Monthly Archives: December 2018

Fathers and sons win in Creed II

gn-gift_guide_variable_cI cried for the villain in Creed II. His father didn’t abandon him.

Viktor Drago, the son of Rocky IV villain Ivan, challenges the world’s heavyweight champion Adonis Creed. Ivan was a terrifying boxing machine with an intimidating deep voice, the product of the Soviet athlete-production plan. When he lost to Rocky in the 1985 film, he lost fame, fortune and his wife.

He trains his son relentlessly. Inevitably, he’ll match up with Rocky’s “adopted” son, Creed.

181124 creed II_resources1Creed II follows a predictable come-back. What’s not predictable is the development of the father-son relationship theme that has much to teach Christians.

Adonis, the protagonist, gets adopted for training and mentoring by Rocky in the first movie. He’s the illegitimate son of Rocky’s old nemesis Apollo Creed and never knew his real father. While Rocky prepares Adonis for the big fight, Adonis helps Rocky fight cancer behind the scenes.

3691In Creed II, the father-son theme gets developed. Rocky abandons Adonis for the first matchup, which he loses. He reconciles for a second matchup, which Adonis wins. Meanwhile, Adonis has a deaf daughter, and Rocky re-starts his relationship with his real son and grandson.

But the biggest sensation is when Viktor loses. When his dad, Ivan, lost 28 years ago, his wife abandoned him. Ivan trains Viktor with a revenge drive. Viktor is destined to regain respect for the family.

CREED IIThen he loses the bout.

A super short scene of father and son jogging together is the most touching of the movie. The heartless abandonment that happened to Ivan did not happen to Victor. It’s a strange twist in which the antagonist becomes the protagonist. Fathers and sons win.

Creed II can help America with its failing fathers.

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Spanish-speaking black rapper was spit on as a child

propaganda christian hip hopPropaganda always felt like he didn’t belong.

Born in south Los Angeles, the Christian hip hop sensation was raised in the West Covina area where Latinos were predominant and violence prevailed. He couldn’t join the gang because of his color.

“I was the one black kid, being teased because of my color, getting chased home, getting banged on when we’re walking home: ‘Where you from man?’” he says on an I am Second video. “I’d recognize (the) homie. And I’d say, ‘Paco, what are you talking about? I live two streets from you.’”

propagandaThen Propaganda, whose real name is Jason Petty, moved to the suburbs, where he felt like the poor kid among so many Caucasians.

“We were these weird black people that spoke Spanish,” he says. “They didn’t get us.”

His dad had been a Black Panther in the 60s, energized by fighting police brutality. Mom and Dad eventually got divorced.

Propaganda began attending church. Of all the kids, he felt God the most intensely.

propaganda family christian hip hop artist“I was getting convicted,” he says. “I felt like God had split the roof open and was talking to me directly.

Moved by the power of the Word and the Spirit, he was born again.

He was disappointed when his friends didn’t get it. “The guys at my age, I remember them not being affected at all. It tripped me out because I felt like nobody else felt like that. But in my mind, it went back to just the same way I grew up: I’ve been ‘the only’ my whole life. So if I’ve been ‘the only’ there, I’ll be ‘the only’ here.”

He never missed church, and mom forced him to take notes on the sermons. She wanted to make sure he was listening. People saw his sensitivity to God and predicted he’d be a pastor.

propaganda jason pettyBut he wondered about where he would fit in best — with the church boys, the college-bound students, or the tagging street thugs. What he really liked was not the typical man things; he liked art.

From the sixth grade until his junior year in high school, Propaganda examined his life and tried to figure it out.

“I always felt like I don’t belong,” he says. “Whether I was born the wrong color, in the wrong neighborhood, in the wrong decade, to the wrong parents. I was not an alpha male. I was an artist. I would draw all the time. I wrote poetry.”

Finally, his father tipped him off to Jeremiah 1:9 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” and to Psalm 139:14 “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” These verses helped Propaganda to accept himself as exceptional and different from everybody else, a unique gift from God to the world.

“It was there that I finally realized my value is not determined by some innate, particular quality that I have,” he says. “No, your value is because God was willing to pay the cost of his Son for you.” Read the rest of the story Propaganda hip hop

Steven Malcolm overcomes adversity to become hip hop sensation

steven malcolmHis father was a drug dealer, his mom an alcoholic, and his sister a stripper. So Steven Malcolm started life with a few strikes against him.

He grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and then Tampa, Florida. Malcolm’s dad got busted for dealing drugs and was deported to Jamaica. Mom, who struggled with drinking, moved back to Grand Rapids, Michigan, when he was in the fifth grade. His sister drifted into a life of easy money based on her looks.

“I raised myself. I call it the school of hard knocks,” he says in his video “Watch.”

steven malcolm cerealHis two main passions growing up were basketball and chasing girls. He memorized Snoop Dog lyrics and slid by with a 1.7 GPA in high school.

Malcolm wanted to play on the local community college’s basketball team, but the steady stream of partying interfered with his studies and he didn’t earn good enough grades to get on the court. In his first year at college, his mom moved away and he felt like an orphan, abandoned and adrift.

“Going into my freshman year of college, stuff just really hit the fan and life really smacked me across the face,” Steven says on his website. “My family was going through hard times and then I started having an identity crisis where I was looking at life and wondering ‘what am I here for?’ My grades were horrible that year, so I couldn’t play ball. My best friend and I fell out and my mom ended up moving, so I was really lost.”

steven malcolm watchThen a high school basketball buddy invited him to church. Steven had never ventured into a sanctuary of Christian worship, and the prospect put him off. But he felt so abandoned, and his friend said he would find The Edge Urban Fellowship relevant.

“I’d never stepped foot in a church before. Now I’m thinking I’m going to have to pick up my pants, it’s going to be boring and nobody’s going to speak my language, but then he told me it was a hip-hop church, and since I had nothing to do that night, I thought ‘okay, sure, why not?’” Steven says. “And it was like a breath of fresh air that just smacked me in the face.” Read the rest about Steven Malcolm Christian.

Rapper 1K Phew says shooting attempt brought change, appreciation for Christmas

andy mineo christmasFor Christmas this year, hip hop artist 1K Phew can thank God not only for the gift of eternal life, but just plain life.

That’s because he narrowly survived being shot to death. It was the turning point in his life that caused him to reexamine what matters most.

1K Phew, whose real name is Isaac Gordon, was raised a Christian but started getting into trouble in his teen years.

“What really got me in a real-deal relationship with Christ was when I got in a real bad situation where I got shot at,” he says on video for Jam the Hype.

“I was fortunate enough not to get shot. Once that situation happened, I knew right then and there that if I kept doing the things I was doing, I was going to end either dead or in jail. So I had to make a decision right then and there as to what I wanted to do.”

1K PhewHe surrendered his life to Jesus and was born again.

He says Christmas has always been special time of year for him and his family.

“When I was in school, I was getting in all kinds of trouble. I got through all the whuppings. When Christmas came, there was a certain spirit that came in the house,” he says. “Christmas was the time of year we all did things together. We all came together as a family. No matter what happened throughout the year, getting ready for Christmas was so powerful to let us know that we could still have joy, no matter what we went through

the gift a christmas compilationRecently, 1K Phew released a Christmas carol album on Reach Records.

Yes, you read that right. Christmas carols a la hip hop. In a world where fusion food marries irreconcilably different styles to tantalize the palette, why would this seem strange?

Even Reach Record’s Senior Director of A&R couldn’t envision such a union. “Honestly, I wasn’t sold on Christmas and hip hop,” says Lasanna “Ace” Harris on a Youtube video. “I thought Christmas and hip hop don’t go together.

“The only way this could work if you take classic Christmas songs and re-imagine them. We wanted to dial back on trendy sonics and put more nostalgic, lo-fi sound with warm textures. We pulled back to the classic vibe of hip hop because I felt this album was going to be something timeless.”

There’s plenty of “re-imagining” of such inmortal classics as “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night” on “The Gift A Christmas Compilation.” The 116 Clique does much more than just repeat lyrics to new music, as so many artists have done before (making country carols or Hawaiian ukulele).

Reach-Records-1000x750They actually enter new terrain with new lyrical concepts, and the vintage carols are reduced to a motif in their rendition. The result is refreshing and original, a mixture of pop music, rhythm and blues, gospel and rap. But unlike most “new” Christmas music, Jesus shines through like the old. Read the rest about hip hop Christmas carols.

From zero to hero

overcoming adversity into goalJordan Sheppard was the hero Wednesday as Lighthouse Christian Academy attempted to hold back the tsunami of Newbury Park Adventist Academy in co-ed soccer.

That’s because the inexperienced goalie parried countless shots.

“His hands must be hurting,” the referee quipped after the game.

Jordan, 17, appreciates the chance to play. Had it not been for Lighthouse opening its doors, Jordan says he’d be on the wrong path in life.

“Without Lighthouse, I think my life would be somewhere on the lines of being in jail or about to go to jail — or dead,” Jordan says bluntly. “One of those three.”

Lighthouse lost 1-6. Without Jordan’s class act in the box, it would have been worse.

But even when it loses, Lighthouse is winning — with what matters most.

los angeles private school soccer goalieIt’s stories like Jordan’s that people LCA’s fabled history. As a Christian ministry, LCA prepares the college-bound, and at the same time it reaches at-risk youth. Understandably, not all succeed, but the stories of those who do are pure gold.

Coach Junior Cervantes was a similar story; from a Pacoima street tagger he turned into a college student, outstanding husband, son-in-law to Senior Pastor Rob Scribner of the Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica.

In terms of pure sports, Wednesday’s loss was an act of revenge. Newbury has been a league champion and a tough rival for Lighthouse. For the last three or four matchups, LCA has managed to get the upper hand.

The Gators were anxious to best the Saints. They fielded a top-notch team that moved the ball with precision and speed. They harried LCA all over the field. The Gators came ready to bite.

So unrelenting was their offense, the Saints were driven back to their half and only defended for most of the first half.

Coach Junior had to re-adjust at half time to offer some counter attack. Hosea Ashcraft pulled a foul outside of the box, fired the free kick around the wall bending it low on the far post for a consolation goal.

It was the Saints’ first loss of the season in four games in CIF Southern Section’s Omega League.

While the results were disheartening for the Saints, the game was nevertheless exhilarating. That’s because Newbury, playing at a high level, raised the level of the Saints players. The best way to get better is to play against better teams.

The supporting cast of non-soccer players got takeaways. They would have to work on ball control, improve on their passing, use their brain more in terms finding their position on the field. They need to use less touches and execute quicker.

As a newbie before the net, Jordan had to learn too. But the hulking 6-footer was up for the challenge and came off like a pro. How did he learn how to dive and perform the acrobats to frustrate Gator shot time after time?

“I just watched videos and I learned from different coaches. They all taught me what to do,” Jordan says. “I just go with the flow. People tell me what to do and I accept it and I learn from my mistakes.”

After learning to escape the unforgiving streets, learning goalie is easy. The senior credits a higher source for his own personal beating-of-the-odds.

“I didn’t do anything. It was all God. It was because of the friends He gave me,” Jordan says. “It was because of the stepping stones that He put in my life and the different achievements. If I wasn’t at Lighthouse I don’t think I would be a Christian and having so much fun playing.”

‘How do I get off drugs?’ Ask Christian Leyden

christians with tattoosChristian Leyden always had a struggle when he was a boy.

His father wasn’t around when he was younger, so his mom was the only father and mother figure around, and she had to work two jobs to keep Christian and his brother safe and maintain a home for them.

When he was in third grade he would send his mother suicide letters saying he didn’t want to live anymore.

“I started fighting a lot, getting angry with a lot of people,” he says on a YouTube video. “There was a lot of damage here and there not having my father around.”

This depression continued for three years.

broken homes and sin“I started listening to metal music, hip hop music and all this death metal music and all this music that started to get strong in my life,” Christian recounted.

In his teens he succumbed to cultural influences to party, do drugs, get women and to live a wild and crazy lifestyle.

Christian was always a person who wanted to be accepted, so a lack of friends angered him. But one day when he went see to his first high school football game, his older brother’s friends asked him to smoke weed and hang out with them.

“Just because they wanted to hang out with me, I was like, ‘Heck yea man I wanna hang out with you guys,’” exclaimed Christian.

Since he cared so much about their approval, he would pretty much do anything “friends” asked him.

christian leyden“Three months into me smoking and drinking, I ended in a psych ward for telling my family about me cutting myself for years,” he says. “I just went through different stages in my life.”

For eight years he was in and out of institutions.

He drank while attending Alcoholics Anonymous. He took meth, Xanax, pills and heroin, despite going through rehabs and living in halfway houses.

When Christian got locked up in jail, his new life began. Read the rest: How do I get off drugs?

She ran from abusive step dad, wound up with a pimp until a Christian family adopted her

sex trafficking in america.pngJadyn’s mom was a meth addict who died when she was in high school in 2010. She lived with her step-dad, who abused her.

A teacher found out and called Child Protective Services. Jadyn moved in with a friend of her mom’s family.

But when she came home late from school one day, the woman got upset and kicked her out.

Jadyn slept outside of her school for a few days. An acquaintance from school approached her: “If you need somewhere to stay, you can stay with me and my boyfriend,” according to a YouTube video by Exodus Road, a sex-trafficking ministry.

“Where else am I going to go?” she thought. It was a house with four or five other girls living there.

human slavery in america“This is my boyfriend, Joker,” the acquaintance introduced her. “He’s gonna take good care of you.”

Joker seemed very nice. He took Jadyn out to movies and to get her nails done. He bought her new clothes.

One day when she was sitting on the couch, Joker asked her, “We’re going to go out for a little bit. Do you want to go out with us?”

“Sure,” Jadyn responded.

With another girl in the car, they pulled up to a motel. They went into a room, and the other girl started talking to a man about sexual things.

“I’m starting to catch on,” Jadyn recalls. “Things are starting to click in my mind. And I’m like, ‘That’s why you were so nice to me.’

Exodus Road and sex exploitation

The couple who eventually adopted Jadyn

Jadyn shrank with fear as she watched the other girl strip. Then they had sex.

“I’m looking at Joker, and he’s sitting there with a blank face as if it’s something normal,” she recalls.

“After everything’s finished, and he pays her, Joker sits down and tell me, ‘I’m not asking you to do what they do. But I’m asking you to sit in on every appointment that we go on. I don’t want you living here just for free. This will be you’re way of paying me back.’”

Thinking she had no alternative, Jadyn obediently sat and watched every “appointment” for the next three months.

“The first couple of times was really hard for me. But after a while it was just a thing we did,” she says. She even saw an 11-year-old girl taken advantage of. “When you don’t have anywhere else to go, you do what you have to do.”

An estimated one out of six runaways become child sex trafficking victims; 86% of them were under the care of Child Services or foster care when they ran away, according to Exodus Road. There are currently 57,700 victims of human trafficking in the U.S., ringing up $99 billion for the exploitation industry.

Of course, things got worse. At one “appointment,” the man in the room fixed his eyes on Jadyn.

“I want her,” he said.

“I’m not doing this,” Jadyn responded.

He pulled out a handgun and pointed it at her head.

“I’m sitting there crying on the floor,” Jadyn recalls. “He’s telling me I’m going to do this thing for him, and I’m like, ‘I guess I am.’”

Later at the car, Joker revealed his endgame. Everything was just preparation to influence her to become a sex slave too.

Joker told Jadyn, “I hope you didn’t expect to live here and not do anything for us.”

She was crying. Her mind was playing different scenarios and outcomes for her life. Girls told her that she would have to get drunk or high to perform the exploits that men demanded.

“So I’m going to be a drug addict just like my mother,” Jadyn surmised. “I love my mom. I really did. And I saw her struggles. And I saw the way men treated my mom, and I told myself that that wasn’t going to be me.

“But I didn’t have anywhere else to do,” she says with tears, remember the pain of the moment.

Joker went into his room while the girls talked about the trauma of the man who pulled a gun on Jadyn.

For a long time, Joker didn’t come out of his room. The long time got even longer — to the point that finally the girls decided to go in his room and see if he was ok.

“Basically, I’m pretty sure he overdosed. He was foaming at the mouth,” Jadyn says. “I’m thinking it’s fight or flight. I left. I slept on the streets again for a couple days.”

She roamed the streets always looking for a place to stay.

Eventually she found a friend who invited her to church.

“I go to church and I meet this family. We met twice,” Jadyn says. “They told me they were interested in adopting me. I had a lot of disbelief because of all the things I’d gone through.” Read the rest of the story of Christians helping resolve human trafficking.

Bachelor endured ridicule but waited till marriage for sex

sean_loweSean Lowe had some serious misgivings about appearing on the Bachelor reality T.V. show. As a Christian, he worried his testimony might be tainted by the ambiance of contestants drinking and fornicating.

When he said he would wait until marriage to have sex after appearing on the show, he cleared up doubt among Christians — and he unleashed a maelstrom of criticism in the secular media. He was roundly ridiculed as the “virgin bachelor.”

“Never in a million years did I think I’d do a cheesy reality TV show about love,” he said later on the “I am Second” video series.

His sister set him up for it. Sean, who floundered with an investment business, got a call from the LA area code one day out of the blue. They wanted him to audition for “Bachelorette,” the “reality” show in which through weeks of dating on some remote tropical site a single woman filters through dozens of aspirants to finally get engaged to one.

“I had no idea what (the lady on the phone) was talking about,” he remembers. “I didn’t know if it was a joke.”

When he tracked down the source of the call to his sister, he confronted her. “Listen, I have no desire to be on a reality TV show, and I certainly don’t want to subject myself to all the public criticism.

“Guys go on there and get drunk,” he says. “And there’s the fantasy suite and sex and nudity, and it just didn’t seem like something that represented me.”

After waffling, he opted in because he was persuaded by the opportunity to travel and see more of the world on the expenses-paid show. He had bankrupted a financial services firm and was miserable in the family’s insurance company. “I just wanted a free vacation,” he said.

He started at a mansion with the other guys in North Carolina, then traveled to Bermuda, London and Croatia. Since he only went in for the travel, he was blindsided by the feelings of romance that bubbled up in his heart during the times he “dated” the bachelorette.

“After six weeks of being on the show, I knew I loved her,” he recalls.

But, in front of 7 million viewers, the girl chose Sean’s competitor. He was broken-hearted.

“I couldn’t understand why God opened the door for me to be on this reality show, to fall in love only for it to end like this,” he says. “I could not understand why He led me to heartbreak.”

Sean returned downcast to Dallas.

Six weeks later, the executive producer called and offered him the chance to appear as the bachelor in the next series. This counterpart version of the “Bachelorette” show is the same, only this time 25 girls vied for his affections. He starred in the 17th season of the show in 2013.

If he had misgivings about being on Bachelorette, he had real apprehension about being the lead of Bachelor.

“Dating 25 girls at one time felt wrong,” he says. “What if I’m harming my testimony? What if people look and me and they say, ‘This is what is wrong with Christianity. He’s professing one thing and he goes on TV and he’s doing the opposite.’” Read the rest about Sean Lowe the virgin bachelor.