Seeing potential

photo(5)Hosea and I are extremely happy. After being without a team for 1 1/2 years, he’s been accepted on to Autobahn Soccer Club based in Santa Monica. Club soccer is the highest level for kids. You’ll get the best training available.

In my unbiased opinion (keep in mind that I’m the dad), Hosea is something of a soccer genius. With ball in front of goal, his spontaneous tricks befuddle goalies. He’s got a baby face, but he plays like a tank.

But 1 1/2 years ago, another club wouldn’t have him. He made a few poor decisions. He lack fitness. He was heartbroken. So was I.

At the end of his tryout, Coach Herve saw some spark that he liked. He saw potential.

If you are in leadership in the church, do you dismiss the players God sends you. Do you dwell on their defects, their inferiority. If you are going to build a winning team, you’ll have to see what Jesus sees: potential. (Everybody has potential.) Develop it in your followers.

Envybook

envy

from gocomics.com

What is Facebook good for? Provoking envy, according to studies.

Why are we humans so prone to brag, show off and flaunt pride? This is sin.

Why are also vulnerable to feeling envy? Rom. 12:15 describes Christian character: Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Feel good about another’s success/blessing. Feel compassion on another’s failure/suffering.

Compassion of the suffering is why Christians evangelize. Maybe what you’re suffering is envy. Come to Jesus.

Third Wave of Jews coming to Jesus now is in Israel

BanneringThe First Wave of Jews coming to Jesus hit in the 1970s in America. The Second Wave were Russian Jews in the 1990s. And now – in what some observers call a Third Wave – Jews in Israel are coming to faith in increasing numbers.

“I have never seen the breakthrough like we’re seeing now,” said Tuvya Zaretsky, chairman of the board for the Israel branch of Jews for Jesus. “We’re seeing a steady stream of Israelis who are coming to Jesus from all walks of life, though usually among the young. There seems to be a greater openness to spiritual input. We’re thinking it’s a Third Wave of in-gathering.”

In the 1990s, there were about 3,000 Messianic Jews in Israel; today there are as many as 20,000 (still less than 1% of the population), said Simon Stout, executive assistant of Jews for Jesus in Tel Aviv. Also, one source estimates 150 congregations of like-minded believers in Israel. Of Israel’s 84 cities and towns, 81 have at least one messianic Bible study. Read the rest of the story.

ISIS releases 200 women from sexual slavery, including a 9-year-old whose pregnant from her captors

Yazidi women (not necessarily related to the story)

Yazidi women (not necessarily related to the story)

A raped and pregnant 9-year-old girl is among 200 Yazidi captives released by Islamic State fighters in an attempt to demoralize their enemies in northwestern Iraq, the Star world news reported.

Since last summer when the Islamic State rampaged onto the world scene, its jihadists massacred the men and subjected women to rape, forced marriage, torture and enslavement. After eight months suffering barbarism, the women and girls have wandered back to their relatives. They are traumatized and humiliated.

The 9-year-old is the youngest victim, according to international workers at refugee camps.

“This girl is so young she could die if she delivers a baby,” aid worker Yousif Daoud told the Star. “Even a caesarian section is dangerous. The abuse she has suffered left her mentally and physically traumatized.”

[Editor’s Note: Please forgive the horrific content, but I include it because I wrote it for God Report’s and because awareness is part of the solution. To read the rest of the story, click here.

Saved from the mara salvatrucha

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta

Mario, second from left, with the youth he now ministers to.

His fellow gang member thrust a pistol into his hand. Go ahead and kill the kid, he was instructed.

Wedged between the dangerous Mara Salvatrucha and the Dieciocho gangs in a neighborhood where even police feared to go, Mario Ajcip’s gang had successfully fended off rivals to keep their turf in one of the most violent neighborhoods in Guatemala City.

When a rival dared to make incursion into Mario’s neighborhood, there was only one gang-inflicted punishment — death. This time it was Mario´s turn to execute the cornered kid on the dark dirt alley.

Never shy to physically beat up a rival, Mario balked at murder. A leader himself among the 100 gang members, he began talking about teaching the guy a lesson and letting him go. Read the rest of the story.

Overjoyed on her second Africa medical mission trip

Africa medical mission trips

Joni with one of the children

By Joni Vosburg

As I return from a far-too-short trip to Mwanza, Tanzania, I find my thoughts continually returning to the wonderful people we met and treated in our medical clinic.  Last spring I first joined Lighthouse Medical Missions as a volunteer on the Guinea-Bissau Team.  I was in nursing school at the time and met Christa Czer there who introduced me to Dr. Hamilton.  That first trip taught me a lot about myself, and rekindled my love for helping people who are in dire need.
Santa Monica Africa medical mission

With my great friend, Christa Czer

While it was a great experience to work as a scribe and pharmacy crew member, it was nothing like the thrill of being an actual medical team member this year.  As a nurse I felt more personally responsible for the patients I cared for, and left with the feeling that I was able to make a sincere difference in people’s lives.

Joni Vosburg

With the team on our half-day off.

Working with two other brand new nurses and friends, Christa and Claudio, was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.  We took nothing for granted, worked together on unfamiliar maladies, and made it a point to try to educate our patients in ways to prevent further illness.  One of our most serious cases was a woman that had undergone a surgery over a year ago in her auxiliary area (armpit). The wound became infected, never healed, and had begun tunneling further into her tissue.  We were able to see this woman all five days of our clinic to clean and dress the wound and administer antibiotics. Christa was even able to work with one of our interpreters to find a nearby clinic where she could continue to get treatment at no cost. 

joy in Africa

This is joy.

The people of Mwanza were amazing to work with, both as patients, and as assistants working with us.  They are such a strong community and I have no doubt they will continue to thrive as God works his wonders through them.  I am already excited for the next chapter in the Lighthouse Medical Missions book, and hope to join the team again in another life-changing journey.   Please make a donation or register for Walk to Africa.  It is your support that makes these teams possible!  www.WalkToAfrica.com

The value of “useless” people

When he beat two Real Madrid defenders.

When he beat two Real Madrid defenders.

My friend and I argue about Barcelona soccer. Namely, Alan says Luis Suarez was a costly and “useless” addition to the star-studded squad. While I have been critical of Suarez’s tendency to bite opponents previously, I endorsed his arrival at the Blaugrana. He brought a wickedly powerful kick, a weapon missing from Barca’s touch-sensitive arsenal. He also brought muscle.

His debut in the first clasico (against eternal rival Real Madrid) was, understandably, not an outright success. He whipped in some pin-perfect crosses but was otherwise somewhat sedate. It usually takes a while for a player to adapt to a new team, but of high-priced acquisitions, fans want immediate results. So Alan grew increasingly critical as games passed without too many goals from Suarez.

I kept believing in him even though the results weren’t terribly positive. Our banter reached a head in late March for the second derby of the season against the Merengues. Before the game started, Alan unbottled fresh venom for Suarez; I defended him. As it turns out, Suarez struck the goal of the victory — exquisitely controlling a long overhead pass with one touch, holding off two defenders with his speed and physicality, and a shooting low to far post to frustrate the goalie. For those who know soccer, it was sheer sublime grace.

This gave me ammo to unload on Alan. We were both overjoyed by the Barca victory, but I shot up my friend: I thought you said he was “useless?”

Suarez "nutmegs" one of the world's best defenders, David Luis, of PSG. (He puts the ball through his legs, a humiliating move).

Suarez “nutmegs” one of the world’s best defenders, David Luis, of PSG. (He puts the ball through his legs, a humiliating move).

On Wednesday, Suarez again won the game, this time to help Barca move forward in quarter finals of the UEFA’s Champion’s League against new powerhouse Paris Saint Germain. For one of the goals, Suarez threaded through three defenders single-handedly (or rather, single-footedly) to confound the opposition and the goalie. They don’t play soccer any better in Heaven.

So tonight I fired a fresh volley at my friend. “Useless” players like that, I’ll take any day.

Do you believe in the people on your team? It’s surprising (upsetting) to see church members criticize their fellows. They compete against each other (instead of competing against the devil). Maybe the person you view as “useless” will score the victory shot against the devil

Everybody is valuable in the Kingdom of God.

The most exciting day in a long time: an emo for dinner

better than expresso

What’s better than coffee? Getting someone saved.

The highlight of the week has been reached. We had our neighborhood emo for dinner.

An emo is a latest iteration on the goth/punk subculture, which revels in depression and dresses dark with bright colored hair. Why would I want my daughter hanging out with her? Because we’re going to get her saved.

Behind the despair, there’s a heart that needs Jesus. Behind the self-harm (if she does it), there’s a dire need for love. We Christians are not on Planet Earth for any other reason than to lavish love on the unloveable.

There is nothing more thrilling or meaningful than to see people come to Christ.

Peace in Jesus

Animated_Waterfall_1

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you,all whose thoughts are fixed on you! — Isa 26:3 NLT.

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 14:27 NIV.

The deaf heard: Africa Medical Missions

Africa Medical Missions

Felipe Rodriguez (at right). Whether he’s in Santa Monica or Tanzania, he says where he goes: “The party is here.”

When the doctor peered into the patients right, “deaf” ear, he saw larvae, living and dead. With a few scrapes with Q-tip, he extracted the critters, and the deaf man could hear again!

This is what happens in the rest of world, where medical access is limited either by availability or cost. This is what happens when Lighthouse Medical Missions comes to town. Their recent clinic in Mwanza, Tanzania, attended to 1,200 — HIV patients, malaria sufferers and insect-invaded ears.

Lighthouse Medical Missions

Felipe, in the middle, with fellow volunteers.

“It’s crazy stuff,” said Felipe Rodriguez, who pitched in on the trip.

Not only are the locals dramatically impacted, the American volunteers are too. Fun-loving Felipe hit it off the kids. “Every where you go, the kids grab your hands and want to go with you,” he said.

Africa medical missions

Now that they have seen conditions in Tanzania, they no longer live in a bubble.

When the group visited wildlife on a nearby island on Lake Victoria, Felipe joined some students on a field trip to take selfies with them. They acted like rock star fans.

“Your smile will heal all their sicknesses and wounds,” Felipe said.

Africa medical missions

In Tanzania.

‘Really hard’ saying ‘Goodbye’ on Africa Medical Mission

Africa Medical Missions

Carla, with one of the children she fell in love with.

Carla Cedillo got spooked as soon as she set foot in Africa.

“Africa is a different world,” she said. “I felt like we were in  a movie. I felt like we were an infomercial that says, ‘For  $1.00 a day, you can help save a life.’ I remember my mom saying there are poor people in Africa, but it never hit home until we we went to Africa.”

Lighthouse Medical Missions

In the pharmacy

On the Lighthouse Medical Missions trip to Tanzania in 2015, Carla, who works at the Lighthouse Christian Preschool, fell in love with all the children. “I wanted to hold them all,” she said. “They were all so adorable.”

When a little child came through the clinic with her tongue attached to the bottom of her mouth, Dr. Bob Hamilton offered to cut it loose immediately. “I thought blood was going to gush everywhere,” she said.

African Medical Missions

With her brother, Arti, and some Tanzanians

During most of the 5-day clinic, Carla manned the pharmacy and gained a great appreciation for pharmacists. “It wasn’t easy,” she said. “Now I know why pharmacists are always in a bad mood.”

When the clinic was over and it was time to head to the airport, it hard to say “Goodbye.”

Dr. Bob Hamilton | Medical Missions“They kept telling us, ‘We’ll see you in Heaven.’ That true but it was really hard,” Carla said. “I think about them everyday. I’m sure they’ll think about us everyday for the rest of the lives.”

Africa Medical Missions: ‘An Intense and beautiful experience’

Africa Medical Missions

Myer with her boyfriend.

Tears streamed as Salome recounted how the C-section didn’t save the baby. Katelyn Myer became painfully aware of the gaggle of kids screaming and laughing and tumbling around the clinic as she listened to the Tanzania women share her sorrows.

Lighthouse Medical Missions Lighthouse Medical Mission’s 2015 clinic to Mwanza “made me think and know and feel that we are all God’s children,” she said. “The medicine and the science had overtaken my point of view. They’re not just bodies that are sick but people who have hurts and feelings.”

An actress in Hollywood, Myer only recently became a Christian. She joined the Santa Monica-based charity LMM this month to give of herself. “It was a really intense and beautiful and incredible experience,” she said.

medicine AfricaIn all, LMM attended to 1,800 patients for five days and held evening church services. “It really pushed home that the theme of the Bible is love,” Myer said.

Medically, the doctors couldn’t do much to help Salome. Her pain was in her heart from the stillborn child. So Myer gave her emotional support.

Africa Medical Missions

As they left the clinic Friday to tour a bit, the patients were cheering and singing songs of praise.

Then she remembered a prophetic word her boyfriend had received before coming to Africa. Someone had told him, “You need to say the word ‘Life’ to somebody over there.” It was time to say the word.

We don’t know yet if Salome is pregnant again.

Africa Medical Mission: ‘I really wanted to be like Jesus’

Arti Cedillo | Africa Medical Missions

Arti made friends with his guitar.

Yes, he called himself “a Satanist” when he was a punk kid rebellious towards his parents’ Christianity. Yes, he beat up kids and got kicked out of schools. Yes, he played hard rock with — um — not the best lyrics.

But when he faced a truly demon-possessed person, it was different. Arti, who turned his life over the Lord years ago and was now serving in Tanzania on the Lighthouse Medical Missions, freaked out when the lady he prayed for started behaving erratically.

Africa Medical Missions

The crowd waiting a turn to see a doctor.

After the first day of assisting doctors at the clinic in Mwanza, Arti requested permission to set up a prayer station and pray for all the patients after doctor visits. “I really wanted to be like Jesus and lay hands on the sick and see them recover,” he said.

That done, he was engaged in praying for a lady with back and leg pain. When he asked her to forgive all who had harmed her, she grew eerily silent. Then she started getting aggressive.

Tanzania Medical Missions | AfricaArti knew what he had to do (expel the demon in Jesus’ name), but he got scared. “I’ve never performed an exorcism before,” he said.

When it was done, he led her to get her pills. But he watched his back, lest she become aggressive again. His buddy, Johnny Huerta, didn’t seem to have the same fears. He went over to her and gave her a hug.

“I was more afraid she would jump on me, and he was more concerned to let her know that she was loved,” Arti reflected.

Lighthouse Medical Missions

Santa Monica pediatrician, Dr. Bob Hamilton, who founded and leads Lighthouse Medical Missions, in Tanzania in Spring 2015.

Arti turned his life over to the Lord in the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica, which is part of the same church that indirectly oversees Lighthouse Medical Missions.

The lady showed up at church that night. She raised her hand at the altar call to receive Jesus. She testified that the pain in her back and legs was gone.

“She came possessed and oppressed with pain,” Arti marveled. “She got delivered and saved. Then she had no pain. God is so good.”

Arti saw the supernatural on the “natural mission” of dispensing medicine. He also saw how to become more like Jesus and minister compassion.

Down with age discrimination in the church: Trumpter shows he can still blow at 80

Age DiscriminationFrom the time inside the womb, he attended the Santa Monica Foursquare Church – now called the Lighthouse – 80 years ago.

After a long absence from his native congregation where he grew up in love with the brass band, Duane Howard, 80, returned to see IF the church of his infancy was razed and converted into condos. It wasn’t.

He found a thriving congregation that received him with great enthusiasm as he played his trumpet, injecting an intoxicating jazz and blues undertone to worship service.

“I was absolutely convinced that the church wasn’t there anymore,” Howard said. “I’ve come full circle.”

In eight decades, a lot of life has brought upheavals, travels, ambitions, scares, heartbreaks. He did ministry, had three kids, lost two marriages, ran businesses and built a dream ranch house. In 2000, he underwent a quadruple bypass heart surgery in Chico, California. Read the rest of the article.

Moving Mountains

Originally posted on whatcherylsaid...:

mountains6

Have you seen the movie “The Shawshank Redemption” which starred Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman? The movie was about a banker (Tim Robbins) who is sentenced to life in Shawshank State Prison for the murder of his wife and her lover although he claimed to be innocent. He befriends an inmate “Red” (Morgan Freeman) who also protects him from the wrath of the prison guards. Although, the movie is not a very thought provoking movie; It is a very uplifting movie. Which means it’s not a complicated thought provoking movie, but more of a feel good kind of movie.

The way the two men bonded and found such solace and redemption within one another was amazing. It is a movie about hope and believing in the will to overcome even the greatest of obstacles. In the scene where Tim Robbins character plans to escape from the prison, it took him…

View original 246 more words

The sin principle evidenced in babies

sin principle

Sin is selfishness. Christianity is selflessness.

I’m not saying babies sin. They are innocent of the understanding of right and wrong. But the Bible is correct in saying that we are born with sin. This gif is so cute we can fail to miss the important lesson it demonstrates.

First century resurrection texts

texts between Jesus and Peter

From Facebook

Breaking point

breaking pointEve broke when she saw the fruit.

David broke when he saw Bath Sheba.

Peter broke when he very nearly was arrested along with Jesus.

Moses broken when the Israelites complained one too many times.

Noah broken when he planted a vineyard.

Lot broke when he saw Sodom destroyed.

Abraham broke when he feared for his life over the matter of his wife.

Jonah broke when he got an unwanted assignment.

Jacob broke when an army of 400 came after him.

Paul broke when Barnabus dared to question his leadership over the question of taking Mark along with them.

Mark broke when things got rough.

Solomon broke when he loved many women.

Rehoboam broke when he listened to his friends instead of wise counselors.

Esther broke when the pressure was too great.

(Image source: Originally from Stock Photos).

My transformation into Barabbas

Santa Monica churchHere’s the finished product. I’m standing with Jesus and Malchus, who lost his ear to Peter’s quick sword (but Jesus healed him immediately).

It started with a beard and some mascara to darken the eyebrows.

makeup transformation acting

Somebody said I looked like Abraham Lincoln. Our “makeup room” is actually a classroom of the Lighthouse Church School in Santa Monica.

Lighthouse Church School | Church play

I love acting in church plays! When I was a missionary-pastor in Guatemala, I got all the starring (villain) roles. So when I returned to my church in the States, I thought I’d be a sensation.

But when I gave my first rehearsal performance, the faces of the directors said otherwise. I managed to survive the production and was never asked again. I realized I wasn’t a great actor after all.

Then, the asked me to be Barabbas. The way I see it, they were sitting around asking: “Who’s big and ugly to play Barabbas?” They thought of me.

Good FRiday drama

Then they darkened up my face.

Do you like my mean look?

Barabbas

Wig, robe, hair covering completes!

The sunken eyes help.

Caiphas, Malchus, Jesus, Barrabas

This one includes Caiphas.

When I was little, I didn’t understand what was good about “Good Friday” when basically they brutalized Jesus. Now I understand.

Maybe they’ll give me more acting roles in the future. I told the director that I do deranged villains best. I wonder why those roles come easy for me.

Bible (and) belts in boxing: Chris Van Heerden’s rise in the welterweight

Chris Van Heerden Santa MonicaHe wasn’t supposed to get anywhere near a boxing ring. Because doctors operated his kidney at 3 months of age, Chris Van Heerden was strictly forbidden from contact sports.

But his dad was a boxer and believed God would heal his son. It seemed natural for his father to train him in the sport of gloves. So today, Van Heerden, 27, is the current holder of the IBF International welterweight Title. He beat on points the previously undefeated Cecil McCalla at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 9, 2015.

“I’m blessed by Jesus Christ,” the native South African says. “Win or lose, I’m blessed.”

He may call himself blessed when he loses, but he sure has won a lot. Starting on his native continent, he now holds a record 22-1 (and one draw) including three fights since he’s come to the U.S. His only loss was in Serbia. Eleven of his wins were by knockout. Read the rest of the article: Christian boxer.

With me!

With me!

Prominent scientist came to faith when he examined the data

Francis CollinsThe current head of the National Institutes of Health, Francis S. Collins, came to faith after he set out to disprove God.

“I had always assumed that faith was based on purely emotional and irrational arguments and was astounded to discover that one could build a very strong case for the plausibility of God,” he noted on CNN. “My earlier atheist’s assertion that ‘I know there is no God’ emerged as the least defensible.”

A geneticist, Collins was appointed director of the $3 billion international Genome Project in 1993, which completed sequencing the 3.3 billion pairs of nucleotides by 2004. The resulting gene map offers hope to cure genetic disorders.

It also gave Collins a spectacular view into the magnificence, order, and finely-tune perfection of the DNA molecule, God’s software for every living thing. Directorship of the Genome Project was touted as the most prestigious job in science at the time.

“At the most fundamental level, it’s a miracle that there’s a universe at all,” he told National Geographic. “It’s a miracle that allows the possibility of complexity and laws that follow precise mathematical formulas. Contemplating this, an open-minded observer is almost forced to conclude that there must be a ‘must’ behind all this. To me, that qualifies as a miracle, a profound truth that lies outside of scientific explanation.” Read the rest of the articles: scientists who believe in Jesus.

I need this dog to find my stuff

This is perfect. By the smell on the object, the dog brings left items back to their owners while their still in the airport. Can I get one of these dogs to help me find my glasses, my keys, my agenda, my cell phone, my book, my jacket — my everything I lose.

I was sitting on top of the world when I was pastor in Guatemala. At home, my wife found everything I lost. At the church school, my secretary found everything. Even my daughter got in on the act. I was absolutely baffled how, as soon as she started, she’d follow a sixth sense and go straight to where the item lay — usually where I had already searched six times meticulously myself without finding it.

But now, my wife does engineering and doesn’t have time. I don’t have a secretary anymore. And my daughter is in college and is too sophisticated to deign to something so simple (for her) as finding stuff for doddering Dad.

Good thing my head is attached to my shoulders, or surely I would lose it. Good thing Jesus is attached to my heart, or a similar fate would be my demise.

Can you lose God? Actually this is huge controversy among denominations. Without resolving the conflict, I would like to point out that the prodigal son didn’t stop being a son. And, once you’re born again, the Bible mentions nothing about being un-born again.

I guess I’m a believer more in the unfailing love of God than in the failure-prone love of man. Man is fickle; God is faithful. If we are unfaithful, He cannot be so.

I have not intention of making a theological treatise or siding with one point of view entirely. I only wish to conjure much love, admiration and praise to God who loves us much more than we could ever imagine.

Because you can

helping others

This man was caught in a photography giving away his sandals. Why did he do it? Because he could. He saw the need. Pic from Random Acts of Kindness on Pinterest.

Why say no?

We have too much rugged individualism in America, too much self-made man myth. When we see someone in need, we divert our eyes. We pretend to talk on the cell phone. We don’t have the time.

I always try to help whoever I find in need. Because people are more important than money. Because people are supreme. Because serving people is serving God. Because love is worth more. Because reciprocity and karma are real.

A former student asked me to help her learn to drive. An elderly Japanese lady, whom I never knew, asked for a ride. I know some people that groceries come in handy for. A friend is on hard times and needs a couch to crash on while she gets back on her feet.

Yes, yes, yes, yes. I can. I have the time. It’s more important than what I’m doing or what I’m trying to achieve.

Many times, the reasons we say “no” when someone asks for help are unjustifiable. It’s just not a part of our culture to help.

from VeryBestQuotes.com

from VeryBestQuotes.com

A big irony for my life came when I went to Guatemala. When my car stalled, and I needed a push to get it started, guys pulled over and jumped out of their car to sweat for me. They never knew me. They didn’t have to know me. They just saw a guy in need, and they could. So they did.

The irony is: Supposedly I went to TEACH the Guatemalans about Christ. But I discovered that I went to LEARN about Christ too.

You know what would happen is you simply helped out your fellow human? No, it wouldn’t drive you into poverty. And maybe you could stand to lose a bit of your “precious time.”

Achieve the sublime

achieve the sublimeFor me, the most inspiring thing about this photo is the dancer is a friend of mine. The leap is dumbfounding and graceful. That it’s a regular guy only makes it more extraordinary for me.

Javier Moya Romero dances with the Los Angeles Ballet and, for a season, attended Lighthouse Church where I go. He even invited me to see him perform La Sylphide last year. I’m not even an initiate for ballet. I went just to show him support. I had to read online about the plot. The only way I realized a particularly spectacular dance move was done was by the applause of the rest of the audience. So I applauded with them.

Out this came an appreciation for a dance form that heretofore was esoteric for me. Ballet is the pinnacle of dance. And it’s amazing what the human body can do with vigorous training, dedication and hard work. It’s downright inspiring.

When Javier flies, so does my imagination. It’s inspiring for us to all strive to attain the heights of beauty and perfection in whatever talent God has given us to bless mankind.

He was a runaway, gay, drug addict until Jesus changed him. Now, he’s a pastor.

Paul GualtieriMolested a few times when he was a child, Paul Gualtieri dabbled with homosexuality as a largely unsupervised 13-year-old in Palm Springs.

It wasn’t long before he found himself in his bedroom proclaiming his destiny: “I’m gay. I’m a homosexual,” he said out loud with no one around. It was a pivotal moment of his life. “There’s power in confessing both good and bad things. When I declared I was gay, I gave a right to a spiritual force in my life.”

When he was 13, he ran away to Hollywood and threw himself headlong into the partying and gay lifestyle. “I just got sucked right into it,” he recalls. “I thought it was great.”

He was too young to be admitted to the gay bars but prostituted himself to support a lifestyle that included drugs like Quaaludes, coke and meth.

“I just ran rampant,” he says. “I had different boyfriends. We would panhandle every day to buy drugs and pay our hotel.”

He slept at anybody’s house who’d have him, in Plummer Park and in the “Hotel Hell,” once posh lodgings for movie luminaries that became decrepit and abandoned on Hollywood Boulevard. Read the rest of the story.

The best surprise

God's surpriseTo the “Christian” of blunted intelligence, faithfulness is boring.

It is, however, the key to breakthrough. The best surprises are the ones God gives. You’re going along, attending church faithfully, tithing faithfully, struggling but trying to stay consistent. At some times, it seems even mechanical, dead. You don’t feel it anymore.

The temptation is to give up. It seems that all is for naught. You think you’re just wasting your time. Then, boom!, God drops a huge blessing into your life, and the romance with God is fresh again!

One of the most overlooked characteristics of God is His love for surprise. I’ve never seen it an a theology book, but it’s in Genesis 2:9. He warned Adam and Eve against the tree of sin. But He said nothing about the tree of life, which also was in the Garden of Eden. It was going to be a surprise. Regrettably, our father and our mother never discovered this pleasant surprise because they wanted more by their own devices. They ate the forbidden fruit, believing it contained blessing. They wanted more; they got less.

Hang in there for God’s surprises.

He evangelized nude

Christian Fellowship MinistriesHow was he supposed to know that you shouldn’t witness about Jesus while you’re naked?

But there he was on a nude beach in Australia, newly saved after reading theLate Great Planet Earth, and he hadn’t learned all the norms of Christianity yet. Yes, God showed abundant grace, mercy, and patience with Bruce Callahan in his early steps of faith.

bruce callahan

Before Christ, the beach was his passion. Now Jesus is.

Raised in Boston, Callahan fell into drugs before his friends. He smoked marijuana and abused psychedelic drugs like LSD. When he was 18, his girlfriend became pregnant.

“I was on the cutting edge of sin,” Callahan says. “Back then nobody got their girlfriend pregnant, but I did. Religion didn’t work for me. My religion was the streets.” Read more about this Christian Fellowship Ministries pastor.

100 pastors barred from attending Chinese Christian conference

zhang and liuAbout 100 Chinese pastors were barred by police from attending a Christian conference in Hong Kong in early March, China Aid reports.

Another 2,000 pastors were granted the entrance/exit pass needed to visit Hong Kong, which retains some of its freedoms since the British colony was turned over to China in 1997. Some of the attendees were from Taiwan, which is not under Chinese dominion.

The conference – sponsored by China Aid, China Ministries and Evangelistic Ministries Intl. – featured well-known pastors, lawyers, professors, authors and scholars. It focused on evangelism, “kingdomization,” and aligning the Chinese church with Christian values, China Aid reports.

China Aid spokesperson Rachel Ritchie was reluctant to speculate as to why some invitees were barred from the conference. But a pastor who has traveled to and ministered in China says persecution comes in waves and is sporadic.

The barring is being seen as part of an intensifying of persecution under the new Communist Party regime – with a new president and new prime minister assuming offices in March 2013. The leaders are looking to consolidate their power and thwart any potential adversaries, real or imaginary. Since the Christian church is growing astronomically, it is viewed as a negative, Western influence and a potential mobilizer of the masses.

In Wenzhou – called “China’s Jerusalem” for its high concentration of Christians, the Central Government ordered the demolition of churches and the removal of crosses, some of which had won permits with local authorities in early 2014. Continue reading.

THAT was NOT a foul! Lighthouse’s basketball tournament ends in controversy. Yeah, I lost. That’s the controversy.

Los Angeles Christian schoolLighthouse Christian Academy’s annual basketball tournament ended Friday, and I’m mad. They called a foul on my son.

I was seated on the benches right in front of the defensive action. I had, by far, the clearest view of it, and I can assure you in no uncertain terms that it was not a foul.

It was a mugging.

Rob Ashcraft powered-up aggressive play to come close to winning the teacher-students 3-on-3 mixup coinciding with March Madness. In the end, the weeklong competition was won again by Pastor Zach Scribner, a former quarterback for UCLA football (ok, he was sixth string, but he WAS on the team). Not even muscle-bound Rob could out-muscle him at our Christian school in Santa Monica.

Rob, a junior who’s really more of a soccer player, shut down Shane Berry, arguably LCA’s best basketball player. Over-active defense limited his baskets.

“Shane didn’t want to defend,” Rob said, explaining how he beat him. Read the rest of the article.

Endless energy for marathons and medical missions

Dr. Bob Hamilton | Lighthouse Medical Missions

Dr. Bob pauses from the L.A. Marathon at mile 23 to take a picture in front of his banner. It is rare to get him to take a pause.

If the U.S. needs an alternative source of energy, it might try connecting a power line to Dr. Bob Hamilton’s house. They could tap into his brain – or his heart – and siphon off his excess personal energy during the night to supplement the local power grid.

On Saturday night, Hamilton, a board member for Santa Monica Symphony, was relishing Vijay Gupta’s masterful violin interpretation of Beethoven’s toughest concerto in the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Korea Town.

On Sunday morning, he was running the L.A. Marathon to raise funds for another pet project, African medical missions.

I was stationed at mile 23 to snap his picture and interview him. He wasn’t talking about pain. He wasn’t groaning about crawling to the bitter end. He was jogging at a good pace, and he was planning his work immediately after the race.

“I’m going to Africa in a week and a half, and I’m thinking that I have a lot to do before I go,” he said as I jogged alongside him.

What, no rest – even after a marathon?

At all times, Dr. Bob is a tornado of activity. And thanks to a mythical work rate, he’s established Pacific Ocean Pediatrics in Santa Monica, served on half a dozen community boards and headed 22 medical missions to Africa and elsewhere. Read the rest of the story.

Mexican food unites with pediatrics in Santa Monica to help Africa | LA Marathon

Gilbert's Restaurant | Santa MonicaBetween the two of them, mother and son have run 16 full marathons, but never before did they run one for Africa.

On Sunday, Estela and Johnny Huerta, part owners and operators of Gilbert’s El Indio Mexican Restaurant in Santa Monica, are running the L.A. Marathon to raise funds forAfrica medical missions. Johnny has seen people in abject poverty before.

“Seeing their appreciation for things we would consider small exposes the privileges we take for granted here,” said Johnny, 25. “We feel entitled, but really these things are a blessing and privilege. I’ve run other marathons, but running for Africa makes it more special.”

At last count, $2,838 was pledged for the 10 friends who are running with local pediatrician Bob Hamilton for Lighthouse Medical Missions, which twice yearly sends medical teams to some of the remotest spots on the globe.

Only 10 days later, Johnny will board a plane to fly to Mwanza, Tanzania, along with 24 others on this year’s Spring team outreach.

“I’m excited,” Johnny said. “I don’t know what to expect. I’m a little bit nervous. I think I’m going to come back with a whole new perspective as to what’s important in life. I want my heart to break for what breaks God’s heart. I want to feel what He feels.” Read the rest.

Due to my personal ruling, we won

Lighthouse Christian Academy teachers | Santa Monica

I’m in the red sweat pants. And Zach Attack is frustrating Raymond.

You see, they need to give old guys like me a five point handicap. We lost 6-3 (one point per basket) playing against the former UCLA quarterback who passes himself off a laidback teacher at Lighthouse Christian Academy. I mean, that’s fair, right? A 47-year-old going up against this stud?

They call him Zach Scribner, but from now on I’m calling him Zach Attack. The game was like a twig trying to hold back a tsunami. Zach was quicker, stronger, sharper. He could score at will, block at will, rebound at will. The only reason the humiliation wasn’t worse is because Zach didn’t even try. Dude, I’m looking at the after-game pictures, and this young punk is smiling as if he’s on a stroll with his baby and wife in the park.

Lighthouse Christian Academy

Look at the air Zach Attack is getting! He could’ve jumped over all 6’3″ of me. Is that fair?

Meanwhile, I’m huffing and puffing chasing kids around. No fair.

I don’t think my teammate is very happy with me. Raymond LOVES basketball. A student from China, he’s come to sharpen his skills agains the L.A. boys. He couldn’t have had a worse teammate.

So I’m the oldest teacher at LCA, so I’m invoking my seniority and over-ruling my boss, the principal. And I’m announcing through this medium, that my team won and we advance to the next round of LCA’s teacher-student 3-on-3 mixup annual basketball tournament. I’m going to win by decree.

I’m not playing basketball. I’m break-dancing.

basketball klutz

At this point in the game, I decided to do something very random: practice break-dancing. I have never done break-dancing in my life. And fortunately, I didn’t break anything. Ruby, my opponents, asks, “What are you doing on the ground again for?”

At Lighthouse Christian Academy’s opening of our annual student-teacher mixup 3-on-3 basketball tournament, I spent more time on the ground than on my feet.

Despite the inordinate clumsiness, we still won. One of my teammates, Raymond, a Chinese student who LOVES bball, did just about everything. He scored, defended, hustled, passed, pressured, ran. dribbled, shot.

I fell.

Don't laugh. I'm playing basketball.

Don’t laugh. I’m grimacing to intimidate opponents.

This all fun in the Son. This is what having a small Christian school is all about: good friends, lots of fun, lots of learning.

I’ve been teaching at LCA since I got back from missionary work in Guatemala, where in addition to a church, I planted a church, during almost 16 years. While I was there, I learned soccer.

What am I doing playing basketball?

He shoots and -- he falls.

He shoots and — he falls.

My height — at 6’3″ — should be an asset. My weight too. (Well, I guess my height isn’t going to help much since I pass most of the time on lying on the ground.)

Last year, I was on the winning team. But that was due mostly to Pastor Zach Scribner, who took me. Pastor Zach snuffed his competition in another game today. He looks like the team to beat.

I know, I know. I’m not supposed to ask for prayer to win basketball games. The next one is Wednesday for me. Basketball is game played by talented people.

Guilt is not so easy

scarlet-letterJust because Hester Prynne unclasps her scarlet letter and flings it away doesn’t mean disposing of guilt is so easy.

As a symbol of the difficulty of working through guilt, Pearl the brat demands her mother put the fabric “A” back on her dress. On one level, the infant simply can’t accept a disruption in her mother’s appearance. But on another level, for Pearl, the letter is like a wedding ring, and casting it off is tantamount to breaking worse her already broken family.

If all you come away with in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book is stones to throw at repressive religion, I respectfully suggest you’re not delving past a superficial reading of The Scarlet Letter. That is only one of the themes. Hawthorne’s genius explores the intricacies and complexities of the human psyche, and you’re settling for gold dust and missing the mother load.

scarlet-letter-hester-pearlTo be sure, Hawthorne rains his pen down on failed religion. Arthur Dimmesdale flogs himself and performs excessive good works yet cannot find peace. His understanding of Jesus is deficient. A Christian is neither saved by piety nor charity; he is saved simply by Christ’s forgiveness, which Dimmesdale is blind to.

The book is full of ironies because Dimmesdale’s brokenness makes him the town’s favorite minister. This is eminently keen insight. If you have never suffered, you can’t have compassion on your fellows when ministering the word.

Hester Prynne herself, after her one sin of passion, likewise constrains herself to a rigorous life of charity. She dresses the drabbest colors and constricts her luxurious mane of hair to the insides of a bonnet.

After seven years of suffering, the pair meet in the forest and scheme to run away together back to England. Suddenly, sunshine pours in on them and the feel the exhilarating release of nearly a decade of pressure, scrutiny and condemnation.

It’s a good plan — except that they see themselves a sinners for doing it. Pearl is only the first to ruin it. She insists with a temper tantrum that her mother restore the letter to its rightful place. Then Roger Chillingworth, the evil avenger, completes the fatal stroke by booking passage on the same ship.

In traditional Greek fashion, the story must end as a tragedy. Hawthorne is sounding the dark regions of the human conscious, not writing a treatise on salvation. Nevertheless, the message emerges that only grace, only forgiveness in Jesus, can heal the heart. Religion never works — only relationship with Jesus.

The traditional spin on this book is that society is to blame for oppressing these free spirits. If you want to read the book that way, go ahead. But I can’t help but see deeper. You can’t just throw away guilt so easily. You and I need to come to Christ and be healed of our sin. Restoration works, not repression.

Nine years ago today, my mother died

legacy | missionary

Guess which one is me. I “stand out” a bit from the teachers who now lead the Christian school in Guatemala in my absence.

It was a glorious conclusion to a life lived for God. In her later years, she had served as a chaplain in the Sylmar juvenile hall facility to counsel wayward youngsters back to the the Lord’s path. She oversaw the preparation of turkey dinner with all the trimmings for incarcerated youth and solicited toiletry packs for the kids.

“You are so lucky to have Chaplain Beth as your mom.” The hoodlum’s words hit me hard. I had accompanied her to a Bible study one day. The thug’s admiration for my mom exceeded my own. To be honest, at the time I was annoyed in typical teen rebellion by some of her irksome attributes (all humans have them). It took a delinquent to set my thinking right.

fam14revised

With my family last Fall.

Years after, I set my life-course onto the mission field and served with my wife in Guatemala for almost 16 years. When my mother died, I could affirm at her funeral that she was alive — in me. I had no regrets because I figured I had caught all the good lessons to learn from her. I’m still serving Jesus today. I teach at a Christian high school in Santa Monica for no other reason to help kids get into the right path. My mom helped kids inside jail, I help kids outside.

My pastor sometimes says he feels as if his dad were with him, encouraging to glorify Jesus. I don’t feel my mom with me. I feel she is me. I live what she lived. Everything she stood for, I stand for.

I can’t hardly remember the things that irked me about her (stuff like nagging). Now what stands out is her legacy.

I love coffee.

I love Jesus, my wife, my family, my ministry and coffee — in that order.

There are rich and famous people who are widely admired by the world, but when they die, they become forgotten. They leave nothing to the world. Give me the simple soul who plants his imprint on a fellow human being. You can change the world one soul at a time.

I wonder if I’ll ever meet that kid from juvenile hall again. If I do, I’ll thank him.

Am I supposed to say I miss Mom? Am I supposed to brood and fret over no longer being physically present in my life? Sorry. I feel like her death was a glorious graduation.

‘Bonde’ girl gets Jesus and gets out of sex industry

Ministry to strippers JCS GirlsLaura Lee Bonde had to cry. After she courageously shared her Christian testimony at a porn industry convention, a man coldly offered her a job to get back into the ‘adult entertainment’ industry.

Read the rest of her amazing story.

Such diabolical assaults go with the territory — she takes on the hellish spiritual hordes behind the porn industry frontally.

Laura Lee BondeAs the leader of the local chapter of JC’s Girls, an outreach to former strippers, Laura goes into nudity clubs around San Diego once a month and passes out pink Bibles to dancing girls. And she opened a booth at the Los Angeles porn convention to share hope in Christ for all the needy and hurting souls that swarm its aisles.

“My past is so dead,” Laura says. “I really learned that my identity in the past was dead in baptism. I’m simply no longer the same person. My identity is the cross. I am so solid in my purity now that I refused to be kissed until my wedding day. My old identity is a sunken ship, and I won’t raise it again.”“My past is so dead,” Laura says. “I really learned that my identity in the past was

But still the subtle snake always beckons. When aforementioned man dangled high pay before her eyes, she took a break from the convention and went to the bathroom, not only to cry, but also to declare once again her born-again identity. Upon returning, her trusted friend prayed directly into her ear for five minutes.

“Finally, I could breathe without tears,” she writes on her blog. “I struggled with feelings of unworthiness again. It was crazy because I am righteous in Christ. The lie wants to be a stronghold in me.”

He denied God because of lack of evidence. Then he came across evidence.

atheist turns to ChristAs he left behind childhood Vacation Bible School and studied for a degree in electrical engineering, Clay Lein lost his faith in God.

“I had a very rational mind. It had to be logical. I needed proof. There had to be evidence. And if there wasn’t proof then it was just something people made up,” Lein told KHOU Channel 11 News in Houston. “Part of the training for engineers is to be skeptical, to demand data, to want to see evidence.”

He married, got an MBA and launched a successful career at Intel. All his achievements and the world that surrounded him seemed very concrete and observable. There was no need to believe in something intangible that required you to suspend your scientific mind, he reasoned.

Why would I need God? I mean, if he even existed why would I have any need for him, he thought.

But his wife pleaded with him to attend church, and he acquiesced because he thought “church was a place nice people go.” All the while he tactfully but firmly let people know he was an atheist.

Then he volunteered at a youth camp and that’s when his skepticism got shattered. Read the rest of the article.

Appalling people who won’t help kid in T-shirt in freezing New York

What is wrong with our country if after two hours of NO ONE responds to an obvious need of a child freezing in New York.

Well, there is a heart-warming end to this video project (which was acted and is not a real runaway), but the last person you’d you expect reaches out. Where is America’s heart?

Marathoning doctor raises funds for African medical missions

hamilton marathonAt the sprightly age of 61 years old, Santa Monica pediatrician Bob Hamilton is running the L.A. Marathon this month – and he’s subjecting himself to this grueling pain just to raise funds for medical missions in Africa.

“You just do it,” Hamilton said. “You have to keep moving or you become inert. It’s an opportunity to further the cause.”

Then, with a mere 10 days to recover, he’s leading his 23rd group of doctors, nurses and other volunteers into the most desolate corners of the earth. Twenty-two brave souls are heading to Mwanza, Tanzania, March 25 – Apirl 6 where they’ll diagnose patients and hand out free meds, toys and reading glasses.

At his age most doctors are thinking only about visiting the golf course, but Hamilton shows no signs of slowing. His Lighthouse Medical Missions has become a regular contributor to health in West Africa. A container of food and supplies recently arrived there from Hamilton and crew.

Read the rest of the article here. This is my article that originally posted in the Santa Monica Patch. Dr. Bob goes to my church.

McAllen pastor started life as a fighter and an addict

san antonio crime | changed by ChristWhen his father died of a heroin overdose, an embittered Roman Gutierrez vowed to do the same.

“I’m gonna stick a needle in my arm, God,” he uttered, as quoted in the biography Twice Dead. “The same way You killed my father, You can kill me.”

At age 11, he fulfilled the vow and jabbed his arm.

Roman grew up on San Antonio’s west side, where drugs and violence were pervasive, the child of a broken home. He was sexually abused at age seven. He became a fighter and a partier who lived recklessly because he hated life.

The rage following his dad’s death was only compounded by the fact that he received the news when his dad was supposed to pick him up for some father-son time. His was a life void of love.

His first arrest came when he and friends broke into a local convenience store late at night to steal alcohol. Since they heard no alarm, they carted off case after case. Eventually, a patrol car pulled up and nabbed the youngsters.

While in juvenile hall, he busted a kid’s nose for mocking his father’s death and seven months were added to the original six-month sentence.

Read the rest of the story and his conversion here.

Not one stone left stacked

stones stacked

In Jesus’ day, the people were impressed with the big buildings in Jerusalem. They were like skyscrapers to the country bumpkins from Galilee. They ooooo-ed and aaaaah-ed.

Then Jesus bummed them out: Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down — Mark 13:12 NIV. Directly, the prophecy was fulfilled when Roman General Titus decimated the temple in 80 A.D. But indirectly, the prophecy speaks to us about NOT oooohing and aaaaahing this world too much, but it’s all gonna end dust.

What lasts forever is your soul. Do you work on your soul as much as your retirement plan?

*Picture from stand and face the sun. I’m not making any money on it. Excuse the pun: You rock.

Step on you class

step on meSome people take Step Class. Others Step On Others Class.

They adhere to the idea, that to get to the top, they must climb upon others. To feel good about themselves, they must make others feel bad about themselves. This pernicious poison is more pervasive than you might think.

You ought to take a class in loving others. This is what was so revolutionary about Jesus: He practiced love, especially toward the sinner. But the person who held himself in self-proclaimed piety got His wrath.

*This pic comes from a gym in Santa Cruz, and I adapted it. Sorry if you are offended by it. Please know that I’m not making any money on it. I give you kudos for a great pic.

When you criticize others, you criticize God

criticizing othersBecause He made them.

*Oh yeah. The image is not mine. I’m not making any profit on it. Thanks to the genius who shot it.

Ostracism and bullying

ostracismThe whole town turned against Hester Prynne. She got caught — by the out-of-wedlock pregnancy.

The Puritans forced her to wear a scarlet A on her dress always as a continual stigma of shame. She was violently flung from human friendship and affection. The hardened ladies looked at her with eyes of condemnation. Preachers wanting to exhort congregations or crowds about the dangers of sins pointed out Hester. Newcomers to the town gazed curiously at the letter, wondering what it meant. Kids, unaware of the concept of sin, treated her as an outcast following behind at a distance and making fun of her.

No one should be subjected to ostracism and bullying — no matter what the cause.

Such mistreatment can make a person turn into a sociopath.

Scarlet Letter teaches loveHolding up under psychological pressure for years and years, Hester doesn’t become a monster. The hero of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter becomes a saint, giving to the poor and helping the sick. But she is the exception.

Maybe, just maybe, one of the reasons we see so many massacres, so much mental illness, is because of the way we reject people. And the absolute last place where rejection should be pervasive is Christ’s church.

We all need motivation to do and be good

Hester prynne

Mistress Hibbins invites Hester Prynne to witchery in the forest. She refuses but admits that she very nearly would have gone.

Why? First the Puritans forced Hester to wear a red letter A on her dress always as a testimony that she was an adulteress. This public shaming she withstood. But when the somber town fathers threatened to take away her baby, she would have nothing left to live for. Barely was she allowed to keep her child.

Scarlet Flames

Mistress  Hibbins then gives her the satanic invitation. “If they would have taken my child away, I would have not only joined you but I would have signed my name in blood in Satan’s book,” she responded.

The power of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is its knack for portraying poignant psychological realities. If we are deprived of all motivation to do and be good, we will be bad.

Heaven in us

heaven in usJesus didn’t die just to get us into Heaven. He died to get Heaven into us.

We should walk about with Heaven excitement in us always.

#33 in Lighthouse Christian Academy football

Christian school Los AngelesNumber 33 was Pastor Rob Scribner’s number when he played for the L.A. Rams, four years in the NFL.

Then, his brainchild, Lighthouse Christian Academy, started a football program. Since it was a small school, they played 8-man CIF league.

Of course, among the new jerseys was #33. And one of the best players picked that number. He would continue the tradition of legends. Twice, the lowly Lighthouse, with a fraction of the enrollment of its competitors, nearly snatched championship from the entire Southern Section.

Lighthouse Christian Academy | Santa MonicaThe #33 was honorably bequeathed to another great player – and then another.

All the while its aura of greatness grew. Opposing teams could have figured out who to double-guard on offense, who to avoid on defense. Who would blast past them with a 90 yard sprint into the End Zone? Who would tackle them so hard that they would see stars from the sidelines – for the rest of the game?

Yup. Number 33 was not to be messed with — ever.

Then, the mighty number — which spoke volumes of history — was handed out to 107-pounder Chinese student who had never played football before.

When Henry Sihao Yu, our not-too-formidable tight-end, donned the prophetic mantle, was he our best player? Read the rest of the article.

The cup makes the coffee

real ChristiansIf I drink my home-percolated Costco coffee in a Starbucks cup, that makes it Starbucks coffee, I’ve decided.

It’s a good decision. I’ll enjoy it much more now, and it’ll certainly be a lot cheaper than going to Starbucks.

He is a Jew who is inwardly, Paul says in Rom. 2:29. By extension, a Christian is one is inwardly, not one who “dresses” the part, though it be a lot cheaper.

Pastors are like trashmen

I was watching Ethan for my boss, while he taught class. The 2-year-old loves watching videos of trash trucks! What a funny thing.

garbage-truckAs I meditated on why (I suppose he like the big machines with hydraulics), I realized that pastors are trashmen. They are constantly helping people to get the trash (sin) out of their lives.

Trash is a part of life (we are all sinners, the Bible says). But you don’t want to wallow in it; you want to get it out of your home because it poisons. Sermons expose the trash lurking in our hearts. (We thought it was having fun! What a shock to find out that our “fun” was wallowing in trash like the pig loves mud!)

Don’t be offended the inglorious comparison. I’m a pastor too.

A church for Muslims: Compassion not suspicion

Adrian-churchPastor Adrian Rodriguez has been preaching the gospel, translated by his wife, to about 30 people every Sunday in a church on the outskirts of Hartford, Connecticut, and not one of the congregants is Christian.

All of them are Muslim.

“We’re dealing with very hardcore Muslims,” he says of the immigrant refugees from the Middle East who are drawn to his church. “They’re very indoctrinated. But God is speaking to their hearts.”

Pastor Adrian’s response to America’s burgeoning Muslim enclaves is perhaps Christianity’s best model: View them with eyes of compassion, not with eyes of suspicion.

With 375 Muslims per 100,000 residents, Connecticut is the 14th most Muslim state in the nation, according to a Huffington Post article in 2012. The number of mosques has doubled to more than 2,100 nationwide since the year 2000, according to a survey.

While most Americans are not hostile towards Islam according to reports, there has been concern about radicalized youths. The Homeland Security Department estimates 100 U.S. citizens have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS.

Read the rest of the article.