Monthly Archives: February 2016

Get into the ship

ship
Fellowship
Worship
Discipleship

Don’t miss the ship.

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How to score a signed Messi jersey if you live in Afghanistan

Aghan boy Messi jersey

Be exceptionally cute. And poor. Living in a dangerous part of the world. Murtaza Ahmadi’s brother took this picture of him and posted it on the internet. While death via the Taliban has hit most families around them, it still has not struck them directly, the brother says.

messi jersey

He was just a 5-year-old who loves soccer. The family, which subsists on farming, watches soccer as a distraction from the horrors that surround them. And Murtaza decided his favorite player was the Argentinian star who plays for Barcelona. So he wanted a jersey. He even cried.

But those jersey are too expensive for the poor (heck, they’re even too expensive for me). So his brother hooked him up with a plastic bag hand painted with colored sharpies. The kid was content. The kid was cute. His brother took the picture and posted it.

The internet went crazy, reposting and proliferating. People were asking: Who is this kid? Even Messi saw it and wanted to give the kid a real one. As a spokesman for Unicef, Messi through the charitable organization tracked him down and handed over the jersey (not personally).

Now my heart is warmed. I love Messi all the more for his kind gesture. I love this kid. The only bummer is that I still don’t have a Messi jersey myself.

Difficult roads often leads to beautiful places

difficult roads

Source: Difficult roads often leads to beautiful places

Don’t put too much “I” in Sunday

sunday.jpgDon’t put too much “I” in Sunday — else it become SInday. Keep the “U” in Sunday.

Afterall, Sunday is about others. Put God and others first on Sunday.

China poised to become most Christian nation

revival in chinaWithin 15 years, China should become the country with the most Christians in the world, according to a study.

Fenggang Yang, of Purdue University, predicts that China will reach 224 million Christians by the year 2030, as quoted in the UK Financial Times.

“By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon,” said Yang, an expert in sociology and author of Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule, in the UK Telegraph. “It is going to be less than a generation. Not many people are prepared for this dramatic change.”

The explosion of Christianity in China will upend the traditional Christian powerhouses of the world. In 2010, the U.S. had around 159 million Protestants, and many observers say congregations are in decline.

china-balcome-churchAs part of a possible passing of the baton, China is now sending missionaries – especially to North Korea

“The number of Christians is extremely underestimated (in China) intentionally because the increase of religion would reflect negatively on government officials.” said Yang.

Currently, there are about 100 million Christians in the world’s most populous nation, which eclipses the 86.7 million-strong membership of the ruling Communist party, according to the Financial Times.

Jin Hongxin, 40, is not interested in the political or missiological implications of Chinese growth. She’s just proud to attend the mega church Liushi in Wenzhou, the city many outside observers call China’s Jerusalem due to its flourishing Christian churches.

“It is a wonderful thing to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It gives us great confidence,” she said at an Easter service, as reported by the Telegraph. “If everyone in China believed in Jesus then we would have no more need for police stations. There would be no more bad people and therefore no more crime.”

China’s churches started experiencing astronomical growth after the conclusion of the Cultural Revolution in 1976. A successor to Chairman Mao, Deng Xiaoping, reformed politics, liberalized the economy, and opened China to foreign countries. Read the rest of the story.

Editor’s Note: Chad Dou wrote this as a journalism assignment in my elective class at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.

Whacking a wiffle ball taught Bubba Watson to win tournaments

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At an auction, Bubba Watson bought “the General Lee,” a car made famous by the Dukes of Hazzard T.V. show.

He grew up wearing knickers sewn by his grandma, endured the rage of his Vietnam vet father, and learned to play golf smacking a wiffle ball around the house.

Bubba Watson, 37, arguably golf’s most colorful character, won the Los Angeles Riviera tournament Feb. 21, and he credited Jesus and the Bible with the win, his ninth PGA tour victory since 2010.

“I have a lot of fears in my life, which, as I’m reading the Bible, I’m not supposed to have — but I do,” Watson told the New York Times. “Me changing as a person has helped my golf, not my swing.”

bubba-watsonIt wasn’t too long ago that Watson would lose games in his brain. He struggled with insecurity, melted down after a bad shot, and looked for people to blame when things went wrong. He used curse words and rankled other players with some unfriendliness.

But with the help of his wife, his caddie, and fellow Christian golfers (who meet weekly at a PGA Bible study), Watson is overcoming the temperamental side of his personality.

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With his wife and first adopted child

“We’ve been working on it, a hard, slow process,” Watson said in Golf Digest. “Instead of swing thoughts and swing, it’s all about the mind for me. It’s staying patient, and having Teddy (the caddie) in my ear. Teddy’s been a blessing. It’s been a struggle over five years, but we’re working in the right direction.”

His twitter account is telling. Followed by 1.54 million, @bubbawatson describes him in this order: “Christian, husband, daddy, pro golfer.”

Watson told BillyGraham.org that he is “getting more in the Word and realizing that golf is just an avenue for Jesus to use me to reach as many people as I can.”

His walk with Christ started when he was 19. A neighbor invited him to church. It was his first time in a service. “I went to church with her a few times,” he told CNN. “I listened, thought about, gave myself to the Lord.”

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His hover craft golf cart that also hovers over water.

During college, his church attendance tapered off, but in 2004 he got baptized with his new wife, Angie, and renewed his faith.

On his first date with Angie, a college and professional basketball player, she advised him that she couldn’t bear children – and Watson told her that was fine. To date, they have two adopted kids, Caleb and Dakota.

After his baptism, he drifted away from God. Then his caddie yelled at him for his stormy behavior on the links, and Watson realized he needed to take things more seriously.

“I’ve been reading my Bible and getting stronger in my faith,” he said.

Today, Watson is a very visible and vocal Christian. After the won the Master’s at Augusta for the first time in 2012, he said, “I thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

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The Golf Boys with Bubba Watson

Famously, Watson never received any more golf instruction than from his dad when he was a tyke using a sawed-off club. That’s astonishing because the lefty hits the ball farther than pretty much anybody in the PGA (over 350 yards). And he can put spins on the ball that produce tree-rounding curves that will make you think he has Jedi powers.

To win the 2012 Master’s, Watson hit his ball out of some pine trees in a boomeranging hook that landed on the green only a few feet away from the pin of the second hole. It would seem that whacking that wiffle ball around the house taught him about spin. Read the rest of the story.

Be careful about the road ahead

crashThose who fail to plan, plan to fail.

So says a generation of financial planners. As Americans, we are proud that we can forge our own destiny.

But are we planning for eternity.

Mike Matheny, Christian coach of the Cardinals

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Mike Matheny’s only prior coaching experience was a Little League team when the St. Louis Cardinals called on him to manage their Major League Baseball team.

It was quite a promotion, but Matheny, now 45, a believer who follows the leading of Christ daily, took it with stride and led the Cardinals to playoffs four consecutive seasons, a record for new time managers.

“I can either take credit like I had done something great to deserve this or I can be humbly bowing down on the floor to the Creator of all things and realizing that there is an opportunity,” Matheny told the Christian Post. “I do want to make sure that it is noted that I truly believe that we get opportunities and I believe that we have to do something with those… I just believe that God is at work around me all the time and I want to be in tune to that.”

MikeMatheny41Matheny was an outstanding MLB catcher. He won four Rawlings Golden Glove Awards. He established the catcher’s record for 252 consecutive games without committing an error. After 13 years of MLB playing, he retired in 2007 with post concussion syndrome.

In 2010 Matheny coached Little League baseball, and the following year, the Cardinals sought him to replace World Series winning coach Tony La Russa. The moved surprised baseball observers not only because of his lack of professional coaching experience but also because he was at the time the youngest MLB coach. The Cardinals picked him because of his ties to the organization (he played five seasons for the Cards) and because of his demonstrated leadership as a player.

Matheny didn’t disappoint. In 2012, he led the Cardinals to the National League playoffs and only got eliminated by the eventual World Series winners, the Giants. The next year, despite having to use 20 rookies at one point or another because of injuries, Matheny led the team to the World Series, which they lost to the Boston Red Sox.

Matheny is known for his attention to details, his work ethic and good relations with his players. He is vocal about his Christian faith but doesn’t try to shove it down his players throats or hold them to his own moral code. With an easy-going Christian testimony, he has 20 players coming to the pre-game prayer sessions. The Cards etch a cross on the mound at home games.

“My faith has been clear and open. Every year at spring training I explain to my guys I stand for certain things as a follower of Christ. But you’re never going to hear me preach this at you or hold you to any sort of moral obligations that I try to hold for myself,” he told the Christian Coalition. “That opens a door so when they ask me a question, they know the foundation of the majority of my answers. It opens some great opportunities.” Continue reading the article.

Harper Lee remembered for her monumental contribution to Christianity

harper leeHarper Lee – whose To Kill a Mockingbird officiates the divorce of Christianity and racism – died in her sleep at the age of 89 on Feb. 19.

Lee, who catapulted to acclaim on a single novel, was a Methodist Christian who lived mostly in her childhood Monroeville, Alabama, from where her observations formed the basis for the novel that became required reading in American schools.

Lee’s contribution to Christian ethics was monumental. She fictionalized ladies’ missionary societies sharing teas and cakes while bantering about racial inequality. The central plot of a white lawyer, Atticus Finch, who courageously defends a wrongly accused black man, takes a back seat to the critique of a society which mixes toxically the liberating faith of Christianity with the oppression of racism.

Harper-Lee 1“What that one story did, more powerfully than one hundred speeches possibly could, was change the way we saw each other and then the way we saw ourselves,” said President Barak Obama in a statement. “Through the uncorrupted eyes of a child, she showed us the beautiful complexity of our common humanity and the importance of striving for justice in our own lives, our communities and our country.”

Published in 1960, To Kill a Mocking Bird sold over 40 million copies worldwide and garnered Lee a Pulitzer Prize. The world clamored for a sequel but Lee was uninterested, until she surprise-published in 2015 Go Set a Watchman, which some saw as a rough draft for Mockingbird and questioned if an aged Lee was truly cognizant and supportive of the decision of people surrounding her to publish.

In Watchman, the Atticus who once championed equality argued as an older man against school integration. It prompts soul searching about reconciling idealism about equality with deep-seated fears of people of a different color.

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With Gregory Peck

Lee was seen as eccentric because she shunned public attention. CBN reports that in Monroeville Lee was seen as warm, vibrant and witty. She enjoyed life, played golf, read voraciously and attended plays and concerts. Truman Capote was a childhood friend, purportedly the inspiration for Dill in Mockingbird.

Lee studied law and graduated from the University of Alabama but followed Capote to New York to become a writer instead of a lawyer. She worked as an airlines reservation agent while she wrote and struggled financially until Harper Collins published Mockingbird. A 1962 film adaptation starring Gregory Peck won an Academy Award and contributed to the book’s notoriety. In 2007, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contributions to American literature. Read the rest of the story.

‘Seoul Sisters’ glorify God on LPGA tour

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Mi-Hyun Kim

They call them Seoul Sisters because these Korean golfers are taking over the Ladies Professional Golf Tour – and among their ranks are many Christians.

“The Korean players keep their faith closer to their chest. It’s not that they’re less evangelical, they just present it differently,” said Cris Stevens, who leads a Bible study on the LPGA.

Lydia Ko is one of the South Korean golfers smashing records by smashing balls. The youngest ever #1 ranked player at 17 years old last year, Ko won the Evian Championship in France last year.

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Lydia Ko

For her success, she credits her parents – who brought her to New Zealand at an early age – and God

“Having faith gives me a sense of belief, tranquility, serenity and comfort,” Ko said in Golf MRX. “It constantly brings me back to reality. We are all the same human beings at the end of the day, living in the same world.”

She’s perhaps the youngest success story among the LPGA Christians. One of the older LPGA stars is Mi-Hyun Kim, who retired in 2011. She had won eight LPGA events and her best major was second place in the Women’s British Open in 2001. She was one of the original four dubbed “Seoul Sisters.”

When Kim won $210,000 in May 2007, she donated $100,000 to victims of a tornado in Greensburg, Kansas. She expressed her faith as the motive for the generosity.

“Honestly, I made a lot of money in the United States on the LPGA Tour,” she said. “Most of time, I get the money here and donate to South Korea. But, I want to help people here, too. The win was a surprise for me, and I think God gave it to me like a special present or he is using me like, ‘okay, I give you this, but after that you give to help the people.” Read the rest of the story.

Don’t let them destroy your dream

dreamsPeople are nasty. You have a dream, and they want to destroy it. You must guard your heart against evil people. Don’t let them assassinate your vision, your self belief. Hold on to your dream and pursue. Believe in yourself and in God. He will make a way.

Original image from Pinterest.

Iranian-backed militia seize Christians’ property in Iraq

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The homes, belongings and finances of Iraqi Christians are being seized by Muslim militia backed by Iran, Christian members of the Iraqi Parliament said.

The military units, directed by Iranian advisers, are supposedly combating ISIS in a loose coalition with President Barak Obama, who has been quiet about their illegal targeting of Christians to appropriate residences, businesses and cultural sites on the basis of Koranic texts that authorize grabbing property of non-Muslims under certain circumstances.

“Their claim is that the property of a non-Christian is halal, meaning it can be seized,” said Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sacco to the Arab daily Al Hayat.

RTR41ZBU.jpgWhen they lose their properties, the Iraqi Christians are forced to flee and resettle elsewhere. There are Assyrian, Chaldean and Syrian minorities being affected by the seizures in Baghdad and Erbil, the Foreign Desk reported. Militia have forced entry into homes and businesses in upscale parts of Baghdad using falsified documents.

“We are begging, once again, appealing to the conscience of government officials and authorities from Sunni and Shiite states in order to do something meaningful to safeguard the life and dignity and property of all Iraqis, because they are human,” Sacco said.

Tom Harb, co-chairman of the Middle East Christian Committee, said Middle East Christian NGOs have long been reporting that the Iranian-backed militias are conducting their raids in regions outside of the domain of ISIS and are displacing Christians.

Dr. Walid Phares, an adviser to the U.S. Congress, told The Foreign Desk that the Obama administration has partnered with the Iranian regime and indirectly helped these militia to attack Christians.

Until the ISIS forced them to abandon their homes, Iraq’s minority Christians boasted being one of the oldest Christian communities in the world with communities in Baghdad, Basra, Erbil and Kirkuk. The Assyrians lived in towns and regions around the Nineveh Plains in the north until ISIS displaced them. Read the rest of the story.

Gold on and off the field, Kaka belongs to God

real-madrid-v-ajax-kaka-_2870368After Kaka impossibly threaded the ball through three Manchester United defenders and slotted for goal in the 2007 Champions League semi-final, he ripped off his jersey to show the world his T-shirt emblazoned: “I belong to Jesus.”

When his team, AC Milan, claimed the title — second in prestige to the World Cup, it was anti-climatic compared to Kaka’s sensational solo performance in the semi-final. He was just too quick and precise, always a nano-second ahead of defenders. In fact, when a stalwart defender came crashing in to shut down the attack with physicality, he wound up smashing his own teammate instead.

It was his most glorious moment in world-class soccer — and yet it was completely devoid of glory.

article-0-0071E53F000004B0-697_634x429That’s because for the Brazilian crack, glory is a thing belonging to God. Currently he plays for Orland City SC in the U.S.’s Major League Soccer. When his ball-kicking days are over, he plans to study theology and become a pastor. That’s when the real glory will start.

Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite became good at soccer because he was skinny and had to work harder than everybody else to excel. In 2001, he was catapulted to international fame when he scored two goals to win the Brazilian championship for his native Sao Paolo FC, which had never won a championship.

His little brother in childhood couldn’t properly pronounce his name and simply settled on “Kaka.” Graciously for the rest of us (who similarly can’t pronounce his name), the moniker stuck.

God and goals always went together for Kaka. Born into a devout Christian family, he experienced Christ in a profound way when he was baptized at age 12.

“Something supernatural happened to me. I cannot explain it, but after that experience I grew closer to God and began to know Him in a more in-depth way,” Kaka said. “My life changed and was never the same again.”

He won the respect of his teammates and fans by being a young man of integrity while witnessing boldly for Christ. He was involved in a Bible study and Athletes for Christ. Unlike many other stars who waver in the spotlight, Kaka has always held strong convictions. He married his childhood sweetheart, Caroline Celico, in 2005. Both had maintained their virginity until their wedding.

From Brazil, Kaka moved to Italy in 2003 to play for AC Milan for a transfer fee of €8.5 million. Within a month, he was a starter for the team. Read the rest of the story.

Editor’s Note: This story was written by my high school student, Adrian Brizuela, at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica. Of course, I edited and helped polish it. I’m proud of him. I hope he realizes that he is not only good at soccer.

Drug-dealing Jew got saved reading Old Testament prophecies about Yeshua

Dr-Mitch-Glaser-2015It took the cold steel of a sawed-off shotgun against his neck to bring Mitch Glaser to the Christ he always associated with Hitler.

Raised in New York in a traditional Jewish home, he was “bar mitzvahed” at 13. At his grandparents’ home, he saw pictures of countless relatives exterminated in the Nazi Holocaust. “They had died at the hands of Hitler, and in the Jewish mindset, they had died at the hands of Christians,” Mitch said.

“I felt like Jesus and Christianity were my enemies,” said Glaser, who has worked with Chosen People Ministries for 40 years. “I’m an unlikely person to believe in Jesus.”

He dropped out of college and fell into selling marijuana with three Jewish friends in San Francisco. He was a no-nonsense hustler who built up a reputation for a square deal, but on one of his sales, his clients really had no intention of buying the illicit drug. They wanted to steal it – and kill him.

“One of the guys was yelling, ‘Just kill him now.’ The other one said, ‘No, we gotta get the rest of the drugs. Just torch the place,’” said Glaser, who was tied up while his attackers held shotguns and handguns.

“My whole life played before my eyes. I’m sitting there with my hands tied feeling this shotgun against my neck, and I’m saying to myself, ‘I can’t believe that I was willing to die for just a few hundred dollars,’” he said.

Mitch managed to escaped unscathed from the drug deal. It was a wake-up call and a warning that the houseboat he and his partners had built with drug money was not worth the danger involved in what they were doing. It was also the beginning of his call to Christianity.

Read the rest of the story.

 

Anticipated decline in faith among scientists fails to materialize in 80 years

people_larsonA full 40 percent of scientists believe in a personal God and afterlife, according to a 1997 study.

“Although the suggestion 80 years ago that four in 10 scientists did not believe in God or an afterlife was astounding to contemporaries, the fact that so many scientists believe in God today is equally surprising,” said study organizers Edward Larson and Larry Witham, of the University of Georgia, in the journal Nature.

The duo replicated a study from 80 years prior conducted by James Leuba that shocked America at a time when faith enjoyed wide acceptance. He found that four of 10 scientist didn’t believe in God.

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Stephen Hawking opted to not believe.

Leuba “predicted that more and more scientists would give up their belief in God, as scientific knowledge replaced what he considered to be superstition,” writes the National Center for Science Education in an article “Do Scientists Really Reject God?”

Leuba would be disappointed. The 1997 iteration of his poll found the percentage of faith-holding scientists remained constant through 80 years of scientific and technological advance. Science has not dislodged belief in God, and the number of theistic scientists is “impressively high,” according to the New York Times.

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Francis Collins does believe.

“The results also indicate that, while science and religion often are depicted as irreconcilable antagonists, each a claimant to the throne of truth, many scientists see no contradiction between a quest to understand the laws of nature, and a belief in a higher deity,” the New York Times wrote.

What’s more, the narrowly-phrased questions designed by Leuba — and repeated by Larson and Witham — may have overstated disbelief, according to Rodney Stark, a professor of sociology and comparative religion at the University of Washington in Seattle, as quoted in the New York Times. Stark’s research indicates that scientists pretty much reflect the general American public when it comes to believing in God.

“To the extent that both surveys are accurate readings, traditional Western theism has not lost its place among U.S. scientists, despite their intellectual preoccupation with material reality,” Larson and Witham wrote in their study. Read the rest of the article.

Their daring 185-mile walk to freedom

syrian-refugeesThey tried living under ISIS rule in their Euphrates River-hugging city of Raqqa, but once what was paradise for them became a hell that forced them to instead flee the country, walking 185 miles and eluding military check points in danger of death.

Ibrahim, 48, and wife Turkiye, 45, arrived Feb. 9 at a refugee camp in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, with 10 children safely, according to an interview conducted by IBTimes UK.

Fear, death and carnage came on all sides in their native land. If they weren’t suffering under the oppressive ISIS militants who crucify critics, they were running from constant and indiscriminate bombardments conducted by Russians, Syrians and sometimes even the U.S., they said.

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Raqqa today

ISIS maintains a tight grip on the citizenry of Raqqa, where they have set up the capital of their “caliphate,” a supposed utopia of strict Islamic law in which women must be covered from head to toe and men cannot smoke on the streets.

To pay for its war, the ISIS exacts sky-rocketing taxes of the city’s residents. And they seize children to make them into soldiers.

“They would take children like this”, said a cousin Mohammed, pointing at his 13-year-old nephew, “to teach them their religion, to brainwash them according to their beliefs. If I’d had a son and had refused to send him, they would whip me.”

The price of bread has shot up to 1,200 Syrian pounds from 40 pounds previously, Ibrahim said. Men now must grow beards, and women cannot stand next to men in the streets, even if he is a family member. Smoking is punishable by severing the index and middle finger, he added.

Taxes on fertilizer and irrigation bankrupted the family’s farming business next to the Euphrates, Ibrahim said.

Air raids designed to destroy ISIS are taking a heavy toll on the civilian population, Mohammed said.

“Daesh (another name of ISIS) would come and hide among us when the regime planes would come and bomb,” he said. “There is no proper targeting. To kill one ISIS person, they will kill 30 civilians. What the Daesh would do is they would go and hide with the mothers and the children to use them as a human shield. Hundreds would die for the sake of one or two. They were all children and all elderly. They were in their 70s and 80s or younger than 10. Daesh would take over the second floor of a building while civilians hid on the first and third floors.” Read the rest of the story.

Note: I wrote this article for God Reports, so I showcase my writing here.

Happy Valentine’s Day

valentine's day.jpgAs you enjoy the flavors made by God, feel His love this Valentine’s.

With no exposure to Christ, she cried out and Jesus responded to Sister Mei of China

sister meiMaybe it was a rip tide, but Sister Mei felt – and saw in an apparent vision – that it was a hand pulling her out to sea.

As she was enjoying the beach in Southern China for the first time in her life, she was daydreaming worriedly about her hardships and prospect-less future. She was divorced, abandoned by the father of her daughter. And she was on vacation at Sanya beach with her boyfriend, who was a married man.

“I had never seen the ocean before,” said Mei, whose videoed testimony from 2013 at the U.S. Center for World Mission in Pasadena, CA, is on YouTube. “For some reason, I felt that if I could see the ocean, a lot of my questions could be answered.”

sanya beach china today

Sanya Beach today

As she was in the water, Mei, whose other name was not given, began to forget about her romantic liaison and began to ponder the meaning of life when the hand grabbed her ankle. Having grown up in a village on the Yangtze River, she was able swimmer, but she was not prepared for rip tides – or the hand, whatever it was.

“My husband left me after I gave birth. On the third day, he came to the hospital for the last time. He just disappeared. It really hurt me,” she said. “That’s how I started to take my life in the wrong direction.”

With “no future, no job, no money, no dignity and no identity,” she hooked up with a married man and agreed to go to the beach with him. She left her daughter at home with her parents. As she brooded over her “totally, totally hopeless” situation in the water, she lost track of the shore and was drifting out to the deep.

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Yangtze River

“From the bottom of my heart, my mind, my soul, I cried out, Who can help me?,’” she said.

Then she began to be hauled seaward.

“There was a hand holding my ankle dragging me down into the water. I was frightened,” Mei said. “I did everything I could to swim to the shore, but I couldn’t.”

She tried calling for help. That’s when she felt the hand around her throat choking back the words. A man on her right turned his back to her, oblivious to her peril. Another on the left also turned his back to her.

“I could not make any noise.,” Mei said. “My mouth was moving. I was asking for help, but no noise came out from my mouth. The hand was holding me tighter and tighter.”

Now in deeper water, her body began swirling in the torrent. A wave formed over her head. At the top of the wave in the vision was a horrible face.

“The minute I saw that face, I knew it was the devil. I never was taught about the devil, but I knew it was the devil,” she said. “It was huge. It was coming on the top of the wave. It came to me and it said, ‘I’m going to kill you today.’ When I saw that, I knew I was finished. There was no hope. I was dying.”

When the wave crashed on her face, she choked salty water. She was tossed by waves and kicked and paddled trying in vain to reach the shore. She thought of her parents and daughter, Weiwei.

“Mom, Dad, Weiwei, I’m sorry,” she said, beginning to resign herself to death. “They didn’t even know where I was. I never told them where I was, so if I died that day, they would be very disappointed.”

But if the devil had ahold of her, God was on the move also because she had cried out for help.

“Two words came out of my mouth. I had no understanding of what I was saying,” she recalled. “I said: ‘My God.’”

Immediately, the heavens opened and a large dove descended. With no prior knowledge of such things, what came to her mind was that this was the Holy Spirit.

Next, she beheld a vision of a tall man in a robe with an aura of light. He motioned with one hand, through which a ray of light penetrated, drawing a semi circle. With the motion, her entire life was played before her eyes like a video, and the words “deadly sin” appeared when she committed a sin.

“I could not believe I was such a filthy sinful person,” she remembered. Her immediate reaction was she deserved death by drowning, but then she heard of voice of compassion.

“My child you have come back at last,” the voice said. “I have been waiting for you so long.”

In her vision, she was now on dry land, and now out of the man’s heart poured water and blood. She understood this was for her sin.

“I had broken His heart. All the sins had hurt him and had been hurting Him always,” Mei said. “My depravity, debauchery, immorality, my ignorance, stubbornness, rebellion, stubbornness Never for a moment had I stopped. Every sin I had committed was like a sharp knife that injured Him deeply.

“Then I saw the pure love from his eyes just pouring out in my direction,” she said. “Is that for me? The words came to me, ‘Yes, it is for you. I love you and never expect anything back from you.’ I had never experienced such an unconditional love. I burst into tears. Why do you love me? I’m lonely and in pain.  Love kept coming to me like waves.”

It was just a vision. She was still in the water in danger of drowning. Then she heard a voice from Heaven again: “Go, help her!” And a man appeared out of no where and dragger her to shore. Once on solid ground, she was trembling and exhausted. She lay down on the sand and slept, asking herself: Who was the man of the vision? How did he know her whole life? How did she get pulled ashore? What was the light?

“That night I met the God I never knew,” she said.

Though she had encountered God, still she didn’t know concretely anything about Him. When she returned to her village, she found and church and asked for a Bible. At the time in China, Bibles were scarce, and so she had to wait some months.

When she finally got a Bible, she read it avidly, beginning in Genesis. Everything seemed foreign, and she didn’t understand. She began attending an English class taught by “Doug,” who included messages of the gospel in his teaching. The genealogy of Jesus and the Trinity were particularly difficult to understand.

After a year, the Bible resonated with her when she finally got to the part of the Gospel of John where Jesus told Thomas to stick his thumb in his nail hole. She remembered the ray of light that shot through  hand of the robed man in the vision at the beach.

She finally received Jesus into her heart.

Seven years later, Mei had the opportunity to come to the United States. She currently resides in Los and and works in a missions organization for Africa. She married, and her husband works for the government, she said. Based on the information provided in the video, she is approximately 40 years old.

This article first appeared on God Reports.

Kids love candy, but…

sees-shrimp-005I was one of the boys who said I could live on candy. The chocolate, caramel, gnache created a sensation in my tongue like ecstasy.

But when I went to a birthday party and got a piece of cake that was more frosting than cake, I hit something unfamiliar. It was a dragon cake, and I looked greedily at the slice handed to me. I was lucky because everyone knows that cake is just an excuse to get frosting, right?

To my astonishment, I couldn’t finish it. To my incomprehension, it stopped being delightful. Maybe I was 8 at that party, and I didn’t know about being sugared-out, about overload. I didn’t know you could get too much of a good thing.

dragon cakeCandy is really good when you eat a little. Too much sweet is unbearable.

This generation wants all frosting. Only when we are glutted, unhappy, undelighted, burnt out do we think to put things in their proper proportions.

This is a generation that wants to throw off restrictions (like the Bible) and declare a brave new world with self-formulated morality-lessness.

David Bowie came back to the God he spent most of his life defying. While it sold records, he bragged that he met his first wife while have sex with the same guy. It’s not surprising to me he lost that marriage. As he got older, he changed. He treated his second wife much better, and she stayed with him to the end. All his life he toyed with being an atheist but could never bring himself to fully commit. His intellectual honesty wouldn’t allow him to become a full-blown atheist. Somewhere in the passing of years and onset of cancer he observed grimly: “There are no atheists on the battlefield.”

You can eat all the frosting you want. But it won’t make you happy. Whether you mock dieticians or Christians, your fight is against reality.

Through the years, I’m enjoying more and more healthy eating, salads and the like. Hopefully you can get there.

Let your imagination run wild!

EliManningAs Peyton Manning was winning his second Super Bowl, the cameras panned his family. A grim-faced Eli Manning, who quarterbacks for the New York Giants, just got his record (two Super Bowls) equaled. The media speculated wildly: He was mad that his brother and rival tied him. He was no longer the favored child. Etc. and nauseating etc.

It turns out the wild imaginations were all projecting their own evil thoughts on poor Eli. Yes, he had a grim face, but not because he had a rivalry with his brother. He was thinking, he came forward to clear up the record, about strategy. What would the Broncos do next to guarantee the win? Deep in playroom cogitations, he didn’t show on his face the rejoicing of the rest of the family.

No, you’re not “hearing” the Holy Spirit guessing what a brother or sister is thinking. If you suspect evil in his heart, maybe it’s your own evil. Maybe, if YOU had that face it would be because of some bad thoughts. But maybe the other person not so.

Pentecostal Christians make a mess of church ministry by confusing psychological projection with Holy Spirit thinking. Don’t pay attention to the face. Just preach the word and love people. Don’t judge them based on their face.

Uncle wrestles shark to shore, retrieves arm

Go get it back. Fight for it.

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Vance Flosenzier dashed into the water after a shark bit off his nephew’s arm in 2001 at a beach near Pensacola, Florida. He grabbed the 7-foot bull shark by its tail and hauled the wrangling monster to shore. There, a ranger shot the shark in the head and paramedics extracted the arm from its gullet.

Jessie Arbogast passed into coma because of loss of blood, but surgeons were able to re-attach his arm, and when he woke up, it worked. Recovery has been long and slow. But he has his arm, thanks to the guts and courage of an angry uncle.

There are times when the devil rips you off. He steals your joy, your purity, your marriage. Whatever. Don’t cry and wring your hands by the shore. Go and fight, get it back!

ISIS brainwashes boy captives to be suicide bombers

cubs-of-the-caliphateEleven-year-old Nouri refused to train to become a suicide bomber with the other boys at an ISIS-controlled camp in northern Iraq, and due to his insubordination, the terrorists broke his legs in three places.

Ironically, the inhumane treatment saved his life. Unable to walk or run normally, he was deemed “useless” by the team of brainwashers turning kidnapped Yazidi and Kurdish kids into suicide bombers.

Because of his pronounced limp he was freed, taken home by his grandmother, and now resides in a refugee camp. His 5-year-old brother, Saman, was released with him. Repeated beatings traumatized him so badly that he asked CNN reporters if they were there to beat him. He often wakes up screaming from nightmares.

cubs-4The parents of both boys remain in captivity.

“They asked us to come with them for the training,” Nouri said. “At first we refused to go because we were afraid. They asked me to go to the mountain and I refused again, then they broke my leg. That saved me. The other children were taken by force.”

The use of captive children to perform suicide missions is not only the latest evidence of ISIS savagery. It is also the most terrifying.

That’s because when the boys are sent into the No Man’s Land between ISIS soldiers and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, the Peshmerga never know if the children are truly escaping or if they will detonate a bomb.

“Many times when we are facing ISIS, we see the children at the front line and they’re wearing explosive vests. They are brainwashed,” said Aziz Abdullah Hadur, a Peshmerga commander. “When they make it through our lines they kill our fighters. It’s an unbelievably hard decision. You don’t know what to do because if you don’t kill them they’ll kill you.” Read the rest of the story: crimes of ISIS.

This article was written by Cindy Gutierrez. I was her editor and teacher at the Lighthouse Christian Academy journalism class. It is a Santa Monica Christian high school. Cindy is a senior. The fall semester, in which she took the class, just ended.

‘The answer to my guilt was not denial but forgiveness’

Intellectual atheist from France comes to Christ. A sticking point was “Why did Jesus have to die?”

I supposed it would be a lot of fun to be an atheist, all that sin with no guilty conscious. But once you know the truth, you can’t run from it. Plus, knowing God is better than any sin.

Don’t get me wrong. I sin. I’m human. I’m not a Christian because I don’t fall into temptation. I am a Christian BECAUSE I fall into temptation. I need a Savior. So do you.

Art out of food

food artJessie Bearden plays with her food.

I was always taught not to play with my food. Maybe that’s why I never became the artist I aspired to be as a child.

Actually I was discouraged from being an artist because I was told you can’t make any money at it.

food-art-1But I rebelled and became a wordsmith, an artist with words.

food art 2God tells us to be like Him; He created. As much a I admire art around the world, none compares to the daily painting God spreads on his canvass of a sunset. None equals the beauty of a flower. Consider the lilies of the field…even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these — Matt. 6:28-29.

I’m going to be a fan of Jessie Bearden, who create surprising portraits out of food. And I’m going to keep writing.

jessie bearden

Jessie Bearden

But I can’t wait to get to Heaven to see the wonders of God’s art there. I admire His beauty everywhere here on Earth.

I bet the artists continue doing their art in Heaven.

Don’t give up. A lesson from bubble wrap

bubble wrap

I guess you could call it a speculation bubble.

But when Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes invented bubble wrap in 1957, they were trying to make textured wallpaper. It came out funny-looking, but instead of giving up, they tried to find another application for their invention. Wah-laa! The stuff is the preferred packing protection against breakage. And it’s a lot of fun to pop between your fingers.

The genesis of bubble wrap shows how one things can lead to another. It is also a story of how you can stumble on success serendipitously. But most importantly, it is a story of not giving up. Today’s failures are tomorrow’s successes.

So if your bubble has been burst, don’t wrap it up. Keep giving it a try. You’re bound to hit success sooner or later.

More than just a winning streak at Santa Monica Christian school

Saints soccer santa monicaThe significance of this article is for Christians. Previously, the high school I work at (Lighthouse Christian Academy) formed its soccer teams haphazardly, as an afterthought among too many things to do. The new winning streak represents years of effort to actually build the program. This will attract students to our school and, consequently, to Christ.

With back-to-back victories, the Lighthouse Christian Academy soccer team has found its feet to rewrite recent history of missing playoffs.

Without normal forward Will Clancy, the Saints subbed Abraham Morales into the striker position, and the new LCA student rewarded coach’s confidence with two goals, to bring the 4-2 victory over Westmark School in Encino yesterday.

“I never pictured myself making a goal, let alone two,” the sophomore said coyly. “But after I made the first one I was determined to make the second.”

Morales was deadly on the left, scoring his brace within the first 20 minutes.

Lighthouse Christian AcademyWestmark scored next with some brilliant passing between two Lions stars. With the ball at the goal line on the left, one player found unmarked in the box his counterpart, who didn’t bungle the shot. It was 2-1.

In the second half, Turk Erhan Meric, a fleet-footed sophomore, ran up the right on a through ball from midfielder Colby Thomas to get behind the Lion’s defense and shoot powerfully home.

Again Westmark sent the ball to a player in the area, and he punctured the net. It was 3-2.

With the minutes ticking away, Lighthouse kept pressing to bury the match. Senior Shane Berry launched a throw-in into the area on the narrow field, and a Lions defender trying to clear the ball also controlled it with his hand.

Erhan Meric, a magician with the ball.

On the resulting penalty, Senior Adrian Brizuela, a powerhouse in the Saints midfield, blasted the ball past the goalie to remove the match from reach of the Lions. It finished at 4-2.

Coach Jack Mefford, who is also Lighthouse’s principal, credited the Saints’ progress with the time players have worked together. With a number of new students coming from schools other than its feeder middle school (Lighthouse Church School), the teammates needed to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

“They are working together. Especially this game, we just began to gel,” Mefford said. “They’re starting to know each other play with each other better. We’re growing in confidence.”

Tuesday’s victory came on the heels of a win Monday, improving LCA’s record to 4-1-3. The Saints are beginning to feel the excitement of possibly getting a playoff birth for the first time anyone can remember.

Abraham Morales was deadly in front of goal.

Abraham Morales was deadly in front of goal.

On Monday, Lighthouse beat 2-1 Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences from Santa Clarita for the second time. The Penmar Park game put on exhibition the Saint’s powerful defensive line, which has speed, technique and physicality.

Senior Tex Hagoski, at stopper, made crucial saves and passes despite playing with an injured foot. Since his preferred sport is football, he brings a fearlessness and muscle that will intimidate some forwards. Don’t underestimate his speed.

At sweeper, Abraham Kennedy has been a potent defender. Big and strong with a lifetime of soccer experience, Kennedy, a sophomore, doesn’t win balls by hand-crafting them. By mass production, he foils opponents’ attacks.

On Friday in the away game against Einstein, Kennedy led the charge to overturn a 0-2 deficit with a stunning rocket from 40 yards. After seeing the shocker, the Saints seemed moved to believe they could beat their opponents and rallied to finish 3-2.

There’s no surprise the sophomore Alex Cervantes, given his soccer pedigree, holds the left back position impeccably. What surprises is how well senior Shane Berry contains on the right. He’s not really a soccer player. His game is basketball. But his quickness and the similarities between basketball and soccer have helped him adapt.

LCA goals were produced by Brizuela and Meric, locked in a friendly competition to see who scores more by season’s end. They are tied at six goals each. Einstein got a late consolation when refs awarded a penalty kick for a foul in the box.

Also last week, the Saints came from behind to tie Newbury Park Adventist Academy.

With the newfound momentum, the Saints face Concordia in Sylmar Friday, their penultimate season game.

*Photo: Adrian Brizuela goes for goal against Westmark yesterday. Credit: Jamie Roman, who is a sophomore at the Lighthouse Christian Academy. Jamie wrote this article for the Santa Monica Patch here, and I edited it. I always re-post my students’ articles on my blog since I’m heavily involved in the final product.

Bombings made him a good tennis player

novak-djokovic

By Michael Ashcraft and Mark Ellis

To win the Australian open, a tennis player needs composure – something Novak Djokovic, 28, developed when his city was bombed by NATO for 78 consecutive nights in 1999.

A Christian of deep faith, Djokovic – also known as Super Novak – made use of his poise under pressure to take the Jan. 31 open by storm. He slammed contender Andy Murray 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 in a display of dominance proving why he’s tennis’ new #1 ranked player.

Djokovic grew up playing tennis in Belgrade when NATO imposed an embargo and bombed the city during the Kosovo War in 1999, causing great shortages of food.

us open 2015“We started the war living in fear, but somewhere during the course of the bombings, something changed in me, in my family, in my people,” Djokovic wrote in his memoir, Serve to Win. “We decided to stop being afraid. After so much death, after so much destruction, we simply stopped hiding. We decided to make fun of how ridiculous our situation was. One friend died his hair like a bulls-eye, a target.”

Young Djokovic himself stumbled and fell while scrambling to a bomb shelter one night. He looked up and saw a fearsome F-117 bomber release its cargo upon a hospital, he said.

If you can play tennis while dodging bullets and standing in long lines for bread and milk, then nothing can unnerve you. After facing the hardships of war, the psychological games played by opponents on a tennis court are relatively tame to Djokovic. His inner resolve has resulted in many come from behind victories.

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His opponents seem befuddled next to his highly-trained concentration level that screens out distractions of any form.

When Djokovic did the unimaginable and recovered from a breakdown in the fifth set to beat Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open of 2013, the Australian news.com.au proclaimed it an act akin to turning water into wine or opening up the Red Sea.

“No one does that,” the reporter wrote. “Djokovic wins a lot of matches he should lose.”

Djokovic, jubilant over a triumph that made the world stand up and notice, tore off his shirt to celebrate. The wooden cross around his neck bore visible testament to his faith.

Other players choke. Djokovic brings out his best tennis when the heat is on. At the 2011 U.S. Open he played 16-time major winner Roger Federer and returned a mind-boggling ball on match point  that seemed impossible to retrieve – now memorialized as “the shot” – that shocked Federer and the entire tennis world. Federer was reportedly upset about it for months.

Once upon a time, Djokovic was the upstart among tennis champions. He was the “third man” behind Federer and Nadal. Now, he stands alone. He has won 11 Grand Slam singles titles – four of the last five. In 2015, he won 82 of 88 matches – a 93% win percentage.

Read the rest of the article: click here.

Ha ha ha! Orange marmalade has ‘wires’

Orange-marmalade1The pungent and sweet taste of orange marmalade is one I missed as a missionary in Guatemala. So when we got back to the U.S. a few years ago after 16 years abroad, I got it, and I shared it with my youngest son. To put it mildly, Hosea didn’t like it.

“Dad! It tastes like it has wires!” He was somewhere between aghast and livid. He believed it was his duty to inform me what I didn’t know. The rind gratings — um — were grating to his palate.

Of course, I cracked up. For his ingenuousness, thinking I didn’t know it had rind gratings. For his descriptiveness.

This is how I feel when newbie leaders want to give me a lecture on spirituality. When does the senior ever let the freshman tell him how to play varsity football? You have to take things with humor or it can be a discouraging thing coming back into your mother church. And you gotta enjoy the orange marmalade despite what people say.