Category Archives: Christianity

Because you can

helping others

This man was caught in a photography giving away his sandals. Why did he do it? Because he could. He saw the need. Pic from Random Acts of Kindness on Pinterest.

Why say no?

We have too much rugged individualism in America, too much self-made man myth. When we see someone in need, we divert our eyes. We pretend to talk on the cell phone. We don’t have the time.

I always try to help whoever I find in need. Because people are more important than money. Because people are supreme. Because serving people is serving God. Because love is worth more. Because reciprocity and karma are real.

A former student asked me to help her learn to drive. An elderly Japanese lady, whom I never knew, asked for a ride. I know some people that groceries come in handy for. A friend is on hard times and needs a couch to crash on while she gets back on her feet.

Yes, yes, yes, yes. I can. I have the time. It’s more important than what I’m doing or what I’m trying to achieve.

Many times, the reasons we say “no” when someone asks for help are unjustifiable. It’s just not a part of our culture to help.

from VeryBestQuotes.com

from VeryBestQuotes.com

A big irony for my life came when I went to Guatemala. When my car stalled, and I needed a push to get it started, guys pulled over and jumped out of their car to sweat for me. They never knew me. They didn’t have to know me. They just saw a guy in need, and they could. So they did.

The irony is: Supposedly I went to TEACH the Guatemalans about Christ. But I discovered that I went to LEARN about Christ too.

You know what would happen is you simply helped out your fellow human? No, it wouldn’t drive you into poverty. And maybe you could stand to lose a bit of your “precious time.”

The best surprise

God's surpriseTo the “Christian” of blunted intelligence, faithfulness is boring.

It is, however, the key to breakthrough. The best surprises are the ones God gives. You’re going along, attending church faithfully, tithing faithfully, struggling but trying to stay consistent. At some times, it seems even mechanical, dead. You don’t feel it anymore.

The temptation is to give up. It seems that all is for naught. You think you’re just wasting your time. Then, boom!, God drops a huge blessing into your life, and the romance with God is fresh again!

One of the most overlooked characteristics of God is His love for surprise. I’ve never seen it an a theology book, but it’s in Genesis 2:9. He warned Adam and Eve against the tree of sin. But He said nothing about the tree of life, which also was in the Garden of Eden. It was going to be a surprise. Regrettably, our father and our mother never discovered this pleasant surprise because they wanted more by their own devices. They ate the forbidden fruit, believing it contained blessing. They wanted more; they got less.

Hang in there for God’s surprises.

He evangelized nude

Christian Fellowship MinistriesHow was he supposed to know that you shouldn’t witness about Jesus while you’re naked?

But there he was on a nude beach in Australia, newly saved after reading theLate Great Planet Earth, and he hadn’t learned all the norms of Christianity yet. Yes, God showed abundant grace, mercy, and patience with Bruce Callahan in his early steps of faith.

bruce callahan

Before Christ, the beach was his passion. Now Jesus is.

Raised in Boston, Callahan fell into drugs before his friends. He smoked marijuana and abused psychedelic drugs like LSD. When he was 18, his girlfriend became pregnant.

“I was on the cutting edge of sin,” Callahan says. “Back then nobody got their girlfriend pregnant, but I did. Religion didn’t work for me. My religion was the streets.” Read more about this Christian Fellowship Ministries pastor.

Guilt is not so easy

scarlet-letterJust because Hester Prynne unclasps her scarlet letter and flings it away doesn’t mean disposing of guilt is so easy.

As a symbol of the difficulty of working through guilt, Pearl the brat demands her mother put the fabric “A” back on her dress. On one level, the infant simply can’t accept a disruption in her mother’s appearance. But on another level, for Pearl, the letter is like a wedding ring, and casting it off is tantamount to breaking worse her already broken family.

If all you come away with in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book is stones to throw at repressive religion, I respectfully suggest you’re not delving past a superficial reading of The Scarlet Letter. That is only one of the themes. Hawthorne’s genius explores the intricacies and complexities of the human psyche, and you’re settling for gold dust and missing the mother load.

scarlet-letter-hester-pearlTo be sure, Hawthorne rains his pen down on failed religion. Arthur Dimmesdale flogs himself and performs excessive good works yet cannot find peace. His understanding of Jesus is deficient. A Christian is neither saved by piety nor charity; he is saved simply by Christ’s forgiveness, which Dimmesdale is blind to.

The book is full of ironies because Dimmesdale’s brokenness makes him the town’s favorite minister. This is eminently keen insight. If you have never suffered, you can’t have compassion on your fellows when ministering the word.

Hester Prynne herself, after her one sin of passion, likewise constrains herself to a rigorous life of charity. She dresses the drabbest colors and constricts her luxurious mane of hair to the insides of a bonnet.

After seven years of suffering, the pair meet in the forest and scheme to run away together back to England. Suddenly, sunshine pours in on them and the feel the exhilarating release of nearly a decade of pressure, scrutiny and condemnation.

It’s a good plan — except that they see themselves a sinners for doing it. Pearl is only the first to ruin it. She insists with a temper tantrum that her mother restore the letter to its rightful place. Then Roger Chillingworth, the evil avenger, completes the fatal stroke by booking passage on the same ship.

In traditional Greek fashion, the story must end as a tragedy. Hawthorne is sounding the dark regions of the human conscious, not writing a treatise on salvation. Nevertheless, the message emerges that only grace, only forgiveness in Jesus, can heal the heart. Religion never works — only relationship with Jesus.

The traditional spin on this book is that society is to blame for oppressing these free spirits. If you want to read the book that way, go ahead. But I can’t help but see deeper. You can’t just throw away guilt so easily. You and I need to come to Christ and be healed of our sin. Restoration works, not repression.

Nine years ago today, my mother died

legacy | missionary

Guess which one is me. I “stand out” a bit from the teachers who now lead the Christian school in Guatemala in my absence.

It was a glorious conclusion to a life lived for God. In her later years, she had served as a chaplain in the Sylmar juvenile hall facility to counsel wayward youngsters back to the the Lord’s path. She oversaw the preparation of turkey dinner with all the trimmings for incarcerated youth and solicited toiletry packs for the kids.

“You are so lucky to have Chaplain Beth as your mom.” The hoodlum’s words hit me hard. I had accompanied her to a Bible study one day. The thug’s admiration for my mom exceeded my own. To be honest, at the time I was annoyed in typical teen rebellion by some of her irksome attributes (all humans have them). It took a delinquent to set my thinking right.

fam14revised

With my family last Fall.

Years after, I set my life-course onto the mission field and served with my wife in Guatemala for almost 16 years. When my mother died, I could affirm at her funeral that she was alive — in me. I had no regrets because I figured I had caught all the good lessons to learn from her. I’m still serving Jesus today. I teach at a Christian high school in Santa Monica for no other reason to help kids get into the right path. My mom helped kids inside jail, I help kids outside.

My pastor sometimes says he feels as if his dad were with him, encouraging to glorify Jesus. I don’t feel my mom with me. I feel she is me. I live what she lived. Everything she stood for, I stand for.

I can’t hardly remember the things that irked me about her (stuff like nagging). Now what stands out is her legacy.

I love coffee.

I love Jesus, my wife, my family, my ministry and coffee — in that order.

There are rich and famous people who are widely admired by the world, but when they die, they become forgotten. They leave nothing to the world. Give me the simple soul who plants his imprint on a fellow human being. You can change the world one soul at a time.

I wonder if I’ll ever meet that kid from juvenile hall again. If I do, I’ll thank him.

Am I supposed to say I miss Mom? Am I supposed to brood and fret over no longer being physically present in my life? Sorry. I feel like her death was a glorious graduation.

‘Bonde’ girl gets Jesus and gets out of sex industry

Ministry to strippers JCS GirlsLaura Lee Bonde had to cry. After she courageously shared her Christian testimony at a porn industry convention, a man coldly offered her a job to get back into the ‘adult entertainment’ industry.

Read the rest of her amazing story.

Such diabolical assaults go with the territory — she takes on the hellish spiritual hordes behind the porn industry frontally.

Laura Lee BondeAs the leader of the local chapter of JC’s Girls, an outreach to former strippers, Laura goes into nudity clubs around San Diego once a month and passes out pink Bibles to dancing girls. And she opened a booth at the Los Angeles porn convention to share hope in Christ for all the needy and hurting souls that swarm its aisles.

“My past is so dead,” Laura says. “I really learned that my identity in the past was dead in baptism. I’m simply no longer the same person. My identity is the cross. I am so solid in my purity now that I refused to be kissed until my wedding day. My old identity is a sunken ship, and I won’t raise it again.”“My past is so dead,” Laura says. “I really learned that my identity in the past was

But still the subtle snake always beckons. When aforementioned man dangled high pay before her eyes, she took a break from the convention and went to the bathroom, not only to cry, but also to declare once again her born-again identity. Upon returning, her trusted friend prayed directly into her ear for five minutes.

“Finally, I could breathe without tears,” she writes on her blog. “I struggled with feelings of unworthiness again. It was crazy because I am righteous in Christ. The lie wants to be a stronghold in me.”

He denied God because of lack of evidence. Then he came across evidence.

atheist turns to ChristAs he left behind childhood Vacation Bible School and studied for a degree in electrical engineering, Clay Lein lost his faith in God.

“I had a very rational mind. It had to be logical. I needed proof. There had to be evidence. And if there wasn’t proof then it was just something people made up,” Lein told KHOU Channel 11 News in Houston. “Part of the training for engineers is to be skeptical, to demand data, to want to see evidence.”

He married, got an MBA and launched a successful career at Intel. All his achievements and the world that surrounded him seemed very concrete and observable. There was no need to believe in something intangible that required you to suspend your scientific mind, he reasoned.

Why would I need God? I mean, if he even existed why would I have any need for him, he thought.

But his wife pleaded with him to attend church, and he acquiesced because he thought “church was a place nice people go.” All the while he tactfully but firmly let people know he was an atheist.

Then he volunteered at a youth camp and that’s when his skepticism got shattered. Read the rest of the article.

Appalling people who won’t help kid in T-shirt in freezing New York

What is wrong with our country if after two hours of NO ONE responds to an obvious need of a child freezing in New York.

Well, there is a heart-warming end to this video project (which was acted and is not a real runaway), but the last person you’d you expect reaches out. Where is America’s heart?

Marathoning doctor raises funds for African medical missions

hamilton marathonAt the sprightly age of 61 years old, Santa Monica pediatrician Bob Hamilton is running the L.A. Marathon this month – and he’s subjecting himself to this grueling pain just to raise funds for medical missions in Africa.

“You just do it,” Hamilton said. “You have to keep moving or you become inert. It’s an opportunity to further the cause.”

Then, with a mere 10 days to recover, he’s leading his 23rd group of doctors, nurses and other volunteers into the most desolate corners of the earth. Twenty-two brave souls are heading to Mwanza, Tanzania, March 25 – Apirl 6 where they’ll diagnose patients and hand out free meds, toys and reading glasses.

At his age most doctors are thinking only about visiting the golf course, but Hamilton shows no signs of slowing. His Lighthouse Medical Missions has become a regular contributor to health in West Africa. A container of food and supplies recently arrived there from Hamilton and crew.

Read the rest of the article here. This is my article that originally posted in the Santa Monica Patch. Dr. Bob goes to my church.

Not one stone left stacked

stones stacked

In Jesus’ day, the people were impressed with the big buildings in Jerusalem. They were like skyscrapers to the country bumpkins from Galilee. They ooooo-ed and aaaaah-ed.

Then Jesus bummed them out: Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down — Mark 13:12 NIV. Directly, the prophecy was fulfilled when Roman General Titus decimated the temple in 80 A.D. But indirectly, the prophecy speaks to us about NOT oooohing and aaaaahing this world too much, but it’s all gonna end dust.

What lasts forever is your soul. Do you work on your soul as much as your retirement plan?

*Picture from stand and face the sun. I’m not making any money on it. Excuse the pun: You rock.

Step on you class

step on meSome people take Step Class. Others Step On Others Class.

They adhere to the idea, that to get to the top, they must climb upon others. To feel good about themselves, they must make others feel bad about themselves. This pernicious poison is more pervasive than you might think.

You ought to take a class in loving others. This is what was so revolutionary about Jesus: He practiced love, especially toward the sinner. But the person who held himself in self-proclaimed piety got His wrath.

*This pic comes from a gym in Santa Cruz, and I adapted it. Sorry if you are offended by it. Please know that I’m not making any money on it. I give you kudos for a great pic.

When you criticize others, you criticize God

criticizing othersBecause He made them.

*Oh yeah. The image is not mine. I’m not making any profit on it. Thanks to the genius who shot it.

Ostracism and bullying

ostracismThe whole town turned against Hester Prynne. She got caught — by the out-of-wedlock pregnancy.

The Puritans forced her to wear a scarlet A on her dress always as a continual stigma of shame. She was violently flung from human friendship and affection. The hardened ladies looked at her with eyes of condemnation. Preachers wanting to exhort congregations or crowds about the dangers of sins pointed out Hester. Newcomers to the town gazed curiously at the letter, wondering what it meant. Kids, unaware of the concept of sin, treated her as an outcast following behind at a distance and making fun of her.

No one should be subjected to ostracism and bullying — no matter what the cause.

Such mistreatment can make a person turn into a sociopath.

Scarlet Letter teaches loveHolding up under psychological pressure for years and years, Hester doesn’t become a monster. The hero of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter becomes a saint, giving to the poor and helping the sick. But she is the exception.

Maybe, just maybe, one of the reasons we see so many massacres, so much mental illness, is because of the way we reject people. And the absolute last place where rejection should be pervasive is Christ’s church.

We all need motivation to do and be good

Hester prynne

Mistress Hibbins invites Hester Prynne to witchery in the forest. She refuses but admits that she very nearly would have gone.

Why? First the Puritans forced Hester to wear a red letter A on her dress always as a testimony that she was an adulteress. This public shaming she withstood. But when the somber town fathers threatened to take away her baby, she would have nothing left to live for. Barely was she allowed to keep her child.

Scarlet Flames

Mistress  Hibbins then gives her the satanic invitation. “If they would have taken my child away, I would have not only joined you but I would have signed my name in blood in Satan’s book,” she responded.

The power of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is its knack for portraying poignant psychological realities. If we are deprived of all motivation to do and be good, we will be bad.

Heaven in us

heaven in usJesus didn’t die just to get us into Heaven. He died to get Heaven into us.

We should walk about with Heaven excitement in us always.

The cup makes the coffee

real ChristiansIf I drink my home-percolated Costco coffee in a Starbucks cup, that makes it Starbucks coffee, I’ve decided.

It’s a good decision. I’ll enjoy it much more now, and it’ll certainly be a lot cheaper than going to Starbucks.

He is a Jew who is inwardly, Paul says in Rom. 2:29. By extension, a Christian is one is inwardly, not one who “dresses” the part, though it be a lot cheaper.

Pastors are like trashmen

I was watching Ethan for my boss, while he taught class. The 2-year-old loves watching videos of trash trucks! What a funny thing.

garbage-truckAs I meditated on why (I suppose he like the big machines with hydraulics), I realized that pastors are trashmen. They are constantly helping people to get the trash (sin) out of their lives.

Trash is a part of life (we are all sinners, the Bible says). But you don’t want to wallow in it; you want to get it out of your home because it poisons. Sermons expose the trash lurking in our hearts. (We thought it was having fun! What a shock to find out that our “fun” was wallowing in trash like the pig loves mud!)

Don’t be offended the inglorious comparison. I’m a pastor too.

I thought it was the year of the ram

year of ram?But my gym told me it was the year of me.

:(

Again? Selfishness prevails always.

Well, I went to Chinatown for the Chinese New Year’s parade and cheered on the marching bands. The exploding confetti bursts were exciting. My wife is Chinese American, so it’s cool to learn about culture. They say it’s the year of the ram, whatever that means.

photo(4)So you can imagine how completely disillusioned I was this morning at the gym to see that it’s not going to be the year of the ram. It’s the year of you.

I’M TIRED OF LIFE ALWAYS BEING SO SELF-CENTERED! Can’t we think of others? When is the year of others?

Revival in Southeast Asia

[Editor’s note: Mark Ellis is my editor at GodReports.com. He is currently in Southeast Asia reporting on God’s moves there. The following is one of his articles.]

Revival in Southeast Asia

By Mark Ellis

Raised in a strict Buddhist family in Chanthaburi, about three hours east of Bangkok, her parents didn’t understand when she became a born again Christian.

“My parents brought me to the temple, but I never felt connected to those things,” says Blue Erika Ployamporn. “They prayed in a language I didn’t understand.”

An unusual thing happened to her as a young teen. “When I was 13 brushing my teeth God called me,” Blue recalls. Her mother had been ill, and she told Blue she would have to take care of her brother and sister if she died.

She began to weep because she realized she didn’t know where her mother would go after she died. “I didn’t know how to see her again,” she says. “They said there is the next life, but you can’t choose where you go. I felt so hopeless.” Read the rest of the article here: Revival in Southeast Asia.

God is a fireman, not a policeman

God firemanHis rules are for self-protection. He’s not prowling looking for somebody to bust.

God’s principle job is rescue.

We are a sinners, incapable of saving ourselves. God did that for us. Don’t conjure an image of a finger-pointing deity who is hankering to haul the sinner off to jail. That’s contrary to the message: God is love.

If you violate the fire codes, don’t be surprised if you get burned. You may not agree with the fire codes. You may use academic language like “morality is subjective.” But the fire codes — His Bible — is there to help you, not to hurt you.

Regardless, if you violate the fire code, God will rescue you when you call 911 — when you pray to Him.

Lust or sacrifice

valentines

For love, some only understand lust. If we are merely evolutionary beasts, then we can satiate whatever kinky idea that occurs to us. The “Sexual Revolution” is a misnomer; it is a “Sexual Devolution.”

These don’t know about the sublime love of Jesus. Lust procures to get for itself. Jesus’ love came to give. He sweated drops of blood, such was His agony in the buildup to his arrest and crucifixion. But he endured it all because He loved you and me. Jesus’ love is so unlike ours. It’s from another dimension. Can we even grasp?

The broken-hearted, the girl who’s cutting her wrist, the guy who’s contemplating suicide — needs to grasp it. The divorcee whose pain gushes where love once flowed. The celebrity who flashes smiles before cameras but drowns out his sorrows when alone. Christ is for losers — and in this cruel world, we’re all losers.

As the Good Book says, we’ve all fallen short of what God intended us for. We need something more gratifying than the excitement of sex. We need forgiveness. Are you lonely? Christ is inviting you to be His valentine.

Original image: Google. Thank you for your genius and creativity. I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it.

Ben Franklin’s failure is the Spirit’s success

tongues of fireUltimately Ben Franklin’s attempts to reign in his flesh failed because making lists and checking off behavior charts smacks of religion. Only the Holy Spirit can truly change a person.

We just read in our literature class fragments of Franklin’s autobiography, and Franklin discusses a sort of perpetual New Year’s Resolution scheme he had. He charts his successes and expresses frustration over his failures. While laudable, human power trying to dominate human impulse is doomed.

Instead of a list of “don’ts,” your relationship with Jesus Christ is better seen as love. I didn’t adhere to a list of prohibitions when I fell in love with Dianna. I simply WANTED to be with her and to please her.

This is what the Holy Spirit does, those tongues of fire that descended on the disciples on the Day of Pentecost. Peter, the despicable coward who denied Christ to a child, didn’t need to psyche himself up to eloquence, despite the danger of testifying publicly to the Sanhedrin. Once the Spirit came on him in power, he just flowed.

Don’t strive for less of world but for more of God.

*original image from smashingapps,com by Jayan. You’re awesome. I don’t own the rights to it, and I’m not making any money on it. Thank you.

Relatable Christian post #1: Temptation

relatable Christian post | temptationDang, why is temptation all around?

Lead me not into temptation, Lord. – the Lord’s prayer.

I can resist everything except temptation – Oscar Wilde. Yeah, I know, he’s not a Christian quotable, but maybe we can relate because we’re all human.

Thank God for His grace, forgiveness and restoration. We can start tomorrow with a pristine desire to not dig into the carrots.

Original picture source: Google+. Kudos and thanks to whoever worked this. I don’t own its rights, and I’m not making any money on it.

Outlasting stress and strain

stress and strainStress is the force exerted on the jet wing. Strain is bending to the elasticity limit; if it bends beyond that, it breaks.

My dad was the test engineer who discovered, with a torque rod, that the outside two wing cylinders would break on the F-104. But his superior thought faulty testing side load was to blame. So Lockheed skipped the redesign.

f-104When the prototype flew, the same cylinders were compressed. The redesign, so late in the game, was much costlier.

We all have our breaking points, when too much stress is straining our hearts more than we can bear. Just like different materials and different designs have different load capacities, so too all of us have different limits. There’s no point in making fun of me if my capacity to enduring stress is lesser than yours.

I want to spring back into the original shape. I don’t want to be distorted by the strain of bitterness, disillusion, betrayal. God increase my elasticity!

Same tragedy, different outcomes

blind beggar

Two men became blind in the same factory explosion — one doomed to pathetic beggaring, the other a successful insurance salesman.

Fourteen years after the accident, they meet up and the blind one corners the rich one for a handout, which he obliges. But as he presses for extra money, he rehearses the story. The guy behind me, knocked me down and trampled me to get out, he moans. The story is meant to heighten sympathy and squeeze out an extra dollar or two.

But the rich one confronts the beggar. No, he says, it was you who pulled me down and trampled me. The beggar had not recognized the rich one. In the re-telling, he lied to make himself a greater victim.

mackinlay-kantor

MacKinlay Kantor

In this genius story, Man Who Had No Eyes, by MacKinlay Kantor, one man succumbs to tragedy, another overcomes adversity. Which one will you be? Which will I? Will our painful circumstances reduce us to a shell of the former, outgoing, optimistic selves.

To get a better idea, read the super-short story yourself.

Embrace change

murmuringwithout murmuring. The Israelites complained so much at almost every step of the way out of slavery. They didn’t like the food. They were thirsty. They were afraid. God was too strict.

Then they said it. We were better off in slavery!

Can you imagine someone wanting to go back to slavery?

Ultimately, their bad attitude kept them from entering the Promised Land. The first generation died wandering in the desert. Their children possessed the good land.

If you’re in great upheaval right now, praise God for the trial. Try not to complain. I know it’s hard.

Image source: Beautiful pictures on Google+. I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it.

Deflategate Christians

under inflatedUnder inflated Christians are easier to grip (for the devil).

So make sure to fully inflate with the infilling of the pneuma, the Holy Spirit, the rushing wind, the breath of God.

The importance of schmoozing

fellowship Being the American that I am, I believed fervently in work-aholism. If you want to get things done, work 17 hours a day.

The lackluster church growth prompted heart searching and method revision. I discovered the power of not working (and praying). I also discovered the incomparable value of socializing. The latter upended my idea that useless chatter was a waste of time.

imagesIt turns out that socializing inspires people. If you want people to do things for you, then show them how important they are by talking to them. Here’s how it works: two or three people can always get more done than one. So if I’m the leader, I multiply my impact by delegating to followers. And I motivate followers to work by just taking the time out of my busy schedule to talk to them.

It wasn’t a sermon full of conviction that brought Zacheus to repentance. It was sharing a meal. Jesus took time out of his busy schedule to schmooze. That human connection made friends into followers, socialites into servants — for entire lifetimes.

socializing

from google images

Learn the importance of social activities.

*All the images are from Google. I don’t own the rights to any of them, and I’m not making any money on them. I applaud the photographers’ genius.

Let your wife choose

Sweet Lady JaneI really don’t care too much for Sweet Lady Jane’s pastries. But if I let my wife choose where we go out, her eyes go sparkly. She becomes Sweet Lady Dianna.

If the husband insists on making every decision, he will sour his marriage, frustrating needlessly his wife. If you insist on making EVERY decision, you ultimately harm your own leadership. You show your self-centeredness, which diminishes your love.

Go where you don’t like. Go out on a date where she likes.

So are you ready?

Zachary Scott's workWe prepare for the SAT, final exams, a career, an interview, a game, a wedding, a speech and retirement. When do we prepare for death?

They say there’s no need since there’s nothing beyond death. You simply cease to exist, they say.

Are you so sure? The Bible, the world’s most read book, attests to a Heaven and a Hell. Even the heart of many longs for eternity. That feeling was placed in man by God.

To deny the existence of the afterlife is to deny the Creator of all of creation, which when looking at an architectural wonder is ludicrous to deny the architect behind it. (Go ahead, barrage me with Latin names for logical fallacies. Regardless, the point remains true!)

We are barely out of the womb and then we enter the grave. Compared to eternity, this life is b-r-i-e-f!

Photo credit: Zachary Scott’s series explores the issues of elderly. By dressing up toddlers as grandparents, he is suggesting that age is an issue of mentality. I like his reflection and add to it the thought of eternity.

The team star can’t shine without the support of the team

Virtually a one-man team, O.J. Simpson always praised his blockers.

A leader is measured not by his individual talent but by his ability to “rub off” on others. There’s no use bragging about how good you are if you don’t make others good around you.

Even Jesus “rubbed off” on his followers. In Christianity, this is called “discipleship,” and due to an excellent process of discipleship, Jesus could leave the entire ship in capable hands when he resurrected and handed off responsibility to his disciples.

Will we learn this in high school soccer?

Being there for Dad

Honor your father

I took him to his favorite restaurant Saturday.

I’m getting close to my dad. A week ago, he was rushed to the hospital from the supermarket with what turned out to be nothing. Sick with the flu, he felt like he was going to fall.

He’s 87, so I felt like this is the red flag I’ve been waiting for to take more care of him. My dad and I are so different. I was a missionary. He lived the American Dream. I love people; he’s a recluse. My life revolved around extending God’s kingdom; his life revolved around HDTV. I was closer to my mom. She’s in Heaven now.

I’ve been sleeping out in the San Fernando Valley to keep him company. I’ve been driving him on his errands. I’m happy that finally I’m able to honor him with this service.

While I was a pastor in Guatemala for 16 years, Matt. 15:5-6 befuddled me. You say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is “devoted to God,” they are not to “honor their father or mother” with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition NIV. That is what I was doing: I couldn’t help Dad and Mom with either money or service because I was serving God in Guatemala.

God brought me back to the States four years ago. I’m only an assistant pastor, so I’m freer now. God orchestrated everything so that I could honor my dad.

As wickedness increases, love decreases

cold heart We are warned. As sin goes exponential in the end times, it will wear away on the once-sincere love of many believers. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold – Matt. 24:12 NIV.

It would difficult to argue against the explosion of sin we have seen since the 1960s: drugs, free sex, redefining sin, massacres, crime waves in Latin America, terrorists worldwide. Standards are continually becoming looser. What was once the vilest subgenre (snuff movies) is now standard fare on cable TV (True Blood). What’s most disturbing is that nothing is disturbing any longer.

And Christian standards have slid. The line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior has been pushed back. I’m not point fingers though. I myself am susceptible. If anything, I am warning myself (and others) about the dangers of living in Sodom. Let’s not let our heart grow cold.

*I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it. If you own it, feel congratulated. It is genius. I found it on a design site.

Odysseus’ pride brought his demise

Keeping his wits, Odysseus got the cyclops drunk, blinded him and escaped with his Ithacans from the cave where Polyphemus kept them to eat them. As he sailed away, he had only to rejoice after his brush with death.

With only a short journey home ahead, Odysseus then makes the biggest mistake of his life. He shouts at the Polyphemus and boasts: “It is I, Odysseus, who have blinded you.” For indulging his pride, he paid dearly.

OdysseusPolyphemus’ dad was Poseidon, god of the seas. As long as Polyphemus didn’t know who blinded him, he had no one of asking his dad to exact revenge. But once he learned Odysseus’ name, Polyphemus could act. (This is the limitation of Greek gods.)

If you’re a sailor, you don’t want to get Poseidon mad. The god whipped up winds and storms. He drove Odysseus into one death trap after another. Ten years later, with all his men dead and all his ships lost, only Odysseus washes up on the shores of Ithaca.

It’s interesting that even pagan cultures echo the Bible: Pride goes before a fall. And yet, we Americans fail miserably to guard our tongue and heart from the dangers of pride. Strive for the virtue of humility.

Photo source: Actually I wasn’t swimming in the Adriatic Sea. I found this stunning picture somewhere on the Internet. I don’t own its rights, and I’m not making any $ on it. But if someone would pay for my ticket to go visit the Mediterranean, I’ll be more than happy to get my own picture of a beautiful boat. In the meantime, profound thanks to whoever took this one. You rock!

Missing Dad?

missing dadsI admire exuberantly Moms who’ve also had to be Dad. But I don’t think we can glibly replace him. I would rather exhort dads to fill their God-ordained roles. My fear is that if we say Dads are NOT important, then they won’t feel important and will choose a life of sin instead of role-modeling and loving kids.

*I don’t own the rights to the original image, and I’m not making any money on it.

On-line missionary faces ALS with hope in Christ

ALS bloggerHis blog is called “Unshakable Hope” – a striking contrast to what one might expect from an ALS patient of 18 years.

By far, Bill Sweeney, 54, has already outlived expectations for a normal patient afflicted with what’s otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a degenerative neural disorder that progresses until patients can’t breathe – usually within 3-5 years of diagnosis.

And though his paralysis keeps him cooped up at home, he never complains on his blog. To the contrary, he chides gently those who do rant – and his buoyant optimism would make anyone ashamed about sniveling over trivial inconveniences.


“One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from this long trial is that hope – and the joy, peace and faith that always accompany Christ-centered hope, only comes through a conscious, determined effort,” he writes on his blog through a painstakingly slow process that employs eye-tracking software to detect letter by letter what he wants to write on his computer.

“I’ve had my hope challenged many times, and I’ve become pretty good at conquering these challenges.” Read the rest of this Christian news article.

Perfect peace

Isaiah 26:3

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. – Isaiah 26:3 NKJV.

The devil assails our minds with worry. Trusting in Jesus means having peace.

Photo source: Pinterest. I’m not making any money on it. I don’t own the rights to it.

Heaven opens for 45 who died in AirAsia crash

philip-mantofaWhen they learned that 45 of their own were among the missing of the downed Indonesia AirAsia flight 8501, members of the Rose of Sharon Church of Surabaya, Indonesia, sprang into action.

They sent assistant pastors to console the grieving. They set up a care center of prayer and worship with food and beverages while family members awaited news of the fate of their loved ones. Trained counselors were on standby by shifts around the clock in the airport and in homes.

“When I witnessed how one bereaved family encouraged and prayed for another out of their initiative, I could say that I almost saw heaven in that situation,” Pastor Philip Mantofa, who pastors the 45,000 member church, told CharismaNews. “Particularly when the bodies of the their family members were found and they had to identify them, we couldn’t leave them to face these horrific situations alone.” Read the rest of the story.

Holy Spirit Alzheimer’s

holy spirit alzheimers

With some friends in Guatemala. We all pass through episodes of life that would best be forgotten.

My mom had Alzheimer’s, so I don’t mean to make light of this scourge. I remember when she walked out the front door in her pajamas, and Dad drove around looking for her. He found her on a busy street.

What I mean by Holy Spirit Alzheimer’s is to forget what we must forgive, to heal the wounds in our hearts, to remember the good and forget the bad, to move on, to stay in relationship with people who have hurt us deeply. When God forgives, He forgets. Would we could do likewise.

I’m going to pray to forget hurts because remembering them converts them into hinders. They hinder me from serving Jesus fully. Holy Spirit, come and help me to forgive AND forget.

Love, serve and sacrifice

love, service, sacrifice

With the kids of my disciples.

From across the street, he called me. On the bus, she almost threw herself on top of me to give me a hug. A couple grew teary-eyed in the market when they saw me.

People everywhere were greeting me and thanking me. Four years ago, I ended abruptly a 16-year mission stint in Guatemala. On my New Year’s trip to Guatemala, old friends were popping up everywhere.

I’m no celebrity. But I did one thing: I served people tirelessly. I walked 10 miles to do Bible studies in their house. I handed out scholarships left and right for our school. I visited people in the hospital, in jail. I gave time and again.

Then the wonderful mission life came to an end. I returned to the States, where I serve in my mother church. I teach in the school, and I write this blog. Every once in a while, I get the chance to visit Guatemala again.

I can see that all the love, service and sacrifice were worth it. People have been impacted for Christ.

Maybe better called ‘the Ten Blessings’

ten commandments

As with so many things in life, everything depends on your perspective.

“Commandments” illicits such negative reactions these days. Nobody wants anybody else telling them what to do. Well, on second thought, we DO want police and law to keep us safe from criminals and terrorists. But we don’t want God to exercise any such protection. We can handle morality on our own, we think.

So now it is time to rename the “Ten Commandments.” After all, we understand that if you misuse your new electronic device or car, you can suffer consequences. But on the other hand, if you use it correctly, it will be useful, work right and keep you happy.

So if you want a life that works right and keeps ya’ happy, follow the guidelines of the Manufacturer, which were formerly called the “Ten Commandments.” The blessings of obedience are within reach.

The difference is mercy

cute babyOne girl sputtered out of the church. Her pastor/uncle treated her gruffly when she got pregnant out of wedlock. Twenty years later, she’s still out of the church.

Another girl, in her down and out moment, got friendship, love, acceptance, encouragement. Today she’s serving in the church, a huge blessing.

It’s good to uphold a high standard for the church. But we must never lose sight of mercy. Sometimes striking a balance is tough. If we err, let’s err on the side of mercy. That’s what God does.

Soccer saves souls

soccer | soulsWhen Mario and Banner first met these guys, the noticed how much their buddies acted like gang-bangers: trash talking, threatening, being disrespectful and boasting about alcohol and drug abuse.

Then Mario and Banner, skilled streetballers from the church, played soccer with them and shared their testimonies. Today these guys no longer hang with the downwardly-spiraling crowd. They haven’t exactly come to Jesus yet, but they ask questions, and their choices in pastimes are positive, not negative.

Soccer saves souls.

Actually one these guys never hung out with a rowdy group. He was shy, quiet, and mostly watched T.V. He didn’t even know how to play soccer. After Mario and Banner with done with, he became an expert.

I had the chance to play. We won, and we are winning.

The man of 1,000 jobs had to leave…

Relaxing with a leader on my recent visit.

Relaxing with a leader on my recent visit.

… in order for 1,000 workers to rise up and do those jobs.

When I was the pioneer pastor of a church and school in Guatemala, I did everything.

I was intense. If I didn’t know how to direct worship, or something, I learned and did it competently. As members trickled it, it was hard to delegate. I was unwilling to relinquish ministry.

First God allowed my voice to unravel (somewhat) and forced me to seek a substitute (even if he sang out of tune).

Then He got rid of me altogether. Threat of kidnappers forced me to return to the States, and then EVERYTHING was handed off to others.

Jesus handed off ministry after 3 1/2 years. I took almost 16.

This is God’s pattern. The only way to raise up a future generation of leaders is by letting them lead.

Hard lesson: to cast your burdens on Jesus

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta | Guatemala

So when will I ever learn?

I’ve been a Christian for so many years that I have to pull out a calculator. And I still can’t grasp the fundamentals. I’m a worrier, and my greatest fear (now) is that the church I left in Guatemala will collapse (because I am no longer there). This is ridiculous. It’s Christ’s church, not mine. He’s got this.

Any time some “bad” news gets to the U.S., the worrying kicks into high gear. Imagination goes to worst case scenarios. Just recently, the school I left behind had a “deficit.”

It turned out to be more of cash flow problem that one panicky leader reported to me — and so I guess I’m panicky too. But when I went to Guatemala, everything I saw and every person I talked to had only good things to report. That doesn’t mean there weren’t trials. It just means that my fears were unfounded.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you — 1 Pe. 5:7 NIV.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus – Phil. 4:7

A visit made all the difference

Kata, left, with her sister-in-law, Karina.

Kata, left, with her sister-in-law, Karina.

Kata was the spiritual pillar of her household. The eldest of eight siblings, she came to Christ first. She prayed for each one to come to Christ. She counseled tirelessly. And then after encouraging so many others, she grew discouraged herself.

She was getting older and felt like she was losing her chances to get married. Lonely and dejected, she made a mistake.

Pregnant out of wedlock, she was basically shunned by her church and run off (not my church).

This all broke my heart. We all make mistakes. So I visited Kata. Her reception was wary. I spoke of her leadership in her family, of her past successes. I made no mention of her mistakes.

Today, Kata is back at serving Jesus. Compassion, not condemnation, is what she needed.  All I had to do was take some time out of my schedule to show her she was important to Jesus. She was valuable.

Today, it’s Kata who keeps our church and school cleaner than the National Palace. Everyone praises her. I am overjoyed.

To whom can you show mercy today?

Si le quedó grande el traje, pues ni modo

photo (24)Translation: If the suit was too big for him, well, of course. = If the shoes were too big for him, well, of course.

Four years ago, I handed off ministry abruptly to Pastor Ludving: a main church, a couple of church plants and the huge task of administering a financially-struggling Christian school. Previously, Pastor Ludving had only pastored a small pioneer work.

Suddenly, he found himself thrust into a situation where he was promoted among colleagues who inevitably questioned and compared his every decision to what I would have done (I was their pastor for 16 years). Sometimes, he didn’t get a fair shot because people sometimes didn’t give him a chance for a learning curve.

Yet, there he is still. Four years later he has won over most everybody. He has refined his dealings with people. And he has managed to succeed in areas that I never did: The accounting is up to date, and the building is immaculately clean!

He’s “grown into the suit,” despite being much shorter than me.

My trip to Guatemala came to an end yesterday with a huge sense of gratitude to God for what He does. You may find joy in some other achievements in life, but I love serving God.

(Sorry about the Spanish title. I don’t mean to put anyone off. I used it because nothing in English corresponds precisely and because I thought it was a nifty pun, given the stature differential. I hope you can overlook it. :D )

She cried at her graduation

photo (23)It’s a beautiful gesture, but usually I ask bluntly: Why are you crying?

Jenny graduated from our Guatemalan school in November. And I just found out that she cried because I wasn’t there to celebrate it. I founded the school and opened the doors for her, and many other Guatemalans without a whole lot of money, to attend.

Finding out about the reason for her crying makes me want to cry. It melts my heart to see good produce good. It motivates me to keep on serving Jesus and people.

Restoration

restoration

Little Ismael, one of Carlos’ kids.

a time to gather stones together — Eccelesiastes 3:5

The pieces of our lives get scattered. Either things explode by themselves, or we make poor choices and squander the good gifts God gave us.

When we are angry at God, He waits patiently for us. Sometimes, we have to be broken to come to God humbly. Then He begins to pick up the pieces of our lives.

God sent me to Guatemala on a mission that I didn’t originally know what for. But it was for restoration.

Carlos opted out of the church. He was hit with the double whammy of church rules and bubbling hormones. The hardness has melted now. His mother died a month ago. Elisa was a powerful force for years to help build the church. Carlos has finally taken over his dad’s bread bakery and is trying to be the responsible father of two kids and husband of one wife.

Carlos with Veronica and his children.

My heart melted as I hugged Carlos. He was one of my first converts. A boisterous 7-year-old, he brought his parents to our church and enrolled in our blossoming school. He’s been on a long journey away from God, and it’s so good to see him coming back.

It hurts my heart to see so many people, embittered by offenses, away from God. The joy is to see them come back.

In 2015, let God do a work of restoration in your life.

Hospitality, not hostility

hospitality | Guatemala

With my wife and the pastor in Guatemala.

They eat beans and tortillas six days a week, and on Sunday — their only day of chicken — they would give me the best piece. I felt as guilty as a convict but knew that I couldn’t refuse their hospitality.

I learned hospitality in Guatemala. In the United States, I learned self-sufficiency, every man for himself, get ahead of the other, only invite to eat if they invite you back.

When you’re in a house with dirt floor and sheet metal roof, it’s time to learn something new when people so poor give so richly. In the Bible, it is a great honor to receive strangers/guests into your house and provide them protection. The guests get treated even better than children.

When was the last time you invited someone to eat who stands no chance of paying you back? When have you given love to the unloveable? When have given to the point of forgoing once-weekly chicken yourself?

I am in Guatemala, delighting in its incomparable hospitality with the brethren of the church I founded.