Category Archives: Christian love

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.

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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.

Youth group rejected him, so he turned his back on God

But God brought Dr. Paul Lim back

atheist became Christian Dr. Paul Lim

By the time he got to Yale University, it wasn’t the logical arguments that made him turn his back on Jesus. It was the way kids in the youth group had marginalized him.

More often than not people’s problems with Christianity don’t have to do with intellectual hang-ups but with the stories of hurt, stories of rejection, stories of people who are supposed to embody the gospel in a compelling and endearing way, they end up doing the opposite,” says Dr. Paul C. H. Lim.

As an immigrant at age 15 from South Korea, he went to a Korean church in Philadelphia with his parents who previously were non-religious but sought support in their transition to America. Even though young Paul gave church the benefit of the doubt, he quickly realized he was being ostracized.

The youth pastor ran a Friday night program he called Triple B — Bible study, Burger King and bowling, but Paul was ignored and sat alone, ate alone and bowled alone.

Paul-Lim“I wasn’t wearing the right clothes. I didn’t speak the language. I didn’t have the right haircut. I didn’t play the right sport. I wasn’t part of the cool crowd. I was part of the loser crowd,” he says. “The worst experience was to bowl alone. I would always pray that there would be an even number of kids so that somebody would join me, but when we had an odd number of kids, I would find myself alone on the lane.

“Why wouldn’t the youth pastor come over and bowl with me occasionally?” he adds. “Coming to America was a traumatic experience. But in church, I felt the alienation even more.”

So when his parents drove him to Yale, he was looking forward to ditching God and zeroing in on “hedonism and careerism to the core.”

“I was excited that I was getting the heck away from the church, and I was so excited that I was going to plunge headlong into this intellectual pursuit of the good life,” he says.

When his gray-haired New Testament professor said, “The Bible is a wonderful book but it’s not the kind of truth that you want to hang your life on,” Paul needed no more nails to shut the coffin on his Christianity.

He was an economics major set on making his mark in the banking industry, having a house in Long Island with two kids, two dogs and a cat.

But then his sister got engaged to a seminary student, this bewildered Paul.

“Why would you ever want to marry a guy going into ministry?” he wondered. “It was the oddest things I ever heard. To me, he was loser guy. Secretly, I hated him.”

But Paul’s mom was a vibrant believer, and she always asked him if he was going to church. Over winter break, she cajoled him to do the last thing he would’ve wanted to do with vacation. She asked him to go to a Christian retreat because his brother-in-law would be a speaker.

Paul rolled his eyes and dreaded it. But because he adored his mom, he acquiesced..

Read the rest of Dr. Paul Lim Christian.

He threw a bottle at his rival’s head. His rival responded with gunfire.

chris bassett Jesus saved from gangsChris Bassett’s first interaction with God started when he attended a Christian karate class at age 8 or 9 years old at the Harbor Church in Lomita, California.

The class started with 20 minutes of Bible study and a call for salvation before the free karate lessons. One day, Chris felt like the pastor was talking directly to him, so he raised his hand at the altar call to receive Jesus.

“I felt the Spirit of God come down and descend on me like electricity through my body,” he recalls. “I remember walking away from that experience feeling cleansed, brand new. It was so tangible to me.”

He wished this was the end of his testimony and that his path to Christ was that simple, but it was not.

In later years, Chris entered junior high school and began feeling “super cool.” He slowly forgot God.

He got involved in a gang lifestyle, which was easy since a lot of friends and family were in the gang.

“It looked glamorous. The glamour was a lure,” Chris says. “These men I looked up to had a way of carrying themselves that was attractive. They had the nicest cars, the prettiest women, money, power, respect. If you grew up in the hood, you knew who was running the block. It was something exclusive. You had to prove yourself through violence. Once you were in, you were accepted, loved in a way. I knew my boys had my back. If I had any trouble, with just one phone call, I knew I had a carload of goons kicking down the door for me.

But as he participated in the gangster life, he became aware of the downsides.

“The reality of (gangs) is a nightmare. At the heart of gang-banging, I truly believe, (there) is a murderous demonic force, full of death and destruction,” Chris says. “I’ve been to many funerals. I’ve lost a lot of friends and family to that lifestyle, shot dead in the streets. I shot my first man when I was 15. I can still hear my ears ringing from the gunshot. I can still hear him screaming and praying to God. I can still see the blood pouring out of his head like a waterfall, so much blood that I could taste it in the air.”

Incredibly, his victim survived, and Chris fought a reduced attempted murder charge.

“That was just the beginning of my crimes in my gang-banging career,” he says grimly.

Chris not only shot but got shot at on numerous occasions. He’s been stabbed. He’s spent time in jail. He lost friends. Worse, he realized he was losing yourself.

There wasn’t one single moment that brought him to God, but progressively, Chris feels, God was “opening his eyes.”

One of those “opening eyes” moments was when he chased down an enemy and threw his Corona beer bottle at his head. The enemy responded by aiming the barrel of a gun straight at him in a red light on Western Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway.

“I almost got my head blown off,” he says. “I could say now that by God’s grace I survived that because if you could’ve seen the car, everywhere where my head was, the car was blown out. It was a big gun, one with thunder. It was probably five or six seconds. But time slows down through those things. I remember ducking and telling my friend to go, and I remember seeing glass flying.

“I had just kissed my son goodbye because he was going to his mother’s house. I remember coming out of that situation.”

But that incident alone was not enough to wake him up.

He began reflecting soberly about the possibility of dying and leaving his kids fatherless. In the streets he was a monster, but with his kids Chris played the part of a good father. His family was sacred. He pondered the discrepancy between the way he wanted to raise his kids and the way he was living in the streets.

“I remember thinking about my daughters,” he says. “I remember thinking how can I tell them not to smoke weed and I come smelling like Christmas trees?”

What scared him most was not the scrapes with death, but the frightening numbness towards the horrors of his own evil heart. Now, he thinks he was becoming like Pharaoh, whose heart got progressively harder until he was crushed under the Red Sea

But he still didn’t return to the Savior of his childhood because he liked smoking weed and sleeping around with girls. It took him a year.

At a funeral, he had another powerful reflection. Everybody was saying nice things about his fellow gang member.

“I remember thinking, ‘None of these things were true. He was a monster,'” Chris says. “I remember thinking, ‘What about my funeral? What will they say about me?’ I didn’t want my life to be a lie. I wrestled with that. I started negotiating with God.” Getting saved out of gangs.

Former Neo Nazi Ken Parker now attends black church

ken parker white supremacist now christianA year ago, Ken Parker marched with the Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, putting feet to his affinity with the white nationalist movement. Since then, he’s gotten saved, repented of racism, gotten baptized and attends an almost all black church in Jacksonville, Florida.

“When we make it to Heaven, Heaven’s not just gonna be one race. There’s gonna be all kinds of races up there,” says Pastor William McKinnon III of the All Saints Holiness Church where Ken and his fiancé attend.

Ken started riling up racial hatred when he got out of the Navy and couldn’t land a job. He found a scapegoat in minorities.

from hate to love, racist to redeemedFirst he joined the KKK and ascended up the ranks to become the Grand Dragon Master. But the white-hooded men who burned crosses weren’t racist enough for Ken. So somewhere in his six years out of the Navy, he joined the Neo-Nazis.

The Charlottesville, Virginia, protest was supposedly to save historical monuments but it quickly flared into violent clashes that left one person dead.

“It was thinly veiled to save our monuments, to save our heritage,” Ken told NBC news. “But we knew when we went in there that it was gonna turn into a racially heated situation, and it wasn’t going to work out good for either side.”

Neo nazi saved in black churchKen spilled his virulent hate with proclamations of “white power.” He hated Jews and gays too.

But he started having misgivings when interviewed by a filmmaker documenting the white nationalist movements. Those doubts culminated in a 180-degree reversal when his neighbor, a black pastor, invited him to a barbecue. After chatting with people at the end of the pool party, Pastor William invited Ken and his fiancé to church.

Ken thought it was worth a try.

white black loveWhen he showed up he found that he, his fiancé, and another church member were the only three white people in the 70-person congregation. As he listened to the worship music and the sermon, he found his heart softening.

That morning he accepted Jesus as his Savior and Lord and was born again — completing the transition from racist to redeemed!

Ken gave his testimony one day before the congregation.

“I said I was a grand dragon of the KKK, and then the Klan wasn’t hateful enough for me, so I decided to become a Nazi — and a lot of them, their jaws about hit the floor and their eyes got real big,” Ken remembers. “But after the service, not a single one of them had anything negative to say. They’re all coming up and hugging me and shaking my hand, you know, building me up instead of tearing me down.” Finish the story Neo Nazi saved in black church.

Ukraine ministry rescues children dumped into poorly run orphanages

Nita Hanson God's Hidden TreasuresIn 1997, Nita Hanson was a prosperous employee in Thousand Oaks. Then she went on a short-term mission trip to the Ukraine.

It broke her heart and changed the direction of her life. She saw crib after crib of babies and children crammed together in dim rooms.

“That’s when my heart broke open. I knew then that I couldn’t leave,” she told the Simi Valley Acorn.

Gods Hidden TreasuresNita saw babies with special needs being dumped into ill-equipped and poorly staffed public orphanages. She witnessed handicapped people who had no real hope to ever receive mobility devices. If you were poor, there was little chance of finding help.

She decided to abandon the American Dream and pursue God’s dream. She was divorced and her two kids were grown. She was free from commitments, so she committed herself full time to the Lord’s work.

Today, Nita, 77, runs three orphanages in Bila Tserkva, Ukraine. Her ministry, God’s Hidden Treasures, has teamed up with Christian athlete superstar Tim Tebow to stage events to help some of the neediest people in Ukraine. She provides wheelchairs and walkers; people who otherwise would have been enclosed in four walls forever may now go out and breathe the fresh air and bask in the sunshine. Her group sponsors medical home visits and supplies food and basic needs.

Staffed by mostly Ukrainians, her people seek to create life-long relationships with orphans and other families.

Lori Hall in UkraineLori Hall of Ventura County recently joined Nita on a short-term mission group.

“I was thrilled to join the Impact Team as we set out to listen, learn and serve the ministry of God’s Hidden Treasure,” she says. “We sought to be humble servants as we went to other cultures, to share Jesus’ love by listening to the people, learning of their concerns and serving them in Jesus’ name.”

Lori spent 12 days assisting doctors and pastors with in-home health visits, delivering necessary wheelchair or mobility devices and helping with an annual citywide picnic evangelistic event for over 300 handicapped persons. Her group ran a Vacation Bible School for teenage boys with special needs living in an orphanage, a highly anticipated event. Not much is done for these special needs people, so it’s significant that this group makes a concentrated effort to focus on people sidelined by society.

“I was most impacted by the great love, tenderness and respect everyone showed to each and every individual,” Lori noted. “Jesus and His love was everywhere as people’s lives were blessed and changed forever, whether by receiving their first wheelchair or walker, by being touched with loving hands and hugs or finding new life in Jesus’ message of truth!”

In 15 years, God’s Hidden Treasures has delivered more than 6,000 mobility aids across Ukraine, her website says. When she provides a wheelchair as a gift, she tells the recipient it is “because God heard your prayers.”

They’ve come a long way from the original three wheelchairs brought on a Delta Flight to the Ukraine purchased from China in conjunction with Joni and Friends USA. Read more about God’s Hidden Treasures.

Hip hop artist finds help to leave lesbianism, marries

jackie hill perry overcoming same sex attractionOne of Jackie Hill-Perry’s first gender confusion memories when was she was in the 1st or 2nd grade.

“I just distinctly remember wanting to be a boy, wanting to be the dominant role in any type of relationship,” she recounts on a CBN video.

Today, she’s a Christian hip-hop artist with the label Humble Beast.

When she was little, she went to church with her aunt every Sunday growing up. Seeing her aunt’s life and always hearing about Jesus, Jackie formed early convictions about who He was. But she also suffered sexual abuse as a child, and this contributed to her gender confusion, according to Wikipedia.

jackie-hill christian hip hopJackie was always attracted to women. “It was just underlying temptation,” she says.

At age 17, she finally decided to act on the same-sex attraction.

She went to a homecoming dance at a different school than hers and it was the first time that a female was flirting with her. “It felt natural.”

She attended gay pride parades and went to gay bars. She enjoyed it, but never felt a “deep soul” satisfaction. Every time she had a girlfriend she would tell them they were sinners.

“I know this is not right to know so much about the truth about God and then to continue to live contrary to it.”

jackie hill familyWhen she was 19 and alone in her room, she felt as if God was showing her that the sins that she loved would kill her and she’d die and go to hell.

“It’s a heavy weight to know that you’re a sinner and God is holy.” As she began to relate to biblical truth, she recognized she needed to initiate a relationship with God through simple faith and belief.

She had a conversation one night with God and told him she had no desire to be straight. God told her he would be able to change her desires.

She started thinking about all her bad habits: stealing, drugs, pride, anger, arrogance, and drunkenness.

But all the “fun” in the world couldn’t outweigh the punishment of hell. “Everything was not worth it.”

Read the rest of freed from lesbianism.

Marijuana-smoking Shiva devotee could only get free from weed through Jesus

IMG_6354From a very young age, Nepal-born Surya Bhandari had a fervent desire to please the Hindu god Shiva. Because Shiva smoked marijuana, Surya sought to please him by smoking weed himself — starting at age 8.

Then in the sixth grade he learned about the dangers of tuberculosis and cancer from smoking and began to question the wisdom of the god. Also, kids at school started pointing at him as a “bad kid” for his cannabis consumption.

“In my little mind, I started thinking, ‘Why do they call me bad?’” Surya remembers. “‘This great god Shiva smokes marijuana. Why would they call me bad? Is it really bad? If I am bad, then this god Shiva is bad. If he is bad, is he really a god?’”

Surya's as a boy

Surya as a young man

He belonged to the priestly Brahman class, but he turned his back on Hinduism, called himself an “atheist,” started using other drugs and alcohol.

“This Shiva destroyed my life,” he reasoned. “I’m not able to quit smoking marijuana. Someday I’m going to get TB or cancer and I’m going to die, and this god is responsible.

“I became so angry.”

One day he had a dream of being chased by a tall figure clad in a white gown. He thought it was a ghost. It scared him so badly that he didn’t want to go to his usual taekwondo that morning and instead decided to distract himself by reading one of his older brother’s books.

His older brother had either left home or been kicked out — he wasn’t really sure — because he had secretly become a Christian and was attending underground meetings somewhere downtown.

As Surya thumbed through the volumes on the bookcase, he happened to pull out a slim volume, opened it and saw — to his utter surprise — a picture of the same white-clad figure. Suddenly his fear abated, and he continued to read eagerly. “It was God, not a ghost,” he concluded.

Nepalese refugees

Surya with his family today in Los Angeles

From that moment on, he wanted to become a Christian. But attending a church was no easy matter in those days in Nepal. Carrying a Bible was a crime worse than drug trafficking.

But Surya was determined. He begged an old friend of his brother to tell him where he could find the underground church that his brother attended. The young man was backslidden at the time and didn’t want to say anything. But after days of begging, Surya got him to relent and give him some rough directions.

The first chance he got he went eight miles away from his village to Pokhara. He liked the songs and listened intently without understanding much of the sermon. To his surprise after the service, nobody approached him or talked to him to explain things, and he was too shy to ask.

christianity nepal

Revival in Nepal

Maybe people were afraid of the strict anti-proselytizing laws. They could get into a lot of trouble if they were perceived as trying to convert someone. Also, some may have been cautious, because a newcomer might be a spy from the police.

But Surya didn’t understand all of this at the time. It seemed to him that God’s people were indifferent. The next time Surya went to church it was the same. Nobody talked to him. So he quit going.

Then he did something that brought great shame on his family. He flunked out of school. His parents scolded him constantly and his brothers beat him.

So he took to the streets. He would leave before anybody woke up. He would come home, entering through the window, after everybody was in bed. HIs grandmother always saved him some food.

He tried but found that he couldn’t quit drugs. Everybody in town called him a bad kid. Even the principal of the school saw fit to take him aside and rebuke him for bringing shame on his family.

All this was too much for Suryam and he began to contemplate suicide.

“I loved my father so much. I did not want to bring shame on my father,” he says, reasoning to himself at the time: “If I can’t bring a good name for him, I have no right to live.”

He decided to throw himself off a cliff and into a river near his town. Read the rest of Chrisitanity in Nepal

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.

Overcoming overeating in Christ

michelle-aguilar-biggest-loserMichelle Aguilar was 18 when her mom told her she was leaving her dad. She was devastated. Wasn’t her life with Christian parents supposed to be perfect?

Michelle cut off communication with her mom and her insecurities grew. To internalize the rejection and depression, she turned to eating sweets to boost her spirits.

“I didn’t know what to do,” she says on an I am Second video. “I didn’t know how to deal with my pain or the confusion that I was going through. I think when you’re at a place where you’re kind of out of control with a lot of things, it’s an easy step to turn to food.”

michelle aguilar marriedShe gained weight steadily, always hiding behind a million dollar smile. She reached 242 pounds.

As a Christian, “I knew I couldn’t turn to drugs or alcohol,” Michelle says. “Food was acceptable and it gave me a sense of control. (But) it becomes a guilt thing. You realize that you’re eating, and you’re feeling bad while you’re eating, and it’s just making it worse.”

Mom remarried and took Michelle’s two siblings. Michelle was left alone with dad.

Then a co-worker told her about The Biggest Loser reality TV show, in which overweight contestants worked out to see who loses the most weight, and the “biggest loser” wins $250.000. Michelle auditioned and was rejected the first time, but producers called to include her in the new season.

michelle aguilar smileIt had been six years since she talked to her mom. Dad suggested she participate in the program with her mother, who had also gained substantial pounds. Perhaps their participation might break down the walls between them. In this edition of Biggest Loser it was teams, parent-child or husband-wife.

“I really felt like God was saying, I’m going to give you an opportunity to start over and change from the inside out, and this could be the option if you’re willing to do it.”

But there were mixed emotions. Re-connecting with mom appealed to her, but Michelle viewed her as “the source of my pain, the source of my weight gain.”

She charged into a rigorous physical regimen like a would-be winner. But then she chipped her tooth. Her smile had always been her shield. It projected an image of self-confidence even when she was crying on the inside. It was her only defense against shame, and now it was gone.

“I felt like somebody had stripped away that armor, and said, “No, look at you. You’re smile is gone now. What are you going to do?’” she says. Finish reading how to overcome overeating.

Special ops marine, MMA fighter fights for his marriage

Chad Kathy robichaux“You killed me.”

As a police officer, Chad Robichaux once had to grapple with and overpower a man barricaded in his home in a domestic dispute. When the man struggled for Robichaux’s gun, the officer fired at him six times as the man’s children and wife screamed hysterically.

It wasn’t the only time Robichaux was traumatized in his use of deadly force. The MMA champion also killed as a Special Operations Force Recon Marine during eight tours of duty in Afghanistan.

Mighty Oaks helps veteransThe killing left his mind and heart a wreck, his marriage a shambles, and his soul a wasteland. If it weren’t for the intervention of a Christian man who invested in him and nurtured him back to psychological health, Robichaux might have ended his life like so many of the PTSD victims he tries to help through his Mighty Oaks Wounded Warrior Foundation.

Robichaux recounts the horrors of waging war on evil both in America and abroad in an I am Second video.

When he arrived on the scene of the domestic dispute, there were 30 people standing around outside the house.

help vets with ptsdThe wife was screaming, and the man had barricaded himself in the back bedroom with his gun. Robichaux and his partner entered the house and began searching from room to room. They found the man and demanded he drop his gun. He refused to comply, so Chad moved to disarm him with force.

“I step towards him and I grab the barrel of his rifle and I pushed it away from me and I kicked him in the groin,” he remembers. “When I kicked him the second time he grabbed my hand. I realized at that point that I had to save myself and my partner. I shot six times.”

His partner hit him with another five bullets, and the suspect crumpled to his knees.

He looked at Chad: “You killed me.”

Of course, the violence was justified and necessary, but still Robichaux couldn’t just forget the images of blood all over him. He couldn’t shake the fact that he had ended a life at close range. He couldn’t forget the screams of the family.

chad-robichaux-1“I just wanted someone to tell me that it was okay because I had just killed this guy in front of his family and it was something I thought I would have a hard time with but I did.”

His wife was no help. She just thought it was all part of a day’s work. He really needed someone to affirm him, but instead he felt rejection.

Shortly after that incident, he returned to active duty as a marine following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

He was added to the Joint Special Operations Command. He deployed to Afghanistan with much excitement.

chad-robichaux“Wow I can’t believe all this training to do this, you know, be a force recon marine to do these things and I’m here it’s real like right outside somewhere in the dark is the bad guy.”

He knew the terrorists were evil, but still he wasn’t prepared to see the full horror of mayhem done to other human beings.

“You can’t make sense of it,” he says. “You can’t process it”

In the process of fighting evil, evil entered his own heart. He became a hateful killing machine.

“I was out of control and I didn’t feel bad about it”

He built a wall between himself and his family but he didn’t understand why. “Maybe to protect them from me” Read the rest of Chad Robichaux Christian.

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.

How do we eradicate racism?

lighthouse-christian-schools-then-and-now

Left: I was a teacher 20 years ago and Right: today at the same school.

Clinton was the answer, Trump the problem — the new standard liberal line is not true.

I’ve deeply troubled by some friends heavily worded FB posts calling the Trump presidency a huge reversal to racial equality. I’ve been disturbed by the outlandish assertions by the Huffington Post. So I fired off some retorts to counter the evil narrative, and a bunch of friends worried about my uncharacteristic tone on FB.

When I was a little kid, my grandmother told a riddle about house, green on the outside, red on the inside, with a lot of blacks (not the word she used): a watermelon. When I retold the riddle, my neighbors informed me it was racist. I defended my grandmother because I couldn’t believe that sweet old lady would be racist. As it turns out, the N-word was racist. I never heard it in my house before, and I didn’t understand the connotations and the history. I was maybe 8.

michael-ashcraftWhen I was 12, I was bused to a Latin neighborhood. My parents never opposed busing, so I assumed it was an okay thing. But those kids were scary, street tough and fighters. They intimidated me, and I tried not to get into trouble. Of course, some of them became friends too.

In college, I was assigned to the special interest group beat as a campus reporter and spent a lot of time listening to grievances from the Black Student Alliance, the Mexican Chicano Association and even the Asians. I became sensitized the many ways they face overt and subtle institutionalized racism, hurdles and inequalities. I became a ferocious hater of racism.

When I married Chinese, my mom — for the first time in my life — expressed racism. She asked me why I couldn’t marry white. I was completely flabbergasted because I never remotely would have guessed she harbored any vestige of racism. I objected vigorously, and she repented immediately.

I thank God that my parents didn’t pass on their latent racism. This was critical for me to be free of it.

As an adult, I forced a kid out of my car because he wouldn’t stop saying the N-word. Of course, he was rapping along with music and not hurling hate, but I was adamant: he couldn’t ride back from the soccer game with me and say that word. I had zero tolerance. Actually, I violated school policy and probably the law in doing so because he was a minor for whom I was responsible and abandoned on the streets of L.A. I wondered if I would fired for my brashness, but I figured it was worth it to make a strong stand against racism. The next day, the students tittered at my over-reaction, but it made an impression: racism would not be tolerated at our school. That was good.

I never understood how African Americans could use the N-word and not be racist, but I left that dilemma up to them because they had suffered decades of oppression, not me. One day I allowed a Latin student talk about racism in the class. He prepared a 10-page report that confronted some of the students in their bad attitudes. He explained the difference: when an African American uses the term, he is objectifying the hate, naming and proclaiming his freedom from oppression from the word. Maybe I’m not doing justice to his explanation, but it made some sense to me. If a white man uses the term, it hails to an entire history of slavery and racism. If a person of color uses it, it represents an emotional triumph over the oppression of that word. You may not accept this, but I do

I have tried to fight racism. I support body cams for cops not just to condemn them but to exonerate them if the situation goes South and they were forced to resort to force. I am appalled by the Virginia cop who fired multiple times on an unarmed African American simply because he ran away. I am appalled by the racist who entered an African American church and started killing them in hopes to provoke a race war. I am disgusted by the KKK and wish they could drop off the face of the Earth. I am horrified by drivers plowing through African American protestors who form human chains to obstruct traffic in protest.

But I am equally appalled by people ambushing cops, regardless of whether they may be racist. This is absolutely disturbing.

I am not at all thrilled by million-dollar-earning athletes taking a knee during the national anthem to complain about racist oppression. What oppression? They have better salaries and lives than I do. Also, it strikes a sore spot for me. When I fled organized crime in Guatemala, I came to America, a safe place, that opened its arms to me and offered me freedom and refuge. I have seen racism around the world, and I think comparatively America is far better than other places. No excuses for the evils that do occur. But maybe these guys should go live in Guatemala for a decade to appreciate the blessings of America. So I simmer and grumble about that protest.

Just today, I went ballistic. The Huffington Post floated the narrative that Trump’s victory was due to racism. Several posts on Facebook, from friends whom I love and respect, echoed the simplistic story. Later in the day, I saw a Washington Post article that performed greater analysis and avoided logical fallacy that said that people not educated by the university (not because they are white) were the force behind Trump’s surprise victory. These are people who have suffered over trade treaties that only benefit the oligarchy. These are people who cherish traditional values and don’t adhere to liberal elitism.

I felt that Clinton was as bad or worse than Trump in the racism category. Her divulged emails revealed derogatory attitudes toward Latino fundraisers (and the media, protecting their darling, scanted the story). She’s had her own history chumming up with David Duke. She hugged an N-word spewing rapper at her rally (would Trump get away with that?). Her support of abortion — in my view — represents a genocide targeting minorities, a eugenics akin to Hitler’s ethnic cleansing. To top it off, her attitude of dictating what minorities should vote and support hearkens back to the white plantation owner paternalisticly condescending to his slaves. How dare she impose her views on minorities? How dare the Huffington Post despise and insult its own readership? How dare my beloved friends simplify such a complicated picture? How dare they front the white-spawned narrative: Trump is racist, Clinton, the solution to racism.

I posted on Twitter and Facebook the alternative narrative. We, the voters, sent the true racist, Clinton, packing. Now all we needed to do was continue to stamp out any vestige of racism. I’m passionate about fighting racism.

But the liberal narrative is pocked with its own guilt, fallacies, self-righteousness smugness, corruption and self service. I wanted to fight fire with fire. One friend thought I got hacked. Another was alarmed by my tenor of outrage. One more worried I had joined ranks with the cavemen.

What is the answer to racism? So far, I have taken the non-confrontational approach to try to educate white friends in whom I stumble upon racism — to my shock. Others may think that stronger means are needed. I cannot say what will be the answer, but I know that it is NOT the Left badgering disenfranchised non-elitists with its holier-than-thou sanctimonious snobbery.

My hunch is that it will be coming together, not splintering apart. I applaud Obama — whose policies I largely do not applaud — for admonishing the nation to get behind Trump and work toward a common good, a common solution. Everyone needs to overcome racism and to actively fight it. There is no place for it in our nation anymore.

From Palestinian terrorist to Israeli informant to bonafide Christian

Son of Hamas

His quest for truth pit him at odds with his family, founding members of Hamas.

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.”

intifadiDuring 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.

Israeli planes bomb GazaAfter 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.

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.

The High and Mighty dwells with the lowly of heart

pride

After going 16 chapters of pure encouragement (40-55), Isaiah retakes the issue of Israel’s sin: His watchmen are blind… they are greedy dogs… Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine. (verses 10-12). In the previous chapters, Isaiah has lifted his prophetic vision beyond the immediate future to a time of a return from exile. But now it seems he looks even further into the future, into the time when Jesus is born and the Jewish leadership is corrupt.

humble

Then comes what is arguably the greatest gem of the entire book: Thus says the High and Lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and with him of contrite and humble spirit to revive him. — Isaiah 57:15. This verse is more than just a passing comment. It seems a crowning moment for a book that has been fascinated with up and down from Isaiah 6 onward (in which the prophet sees God high and lifted up in His heavenly temple). The paradox of dwelling on high and on low at the same time works the power of the sonnet’s concluding couplet.

All this is to say that humility is crucial in Christianity. You must be humble to even receive salvation, to believe in Jesus. And we must remain humble ever afterward. If we go prideful, we go without God. Stay humble, and He stays with us.

If it tastes bitter, spit it out, don’t swallow.

forgiveness

We must master the art of moving on. Humans hurt each other because of selfishness and self-promotion. Don’t let yourself be pushed down by others forever. They may push you down, but it is up to you to pick yourself up.

The lonely

loneliness

My son plays Javier foosball

Inviting the lonely over is my joy. For Thanksgiving and Christmas, we hosted people from the church who had no where to go. My heart goes out to the hurting. All throughout junior high and high school, I was lonely.

Now it is richly rewarding to ease others’ pain. Human beings need contact, friendship, acceptance, affirmation. This is the way the church works and builds.

When rejection takes the place of acceptance, the church becomes dysfunctional. Jesus dined with the hated and the outcasts — with prostitutes and tax-collectors. He touched the untouchables — the lepers. He condemned the Pharisees, who condemned everybody but themselves. We should take a note from the Bible and not become like the Pharisees.

At Christmas they gave me a mini-foosball. (To me!? A 48-year-old man, they gave a toy??) And you know what? It’s pretty fun. Who’s up for a match? Come on over. You are welcome here.

For Christmas, give forgiveness

forgiveness

The greatest gift you can receive comes from the Father in Heaven: It is forgiveness. The greatest gift you can give on Earth is forgiveness.

You may not be able to wrap it up in red paper with a bow. It doesn’t go under the Christmas tree. It goes into the heart.

Forgiveness restores love. When things “don’t work out,” people think that “moving on” is the solution. They find “true love.” Only too late do they realize they trade one set of problems for another; no one is free from baggage. Instead of dumping love, give forgiveness a try. As much as our society has “advanced beyond the antiquated norms of the Bible,” we still have need of eternal wisdom.

Can’t we help Syrians?

syrian girlFour-year-old Adi Hudea mistook a photographer’s camera for a gun and immediately surrendered. Her childhood has been stolen by the horrors of war. Her innocence marred by daily scenes of death. She doesn’t know how to play, only to fear for her life.

We must help the Syrians. This, to me, trumps concerns about terrorists sneaking into our borders. The love of Christ must overpower fear for our own well-being, convenience and personal luxury. Christians must not be reactionary but pro-active with prayer, evangelism and, above all, the love of God towards hurting millions around the world.

This sweet but terrified girl was photographed by Turkish photographer Osman Sagirli last December at a refugee camp on the Syrian-Turkish border.

A developmentally disabled angel on a medical clinic

Lighthouse Medical Missions | Guatemala

Michelle in front, and Dr. Bob behind. Her sisters Christy (left) and Andrea (right) with their mom, Dal (far right).

Michelle Villasenor for 17 years has packed the meds but never been able to go on a medical mission with Lighthouse. That’s because she’s developmentally delayed. Her academic level is 2nd grade and her language skills are low.

Her mom, Dal Basile, has been one of the biggest supporters of Dr. Bob Hamilton’s medical missions. She works as a vocational nurse on the clinics, most of which have gone to Africa. And she does something incredibly important: she painstakingly packs millions of pills, hygiene kits, dolls, and other gifts to be handed out free of charge at the clinics.

Taking her daughter, who could get lost or suffer a migraine, has been simply out of the question — until now.

The trip to my church in Guatemala is closer to Santa Monica. It’s not as intense as Africa.

So to the delight of the other 18 team members, Michelle is here. She’s smiling and teasing her friends. Her mom calls her an angel, and I agree. Tomorrow we open doors and take care of patients. I thank God that my little friend will be helping.

Giving to the poor is overrated

Christian loveIf you give to the poor BECAUSE of love, that is a very good thing. But Paul seems to indicate that a human could give to the poor without having love. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and have not love, it profits me nothing. — 1 Cor. 13:3.

Maybe people give to the poor to appease their conscience or to compensate their evil actions with good ones. What’s surprising is that we can DO loving things without love.

Of course, I think love is an action (like giving to the poor). Yeah, no smug love that I just wish upon the world without doing anything to alleviate the world’s sufferings. Indeed, Prov. 19:17 says: Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.

Bible knowledge is overrated

Christian love

Though I have … understand all mysteries and all knowledge … and have not love, I am nothing. — 1 Cor 13:2.

I went to seminary. It was mostly very useful. I learned how to solve the majority of the “problem texts.” I learned to how to contextualize. I learned Greek and Hebrew. All important stuff to “rightly divide the word” for preaching and applying.

But the gold standard for Christian leadership is not Bible mastery. It is love. Paul says, “Knowledge puffs up.” In other words, you can sin with pride over your superior knowledge. But the daily grind of living the Christian life consists mostly in exhibiting love.

A lot of Bible knowledge doesn’t help when it come to “loving your enemies.” In fact, loving and forgiving difficult people is one of the toughest challenges for Christians. I may be good a parsing, but I have much to learn at loving.