Category Archives: Christian ministry

He went to a Billy Graham crusade to kill the man of God

George Palmer and his boys, armed with concealed zip guns, didn’t go to the Billy Graham crusade to hear him preach. They went to kill him.

Palmer had hated God ever since he lost his father to a heart attack at age seven.

“I was just so angry with God,” he testifies on a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association video on YouTube.

George Palmer’s father died in Western Australia after planting 100 cherry trees. He had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital, but doctors couldn’t save him.

“I’ll never forget when I was told that my dad had died, I just couldn’t handle that,” George remembers. “I remember going up to the top paddock, and I screamed at God.

“I hate you. I hate you with all my heart. I will never love.”

The anger grew in his heart. He was a troublemaker in school and in the neighborhood. People knew him by his bad reputation and this reinforced his growing bitterness.

“I was always told I would amount to nothing. If you tell a person that continually, that’s what you believe, that you’re worthless, you’re useless.”

In his youth, he led a violent gang that harmed many others and clashed with rivals. “I had a vile temper,” he says.

One day, after beating their rivals in a street fight, George and his nine associates captured the rival gang leader and, subduing him, drove a car over his hand backwards and forwards, crushing every bone in his hand.

“It’s all I ever thought of, hurting people,” he says.

They planned to attend the crusade in Melbourne, determined to kill the internationally famous evangelist.

That’s when he and his boys heard that Billy Graham was coming in 1959 to preach across Australia. They hated Christianity and God.

“Billy Graham stood for something I detested,” George says. “It was something that drove me day by day.”

“I made up 10 zip guns, so each member had one of those,” he says. “I said to the guys, ‘Come on. We’re going on the green. We spaced ourselves so that we could see each other around where Billy Graham was preaching.

“We decided that…during the appeal, we would kill Billy Graham.”

They clutched their zip guns — homemade guns — and eyed each other as the message prolonged. The appeal would inevitably come, a chance for people to leave their seats in the stadium and come to the front and accept Jesus. Read the rest: http://godreports.com/2020/09/gang-members-attended-graham-crusade-with-guns-planned-to-kill-famed-evangelist/He tried to kill Billy Graham but he wound up getting saved.

Valedictorian Christian rapper aims for academia, urban mission

Ki’Shon Furlow was always conflicted. n the one hand, he graduated a 4.0 GPA valedictorian from high school. At the same time, however, he tried to traffic drugs to support his mom and five siblings in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Ironically and fortunately, it was the drug supplier who dissuaded him.

“You’re graduating high school. You’re an idiot. You have all these things going for you. You have a good family,” the dealer told him, according to Genius Lyrics. “Go to school, and be a good kid.”

Ki’Shon — whose latest releases are under the name YourWelcome Shon with Curb Records — is glad he, like so many in marginalized neighborhoods in America, ultimately chose Christ instead of falling into the dangerous life of risking death or jail.

Am. “God got the plan now.”

Simmering in the background of Christian Hip Hop for a few years, Ki’Shon came to a boil at the forefront with a cosign from Derek Minor in 2018. “One of my favorite artists right now,” Minor tweeted, according to Rapzilla.

He’s committed to getting out of the ‘hood with “clean money.” His play-on-words “Summa Hood Laude” celebrates the words that rescued him from selling drugs — ironically words from a drug supplier!

His “Lord+Taylor” still reaches back into the past as it portrays a romantic story of a bad boy changing for a good girl. It’s a hypnotizing ballad with clever lyrics. Behind the fairy tale lies an implicit call to kids from the ghetto to believe in God, believe in themselves, believe in doing good actions and believe in the chance to make it out through legitimate work.

“Ima about to make her fall for a gangster. She’s got my heart on lockup. You make me want to change up. I don’t wanna be a player no more. You don’t need nobody else, Ima get it right. Girl, you got me praying on my knees to the Father.” Read the rest: YourWelcome Shon Christian rapper

Pastor with LBGT parents re-calibrates church’s message to increasingly worldly world

caleb katlenbachThe ugliest thing Caleb Kaltenbach saw through a childhood of being taken to gay pride marches and wild parties was…. Christians holding up signs saying “God hates you.”

“I don’t want to have anything to do with that,” he said at the time. But Caleb came to Christ in high school, became a pastor afterwards and started a church that doesn’t compromise on truth while still extending love to those with “messy” lives.

His incredible journey from Christian-hater to loving Christian is more than just one man’s testimony. It is a shining light on the path for the church re-calibrating its message, as the world grows more worldly, to wooing sinners instead of saying “Woe!” to sinners.

When Caleb was only two years old, both his mom and dad divorced and “came out of the closet at the same time,” he says on an Outreach video. “My whole life I was raised by two lesbians and a gay man.”

caleb katlenbach and wifeHis dad was professor of philosophy, law and rhetoric at the University of Missouri, Columbia, while his mom was a professor of English at the University of Missouri in Kansas City.

“My whole life I was raised in the gay and lesbian community,” he says. “My parents didn’t want to get baby sitters, so they basically took me to parties when I was 4, 6, 7 years old. I went to camp outs, clubs and gay pride parades.

“I hated Christians,” he remembers. “I didn’t want to have anything to do with Christians.”

At the end of a gay pride parade, he was met by Christians with placards that said “God hates you” and “Turn or burn.”

They were spraying water and urine on everybody.

Caleb, who was a young and impressionable 9 years old, turned to Mom and asked why they were doing this.

CTz9RlFUsAACsqX“Well, Caleb, they’re Christians,” she replied. “And Christians hate gay people. Christians don’t like people who are different from them.”

“I don’t want to have anything to do with that,” he replied.

His next memory was when he was a teen, accompanying Mom to her parties. His custom was to find a room to play video games, Duck Hunt or Kung Fu (in the days of primitive video games — Atari, etc).

Louis, a well-built 30-year-old, befriended him at these parties.

Years later at the doctor, Caleb saw Louis, who had was emaciated and had strange markings on his forehead. Caleb asked what was wrong.

“Caleb, I have AIDS, and I’m getting read to die,” Louis responded.

Visiting him “a shell of the man he used to be” in the hospital just days before Louis died, Caleb witnessed a “horrifying sight.” As Louis shivered uncontrollably cold under nine blankets, his family watched unfeelingly from across the room.

“Plastered against the wall with their big ol’ KJV bibles out and looking like they expected a firing squad to come at them” was the compassionless immediate family. When he asked for water, they made sure to give him some without touching him.

“Why are they acting like that?” he asked his mom.

“Well, Caleb, they’re Christians,” she responded. “And Christians hate gay people. Christians don’t like people who are different from them.”

“I don’t want to have anything to do with that,” Caleb said again. Read the rest: Pastor with LBGT parents re-calibrates church’s message to increasingly worldly world.

With so much division in America, this urban missionary bridges the divide

Civil RighteousnessJonathan Tremain “JT” Thomas is a chaos chaser.

He showed up in Ferguson, Missouri after Michael Brown’s death at the hands of police in 2014 to fight for equal treatment for people of color — but also to help quell the rising violence of protests that were being hijacked by non-local agitators.

This year, he showed in Minneapolis after George Floyd died when a white police officer kneeled on his neck. He participated in prayer, counseling and services on the very street corner where Floyd lost his life.

“In church circles, there’s been this desire for awakening,” JT says on Slate. “Oh my goodness, it looks like awakening has come to America in the form of chaos.”

Jt Thomas in MinneapolisThis is JT’s full-time job, and his organization, the pun-derived nonprofit “Civil Righteousness” — has been part of the healing balm applied to a nation convulsed by months of protests, vandalism, riots, looting and anarchy. Christian race-relations expert Dante Stewart calls them “the next generation of the racial reconciliation movement.”

He likes to talk to hot-headed young activists, to white conservative evangelicals and angry black liberal progressives in their 50s and 60s and get them thinking outside of their bubbles. “Jesus came for all,” he says. “There are serious issues in policing that need to be addressed, but also the police officers are human.”

With Methodist circuit-rider great grandparents and a grandmother who was sister of soul legend/ civil rights activist Nina Simone, JT says he’s had a confluence of influences to uniquely prepare him for his current ministry.

Raised in a predominately black Baptist church in North Carolina, he launched on the path to become a missionary in college but zeroed in on urban needs in America. He worked in Tennessee and Indiana but struggled to raise support, so he started a video production company and accepted a teaching pastorate in a nondenominational church in St. Louis.

JonathanTremaineThomasThen Ferguson erupted in unrest that quickly spread across the nation. In a dream vision, JT saw himself type an email titled “Meet me in Ferguson” and took it to mean that he should travel there in the name of the Lord.

He joined prayer groups and observed mounting street protests. He confirmed that agitators from St. Louis were the ones stoking the flames of outrage and sparking violence. After two months of trying to inject God into the equation, he moved his family and set up permanent residence in Ferguson.

When white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine black Christians at church in Charleston, South Carolina, JT unobtrusively introduced himself on the scene to conduct prayer services and distributed food to the homeless.

After James Alex Fields Jr. slammed his car into Heather Heyer, killing her, and injured 19 others at a white supremacist rally in Virginia in 2017, JT conducted trainings for local churches on “how to be peacemakers and mediators.”

By then, Civil Righteousness had grown into a network of like-minded Christians who are ready to mobilize like a SWAT team. “We live a lifestyle of readiness,” JT says.

Naturally, they deployed to Minneapolis.

The protests sparked by George Floyd have been different than any previous. They have become more widespread and more supported by politicians and media. They also have been more dominated by Marxists and Antifa. Leaders of BLM have openly declared the Marxist alignment. Antifas engaged in organized anti-police mobilizations, ambushing cops and using lasers to blind them. Read the rest: Civil Righteousness brings Jesus to race riots.

‘Ghost mode’ for street hood turned pastor/rapper

Thirteen-year-old Markell Taylor wanted to be just like his stepdad, who was a pimp, a rapper, a womanizer and a drunk.

“I idolized him,” Markell says. “People thought he was cool. My own father was not in the picture and my mom was in and out of prison. He was the one male figure in my life. He had money, so he would buy expensive cars and expensive clothes. He would buy them for me. You’re a little kid and you’re getting hooked up. I thought he had something going on.”

In response to this role modeling, Markell became a runner for a drug dealer. He dropped out of school. He used methamphetamines and he took advantage of girls. “I had all these insecurities because I was hurting and lonely and I didn’t know why I wasn’t worth it for my real dad to stick around,” he said. “But I put on a mask of confidence to get in girls’ pants.”

From middle school onward, Markell was the life of the party. He had the drugs, so he got it started.

But while he was admired for his swagger and brazenness, his future began to dim. He variously lived with his stepdad in Wendover, Nevada, his grandmother in Las Vegas — and homeless shelters. He was arrested for domestic violence against his mother and police were investigating crimes he had participated in.

“I was out of control,” he recalls. “One time I told my mom I was going to kill the guy who sold me some bad drugs. I wasn’t really going to do it, but I acted like it. She tried to take me to the police, but I jumped out of the car while she was driving.”

At age 14, his mom and stepdad wanted to escape their reputation at Wendover and move to Salt Lake City to get a fresh start in life. Markell didn’t last one day there without his arrest.

Again it was a case of domestic violence. He hit his mom with a pillow, he says, and she freaked out and called the cops. When the police handcuffed him, they asked if there was a gun. Markell stood up to show them his arm, but the police thought he was going to attempt a fight, so they tackled him again.

The cops hauled him off to jail.

“As soon as I got into the back of the patrol car, I started crying like a little baby,” Markell says. “Up until then, I had pretty much gotten away with everything I did.” Read the rest of Markell Taylor, street hood pastor rap artist.

Raised in a crack house, rescued by God

sana cotton healed from abuseSana Cotten was only four years old when police raided her home.

“We literally lived in a crack house. My mother was addicted to drugs, and she was in and out of incarceration. There was a lot of people that were around, trying to help her raise me coming up, so I really didn’t have much of a relationship with her. To this day, I still do not even know who my birth father is.”

After the police raid, a malnourished and abused Sana, along with her twin, was placed in foster care and eventually adopted by Christians.

“I was always taught about God. I was always told that we needed to go to church. I was always told that there was a Higher Power, someone that we were striving to be like. But I never really had a relationship with Christ for myself.”

Sana Cotton inner healing in ChristStill, the wounds from her early childhood took a toll as she grew up. At 18, she got involved with an older man for affection and got pregnant.

“I was still trying to find out who I was, and I was still trying to find someone that was going to love me. I was trying to still kind of heal and trying to find a way to get the love from a man, really, that I was lacking from my birth mother and my birth father.”

After two years, the couple separated. At one point Sana got into a fight with her ex and lost control.

“He brought a young woman with him,” Sana says. “Although we were not together anymore, something in me just kind of snapped. And I remember when the altercation was over, I found myself in the bathroom, looking at myself in the mirror, tears running down my face, and I remember thinking, ‘There has to be more than this.’”

She realized her life was careening out of control.

“Before I went to sleep that night, I literally got down on my knees for the first time in years, and I just cried out to God and I asked God to really show me someone who was going to love me the way I deserved to be loved.” Read the rest of Sana Cotten, raised in a crack house, rescued by God.

A pastor who’s a politician? Rob McCoy flouted Calvary Chapel. Then he defied the governor of California

Rob McCoy and familyFor 20 years, Rob McCoy preached in his pulpit and never faced persecution, but when he ventured into politics, he got death threats, received hate mail and was stalked by menacing figures.

“I got beat up,” says McCoy, former mayor of Thousand Oaks in California. “It was the hardest thing I ever did.”

A pastor who’s a politician???

“I want to dispel the myth that Christians don’t belong in politics,” says McCoy, 55, who is at the center of a national maelstrom by holding services in violation of California’s rules closing churches.

Rob McCoy, political firebrand, man of compassion“You don’t have the right to shut down churches and let Marxists run amok in our cities,” McCoy said in the Citizens Journal.

McCoy was referring to recent massive protests and riots of Black Lives Matter and Antifa where vandalism and looting were widespread and hundreds of thousands of bodies huddled together on the street with basically no social distancing nor face masks mandated to stop the spread of Covid. The same liberal politicians who encourage the protests and made no mention of the dangers of Covid are the ones closing churches in California, New York, Chicago and Minnesota.

If protesters aren’t required to stay home due to Covid, why are church members? The current slew of governing leaders have deemed church “non-essential,” while marijuana dispensaries, liquor stores and the like are doing a thriving business.

Rob McCoy pastor of Calvary Chapel Thousand OaksThe U.S. Supreme Court just handed down July 24th a discouraging 5-4 ruling for Nevada churches that have been facing suffocating restrictions while casinos are relatively free to return to business.

“The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito in the dissenting opinion. “It says nothing about the freedom to play craps or blackjack, to feed tokens into a slot machine or to engage in any other game of chance. A public health emergency does not give governors and other public officials carte blanche to disregard the Constitution for as long as the medical problem persists.”

The son of a Navy captain, Rob McCoy grew up in Coronado, California, doing all things associated with water: swimming, surfing, scuba and water polo.

An English teacher in public high school invited him to a home Bible study, where he heard about Jesus for the first time, but it was a swim coach who led him to the Lord.

On a swim scholarship, McCoy attended California State University at Fresno where he got a bachelor’s degree in history in 1987. It was during college that he and his roommate co-committed to following Christ more diligently.

Rob McCoy pastor politicianHe was engaged to someone else when he met his wife. Because his girlfriend got pregnant, his college group pastor suggested they expedite marriage. This brought a crisis with his parents because the girl was Hispanic.

“You give birth to that child, and I’ll kick you out of this house,” his father told him.

Kicked out and trying to pick up the pieces of his life, McCoy went to a Christian concert with his fiancé at Hume Lake.

On the way back from the concert, something shocking happened. His fiancé took off the engagement ring and confessed she’d slept with the campus pastor, a married man. McCoy waited until birth to do a paternity test, which confirmed it was the pastor’s child.

All throughout McCoy’s ups and downs “in the midst my sin and God’s grace,” Mederies (she goes by Michelle) Fowler remained a friend to him and encouraged him to do the right thing, McCoy says. After the engagement was officially called off, he grew closer to Michelle and the two eventually married.

Rob-McCoyIn an unusual coincidence, Michelle’s grandmother — also married to a Navy man, Admiral Richard Fowler — had hosted the baby shower and donated the crib towards little Rob McCoy years earlier. His parents were pleased with Michelle.

Today, McCoy calls these high and lows his higher education in the “school of hard knocks.” The couple has four natural born children — Molly, Kelly, Daniel and Michael — and one adopted daughter, Natasha.

Nowadays, McCoy is a a conservative Republican opposed to abortion, but when he was in high school and his then-girlfriend warned him she’d missed her period, he urged abortion as the quick and easy means to elude responsibility.

As the days passed, however, it turned out his girlfriend wasn’t pregnant after all. When McCoy was married in 1990 to Michelle, his wife miscarried and he wept over the dead baby. (The miscarriage almost killed his wife due to hemorrhaging, he adds.)

The loss of his first child provided a time for for reflection.

What’s the difference between the child that you wanted to get rid of and the one now that you are weeping over? God impressed on his heart.

“The difference was convenience,” McCoy surmises grimly. “I didn’t want to get beat up by her dad. The child was just a commodity. It was all about me.”

By contrast, the miscarried child filled his heart with love. “It was at that moment that I loved somebody more than myself. I came face to face with ‘What is responsibility? What is life?’” he says. “I was just empty and cold until I came to Christ.”

If once he treasured only himself, McCoy now values people. He’s always hosted people in his house, missionaries, refugees and even the wayward sons of well-known U.S. congressmen. All receive the love of Christ and the chance for discipleship. Right now, he’s hosting Colombians.

During college he got to know and admired the Calvary Chapel movement, so he joined the Redlands church where Don McClure was pastor. Eventually he followed McClure to San Jose to help with the work there and was ordained. In 2001, he was offered the pastorate the Thousand Oaks Calvary Chapel, one the oldest but was declining in numbers, he says. Today they have 1,400 in attendance.

He was riding on a wave or revival. Calvary Chapel was founded by Chuck Smith in 1968 on a simple principle: teach the whole Word to young people disaffected by the turbulence of the 1960s – and be led by the Spirit.

“Chuck decided to be apolitical because all these kids were disillusioned with politics, and began teaching the Bible. The nation was in turmoil with all these kids checked out of the church and had gone after Eastern religions and gone after every kind of drug imaginable,” McCoy said at Liberty.

“It was an amazing move of God upon the state of California. But we were apolitical.”

In fact, staying out of politics was practically a major tenet of their doctrine.

So how, then, did McCoy break with his church’s doctrine and “sully” himself in “dirty politics.”

Two things happened. One was a couple of key people encouraged him to impact society through politics because of his grip on history. They were on a trip to Israel.

The second was the deterioration of conditions in California. “With 10,000% growth in Calvary Chapels and being apolitical, what was the result?” he asked.

The gospel is supposed to transform culture. How have we impacted the State of California being apolitical? he wondered.

California had slipped from 5th largest GDP to 6th or 7th. It aborted more babies than there are people in Canada. It led the drive for no-fault divorce that decimated homes in America. It was a leader in anti-family values and in poverty levels, in taxes and in debt, he says.

McCoy launched his foray into politics with an unsuccessful bid for the California assembly. The state’s Republican party poured $1 million into his opponent’s campaign in the primary because they didn’t want an old white man, McCoy says. He still won.

The Republicans endorsed him but only on the condition he let an outsider wunderkind run his campaign. The guy was a brilliant kid from UC Berkeley but wasn’t saved. No matter. Within days, McCoy’s supporters had evangelized him and turned him into a believer.

He almost won the seat, but the Democrats flooded the obscure assembly seat with $6 million in funding, and he lost by 4,000 votes.

It was a bruising defeat. He discovered politics is dirty and his opponents were vicious. He had worked tirelessly and had suffered threats, hate mail and intimidation tactics. “I never suffered the kind of persecution the Bible talks about until I went into politics,” he says.

He was exhausted. But then somebody suggested he run for the seat on the Thousand Oaks City council that his opponent vacated to run against him for Assembly. He reluctantly relented. After 150 coffees and 650 volunteers canvassing neighborhoods, he won by a mere 52 votes, he says.

Eventually, he became mayor.

It was McCoy who helped stop the Assembly bill that would have outlawed “conversion therapy” for minors that many feared would slash the throat of the church’s use of the Bible. McCoy simply invited the bill’s sponsor, California Assemblyman Evan Low, to visit his church and meet his diverse staff and listen to their concerns that the bill violated the First Amendment. Read the rest: Christians in politics, Rob McCoy defied Governor’s closure of churches.

Covid’s silver lining: sex workers freed in India

project rescue imageWhile Covid-19 has killed myriads, shut down economies and closed churches around the world, the deadly virus has liberated thousands of exploited sex workers in India, according to a report from Project Rescue.

“What Project Rescue hasn’t been able to do in 24 years of giving itself to rescuing and restoring the lives of thousands of women and their children, this virus has shut down the Red Light Districts in India,” says founder David Grant. “God has given us an opportunity to reach out to these women that we’ve never seen in all these years. In 50 years of being involved in missions, this is the greatest moment we have ever experienced.”

human trafficking indiaBecause of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s particularly drastic quarantine, there are no businesses open, no transit, and no industry. With the streets virtually deserted, brothels have no customers and human traffickers are simply releasing their prey rather than have to feed them without them generating any income, Grant says.

“This is the greatest miracle in Project Rescue’s entire history,” he adds.

Other nonprofits report a spike in human enslavement in other parts of the world, as governments repurpose resources usually dedicated to fight traffickers. Perhaps what Project Rescue is reporting is unique to India where stringent restrictions were put in place.

grants

David and Beth Grant

“In the middle of unimaginable crisis comes unprecedented opportunity,” says Rod Loy, director of strategic initiatives. “For the first time in our life time, sex trafficking is shut down. No one is visiting the Red Light District, customers are non-existent, demand is at an all time low. Traffickers are losing money.

“As a result, traffickers are giving women permission to leave and take their children with them,” Rod adds. “In the years of Project Rescue, this has only been a dream. It’s never happened. What the enemy intended for evil, God is using for good. These are the most exciting days in the history of Project Rescue.”

Many of the women who find themselves trapped in the brothel were either kidnapped or sold into the trade. In some cases, they are chained with actual shackles. But often those chains are financial. The women know no other way to make a living for themselves and their children, Rod says.

“We need to be ready to seize the moment of what He wants us to do in the middle of the storm,” Executive Director Beth Grant says.

Project Rescue is issuing a plea for financing to help released sex slaves return to their hometowns to find food. Project Rescue will feed and provide vocational training so that when Covid dies away the sex workers will have a practical alternative to make money other than the life they have lived for years.

The nonprofit deploys 422 international staff and 226 national staff to rescue and restore youth who have been coerced or enticed into a living they now feel trapped by, its website says.

Pastor Rajneesh of Jaipur reports 300 women and children rescued from such slavery, so the urgency to meet their need is great or “they’ll be forced to return the Red Light districts so they’re children won’t die,” Rod says. “The window of opportunity is short.” Read the rest: Sex workers freed in India due to Covid.

She prayed husband out of drugs and into pastoring

time and norma pena indio california free from drugsFirst there was blood on the pillowcase. Second, her husband slept all day, had circles under his eyes, and a persistent bad attitude. Eventually, he lost his job, his car and his dignity.

“I was naive,” Norma Pena says. “I didn’t recognize the signs of drug abuse. Although I came from a dysfunctional home, I didn’t know what addiction was.”

It got so bad, Norma told Tim to move out. Three years of marriage was coming to an end. She felt “numb to him,” she says. “I had no feelings for him anymore.”

Today, Tim Pena has been pastoring a church in Visalia, California, for almost 20 years. It’s a mind-boggling turnaround. And they are still married.

Tim Pena and Norma Pena Visalia pastorWhen Norma accepted Jesus into her heart in 1997, the marriage was on a fast train to Splitsville. Her friend, Sandra, who had evangelized her tirelessly for three years, encouraged Norma to contend for restoration of their relationship.

“At first I didn’t believe he could get saved,” Norma says. “He made my life a living hell.”

But there was a grain of sand in the oyster that irritated her thoughts. Her mother was a single mother of four, her grandmother a single mother of six.

At the time, Norma had only one child — but she was worried that she was falling victim to a vicious legacy.

At the constant encouragement of Sandra, Norma prayed for her husband. Things were not going well for him. He was sofa-surfing at friends’ houses. His life was spiraling downward, propelled by cocaine and alcohol.

Then one day, he showed up at the same church Norma attended, the Potter’s House in Indio, California. Tim answered the altar call for salvation.

She watched from the congregation. She thought the conversion was faked.

But her friend urged her to persevere in pray.

“The Bible says you have to pray for your enemies. He was my enemy because he made my life a living hell,” Norma relates. “But he was the father of my daughter, and I wanted him to be a good example to her.”

She did NOT pray for her marriage to be restored however. Read the rest: Wife prayed husband out of drugs and into pastoring.

After George Floyd, revival on the corner where he was killed

baptism Minneapolis George FloydReclaiming the heritage left by Martin Luther King Jr. and William Wilberforce, a group of Christians is preaching and baptizing on the street corner of Minneapolis where George Floyd’s life was snuffed out by a rogue cop. They’re seeking to effect real social change from the ground up.

“This is what God is trying to do. He’s trying to bring everybody together, all races, all ethnicities,” said Pastor Curtis Farrar, of the Worldwide Outreach for Christ Ministries in Minneapolis in his Sunday June 7th outdoor service. “His people are out here as one as the family of God. Only God can change.”

Floyd-Ministry-5-David-ParksPastor Curtis has labored for 38 years in a neighborhood that used to be overrun with gangs, on the same corner of E. 38th St and Chicago Avenue where Floyd was murdered. His patient service has helped multitudes escape sinful lifestyles and come to Christ.

“The mayor came out here and said our church has had a profound effect on the neighborhood,” Pastor Curtis related. “Man cannot do that. It takes the power of God.”

Pastor Curtis and his church have been joined by teams from Youth With a Mission (YWAM) and Circuit Riders, a California-based mission movement named after John Wesley’s Methodist preachers who rode “circuits” on horseback to preach throughout rural America.

Floyd-Ministry-3-David-Parks“I came here and I was broken,” said WYAM’s Christophe Ulysse in Fox News. “It affects team members differently, but those of us of color, as we’re here, we’re watching the change happen through the gospel. My heart is so filled with hope. Those in the neighborhood are saying this is unprecedented unity. They’re feeling an outpouring of love and hope from this nation.”

The groups led praise and worship, held prayer, evangelized and even baptized in the street. While fear and anguish have convulsed people of color facing police abuses, the gospel is bringing hope and love, Christian leaders said.

“For us, there is this deep conviction that we have tried everything to deal with this issue. We’ve tried politics, we’ve tried economics, and we’ve tried social reform,” says Ulysse, a black Canadian stationed in Hawaii. “It’s the same thing over and over. We have to go back to what actually works. We’re going from pain and hatred to healing and hope. There’s this new narrative of the gospel.”

On the street, Yasmin Pierce of Circuit Riders delivered an emotional altar call before hundreds of listeners: “On the cross he was beaten to death. He could not breathe. He gave his last breath for every person here. He gave his last breath for me, for you, and he says, ‘Father, forgive them. Father, heal them. Father, save them from this dark world that they would know your love.” Read the rest: The gospel is the answer to police violence.

Swami priest kept searching… and found Jesus

Rahil patelSwarmed with doubts about his family’s Hinduism, Rahil Patel, a respected Swami priest in London, thumbed through a children’s Bible in a bookstore.

“I opened it and started reading and I felt a connection so quickly, so easily I then had to shut the book quickly,” Rahil says in a Billy Graham Organization video. “I had to shut it quickly. It represented something completely opposite to what I represented.”

He was raised in England in a Hindu family and hungered for whoever God was.

hindu priest converts to christianity“Hinduism is a canvas of hundreds of religions with different doctrines and ideas and philosophies,” Rahil says. “I was so desperate to search for God.”

His drive to find God led him to travel to India, his parents’ homeland.

“I trained to become a Hindu priest,” he says.

After only one month, however, a small voice spoke in his left ear: “Have you made the right choice?”

It was the first seed of doubt.

Swami priest ChristianBut he didn’t immediately renounce Hinduism. He kept an open mind and continued his studies. After all, his parents had brought him up that way and millions of people worldwide adhere to Hinduism. He ought to give it a fair shake, he thought.

His branch of Hinduism affirmed that the guru was god. Rahil began to show promise, and the guru took a special interest in him.

“When the guru speaks, it is god speaking,” he says. “To be chosen as one of his favorite priests is the most incredible dream coming true.”

While he was pleased with the approval he got from his leaders, he was troubled by the doubts surging in his mind.

“The more I studied, the more questions I had,” he relates. “I asked tough questions to the scholars in India, and they weren’t liking it.”

One scholar told him: “Submit to what we are teaching you. You have decided to wear these clothes. This is forever.”

When he said that, “I knew there was a problem,” Rahil says.

He really only wanted to ask sincere questions. He thought having the confidence of the guru allowed him to try to get his real questions answered. The blunt shutdown only turned Rahil off.

“I feel that I’m being brainwashed,” he responded to the guru.

“There was a dead silence in the room,” Rahil remembers.

“You think too much,” the guru replied. “Just get on with it, and as time goes on, your questions will be answered.”

Rahil left the room but not Hinduism — yet.

He returned to London where he continued as a swami priest and teacher of Hindu immigrants.

Eventually, he spotted the children’s Bible at the bookstore. As he scanned and read passages, he realized that the message of grace was totally the opposite of Hinduism’s works mentality. The idea of Christ’s sacrifice for sin was completely foreign.

Was he treading on thin ice? he wondered. Read the rest: swami priest found Jesus.

Fake $10 bill led drug addict to Proverbs and to Christ

matthew mcpheronMatthew McPheron just wanted a cheap high, but heroin drove him to the streets. He slept on a playground, using a smelly trashbag as a blanket.

“I had finally reached the place that I belonged: homeless, strung out on dope,” he says in 2013 CBN video. He spent years living in a drainage ditch under a freeway. “I crawled out from underneath a bridge, and I didn’t spontaneously combust into a different person. It took a lot of hard work, a lot of pain, a lot of tears.”

Today, Matthew runs recovery programs and hires his own patients into TrueCore Cleaning, a janitorial company he bought on his 10-year sober anniversary in 2016.

Miracle Healing RecoveryWhen it comes to finding the reason he fell into drugs, Matthew can’t blame his dad, who was first a fireman and then a minister. Mom left him alone during his early years — and then left him for good in Youngstown, Ohio.

“She would just put me behind a door with some Legos and leave me and not even talk to me,” Matt says. “It really put me in a place where I thought I was meant to be abandoned and rejected.”

After his dad remarried, his step mom died.

matthew and jennifer mcpheron“I took a really selfish perspective, where it was like, ‘I’m being abandoned again,’ Matt recalls. “So it made those walls go right back up.”

In the wake of losing a mother for the second time, Matthew, who was then in secondary school, self-medicated to ease the torment.

“I felt hurt; I felt lost, and I didn’t know what to do, but I knew for me, at that age, going to church didn’t work for me. What worked was putting a haze in front of me so that I didn’t have to deal with reality.”

As a young man, Matthew sold drugs and stole vehicles to fund his craving for drugs.

“One night I was at a party and I was getting drunk,” he says. “There was a gentleman there who said, ‘I have a buddy who runs a chop shop and they need a Nissan, and they’re going to give $1,500 for the person that gets it. I thought, ‘Fifteen hundred dollars! That’s like three weeks worth of selling dope.’”

The deal wasn’t lucrative enough to keep the law from catching up to him. In jail, he began to deal with his conscience.

“When I was in prison, I had a little bit of time to reflect and think about the things I had done, and the people that I had hurt,” he says. “It consumed me.”

Once released from jail, he decided he would not commit any more felonies. He needed a cheap drug.

“Three months into shooting heroin, I found myself with nothing, broke, and homeless. I had finally reached the place that I belonged: homeless, strung out on dope, sleeping in a trash can liner. The plastic kept me warm, but it smelled like trash.

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is where you belong. This is what you deserve.’”

One night, Matthew was out searching for his next fix.

“I was walking northbound on Sixth Avenue, and I started praying, and I was saying, ‘Lord please, just give me ten dollars so I can buy a shot of dope. And I look off into the distance, and I see something that looks to be currency. About ten yards, I could see a ‘10’ on it, so I thought, ‘It’s a ten dollar bill.’ And I said, ‘Oh, there is a God! Here, My whole life I’m waiting for You to show yourself to me, and here You are giving me a ten dollar bill for dope,’” Matt says. Read the rest: Bible tract and Proverbs led addict to Christ.

Incorrigible drug addict found hope in Jesus

Jim rouches christianUnattended by his career-ambitious parents, Jim Rouches discovered his older brother’s stash of pot and LSD when he was only seven.

“The first time the euphoria hit me, my first thought was, I’m going to do this the rest of my life,” Jim says on a CBN video. “This is the greatest thing I’ve ever felt.’

He very nearly carried out the vow to life-long drug abuse.

Jim was the youngest (with his twin) of five siblings. His dad was an IBM executive; his mom, an entrepreneur. He would act up to try to get their attention. They were busy, busy, busy making money.

AY13_jim_rouches_LSBy middle school, he was a committed pothead. His parents divorced. After misbehaving with his mom, he was moved to his dad’s, where he shaped up for a time.

But when his mother developed lung cancer, Jim lost all motivation to stay on the higher path and resorted to his earlier vices, this time adding cocaine into the mix.

“I could go through $300, $400, $500 worth of coke very quickly,” he says.

When mom died, he got mad at her, as if she had given up and wouldn’t be there for him.

“I thought that she gave up and that she could beat cancer and that if I had cancer I would definitely beat it for her, or anyone else that I loved.”

Jim figured out how to graduate yet bombed each effort his family made to get him off drugs.

“I just thought it was garbage,” he says. “At that time, I would rather be dead than have to live without being high all the time.”

A year after graduating, Jim wedded his secondary school darling. The couple had twins, a boy and a girl. But as one might expect of a marriage where the man suffers from drug addiction, the wedded bliss didn’t last.

“I was in the grips of an addiction that was just massive,” he says. “As much as I wanted to stop for my family I could not stop. And, even then I would have died for them, I just couldn’t quit doing drugs.”

For the next quarter century he was either spending time in jail, in a recovery program or running from the law.

In 2004 he was arrested for credit card fraud and an extensive list of other unlawful offenses.

At 41 years of age, he was worn out, confronting his third strike, and facing 49 years to life in prison.

“That was the first time in my life I just didn’t want to live anymore. I said, ‘God, if you’re real, if you’re real like they say you’re real, help me.’ Read the rest:freed from drugs Jim Rouches.

Deny’s last meal, a military dog ends his retirement


Ten days ago*, Deny — the retired bomb-locating German shepherd from US military service in Kuwait — was put to rest after a meal of Texas brisket and rib sausage. (*longer now. date was from original publication)

“This was not supposed to be a cry fest,” says the Texas lawyer who adopted the unadoptable, aggressive dog in a video that was supposed to be private but went viral.

deny last meal“It was supposed to be a private moment of closure for me and my dog, but I recorded it for Mission K9,” the Texas service that places retired service dogs in loving homes, Thomas Locke told God Reports. “They put it on Tiktok and it just blew up.

“I’m ready to give my Man Card, just turn it in.”

Ever since Thomas, 59, who himself served in the military, adopted Deny on Christmas of 2018, a special bond was formed.

thomas locke and deny“These dogs have unconditional love,” Thomas says. “They don’t care if you’re white black, Christian, not a Christian, Muslim, they don’t care. All they want is love. They don’t judge. How beautiful is that?”

Deny was going to be a challenge. After working 12 hours a day, seven days a week sniffing out explosives for eight years of service in Kuwait, the Dutch-born and -trained dog had developed PTSD and was categorized by the overseas veteran as “unadoptable.”

Other parents looking to bring home dogs had passed over Deny at the 21-acre ranch at Magnolia, Texas, where Mission K9 saves work and service dogs from euthanasia.

Thomas and Elizabeth LockeBut when Thomas saw the 90-pound animal, his heart was moved and he took the dog to his home to Pearland, south of Houston.

“Deny had a hip problem. He was a medical nightmare,” Thomas says. “So people kept passing on him. But when I passed him, his profile was majestic. He was very regal looking. The sun was starting to go down. And when I saw him I realized he was the dog I wanted to get.”

The worries were over his hostility, but Deny’s first problem arose when he tried to pee on the Christmas tree to mark his territory.

After that, the aggressiveness melted away into those sad brown eyes and huggable muzzle. Deny followed Thomas everywhere he went. He watched him incessantly. Thomas even slept with the dog many nights on the floor. Deny understood only Dutch commands from his trainers in Holland, so Thomas had to learn Dutch.

“My wife was very understanding,” he says. “She knew a special relationship had formed. When you adopt a dog — especially a working dog — they never take their eyes off of you. Whenever I left the house, he was right there when I came home looking at the door where I left. We had entire conversations without saying a word.”

Thomas’s dad was a Vietnam vet and his mom was an alcoholic and drug addict, so he was sent off to Church of Christ-run foster homes where he had to go to church and watch preachers on the television.

“It was very comforting for me to have that stability and that moral compass. I knew there was something bigger than me out there,” Thomas says. “My testimony is a country music song.”

Ironically, Thomas worked with explosives in the military from 1978 to 1981 but saw no combat. When he got out, he found “there wasn’t much need for my skills” in the American job market and took up construction. He married Elizabeth Garcia and had a son, who today is a police officer in Seabrook, Texas.

After he got injured on the job site, he became an RN and then a lawyer, initially a prosecutor and then a defense attorney in private practice.

Whenever he was home, Deny was always nuzzling at his ankle, until recently when they installed a Jacuzzi. When Thomas realized his dog was not right behind him he looked over. Deny, whose spine was fractured from military service, was breaking down with old age.

“He was literally dragging his 90 pound body trying to follow me, never crying,” Thomas says. “I looked around and saw and just dropped to the ground. I can’t tell you how much I just loved this dog. There was a bond. I just can’t explain it.”

Deny’s back legs didn’t work, nor did his bladder. Thomas realized that the workload was bearing down on poor Deny and that it would be best to release him into Heaven. He called the vet and prepared Deny’s last meal, which he filmed originally only with the intent to encourage people to adopt dogs from Mission K9. The video went viral and a nation’s tears almost caused regional flooding. Read the rest: Deny, the military dog, put to rest after retirement in Christian home.

‘I was shaking like a leaf’ Hispanic gangster had never felt God’s power before

angel frias in yosemiteLeft with the baby sitter, 4-year-old Angel Frias, one of nine siblings, was approached by a blonde woman who led him in a sinner’s prayer. She looked bright, almost angelic.

“I felt so protected,” he remembers. “I felt like there was a shield around me when I was a little boy.”

But by junior high, “Angel” stopped being an angel. He followed his older brothers into a Hispanic gang in Culver City, California.

angel frias fishing“That’s when I got into more of mess. I became a problem to society and not a solution.”

He fell into drugs, alcohol, rage and revenge.

“I had so much anger in my life that if I dropped a pen, I started kicking in doors. I started turning over tables. I started to cuss. If you looked at me the wrong way, the fight was on.”

God saved him from the worst scrapes and kept sending messengers to evangelize.

“When I had a can of beer on me or I was loaded, there was always a servant of the Lord that God would send into the Culver City projects to preach the Gospel and I would hear it,” he says. “They kept coming and they kept coming. There was one time this guy said, ‘God has a better plan for your life.’ I listened to his words, but I kept on the same road of destruction.”

He was in and out of county jail. He had guns pointed at his head, but the guns jammed.

“When my brother was there, he said, ‘That was God,’” Angel remembers. “But we were still in our mess.”

He spent three years in prison, only to return to more drugs and alcohol. He returned to prison for four years and four months. He never turned to God.

“I was the worst of the worst. I was down to 90 lbs.,” he says. “My medium shirts felt like they were extra larges on me.”

Finally, he committed an offense that could lock him up for 25 years to life.

Again, he listened to the preachers in the projects.

“God loves you so much,” the preacher said. “He doesn’t want this for your life. He has more for you.”

His sisters were praying for him. Finally he broke down.

“I fell to my knees and said, ‘Here I am, Lord. Here’s my life,’” he recalls. “I’m totally out of it. I don’t know what to do. I’ve heard about you. I need you to take over because I am out of control.”

For years he mocked people who were healed and fell under the power of the Spirit on Christian television programming.

But when he finally broke before God, he decided to go to church.

“As this preacher’s preaching, my body starts to shake. It felt like something wanted to come out it,” he says. He went up to the altar.

“I was shaking like a leaf. My eyes were blinking like 90 mph,” he says. “I was out of control. I knew God was in control. I surrendered. I opened up my arms and said, ‘Here’s my life. Do what you want with it.’ The guy was about to pray for me, but before he can touch me, I fell back and could not get up. My waist down to my legs, I could not move.” Read the rest: Culver City Hispanic gangster had never felt slain the Spirit before.

Matt Whitman and the anti-testimony

matt whitmanFor almost half his life, Matt Whitman lived off of the faith he found in Christ at age 15. But at age 29, after a falling out in his church, he decided that none of it made sense anymore and he became an atheist.

“I went from being in a Christian home and being a Christian as a young person to having my faith fall apart completely in adulthood,” he says on a Ten Minute Bible Hour video on YouTube.

Matt documents his own “spiritual deconstruction” to counter an emerging trend on YouTube of former Christians posting “anti-testimonies.” They explain how “reason” made them doubt and abandon their faith. Included are Hillsong song-writer Marty Sampson, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” author Joshua Harris and singer Lisa Gungor, who “anti-testified: on Buzzfeed.

matt whitman familyMatt Whitman was raised in a household where they discussed theology, history, philosophy and art. His dad was a pastor, and home life in Fort Collins, Colorado, was nothing but enjoyable.

“We did ‘thought’ for fun growing up,” he remembers. “We talked about books and movies and music and stories. I loved it. It was a blast to process all this. Through and in that context, the basics of the Christian concept made sense, and I signed up.”

He was 15 when he completed “Christianity 101,” gaining an understanding of some of the fundamentals of faith like God’s eternal nature.

“I got a lot of applause for being a good Christian young man,” he recalls. “I got a Christian job at the Christian bookstore. I went to a Christian high school. I got an award there for being a good Christian or whatnot. I felt like I had arrived.”

Ten Minute Bible HourBut his young mind had fixed mostly on behaving well to earn people’s admiration, which is a “pretty ugly build of faith to take out of childhood,” he says.

“Sure enough, I crashed against the rocks,” he explains. “The wheels fell off.”

As he grew up, got married, became a leader in the church, the simplistic answers of his childhood faith never got updated and were inadequate for the interpersonal relationship struggles and daunting philosophical questions presented to his maturing mind.

At age 29, he was driving away in a moving van with his young wife and weeks-old daughter from a church where he worked after “stuff got weird.” He never wanted to work at a church again and had nowhere to go.

“I started crying — like ugly crying,” he says. “Part of the reason is because that was the time that I wanted to have everything together for (my family),” he says. “I didn’t want there to not be a God, but I really felt there was no God.”

But in all honesty, his faith had vanished. “On that drive I kept coming to the conclusion that it was all fake,” he says.

Months later, he decided to re-read the Bible before he shared his atheism with his wife. But this time he vowed to read the Bible with an open and critical mind. He decided to jettison any and all delusions and break past his once infantile faith.

Viewed with fresh eyes, what he saw in the Bible shattered his preconceived notions.

“Very quickly I realized, ‘Oh, I have a false assumption here. My false assumption was that I was the main character of the document, that humans were the point’ but we’re not,” he says. “God is clearly the main character of the document.”

Whoa! Mind-blown. Read the rest of Why I’m Glad I didn’t make an Anti-Testimony.

Mark of the Beast? 1984? Or something worse? Microchips implanted in hand

microchip inserted in handOn the surface, microchips implanted into your hand could be — excuse the pun — really handy.

They could be a ready substitute for cash or credit card in the check-out line and can’t be stolen by thieves. They could carry critical medical information for an emergency surgery when you’re unconscious.

Companies in Sweden are hailing their microchips as the wave of the future. The size of a grain of rice, the microchip can be injected by syringe in the loose flesh between the thumb and forefinger. With just a wave the hand, doors are opened, transactions completed, printers operate and life becomes automatized.

M7EZZVHFWNA7PDCNOARFKDAYEU“The biggest benefit I think is convenience,” Patrick Mesterton, co-founder and CEO of Epicenter told AP. “It basically replaces a lot of things you have, other communication devices, whether it be credit cards or keys.”

But many are not so enthusiastic. Ethicists warn that the new technology raises the specter of a dystopian, Orwellian reality in which people can be monitored by government and hacked by programmers.

Christians — who for decades have speculated that the coming 666 “mark of the Beast” in Revelation could be by a similar technological implant — want nothing to do with it.

“Microchip fears have stoked prophetic speculations for years — but many biblical scholars note that Revelation is not pointing to some inadvertently-adopted technology, but is speaking symbolically of those who cast their lot with the opponents of Christ for societal approval,” noted Jerry Newcombe in The Christian Post.

microchipping payRevelations 13:16-18 says the Anti Christ “forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man.[e] That number is 666.”

But when the CEO of a Wisconsin company calls the bio-insert “the next thing that’s inevitably going to happen,” Christians can’t be faulted for seeing an uncanny similarity to what the Bible foretells.

“We foresee the use of RFID technology to drive everything from making purchases in our office break room market, opening doors, use of copy machines, logging into our office computers, unlocking phones, sharing business cards, storing medical/health information, and used as payment at other RFID terminals,” said Todd Westby of Three Square Market.

Westby — who either is ignorant of biblical apocalyptic scenarios or doesn’t give a fig about them — got 50 of his 80 employees to voluntarily receive the injected microchips for their convenience.

“Eventually, this technology will become standardized allowing you to use this as your passport, public transit, all purchasing opportunities, etc,” he said to WKYC studio news.

As far back as 2012, Pastor John Haggee warned that microchipping would be the vehicle for the mark of the Beast. Already, governments are forcing citizens to vaccinate and snitch on each other for not obeying lockdowns. They could very easily make a minor step forward and “start forcing you to wear a chip and they start forcing you to keep laws that you don’t want to keep,” he wrote in Christian Headlines. Read the rest of microchips mark of the Beast.

Long Beach church girl found her way back to God

praising JesusAt 10, Veronyka dressed like a boy and wanted to be a gangster. Then her father got radically saved and she started attending church.

“My family gang-bangs,” she said on a video posted by the Long Beach Door Church. “That’s just the life I came from. I come from generations and generations of gangsters. When you come from the lifestyle that I come from, there are strongholds.”

But after tasting church life, she decided to follow her secular friends and leave the church.

veronyka sanchez“I was going to church but I was also walling out, drinking and going to parties,” she said. I was living a double life. I never had a real one on one relationship with God. When I was 17 and I got my first real taste of the world, I decided, ‘This is awesome. I love it,’ and, ‘Freedom!’ and I got pregnant. I just kind of went downhill from there.”

Veronyka left home and lived house to house during the pregnancy and after giving birth. Then when her baby turned one, Veronyka turned to do what she thought was the only career available to her.

“I started dancing,” she says. “I was in a really hard place, and I felt very alone. I felt like I needed to get quick money fast. Everything that I ever knew was unraveling so fast, so I started dancing. Little did I know that I was going to go down a really dark rabbit hole once I opened that door.”

For three years, she made good money “dancing.” She got her own place and her own car and lived in San Bernardino.

“I got involved with some people who definitely took advantage of me and manipulated me,” she says. “As dark as an environment that I got in, I could have gotten deeper. It scared me to a point where I was like, ‘Am I going to go fully into what I’m doing or am I going to stop all of this and turn back to God?’ Read the rest: Church in Long Beach.

Best-selling author Andrew Klavan came to Christ

Author 1Andrew Klavan, international best-selling author, grew up in a Jewish household devoid of God.

He felt like a hypocrite at his bar mitzvah when he recited Hebrew statements of faith neither he nor his parents believed. “Judaism is a beautiful religion, but when you empty it of God, it has no meaning,” he told CBN.

He threw himself into reading. He didn’t get along with his dad, so he searched for male role models in books. He struck on the noir, Hemingwayesque hero, the tough guy womanizer who held to his own moral code.

The Long Island native liked reading so much that he started writing, first for a newspaper in Putnam County, NY, and then riveting detective novels. He wrote prolifically and read widely.

100780_w_760_724“The more I read, the more I found that Christianity was at the center of almost every great story that I loved,” Klavan said. “I started to read the Gospel according to Luke as a piece of literature just to find out what everybody was talking about, and I found that the figure of Jesus Christ was at the center of Western Culture.”

At first, he examined the issues only as a sociologist, trying to understand the origins and evolution of Western Civilization’s values and development. But the quest for truth that his protagonists portrayed resonated in his heart and eventually Klavan realized nothing made sense without the existence of God.

“I began to believe in my mind that there actually was a God, but I didn’t know Him yet,” he explained to CBN.

One day he read in a book that a character prayed before going to sleep and Klavan decided he could try the same. Tentatively, he muttered a very terse prayer.

“Thank, You, Lord,” he uttered.

Undramatically, he fell asleep.

“I woke up the next morning and truly everything had changed,” he says. ”There was a new clarity to everything. My heart was filled with gratitude. I was experiencing a joy that had been locked away. Suddenly, knowing God opened me up to my own experience of life.”

That tiny prayer turned into titanic growth in the Lord. Read the rest of the article Andrew Klavan Christian

Before there was Corona, there was crisis in Venezuela on border of Colombia

dr. bob hamilton and ligthhouse medical missions in columbia 2020Some of them walked 10 days to cross the border into Colombia in search of food or medical supplies they could take back to socialism-starved Venezuela.

Johnny Huerta and a team of six doctors, eight nurses and 24 other volunteers were in Cucuta, Colombia, on a temporary medical and feeding mission to show the love of Christ in a tangible way.

“We were swarmed by people,” said Johnny, who’s a painter and baseball player from Santa Monica. “They were grabbing us, grabbing us, like, ‘Pray for me. Pray for me.’”

food for venezuelan refugeesThe pleas for prayers grew to a fevered pitch after some miraculous healings and exorcisms, Johnny says.

The Lighthouse Medical Mission, which got its start 25 years ago in war-torn West Africa, landed on the border of Venezuela on March 7th — before most of the U.S. got locked down over Coronavirus fears. The humanitarian crisis of 40,000 daily border crossings there has been essentially eclipsed.

The Santa Monica-based team provided medical attention and drugs and handed out 3,000 meals a day in conjunction with World Central Kitchen in three areas: in Cucuta, in a Yukpa village on the outskirts of town and in nearby Pamplona. The 39 people divided up in teams to minister in each area.

Johnny Huerta Cucuta Columbia

Johnny Huerta shares fun with the kids.

Johnny was assigned logistics, took pictures, but mostly got roped into translation. The stories he heard of dead family members and left-behind family members appalled him as well as the squalor he witnessed. In the Yukpa village, there were no bathrooms and people lived in huts fashioned with tree limbs and plastic tarp.

“People can live with little and still be happy, but this was not healthy,” Johnny says. “They bathe in an unsanitary river, and that’s why they get lots of infections. They also drink out of that river.

“They have makeshift huts built out of garbage. Babies are walking around naked. They pretty much have nothing. It was one of those shocking situations where you say, ‘Wow people are waking up and living like this every day with unhealthy conditions.’”

The team brought two chefs, but they were prevented from serving until they scrambled to obtain Columbia food preparation licenses.

When they arrived at the border on the first day, “we weren’t sure how they were going to respond as we got out of the van to serve the food,” Johnny says. “They were desperate for food and outnumbered us. Immediately they ran over and we tried to get them in a line, which eventually became a crowd.

“As we tried to transport apples from the back of the van to the food serving area they began to crowd the back of the van as well. We ended up handing out the apples from the van as we were never gonna get through. The next couple of times we fed at the border we organized police protection in advance and were a bit more organized. Even then it was still a bit chaotic.”

Short-term missions are highly recommended because they can impact American church-goers forever: they broaden horizons, impart vision and erode entitlement.

“I was just thankful they gave me the privilege of being able to go with me,” Johnny says. “You feel like you get more out than you put into it. I’m more mature in my faith and in my life than I was before.”

As busy as he was being pulled this way and that, Johnny still found time to share his passion for painting with the kids. It was a personal connection he’ll treasure for life.

In Pamplona, the team attended 3,000 patients.

Many people are losing their eyesight because of rampant infections, Johnny says.

While the doctors saw patients, the pastors and lay leaders were praying for people, many of whom got healed even before they received medical attention, Johnny says.

That’s when they started getting swarmed.

Because witchcraft is widely practiced in the region, several people were delivered from demonic spirits, Johnny says.

“One lady was released from demon possession. She looked super oppressed beforehand and was all smiles afterward,” Johnny says. “They practice witchcraft and spiritism because of their circumstances. They’re reaching out for help. But when we came to them with the gospel, they were open.” Read the rest: Venezuelan refugees Christian response

He tried to be the devil’s #1

Ronnie Legg Texas gangster turned to ChristIncarcerated for a schoolyard murder, a psychologist told 12-year-old Ronnie Legg there was no forgiveness available to Him from God.

“I was like, ‘Wow, I’ll never be able to get into Heaven,” he says on a video published by a Texas outreach group. “I might as well be the devil’s #1. As soon as I was found guilty and sentenced to 21 years, I started pushing hard to try to do the devil’s work. I was pushing hard to be the ultimate gangster.”

Ronnie’s troubles began early: a single mom, abused as a tyke, living in poverty. For selling drugs on the wrong street in East Houston, his brother was killed. Nine-year-old Ronnie followed in his footsteps with drinking and smoking dope.

Ronnie Legg saved from gangsHis mother, brokenhearted at the loss of one son, steeled her heart against what she thought was the inevitable demise of Ronnie.

“There’s no more love here for you because you’re going down the same path your brother went down,” his mom told him. “You ain’t going to do nothing different, so I’ll be danged if you break my heart.”

Ronnie responded to the rejection by throwing the first object he could find at her.

“I hate you,” he yelled.

At age 12, he was on the schoolyard when a group of young gangsters tried to jump him. But they didn’t count on Ronnie being armed and he shot three of them, killing one. He was arrested four days later. Even without a jailhouse confession, prosecutors secured a conviction.

Ronnie Legg Game OverBy age 15, he was in the penitentiary because he was so dangerous. While there, he joined the Houstone Blast gang and fought every day to make a name for himself.

“As I started doing that, everybody was patting me on the back,” he recalls.

Released from prison, he trafficked dope, pimping and kidnapping in Houston.

In December 1999, the Feds tracked him down. It seems his best friend snitched on him. Sentenced to 72 months, he got into trouble in prison so much that his sentence was lengthened to 9 years and 4 months and then into 12 years.

“I ended up walking around some of the worst prisons in the whole United States,” he says. He was in Beaumont prison during the racial riots. He was transferred to Oklahoma and then to Pollack, Louisiana. Of 100 Texans in Pollack, only he and another survived.

Ronnie eventually was transferred to a Death Row penitentiary in Indiana. In Victorville penitentiary, he was thrown in with the Crips and Bloods. It didn’t matter to him that he was the only Houstone. Almost immediately, he stabbed someone on the yard.

Finally, he was transferred to the “Alcatraz of the Rockies” in Florence, Colorado, the “worst of the worst. Everybody there is a killer. Three people a day get stabbed,” Ronnie says.

When he was admitted, the warden gave him one warning:

“All I ask is that you don’t put no steel in my officers.”

When he was finally released, Ronnie went home and immediately resumed drug trafficking.

He got busted for a crime he didn’t commit. Read the rest: Houstone gang Christian.

Could he forgive the death of his brother? Bryann Trejo punches the devil and doesn’t retaliate against the killers

AR-190919667Bryann Trejo was a cold-blooded killer* who’d already spent half his adult life in jail. So when gangsters gunned down his twin brother, Bryann T was tempted to exact a brutal and immediate revenge.

“Even after he was saved, he was murdered,” Bryann says about his brother to Rapzilla. “I came to know Christ as well. I forgave his enemies and murderers and God wrote a new song in my heart.”

Bryann’s twin, named Ryan, is a frequent subject in the hip hop of Bryann Trejo, who is leader of the Kingdom Music Family based in Abilene, Texas. The gangster-turned-pastor’s music, which recently catapulted to the highest levels in CHH, communicates an urgency and passion to get lost souls out of the unforgiving streets and into Jesus’ eternal forgiveness.

bryann trejoBryann was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, but his family moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, when he was 13. There, he fell into armed robberies and selling narcotics. The juvenile delinquent system and then later adult jail, had a “revolving door” for Bryann, he admits on his website.

“I was thugging, out whiling, a Mexican with a cohete (Spanish slang for a gun) with the love the streets,” Bryann says on a Frontline Ministries Braden Hall YouTube video. “That type of love landed me in shootouts, prison, depression and suicide attempts.”

Because FIRST TIME gangsters attempted to kill his brother, Bryann unleashed a furious retaliation that landed him 30 years in jail for two attempted murders. Eventually the charges were lowered with a plea bargain.

Bryann got out of jail at age 27. His brother had gotten saved and Bryann determined to straighten up with God too.

“I’m a knucklehead. I had an identical twin, and we were mixed up in all kinds of bad stuff,” Bryann told Rapzilla. “But he came to know Christ. We started rapping together. But even after he was saved, he was murdered. I came to know Christ as well.”

bryann and monica trejoThe SECOND ATTEMPT on Ryan’s life was a case of mistaken identity on May 28, 2013 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Ryan was trying to disciple a young hoodlum, whom the gangsters were looking for in reprisal for a murder days earlier. The killers showered him with bullets.

Bryann was enraged and broken beyond belief. But he was committed to not relapsing into the old life. Even though he knew who the killers were and could have easily tracked them down, he decided to walk in Christian forgiveness.

“The anger came. God, how could you let my brother get murdered? He served You. I wanted to question Him,” Bryann says on a CUTV video. “I wanted revenge. I’d been in prison before for attempted murder, so when he died it’s already in me to retaliate, especially since he was innocent. I wanted them to pay.”

Bryann came to a crossroads. He faced a momentous decision: either relapse into ravenous revenge or make an audacious stand of forgiveness.

He cried out to God: “Lord, I’m about to go cuckoo. I’m about to lose everything. I got six kids; he got six kids. They’re going to lose daddy and uncle. I knew right then and there, I had to forgive.

“I argued with God, ‘But my brother was innocent,’” he continues. “And the Holy Spirit was like, ‘Jesus was innocent.’ Then I was like, ‘But he didn’t deserve this.’ And the Holy Spirit was like, ‘Jesus didn’t deserve it.’”

It wasn’t by any means easy, but Bryann struggled to truly forgive. He still struggles with “bitterness and poison” in his heart. Every day he’s reminded about his brother’s death every day.

“I see his face in the mirror. We’re identical twins,” Bryann says. “His case is still open. The so-called friends didn’t want to be snitches, so they didn’t say nothing. Everything I thought was real in the streets was fake. So now I have this passion to expose Satan and tell people that he is a liar.”

When he returns to the neighborhood, his former friends still provoke him to take revenge.

“The people ridicule me,” he says. “Homeboys be like, ‘You ain’t going to retaliate? That’s your brother. What kind of brother are you?’” he says. Those words stir up the old street pride.

“What, you don’t think I will?” he counters. But then he remembers he’s living in forgiveness.

“I’m not that man. I don’t fight the way I used to fight,” he says. “I trust through Christ that His way of fighting is better than my way of fighting. I’m really punching Satan every time I forgive. I just didn’t know that was the way to fight back because it didn’t make no sense in the physical. We all want to fight the enemy.” Read the rest: Bryann Trejo rapper no revenge

One month after his wife died, Danny Gokey tried out for American Idol

danny gokeyDanny Gokey’s wife died unexpectedly during a routine heart surgery in 2009.

“They gave me a private room and I yelled out loud, ‘God you have to save her! You have to heal her! You have to. You cannot leave me alone like this!’” he said on an I am Second video. “It got to the point where she was gone, and once again that old familiar thing of fear came back into my life.

“I felt in my heart, God’s mad at me.”

Christian singer Daniel Jay Gokey, 40, is best known for his first single, “My Best Days Are Ahead of Me,” which peaked at number 29 on the country chart, inspiring him to release his full record My Best Days in early 2010.

Born in Milwaukee, Danny attended Heritage Christian Schools and sang with his family in church. In his mid twenties he became the director of Faith Builders International Ministries.

Leyicet-Peralta-WikiDuring this time, he married Sophia Martinez, who was also a fellow church-going music fan.

It was Sophia who encouraged Danny to audition for American Idol. He was accepted as a recipient and ultimately placed third in 2009. This launched his music career, which he aimed at the Christian pop segment.

Four weeks before Danny’s tryout on American Idol, Sophia died. He performed his best in devotion to her.

“I made a promise that I would go try out,” Danny says. “Little did I know that when I would try out for this show, it would be a month after she passed.”

Sophia had a heart condition from birth but had gotten it fixed in a surgery when she was young. Or so Danny thought.

“Little did I know that in our first year of marriage that we’d be in the hospital together because her heart was beating 200 times per minute,” Danny recalls. “And that’s when the doctor dropped the news on us. We were both 24 years old. He said, ‘We’re going to have to have another heart surgery.’”

In his youth, Danny was plagued by all kinds of irrational fears. Many of his fears centered on whether God truly and unconditionally loved him.

Now all the old fears rose up. Read the rest: Danny Gokey’s wife died.

She found no peace in the ‘religion of peace’ until she found the Prince of Peace

Jazal KhatriAll the praying to Allah did little good for Jazal Khatri, whose parents fought contiually and finally divorced.

But when a co-worker’s prayers calmed her panic attack, Jazal experienced a peace never before felt.

“I can no longer think that I’m worthless because if my name is written on God’s hand, as Isaiah 49 mentions, that means He always cares about me,” says Jazal on a 700 Club video. “

Jazal (now with a new last name, Osorio, as a married woman) grew up in a strict Muslim family in America.

Jazal Osorio“I believed that staying true to Islam was something my parents and I would bond over,” she says. “As I did as they requested me to do — like going to the mosque with them, participating in Ramadan fasting — it would bring us closer.”

The hoped-for result never materialized. Instead, she and her mom would flee at midnight frequently.

“I could go to bed thinking everything’s fine and wake up the next morning and it would be disaster,” she says.

And Allah responded with no peace when she prayed.

“Allah seemed really distant for me. I didn’t really feel like I was being listened to. I felt more of like I was going through the motions. I was not really feeling anything in return from god, any love or support or hope. I wanted.

“I wanted that peace that people keep talking about that Islam represents and I didn’t ever feel that.”

When she was a senior in high school, her father called it quits to the tumultuous marriage. Subsequently, mom started a new family.

“After I went through all that with my family, I kind of felt like I wasn’t worthy of any affection or love,” she recounts. “I looked for it from my parents and didn’t get it. It was kind of a reminder: Hey Jazal, you’re not that great. If you were great, your family wouldn’t have left you behind.” Read the rest: no peace in the ‘religion of peace.’

Handi-capable man McLeod’s Coffee House

mcleods-coffeeFirst he staged a prom for special needs people at his church. Now, he’s opened a coffee shop staffed by special needs employees.

Retired Pastor Brewster McLeod of Lexington, Kentucky, opened McLeod’s Coffee House in 2019. The coffee shop is a non profit with 50 employees who happen to have autism and developmental disabilities.

“They got joy, they got heart, they want to work,” McLeod said.

The purpose for the special coffee house is twofold: to give an income to people who might find it hard to get another job, AND to sensitize regular folk to their needs.

mcleods special needs coffee house“If Down syndrome or special needs make you nervous,” McLeod says, “you probably need to come in here and relax and just treat them like anyone else.”

Megan Gaines, 29, works the cash register. She was born with spina bifida, which paralyzes her from the waist down.

“I’m exactly like anybody else. I can do the same things you can do. I just may do things differently,” Megan says. “We still want to have friends, we still want to do things, we still want to go out and hang out with our friends, and just do normal stuff.”

Working at McLeod’s Coffee has brought joy and safety to the 50 employees, whom McLeod calls “VIPs.” They wear super hero T-shirts to work as part of their uniform. McLeod says they’re “handi-capable.” Some are greeters, others baristas, others work the cash register.

McLeod was pastor of the Southland Christian Church in Lexington for 40 years. Since 2000, he’s ministered specifically to people with special needs. He held a “Jesus prom” for people with special needs because they felt excluded from regular Cinderella-like events. Read the rest: special needs employees coffee shop.

Run DMC, now ‘Rev Run’

RevRun-Justine-SimmonsBefore his influence, hip hop was a backwater movement off most people’s radar. Then Joseph Simmons and his group Run DMC brought rap to the mainstream in the mid 1980s and suddenly it became an international sensation.

Joseph Simmons banked millions, landed his own $2.0 million Adidas shoe deal and had innumerable adoring fans. A few albums later, he had fallen off.

One member of the trio was murdered, another was lost in drugs, and Joseph Simmons, succumbing to alcoholism, was left scratching his head wondering why the genre he helped found had all but forgotten him. His wife was divorcing him. He was accused of rape. His fame, finances and family were frittering away.

Thankfully the New York native turned to God.

run-dmc-portrait-joseph-run-simmons-darryl-d-m-c-news-photo-1579816339“There are always your darkest moments before the birth of a beautiful thing. Rev Run at his low point was not quite Rev Run,” he says, speaking in third person about himself, to the Guardian. “He was trying to understand this great thing that was happening to him. There was a time to reap, a time to sow. A time for it to be sunny outside and a time when it’s so dark you have no option but to just be or you’ll go nuts.”

“Records sales weren’t as high as they was (sic),” he says on NPR. “I was a little unhappy with what was going on so I started going to church. And when I started going to church I started to feel better. Things were starting to look brighter for me. I started to see that learning the principles of God was helping to shape my life better.”

RevFamily-panoramaAs the rap genre turned dark and promoted drugs and gang violence, Simmons turned to church. It was a former Run DMC bodyguard, Bobby Walker, who finding Run wallowing in depression persuaded him to attend New York’s Zoe Ministries Church in 1990. Within five years Run had gone from usher to ordained minister, donning the moniker Reverend Run.

Today, the 55-year-old who once rapped Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” on colab now teaches people to “walk His way” and preaches an aggressive, rhapsodic message wherever he’s invited: “You must be born again, my friend, or you’re going straight to hell,” Southcoast Today quoted him at a 1996 church service.

As a Pentecostal pastor, Rev Run was turning heads. In 2005, he got the chance to bring God’s truths about family and marriage to a reality show on MTV.

Yes, you read that right. MTV — that profane purveyor of hedonism, anti-God-ism and ADD — the last a result of the rapid fire succession of endless images to music. It was MTV where potty-mouthed Ozzy Osbourne, the satanic concert chicken-head decapitator, had his reality show. It was an imponderable spot for a reverend to be preaching — or rather practicing what he preaches.

MTV was also an extraordinary opportunity to shine light into an incredible dark space, and he was given the opportunity to dispense sound spiritual advice on “Run’s House” because of his previous work as Run DMC’s front man. Now he had, instead of platinum sales, an eternal view toward streets of gold. Read the rest: How did Rev Run become Christian?

Crushed by stress and hate, cops have nowhere to turn except Jesus

5-8m3xyxGruesome crimes that cannot be “unseen” sometimes weigh down on and break the heart of police officers who got into law enforcement with enthusiasm and idealism.

Without a “Biblical mindset,” the men and women in blue turn to anger, alcohol and divorce at higher frequencies than almost any other group in society, says Paul Lee, executive director of the Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers (FCPO).

Police have a divorce rate of 75 percent and a domestic abuse rate of 40 percent, the FCPO website says.

740460_354217591351768_1007974035_o-lzgduy“If you have the scriptures behind you and you have a firm foundation, then you know that lost people are acting like lost people,” Lee says. “Today we have lost people and lost cops out on the streets clashing and acting like lost people while Satan claps his hands together with glee.”

The FCPO’s 250 local chapters reach out to the nation’s 1.1 million local, state and national enforcement officers with the Gospel from a perspective that cops can understand.

p5110042-rpxqbfLee accepted Jesus into his heart in 1995 — after 17 years of handling the stress of police work in his own strength. He immediately joined the Chattanooga chapter of FCPO and was hooked to their Bible studies and discipleship support group.

“Once I realized I had this whole new family that loved me, I was sold,” Lee says. “We began to read scriptures and learn to apply the scripture on the streets, which was a challenge. If you’re not reading the Bible, you don’t know what to do.”

Many officers don’t have the advantage of growing up in a Christian home, Lee says.

Raised in church, Lee left God and began working in law enforcement. After years of apprehending criminals and witnessing unimaginable monstrosities on the cruel streets, Lee descended into an abyss of anger, distrustful cynicism and heavy drinking.

He divorced his wife.

“Being a police officer and seeing all the evil and trying to deal with that evil in my own strength, I had become calloused,” he remembers. “I felt nothing. I hated everybody. Nobody told you the truth.”

When his mother died, he thought over his life. In the shower before her funeral, Lee remembered her dedication to Christ and reflected on his own prodigality.

“I knew the life I was living was totally wrong. I had faulted God for 20 years. But the death of my mother totally broke me and brought me to the lowest point in my life.” Lee says. “My life was passing before my eyes like a bad B-movie. I was crying uncontrollably.”

In the shower, Lee said three things to the Lord: “I give up. I surrender. and continue reading about Police PSTD and Jesus.

Hyper Fenton’s eruption on CHH

_500W_500HWhen Seth Jacon Fenton searched for a stage name, he had only to think what afflicted him in grade school and what led to innumerable suspensions.

“Hyper” was the name he chose, which he uses with his last name.

Hyper Fenton’s unique mixture of hip hop and electronic music erupted on CHH in 2016. The Dallas native may be “Chilling in Dallas” (the name of what is perhaps his most popular song), but he hasn’t chilled about much. He’s been hyperactive since childhood.

Naturally, one gig is not enough for a man of boundless energy. He is the minister of preschool and children at his father’s church, Meadows Baptist Church, in Plano, Texas, immediately north of Dallas.

image-asset

No doubt, he’s a hyper snowboarder. Pictured with his wife. Is she hyper too?

He’s also an actor. In fact, he studied acting in college, acted in plays throughout school, and “acted up” in the classroom. “Whether on stage or in the principal’s office, Seth was full of passion, hyperactive, explosive, many times impulsive,” his website says. “Seth had a yearning, a longing to dream, perform and to express himself.”

It was also in college that he fell in love with hip hop. When Moflo Music Production’s owner heard a song randomly from Hyper Fenton, he approached him about working together. The results: numerous singles and three albums — Kindergarten Dreams, Terabithia and Remembering Me.

The 27-year-old grew up in his dad’s church and accepted Jesus into his heart at age six. He loved Jesus but was drawn intensely to performing arts.

“It seemed that with Seth there were two things at war within him, a desire to Love and serve Jesus Christ, the God who saved him, and a desire to express himself through art and creativity,” his website says. Read the rest: Hyper Fenton Christian rap.

Homeless 11-year-old waif rescued because of Christian group in Honduras

Operation Blessing HondurasEleven-year-old Linda was rescued off the streets by her cousin from another village.

Cousin Myrna was able to take her in because of her affiliation with Operation Blessing.

poverty in HondurasLinda’s demise began because of extreme poverty in a remote village in Honduras. Her parents left her to fend for herself and she found shelter in an old abandoned house, where she slept.

“When I slept at that house, I used to hear some very scary noises. Then I would become very afraid,” she told Operation Blessing. “I wanted sunrise to come quickly.”

During the day, the little street urchin begged for food, and sometimes people gave her tortillas with nothing on them to stave off starvation. Other times she went hungry.

“Some people gave me something to eat,” she said. “Other people just looked away.”

Because of the poverty in the rural area, Linda lacked a birth certificate and wasn’t allowed to enroll in school. Read the rest: Honduras poverty Christian help.

“I wanted to learn to write my name, read, study and do homework,” Linda says.

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Owners of Forever 21 proclaim Jesus

Forever-21+(1)Nothing is forever except Heaven, as the owners of Forever 21 are discovering.

After trail-blazing fast fashion for three decades, Do Won and Jin Chang’s clothing stores made them billionaires but are now in the throes of bankruptcy.

The couple is strong in faith and their brand proudly prints “John 3:16” on the bottom of every bag as a witness for Christ. But now the chain is struggling for its economic existence.

merlin_162717138_d7d472aa-d124-46e0-b194-205896595cbd-superJumboDo Won, or simply “Don,” immigrated to America in 1981 because opportunities in South Korea were limited. Ambitious and willing to work hard, Chang immediately got three jobs in Los Angeles: dish washer at a coffee shop, janitor at office buildings and attendant at a gas station.

While pumping gas, BMWs and Mercedes Benzes caught his eye. “I noticed the people who drove the nicest cars were all in the garment business,” Don told the Los Angeles Times.

He and his wife, Jin Sook, opened their first store in 1984 in a Highland Park neighborhood of LA with the strategy of piling high and selling cheap.

Making it in the fashion industry is about as tough as succeeding as an artist or a movie star, but the Changs perfected the technique of making the latest red carpet outfits show up instantly on their shelves, and their business exploded to 800 stores in 50 countries with $4 billion in annual sales.

“I came here with almost nothing and I’ll always have a grateful heart toward America for the opportunities that it’s provided me,” he said in Forbes.

While they succeeded wildly and moved into Beverly Hills, the couple — with their two daughters — remained steadfast in their Christian convictions. They prayed everyday at 5:00 a.m. at their church and went on mission trips to Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. Read the rest Christian Forever 21.

Colorblind artist paints Jesus Christ to worship music in live church services

colorblind artist lance brownBy Nazarii Baytler —

Lance Brown has always been a skilled artist. Since a young age, he had the ability to draw nearly anything. However, he has one unusual quality for an artist — colorblindness.

“That has always been a struggle,” Lance says in a testimonial video from 2015. “However, my wife and kids help me out a lot.”

When Lance graduated from an art institute in 1999, he got a job in graphic design. After years, though, Lance decided he was wasting his talent.

“That’s when I started painting,” Lance continues. “I just went to the art store and bought a bunch of paints.”

garden-of-gethsemane-jesus-praying-lance-brownHowever, Lance was not quite sure yet what he was going to do with his new supplies.

“I just decided to start the painting. And so, through that, God showed me that I was pretty good!” Lance says.

It wasn’t long before Lance had set up a side business for freelance artwork.

“About six years ago, I made a painting for my church, Arlington Fielder Road Baptist,” Lance recounts.

Lance was then asked to do the same painting, but on stage. However, surprisingly, Lancer refused the proposal.

“However, what I found in stepping out of my comfort zone, there were blessing prepared by God that I didn’t even know was there,” Lance continues.

The Holy Spirit led Lance to eventually get up on stage. However, what Lance had in mind was going on stage, painting, and leaving as soon as possible.

God had other plans.

“Once I got up there, it totally caught me off guard,” Lance recalls. “It was such a worship experience for me personally, which I did not expect.”

To this day, Lance still gets emotional when making his trademark Jesus paintings. Creating something from nothing is very personal to him.

As soon as Lance did that fateful first painting, he thought to himself, “I want to do that again.”

“I went to my Bible study group and asked for the guys to pray for me,” Lance says. “I started a website, Painted Christ, put myself out there, and started introducing myself to churches in the area.”

Lance’s opportunities were few and far between. A year later, he got laid off from his previous job. Lance was convinced that painting was God’s plan for him.

“I fell flat on my face. It just didn’t work at the time,” Lance admits. “It was only a year after starting. I just wasn’t ready.”

Lance got a different job, but he persisted with his painting.

In 2013, a tragic turn of events led to Lance’s house flooding. Later, it caught fire during the process of repairing the flood damage.

“We were in a hotel for five months. At the time, it was so depressing,” Lance continues. “I just said that I couldn’t do it anymore.”

Lance took down his website, and officially quit. However, he soon found that if God wants you for something, he is going to find a way to get your attention no matter what.

“I had some YouTube videos out there that I forgot about,” Lance recounts. “And He (God) showed those videos to somebody. That somebody was a little church called Watermark in Dallas.” Read the rest: colorblind Christian artist ‘speed paints’

Fired on at close range, Todd White turned to Jesus

todd-whiteTodd White joined the Marines to prove to his stepdad he was a man, but on break after boot camp he partied so much with drugs he forgot to report for duty.

“I went home and I stole a bunch of money in a drug deal, went out West and hid in the Rocky Mountains,” Todd says on a YouTube video. “A little while later I got busted and put in jail, extradited across the United States and put into the military prison.”

Today Todd White is a pastor helping myriads of people tripped up by Satan’s snares. But his past was beset with foundering and failure.

He was born out of a hookup when his father came back “messed up” following service in the Vietnam War. Two other siblings arrived from that union and his parents eventually married. It was perhaps inevitable that what started wrong wouldn’t end well, and his parents divorced when Todd was 11.

todd white ministryHe was thrown into the foster care system and raised by Free Masons. Frustrated by the breakup of his family, Todd turned to drugs.

“I was rebellious, angry, bitter, so mad,” he says. “I was fully addicted to anything I could get my hands on. It started with weed and it just escalated more and more.”

On a dare from his step dad, he joined the Marines to become a man — and to straighten up his life. Boot camp saw him drop 83 pounds and transform into a lean, mean, fighting machine.

“They kicked my butt,” he says.

Granted leave before he had to report for duty, Todd reverted to partying, drinking and drugs. He fled to the Rocky Mountains, where he eventually got arrested. In the computer system, cops found he was an AWOL Marine and shipped him back to the military to be tried and punished.

After five and half months in a military jail, Todd told his superiors he wanted to quit the Marines. But he had signed up for a period of service and they refused.

So he ran away again.

“I ended up getting arrested again,” he says.

todd white familySo now the Marines court-martialed him and gave him a dishonorable discharge, a black stain on his record. “Boom. Kicked me out of the military. This is the way I started out my life,” he says. “That’s not too good on a resume.”

Drinking and clubbing, he met a girl and tricked her into thinking he was an amazing guy.

She got pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl. Sadly, Todd was repeating the cycle of hopelessness and broken family that he inherited from his own dad. But the tiny baby in his arms melted his heart and sparked a motivation to seek change.

“When I held my little daughter I was like, I don’t know how to be a dad. I have a lifetime subscription to issues,” he recounts.

No one in Todd’s family was Christian. They were all atheists, not theoretical atheists who think up all the reasons to not believe in God, but practical atheists who live out the consequences of not having God.

“I am lost, and I’m floundering, and I’m hurting, and I’m hurting people,” Todd recounted.

When Todd’s daughter was a couple months old, the mother said she was leaving.

The emotional wallop caused Todd to entertain suicidal thoughts.

“Those thoughts have always been there at times more and more, but now it was like everyday. I became massively depressed and suicidal. Mixed with all kinds of drugs in my body. It was just a twisted life.”

Then his girlfriend announced she was going to leave Todd for another man and he went crazy.

”That’s it,” he responded furiously. “I’m taking them out. I’m taking you out. I will make you watch and then I’m going to take myself out. And then we’re going to leave our daughter with no one.”

Out of fear, his girlfriend stayed — for a time.

When she finally got up the nerve, she left when Todd was out.

”Finally one night I come home and she’s gone,” he recalls. “I said to myself, ‘That’s it. I’m done.’ I drive to her stepdad’s house because he has rifles. I’m going to end my life. I head over to the gun cabinet on the way to the gun cabinet I pass by this ledge with a phone book on it.

Then something remarkable happened. When Todd randomly flipped open the phone book, in God providence it opened to a page displaying churches.

“I’m thinking, this is stupid, yet I drove to the church,” he says. “I needed to talk to somebody.”

“Praise Jesus!” a man said heartily when Todd walked into the church. He began to share Jesus with Todd.

When the man asked Todd to give his life to Jesus, Todd thought, Who would want my life?

“If He wants my life, fine, then, here, He can have it,” Todd told the man, as if his life were a recycled can. Obviously the man was more enthusiastic about Todd’s “conversion” than Todd was himself.

When Todd went home though, he noticed that he no longer wanted to kill himself.

He got his little girl to beg her mother to come back home.

“When she came home, man, was she mad,” Todd says. “I put my daughter to bed and that same night I’m out on a cocaine bid.”

The next morning Todd called the man from church and confessed he’d stumbled into cocaine again. “ Your Jesus didn’t work,” he said.

“How did the cocaine make you feel?” the man replied.

“Horrible,” Todd responded.

“Good for you because that means there’s a seed that growing inside of you,” the man said.

For five and a half months Todd continued to struggle with his addiction to cocaine.

One night, Todd was making a call to his dealer. He didn’t answer. As soon as Todd finished the call and turned around, there was his daughter and girlfriend looking distraught.

“You promised you would never do it again, daddy,” his daughter cried. ”You say it every night you promise and every night you do it again.”

Todd wanted to stop but couldn’t.

That same night, Todd went down to a place where people deal drugs. He planned to steal drugs from someone. He found a young guy in his car, took his cocaine and then “reads him his rights,” as if the kid was being arrested and he was a cop.

“The kid gets out of the car and when I hit the gas he pulled out a nine millimeter gun and unloaded at me,” Todd recounts. Read the rest: Todd White Christian.

Leader of L.A. Rescue Mission lost leg in fight against homelessness, willing to sacrifice the other if it would make a difference

union rescue mission changes livesAndy Bales’ leg was amputated in 2016 after he contracted an infection related to homeless people defecating on LA’s Skid Row.

“I’d give my other leg if they would actually do something” to get people off the streets, he declares.

While politicians dicker about who’s to blame for the city’s acute homelessness crisis, Andy, CEO of Union Rescue Mission, believes they have the answer that manifests Christ’s love in a pragmatic way. It’s called a Sprung Structure, a cheap and durable fabric tent that can house 120 people.

andrew bales ceo union rescue mission outside city hall“The answer is IMMEDIATELY getting people off the streets so they are not continuing to be devastated,” he says. “The longer we leave so many people on the streets, the worse it gets for them and for all of us.”

In 2014, Andy participated in a triathlon and scraped open a sore on his foot. He was wearing a “wound boot” when he walked around with staff handing out bottled water and invited people to take advantage of Union Rescue Mission’s services.

“I got an infection from human waste outside on the sidewalk on Skid Row,” he says.

Andy Bales CEO Union Rescue MissionRight now, there are only nine public toilets to service 2,800 people on Skid Row. The numbers don’t add up and actually fall short of toilets available for refugee camps in Syria (the refugees have it better). He calculates 184 toilets would be needed to keep the homeless from defecating and urinating on the sidewalk.

He describes a dangerous situation with grave infections happening to people all the time. Aside from cleaning the street every two weeks, the City hasn’t done much, he says.

Los Angeles’ homeless crisis is worse than New York’s or San Francisco’s. Last year, there were 41,000 on the streets. This year, there are 44,000, Andy says.

Andy, 61, is no Ivory Tower theorist. He’s a man of the trenches.

To remind himself and draw attention to the plight of the homeless, Andy spends New Year’s Eve on the streets every year. He denies himself his bed, his warm room, his shower, his bathroom, and his dinner. He spends the entire night outside, with whoever volunteers to help him, on the streets.

The first time he did it many years ago, he did it alone. Throughout the night, he broke up fights and fought off rapists — five physical altercations in total, he says. Never again would he brave the streets alone. Sometimes he’s accompanied by Bible college students, sometimes by staff.

So he experiences firsthand the horrors of homelessness. When the news reports of violence and even murder perpetrated by the homeless, Andy knows what goes wrong.

“I don’t know how anyone continues to sleep on the streets night after night without beginning to think in a wrong way,” he says. “I’m still recovering two days later. You can see I have a shake in my hands. And that was just one night. I can’t survive one night on the streets. How can I survive two. Or how could I survive weeks or months or decades on the streets?” Read the rest: Homelessness Los Angeles.

Joey Vantes, suicide rapper

62335bc62cfb6ff575a23f9280507c1b.1000x1000x1“Sending love and prayers for all those facing loss, depression, or heartache this season. DM me if you need someone to talk to and to pray with you.”

That’s what Christian Hip Hop sensation Joey Vantes wrote on Facebook Dec. 14th. He knows that Christmas, for many, heightens their isolation, depression and thoughts of suicide. He has a heart for more than just music or stardom. He has a heart for the hurting.

joey vantes suicideThat’s because Joey Vantes (formerly Joey Jewish) tried to commit suicide himself. He was trying to quit the partying and drugs from his days at the University of Arizona. But he kept lapsing back into drinking, and the cycle of failure detonated depression.

“It was just a mess. I couldn’t break free,” Joey told Rapzilla. “I was so depressed. I was so bound to this thing that I just wanted to die to escape what I was feeling on a daily basis.”

One day when his wife sent him for groceries, he decided to end his life. He would drive off the road down a steep embankment.

“I jerked my wheel to the left to pull off at this ramp and right when I [did] it, my wheel locks, my car shuts off and I slowly just kind of fade over to the left side of the road,” Joey said. “Immediately, the Spirit of God just hits me right where I am in my car.I feel this intense love come over me and say, ‘I love you and I forgive you. Just call out to me.’” Read the rest: Suicide rapper Joey Vantes

But how do I deal with the pain? A book explores options

Dawn Forman human sufferingOne woman’s husband died at war while she was pregnant. Another lost 198 Jewish family members during the Holocaust. A man witnessed the sexual abuse of his sister and withdrew into himself, drinking excessively to deaden the memory.

How do you move beyond life’s pain and suffering? Between the Lines, Beyond the Pain examines that question and weighs why some people never recover from the injustices of our fallen world.

The author, Dawn Forman, personally experienced her own torment when she was raped by her step-dad.

Dawn Forman's sistersRemarkably, she makes the case for compassion — and empathy — for everyone. She urges her readers to stop judging others or writing them off. She exhorts them to greater understanding, valuing everyone.

“The stars cannot be seen until they are set against ebony background of the night sky,” Forman writes. “So it is with people… (they) shine as stars (when we learn) what they have endured or overcome in their lives.”

Forman is a poet and includes some of her poems in the small volume. In the process of overcoming pain, poetry can be part of the healing journey, as evidenced by David in the Psalms.

Forman was born in the San Fernando Valley to an angry, distant father, who never processed his childhood trauma and lashed out at those around him, including his three girls.

Dawn and Charlie Forman“Though I have found much healing,” she says, “I still bear scars.”

Absent a loving father, Forman became promiscuous. Sex, drugs and the under-21 dance club “The Sugar Shack” were part of the equation.

“Emotionally crippled by my formative years spent with my father, the choices I began to make as a teenager reflect my aching soul,” she narrates in the autobiographical volume. “Unworthy, unloved and unequal to those around me, I was always searching for a place where I felt I belonged. This left me extremely vulnerable. Male attention became like a drug itself. I was gouging multiple, deeper scars into my already wounded heart and soul.”

Her parents divorced when she was 16. She started spending more time with friends as lost as herself. Quaaludes, cocaine, barbiturates and angel dust became her thing, all to the beat of David Bowie’s “Rebel, Rebel.”

She went from hanging out with drug addicts to hanging out with drug dealers. Once she got accused of being a narc at a satanic party in San Francisco. Several times she had brushes with death.

After a three-day drug binge, she overdosed. Only then did she think of the Jesus freaks she ridiculed when she passed them on the sidewalk. They told her Jesus loved her and had a plan for her; she sneered and moved on. But when she overdosed, she remembered.

“My life was a miserable mess,” she recalls. “In my eyes, I was a pathetic waste of flesh, a failure, unlovable wretch, full of anger and pain.”

As she lingered close to death, she cried out. “Jesus, if you are real, I do not want to die.” Read the rest: No easy answers for emotional pain Between the Lines, Beyond the Pain

LOL! Babylon Bee roasts everyone with Christian perspective

snopes vs babylon beeIn 2014, Adam Ford quit his day job to write satire news and The Babylon Bee, the “most trusted source of fake news,” was born two years later.

Stylistically similar to secular The Onion, The Babylon Bee, which clocks 9 million monthly views, has laughed its way through hallowed halls of mega churches and Congress.

Its writers lampoon everything from pro abortion forces to repetitive Chris Thomlin choruses (Headlines: “Planned Parenthood Honors King Herod With Lifetime Achievement Award” and “Chris Tomlin Finally Wears Out His Computer’s Copy, Paste Shortcut Keys.”)

Katy_Perry_IsisSometimes, its roasts resemble reality so closely that even Snopes has been duped into “fact-checking” its articles. Cue the endless eye-roll.

“Satire is a powerful, effective and Biblical tool for conveying ideas,” Ford wrote on Adam4D.com when he launched the Bee. Satire has “belong(ed) almost exclusively to the anti-religious view. The Bee aims to change that. Christ-centered news satire is now a thing.”

With the endless stream of negativity in your news feed, some laughter provides much needed stress release.

Babylon bee humorBut The Babylon Bee (note the alliterative disharmony of the ancient Biblical capital city with the quirky newspaperish “Bee”) aims at more than just making fun of people. It shoots for reflection.

“It’s important to look at what we’re doing, to ‘examine ourselves.’ Satire acts like an overhead projector, taking something that people usually ignore and projecting it up on the wall for everyone to see,” Ford told Christianity Today. “It forces us to look at things we wouldn’t normally look at and makes us ask if we’re okay with them.”

It has ridiculed the ongoing impeachment against Trump: “Santa Claus Accused Of Quid Pro Quo For Giving Children Gifts In Exchange For Good Behavior.” It has lampooned Trump: “Donald Trump’s Ego Most Fragile Element In Known Universe, Scientists Confirm.”

It has poked fun at atheist physicist Stephen Hawking for postulating the multiverse (multiple universes) to by-step the insurmountable improbability of life spontaneously generating: “Atheist Accepts Multiverse Theory Of Every Possible Universe Except Biblical One.”

ome of the parodies are theological. Calvinists bear the brunt of the Bee’s beatings: “Calvinist Dog Corrects Owner: ‘No One Is A Good Boy’”

Other spoofs slam mega churches. Joel Osteen seems to good-naturedly ignore the incessant onslaught. One headline: “Joel Osteen Opens Church Cafe That Only Serves Lukewarm Beverages.” Read the rest: Babylon Bee vs. Snopes.

Refreshingly humble foot soldier of the Lord rapper YB

spotify+coverBrandon “YB” Farris is a soldier.

While other Christian rappers seek to be titans of hip hop, YB approaches music from a different perspective. He doesn’t aspire to be the superstar or super-celeb in the spotlight. He’s happy being the unpretentious, humble, and effective foot soldier for God’s kingdom.

The braggadocio common in Christian rap MAY be excused as a sine qua non of the hip hop genre. Or it may be simply the sin of pride.

Whether we condemn CHH or overlook its faults is moot for the moment. What we can say is that YB is a breath of fresh air.

YB Christian rapper“I believe God still has soldiers in this generation and in the generations to come,” YB says on Alysia Paige’s blog. “As long as I’m breathing I’m in full pursuit to gather soldiers to build God’s army.”

YB grew up one of eight children of a single mother in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. From the age of eight, music was his escape from the harsh realities of poverty. Growing up without a father caused him as a 13-year-old to have many unanswered questions, according to Top40 Charts.

“It was being surrounded by a tough environment, and you were being forced to make something from the environment you were coming up in,” YB told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “A lot of my story was in the valley.”

He idolized Ludacris and Eminem and got serious about music in high school. He honed his craft breaking curfew, staying up late writing and playing the music too loud. Ever sympathetic, his mother pardoned his peccadillos.

From a young age, YB knew the presence of God, but he kept God at a distance, leery of the level of commitment required. He did music for himself, not ready to enlist in God’s army. But he found self-glorification and self-promotion hollow at the end of the day.

“When I did music for me, I truly had nothing to offer people,” he observes. “In reality, people walk through life looking and hoping for ‘something’ but sometimes it’s hard to articulate your needs in darkness.”

All that changed when he went to Southern Arkansas University Tech in East Camden. He ran across so many on-fire, sold-out Christians it turned his worldview upside down. Instead of seeing the commitment as daunting, he was drawn to God.

At a college “Passion Conference,” he came to terms with God and decided to serve Jesus unreservedly, like a soldier.

He dropped his freshman album in 2014, aptly named “Salvation.” Four years later… Read the rest: Humble Christian rapper YB a soldier of Jesus.

He loved to intimidate people until he despaired of life itself

Brian Cole, pastor and bikerBecause of his buck teeth and because he was short, Brian was the kid who got pushed around at school, but the nightmare of being pushed around at school paled in comparison to the emotional and physical abuse meted out by his father.

“I hated my father,” Brian Cole says in a CBN video. “I had this idea all through life, till I got to the age where I could take my dad on fist to cuffs that I would never be right with him.”

Eventually some kids from high school, outcasts and trouble-makers themselves, extended to Brian friendship — and cigarettes. Brian quickly realized that the tables had turned for his tormentors. With older kids sticking up for him, it was now his turn to terrorize them.

satanist bikerBrian began picking fights everywhere — in school, in church. He started stealing and using drugs regularly. Instead of finding compassion at church, he found condemnation and finger-pointing that only turned him away from God. He became

Brian began breaking into churches, stealing their sounds systems and vandalizing them. He trafficked drugs and porn at school

“Here I was 10 years old, and I didn’t want to be at home, I didn’t want to be in school, and I didn’t want to be in church,” he says, now with tears at the painful memories.

Only his mother, Dorothy, gave him unconditional love and prayed for him continuously.

“I loved that people looked up to me,” he says. “I loved that people were scared of me. I was the man.”

Brian Cole and his abusive fatherAt age 14, Brian got turned over to police for selling pot — by his own father.

From there, he cycled through the police system, the judicial system, treatment centers and psych wards. He never stop using drugs and stealing.

At 18, Brian caught a case for breaking and entering 250 homes that landed him with 10 years in a maximum security prison. While there, he turned to Satanism because it offered him a way to generate even more fear in others. He was taking speed and LSD heavily.

“Seeing the fear in people’s eyes — even the guards’ eyes — boy that really fed my ego,” he says.

After being released in 1994, Brian got a girlfriend. When she cheated on him, he hunted down the offending man and shot him point blank. Miraculously, the man survived. Read the rest: Satanist biker saved from drugs by Jesus.

Used to outwitting the KGB in Ukraine, immigrant outwits rabbis in the Yeshiva

persecuted christians in ukraineBy the time the KGB showed up, the Torahs were gone, stowed safely with their Ukrainian neighbors.

This the game of cat and mouse of being a Christian or a Jew under Communist Soviet domination in the 1980s. Foer her part, Andrew Scokovsky’s mom was born ethnic Jew but had decided to convert to Christianity after a lifelong search for truth.

My mom always searched for the meaning of life,” says Andrew*. “So she turned to socialism and communsim to see if it had the truth. She read Marx and Lenin and she couldn’t find it there. She was looking all theese places. Finally her friend said, Hey why don’t you read the Bible? It changed her life. Then she told it to my father and then he accepted Jesus too.”

Little Andrew grew up in the underground church of Odessa, always dodging the KGB and the communist authority.

“Whether Jewish or Christian, persecution was the same,” Andrew says. “According to socialistic creed, you’re supposed to believe in Lenin, so there is no higher authority than the communist party, there is a higher authority. They couldn’t allow that.”

persecuted christians in ukraine 2So when Andrew’s neighbors got wind that the KGB was planning to raid their house on a certain day, they spirited away the Torahs to Andrew’s house just in the nick of time. When the KGB — the feared security apparatus that propped up the communist dictatorship — arrived, agents found nothing.

Andrew says there were officially sanctioned churches but that you couldn’t hear the full gospel in them.

“We were part of the underground church,” he recalls. “You could not go to the regular church because if you went to a regular church, the KGB made a list of what you could preach. If you want to preach the whole Bible, you have to go to the underground church.”

As a young child, he was brought to church and dedicated to God. Accordingly, he grew up always wanting to pray, read his Bible and pursue a relationship with Jesus, he says.

At age 14, his parents were granted asylum to the United States under the religious persecution clause, and they settled in Brooklyn, NY, 1989.

“At the time we left, revival was going on,” Andrew says. “Just before communism fell, they opened up the region to foreigners, and Americans would come and preach. It was like a voice of angels in the late 80s. A lot of people converted during that time.”

In New York, his parents enrolled him in a public high school. But the fights — even with knives — frightened them, so they switched him to a conservative Jewish school, called a Yeshiva. They were not Jewish but resorted there because it was a “safe place,” he says.

Andrew knew he couldn’t talk about Christianity.

“Teachers taught us you only worship God and that Christians worship a man who claimed to be God, which is idolatry, the worst sin,” he said. Read the rest: Ukrainian persecuted Christian.

Gambling addiction broken after man sees in Bible what God told him

john simmonsJohn Simmons first entered a dingy poker room where guys were smoking on his 21st birthday in Vegas.

“There’s no better feeling than putting in a wad of money in your pocket knowing you didn’t really do anything to earn it,” says Simmons on a CBN video. “There’s a lot of adrenaline that builds up in your heart. The feeling of chasing that moment is intense.”

It was the start of a decade-long gambling addiction that saw John, from St. Louise, Missouri, fall into more than $200,000 of debt, depression and hopelessness.

IMG_5510His demise began with a celebration for his birthday, when it was finally legal for him to go into a casino.

“The guys at the tables got their sunglasses on and they’re bluffing each other,” John says. “It’s just filling me up with all this joy and i’m like I love this.”

John decided to pursue poker as a career. He got a job as a casino card dealer and he made good money.

‘Gambling gave me a sense of purpose. It gave me a sense of identity,” John says. “I would be a person that could be seen by others as a multimillionaire. If I wasn’t working, I was playing. If I wasn’t playing, I was sleeping.”

IMG_5509But when gambled on his free time, he lost.

After three years at the poker table, John was more than $200,000 in debt and had to declare bankruptcy. As part of the court settlement, he still had to pay off some debt. So John worked overtime to scramble the money.

“In my mind, it wasn’t that I was failing. I just needed to keep going and figure out how to fix it,” he says. “If only I could win the next thing, none of these losses matter. I would spend my entire paycheck over the course of a weekend trying to chase my debts. A lot of times, I had zero dollars in my pocket.

“It was such a terrible way to live,” he adds. “I couldn’t stop though. I kept thinking, ‘If all I do is win this one tournament, if I win a million dollars, no one will be mad at me anymore.’”

At age 30, he was again hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

He decided to survey the debris of his life. Read the rest of gambling addiction.

First dyslexia, then cancer, Mark Hall has gone through some trials

Mark-and-Melanie-Hall-Feature-2His doctor said, “You’ve got cancer,” but John Mark Hall, lead singer of Casting Crowns, heard, “You’re going to die.”

It was 2015 and the Grammy-winning Christian worship band was approaching 10 million sales of its albums. Mark was youth pastor in Georgia, happily married and fulfilling his call in God. He consulted a doctor friend about what he imagined to be acid reflux.

After getting the results of some scans, the doctor texted Mark: Dude, you need to call me.

308650In a subsequent phone call he told Mark there was a mass on his kidney. “It looks solid. I think it’s cancer,” he said.

Mark was thunderstruck.

“I hung up and walked to my car in a daze, wondering how I was going to break the news to my wife, Melanie; our four kids; our church; the youth group; the band,” Mark recalls in Guideposts. “The idea of telling them all made my head spin.”

God felt far away.

Two weeks before his surgery, Mark was singing with Casting Crowns at the Carson Center in Paducah, Kentucky, wondering what would happen. The band’s next song was “Just Be Held.” Unlike most of their songs, there was no story behind the song – until that night.

At that moment he had the stunning realization that God had inspired him to pen lyrics that would speak to him later in life, in the midst of his cancer.

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on

Casting-Crowns-press-photo-2016-billboard-1548“It was as though I was hearing those words for the very first time. Suddenly I knew who this song had been written for, and why. God in his infinite wisdom had given it to me two years earlier, knowing how desperate I would be after my diagnosis,” Mark explained. “I didn’t need to hold it together. I needed to be held, to accept his love from as many people as wanted to share it with me, to receive their prayers, all the prayers I could get.”

Doctors removed his cancerous kidney and later told him it was an aggressive form of the deadly disease, but mercifully, it was self-contained and had not spread.

The weeks following the surgery were sometimes difficult. The band cancelled a week of shows before Mark could rejoin them.

God has helped the band continue to reach hundreds of thousands with their inspirational music. Casting Crowns has won Dove, Billboard and American Music awards. The group is one of the only American bands to ever perform in North Korea., playing at the 2009 Spring Friendship Arts Festival in Pyongyang. Their single “Slow Fade” was included in Kirk Cameron’s blockbuster movie FireproofRead the rest: Dyslexia, cancer, Mark Hall.

The ‘War on Christmas’ and other Christian click bait

holiday-cups-starbucksCheck your coffee cup because it’s time for the war on Christmas — and other click bait controversies.

Four years ago, provocateur Joshua Feuerstein stirred up more than a coffee cup of controversy when he posted a YouTube video claiming Starbucks “hates Jesus” after the company unveiled a plain red seasonal cup devoid of Christmas symbols and the word “Christmas.” Hundreds of Christians rolled their eyes, but the video racked up more than one million views before being mysteriously taken off YouTube.

download

Joshua Feuerstein.

Such are the ways of a segment of Christians, who make waves — and money — spreading Christian controversy on the Internet. They may think they are sincerely warning fellow Christians about the evil of leaders or ideas — or maybe they’re just taking advantage of the Internet phenomenon called “click bait.” (Hosting services like YouTube pay content creators for viral material, so they entice people to click with tantalizing, sometimes polemical, headlines.

If Christians want to win the world for Christ, should they consider a different approach than rants or boycotts directed against Target because they don’t say “Merry Christmas?”

Other online provocateurs allege that Lecrae belongs to the Illuminati, that Joel Olsteen doesn’t preach Jesus and that Kanye West didn’t really get saved. Perhaps it would be best to not click on such stories because it affords traction in search engines.

article-5155-1Of course, there IS a sustained effort by secularists to eradicate Christmas from public life. In 2012, Santa Monica banned nativity scenes from its public park. The ACLU has tried to ban Christian displays on government land arguing it violates the “establishment clause” of the First Amendment. In 2017, President Trump pushed back against these attacks, tweeting, “People are proud to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”

And some retailers have come under fire by the American Family Association and the Catholic League for preferring “Happy Holidays” over “Merry Christmas,” ostensibly to include Jews, Muslims and other customers who may not observe Christmas. An AFA boycott of Target in 2005 got the retailer to reincorporate “Christmas” in its publicity.

But many of the online attacks seem more like wild conspiracy theories, having just as much credibility as tabloid news. Just because the person who uploads the criticism claims to adhere to the Bible doesn’t mean his attack has the same authority as the Bible.

Online you can find accusations that Christian rapper Lecrae has sold out to the Illuminati and become an undercover agent. And you can find accusations that Joel Osteen is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Read the rest: War on Christmas and other Christian click bait.

Lamar Odom gets saved

lamar odom basketball starHe lived fast and punished his body with riotous living. Four years ago, NBA Legend Lamar Odom nearly lost his life to a drug overdose in Las Vegas. Last month, he finally surrendered his heart and life to Jesus Christ in Atlanta.

“I had to show Jesus my appreciation for keeping me alive!” he told People magazine. “Nowadays I’m doing the best I can in walking with the Lord. Thanks to Pastor Vernon @drravernon, I got saved at @thewordchurch this weekend.”

lamar odom and khoe kardashianLamar was named Parade’s national player of the year out of high school in 1997. After playing one season at the University of Rhode Island, he signed for the LA Clippers and was named the NBA rookie of the year. He formed part of the LA Lakers’ league winning teams in 2009 and 2010.

But the South Jamaica Queens native followed his father, a heroin user, into addiction. While on the Clippers he was busted twice by the NBA’s anti drug rules and later he faked urine tests with the help of friends and fake body parts, he admitted.

Lamar, who no longer plays basketball, met and married Khloe Kardashian in 2009 but says he cheated on her innumerable times, and eventually the reality show star divorced him in October 2015.

“I had broken my vows with Khloé so many times it’s just impossible for me to remember them all,” he told US Weekly. “I don’t know why Khloé stayed with me.”

Lamar was a consummate team player on the court, but off the court, his life was a mess. After catching a DUI in 2013, Lamar overdosed two years later after crossing cocaine, cognac and cannabis at a Las Vegas brothel called the Love Ranch.

This was his lifestyle, when days blended into nights surrounded by beautiful women and “a mound of drugs.”

On October 13, 2015, his world came crashing down when his body finally rebelled against the excesses. “I lay on the floor in my room at the Ranch, dying,” he said later. “My body was convulsing. The women who kept me company screamed and called 911.”

Lamar was rushed to the Sunrise Hospital where he lingered between life and death.

“My heart stopped twice. I had twelve seizures and six strokes,” he said. “My lungs collapsed and my kidneys ruptured. I was on life support. Everyone I’d ever loved was looking at me through bleary eyes.”

He woke up the next day confused and disoriented. He tried to pull out the tubes from his body. He tried to speak and panicked because he couldn’t.

“That was the scariest part. And not being able to walk,” he says. “I’m a big athlete you know?” Read the rest: Lamar Odom Christian

Malice becomes No Malice

No_Malice-304Deep down, Malice always knew that staying in his platinum-selling worldly music group would lead to his demise.

But Malice (his real name is Gene Elliott Thorton Jr.) found a new reason to live in 2012. He changed his stage name to No Malice and gave up millions of dollars. Today his career, which hasn’t seen much light since, got a boost with a feature on Kanye West’s new album Jesus is King.

“I was just letting the wind carry me left, right, swing, either which way in my life,” No Malice said in a HipHopDX video.

“I wasn’t fulfilled. To have achieved the American Dream and still not be fulfilled only frustrated me more,” he told CBN. “I wasn’t having a good time. And when I did have a good time, it was only to find out afterwards, I was in more misery.”

Born in 1972 in the Bronx and raised in Virginia Beach, No Malice was drawn to hip hop and R&B as a child. Unlike many kids in his neighborhood, his mother and father took him to church. Still, he managed to get into all kinds of trouble.

clipse-pusha-t-malice

Malice with Pusha T in Clipse

“Even with foundation and having a good head on your shoulders, you can still make some pretty decent mistakes,” he said.

He and his brother, who went under the stage name Pusha T, formed the group Clipse, which brass-knuckled its way into the rap game. At the time hip hop was just beginning to compete against pop with choruses and anthems, but Clipse broached untouchable topics, introducing a sub genre dubbed coke rap, filled with chilling hood depictions of trafficking and addiction.

It caused a sensation and opened new terrain for hip hop. Running and gunning, killing and cursing became the new trend. Lord Willin’ in 2002 debuted #1 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip Hop album. XXL gave its coveted and rare 5-star rating to their 2006 album Hell Hath No Fury. They toured and collaborated with all the top artists.

gene thorton“Clipse blew my brain open in 2006,” wrote Nathan Slavik on DJBooth Net.

In 2009, when he hit the cusp of notoriety, riches and ever growing celebrity, No Malice suddenly pulled the plug and quit secular rap. How could he? How could he leave his brother, leave the fame, leave the riches, leave his fans?

“You can have it,” No Malice told DJ Vlad. He didn’t even let Vlad finish building the question. He cut him off with a tart reply that declared in no uncertain terms that he had no regrets and no remorse about leaving his former path. Read the rest: Malice becomes No Malice.

It’s over

pummeler 8 man football in santa monica

They call them the twins: Hosea Ashcraft (my son, at left) and David Hutchinson.

They may have wanted the story of the Athenians against the Persians or Charles Martel against the Arabs, but Lighthouse Christian Academy‘s battle — despite a dazzling display of force and finesse — was that of Col. Custer.

“We laid the boom on the other team,” boasted head coach Zach Scribner. “But it was the classic David vs. Goliath. When they were looking at the schedule, probably the other team was happy to play us because we were 2 and 6. But I can guarantee that walking off the field they wished they could have played anybody else because nobody is as physical as us. Nine guys against 40. If we just had a few more guys, we would have been able to beat them. At the end of the game, they were all limping.”

LCA got its playoff spot unexpectedly. The Saints had lost most of their games, but those losses were against high-ranking division 1 teams. In their own division 2, they were 2-2. The surprise playoff call-up also meant they were matched against a top bracket team.

Pat cannon TD Lighthouse Christian Academy football santa monica“We knew what we were up against,” Coach Zach said.

Lancaster Baptist School had both an offense and a defense. Most Lighthouse players played every single down. Given the uneven match-up, the result was nothing to be ashamed of: 27-68.

It wasn’t realistic to believe the impossible dream. Still the Saints played brash ball. Hosea Ashcraft — who has been the team’s enforcer all season — was again at his antics of laying hard hits on key players, sowing misgivings and intimidation in their hearts.

“I felt like I hit the Great Wall of China,” said the battering ram, who was taken out of play in the third quarter because a face guard penetrated and hit his bridge of nose, drawing blood and momentarily impairing his vision. Read the rest: Santa Monica private school sports program.

Kanye’s remarkable journey with Jesus shakes the cultural landscape

kanye-jesus-is-king-1Kanye West’s porn addiction started when he was 5.

“Playboy was my gateway to full-on pornography addiction. My dad left out a Playboy,” he says. “And it’s affected almost every choice I made for the rest of my life.”

That simple fact accounts for why Kanye West — one of the most influential hip hop artists in America — has mired his music with muck and why he married hyper hot reality star Kim Kardashian, who became famous through the release of a sex tape (supposedly “purloined” though some saw it as self-release publicity stunt).

Today, Kanye West acknowledges the damage he has done to American culture and is allowing Jesus to undo the damage, beginning with himself. With the release of his ninth album called Jesus is King — with strictly Christian themes — the former devil’s child has declared himself unalterably God’s child.

kanye-west_sunday-servicePornography “presents itself out in the open (on billboards and such) as if it were ok, and I stand up and say, ‘It’s not ok,’” he says.

In April of this year — after performing at Coachella, — Kanye, who has dallied with God, finally decided to go full bore and become born-again, he said in an Apple Music video interview.

“Now that I’m in service to Christ, my job is to spread the gospel, to let people know what Jesus has done for me,” he said. “I’ve spread a lot of (messages). There was a time when I was letting you know what high fashion had done for me. I was letting you know what the Hennessy (cognac) had done for me. But now I’m letting you know what Jesus has done for me.

Sunday Service“I’m no longer a slave,” he said. “I’m a son. I’m a son of God now. I’m free through Christ. I’m no longer an entertainer. I’m no longer in this for entertainment.”

Kanye was raised in Chicago by a divorced father who was a Black Panther, a photojournalist and later a Christian counselor.

HIs mother had participated in sit-ins in the fight for Civil Rights. When he was 10, he accompanied his mother to Nanjing University in China. A college professor, she was teaching in an exchange program, and little Kanye enrolled in school, readily picking up Chinese (which he has now forgotten).

Kanye was drawn to music from the third grade. One of his earliest raps was a revision of Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham.” After graduating from high school, he received a scholarship for Chicago’s American Academy of Art in 1997 and began taking painting classes, then transferred to Chicago State University.

kanye-west-1572027409But the class load interfered with his music production, so he dropped out of college at age 20, to the chagrin of his mother.

He joined Roc-A-Fella Records and made a name for himself producing for Jay-Z, Ludacris and Alicia Keys and Janet Jackson. He was widely credited in revitalizing Jay-Z’s career.

When he launched his solo career, he tirelessly revised and improved his first album, College Dropout. The perfectionism in craftsmanship paid off; the album went triple platinum, won almost universal critical acclaim and earned 10 Grammy nominations.

He founded GOOD Music label in 2004 and subsequently conquered the industry with pioneering hip hop from eight studio albums that netted 21 Grammys.

20189492-7614449-At_long_last_After_a_string_of_delays_Kanye_West_s_new_Christian-m-63_1572023093625He struck some as a self-aggrandizing narcissist who spouted off wild and controversial rants.

After that, he launched a sports shoe with Nike and also a fashion line.

In 2014, Kanye married Kim Kardashian, the daughter of OJ Simpson defense lawyer Robert Kardashian. Famous for being famous, Kim made money through her reality show “Keeping up with the Kardashians” with her sisters Kourtney, Khloe, Kendall and Kylie since 2007.

Kim eased into celebrity life with the help of her friend, Paris Hilton. Her career catapulted with the infamous “release” of a sex tape with her then boyfriend, Ray J, in 2002, which many saw as a quick and dirty way to acquire notoriety.

Kim was famous for her sultry style and seemed to accentuate her figure with fillings and plastic surgery (she denies having surgery). She was the perfect match for the porn-crazed rapper. He later shared that he liked to see his wife dress immodestly to compete at bod-flaunting in front of the paparazzi. He later admitted that he influenced his daughter North with the same shameless fashion sense.

The couple has four children, and they’ve stayed together for five years — no small feat in Hollywood!

Then on Nov. 20, 2016, Kanye had a breakdown. Troubled by his mom’s death and reportedly using opioids after a surgery, Kanye publicly denounced his buddy Jay-Z, because he did not attend his wedding: “Jay-Z—call me, bruh. You still ain’t called me. Jay-Z, I know you got killers. Please don’t send them at my head. Please call me. Talk to me like a man.” Read the rest: Is Kanye West really Christian?

When you Sunday school teachers look like The Addams Family

Jeff fischerJeff Fischer thought the Sunday school teachers of his childhood mainline church resembled the spooky characters on The Addams Family TV series, so he had no desire to go to church or come to Jesus.

But when he suffered a collapsed lung and a painful air bubble between his heart and lung, he grappled with neurotic fear of death and finally relented to accompany a co-worker to a “weird” Jesus People movement church where they asked him, “Have you been washed by the blood?”

He thought it was a cult and dashed for the door.

But he started reading his Bible — and he pasted a “Jesus Lives” bumper sticker on his car. (He didn’t know what the One Way index finger pointed to Heaven sign was about, so he flipped off someone on the road who attempted to congratulate him for the bumper sticker.)

Just got saved--surfer interview 1981“I started with Matthew and read straight through the gospels,” Jeff says. “All I remember is seeing my sin in the pages and seeing Jesus so gracious and so accepting of sinners. My father left when I was 10 years old, so I had real issues with being accepted. I kept reading and kept seeing Jesus accepting all these people.”

Maybe he can accept me, he thought.

The next time Jeff attended a born-again function, it was a Bible study in Woodland Hills, California, taught by a bassist he had seen on The Tonight Show — a “cool guy who knows Jesus.”

What’s going on?” he thought.

“I was thinking seriously about my mortality and my fear of death. I had people talking about Jesus and how He could save me and set me free from fear and that I could know that if I die I could go to Heaven. I didn’t have to live the way I was living and I could be free,” Jeff says. “That was utterly compelling, but I was also scared to death to give up my life because I wanted to continue to sin, to do my life and not God’s.”

He was living his dream life in Manhattan Beach, California — abusing drugs and alcohol, playing in a rock band called “Tyme,” and surfing everyday — but he was miserable and hung over most of the time.

As The Tonight Show musician taught, Jeff’s fears subsided and the Spirit welled up in him. At the end of the Bible study, the leader asked for everyone to bow their heads and close their eyes. “If anyone wants to receive Jesus, raise your hand,” he said.

Don’t put your hand in the air, he told himself, but his hand leaped off his lap. Read the rest: surfer druggie saved in Jesus People Movement pastors in San Fernando Valley.

Kanye’s ‘Jesus is King’ reviewed

Kanye-Pablo-Tour-800x500Formerly foul-mouthed rapper Kanye West joined a pack of hip hop artists turning to Christ and dropped a Christian album last week, jolting secular critics and enthralling spiritually-minded devotees with plenty of surprises.

He provides a soulful intensity that delivers everything you’d want in Christian rap, interspersed with comedic elements. His beats are exhilarating, a cut above most of his peers in Christian Hip Hop.

Before Christ, his rap was often unprintable even on secular new sites. He’s still not one to mince words, but only now he’s adamant and forthright about his faith. The album’s title could have been from Kirk Franklin: Jesus is King.

Kanye-West-Kim-Kardashian-West-Marriage-to-Kim“Closed on Sunday” is hilarious, a nod to Chick-fil-A, the popular sandwich joint that keeps the Sabbath, to the joy of its staff and the chagrin of hungry patrons.

Closed on Sunday, you’re my Chick-fil-A
Hold the selfies, put the ‘Gram away
Get your family, y’all hold hands and pray
When you got daughters, always keep ‘em safe
Watch out for vipers, don’t let them indoctrinate.

“Selah” is another standout with multiple verses from the Bible. It references the fact that his ninth album was supposed to be Yandhi but got jettisoned when Kanye accepted Jesus and became born-again.

Before the flood, people judge
They did the same thing to Noah
Everybody wanted Yandhi
Then Jesus Christ did the laundry.

Kanye used to be unapologetic about his misogynistic lyrics. He’s still a lightning rod for controversy, only now he’s making a stand for Jesus — and unpopular politics. Read the rest of Kanye’s Jesus is King album.

S.O. turned tragedy into tunes

seun otukpe fathers deathSeun Otukpe, known as Christian emo rapper S.O., has had a life punctuated by tragedy.

At 15 he was shocked by the sudden death of a friend. He realized he had better stop playing church and get serious about God. S.O. began to question his assumption that he would have years to enjoy sin before getting serious about God.

Then his father died unexpectedly when he was 17. S.O. numbly asked why and felt the pressure to carry his family forward on his shoulders.

He had good friends leave the Christian faith, first an unnamed buddy who was the subject of “memoirs” and then his mentor in Christian hip hop, Jahaziel, who opted for “panafricanism” because he saw Christianity as the white man’s religion.

15658174451033With each album, S.O., now 30, pours out his hurt in melancholic musings that mix vulnerability, despair and Christian hope in astonishing sincerity.

S.O. was born in Nigeria, but the family moved to England when he was nine-years-old to pursue better educational opportunities. As a result of growing up in London, his heavy accent remains even though he now lives in Dallas with his wife of three years.

It was in London that he connected with his lifelong producer, G.P., who gained notoriety producing Tedashii’s Identity Crisis and Lecrae’s Rehab.

Some considered S.O. as nothing more than two-bit church rapper who got his start at Grandma’s birthday when he was 6. But on a chance ride he was given by G.P. associate Prince Adu Poku, S.O. put his best foot forward: “I can rap.” The following bars he spit in the car opened the door for him to meet the master, who was initially skeptical.

“Don’t bring this guy unless he can spit bars,” G.P. recounted to Rapzilla. “I ain’t got time to waste.”

When S.O. arrived, G.P. knew immediately he was pro material. The subsequent Five Solas Mixtape garnered attention and S.O. was signed by Lamp Mode Recordings. In 2011 he released So It Begins, which cracked Billboard charts. Read the rest of S.O. Christian rapper.

The X-Factor in Santa Monica Saints volleyball

X Factor on LCA volleyball teamXiovana Moraida doesn’t even want to call herself a volleyball coach. Her sport was soccer, and she was really good at that. She was team captain of Santa Monica College’s women’s soccer team in 2014. But she was pressed into it.

“I knew that if I didn’t step up and coach that there wouldn’t be a girl’s volleyball team,” says Xiovana, who goes by the easier-to-pronounce “X.”

Nevertheless, Xiovana has become the X factor behind Lighthouse Christian Academy’s resurgence into varsity volleyball after the sport was dropped out of the Saints’ offerings a few years ago.

On Monday, the Santa Monica Saints beat San Fernando Valley Academy from Northridge in five sets 25-19, 13-25, 25-23, 24-26, 15-13. LCA now has two wins and three losses.

Xiovana was born in Lodi but was raised in Lockeford, California.

santa monica volleyball christian high schoolStarting at the ripe old age of 5 years old, she played and loved soccer.

In 2013, Xiovana came to live in Santa Monica to live with her aunt for soccer while attending SMC. She was the captain of the SMC soccer team in her sophomore year (as well as being the captain of her high school soccer team). 

As Xiovana stayed in LA after college, she met her now husband Lucas Moraida. Lucas was from Arizona and was attending the Lighthouse Church. As her and Lucas began to talk more, X became a Christian and got more involved in the church. Read the rest of X-Factor in Santa Monica volleyball.