Monthly Archives: August 2017

Burning Man evangelism of a different kind

160907084704-burning-man-art-cars-5-super-43It’s not the tie-donning, Bible-toting crowd that heads to the Nevada Desert to evangelize at Burning Man, the art hipster festival that draws more than 50,000 for a blistering week on the dry alkaline lakebed.

No, it even draws Christian iconoclasts who flout church conformity. Styled on the born-again hippies of the Jesus Movement, these guys see beyond the largest pagan cult gathering in America. They see misguided souls thirsting for truth.

jesus-crossBurning Man, for the uninitiated, is religion for the religion-less. From Aug. 27 to Sept 4, “Burners” camp in Black Desert and revel in alcohol, drugs, biking, electronic dance music and unbridled hedonism. The bacchanal culminates when a gigantic wooden centerpiece – or temple – is burned in effigy on Saturday night.

The celebration has elements of religion: ritual, a code of conduct and a sense of community. But there is no clear focus on a deity.

phil wyman

Phil Wyman, aka Gandalf/Indiana Jones

This is where Phil Wyman comes in. A Christian pastor who reaches out with love and acceptance to the witches at the Halloween fest in his native Salem, Massachusetts, Wyman is long-haired preacher who’s been described as a cross between Gandalf and Indiana Jones.

Wyman, like other Burners, erects an interactive art display with a message that seeks to activate a quest for true spirituality. In 2011, his Pillars of the Saints honored Simeon Stylite, the ascetic pole-sitter who sought to connect with the Spirit through a radical disconnect with this world.

746984168Wyman’s messages are suggestive, not authoritative, which is why they resonate with the lost souls at Burning Man but they also raise eyebrows among straight-laced Christians who want a more orthodox message. Wyman employs the Socratic method and gets people thinking by asking questions.

“I wondered why Christianity had not typically embedded itself into these festivals, why we weren’t among the leaders of new cultural developments and wildly creative thought,” Wyman wrote in Christianity Today. “Certainly God is wildly creative—enough to find his way into human hearts in other cultures around the world.”

burning-manOne church from Ohio became famous for passing out waters, which is pretty handy in the scorching heat and dust of the desert. It was a way of showing the love of Christ in a practical way.

There have been Christians who dress like Jesus and carry the cross.

Burning Man is a ripe harvest field for out-of-the-box evangelism. Read the rest: Christians at Burning Man.

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Wut? Floyd Mayweather a Christian?

floyd mayweather v pacquiaoFloyd Mayweather is better known for dogged defense, precision punches, trash talking and unconscionable greed. He’s less known for his relationship with Jesus Christ.

But in fact, the provocative pugilist – who will face Conor McGregor in the boxing ring Aug. 26th – is born-again. It’s not something he hides – or pedals.

“God is first in my life,” he declared unequivocally.

640_2015_05_03_13_19_50Mayweather was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with seven siblings sardined into one room. Both his mother and father struggled with drugs. His dad was a dealer and spent time in jail. There were heroine needles in his front yard and an aunt died of AIDS, infected by a dirty needle.

Dad was also a boxer and took Junior to the gym all the time. He didn’t take him anywhere else – not ice cream, the park or movies. Mayweather felt pretty much on his own, though his dad disputes this claim.

170714-teeman-mcgregor-mayweather-tease_onqkfb“I basically raised myself,” he said, according to Wikipedia. “My grandmother did what she could. When she got mad at me, I’d go to my mom’s house. My life was ups and downs.”

Boxing became Mayweather’s safe haven, a place where he could forget the sadness of his life and release his frustrations with aggression. He developed uncommon speed and a sixth sense of ring awareness that accelerated his rise in the boxing ranks.

He dropped out of high school and won 84 out of 88 amateur matches. Since going pro following a bronze medal in the 1996 Olympics, he hasn’t lost a fight and has surpassed the likes of Mohammad Ali and Mike Tyson as a five-division world champion.

mayweather-1His nickname as an amateur was “pretty boy.” He was so good defensively that opponents had trouble landing punches, leaving him scar less. But Mayweather dropped this moniker in favor of “money.” He posts videos of himself counting rolls of money and boasts unabashedly about his money.

“I got a 14-passenger jet. Got to give them another reason to hate, but I will motivate the people that are ambitious and want to be winners in life,” he wrote. “I’m materialistic, and I’m motivated by money. But God is first in my life.”

God was in his heart, but he reveled in the roll of the villain. He taunted opponents and glowered at them. He was convicted of beating his girlfriend. He strutted around with the pride of a peacock.

“Floyd Mayweather represents everything that’s wrong with sport and celebrity,” The Telegraph trumpeted in an article that lambasted him for 16 paragraphs, landing jab after jab. He “worshiped money and himself.” He’s misogynistic. He’s a boring fighter, spending more time avoiding than landing blows. His nickname “Money” sucks, and Australia wisely denied him a visa to visit the country, the article claimed.

His fight against Manny Pacquiao was “evil versus good.” Pacman (a much cooler nickname, the article asserted) was mom-loving and God-fearing, a rags-to-riches kid… Read the rest of the article Floyd Mayweather Christian.

She dedicated her life to help women after suffering Post Abortion Syndrome herself

post-abortion-syndrome-westside-los-angelesYears after having three abortions, Maria Field suddenly found herself numb, her emotions in disarray at a time she should have been joyful – her recent engagement to be married.

“I didn’t think my past affected me emotionally,” she said. “It took God to show me that this was the wall in my life that I needed to deal with. I needed to work through the loss and find forgiveness and healing.”

Because of her experience, Maria started a licensed family counseling practice specializing in Post Abortion Syndrome, something unrecognized by the medical community that bears striking parallels to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

teen-cryingSince opening her office in 1995 in West Los Angeles, she’s seen hundreds of patients. Some of them are coming to terms with their decision to abort 40 or even 50 years earlier. Others come to see her immediately after an abortion. Even men can suffer Post Abortion Syndrome because they are participants in initiating life and its deliberate termination.

“These people experience anxiety, depression, low self esteem, flashbacks and even suicidal thoughts,” Field said. “They have triggers. Sometimes it’s a sound that reminds them of the procedure. Sometimes it’s a song that reminds them of their partner.”

The syndrome has not been recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (fifth edition), or DSM-5, but not because it’s a bogus condition concocted by pro-lifers, as the secular media suggest.

Rather, the disorder simply lacks clinical studies in the same way PTSD lacked clinical studies and was not officially recognized immediately following the Vietnam War, Field said. It is hard to find subjects willing to offer themselves as subjects of study, which may re-open painful wounds.

the childless wifeTypically, women who abort adopt some coping or defense mechanism to suppress the grieving over the loss of a child, Field said. In her own case, her successful busy life, studies and professional career provided her a sufficient cover.

She was in denial about what happened. But she stopped going to church with her mom because church made her cry, and she didn’t want her mom, who didn’t know about the abortions, to ask why she was crying, she said.

The coping mechanism worked for 15 years. Then she planned to get married and suddenly a host of long-suppressed emotions surfaced like a boiling cauldron in her heart. At first, she couldn’t figure out what was wrong. But she had studied for her master’s in psychology at Pepperdine University, so she was in tune enough to start connecting the dots.

Eventually, she realized she needed therapy and drove once a week to Newport, the only place she could find a therapist who would deal with the issue.

“I realized, ‘Oh my God, this is a big issue!’” she said.

Even among Christians, who supposedly oppose abortion because of the belief it is murder, abortion is prevalent. Young girls feel the shame of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and think it will be too much burden for them or their family – so they choose the easy way out. Read the rest of the article: post abortion syndrome.

Christian band Bread of Stone nearly broke up, but a trip to Indonesia changed their hearts

Bread of StoneA funny thing with the indie band Bread of Stone: When brothers Ben and Bill Kristijanto felt called to start a music ministry, neither of them could play a single lick of music.

Today, they have opened for the likes of the Newsboys, Petra, Crowder, Sanctus Real and Building 429, among others. After recording two albums, they released their third, The Real Life, with DREAM Records in 2013.

“We were stones before being called into music ministry (useless and incapable) and only because of Jesus are we made into bread to feed the hungry in this world and share his love with others,” Ben told Cross Rhythms.

bread of stone brothers indonesiaAnother fun fact about the Sioux City band is that they live double lives: one in America and another in Indonesia, where they were born and where they support ministry to the poorest of the poor, chiefly Muslims who scavenge through trash to subsist. They are constantly flying to Indonesia and supporting projects to raise money for society’s outcasts and standing up for the persecuted church.

“We are not out doing this to make a name for ourselves,” said Bill. “We have never set out to make a statement of ourselves as artist. We are able to do so only through God’s grace.”

‘Service before self-ambition,’ their website proclaims.

Ben is the lead vocalist while Bill plays guitar. The are joined by Tim Barnes on bass and Jason Ferris on drums. All four band members grew up in Christian homes.

bread of stone handcraft itemsThe “calling” to start Bread of Stone in 2004 didn’t come to the brothers but their dad, Nehemia Kristijanto. Born in 1951, he is the eldest son of his family living in Jatibarang, a small town in West Java Province, Indonesia, according to New Covenant People on Blogspot.

In 1970 he studied engineering in West Germany and returned to Indonesia in 1979 with his degree. But he felt led to stay with his parents and not seek employment as an engineer. Instead, he started a powerful ministry. He moved back and forth between America and Indonesia until 1992, at which time he settled definitively in America. Today he supports his sons’ music ministry.

“We didn’t come from a musical family and had never played any instruments, but once we heard the call from the Lord, we started taking music lessons,” Bill said.

In 2015, Bread of Stones gained attention with their hit single “Porcelain.”

As the group began to gain significant recognition in 2011, they went through a crisis, teetering on the brink of dissolution. The once inseparable brothers began arguing about everything, Bill admitted on a YouTube video. Read the rest and find out how Bread of Stone saved their band.

Fired because of creationist views, university scientist fights back

soft-tissue-dinosaur-bones-and-evolution.pngCSUN scientist Mark Armitage found soft tissue in a dinosaur bone, a discovery that throws significant doubt on evolution. Then, two weeks after publishing his findings, he was fired.

Now California State University at Northridge has paid Armitage a six-figure sum to settle his wrongful termination suit based on religious discrimination. While the university admits no wrongdoing, Armitage’s attorney said they feared losing a protracted lawsuit because of a “smoking gun” email that backed the plaintiff’s case.

mark-armitage-csunThe case of Armitage is the latest to show the mounting hostility Christians face in academics and other public arenas.

“Soft tissue in dinosaur bones destroys ‘deep time.’ Dinosaur bones cannot be old if they’re full of soft tissue,” Armitage said in a YouTube video. “Deep time is the linchpin of evolution. If you don’t have deep time, you don’t have evolution. The whole discussion of evolution ends if you show that the earth is young. You can just erase evolution off the whiteboard because of soft tissue in dinosaur bones.”

Triceratops-Horn-dinosaursArmitage was hired as a microscopist to manage CSUN’s electron and confocal microscope suite in 2010. He had published some 30 articles in scientific journals about his specialty.

A graduate of Liberty University, Armitage adheres to the “young earth” view, against the majority of scientists who say our planet is 5 billion years old. He engaged students in his lab with Socratic dialogue over the issue of the earth’s age based on his and others’ research, he said.

triceratops-skeletonIn May 2012, Armitage went on a dinosaur dig at the famous fossil site of Hell Creek in Montana, where he unearthed the largest triceratops horn ever found there. Back at CSUN, he put the fossil under his microscope and made the startling discovery: unfossilized, undecayed tissue was present.

If the dinosaur were 65 million years old, the soft tissue could not have possibly remained, he says. His findings seconded groundbreaking discoveries by noted molecular paleontologist Mary Schweitzer, who triggered an earthquake in the world of paleontology when she published about soft tissue in dinosaur bones in 2005. (Schweitzer subsequently postulated that iron is responsible for preserving the soft tissue.)

Armitage’s February 2013 study was published in the peer-reviewed Acta Histochemica, a journal of cell and tissue research. Two week later, he found himself without a job.

A biology professor had come into his office and said, “We are not going to tolerate your religion in this department.” Read the rest of the story about soft tissue dinosaur bones CSUN’s Mark Armitage.

Infertile? Ha! You don’t know my God

identical-twinsEverybody thought I was dead.

When a truck plowed into my car that fateful night, it pushed my crushed car all the way into the gas station. It finally came to rest just shy of hitting the gas pump.

By the grace of God, I survived. But, according to the doctor, I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant. The steering shaft had been driven into my abdomen and pierced my ovaries. The doctor explained that I should be grateful just to be alive. (This story is written by a mother at our Christian school in Santa Monica.)

a-match-made-in-heavenFor some reason, I had it stuck in my mind to have three children through two pregnancies. Of course that I meant twins.

As the doctor was explaining the cold hard facts with kind words, I didn’t pay too much attention. My faith was placed in Jesus, not on medical science.

barren-to-blessed“Don’t worry about that, doctor,” I told him. “I will have two pregnancies and three babies because I asked Jesus for them, and I know that he will give me my children.”

I was released from the hospital a week after the accident. At the time, I lived in Florida. An immigrant from Guatemala, I came to America already a Christian. I got involved in a church where they taught you to pray with faith. And I never stopped praying.

At age 30, I married a godly man named Mauro Ivan Arango in December 1993. In September the next year, Jafet, my firstborn, made his entrance into the world. He was truly a miracle baby. My doctor couldn’t believe it. Read the rest of the incredible infertility story.

Christianity exploding in Iran despite efforts of government to stamp it out

Christians-mark-2014-at-Sarkis-Church-in-Tehran-4-HRChaffing under repressive Islam, young Iranians are secretly turning to Christ in record numbers, and Iranian-born Shahrokh Afshar wanted to be part of the revival. So he filmed 13 programs for young people and offered them to SAT7, which broadcasts Christian programming into Iran via satellite.

“Iran is 25% 14 years or younger. Iran has the largest number of drug addicts per capita in the world. Alcoholism, prostitution. The economy sucks; it’s like 15% unemployment,” Afshar said. “Life is very very hard for the average young Iranian. There wasn’t much being done as far as programs are concerned to reach out to these kids.”

christians-in-underground-church-in-iranIran has the fastest-growing evangelical population in the world (estimated at 19.6% by Operation World in 2015), despite an atrocious human rights record against people who abandon Islam, according to Christian Today. In fact, the explosive growth has overloaded the religious police.

A network of underground home churches thrives, and at least six satellite stations broadcast Christian programs continually into Iran. Afshar personally knows of 400 house churches with 5000 members. The number of Muslim converts to Christianity was “a handful” before 1971. Now, it is perhaps 1 million.

Afshar’s program, “Clear Like Glass,” cost him $3,000 per episode. Each program includes a funny skit and a frank interview and discussion of taboos in Islam. What people usually hide, Afshar brings to light. He conducted research about his target audience and found they didn’t want just preaching.

Christians in Iran“Clear Like Glass” is being shown over and over again, at least twice a day, Shah said. He is preparing to film another 13 programs.

After the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, Afshar joined three Egyptian pastors and one American to drive from Turkey to Baghdad and find pastors whom they could help. The fact-finding mission was fruitful. He connected with pastors from Iran and even gave them training in Turkey.

“My contacts tell me that they walk into a party and tell people they are Christian, and boom, they have an instant audience. People want to hear more about Christ. It’s very very easy for them to share,” Afshar said. “Of course, it’s dangerous. They can end up in prison very easily. But people are read the rest of Revival in Iran.

Leader of first Iranian church in America got saved after bargaining with God over grades

Iran ChristiansFlunking out of engineering at Pepperdine College, Shah Afshar contemplated suicide as he faced the fact that he was failing his family in Iran.

“The pressure of trying to make it, being the oldest son in the family, and trying to make an honorable name for myself and thus bring honor to my family, I very nearly committed suicide, because I was bringing shame to my family,” he said.

But Shah, whose full name is Shahrokh, fell in with a group of ex-hippies.

“They had two things that were very lacking in my life. They had peace and joy,” he said. “When I asked them, ‘what makes you different?’ They told me, ‘We’ve become born-again.’ They were followers of Jesus Christ.

new-tv-show-shazam-factor“Of course, that really offended me, coming from a Muslim background. I began to argue with them because I believed I had Mohammad, the greatest and the last prophet in the world. Who were they to tell me that a second-class prophet named Jesus was better?

“But I couldn’t deny the fact that they had something I didn’t have,” he added. “And as long as I was around them, I could experience the peace.”

Because Islam was deeply ingrained in his life, he retrenched and became a devout Muslim. But the suicidal broodings haunted him everywhere – except when he hung out with the Christians.

“They continued to love me and accept me,” he said. “And they would take me to their Bible studies – where I would never understand what is going on. I kept going because I couldn’t deny the fact that they had something I didn’t have.”

He was invited to a Thanksgiving dinner. The father prayed for the food. “That really touched me,” he said.

On the way home, Shah cried out to God.

“Look at me, I’ve tried Mohammad, I’ve tried Ali, but I want to kill myself today,” he said. “Then I said, ‘Jesus, if you’re really who these people tell me you are, I’ll accept you if you give me good grades in school.

“I had no idea who Jesus was. I didn’t believe he was the Son of God. I didn’t believe he was divine. I certainly didn’t believe he died on the cross. I just knew that if anyone could get me out of the mess, it would be him. I had nothing to lose. So I called on him.”

Part of accepting Jesus was a condition. “I said, ‘Jesus, I’ll follow you if you give me good grades in school.” It was a “feeble and theologically wrong” prayer, but God met Shah at the encounter.

A month later, he was expelled from college, but he still Read the rest about Iranian Christians.