbelievers in their unbelief that I am even fearful to publish this challenge to the church to self-examination, self-surgery, self-healing. (I didn’t hardly even dare to make visible the stinging criticism in the picture. Only if you look closely can you make it out.)

Jesus said: As you judge, you will be judged. Let us therefore use mercy one with another. Love those who are hard to love in the church. Don’t come down to their insecurity. If they rattle off criticisms, don’t you do it.

Image

We can all get along

getting along

I asked you to pray for me…

Pray for meWould that the church would follow 1 John’s admonition to love more closely than it follows America’s spirit of competition…

Image

That awkward moment

awkward moment

The ultimate hack

ultimate hack

Originally, a “hack” was an alteration of a program or an intrusion into an otherwise closed system. But the word downgraded to mean any trick to get something done easier than the standard process.

To get into Heaven is no small thing. There are those that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches. But none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him. For the redemption of their soul is precious. – Psm 49:6-8.

A lot of people fail to appreciate just how great a thing Christ did. He achieved for us what none of us could achieve for ourselves: the forgiveness of sins. He is our hack into the otherwise impenetrable system of Heaven.

Appreciate Him.

What’s truly important

what's truly importantI spent all Veteran’s Day working on my business. Then I did something truly important.

I gathered my “tweeners” to present an evangelistic skit at the Venice Lighthouse Church (as in Venice California). There were at least two sinners who got the clear message of love from Jesus Christ.

At the time, I kinda didn’t want to go. I had so much work to do. And I’m stressed because the business hasn’t made any money yet. It’s funny, but I — who three years ago was a pastor — have to remind myself what’s truly important. It’s so easy to get sidetracked by money anything.

Afterwards, I basked in the joy of having done a job well done for Christ, working for eternal riches. I’m glad I remembered what’s truly important.

Image

Why church?

why church?

Image

So why do people use it as an excuse to miss church?

hypocrites

Image

Forgiven

forgiven

Image

Don’t be too busy: how to pray?

Don't be too busy: how to pray?

How do I pray? Keep the house united

Civil War ReenactmentsHow do I pray? The importance of unity.

I saw a Civil War battle reenactment in Genesee Country Village and Country Museum near Rochester, New York. Being from the West Coast, I had never seen anything so astounding.

Genesee Village and Country MuseumThe Union troops dislodged the invading Confederates from the village and then re-engaged in the afternoon on the open field. Canons thundered. Plumes of white smoke squirted six feet out of muskets. Soldiers died writhing in acted pain. In the village, there was even a surgeon’s tent where they explained the horrors of a five-minute amputation, necessary to save lives with the bone-shattering musket balls.

Civil War amputations

A reenactor explains tying off blood vessels.

The Civil War was a horror. More American lives died there than in World Wars 1 & 2, Korea, and Vietnam combined. In it, brother killed brother.

Spectators at Civll War reenactment

My daughter, Rebekah, and I, after the battle.

Rightly, Jesus warned against a house divided against itself. Leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift — Matt. 5:24 NIV. The need is so pressing to conserve unity that you should interrupt your prayer time to restore fellowship. Disunity blunts prayer’s power. Let not your church become a Civil War. The church is supposed to horrorize Hell’s henchmen. But when we turn on rifles on each other, we become a laughingstock for demons’ delight.

Civil War muskets

My sons, Robert and Hosea, hold Union muskets

Conflict occurs because people wrongly think they must compete against other members of the church for preeminence. It’s a worldly concept of dog-eat-dog, put-others-down-so-I-can-climb-on-top, that should be left in the world.

How do I pray? Keep the house unitedStriving for unity pleases God — and blesses your prayer. You can’t control what people do to you, but you can control how you respond. Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace — Eph.4:3 NASB. Do all YOU can to preserve oneness.

The Civil War ravaged our nation. May our churches be spared of division. How do I pray? Keep unity.

Bible prayers: gym hate

  • Bible prayers and motivation.

Sweat haters loathe the treadmill, the Pilates class and weight machines. Because their doctor twisted their arms, they’re at the gym, counting down the minute to the end of the torture session, which they often skip and only do to stave off the heart attack.

I can’t relate: I love the endorphin release of the gym. I’m hooked on the good feel of health. At some point in life, I figured out the tradeoff: you either delight your tongue for a few minutes daily — or your delight your body 24/7.

fat or gymGuess what? I like broccoli too! I’m a salad fanatic.

(Of course I believe in Heaven, but I’m in no hurry to get there — like soda-imbibers. Passing the last days of my life in the hospital does not appeal to me.)

And church captivates me. No, the minutes don’t pass in intolerable boredom (well, most of the time). I’m passionately into everything good for you — and God is good for you!

willpowerSo is prayer good for you. If you eschew prayer in favor of reality T.V., you’re missing out on some good returns available only to those who invest. Not every prayer session is just sweet communion with my Lord. But I keep at it, even when it’s hard, just like the gym or vegetables. I’ll keep praying Bible prayers.

How do I pray? Zach’s fall

How do I pray?

how do I pray?

Zach, staying off the left cheek, with his wife, Hillary

Zach plummeted 30-40 feet and missed the deepest part of the Malibu Creek Rock Pool, where only the manliest most insane dare to dive from the top rocks. He thought he broke his tail bone, but it only turned out to be muscle damage.

His freakishly swollen left buttock has been quite a novelty for teasing friends and family. Apparently Zach unembarrassedly bares butt for all interested gawkers to see and even photograph. I demurred.

no fear

On Thursday, Zach daredevil-dove at the Malibu Creek Rock Pool

We thanked God today for the miracle. He could have broken his back and been paralyzed.

Zach is an enigma to me. He’s equal parts bravado tough guy (he played football for UCLA) and compassionate nice guy. There’s not a dare he would skip or a rebellious punk he wouldn’t empathize with. For the last six years, he’s performed the unlauded labor of church cleaning for no pay, even though it deprives him of sleep and his wife. Cleaning starts at 5 a.m. He speaks of the “cleaning greats” at the Lighthouse Church, the men who taught him how to tame the wild beast of ubiquitous dirt when our K-12 kicks in.

Malibu Creek Rock Pool

After the plunge.

I am intrigued by Zach. I want to be like him. He seems to me to be a Christian ideal. Like Zach, we must be tough. We must withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and remain faithful to God. Like Zach, we must be compassionate. Without empathy, we’re shrill Pharisees. We must feel the hurt of so many millions who have been defrauded by the promises of sin.

Prayer must be tough enough to persevere. It must come from compassion and empathy. Can we feel people’s pain as God does? How do I pray? With toughness and with compassion.

Give ‘em Heaven! How to evangelize

Santa Monica July 4 parade

The tall guy is me. :D

  • How to evangelize

Christ supped with the tax-collect0r (the turncoat, traitor, collaborator with the hated-Roman-empire, milking his countrymen for all he could get for himself).

Christ sipped cappuccino with the drunkards. He spoke with the prostitutes (not negotiating a price!). He even did the unthinkable. Breaking Jewish law and risking mortal infection, he touched lepers.

Pacific Palisades July 4 parade

Dressed in blue Chinese dress, my wife

All the marginalized, the detested, the scum of society were his BFFs. On the oppressive rejecting upper class, Jesus cracked down hard. But the oppressed, He lifted them up — with love.

How to evangelize? If there is anything our age needs most, if there is any way to reach this lost and spiraling society, it is the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ.

EvangelismOn July 4, the Lighthouse Church marched in two parades — in the morning in Santa Monica, in the evening in the Pacific Palisades. The theme of our float: the American embrace of immigrants. Members dressed as foreigners according to their heritage. (Some of us went crazy and dressed as any nation I dressed as a Saudi). Our message: America welcomes all, Christ welcomes all, the church welcomes all.

The church must project itself into the world. The light must shine in the growing darkness. And the message that will draw people? Love. How to evangelize? Love.

The Lighthouse Church Santa Monica

“Waves a freedom” is the title. The immigrants come on the boat. The Statue of Liberty welcomes them.

Someone has said, “Give ‘em hell!” To the contrary.

Never futile: Prayers from the Bible

  • Prayers from the Bible
  • How to pray?

How to pray?Jonathan decided to attack the Philistines with only his armor-bearer. Surely, it was folly for one man to attack an entire army alone. I supposed he got bored sitting around doing nothing. He wanted to do something. And his Biblical reasoning worked better than his realistic thinking: The Lord can save with many or with few – 1 Sam. 14:6.

How to pray?

Prayer is an easier investment than getting into your car.

He realized that God is God. The supernatural outflanks the natural, no matter what Westpoint graduates might tell us.

Too often Christians formulate explanations for why prayer doesn’t work. They say things like: Well, you must be holy. (Who is holy but God?) Nix the explanations and keep praying. Don’t look for reasons why prayer seems ineffective. Most of the time, we just need to keep praying and not give up.

Prayer is never futile. Jonathan smote 20 Philistines and sparked panic among the enemies. The rest of Christianitythe Israelite army rushed in to finish off the job. Who would have thought that one man could vanquish an entire army? Who thinks that one man praying can change the course of history?

Be that man. Or woman. Or youth. Or child.

Prayer is never futile. Prayers from the Bible work. How to pray? Believe it’s never ineffective.

Mimi’s miracles

Mimi, always so vibrant and full of life, at left, with her mother and older sister.

Mimi, always so vibrant and full of life, at left, with her mother and older sister.

Because Mimi was born with two spinal cords, her parents came from the countryside to Guatemala City for successive surgeries. First doctors saved her life. Then they helped her to walk. Eventually she gained control of her bladder. She would have been identical twins but the zygote only partially split.

Pastor Ludving leads the church and school heroically, at great personal sacrifice.

Pastor Ludving leads the church and school heroically, at great personal sacrifice.

Ludving and Nelly wound up attending my church. Ludving was about to buy some alcohol to drown sorrows when he heard the praise music and came in. He didn’t get saved. He had already accepted Jesus. The worship exhilarated and lifted him out of despair. They came to the church.

The Door Church in Guatemala City

The Door Church in Guatemala City

When he decided to do something, Ludving never did it half-way. Right decision after right decision led the couple to hosting, then pastoring, a pioneer church. When thugs chased me off, the Holy Spirit pointed to him as the man to take over.

Pastor Ludving with Mario Artiga

Pastor Ludving with Mario Artiga

To my way of thinking, Mimi should be gloriously and completely healed by now. She is not. On Thursday, she is submitting to her umpteenth surgery, this time to correct kidney failure (she has four kidneys, but only one completely developed and only one works). Urine backflow from her bladder is poisoning her one good kidney.

Faith is not always a snap-of-the-fingers miracle. Faith is grinding out the healing over the long haul. I like the instantaneous variety. But not everything is quick like a fire-cracker. Mimi’s miracles have drawn out inexorably for 16 years, her age. The battle is raging dragging on, and the faithful keep mustering faith.

Ludving and Nelly

Ludving and Nelly

It’s pointless to ask why. Blaming God like an atheist solves nothing (although I suppose he feels high and mightily justified in his bitterness). That’s not what we want. We want final and complete healing for this precious girl.

Mimi is a spunky girl. Despondency affects her parents, her sister, me — but not her. Thanks for helping us pray for her. Let me know how I can help you pray for your needs.

 

High risk = high return

With my daughter, Rebekah, another would-be actor. Here she's in her Jewish peasant girl garb. In another scene she seconds as a Moabite.

With my daughter, Rebekah, another would-be actor. Here she’s in her Jewish peasant girl garb. In another scene she seconds as a Moabite.

Ruth is a story about high returns. By going to Israel with her ex-mother-in-law, Ruth faced racial abuse, sexual predators and 15-hour days stooping over under the blistering sun only to pick up enough grains for one meal (that’s the mechanics of “gleaning;” talk about “abject poverty.”)

With my son, Hosea, an 11-year-old "old judge of Israel." LOL!

With my son, Hosea, an 11-year-old “old judge of Israel.” LOL!

Instead, she hedge-funded her way to vast fame and fortune.

Why are so many people willing to risk on finances or with sexual indiscretions but not for God? Just because you can’t see God, Heaven or an immediate return, you are unwilling to go to church, spend time in prayer, serve His kingdom. Just like Ruth couldn’t visualize any realistic benefit when she abandoned her native Moab: Your God will be by God, and your people will be my people, she pledged to Naomi.

Our church, the Lighthouse in Santa Monica, is staging the story of Ruth.

With Pastor Ralph Bowen, missionary extraordinare, church-planter in three African nations. He played Elimilech.

With Pastor Ralph Bowen, missionary extraordinaire, church-planter in three African nations. He played Elimelech.

I’ve dreamed of being an actor about as much as I’ve dreamed of being a Gold’s Gym poster child. (Wild fantasies tend to proliferate in LA!) For the previous plays, I waited faithfully for Sister Pam, the director, to call me up. With this play, I broke down with despair and begged her to let me have a part! I’m Jobab, the money grubber who wants Ruth’s property without Ruth. (Co-Director Eric Photenhauer says I look like a Dr. Seuss version of an Old Testament Jew).

Come Sunday night 7:00 p.m. at 1220 20th Street, Santa Monica, California. It’s free!

No one bats 1000

  • How do I pray?
  • Prayers from the Bible

No one bats 1000

The best sluggers only get 450. That means more often than not, they get out.

No one bats 1000With prayer, no one bats 1000. Not every prayer gets the answer you want. Sometimes the terminally ill patient dies. And because a prayer-warrior doesn’t bat 1000, the atheists don’t believe in God. (Do they believe in baseball?)

Well, I think that if you’re batting 350, you’re doing well. If only a small fraction of your requests get answered, you’re doing well. Let faith arise in your heart in your heart for just 1 0f 10 answered requests! Because as faith arises, so will your batting average.

And just because you strike out on a majority of your prayers requests, don’t get discouraged. Only God knows why He sometimes says no. We can trust that in His economy, we’re batting 1000.

You should always be encouraged to pray and never be discouraged from it. Ignore the faith-slayers who (wrongly) say that prayer doesn’t work unless you bat 1000.

Believe in the guy who’s in a slump

b70f797787e9e3cee502ad5cd0077454Better than throwing salt on his wounds, better than mocking him, better than washing your hands of him, better than saying “He had it coming,” express confidence to the person who’s floundering. It will lift him out of his funk.

Believe in someoneSir Alex Ferguson believed in Wayne Rooney. The Manchester United forward had gone 9 months without a goal. Pundits were sharpening their knives: wash-out, has-been, flash-in-the-pan. Coach Ferguson, who’s had an extraordinary knack for winning teams, kept believing in Rooney until the mercurial players found his winning ways again — with a overhead backwards kick that left the world gaping and shut up critics.

Believe in Someone

from Ben Rogers blog

Believe in someone.

You may “win” the rat race, but you’re still only a rat. You may get to the top of the crab pile, but you’re still only a crab. If you help someone out, you’ve made a friend for life. And that is worth more than pounding your chest and shouting the tired I’m-the-best rant.

It’s what Jesus did. While everybody hated the odious, turncoat tax-collector Zacheus, Jesus dressed him with dignity, sharing a cappuccino with him. While accusers had stones in hand ready to hurl at the adulterous woman, Jesus defended her and didn’t accuse her. He touched the leper, ate with prostitutes, hung out with drunkards. Jesus was really into the business of accepting people.

261892_520929111299325_1611898260_nGive love freely. Expect nothing in return.

Give and don’t stop giving. And though you may be the most unloved person on the planet, if you give love freely, you will find 10,000 people at your funeral wanting to honor your memory.

Complainers are louder than complimenters

Complainers

Ignore the barking dogs.

I had a funeral — without dying. It was a good experience.

When I had to leave Guatemala, all the church members gushed about my good qualities. My defects, which previously had dominated evaluations, got forgotten. Now I know what it’s like to die.

Critics in the church

Where flowers grow, weeds want to go.

This is the Yelp predicament. A disgruntled customer is highly motivated to post a comment. A satisfied one, not at all. Businesses have been sunk by this psychological phenomenon.

If you are given to criticizing others in the church, realize that:

  • criticism is not a calling, not a charge, not a gifting from God. It lines up more with what the accuser of the brethren (Satan) does.
  • you excuse and justify your own faults.
  • you blow out of proportion your own merits.
  • you probably are unaware of all kinds of services and sacrifices made by the very person you’re criticizing.
  • the effects of your criticism will not advance the kingdom of God.
  • an ounce of compliment would do more good than a ton of criticism.
  • your criticism is probably motivated by envy and jealousy.
outreach San Diego

On outreach in San Diego, at one house they gave me bread. It was a nice little way for God to say, “Well done.”

If you take a lot of criticism, realize that:

  • Satan’s strategy is get you to stop your labors.
  • people throw stones at a tree with fruit (Spanish expression — to knock down fruit to eat, they throw stones. If the fruit tree is barren, no one throws stones at it.)
  • compliments mostly go unvoiced.
  • your life and ministry is in the hands of God, not of your critics.

The relevancy of church: a real smile beats an emoticon

Instant friendship because we share Christ. On outreach in San Diego.

Instant friendship — because we have Christ in common. On outreach in San Diego.

The handshake communicates affirmation, human warmth. A real smile always beats an emoticon. You can’t turn off the preachers just because his message is not exactly to your liking.

My fellow teacher, Kathy Payton, holds her granddaughter in service.

My colleague, Teacher Kathy Payton, holds her granddaughter in service.

In spite of futurists’ predictions, the e-church will never overtake the real church. As much as I enjoy “fellowship” on the blogosphere, I still crave that which only the local church can provide. I have yet to drink a coffee with a fellow blogger*

I’ve attended church for 33 years and haven’t found anything as vital and relevant as the living, breathing body of believers, despite its drawbacks and imperfections. The lifeblood of the church is its people — sometimes annoying, sometimes comforting, always interesting. The church is suffering no demise, even though outsiders forecast doom (but as

Everet liked the laser sound I can make. As we walked door to door inviting people to service, we became friends.

Everet liked the laser sound I can make. As we walked door to door inviting people to service, we cracked jokes and became friends.

“outsiders,” they simply don’t “get it” that the church is founded on Eternal Truth, not the shifting sands of popular opinion).

Here in Los Angeles, restaurants boast they serve “real food,” not processed, chemical-injected, nutritionless, unhealthy products. Yeah, get “real church.”

*If you’re ever in Santa Monica, let’s down a veinte at Starbucks!

Great in the sight of God is the prayer warrior

This is my buddy, Vincent. He's just starting out with Christ in the Hesperia, CA, church.

This is my buddy, Vincent. He’s just starting out with Christ in the Hesperia, CA, church.

A Christian who doesn’t amount to much in this world should be glad, for he is great in the sight of God. – James 1:9 Living Bible.

I’ve been tripping out on this verse lately. I guess I’ve been knocked down a few rungs. I used to the general pastor in Guatemala, with four churches under my jurisdiction. Now I’m one of approx. 50 kabillion assisting pastors, and I hardly ever get a chance to preach.

Hahaha! No this is not my car. This is my son, though. This car was at the same mechanic where I took my car. My car is a Ford (almost like a Model T... well, it's old, but not a classic).

Hahaha! No this is not my car. This is my son, though. This car was at the same mechanic where I took my car. My car is a Ford (almost like a Model T… well, it’s old, but not a classic).

I used to be founder and principal of the Guatemalan church’s school. Now, I’m a teacher kicked around by students. Yes, it’s been time to eat humble pie.

But while I have “descended” in worldly status, I have “ascended” with God. I have more time to pray. I have time to write (being too busy to write was my black eye neglected gift for eons). I have more time to pray.

Leanna is one of my nice students. She's also very funny. She wasn't feeling well on the day of this photo, and so she thought she didn't have to answer any questions in Spanish class -- hence the post-it on her forehead "Be nice to the sick girl. Don't ask her questions."

Leanna is one of my nice students. She’s also very funny. She wasn’t feeling well on the day of this photo, and so she thought she didn’t have to answer any questions in Spanish class — hence the post-it on her forehead “Be nice to the sick girl. Don’t ask her questions.”

Did I say that I have more time to pray? That is special. The “lowly” brother isn’t “lowly” to God. He can work anonymously and accomplish a lot more than the church’s showmen. He can pray.

So really, what I said was a lie: I haven’t been knocked down rungs. I’ve been catapulted into new dimensions of ministry with God. Never scorn the ministry of prayer. Kick things up into high gear — pray!

Restore the passion: prayer and service

Staying in prayer is key to staying in leadership. How to pray? Pray with faith. Prayers in the Bible.

My son, Robert, tracks the long punt, hunting to convert a goal.

My son, Robert, tracks the long punt, hunting to convert a goal.

To watch those kids jog during the soccer game made me disgusted! How do they expect to win if they won’t run? If they only play half-hearted?

Then, I saw myself on the field. I was jogging.

Rob faces a dilemma. How do you turn a losing team into a winning team?

Rob faces a dilemma. How do you turn a losing team into a winning team?

A fairly steady stream of withering criticism took the wind out of my sails. When I returned to my sponsoring church after 16 years as a missionary in Guatemala, I threw myself into ministry. Then I started cutting back — why give my ALL when ALL I got was negative feedback? God spoke to me through a State Cup Cal South tournament. Instead of running, I was jogging. How did I expect to win?

I cut the oranges for the kids' halftime.

I cut the oranges for the kids’ halftime.

Handling criticism is no piece of cake. Making transition from head pastor to just one of the guys has not been easy either.

I wanted those kids to run with everything they had. Who cares if they were losing? Who cares if they made mistakes? Who cares if the coach screamed at them? Run — for the love of the game — run! Don’t give up.

It’s pretty easy to see others’ faults. But when I saw my own faults reflected in those kids, it was horrifying. I’ve got to run — for Jesus (not for detractors). Thank You, Jesus, for helping restore me to the intense servant I always was. Forgive me for becoming a mechanical, half-hearted servant. Thank You for showing me to renew my passion for service.

We couldn’t enjoy the remodeling

ATT001935No sooner had we remodeled our home in Guatemala than we fled to America. A run-in with criminals forced us to leave. The trauma of the robbery at gunpoint took the foreground; the irony of our “lost investment” sat in the background.

ATT001997The stylized ceiling and modernized kitchen seemed like a good investment. We had lived in Guatemala for 15 years and did not foresee leaving our beloved missionary life. The threat of kidnapping changed that abruptly. The money already spent proved pointless.

Pointless.

Our stay in Guatemala was NOT permanent. It was temporary. So too our life here on Earth is short. ATT0020810Moses called his son Gershom, which means foreigner, because he felt like he didn’t belong in Midian. Peter says we’re only sojourners here on the globe. Our true home is Heaven.

What we invest for ATT0021412pleasure here is… well, it kind of seems pointless.

Was that what God was telling me? Whatever you do for eternity — even if it’s only five minutes of prayer today because that’s the best you can do — stands forever. We are here only briefly, so if all your effort is focused for this earth, try to enjoy these fleeting moments as much as possible. My recommendation: Work for eternity.

Text without ceasing

smallbusiness.chron.comIt used to be that Bible teachers would downplay pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17) because — they said — it wasn’t possible to talk to someone 24/7.

We now know this was wrong. It is possible to communicate with someone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The texters do it.

You scold your kids for texting at the table, but why? You text in the boss’s meeting. People are constantly texting in church (hey! no hypocrisy here — I’m guilty also). Some people, if they wake up at 3 a.m, empty their bladder and inbox at the same time. Others keep the phone by the pillow.

I’m a teacher, so I know about texting answers. Some students are so proficient, they text in their imagespockets without evening removing the device to see what they’re spelling. How they see the response is still a mystery for me; I’m the teacher and can’t figure out all their tricks.

So don’t pan prayer without ceasing. It can be done! (If you can stop texting long enough to say Hi to God!)

If you have needs (I do), then text them to God.

Every attempt works

from blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com

from blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com

Out of frustration, we called it burro-cracy. (Get it? A variation on bureaucracy.)

547750373398755794_zDvsmcus_bThe burro is not a flattering term in Spanish. When we would try to get paperwork done, they would tell us one thing was wrong. We would go to a lawyer or notary and fix it. Then we would wait in line again, usually an hour. Next they would tell us something else was wrong. This process repeated itself for days and weeks until finally months later through lots of diligence, we would finally get approved.

AARGH! WHY COULDN’T YOU JUST TELL ME AAAAAAAALLLLLLLL PROBLEMS THE FIRST TIME?????????

from blue pueblo (the best pics!)

from blue pueblo (the best pics!)

Thank God, prayer’s not like that. It’s easy. You don’t have to get a bunch of papers signed, notarized, stamped, authorized, officialized. You don’t have to walk for kilometers on your knees. You don’t have to…

All you have to do is talk, and you’re instantly in contact with the Almighty. Every attempt at prayer — no matter how clumsy, no matter how imperfect you are — brings the will of God. I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing – 1 Tim. 2:8 NIV. They may be filthy, but when the hands go up, they become holy.

Lit and Scribbles with Jae shares on $$$

Jae

Jae

I don’t write hardly about the tithe, but I believe in it. Today, I’ve asked Jae to share her experiences, that might be useful to somebody. She’s an accomplished writer on wordpress, and I certainly enjoy her posts always. Here’s what she says:

As you can see clearly from her face, it's Jae.

As you can see clearly from her face, it’s Jae.

I have found that regularly donating a portion of my income to church and charity always keeps me in good financial hands. It doesn’t mean that I’m rich or that things aren’t tight, but it seems like when you give to God he always looks after you. I heard Jon Hunstman, Sr. once said, if you want to be rich find a charity and donate to it regularly. I think rich can be both a financial thing and a spiritual thing. I feel like because I try to be generous to the less fortunate with what little I have I’m “rich” in many ways and have a happy life.