Then all of a sudden, they look like a winning team

constanly improve

A stand-up-and-take-notice-goal. Kelly O’Hara beats her defender to the inside and karate kicks a cross into the net. Wow!

The US Women’s National Team has slogged through its world cup, scraping out scrappy victories. Their play was lackluster. They looked toothless particularly on attack.

Then whamo! Out of nowhere, they send Germany home with a command performance. Yesterday the women of red, white and blue picked their opponents’ pockets. Yes there were two bad ref calls that favored the U.S., but they were by far the superior team.

kelly o hara goal against germany

The Star from Stanford. Kelly O’Hara celebrates the goal that iced the victory.

Pundits credit a formation change-up from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3. But also each player was nearly perfect. Gone were the individual blunders of prior games.

The semi final victory sends the USWNT closer to championship.

The semi final victory sends the USWNT closer to championship.

They had been improving game after game. And when they needed it most against their toughest opponent, they conjured mastery of the game. They won 2-0.

This is a key to life: Keep improving. Keep working to do better. Keep eliminating errors.

Gather in the light

the gathering darkness

Gather in the souls. Each soul is a light to burn brightly for Christ, the Chief and Source of Light. Fret not about the thickening darkness. No matter how tiny your light, no matter how overwhelming the darkness appears to grow, your light will be seen. Don’t run away from the world and hide like hermits. To the contrary, get out more and more into the world and let your light shine.

The easier it gets to get into sin, the more desperate people will become. The more desperate they become, the more they will want Christ. We Christians will be there to rescue them.

Driven to your knees

driven to your kneesPerfect. Then you are ready to pray.

Internet evangelism of youth

internet evangelismBehind the facade of success, “Taylor” languished in fear because of his parents’ constant fighting. Like so many teenagers, he reached out over the Internet for an understanding person. Thankfully, he didn’t fall into the hands of a predator.

Taylor stumbled upon a Christian chat through the organization JesusCares.com and someone online led him to Christ. Soon, he found out a lacrosse teammate was Christian and decided to go with him to church. Eventually, his family joined him at church.

“My home feels different now,” Taylor says. “It will take time, but my parents say they want our house to be `full of Jesus’ from now on.”

Every day, JesusCares chatters engage 180 young people, and as many as a dozen on any given day may be suicidal, says Sean Dunn, founder of JesusCares and its parent organization Groundwire.net. The round-the-clock volunteer counselors are born-again Christians with a passion to reach the lost.

With great listening skills, compassion and patience, they encourage young people who struggle with their self-image, along with loneliness, hopelessness and fear of failure.

“Young adults do not have the stability of healthy families, strong spiritual lives, and distinct purpose that used to be more common,” Dunn says. “They are struggling to find themselves, find purpose, and find hope. To quote scripture, this generation is ‘harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ When Jesus recognized these conditions in Matthew 9:35-38, he came to a conclusion: ‘The harvest is plentiful.’” Read more about this innovative internet evangelism.

As the world grows darker, rejoice

this gathering darknessSin is flaunted, parading, justified on every side, but we don’t circle the wagons. Because the darker it gets, the brighter the light shines. Be of good cheer, my brothers and sisters, and shine on for Jesus!

Keep calm and keep shining.

I wanted to help my friend Zeke.

IMG_3531It’s been two long years that I have wanted to visit my friend, Ezekiel. I met him playing soccer just before the accident. I wanted to pray for him and embrace him. He lived far away, in Salt Lake City.

I wanted to somehow bless him. Instead, he blessed me.

I got a vision of him preaching. I saw him functioning as a powerful man of God. I could totally visualize him being used by God. I saw no obstacles for him.

This was convicting to me. Because I see all kinds of limitations and disqualifiers for myself. While I had no doubt that God wanted to use Zeke, I am plagued by doubts about myself.

Starbucks is doomed. How can they survive this?

25 cents cup of coffee

A 25 cent cup of coffee in Gardiner. Once this spreads like wildfire, how will Starbucks survive the cutthroat competition?

Who will pay $5 a coffee when they’re offering the cup at 25 cents? LOL.

My car broke down in Yellowstone, so we are stranded in a little town I had never heard of: Gardiner. We’ll be here for a while, so our vacation destination has changed from the glorious, transcendent Mt. Rushmore to the quaint and picturesque Gardiner.

And look what I’ve already discovered! Coffee at 25 cents a cup. Beat that, Santa Monica!

I don’t know yet just how good the java is, but considering I’ve been drinking hotel coffee and instant coffee at our campsite, maybe it won’t be bad. (Actually I’m not the keenest coffee connoisseur. I recently bought a water filter to improve my home brew and could discern no difference from the the chlorine saturated version.)

Having owned my shortcomings, I wish to observe that we (Americans) squander great gobs of money on dubious needs. Meanwhile the call of the gospel languishes under-financed.

The adventures continue

Mike Ashcraft to Guatemala

My brother at left is an engineer. He likes to smirk.

Pathos is my passion. Wherever there are humans involved in a titanic struggle to alleviate the evils of our world, that’s where I’m helping and writing. God has given me a gift for communication.

Now, I’m going to Guatemala, my old stomping ground. I raised up a school to help the poor in the Capital City. They pay only a fraction of costs. Recently, the government has cited an audit, and I need to hurry down to  take care of paperwork.

Of course, while I’m there, I’ll be bringing to this blog some of the great stories of struggle and triumph, of the humans spirit almost breaking under pressure, like I’ve always done.

Why am I telling you this beforehand? I need a little bit of help. Fund my trip to Guatemala. Whatever you can pitch in is greatly appreciated. I’m “scheduling” this post ahead of time because I don’t think I’ll have internet access. So far Carmen Lezeth Suarez has very graciously donated. I want to encourage you too to pitch in. Click the link to go directly to my campaign. Thank you! http://www.gofundme.com/MikeToGuatemala

I love waterfalls


I’m from parched California. We can’t take showers any longer.

So you can imagine how strange I felt driving over river after river in Idaho to visit my brother in Idaho Falls. Then we visited Lower and Upper Mesa Falls in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. If I could live near waterfalls, I would.

Water is life, beauty, tranquility.

Jesus is the water of eternal life. My waterfall is my church.

People who say they don’t need church are spiritually drought-stricken.

Your best chance for peace in the world: earbuds and loneliness

peace | earbuds and loneliness


Good luck — if you wish to find peace in the world.

True peace can be found in God.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. — John 14:24.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 4:7

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. — Isaiah 26:3

This would be easier if it were Minecraft

… and other words of wisdom from my 13-year-old son.

pulling out the trunk

The trunk on the curbside.

We were helping my brother pull out a stump from his garden. It was an eyesore that annoyed the neighbors in Idaho Falls. While Don is recovering from a ski accident and his wife, Barbra, gets back pains struggling with weight, their son young son Mark was day by day trying to dig it out. He worked hard, but he didn’t have any help. And he was little.

So I showed up with my 17-year-old and my 13-year-old son. We made pretty short work of it. We dug under it. We axed the roots. Then we pried it out and rolled it to the curb. Next we helped Barbra plant some flowers, shoveled in the dirt and watered.

The team did the job. Hosea, my younger son, was impressed by the amount of work involved.

the flower patch

The finished product, the flower patch.

“This would be easier if it were Minecraft,” he observed. This is prepubescent wisdom at its finest.

It seems strange to me that Minecraft is popular because it is a throwback, a low definition graphics game. In any case, kids either build things or strike out on adventures. I’m not sure why it’s so popular. But yeah, pulling out a trunk on Minecraft is pretty much easier than in real life.

As a matter of fact, pretty much everything on video games is easier than in real life. Take marriage for example. Making it work is no easy thing. Personally, I pray and work at it. People seem to think they shouldn’t have to work at it, that it should work all by itself.

Removing rooted sins from your life is also a bunch of work. Pulling out that tree trunk made me think about how difficult it can be get a bad habit out (like smoking, or maybe anger).

Yeah, Minecraft’s definitely easier. But life is real. And I don’t want to live in a fantasy world. I want to live and find happiness and success in the real world. So I do hard work.

Fund me, please

Mike Ashcraft | Guatemala

I’m visiting my brother in Idaho Falls

Hey hey! to all my loyal followers. This blog has been a spot for inspiration, for gently challenging atheists, for encouraging Christians. I’ve brought you tales from all over the globe. I’ve incorporated my reporting for GodReports.com

As much cool stuff as I’ve done, I don’t get paid to blog. I also don’t get paid as a high school teacher at a small private Christian school. So I’m asking for a little bit of help to get to Guatemala, to the church my wife and I founded starting 20 years ago. I haven’t checked airfares yet, but it’ll probably be $750.

I’m asking you to support me http://www.gofundme.com/MikeToGuatemala. I totally understand if you don’t have any spare cash to help out (that’s the way I am! :D). But maybe some of you guys can help. I really appreciate it!

Too hurried, too worried

Carli Loyd bests a Columbian player

Carli Loyd bests a Columbian playe

The U.S. Women’s National Team doesn’t look like a winning team. To be sure, they’ve got good defense, a good goalie, good passing. But once they get the ball up top, they invariably strike as quickly as possible. It looks as if they are trying to shoot because they’re afraid they’ll lose possession.

This straight-to-goal strategy can catch opponents off guard. But a good offense varies its methods. The quality of the players is such that they should be able to maintain possession in their opponents’ half, probing patiently and waiting for a slip-up to exploit.

Sometimes, I’m too hurried and worried. Sometimes I lose my self-possession. The best strategy in life is to remain calm, not get upset, to manifest the peace of Jesus that comes in the Spirit.

womens team

Celebrating a goal

I wouldn’t be surprised if the U.S. women lose this World Cup. I hope they manage to win regardless of flawed strategy.

The nice thing about Christianity is that one day you can blow it, and the next you can recover and keep on serving Jesus. Not so much is at stake. One day’s mistake can be rectified. Jesus is teaching us to mature every day. Don’t live life too hurried, too worried. :D

*I don’t own the rights to these photos, and I’m not making any money on them.

Pray, don’t panic

dont panic just pray

I don’t subscribe to the myth that I have everything under control. There are people who actually believe that they have so much money, talent, good looks, whatever, that they always will win in life.

Sometimes things appear to spin out of control. In those moments, I need to stay calm and remember who I am trusting. Don’t panic; just pray.

How a Taiwanese student came to our Santa Monica Christian high school

Taiwan | study in America | high school

At left, eating pizza with a new friend in America.

Elvin Chen drank coffee like water, staying up to 3:00 a.m. every night, as he studied intensively for his national high school entrance exams in Taiwan to get into the best schools.

He did everything he was told, practiced constantly, went to school 14 hours a day. Even on holidays, he gave no time to relaxing but kept poring over his books.

But no matter how hard he tried, he scored low. Like many countries, Taiwan’s national exams are restricting; if you don’t do well, you are eliminated from the better colleges and careers. One slip-up, and you’re sunk.

So much was riding on the test that nerves sunk him.

“I started crying, ‘Why God? It’s unfair,’” he recalled. “I worked really hard, and I didn’t achieve my goal.”

Then Chen’s father spoke to him. “You did a great job, even if you didn’t achieve your goal. Don’t feel bad about this. You already learn the best lesson of your life.”

What was that lesson? That “failure” is the door to success. That hard work is the key to success, regardless of setbacks.

His father opted to send him to America. For the 2014-25 year, Elvin (not his Chinese name) studied at the Lighthouse Christian Academy.

Read the rest of the article about how a Taiwanese high school student came to America.

Love is supreme

love is supreme

You could have incredible prosperity, fame, power, and if you don’t have love, you would be unhappy.

You could be dirt-poor and humble and anonymous, but if you have love, you are the richest person on the planet?

Jesus extends His love to you continually. It only remains for you receive this live.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. — 1 Cor. 13:13

Once you become a Christian, growing in maturity means growing in love — loving the unlovable. This is what Jesus did, and it’s what we must learn.

He stole cars. Then Jesus stole his heart.

Pastor Chayo Perez

With his wife and two of his four children at the Tucson Door Church Bible conference.

By age 14, Rosario “Chayo” Perez was stealing pickup trucks from Tucson and bringing them across the border, where mafiosos paid him $1,000 each.

“When you’re 14, and you’re making $1,000 a week, that’s good money,” he says. He dropped out of school after finishing the 6th grade. “I figured, ‘Why would I need school?’”

When Chayo was 16, his best friend was murdered at his house on Christmas day. The killer was looking for Chayo to avenge some wrong. “But my friend took the hit and got killed,” he remarks grimly.

“Life was such a haze,” he recalls. “You’re high so much, drunk so much, that the reality of death doesn’t hit you.”

radical conversion Christ

In his days of running the streets

Once a group of fellow hoodlums, seeking revenge, left a man bloodied and nearly dead.

“I reached a point where I was sick and tired,” Chayo said. “I was living like an animal – just partying, drinking, using drugs and fighting.”

Then his older brother, Alex, got saved at a church that street-preached and evangelized earnestly.

“He would come witness to me while I was partying with my buddies,” Chayo said. “I started to get sick of him. I kept telling him to leave me alone.”

Then one time, Alex found Chayo drinking beer with his buddies. It was embarrassing for Chayo. The other guys started to make fun of Chayo for his brother. Chayo threatened him and told him to leave him alone.

“He said, ‘Ok,’” Chayo recalls. “’But let me pray for you and if nothing happens, I’ll leave you alone.’ I put my beer down. He prayed for me, and the Holy Ghost came down. I started weeping. My friends were freaking out because I was weeping. It was something supernatural. Even to this day, I can’t explain it.” Read the rest of the article.

Giving to the poor is overrated

Christian loveIf you give to the poor BECAUSE of love, that is a very good thing. But Paul seems to indicate that a human could give to the poor without having love. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and have not love, it profits me nothing. — 1 Cor. 13:3.

Maybe people give to the poor to appease their conscience or to compensate their evil actions with good ones. What’s surprising is that we can DO loving things without love.

Of course, I think love is an action (like giving to the poor). Yeah, no smug love that I just wish upon the world without doing anything to alleviate the world’s sufferings. Indeed, Prov. 19:17 says: Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.

Love’s the answer. What was the question?

Love's the answerThis one is not my wisdom. It comes from http://justmebeingcurious.com/ So thanks for him for allowing me to share it here.

It certainly appears to me that another prominent religion is based on hate, but Christianity, whose adherents get killed around the world and then forgive, is based on love.

This is how you know that white supremacists are NOT Christian. They are in hate, not love. They reflect those who crucified Christ.

How do we reach a generation that gets further away from God by the day? Love. How do we Christians — not our secular government — respond to nations who send terrorists to wreak carnage? We send missionaries. We send love.

How do we face bitter accusing people in the church? Do we descend to their wickedness? No, we must respond with love.

Love is the answer. It is so much the totality of the answer that we can even forget the question.

Faith is overrated

faith is overrated

This is a tough one because Jesus spent most of his time upbraiding his disciples for not having enough faith. So faith was very nearly the characteristic he most cultivated.

So to dismiss faith’s importance borders on heresy. Faith is not unimportant! It is just lesser important than love.

Paul is resetting Corinthian theology, which was heavy on the sizzle and bang of show-off spiritual gifts. He forms a chaismus with chapter 12 and 14 talking about spiritual gifts. Then he says: But I will show you a better way. In the middle, he talks about love.

The ancients didn’t have all caps or highlight to draw attention to their writing. They didn’t have exclamation marks. So they made up the chiasmus, a rhetorical device that repeats a them twice, with the highlighted material in the middle. (It’s kind of like a hamburger. It’s not the two breads on top and bottom. The tasty important part is in between the breads.)

In the middle, then, Paul says, Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. — 1 Cor. 13:2.

In Christianity, love is the pinnacle of perfection. Holiness is not so much resisting temptation as it is having compassion on those who have fallen into temptation.

Spiritual gifts are overrated

supernatural gifts

It’s impressive when somebody asks you how you knew. You gave words, disclosed by the Holy Spirit, to encourage a person in a very specific way. Or you prayed for a person and he got healed. Using the fireworks can be a thrill — and it can make you feel like a spiritual hotshot.

But just lighting off fireworks doesn’t make you a Christian. Nor does it mean you have a blackbelt in spirituality.

No the blackbelt comes when you love someone who is hating you violently.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy… and have not love, I am nothing. — 1 Cor. 13:1-2

Bible knowledge is overrated

Christian love

Though I have … understand all mysteries and all knowledge … and have not love, I am nothing. — 1 Cor 13:2.

I went to seminary. It was mostly very useful. I learned how to solve the majority of the “problem texts.” I learned to how to contextualize. I learned Greek and Hebrew. All important stuff to “rightly divide the word” for preaching and applying.

But the gold standard for Christian leadership is not Bible mastery. It is love. Paul says, “Knowledge puffs up.” In other words, you can sin with pride over your superior knowledge. But the daily grind of living the Christian life consists mostly in exhibiting love.

A lot of Bible knowledge doesn’t help when it come to “loving your enemies.” In fact, loving and forgiving difficult people is one of the toughest challenges for Christians. I may be good a parsing, but I have much to learn at loving.

Curry’s Christianity

lebron curryStephen Curry, who picked the lock to Cleveland’s defense to win the NBA championship, likes to point people to “the Man who died for our sins on the cross.”

Curry was named the NBA 2015 most valuable player and led the Golden State Warriors to the championship, but he said worldly prizes don’t compare with Heavenly ones.

“I know I have a place in Heaven waiting for me because of Him, and that’s something no earthly prize or trophy could ever top,” Curry told Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

LeBron James seemed to be willing his way to the championship for the Cleveland Cavaliers, without two of his supporting stars who were injured. Curry was floundering with low points as the finals initially favored the Cavaliers 2-1. Read the rest of the article.

Martyrdom is overrated

martyrdom

Though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. — 1 Cor. 13:3

Raymond Lull sought to be stoned, so he went to an Islamic country and street-preached. Goal attained.

Why did he actively pursue martyrdom? Because Medieval Christians promulgated the myth that martyrs have the surest entrance into Heaven. The idea was so widely embraced that people born into Christendom would live for the devil all their lives and then seek martyrdom at the end, thinking they would thus be assured Heaven.

Martyrdom is overrated. It’s not the apex of Christianity. The quintessence of Christianity was shown yesterday by family members of the nine South Carolina victims of race-hater killer Dylann Roof when they addressed him in court and forgave him.

Love is Christianity’s highest virtue, its greatest sign of maturity, its most vaunted ideal. Raymond Lull would have done better to keep living and serving Jesus.

These are the truest Christians I’ve ever heard

How can the victims’ families forgive the confessed killer of nine blacks in an AME church in South Carolina. He tried to start a race war. It looks like he started a revival.

May all those filled with the sin of racism let the love of Jesus into their hearts. We whites have done hundreds of years of gravest crimes against blacks. It is our time to repent.

Martin Luther King Jr. knew that the love of Christ would prevail. I can only pray to God to have the sincere faith of these brothers and sisters in Christ who, in the moment of fresh pain, unreservedly forgive the killer of their loved ones and invite him to Christ.

(Originally, I tried unsuccessfully to a shorter embed video from the New York Times. Then I found it on YouTube. This video is a must-see for anyone curious about true Christianity.)

I wish gas were like salvation

gas pricesWhen I spotted this, I pulled over rashly, recklessly. Finally, gas I can afford!

Unfortunately, the gas station was closed, fenced in with a chain-link fence and a for-sale sign out. :(

I wish gas were like salvation: free.

A phone call saved him from suicide

Door Christian Center |TucsonAs a street tough and drug addict, he spent his life on the edge of the law. But heaven broke through in a surprising way one afternoon when he looked death in the face.

“I would beat up bullies,” Philbert MacKowiak said. “When I was a little kid, my mom told me the story of Samson. I would pray to God to give me strength against my three older brothers when they would pick on me, and I would beat them up.”

But if he knew about Samson, his understanding of God was limited. He fell into drugs and alcohol at age 8.

By the age of 23, living in Oakland, California, he was a serious addict. One day he smoked 10 PCP joints in his car. When a police officer rapped on his window and ordered him to open it, he suddenly hit the gas pedal, flying off with “50 cop cars after me,” he recounted.

He started driving towards the Bay Bridge with patrol cars in tow.

“I was going to drive my car off the Bay Bridge,” he said. “I was furious. I hated the world. I didn’t want to live, but I was scared to kill myself because I heard it was a mortal sin.”

Read the rest of the article about the Tucson Door Church.

Stop making excuses

abby wambachMy son tore his ACL playing on turf, so I totally understand Abby Wambach’s complaint about having to play on turf at the Women’s World Cup.

But when she blames lack of goals, her lack of commitment, on the turf, then I’m ready to fire her.

Good thing she “committed” in the only goal the US scored against Nigeria yesterday.

Soccer was designed to play on grass, but turf is much easier to keep. I can understand why Canada, with snow and rain, would opt for turn.

abby wambach 2Turf doesn’t “give way.” So my son’s cleat got stuck, causing my son’s ACL tear. And when you tackle or fall (from doing a header), it’s much harder. Wambach had said: I don’t lay out and commit to those headers and that’s why they glance off my head rather than me contacting them. For me, I definitely think that the U.S. has more goals if we’re playing on grass.

But of all the women playing on turf, only Wambach whined. Someone even said that, if they had to play on concrete or dirt, they would give their all. This is for country. The Women’s World Cup is only once every four years. You have been selected to represent your country out of tens of thousands of female soccer players. You had better give your all.

Could you imagine what would happen if our soldiers took the same attitude? Aw sarge, I don’t want to charge. It’s dirty out and the rocks hurt. There’s too much dust. I can hardly see.

abby wambachOf course, we would all love perfect conditions. But if — as they say in Guatemala — you’re going to put on a pretty pink bow and demand your entitlements and not perform at full capacity, then it’s time to replace that player.

On Wednesday against Nigeria, Wambach calmed pundits who were up in arms. She scored a stunning goal on a cross. It was enough to win.

If we don’t allow excuses when you play for country, how much more so when you “play” for God? Maybe not all is well, but you can give your all to God.

Make Jesus your star

Jesus Star

Frankly, I don’t get the allure of Hollywood — and I don’t get the stars on the sidewalk. I host foreign students who learn English. They ALL want to see Hollywood. Little do they know that Hollywood is ghetto, with abundance of drugs and grimy streets.

But those foreign students, invariably, like to get a selfie with the star of their favorite performer.

Why anyone would want people to walk all over their name, I’ll never know. It seems like a dishonor, not an honor. But Hollywood is full of such contradictions that go totally unnoticed by people infatuated with this world.

This I know: the darker this world gets — and it IS growing darker — the brighter the light of Jesus. The more that sin becomes “acceptable,” the more people are going to suffer its ravages. They will need a Savior more and more desperately.

Hey, I’m tempted, and I sin, but the attraction of God is greater. I always come back. I keep following God. Because there’s nothing better, nothing like Him. His love is amazing. Freedom is incredible.

Make Jesus your star.

Don’t hold back

canada's women's soccerCanada’s women’s team scored early, and it seemed they were going to crush the Netherlands in world cup yesterday. But the second goal never came — much less the third or fourth. For those of us rooting for our northern neighbors, the disappointment turned to bitterness when in the final minutes of the game Netherlands scored an equalizer.

Because soccer games are often won by one goal, a team CAN lay back and just try to hold on. Disgusting.

canada vs. netherlandsSame is true of the church, when we congratulate ourselves on the one goal we’ve already made, the offerings we’ve already given, the work we’ve already done. It is enough. Why work harder? Let’s just coast into victory.

Japan, the women’s world cup defending champions, did the same against Ecuador. When they should have brought an avalanche of goals, they settled for one. Ugh. I hate it.

But do I do it? Do I call it quits on prayer, evangelism and giving far short of winning?

It was the camels

invest evangelismWhat convinced Rebekah to leave her family, her friends, her land, everything, to go marry a man she’s never met?

It was the camels.

Eleazar showed up seeking a wife for Isaac. Rebekah offered to draw water for the camels. Even in ancient Middle Eastern culture which values visitors almost more than family, this was a tall order.

Then, Eleazar explains his mission to Rebekah’s family. They decide the matter comes from God, but even so, how could she consent to go almost immediately? She would never see her family again.

There were 10 camels in the caravan — and that meant wealth. She would go.

evangelism offeringWe Christians have the same mission as Eleazar. We have to find a “bride” for Christ.

What’s going to be key? Investing in evangelism, missions and church planting. A supernatural dynamic kicks in when we do more than just wish for souls, when we put our money where the Bible’s mouth is.

God rescued Jess from suicidal thoughts

suicidal

with her younger sister

She was beautiful, had talent, played soccer. She was a Christian.

But she was suicidal.

Even now Jess Trussell, 18, can’t fully explain the incongruence of possessing the joy of salvation but despairing over spiraling circumstances.

jess1At the time, Jess was a sophomore in high school. Her family had just changed churches and she lost the support network of friends who were like family. Her parents had hit some rough patches in their marriage. She would come home after soccer practice to try to finish homework. Her grades were slipping. And her eyesight was growing worse.

“Everything that was important to me in my life was falling through my hands,” she says on her blog. It was a time of months of discouragement that seemed to drain into endless hopelessness.

The way out came at a Christian concert where God spoke to here. To pass into eternity and be with Jesus, to leave behind the problems, would be wonderful, but people needed her here on Earth, was the gist. She felt God’s love.

suicide“I felt an overwhelming sense of peace, of comfort,” she said. “An enormous weight was lifted off my shoulders.”

Her focus had been on herself. She needed to focus on others. Today she is a college sophomore at California Baptist University in Riverside, California.

Christians are not immune from the attacks of the devil, but they have the Resource, Jesus, to escape Satan’s clutches. Christians are not perfect. They get tempted just like anyone else. They sin. They are forgiven, not superior. They are forgiven only because they ask God for His forgiveness.

Being a Christian doesn’t negate our humanness. It just gives us a future eternalness.

I rejoice with Jess’ decision to share her story because I know that there are thousands of other Christian Jesses who the devil is tormenting, exploiting the secretiveness induced by shame. Jesus gives you the way out.

Tucson Bible conference and the quest for coffee

mcdonalds hwy 10

At an old-school McDonald’s for breakfast

The mistake was to bundle up too many errands in one stop. I wanted to get cheap Arizona gas AND quality coffee. That wasn’t going to happen on the 10 Fwy from California.

I settled for some coffee called “Zippy” at a gas stop.

A far cry from a coffee whose size is specified in Italian, but what can you expect from a road trip through the desert wasteland between San Bernardino and Phoenix.

church in tucson

My son after the workout.

We hit the mini gym at the hotel before opening night. The Door Church conference is where fires ignited in me to dare to believe in myself and go to Guatemala, where I pastored for 16 years. The excitement is high to see what God might have for me in the future.

My son Hosea wins with Mar Vista Park soccer final

mar vista park soccer

Flynn Roe expertly turns in a cross to open scoring for Chelsea

Andres Barahona hoped to engineer his second upset in Mar Vista Park soccer finals Saturday with his nervy energy and treacherous left foot, but ultimately his team, Aston Villa, fell to the superior firepower of Chelsea.

Andres,15, blazed twice down the left with feints and burst of speed to pass four and five defenders to slot home. But he was playing a game of keep-up in the “sweepers division,” age 13 to 15, against an onslaught of goals. Chelsea took the championship 6-3.

“We played pretty hard,” Andres said. “The penalties weren’t penalties. I wanted to win, but we couldn’t win.”

Last week, 3rd-placed Aston Villa upset 2nd-place Norwich to bid for a surprise championship Saturday. But Chelsea, a team full of forwards, was too lethal in front of the net.

The Blues’ deadshot aim was unusual for parks leagues, where all kinds of clumsiness and lack of definition prevail among the lot of mostly beginners.

Some 650 kids aged 5-15 played in Mar Vista’s 9 divisions in spring league, said Soccer Director Kiswani Dumas, better known as simply “Kiwi.” With the largest park soccer program on the Westside, Mar Vista has produced stars for European soccer, he said. One kid has a contract for a Turkish team, he added.

“Our soccer program is growing every season,” Kiwi said. “We hope to have 1,000 kids next season.”

Sign ups, boys and girls, start on July 1 for fall soccer, which initiates Sept. 12. For $130, kids get a uniform, a trophy, training and a lot of competitive fun.

Mar Vista Park’s turf field, installed eight years ago, has been the field of dreams, where kids can learn soccer and soar. They learn teamwork, discipline and hard work. They can experience the exhilaration of victory and the crush of defeat.

In Saturday’s final, Chelsea, the highest scoring team among the older kids’ division, started what they do best early when Flynn Roe, 13, turned a free kick in past the goalie after only a few minutes after the starting whistle. It was a smart goal, uncharacteristically classy for parks soccer.

But Aston Villa responded quickly. Andres, of Honduran descent and with the Latino flair for el futbol, tore down the left flank, ghosting past four defenders, to fire home and tie up a game that promised to be highly competitive and highly entertaining.

youth soccer programs Los Angeles

Hosea Ashcraft fires from amid three defenders. From the outside of his foot to the inside of the net.

Then for Chelsea, Hosea Ashcraft, 13, fought off three defenders to shoot clinically past a hapless Aston Villa goalie.

Mar Vista park soccer

Aston Villa’s goalie is not going to block the shot.

Before the first half was over, referees cited a defender’s handball, and Daniel Garcia, 15, the league’s highest goal-scorer, blasted a blistering penalty kick for Chelsea, making it 3-1.

youth soccer Westside Los Angeles

Daniel Garcia rockets a penalty kick right past the goalie.

In the second half, it was Aston Villa who opened scoring. Again the always-dangerous Andres blazed down the left flank and slotted home.

Chelsea responded almost immediately. Midfielder Daniel, who was Andres’ equal in domination, whipped in a cross from the right that Samuel Mikhail, 15, turned smartly in. It was impossible for the keeper to bat away.

Down 4-2, Aston Villa refused to let this game slip out of hand. From the feet of Andres came a through-ball that Donovan Brizuela sprinted on to fire from the left for another score, keeping the game within reach at 4-3.

If only Chelsea could cancel out the constant threat of Andres, they could win. Seeing the need, Flynn offered himself to coach to track and defend against Andres. He promised coach that he wouldn’t be beat by the fleet-footed youth.

“Ok, go ahead,” Coach Mario Ortiz told him. Andres didn’t make any more key plays.

All season, Chelsea had been a scoring machine, and Saturday’s game proved no different. A through-ball left Samuel in a one-on-one face-off with the goalie. He fired low, a shot that shanked the goalie’s shins and glided into goal.

Another defensive handball in the area gave Chelsea its second penalty kick, which Daniel didn’t miss with a rocket fired from the spot. The game ended 6-3.

With about 15 goals this season, Daniel was named the most valuable player.

“He covers all the midfield,” Coach Ortiz said. “He can shoot. He can pass.”

After taking possession of the field, the boys — and girls — in blue retreated to the park picnic tables for their banquet. Coach Ortiz handed out medals and praised each player as they munched sub sandwiches, chips and cupcakes.

After clashing against the tiny titans of soccer, the kids fell to playing Clash of Clans on their phones, trading strategies.

As the sun fell, another soccer season receded into glorious memories.

*Reprinted from http://patch.com/california/santamonica/chelsea-confirms-its-dominance-mar-vista-soccer

Hi! Fund my trip to Guatemala!

mikeHey everybody! I’m translating a revival in Guatemala, my old stomping ground. If you want to help pitch in for the airfare and taxi and food and stuff, here’s the link: http://www.gofundme.com/MikeToGuatemala

Love letter written in blood

Jesus whip wounds

To show their love, some give flowers, chocolates or a diamond ring. This is what Jesus gave.

A lesson from the Melrose District of LA

moneyKudos to THIS graffiti artist. His painting is not mindless but demonstrates a philosophy of life and provokes viewers to reflect. It seems ironic to me that my friend, Steven Fernandez, found this in the Melrose District, known for pricey, trendy stores.

Steven, pictured, photoshopped it here, and I love it. You can’t have both money and whatever your pure dream is.

release $

Why I refuse to be ‘promoted’

Lighthouse Church School

With some youngsters at the Lighthouse Church School

I was the senior pastor at Guatemala’s Door Church. We had a school and four churches. Still I taught a grade.

Why? Because daily contact is daily discipleship. You’re not winning anyone to Christ, you’re not forming any leaders by pushing paper. The generals may devise strategies, but the war is won in the trenches. So I continue where the war is won.

Santa Monica Christian school

It was a water balloon war day

Another school year is ending. I teach at the Lighthouse Christian Academy and coach soccer for the counterpart Lighthouse Church School. These Santa Monica Christian schools are a safe place in a topsy-turvy world of moral confusion, in which kids are encouraged to try all sorts of sin and to stop calling it sin. My kids attend Lighthouse.

And it is my joy to be winning souls to Christ there. Young ladies are rescued from cutting, and boys from rage. Hopeless kids turn from drugs to happiness. How could money be better?

Christian primary school | Santa Monica

With my young friends Mosie and Josie.

I don’t earn any money. I do this for free. And it’s worthwhile. Because it’s what Jesus is doing. It’s revival.

By the way, nobody is even asking to promote me. A promotion would be a demotion if it removes me from human contact and making disciples for Christ.

Eating disorders and self image

Needless to say, we are so proud of our students Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica who put together this short for a film class. Eulie Scheel, Hasset Anteneh and a cameo appearance Daniella Mezrahi. Eulie’s mom is Marcia Harden, creator of Code Black.

This video probes eating disorders, self image, depression and self worth. It’s a tear-jerker.

Bend Jesus any way you want

bendable Jesus

Perfect for our time! Now we can bend Jesus any way we want.

If you don’t like certain scriptures, put a nice spin on them.

Bears are re-writing the signs

sin no longer sinDanger is no longer danger, sin is no longer sin.

Surviving drought

California droughtAs we enter the worst drought in 1,200 years, Californians are shifting into survival mode. Farmers are cutting water use 25%, and Angelinos are ripping out grass and installing turf in their yards. I’m scolding people in my household for long showers and shutting off the spigot between rinses at the kitchen sink.

You gotta do what you gotta do.

There are spiritual droughts as well, and the key to them is to survive them. Of course, you’ll hear countless seminars about getting rain. But sometimes, you can’t make it rain, in your marriage, in your finances or in a relationship at church where the other person doesn’t want rain.

So hunker down and survive. Don’t move to another state (out of the state of salvation).

When rivals become friends

working togetherArgentina and Brazil hate each other. For decades, Argentina was the upper society of South America, and Brazil the vulgar poor neighbor to the north. They were both dominant in soccer, so the rivalry became intense.

Messi is from Argentina, and Neymar is from Brazil. On other teams, rivals have famously sunk their teams (Lampard and Gerrard on England, for example). But these two stars for Barcelona have set aside any differences and become friends. The results were magical: a triple crown of titles this season — Spanish League, King’s Cup and now the Champion’s League, the competition second in prestige only to the World Cup.

When you decide to set aside your differences and work together with people in your church, the results will be (maybe “magical” is not the right word) supernatural!

Like fighting against God, it wasn’t even a fair match

Germany Soccer Champions League FinalJuventus put everything they had into the Champions League Final — which wasn’t enough. So the Impossible Dream was just that: impossible.

Barcelona surprised, breaking up its usual quick-passing game that dizzies defenders. It added counter-attacks and long-balls, perhaps to catch Juventus unprepared.

The first goal came when Lionel Messi whipped a cross-field ball surgically over to teammate Neymar, who combined with Iniesta and Rakitic before the Juve defense could reconfigure.


Juventus sought to force mistakes with high-field pressure, exploiting Barca’s penchant for launching attacks out of defense with slick passes (as opposed to most team’s approach of using clearances to get out of the danger zone). The strategy paid off with some clumsy turnovers, but Juve failed to capitalize with goals.

Messi was again the director of the orchestra with the second goal with lightning dribbling that confounded defenders. Though Buffon expertly batted away Messi’s shot, he could not scramble over to block Suarez’s rebound smash.

Thankfully, Luis Suarez didn’t bite anyone in this game (he has bitten someone in the Dutch League, the English League and the World Cup). But he was up to his usual controversial antics. He faked injury to kill time. With mock pain, he writhed on the ground as the seconds counted down of the last minute of extra time. Then, he limped off the field, waved at fans, took a selfie, got lost, consulted a map, asked for an autograph, answered his cell phone and cooked up whatever time-wasting shenanigan he could. The ref simply allowed another minute of play.

Juve attacked, looking for the tying goal that would force overtime — 30 minutes. But Barca parried their attack and launched a counter. Again Leo escorted the ball down the field, this time finding Neymar, who converted, 3-1.

Juve Goalie, Gianluigi Buffon said about him: “Messi is an extra-terrestrial who plays with us humans. So we hope that on June 6 he returns to earth and becomes a human too.”

It didn’t happen as Buffon wished.

But if you thought Barcelona, in sealing three championships this season (League, King’s Cup and European Champions), was impressive, just remember that God never loses.

Tony Alamo church continues

Sporting a Tony Alamo hand-painted denim jacket, Myley Cyrus.

Sporting a Tony Alamo hand-painted denim jacket, Myley Cyrus.

What piqued my curiosity about Tony Alamo is that, despite that by court conviction he was an child sex abuser and by most accounts a cult leader, people got saved in his ministry. I visited his church in Canyon Country, CA, and found its service to be pretty much like any other church. The people talked mostly about and focused mostly on Jesus. Meanwhile, their pastor — the church is run by lay leaders — is in jail. TRIGGER WARNING AND DISCLAIMER: I can’t avow for his ministries.

Their disciples patrolled the Sunset Strip tirelessly witnessing to prostitutes and drug addicts in a “repent or perish” style that alienated as many as it converted.

tonyalamo_susanalamoDuring their heyday in the early 80s, Tony Alamo Ministries had hundreds of converts, a touring choir, and volunteer work crews that raised funds for their various ministry activities, including printing presses that churned out evangelistic pamphlets nonstop.

Then the movement’s leader, Tony Alamo, was convicted and jailed in 1994 for tax evasion and again in 2009 for sex crimes against minors. At 80 years of age, he is currently serving a 175-year sent in a Tucson prison for transporting five minors across state lines for sex.

Despite the hit to this ministry, the movement birthed with hippies of Hollywood did not disappear. In fact, as a mass distribution of pamphlets in Culver City attests, these radical Christians are back.

“You thought we closed down?” said one of their leaders at their church in Canyon Country, California, north of Los Angeles. “No, we never closed down.”

At a Sunday afternoon service recently, there was sincere love expressed by the approximately 30 people in attendance. It was a very normal Christian service: worship, testimonies, special music, offering, a sermon and communion – finished within an hour.

The disciples — some converts from the 60s and others young adults who had grown up in the church — are carrying out the mission left them by the Jewish-background Hollywood promoter who turned to Christ and became their pastor with his wife Susan.

“I want to serve the Lord, and I don’t care who likes it and who doesn’t like it,” said the preacher from the pulpit that afternoon. “The gospel is not about making money. It’s about saving souls.” Read more.

#WorthWayMoreThan$5Million

#worthmorethan$5million

Our small school’s senior class.

My church recently voted “no” to selling our high school property, which we are in arrears for a year and a half. The offering price: $5 million.

It seems like some people thought the price was too much to pass up, even a blessing given by God. By contrast, I thought the price was the devil’s temptation. This property contains a small two-story building used for the high school, a small church and a parsonage. Getting rid of it would mean one less church in Santa Monica, a reversal for revival in a needy city.

Three weeks ago I blogged about my despair, and many of you joined me in prayer. Today, things are on the upswing. We are getting new students every week for next year. These are kids who are going to hear the Word of God daily. They’re coming out of public school chaos and into an environment of loving teachers and fellow students. We have a girl who was cutting herself; now she’s rocketing for Jesus. We have former gang-bangers, kids who got bullied, the list goes on.

Maybe $5 million seems like a lot of money. But I feel that each of these kids individually is worth WAY MORE THAN $5 million. To describe them as worth $5 million is to sell them short.

Hey, Christ gave his life for each one of them. Why would not value them more?

I’m praising Jesus that, at least for now, we are keeping the school on track with expansion. We should sell it when we outgrow it, and we should sell it to whoever will conserve the church, not to some developer who will turn it into condos or something.

YOU are worth WAY MORE THAN $5 million

True Christians forgive. And Muslims?

I believe in a world where we can all live in peace, where we can debate, not kill over, our differences of faith. But I am disturbed by reports of apparently millions (?) of Muslims who support Al Qaeda or ISIS.

My faith’s founder left himself die. Your faith’s founder liquidated the opposition. My faith grew under the oppression of of the Roman persecution. Your faith expanded by military conquest.

I’m reaching out to my Muslim friends to explain to me why there is so much violence, hatred and killing in Islam?

A portal to hell

portal to hellJK. Actually this is an underground lava flow. This surface hole shows the underground tube.

God doesn’t want anyone to go to Hell. So don’t reject Him. Don’t choose an eternal destination apart from Him. He loves you.

Well, it’s not that easy…

broken heart

First you follow your heart (excuse the pun) whole-heartedly.

Then when your heart leads you to pain (because of sin), you want to get rid of it.

But those who try only make things worse. They try to deaden the pain with a deluge of sin (drugs, alcohol, meaningless sex). These are neither permanent nor true fixes.

Jesus heals hearts. Cry out to Him.

Don’t give up today

don't give upIf you give up today, you give up everyday for the rest of your life.