Monthly Archives: February 2014

When God moves…

… it makes all the difference.

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta banda

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

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

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

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

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

Guatemalan students

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

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

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

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Being on Jesus’ Team

Guatemala missionary soccer

There’s me going for the ball on a corner kick.

We were losing miserably, but I wasn’t miserable. We were down 4-1 in the first half, which is the kind of score in soccer that usually makes you pray for the end of the match to hurry forward. It’s a humiliation, and I wasn’t humiliated.

In fact, I was downright buoyant! I knew we were going to come back and win. Why? Because I was on Mario’s team.

Iglesia cristiana La Puerta GuatemalaI learned soccer as a missionary at 35 years of age. Mario was a master. He plays dominant soccer. He never gives up. He fixes the problems by scolding the kids (or me). He always comes from behind. I can’t remember the time he lost.

Blogging more than jogging

In the second half, the other team wore out. We started clicking. At the end of the day, we won 8-5. I played horribly, as was to be expected from a guy who’s been blogging more than jogging. But who cares? My team won! Ha!

street preaching

After service, we went out on the streets to preach.

So too, when you’re on Jesus’ team, no matter what the score, you don’t worry. You don’t pray for the end of the match to come. You don’t panic. You don’t entertain the stupidity of changing sides. He’ll effect the come-back. He’ll make the adjustments to make the church work. Ha!

And if you play poorly, who cares? You win. Because you belong to the winning team.

The lost one

saved

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

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

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

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

Guatemalan kid

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

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

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

Christian Fellowship Ministries

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

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

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

Legacy

El Liceo Bilingue La Puerta

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

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

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

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

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

colegio cristiano Guatemala

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

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

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

Partnerships

Saved gang member

Mario and Alex at the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta today.

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

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

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

Missionary school Guatemala

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

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

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

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

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta

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

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

The momentum

Christian school in GuatemalaA good chunk of my life went to the mission field — almost 16 years planting churches and a school in Guatemala. It’s been four years since I left, and now that I visit, I see miracles, miracles, miracles. Miracles continue.

These kids have an environment free from bullying, free from cutting, free from drugs, free from pornography, free from so many quicksand pits that are swallowing the lives of our youth.

To be sure, there have been failures. One kid who was expelled is now dead. Another just got out of jail. Another got pregnant out of wedlock. Not all the stories are success.

amazing testimonies

I love Henry. This is his beautiful daughter.

But there are undeniable testimonies of revolutionized lives. One kid unwittingly ran the errands of narcs. He had been kicked out of every school he enrolled prior. Today, he is an upstanding parent and put his girl in our school. Excuse me while tears well up. Jesus did this. I just let my life be used.

It took oodles of prayer and oodles of work, but it was all worth it. And the momentum continues. Miracles of salvation and healing continue. Pray for the Door Church in Guatemala.

Arrived and blessed in Guatemala

missionary Guatemala

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

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

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

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

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

I’m off to Guatemala. Please pray for revival and miracles!

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At the Lighthouse, even such hardened rivals as UCLA-USC love each other and live in harmony.

We are heading to Guatemala and expect to see miracles in the healing crusade. So please put your mustard seed faith into a prayer for the Door Church in Guatemala and your servant.

Much love, Mike

Be a storm chaser

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

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

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

Set things in motion

set things in motionJesus only needed three years to launch the church. Everything He needed to do was done, and the momentum carried the work worldwide now for two millennia. You and I may need a bit more time to get things going.

Just because you make a New Year’s resolution doesn’t revolutionize your life. You need to act daily, consistently, upon the thought. You can totally turn your life around, but you need to build momentum.

Prayer sets thing in motion. Once the wave gets sent, it has incredible power. But power doesn’t come overnight. But once it gets started, it becomes unstoppable.

I planted a church in Guatemala for almost 16 years, and it’s still running today. What’s my next project?

Who you are

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

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

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

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

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

Find love

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

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

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

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

Why we pray…

Why we pray

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

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

Photo thanks to easybranches.eu

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Build upon the good things.

Build

My heart goes out to them…

Cannabalism

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

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

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

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

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We can all get along

getting along

I asked you to pray for me…

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

One act of kindness

one act of kindnessAbel Magwitch is a hardened criminal, a repeat offender who has no qualms over terrifying a small boy and threatening his life if he doesn’t steal food and a file for him.

Abel MagwitchBut one act of kindness radically changes his life. Pip brings the stolen food to the escaped convict, who also grabbing the file furiously frees himself from his leg iron in Victorian England.

Apparently, no one ever had done a turn of good for Magwitch, who is so grateful for the food and file that he turns his life around and becomes a hard-working businessman. Magwitch donates anonymously huge sums of money to Pip, a blacksmith’s apprentice, so he can raise his station in life.

Charles Dickens is rightly a classical author, because he makes us meditate about our own lives. Who can I transform with a simple act of kindness? Pip performed it under duress. Even so, it’s impact was revolutionary. How much more so if we give motivated by the love of Christ?

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Add sparkle to your life

sparkler girl

Good intentions are good, but…

good intentionsI have a student who failed. That was not his plan.

The trouble is that he never got far beyond planning. He didn’t get to work.

Daily work towards a goal is what is needed.

If you want to go to Heaven, you’ll need to walk with Christ daily. If you want an answer to prayer, don’t just think about it. Don’t just pray once. Don’t just make plans to pray, actually do it, regularly.

Peace for a suffering friend

peaceThink about Job’s friends. They wanted to console Job. But their theology was too black-and-white. Through some 20 chapters, they degenerated from help to hurt, from wanting to encourage to discouraging. Eventually, they just argued.

Don’t be like Job’s friends. They started on the right foot. The Bible says that when calamity slammed Job, they sat with him in silence for seven days, grieving with him. They showed strong moral support.

But then they searched for words. They sought reasons to explain the unexplainable. They spoke eloquently and gradually became enamored with their fine speeches and forgot about the purpose of uplifting the victim. Instead of infusing solace, they spiked Job. Dogmatism doomed them.

Their lack of words spoke more powerfully than the florid poetry they poured out trying to convince Job he was wrong. In the end, they did more harm than good. Eventually, the dragged Job into the fray and provoked him to some unwise statements. At the end, God rebuked them.

If only they would have finished like they started, friends showing mute affirmation.

How do you define Christianity?

ChristianityCertainly “truth” would be another area for definition. But my faith in the Truth impels me to act. The same love of the Savior buzzes in me, and I cannot stand myself if I am not about Jesus’ business.

Parenthetically, I renounce the idea that I am trying to earn my salvation. I am saved because of Jesus’ work on the cross. Because of Jesus work on the cross, out of sublime gratitude and with joy, I work to alleviate others’ suffering.

And you? How do you define Christianity?

Greater glory

damien berry

Damien Berry

Damien Berry sold one of the most coveted items in the world: his 2013 Superbowl ring. Since he didn’t play for the Ravens due to injury and other reason, he probably doesn’t savor the symbol of a victory he took no part in. What’s surprising to me is that not more players sell their rings. Those rings are certainly NOT exchangeable for salvation. The glory of this world dies with death.

idols

This player idolizes his ring.

Jesus said: I have given them the glory that you gave me — John 17:22. It’s uncertain what exactly that means, but what’s beyond doubt is that whatever God has for us will make this world’s glory look like a 20-watt bulb right next to the sun.

Open your eyes. See need.

groceries for the needyShowing the love of Christ must be more than just shaking hands and handing out tracts.

We must be Jesus’ ministering hands and feet to reach a lost world in a practical way. “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacks daily food, and one of you says to then, ‘Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,’ but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is it?” — James 2:15-16.

America’s rugged individualism needs to melt away before the word of God. We have a responsibility before God for each other. If you look around you, you will find genuine need.

Personally, I don’t give to the homeless. I give to the divorced mother of five with the deadbeat husband. I give to the missionary just returned off the field trying to make ends meet. There’s nothing wrong with giving to the homeless, but my resources are limited, so I want to give them where they won’t go to alcohol. There are some formerly homeless people in our church who need food, and I always make it a point to offer them whenever I can.

Sorry, but I’m a bit skeptical of people who are in an ecstasy of love with Jesus, and then they have not practical outlet to show their love. Remember, Jesus so closely identified himself with the needy, that He said that we render service unto Him when we clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the sick and imprisoned, etc. If you love Jesus, love people.

 

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Look to bless someone today

blessing