Category Archives: Christian leadership

When the voodoo lords tried to kill him, Nestor Kouassi had to pray and stand up to them

nestor kouassi christianity vs voodooNestor Kouassi had seen the voodoo priests and witches do unutterable things: make statues move, bury people alive who later come out of the jungle, send bird spirits to kill enemies.

So when he accepted Jesus in 1997 and started what became a high-stakes spiritual battle with them in his town of Houndjohoundji, Benin, it was a fearful thing.

“A lot of people didn’t like it that we were calling with fire and praying all night,” Nestor says. “They threatened us they would kill us. They make false accusations. Anything to get us in trouble.”

Nestor got introduced to the gospel even when there wasn’t a single Christian church in his village of 1,400 people. His nation, Benin, is renowned for being the worldwide birthplace of voodoo. Even the name of his village was a satanic incantation.

voodoo ritualPeople feared the voodoo lords. Christianity couldn’t crack the town.

But then one Christian, a certain Mr. Lawson, when he came to visit his mom in town from time to time, would preach and share the gospel with anyone who wished to listen.

“We would mock him,” Nestor remembers. “People would insult him.”

Then his best friend, Cyrille, accepted Jesus to get cured of a nasty, prolonged stomach pain. Cyrille was a “rough man” who would steal and fight for nothing, so when Nestor saw an authentic change in him after two weeks, he became convinced.

“He completely changed,” he says. “I said, ‘If this guy can change, there must be a God. I want to get to know that God.’”

HoundjohoundjiBut Cyrille didn’t remember the “sinner’s prayer.” So they just read the Bible together 4-5 hours a day. After one week, Nestor was born again.

“Something happened in my life, and I knew that I knew that I knew that I had met the man Jesus,” Nestor recalls. “It felt like a liquid fire going through my soul, and all of my fears of witchcraft and voodoo disappeared and the river flowed from the inside.”

The nearest church was seven miles away. When they couldn’t attend service there, they devoured the Bible together. After two weeks, they were inspired to share their faith.

“We could not hide it anymore. We took to the streets and wanted to share with people our new discovery: Jesus of Nazareth, woo!” he recounts, relishing the memory.

The power of Jesus began to be proclaimed and demonstrated with healing miracles in town, and the town chief and ruling class — all priests and witches of satanic magic — didn’t like the competition.

“Our preaching was met with hostility like you’ve never seen before,” Nestor says. “What made them furious is that we would pray for people and they would get healed. People would say, ‘If you’re sick, go to the Jesus guys.’”

V4Another friend, Valentin, converted and the three friends read the word and ministered in the streets together. But nobody else dared cross the powers of the town and join their group, even though they viewed them favorably.

The prayers of Nestor and his friends began to disrupt the voodoo power, he says. So the witches attacked them.

“They didn’t want real Christianity. It disturbed them,” Nestor says. “They wouldn’t be able to operate anymore. If we’re calling upon Jesus, there is a power struggle. The witches cannot operate when we are calling upon Jesus.”

The witches had a technique they called a “spiritual gun,” and the victim target of their incantations would writhe in pain from what felt like shards of glass cutting his insides. But the gun didn’t work on Nestor and his buddies, he says.

The priests had a special “founder drum” that when they beat it and pronounced their incantations, lightning would strike the targeted victim even when there was no thunderstorm. Again, it didn’t work.

For six or seven years, the arm-wrestling match continued. Nestor was going to high school in the biggest town in the area nearby, Grand-popo. He would face off with the voodoo priests on weekends and vacations.

The voodoo festivals began to misfire. Things didn’t work. The supernatural tricks fizzled. The town was abuzz with the goings-on.

“People began to question the witches’ power,” he says. “They said, ‘These Jesus guys must have something.’ They were scared. They listened to us, they admired us, but joining us was a real problem.”

Tensions were rising and the threats were increasing. When the chief witch threatened Nestor’s mother with her son’s death, Nestor went to confront him. He found all the witches together in their afternoon gathering in the public place.

“They told us they would reduce us to nothing. I told them nothing would happen,” Nestor remembers.

“In this battle, you will definitely see Jesus,” he responded to their threats. Find out what happened in this power struggle between this new Christian and voodoo witches and priests in Benin.

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Fentanyl: the killingest drug yet


Hi guys. I’ve been teaching health class at the our private Christian school in Los Angeles, the Lighthouse Christian Academy. Naturally, I have been researching for the units, including the latest on drug abuse. The emergency of fentanyl alarms me. So this video is to increase awareness. From the internet, it looks like there is hope for fentanyl addicts, but there are some scary stories too. The easiest way to get off is to never get on.

Born-again Palestinian pastor holds hope for Israel, Palestine

Sameer.DabitAs a Palestinian born-again pastor in Los Angeles, Sameer Dabit sees himself as a bridge-maker.

“My dad grew up with a lot of wounds, so I grew up with the mindset of hating Jews and hating Muslims,” Sameer says. “When I got saved at age 16 and started reading scriptures for myself and learning more about God and history, I started to realize, ‘Hey wait a minute. I shouldn’t hate anybody.’”

palestinian pastorSlowly, he began to form his own convictions about what he believes.

Sameer’s Arab father was born in Palestine in 1948 and was forced to move when the Jews took over the newly formed nation of Israel. So he resented the Jews.

But as an orthodox Christian, he also resented the Muslim Palestinians who subjected him to cruel jeering and constant antagonism in school, Sameer says.

When he came of age, dad decided to leave behind the nightmare of the Middle East, move to the United States, study and make his life in L.A. He worked hard at the front desk of a hotel, saved his money and bought properties.

Sameer got to know the simmering anger in his father for the injustices suffered, but he identified himself first and foremost as an American. He changed his name to Sam so that it was easier for classmates and elicited fewer questions about his origins. He loved football.

“I assimilated to America,” he says. “I identified myself more as American than Palestinian.”

kingdom reality LAThen he did something that went beyond his newfound cultural identification. He accepted Jesus into his heart.

At a basketball clinic run by a church, he liked the dynamic music, heard about the forgiveness of sins and wound up wondering why this environment was drastically different from the reverence and mysticism of his family’s religious practice.

Joining the born-again Christians in America created conflict with his dad, who wondered why his son left their church, got re-baptized and hung out with evangelicals who supported Zionism.

“It started to bring an interesting conflict between my dad and me,” says Sameer, now 31. “I was trying to help him understand that I understood where he was coming from. Whatever someone had done to him or his family, I don’t agree with. He was abused. But at the same time, I believe everyone has a right to a place to live, and at the time, the Jewish people were distributed around the world and suffered the Holocaust. That wasn’t right as well. They did need a place to live. Israel needed to be established again, and obviously that was Biblical.

“It was an interesting balance that I had to help him understand,” he says. “That’s why my perspective is interesting because I love the Palestinian people. I love the Jewish people. I love the Muslim people. I love the Christian people. I love that place.

“I desire to see Jesus restore it all. I know ultimately He will when He returns, but I believe He’s preparing His bride to receive Him in Israel as well as everywhere around the world.” Read the rest about Palestinian pastor thinks peace in Middle East possible through Jesus.

Pastor overcomes tragic accident, paralysis, to lead vibrant ministry

harold and mona warner door tucsonHarold Warner was driving back from a failed pastoral assignment when he hit a new patch of asphalt sprinkled with fresh rain, and his orange Dodge Colt spun out of control, went off the side of road and rolled down an embankment.

The car roof caved in, paralyzing him. Within nine months, the 23-year-old ex-hippie shifted into a new, dynamic pastoral assignment, this time in a wheelchair.

beginnings of ministry of pastor harold warner“Everything in my life was disrupted permanently. My world was turned upside down,” says Warner. “But my relationship with God didn’t change one bit. His grace, His presence never wavered. I had confidence that God was in control in my life.”

Today, Pastor Warner’s church, which he charged into as an idealistic young man, has grown to over 1,000. The Door Church in Tucson moved from a humble stucco and adobe building to a massive facility.

Affiliated with Christian Fellowship Ministries as a church planter, Warner and his leadership team have planted 750 churches worldwide.

pastor harold warner bicycleHow did he avoid the trap of blaming God for the inexplicable tragedy?

“A lot of things happen in life that you don’t have control over,” Warner says, as he considers the destiny he might have missed. “I kept going forward with a combination of faith, naiveté and confidence.”

When he was a young man, Warner liked hockey so much he went to the University of Connecticut specifically to play for the team. But, like so many other young people of the 1960s, alcohol and drugs beckoned, and he dropped out of school, grew his hair long, wore torn jeans and hitchhiked to Woodstock.

Being a hippie didn’t live up to “the propaganda of love,” he says. “The one thing that prevailed was the aimlessness.” Read the rest of Harold Warner The Door Church Tucson.

The upside down pastor

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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.

Loneliness, a great fear

loneliness

In Ender’s Game, Col Graeff isolates the child military prodigy: He must never think others will come to help him. He must find within himself the resources to solve his problems and triumph. In the end, the traumatizing “training” pays high dividends. Ender brilliantly defeats the buggers, who twice threatened to wipe out humanity. But the dividends come at a high cost: Ender can have no friends.

I loathe loneliness. I long for friendship, love, acceptance. Why must I face rejection in the place I expect to find love? Does God want me to learn to depend only on Him?

God made us to be social creatures. We thrive on affirmation. Without it, we can spiral. Social interaction can either help us serve Jesus or — depending on our friends — pull us away from Jesus. This is my basic ministerial tenet: give friendship to people and show them the way to Christ. Truth is critically important, but most people are not Socratic. They’re looking for friends, not truth.

Jesus associated himself with the despised: the prostitute, the tax collector, the leper. He touched a leper. That was forbidden by the law. He broke the law of God to grace an affection-starved human being. In medical terms, he risked getting sick to show love.

The church should not have outcasts, pariahs or blacklists. If it does, it approximates more the religious order of the Pharisees than of the disciples.

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.

Suspicion is not proof

It looks like this was a production in England. I gather this is the part where the conspirators smear Caesar's blood on their hands to celebrate their

It looks like this was a production in England. I gather this is the part where the conspirators smear Caesar’s blood on their hands to celebrate their “victory over tyranny.” But Brutus got it wrong.

Brutus broods. He strongly believes power corrupts. So he worries his friends, Julius Caesar, has given way to ambition. Brutus believes to save the Roman Republic, he must kill his friend in Shakespeare’s play.

Never mind that Caesar thrice has refused the crown. Never mind that when the Brutus and the conspirators bow before Caesar supposedly making a petition (really, they just want to get close to knife him), Caesar begs them to rise and speak as equals. Never mind the facts. In the mind of Brutus, Caesar is guilty, so the noble thing to do is kill him.

Brutus believes too much in his own character. He believes he is invariably right. So from accusing his friend, he passes to conviction, without bothering to trifle with evidence.

This hurts.

It is normal to be suspected of wrong-doing at any given moment. But if the authority doesn’t bother with evidence but simply convinces himself and lashes out at you, it hurts.

If you are in Christian leadership, you should exercise much wisdom:

  1. Always use the lightest correctionary discipline possible, not the heaviest.
  2. Be suspect of “revelation or confirmation of the Holy Spirit.”
  3. Be aware of your own personality and flesh and how that might color your judgement.
  4. Use grace. Forgive others.
  5. Don’t insist on having your way but look for God’s.
  6. Allow the Holy Spirit to rule the church. You are not the Holy Spirit.
  7. Know that the Pharisees exceeded their authority and punished the innocent (Jesus). Don’t join the company of the Pharisees.

Hope these tips are helpful.

* A word about this image: Not mine. Not making $ on it.