I wish Christians were as “crazed” about what God is crazed about as zillions of gamers are crazed about this game. Sorry for being so passé.
Monthly Archives: July 2016
As apartment manager, I have the duty of cleaning out apartments when tenants leave. This is not as bad as it may sound because sometimes you get some cool stuff. For example, I got a great set of kitchen knives and some tools.
But the liquor went down the drain. So did the funny green leaves.
Sorry, I’m a teetotaler. Even if I did like alcohol, I wouldn’t drink it. It’s a matter of not being a stumbling block to a weak brother. What if someone in my church is a recovering alcoholic and sees me, the Valley Boy Pastor, sipping a glass? If he falls on account of me, I’m hurting him. I’m not walking in love.
Luckily, I have no desire to try liquor. My dad didn’t drink. I never went to parties when I was younger. I believe I get joy from God, not chemicals.
For all I know, that was a lot of money I poured out. But to me, it is of no monetary value. Maybe the devil valued it as a snare to pull people into sin.
This is my list of people to pray to return to Jesus.Obviously, I blurred it. But you can see that names crossed out. Those are the ones who have come back to Christ already. Those are answered prayers.
I encourage you to use lists in prayer so that you can see progress. You can see its effectiveness. This will encouraged you to keep praying and to pray more.
I’m a sucker for love. Namely, I like to feel loved, and I give myself whole-heartedly to others. I don’t belong to the insulting clique, where men call each other “fool” and are constantly trying to one-up the joking derision. I guess I’m not man enough for them.
I’m leaving Guatemala right now, and I’m asking myself why I feel so full. God moved. There were salvations. But I’m even happier about just being with all those kids in the school, with my friends — the co-workers in the Lord — who helped found the church and school and keep them going. They don’t work for money. They work for something else. Smiling playing kids are everyone. Smiling adults too.
I can’t resist it. It’s like Heaven on Earth.
Wherever I go in God, this is the type of Christianity I’m trying to establish. You can fly on your superiority trip. I’m going to do my best to embody the love that is the image of Christ.
I founded the Door Christian Church 22 years ago and the Liceo Bilingüe La Puerta a year later. Now, God has sent me to Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley to establish a church. Love will prevail.
Pablo was a great youth in our Guatemalan church. He was working on telephone lines with his cousin. Above on the ladder was his cousin, below, Paul held the ladder steady.
Then the cousin dropped a hammer (pictured), and it fell on Pablo’s head.
God in His mercy spared Pablo’s life. God is not done with you yet, hijo. He has many things for you to do still in the Iglesia Cristiana La Puerta.
Don’t think that God has given up on you, that He is finished with you. He still is working in your life, and He still wants to use you.
I jumped at the chance to get my study group to help my church form a business plan. We worked hours analyzing strengths and weaknesses, projections and budgets, vision and philosophy. The resulting 20-page report had us planting a new church every two years. It was a glowing success and got us an A at the Central American Theological Seminary in Guatemala. Our plans were splendidly conceived and brilliantly explained.There was only one problem.
You can’t plan revival because revival comes from God.
Prayer works better than planning.
Don’t get me wrong. I fully believe in planning. I agree with the adage: he who fails to plan, plans to fail. BUT, the church is God’s. We can only submit to His will. We cannot force Him to bless our plans.
There is no way I could have planned this guy’s salvation (pictured). It comes as a confirmation of the strategies God has given us in Guatemala: the school and outreach. I can only praise Him for His work — and welcome Carlos heartily to salvation.
Saul lost his ministry and revival the moment he pounced on the plunder. God wanted a sacrifice similar to when the Israelites conquered Jericho; they were not to touch any of the riches. King Saul should have remembered Achan, who sneaking away silver and a Babylonia tunic, was judged by God.
But no. After decimated the Amalekites, the Israelites swarmed on the riches, a normal practice in ancient warfare that God ordered them to abstain from this one time. But the people and Saul couldn’t suppress their greed.
God had warned Saul that he was losing credibility, but even so he paid no heed. It was here, when Saul and others pounced on the plunder, that God sent Samuel to anoint David as the next king.
Let the church be warned: when we love money more that souls, revival is over. God gives us money to reach souls, but when we grab it for our pleasures, God retires from that church. I don’t care if you’re a big church. Bigness doesn’t mean Godness.
For the upside down pastor, the church is there to serve him, not he the church. And not only serve him, they must admire him. He alone does everything right. He alone hears from God. He alone tells everyone what to do. He gets all the credit and doesn’t credit others.
I think I was an upside down pastor when I started 20 years ago. Success bolstered my fragile ego. Being a pastor provided me with the affirmation I so often lacked in life. The incredible thing is that God used me despite being upside down.
Now I’m starting a new church, and I hope to get it right. The people are the focus, not me. I’m there to serve them, to help them realize their destiny in God. It’s not about me. It’s about them, and it’s about Jesus.
The upside down pastor gets mad easily when things don’t go his way. He prays for people to do what he thinks they should do. He alone hears from God. Praise time is showmanship.
If you’re an upside down pastor, you can put things right side up. 2 Cor. 10:8 says God has given the pastor authority to build up his congregants, not tear them down. 2 Sam. 5:12 says that David perceived that God had established him, not because he was better than others, but “for his people Israel’s sake.” Your existence is for them.
You can turn things right side up.
We hear human voices — both good and bad — too much. Our fans and our critics occupy our thoughts too much. We can wrongly believe our own publicity or the devil’s condemnation. The hard thing to do is to hear God.
I want to learn to screen out all the negativity. I want to be careful to not let my head swell with human praise. All this is a distraction. When we block it out and we listen to God, He moves.
We went out on an outreach like many before. I have screamed my voice hoarse street-preaching. I have done dramas on the plaza. I have hurt my feet walking door to door. The best outreach, however, is not human effort. It is when God moves.
On Saturday, we simply passed out fliers on the Sixth Avenue. And God brought in a lady who accepted Jesus Christi as her personal Savior and Lord.That’s what we need in the Door Christian Church, part of the Christian Fellowship Ministries church planting movement.
Wow! There’s nothing better in life. You can have the nice car and hotel stays. You can have the movies and the malls. I want Jesus.
Elijah said he was continually in the presence of the Lord. After 35 years as a Christian, I haven’t learned to stay in God’s presence. I want to learn it still.
My 88-year-old dad finally got back to painting. He fell and broke his hip in April and hasn’t felt like he could concentrate on his creative efforts. He has a fantastic rehab coach and a 24-hour caregiver. He has good doctors and a couple of good sons. His taste buds finally reactivated, so he’s getting back to his ideal weight.
Last but not least, he’s started painting — and with it hope is reborn in his heart.
Except for the smallest of children, we’re all in some sort of recovery. Sin — life — tends to damage. Recovery is not just for the alcoholic. It’s for marriage that you want to last. It’s for forgiveness you’re struggling to work out. It’s for the person at the gym. It’s for slip-ups and backslidings.
Recovery is for humans.
Pride would have you believe you don’t need any recovery, that you’re completely successful with every area of your life under control. You know why I’m a Christian? Because I’m more honest and real than that. I fully acknowledge my need for a Savior and my need for his ongoing recovery process ministered continually by His Word and His Spirit. Recovery is a good thing, so I embrace it whole-heartedly.
The bane of most is to succumb to discouragement, to compromise your values, to lower your sights, to throw out your dreams in search of pleasure instead of goals.
Keep believing in higher goals, even when others don’t believe in you, when others ridicule your dreams and scoff at your possibilities. Keep doing right things in the midst of overwhelming discouragement.
This is the trademark of Joseph, who, sold into slavery, kept serving his God with enthusiasm, who, next incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit, continued in the straight and narrow. When his day came, he became vice president of Egypt and saved the very people who nearly killed him.
This is the trademark of Daniel, who was ripped from his homeland and taken captive to a foreign land. With no discernible future, he steadfastly served God and wound up distinguishing himself from all those who settled for less.
This is the trademark of David, who, shunned by his own brothers and fathers, believed it important to practice his aim and took on bears in lions in defense of lambs. He thought one day his skills would be useful for taking down giants. And God gave him big things.
Let this be our trademark.
Mind blown. I just barely moved to Van Nuys. I just barely started a Bible study in the apartment. I haven’t yet gotten a place for Sunday service. And God has brought in full-on disciples. Not just curious people trying the service like the water-wary timidly dipping a toe in the pool to see if it’s too cold. I don’t even know what to name the church. It’s associated with the Christian Fellowship Ministries.
The four top-notch leaders are thanks to my friend and outstanding pastor, Matt Sinkhorn, who worked with them for five years until San Fernando closed his church for zoning rules and he lost his lease. His pastor opted to send him to Lancaster, so four core leaders in his church were looking for a new stomping ground. At the same time, I was announced for nearby Van Nuys.
We are finishing a half-week of revival services in Santa Monica, and the girls have gone every night. These are not wimpy Christians. After service, we went out for ice cream, which you know is just (frozen) milk and honey, so we’re moving into the Land Flowing with Milk and Honey.
I can only praise Jesus and thank YOU for your prayers on this endeavor.
And maybe I should say a word to all my friends who are working long and hard with little fruit. That’s what I was hunkering down for. God sees the labor of love.
I’m glad my wife believed in me. She thought I actually heard from God. There were many doubters. But if you just try, anything is possible.
The image you project to the world as a Christian is a matter of your diet. If you feed constantly on negativity and denigration, you won’t project of confidence, joy and victory. You need to feed on the word, not the sewers of the world’ media.
Trivia: Flamingos are born with gray feathers but turn pink because they feast on brine shrimp and blue-green algae, which contain a dye that affects the color of the flamingo.
If you feast on the world’s news, you might turn yellow.
If you feast on Facebook, you might turn green with envy.
Heck, even your “brother” in Christ can constantly tear you down. Don’t let that happen!
But if you feast on prayer and God’s unadulterated Word, you’ll turn radiant like the sun. You’ll project the joy and confidence, the love and humility which naturally draws people to Christ.
By Ruby Swanson, LCA sophomore
While other students were vacationing and relaxing over Spring Break, I was working — in Africa on a medical mission. I consider myself blessed to participate.
As a sophomore at the Lighthouse Christian Academy, I jumped at the chance to join the associated Lighthouse Medical Missions in Tanzania on March 25 to April 3. My dad did his best to repress all the usual parental fears of malaria, terrorism and the like to let me go. From the Christian school in Santa Monica, I traveled 36 hours to Africa.
We stayed in the the Ryan’s Bay Hotel overlooking the glorious Lake Victoria. Every day we held clinic in which doctors and nurses attended to hundreds of patients. Each night, we attended church services.
On the first day of clinic, I assisted Doctor Bob Hamilton, founder of the Lighthouse Medical Mission, at the pediatric station. So many sick children came in it was heartbreaking. It was also really inspiring because even though they were sick because they were giggling, playful, happy kids.
The second day I worked with Katelyn Myer in the pharmacy. She had all the supplies super organized and was on top of everything. However, the serious medicine hadn’t arrived because terror threats in Brussels tied up the meds shipping out from there. All we had was Advil and stuff like that.
It was really hard to have to tell someone who had walked miles and waited hours that we didn’t have the medicine they needed so desperately. The meds came later in the week, so people who had been given prescriptions came back to fill them.
I spent the next few days assisting at the nurse station and those were my favorite days of clinic. My main job was to hold down kids who were getting shots, getting blood tests or getting abscesses drained. It was really cool seeing all of the nurses at work and inspired me to maybe pursue a career in that field.
When the nurses didn’t have anything for me to do, they gave me some free time to play with some of the kids visiting the clinic. One time I brought out the bubble machine and I was immediately surrounded by a bunch of laughing, jumping, awestruck children. It didn’t occur to me until later that they had never seen bubbles before.
The last day I assisted Doctor and Mrs. Czer at their station treating people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, anemia and etc. Everyday at clinic was rewarding, even though you were hot and tired by the end it was all worth it to have been able to care for these people.
The last day was cut short so that team members could do their own thing before attending a dinner at the pastor’s house. Liz Peterson, fellow LCA student Sasha Photenhauer and I went on a hike with the guys while all of the other girls went shopping.
I’m glad I chose the hike because I got to experience Africa’s beautiful scenery and even take a selfie with a Zebra! Each moment of the trip was spectacular; but the ones spent at the clinic are by far the most special to me.
By going to Africa I realized just how incredibly blessed I am to live here in America. I realized just how little material things really mean and how much I take for granted. Africa taught me to appreciate everything I have and to think less selfishly.
I experienced God in ways I never had before and I am so happy that He sent me on this trip. I encourage everyone to go on a medical mission if they are given the chance to because it something that completely changes the way you view the world, others and yourself.
Not only that, but you are able to serve God by serving people, and the Bible says that people are treasure. I can honestly say that going on this trip changed my life for the better.
This article, written by one of my students, originally appeared here.
Every time, Ender makes a friend, he gets cut off by the military leaders, who think that his intensive training precludes his need for such triviality. He must learn to depend on no one but himself to get out of every situation, Graeff reasons.
So when he is surrounded by bullies who could seriously injure himself, the teachers don’t rescue him. He’s left to his own wits.
The teachers praise him in front of the other trainees knowing this will create envy and jealousy.
When he makes a friend in a platoon, they switch him.
There are many elements of madness in Ender’s Game that seem to lift from Catch 22.
The kicker is that this heartless abuse works. At the end, Ender saves Earth from the attack of the buggers with his brilliant command of the international fleet.
They talked of stoning David. Amalekites had attacked his camp while he and his men were out. They had burned it, pillaged it and made off with everybody’s wife and children. David’s men were embittered.
Then David did something extraordinary. The Bible says he encouraged himself in the Lord. No one was there for him. He dug deep and found the resource to turn the defeat into a victory. He pursued the attackers and recovered everything and everyone unharmed.
Maybe God let’s his servants go through times of utter loneliness to bring out the best in them.
There are times when we feel completely abandoned by the people we love and trust. They turn their backs on us. They have expectations for us that we don’t meet or don’t even know.
I’ve often wondered why there have been so many times of loneliness in my life. Why? The longing of my heart is to have friends and be a team member.
Maybe I have a hint of an answer: Loneliness has driven me to my Lord. Is He lonely for me as I am for friends?
Also: The hurt in my heart makes me sensitive to others’ hurts. I can minister better to them as a result. I’m all-accepting, extremely anti-clique, because I have never belonged to a clique.
I think Jesus was too. He was excluded from the power circle of the Jewish leaders, so he consorted with the needy hearts of the outcasts of society.
Maybe God is permitting pain to sharpen your usefulness.
I spend oodles of hours — thankless hours — doing SEO for my school. I believed in this school. It’s a Christian school in Santa Monica, but leaders didn’t really have a publicity strategy. I guess they just “left it to God in prayer” but did little else. There were more than one who rolled his eyes when I told them what I was doing. Some said nothing would come of my efforts; it was impossible. I worked for two years. It was a lot of work, but it fit our budget of $0.00. Ha!
That’s ok. Joy comes with the fruit. Ruby had been bullied at her prior school, so the Christian environment was going to help her heal and provided her love. Others signed up. Actually, last year was supposed to be the year we were going to have to close the school. Church leaders were going to sell the property.
But I believed in the old vision for the Lighthouse Christian Academy, the vision to save souls and disciple kids — my kids too! — through the school. So God did a miracle. The school grew 50% — an unheard of rebound. (I’m making a manual available if you similarly have a Christian school off the radar that you need students for to not close.)
Now, I’m starting a church in Van Nuys. It’s pretty gimmicky, but I’m calling myself the Valley Boy Pastor. I’ve had one family from my apartment complex come and a foursome of young adult ladies sign up. Just today, Brittany asked if I could go outreaching with them Saturday (I’ll be in Guatemala).
Whoa! Usually it’s the pastor who tries to get the church members to go to outreach, not the other way around. God is doing great things, and the joy comes in the fruit. I pray for my all blogging friends to enter into a season of great fruitfulness.
This is my message. This is my life. Come join us, as imperfect as we are.
Yeah, I can find so many better things to do with my time. And they keep giving you rules: what’s healthy, what you shouldn’t eat. Why don’t they let me lead my life the way I want? They’re so judgemental, hateful, hypocritical. What’s the point? Why do they try to force you to eat?
Sorry. Switch “eat” for “church” to understand my analogy.
Spiritual food is just as necessary, useful and delicious as physical food.
Gehazi panicked when he woke up and saw the city surrounded by the Syrian army. It turns out the entire military was bearing down on the city to capture just one man — Gehazi’s boss, Elisha.
For his part, Elisha wasn’t worried. In fact, he already knew about the manhunt. He also knew about the angel hunt. And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. — 2 Kings 6:17 NIV.
When Gehazi saw that they were not alone, he probably laughed.
He laughed more at what happened next. Elisha prayed and the Syrians were “blinded.” He himself went out to them and asked them who they were looking for. When they responded that they sought Elisha, he said, “He’s not here. I’ll take you to him.” And he led the entire army to another town, where he prayed their eyes be opened so they could see their mocked haplessness. The king of Samaria asked Elisha if he should imprison them or kill him, but Elisha said, “Nah, give them something to eat and let them go.”
Are you the only one in your family or workplace that’s a Christian? Do they gang-up on you and pick on you? Do you feel alone? You are not alone. More are with you than with them. Pray for the Lord to turn your torment into triumph.
There were reasons to NOT come to Van Nuys and start a church. It was far from Santa Monica. It was hot. The commute was bad. The list went on.
The first thing I noticed when I drove here to take up residence in my apartment were the palm trees. For some reason, I immediately associated them with the Promised Land. God was sending me to a Land Flowing with Milk and Honey. I would start a new church. His call and blessing would supersede all the negatives.
And so it has been. No one back in Santa Monica can believe that after only a few weeks, we already have one or more quality disciples. I can’t believe it either. We just believed God, and He is going to build His church.
Don’t follow the money. Follow the call.
Here in LA, freeways aren’t often “free.” They’re clogged and miserable.
Here on Earth, the free ways of sin aren’t either. Being “free” from God’s law makes you a slave to sin. You may persuade yourself you’re free and happy — but that doesn’t, can’t, won’t last. True freedom, joy and peace can be found only in Jesus.
The intelligentsia has done a wonderful job of publicity. They have barraged the public with a continual onslaught so that people believe that Greenland is actually green. Ha!
If you’re tired of the lies, come to Christ and enjoy true freedom.
One of things they hate the most about us Christians is we pretend to be better than we are. God hates that too; just look at when David condemned a rich man for stealing his poor neighbor’s sheep when David had slept with Bathsheba and killed Uriah.
Really, we’re no different than people in the world: they like on their resumes, we in our testimonies.
There are forces that push us to insincerity. One is that we cannot deny the Word even while we are not living it. The world says: I don’t criticize your sin; you don’t criticize mine. Even if Christians are in sin, they can’t verbally embrace it. To do so would be to renounce Christ. It’s better to be a failed Christian than not a Christian.
Another force is the pressure of ministry. A standard of conduct is required for any job. When we hedge that, it’s too easy to cover up. This is a universal tendency. “Hypocrite” is a quick and easy way to bash Christians. But in the Greek, a hypocrite is an actor. I live near Hollywood, and when a person calls himself an actor, it’s a compliment. Everybody on the planet is a poser. Not even Socrates was so sincere.
But having explained why Christians are insincere, I want to state that a push for sincerity will attract people. Ultimately, we are saved by grace, not by works. We are just as messed up as people in the world. We experience temptation and fall. We get back up, ask for forgiveness and try to serve Jesus again. A sinner has no one to turn to. We turn to Christ from the holes we fall in.
If you make an effort to be sincere, people will relate you. If all you do is brag about how good you are, you’re turning people off to you and the gospel. Not even Jesus bragged about how good He was, and He was sinless. To the contrary, he cracked down on the Pharisees pretended to be good in front of society but wanted to kill Jesus — now that’s what I call “hypocrisy.”
People resist the Bible because they can’t get the paradoxes. They feel like God is going to rip them off, that He’s a tyrant, a killjoy, a cruel taskmaster whose greatest delight is to snoop for mistakes and send lightning bolts — or pestilence, famine and bad luck.
If you don’t have a mind prepared to understand paradoxes, you’ll have a tough time. You’ll be snapping at God about “catches” and raw deals.
One of the great paradoxes is that we are in warfare. But the irony is that the way to WIN is to LOSE. When we surrender to God, we obtain victory on other fronts. When we fight against God, we lose on other fronts.
For 20 years, he’s patrolled the most dangerous, smelliest, grungiest disease-saturated section of Los Angeles, a one-square-mile on the edge of downtown called Skid Row where 2,000 sleep on the streets each night.
And Deon Joseph loves it because he gets to share Jesus. He’s never used his gun and has made more friends than arrests. He’s started mentoring and self-defense programs and even become a sort of spokesman to city officials about the need to address mental health issues.
“We need to be lights in dark places,” Joseph told Liberty University students. “If ever the world needed us to be a light, it’s right now.”
It’s only a 15-minute jaunt from the hipster-dominated financial district of downtown. But for some, the journey to Skid Row is a life of bad decisions that lead to the last way station before death.
“When I was 5 years old, I wanted to be a famous R&B singer,” Joseph said. “I did not realize my steps were ordered by God to be on Skid Row. I never thought I would be dealing with crack addicts, drug dealers, loan sharks, pimps and prostitutes.”
Joseph was born to Christian parents who, through the years, welcomed 41 foster kids into their household. His dad got saved when he mugged a preacher. He married his mom, dug ditches, collected cans, fed the homeless and started a construction business to give work to people like him, who had grown up in the Jim Crow South.
When Joseph finished his LAPD training phase, he volunteered for Central Division, not realizing it would lead him into the heart of darkness.
Skid Row is now being called the “homeless capital of America.” It’s the product of anti-police policies and NIMBYs (the acronym Not In My BackYard is for homeowners who wish to corral all the trouble-makers into one bad area of LA), Joseph said.
“I came from Venice where you have beautiful women, lattes and fine eateries,” Joseph remembered of his first day in Central. “And when I worked in Skid Row, it was as if I tripped and fell into Dante’s Inferno or Mad Max’s Thunderdome.
“There were rows and rows of people destroying themselves with crack and heroin, beer, having sex on the sidewalk, defecating on the sidewalk with a porta potty right next to them because the gangsters wouldn’t let them use the toilet,” he said. “The smell was a combination of blood, feet and fish. It grabbed you by the nose hairs and shook you.”
Despite the dehumanizing exploitation and the desensitizing constant crime, Joseph fell in love with the beat.
“Why am I in this place that could easily be compared to hades, and I’m comfortable?” he asked his mom. “My mom said, ‘Son, if ever you feel comfortable in chaos, it’s probably where God called you to be.’ On Skid Row I realized I was home.”
It was never easy though. On his first two months, he worked the front desk where he saw firsthand the mayhem.
“Every five minutes somebody was coming in with their arm broken backwards at 45 degrees, lacerated cheeks, swollen eyes,” he said. “One guy came in and his intestines were hanging out. And they didn’t want a police report because they were that scared of their attacker. All they wanted was an ambulance to whiz them away to the hospital.”
He formed friendships with mentally ill people – only to see them die tragically months later.
One such was “Hurricane Linda,” who knocked over desks at the station, ripped out phones and spat on officers. Joseph was nervous the day she came in like the Tazmanian Devil. Spotting him, she directed a laser gaze on him that made him even more nervous. Read the rest of the story.
“I am more and more convinced that our happiness or our unhappiness depends far more on the way we meet the events of life than on the nature of those events themselves.” ~ Wilhelm von Humboldt Today, if you can, lift someone’s spirit, you will become a better human being. We all can use a lift […]
Her own dad paid a hitman to behead her.
Maz looked for the right words to tell her dad, a staunch Muslim, that she had converted to Christ.
“It was so hard to forgive (my dad),” Maz said in her YouTube video testimony. “It was so heart-breaking to know that your own dad would do something like that.”
For much of Islam’s existence, the death penalty was the preferred punishment for “apostates,” and some hardliners still adhere to that iron-handed brand of justice.
Maz grew up in the UK under a strict and even abusive form of Islam until she ran away. Her sister, then a minor, was placed in foster care by the Department of Community Services, and for a time was under Maz’s care.
But the abuse is not what drove her to Christ. It was the demons.
“I’d be waking up in the middle of the night, and I’d feel like there was someone there choking me. I couldn’t breathe, she said. “Or I’d feel like someone there was stabbing me with a knife. I’d feel the pain – all sorts of paranormal activities that you can think of: doors slamming at night, I’d hear someone breathing next to me. It was absolutely terrifying.”
After she could stand it no longer, she sought help from people of every walk of life – but none could help her. She even called a sheikh. But then she spoke to a Christian friend, who brought a man practiced in spiritual warfare.
“As soon as he commanded every evil spirit to leave in the name of Jesus Christ, you could feel peace. You could feel the power of the name of Jesus Christ,” Maz said. “Something moved me from the inside. It was so powerful. His name is incredibly powerful and everything would just run. We knew there was something there (to Jesus), something very special.”
Confronted with the undeniable power of Jesus’ name, she began to attend Bible study to learn more about Jesus, but for her Islam-inculcated mind the gospel didn’t make much sense – especially the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
“How could God die?” she asked. “It was like a foreign language for me. I didn’t understand what it was all about.”
Whenever the demons returned, she would rebuke them in Jesus name and find tranquility. But one day she came home to find her sister in complete terror, and it took hours to convince her to explain. The demons had threatened that if the Christian man ever returned, they would exact revenge on Maz and her sister. Read the rest of the story.
It took a couple of weeks to complete our move from Santa Monica to Van Nuys. I let the ladies handle most of the decisions of what to throw out because if left to me, everything goes. I become a vicious minimalist.
But when our deadline came and went, it was time for me to take over and throw out a dumpster full of stuff that — in theory — we might use possibly once in our lifetime given the right conditions. When it comes to junk, I’m not very sentimental. (Why are we saving the wedding dress?)
The Great Purge of the Ashcraft household raised a question: How did we get so much junk?
When we got of the plane fleeing a life as missionaries in Guatemala, we had nothing. Just clothes. The church let us stay in the parsonage. People donated furniture and stuff so we could begin to eke out a life here in the lap of luxury. It’s been six years. Apparently the accumulation and consumerism has progressed unchecked all this time. I am a guilty party: I read, for example, that a water filter made for better coffee. I could never taste the difference.
All this stuff really doesn’t improve our quality of life. It doesn’t contribute to our essential happiness. Why did I buy into the lie that another thang is going to make me happy? How did incessant consumerism possess my heart? We can’t take it with us when we die.
This is the Valley Boy Pastor’s best strategy to pry his kids away from Santa Monica.
When God called me to Van Nuys (in the HOT San Fernando Valley), I was gung-ho. My kids? Not so much so.
It turns out, they kind of like the sea-breezy cool, upscale Santa Monica. For six years, we’ve called the city of my church, the Lighthouse, home. Now I’m re-activating in my calling but the barrio isn’t quite as nice — at least in terms of ritz. It’s been hard to convince Rebekah and Robert to come along. They keep trying to find ways to stay on Boardwalk and Park Place.
So these are my big guns. Eventually, I’m figuring, my kids will get hungry. And what better way to pluck them away with premium hamburgers?
I may be trying to win the hearts of men for Jesus, but first I need to win the hearts of my kids. Fire up the grill.
Don’t tell my son, but I threw out his collections book for the just-ended America Cup soccer tournament. The house is pell-mell with my recent Valley Boy Pastor move to Van Nuys, and I need less stuff to put away. He hadn’t purchased any of the stickers, which are expensive, and it’s not as fun after it’s over than when it’s about to begin.
Soccer star collections are fun because you can reminisce about past exploits and wonder who will overcome. People collect memorabilia about movie stars, famous war heroes and Anime characters.
There’s one star collection I will never throw out: It’s the Bible. The other collections are temporal. People debate who is the greatest soccer player of all time (Maradona or Pele) and speculate if anyone will ever do better. Most get forgotten. Time tends to do that.
Not the stars in the Bible. They continue to shine brightly as an example to us today, not only for their superheroic acts but also for the failings. By reading the Bible, we can deduce some mistakes to NOT make, we can emulate some good qualities.
After all, what is life really about? I think the soccer is only an entertainment.
There are boxes and piles around my apartment as I just completed my move to the San Fernando Valley to start a church. There 1,749 things that need to be sorted out and put away. But I’m not worried about any of them.
I’m worried about finding just one thing: the toe nail clipper. These are the misadventures of the Valley Boy Pastor.
The ridiculously mundane can crowd out Jesus. So easily I get stressed out or bummed out. Out of what? Out of the joy of daily relationship with Jesus.
There’s a lot to do and detractors prowling. It’s easy to forget Priority #1 among so many priorities. This is an appeal — to myself primarily — to keep focused on Jesus always as I plant a church in Van Nuys with the Christian Fellowship Ministries.
So said Saul to David, just before the shepherd boy cut off Goliath’s head in single combat.
Boy, nobody believed in David. Not his brother. Not his king. I guess Saul figure there would be nothing lost if David lost: You are not able. — 1 Sam.17:35
And then David went out and, with a stone and sling, showed he was able.
Of course, God was behind the miracle. The story of how David sunk a stone in the giant’s forehead is actually the first laser-guided projectile. Yeah, God was the laser guidance system.
And the giant fell down. And David ran to him, took his own sword and cut his head off.
The Philistines, who no doubt were thinking David wasn’t able, panicked and ran.
The next time someone tells you you’re not able, laugh and go out and do it in the power of God.
As a Palestian boy, Mosab Hassan Yousef hurled stones at Israeli tanks and ran from bullets on the West Bank. But misgivings about the intifada arose when he saw Hamas leaders torture fellow Palestinians in an Israeli jail.
“Those people I was hoping would bring justice, happiness to earth by creating a global Islamic state were torturing their own people. They were suspicious that someone was giving information to the Israeli interrogators,” Yousef said in a YouTube video.
“They were torturing their own people without mercy, much worse than the Israelis. One question arose, why do I hate Israel for torturing me and why don’t I hate Hamas for torturing their own people? What my enemy was doing made more sense than what my family and closest friends were doing.”
During his jail sentence, Yousef, then 18, signed up to work as a double agent. He did so thinking he would infiltrate and exact revenge on Shin Bet, the Israeli version of the FBI. But as he witnessed more and more Hamas’ brutality, that plan got scuttled and he collaborated with Israeli intelligence to foil Palestinian plots. He worked to stop senseless deaths on both sides.
He agreed to betray his countrymen on the condition that the Israelis not assassinate but only imprison. He even betrayed his father, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founder member of Hamas.
“I was the person that put my father in prison. I was working against his organization to destroy the idea of violence.” Yousef said. “If he’s outside, he was going to be assassinated. The safest place for him was in a prison.”
From 1997 to 2007, Yousef halted assassination attempts against Israeli leaders and put high-ranking Hamas leaders behind bars.
After a cab driver invited him to a Bible study, he was confronted with Jesus’ injunction to love your enemy. “That made perfect sense,” he said. From his birth, he had been drilled to regard the Israelis as his enemies.
Leaders of the Bible study gave him an Arabic-English Bible. At first they didn’t know his terrorist connections. As he searched and questioned, he eventually accepted Jesus as his Savior, and in 2005 he was secretly baptized in Tel Aviv.
“The religion of my people is a fake religion. It’s a lie. The god of Islam is a liar,” Yousef said. “I hope that I am not offending anybody. This is kind of dangerous to say, but I have studied Islam. My family started the Islamic Revolution in the Middle East. That was our business. This is still my family’s business. After almost 20 years in Islam, I tell you that Islam is going nowhere. My family, my people are suffering the most because of this false teaching.”
On the eve of the release of his autobiography Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices, his father disowned him in 2010.
“I am hopeful that one day we will talk,” Yousef said. “What’s between me and my people, what’s between me and my father, is the god of Islam. This wall. If I can destroy this wall, I will do it with the power of love and the power of my God. I have been paying a very high price because they consider me politically incorrect.” Read the rest of the dangerous life of Mosab Yousef.
Shimei was bad — or so I always thought.
He cursed King David in a moment of weakness. From his own house, David faced rebellion. As his son Absalom worked a coup d’etat, David fled. Shimei pelted him with stones and insults at that time. Shimei was a relative to the former king.
So when the coup collapsed and David returned to assume the throne, Shimei was the first to hustle to ask forgiveness. And he was granted it. (2 Sam. 19:16-23)
Shimei is a picture of grace. We shouldn’t resist coming to God. We shouldn’t be lackadaisical or half-hearted. We are dead dogs with no hope. Run, don’t walk. Get God’s grace quick. Don’t fight it. Don’t retrench. Let’s humble ourselves quickly and repent.
Availing ourselves to the love of God now is the only logical human response. I’d always seen Shimei as bad because of other parts of his story. But this time through the Bible, I got stuck on this one good part.
You don’t need a fancy building. As a matter of fact, a fancy building can be the ruin of a church. Where does the New Testament say Christians focused on buildings? In the first century, they met in homes, next to river and then in catacombs.
All you need is the Spirit and the Word. These two activate all the elements that comprise “church.” They — not American luxuries — bring revival. Revival is not getting a fancy building. Revival is the Spirit moving on the hearts of many men.
I got a building once, in Guatemala (so I’m not speaking from a poverty mentality of resentment and envy; I’m speaking from experience). I believe the building has its upsides. But now that I am starting a church in Van Nuys with the Christian Fellowship Ministries, I want to stay as far away from that headache as possible. I want to follow the Acts example. I want the Spirit of God, not a storefront church.
I know a church in Africa that has met under a tree for eight years. It is a church, people congregate, disciples are being raised up, the word is preached with power, transformation is being done, and they have no building. After the building comes the improvements. We end with the Sistine Chapel, gaudy gold and Michelangelo, void of Spirit. Money that should have been spent on getting souls saved is diverted to personal comforts.