Category Archives: Christianity

The meaning of the long hug

Iglesia Cristiana La Puerta | Guatemala zona 1

Joe and me at the Door Church in Zone 1 of Guatemala City.

Joe hasn’t been to church.

He was once a stellar disciple in our missionary church in Guatemala. His mom enrolled him in our school, and he got saved. He had a spectacular voice and led worship. But then I had to leave Guatemala. Joe went from a delivery job to a bank job and married his high school sweetheart. I guess he got busy and also maybe a little discouraged. To my great sadness, he stopped being a leader.

On my trip to Guatemala recently, I visited him with a bunch of church members. We wanted to show him he’s still super important. He still has a call of God on his life. He still is useful in the Lord’s service. As we left, he gave me a long hug.

I thank God for that hug. It was full of meaning. It wasn’t a short, customary thing. It communicated years of love and appreciation and maybe a little bit of hurt.

I hope Joe can find his way back to church. I love the dude. He’s like a son for me.

Superman gets charged by the Sun. Christians get charged by the Son.

superman sus Christians SonSo I guess I’ve been in a humorous mood of late. I’ve been posting some funnies. But I always try to include a small message. This one is worth a chuckle.

I think you’d do well to be charged by the Son.

Ha ha ha! Shakespeare modernized. Modernity Shakespearized.

hamlet shakespeare

Ok, so where can I find the whole play in Piraro comics? I love Hamlet and teach it to my students every year! I can’t wait to figure out if Hamlet will ever figure out what to do (his fatal flaw is paralysis by analysis).

It seems to me that modernity has thrown (tried to throw) so much doubt upon the Bible and Christianity as to induce indecision among the masses. Why accept Christ and life my life up with the Bible, if God doesn’t exist? if the Bible isn’t more than just literature? Etc?

Don’t be caught, like Hammy, undecided before it’s too late.

On the importance of family

Aunt Fanny far left. Dianna at right.

Dianna at right with her cousins

As a kid, I picked up an every-man-for-himself outlook on life. So when I met Dianna’s relatives, it was to learn some new lessons.

Aunt Fanny showed us that Dianna and I were important. She let us crash at her place and took us around San Francisco. She was both funny and fun. This was different for me: I was only a workhorse.

This weekend we went to her 85th birthday. The workhorse in me drove up five hours and back all in one day. But it was the fun that drew me.

Her daughters are very dear to us. Julie sort of adopted us when Dianna and I were newly-weds living in the San Francisco Bay Area. We rejoiced when at one point she came to Christ. There isn’t a thing we wouldn’t do for them. They are family, and it’s every man for every man.

Jesus cleans

jesus cleans

Funny how everything needs cleaning — according to this generation — except the heart.

Out of poverty in Detroit, to lauded surgeon, now presidential candidate, Ben Carson

ben carson for presidentAs a teenager, Ben Carson and a friend were arguing over a choice of radio stations. Things got heated and Ben took out a pocketknife and lunged the knife blade toward his friend’s stomach.

The blade hit his friend’s belt buckle, broke in half, which saved his friend from harm and Ben from becoming a murderer. Frightened by what nearly happened, Ben ran home and locked himself in the bathroom with a Bible.

Ben turned to the wisdom of Proverbs, reading “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1); or “An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins” (29:22), and a final admonition, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (16:18).

Humbled by the power of God’s Word, Carson realized that if left to his own devices, his anger would drive him toward ruin. Instead he prayed that God would help him control his temper instead of letting it control him, and God answered his prayer.

“When I came out, my temper was gone and I’ve never had a problem since,” Carson revealed in a talk he gave to the LifePoint Assembly of God in Osceola, Iowa, as reported by The Des Moines Register.

He chose instead to live by the words of James 1:19-20 which says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

The retired neurosurgeon – who has inspired millions to overcome adversity with his book and movie Gifted Hands – is now campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination – the only African American running in either party this voting season.

Read the rest of the incredible story.

The Lost Generation

rapture

The fateful stewardess from “Left Behind.”

Yes, all babies and children will be taken in the Rapture — as will all believing Christians.

It hit me as I was watching “Left Behind” with Nicolas Cage. Babies have no consciousness of sin, no guilt of sin, no need for forgiveness from God. As we grow up and grow aware of right and wrong and willfully chose wrong, we then need a Savior. If we refuse to receive Jesus, we don’t get right relationship with Jesus. We miss out.

Yes, I believe in the Rapture. I’m not going to treat the subject here. Suffice to say that the New Testament’s repeated warning that Jesus is coming like a thief in the night doesn’t seem to fit any other eschatological scenario. If you don’t believe, you will be left behind.

From all ages, people will be instantly resurrected to Heaven. But from one age — that of early childhood — all will be taken. That is the lost generation. There will be no children on earth within that age.

I am late in finally seeing this movie. Don’t be late in accepting Jesus into your heart as Lord and Savior.

The value of one soul

Liceo Bilingue La PuertaWhen she came to Christ last year, she was so excited that she began to rebuke classmates for their lackadaisical attitude toward God. She was the one salvation out of the school this year — until he accepted Christ just a few weeks ago when I visited Guatemala. Together, they are the fruit of this year at the Door Christian School in Guatemala.

The irony? We were considering cutting their studies program because of lack of funds. Why are effective ministries not funded? Why do Christians not pay their tithes and promises?

Victory: the difference between non-Christians and Christians

usain-bolt-celebrating-victory_1600x1200_552-desktopNon-Christians: Victory is mine!

Christians: Victory is His!

Running from death squads, he fell in with ‘Satan himself’

Iglesia Cristiana La Puerta zona 1 ciudad de Guatemala

Ismael Rodas (right) with Tino, whom he won to Christ after Tino was a homeless drunk for 40 years. They pose in the Door Christian Church of Guatemala City.

With one wrong turn, Carlos Rodas found himself wrenched between university protesters and gun-wielding police forces of the most repressive regime in the Americas at the time, that of Guatemalan president Romeo Garcia.

Police riddled his car with bullets and arrested him. The next day, Carlos was dead, after having been accused of being a communist subversive. He had $3,000 in his pocket at the time of his arrest, but now the money was gone.

Carlos’ brother, Ismael, was infuriated. Both he and Carlos had run a thriving bakery business and steered clear of politics.

“In the cemetery, I expressed my rage and my pain to my other brother,” Ismael says. “I wanted to know who the killers were and kill them and myself. I wanted to buy a machine guy. In those days you could still buy a machine gun. I wanted to waylay the chief of police because I knew where he passed every afternoon. I knew they would kill me, but that’s what I wanted to do.”

But Ismael worried about his wife and children, so he never executed his desperate plan.

Then the phone calls started coming in. It was always a stranger’s voice threatening him roughly. He had to leave the country within one month or he would be taken by a death squad. Suddenly severe anxiety mixed in with his anger and grief.

Ismael had studied with the Rosacrucian esoteric society and had also availed himself of Alcoholics Anonymous. But in this new crisis, these networks offering various mental and psychological tools were absolutely useless.

Ismael consulted experts in the occultic arts. A palm reader told him, without knowing his circumstances, that he was condemned to death. A “doctor” of yoga inquired supernaturally on his behalf but could offer no solution.

“You’re problem is very serious. If I place you in the North, there’s no room for you. If I place you in the South, there’s no room for you. Neither is there a place for you in the East or West,” the yoga man said, referring to metaphysical concepts. “You should leave the country, but it’s going to be difficult.”

But Ismael, was wary about leaving the country, even though he had U.S. residency. He worried that the military might ambush him en route.

The days passed and a death squad actually showed up at his home, but he wasn’t there. They ransacked the house. Security forces broke into his bakery, but fortunately Ismael had left. They tied up all the bakers and stole his money, Ismael recounts.

Seeking solace, Ismael turned to a warlock named Saoquin in the Florida neighborhood of Mixco, a city contiguous to the capital.

“He was Satan himself,” Ismael says. Read more about the warlock and ultimately freedom from sin the the rest of the incredible testimony.

Choose the straight and narrow path

straight and narrow

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. — Matt. 7:13-14 NIV.

By “wide” we might understand “permissive of everything.” God exhorts us to a narrow path, not that I or any Christian is perfect. Far from it, we recognize our sin and ask Jesus for forgiveness. But we don’t stop calling sin sin.

Why should we choose the straight and narrow path? Because it and only it leads to Heaven.

Photo source: Original from Pinterest.

Would it be rude?

too much Coca Colato suggest that you might want to stop drinking Coca-Cola? Not everything that tastes good or feels good is healthy for the body or the soul — even though calling sin sin is not popular.

*Original image: Pinterest.

You must be born again

born againThe butterfly is a symbol of the new birth in Christ. He starts as an ugly worm and gets transformed into the most beautiful and delicate of insects.

Such is the transformation Christ brings when you receive Him into your heart. Jesus says that in order to receive the Kingdom of God, one must undergo this miraculous and instantaneous transformation from unbeliever to believer.

Photo source: Pinterest.

What part of the Bible doncha understand?

smileGod had to get Balaam’s attention by making a donkey talk. You can read it in Numbers 22:28. Apparently profits were running through his mind at this point, and so he was ready to cross God.

Yeah, yeah, I know. You don’t believe in such fanciful stories. As a matter of fact, such a ridiculous story (yes, it’s hilarious!) is proof — you say — that the Bible couldn’t be true.

Well, to the stubbornest, God has resorted to some tough communication. He blinded Paul and knocked him off his donkey. He killed Pharoah’s firstborn.

I’m not trying to scare anybody here. Just remember one thing: God loves you. When He reaches out to you, it’s because of love.

It’s only a recommendation. Don’t it make tough for God to get through to you.

Original image from my friends at https://donkeywhispererfarm2010.wordpress.com/

Wikileaks has now hacked Heaven

and they’ve released this photo of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

Marriage Supper of the Lamb

But if you want to participate, you have to receive Jesus into your heart. (And this is only the finger food!)

*Image from Facebook.

I quit, and we lost

Colegio cristiano guatemala

Hanging out with the guys in Guatemala. (If you notice, only my feet are on the ground.)

The two things are absolutely related. It’s hard to beat Banner, even though his older brother Mario is almost as good at soccer. I was on Mario’s team, and we pretty much trailed Banner’s team by one goal the whole game.

But after two-and-a-half hours playing in the sun, having fasted breakfast, I suddenly found myself, somewhere between heat stroke and exhaustion, on the bench in the shade. I needed water, and there was none. I was breathing quickly.

“Pastor, come and play. This is probably the last time you’ll play in Guatemala.” Ordinarily these words would shot energy into me. But this time this 48-year-old body wouldn’t budge. I didn’t care any more. I was really dog-tired.

As poorly as I played (about 20 turnovers), still my presence on the field counted for something. I made it a little bit harder for them to score, a little bit harder for them to defend. My absence proved our demise by simple math: one less player favored them.

When you quit the church, you cause the team to lose. Keep playing.

Hygiene is costly

hygieneIn America, we take hygiene for granted. Why do Third World countries not get it? One reason is lack of money. Soaps and hygienic food is expensive. If you don’t have the money, you don’t buy it. You make do without.

People get sick. I’m in Guatemala right now, and I got diarrhea. We all got the runs. Lack of funds is to blame. They were trying to stretch a shoe-string budget to host a quince años — like a Sweet Sixteen but at age 15.

It’s a reminder of the blessings in America.

Spiritual hygiene will cost you too! Prayer, church attendance, Bible reading.

Personally, I think it ironic that people who are fastidious for external hygiene give no thought to internal hygiene. As Jesus said to the Pharisees: they are like whitened tombs, beautiful on the outside but full of death and decay inside.

A lot of Guatemalans don’t see the need for external hygiene. They think it’s all annoying and useless habits of gringos. But you can get sick if you’re not clean — physically and spiritually.

*Image Google search.

But I saw there was cake

chocolate cakeI wasn’t invited. I just popped in looking for an empty room to discuss future employment with a teacher.

But, hey, I saw there was cake — CHOCOLATE cake.

It was a surprise birthday party for one of the kids in the school. So I came in and sat down. They didn’t kick me out. And soon enough, they served me a slice of that yummy chocolate cake.

What fault do I have? I just hung around for a good thing. #PartyCrasherParExcellence

When you spy a good thing, it’s a good idea to hang around. Such is salvation. If you are able to discern (through the fog of confusion of lies in our current culture) the goodness of God, hang around. Go to church. Read the Bible. Pray.

They’ll be serving the cake SOON. At the marriage supper of the Lamb. This is another lesson I learned in the Guatemala church I started 20 years ago.

The cantina brought him back to Christ

Iglesias del Companerismo Cristiano | GuatemalaOnce drunk with co-workers in a cantina after hours, former Christian leader Otoniel Rodriguez began to defend the gospel against their trash talk.

“Don’t mess with the gospel,” growled Oto, who, despite being backslidden himself, respected the truth profoundly. “Men make mistakes. But the gospel is something that God has given and is perfect.”

The argument grew heated, and he and his boss fell to blows. The police came, and Oto punched a cop. They wrestled him to the ground and handcuffed him. If it weren’t for a friend who just happened to be a friend of the cop, he would have been carted off to jail.

Whew! What a way to come back to Jesus – by way of a beer brawl!

The next day he woke up hung-over and spied a dirty Bible in the corner of his ramshackle sheet metal and wooden post house in the poorest neighborhood of Guatemala, only four blocks away from the city’s dump. Over time, he managed to block out the repulsive stench wafting from the dump, he says.

All he got out of the Bible that day was more condemnation for his sin. He cried out to God. For two and a half years, he’d gone from being a respected church leader to a heavy drinker and womanizer.

“God, I don’t want to go to Hell,” he cried. “If You can give me a chance, do it.” Read the rest of the amazing testimony.

My peace I give you

forest

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. — Jesus in John 14:27 NIV.

Love what you do or look for something else to do

do what you love

The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the herat, you’ll know when you find it. — Steve Jobs

Image with quote: from Pinterest

Take action based on your dreams, not your fears

take action based on your dreams, not your fears Dream big. Fear small. Based your decisions on your vision for a better future, not on the fears of a bad future.

He who has the MOST HIGH never needs to get high

He who has the Most High never needs to get highHe who has the MOST HIGH never needs to get high.

God doesn’t open doors. He opens seas.

God doesn't open doors. He opens seas.

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

Out of poverty and alcohol surfaces an avid evangelizer of Guatemala’s drug neighborhood

barrio el Gallito zona 3 ciudad de Guatemala | cristiano
His dad was a philandering dentist, who plied a young woman with alcohol to take advantage of her.

From that unholy union, Douglas Barillas was born. He can’t remember a time when he wasn’t hungry as a child. He grew up with his grandparents in the poorest neighborhood in Guatemala City, El Gallito.

Neighbors paid him five cents to carry the trash to the public dumpster. It was enough for him to buy a hot, thick drink made of grains, a chuchito (similar to a tamale), and a couple bananas.

photo(143)

When there was nothing to eat, he would walk a few miles with his grandmother to his dad’s dentistry office to ask for five or 10 quetzals (Guatemalan currency). His dad, with a look of disgust and sometimes an insult, would give it to him.

Pain piled up in his heart.

When he was 12, his dad had a client come out and look at him. “Don Guillermo, this boy is not your son. Look at his eyes. They’re different,” she said. It was a greater humiliation than ever.

“I threw the five quetzals in his face,” Douglas remembers. “I needed the five quetzals to eat. But I had my pride. I told him, ‘I’m sorry, but never again will I come here to look for you.’” Find out how Douglas got saved and changed his life here.

Please pray for Ricardo

Richard in GuatemalaHe’s my dear brother, who, because he slipped up with drugs, believes there’s no hope. He won’t even come to church.

Ricardo is the nicest guy. God transformed him once, and he was attending service. But he gave into temptation at some point and has been bottom-dwelling for about five years now. I know God has great things for him.

On this blog, I’ve asked for finances on my gofundme account. But today, I don’t need your money. I need your prayers — for my dear son in the Lord.

We won 43-10 at soccer

Guess which one is me.

Guess which one is me.

It was an incredibly lopsided score, a thumping to leave our opponents embarrassed for the rest of their lives. Their team was four players, and we were only three.

Actually, we were trying to get as many goals as years I’ve lived on Earth as of today: 48. But the other team quit.

To be fair, I personally made only three goals. And as best as I can remember, the 10 goals made against us were all my fault.

Yes, the victory was because of Mario and Banner Ajcip, exceptional footballers and brothers of the Door Church in Guatemala, where I pastored, where I learned to play soccer. Those two guys teach in our school, and we played against the students of our Christian school.

It felt like being on Jesus’ team. He lets you participate. He lets you feel like your doing something. You work hard. You make mistakes. But he brings the inevitable lopsided victory.

I’m glad I’m on Jesus’ team.

I love what I do

cute girl | Guatemala

What’s there not to love about this job? (Altruism).

In the USA, I’m surrounded by people who love to make money. I don’t. I love to help people. It makes for awkward conversations, like, “What do you do for a real job?”

Ummmm. Idk. This is what I do.

Fortunately, my wife supports me 100%. Praise the Lord! I’m very sorry to say this, but it seems to make that making money is so empty.

I’m in my old stomping grounds as a I write this, Guatemala, where for 16 years I was a missionary. We planted churches and a school. Just today, I got the chance to talk heart to heart with a kid who needed help. Hopefully, he’ll make some good decisions.

Helping people makes me hum with excitement. I really don’t know why I am this way. God made me this way?

I love these kids. All of them are in a (semi?) safe place, the Door Bilingual School in Guatemala. In addition to doing government paperwork, I’ve been teaching English and Bible. I’ve been helping strategies to help improve finances for the school. I’m making preparations for a medical clinic to be realized by Lighthouse Medical Missions in September.

This is what I love.

Sinners helping sinners

sinners helping sinnersIt’s the great irony of ministry: I’m far from perfect, and yet I attempt — and sometimes succeed! — in helping other imperfect people.

As ministers of God’s grace, we should never lose sight of the fact that we, ourselves, are sinners. We are NOT the inerrant voice of God. Stay humble.

The world hurls “hypocrite!” I don’t snarl in return. Because basically it’s true. Who can say it’s not? Who is without sin to throw stones?

God’s grace is such that He reaches people with His grace THROUGH imperfect people.

Photo source.

Winning British Open, Zach Johnson glorifies God

2015-british-open-st-andrewsWith scriptures running through his head, Zach Johnson became only one of six golfers to win the Masters at Augusta and the British Open at St. Andrew’s when he beat two others in playoffs for the coveted Claret Jug on July 20.

“I was patient,” said the 39-year-old from Cedars Rapids, Iowa. “I had some Scripture going in my head. I thank the Lord. I thank my friends. I thank my family. I’m just in awe right now. I feel like God gave me the ability to play a game. I’m just a guy from Iowa who’s been blessed with a talent, and this game provided great opportunity.”

Among PGA players, Johnson is not known for killing the ball; he drives 280 yards per stroke. Nor is he the pinpoint putter. But he prepares diligently. When rain postponed a whole day of play, he was practicing wedge shots with his caddie, gauging differing wind conditions.

And he kept calm, remembering Psalm 27:14 throughout his play on the legendary Old Course: “Wait on the Lord: Be of good courage, and He will strengthen your heart.”

To finish the article click here.

Change is necessary

change is necessaryYou’ve been fighting it for years. You’re in denial. You don’t need to change; it’s your spouse. You don’t need to change your diet. You don’t need to seek God.

But the wrong-doing — even when you insist you’re doing nothing wrong — catches up with all of us. And we have to make a change.

I rejoice at seeing chubby people at the gym. They got a bit out of hand, but they are taking control of their lives. I recently met a man who gave up sugar and goes to the gym. He’s off the myriad daily pills his doctor gave him before. And he looks a lot younger than he is.

It’s time to turn to God. Don’t fear the changes in your life. They will bring good results to your life.

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

Change is easy

change is easy

Friday night was temptation for me when I was in college. So I started attending my church’s Spanish service. I practiced my linguistic abilities, made friends and kept my distance from sin.

Sometimes the changes we need in our lives are not as hard as we imagine. All you need is a good attitude and make a simple change.

The television was a source of temptation for us. We got rid of it. Now we have more time to serve Jesus, and that makes us happy.

Don’t suffer. Sometimes all you need to do is tweek your routine ever so slightly to make a big difference in the results. Change can be easy.

Change is beautiful

change is beautiful

Don’t resist change. When you come to Christ, He will make all things beautiful in your life.

I, like all humans, am drawn to sin, tripped up by temptation. But I — and not everybody knows this! — know where to turn in repentance. I know that God is most beautiful, His way radiant and peaceful.

If you need to change your diet for health reasons, don’t despise the vegetables. Learn to enjoy them. The gym is not a hellhole to be endured. It is a healthhole to be enjoyed.

Change is beautiful.

*I don’t own the image, nor am I making any $ on it.

Change is possible

change

This is what makes us human. We can analyze. We can improve. We can alter habits, thought patterns and outcomes. If we are doing poorly, we can’t get in the lane headed towards success.

This is what makes us Christians. We embrace change, change brought from above, supernatural change. Hopelessness is discarded. Joy replaces it. Love fills the heart, peace, the mind.

Don’t keep suffering. Don’t stay the same. Jesus wants to help you change.

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

A street kid off the streets, only through the power of Christ

Iglesia Cristiana La Puerta Zona 1 Ciudad Guatemala

Daniel poses with me a few days ago.

He slept on the streets with only cardboard boxes for a cushion — and he slept well “as if it were the best hotel in the world,” Daniel Paz says.

This was the life. Rebellious, he had left home when he was 14, and now the 20 or so street kids who inhabited the Plaza Mariachi in Guatemala City were his comrades of the wild, “happy” life of no rules, no one to tell him what to do, or what not to do.

The phenomenon of street children is widespread in Latin America, and governmental agencies have been largely ineffective in their efforts to rescue and re-incorporate into society the millions of minors who make their beds on cement. A large-scale effort in Brazil that institutionalized half a million street kids in 1985 failed, according to Wikipedia.

The key for Daniel, who spent 15 years on the streets, was Christ, and his story speaks to the church’s need to be the answer.

While his friends inhaled wood alcohol and shoe glue, Daniel kept the party life low key – mostly drinking beer and smoking. This was God moving in his life because the  cheaper drugs they consumed burned brain cells.

Daniel had accepted Christ once when he saw Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” in a church in his neighborhood when he was 12.

“Before that, I had never heard anything about Christ,” he says. “I knew nothing about the devil, about sin, about the world. I knew nothing about salvation.”

Unfortunately, Daniel didn’t keep attending services beyond two months. Rebelliousness won out – for a while.

After turning his back on his emerging faith, Daniel made his home in the streets. Most of the time, he made money selling plastic roses to romantic couples in restaurants and bars. A lot of his clients were the guys who fell for bar girls, who moonlighted as prostitutes.

Daniel was affable and flirted with these girls. They liked Daniel and would turn their charms on patrons: “Aw! Buy me a roooose” they would whine romantically. If the patron liked the girl, he would pay for it and give it to her.

For a brief period, Daniel fell into robbery. He and four street kids would strike at night surrounding any person who was walking home alone. They never used a weapon but would intimidate and demand the victim hand over wallet and cell phone. Read the rest of the article.

I’m still in Guatemala

Mike Ashcraft

With the 4th grade in the school my wife and I founded almost 20 years ago.

Pushing paperwork is slow and tedious in the Third World, so I really had no idea how long it would take and rather arbitrarily bought a round-trip return flight for July 23. Now, I’m going to have to miss that flight, and there is no end in sight.

Because of government requirements for the school in Guatemala, I have to get the national identity card called DPI. To get this, I need to update my permanent residency. That is half done. But they just told me the other half will take at least a week. I’m not crying, though I do miss my wife and kids. I’m taking advantage to preach in the church and encourage the brethren.

All this means costs are rising of this trip. You can contribute by hitting my gofund.me/MikeToGuatemala.

What a difference God’s love makes!

nurturing loveI have found love in God! You can too!

Or you can try to get by without it. Good luck.

*I don’t own the rights to this pic. It’s by crazy-frankenstein. I am not making any money on it. Kudos to the artist who did this. It’s really cool. I just added words to it.

Identify yourself as closely as possible with your target audience

Guatemala ministries

All the kids gather for a photo with birthday hats on.

That’s what Jesus did. He didn’t stay aloof but descended from Heaven and took the form of man to earn us salvation.

When you reach out to people, you should become one of them (there are exceptions).

In the photo, I’m with the kids, whom I love, from the church and school in Guatemala that my wife and I started (although really God started it) 20 years ago.

You gain nothing by making yourself superior to others, standoffish, untouchable. People want a tangible and real person to follow, not an image from afar.

Christ brings color to your life

color to your lifeTired of drab? Jesus will take your black-and-white life of money or sin and paint something beautiful out of it. He made me a person who helps other out of self-destruction. First I was a missionary in Guatemala. Now I work in a Christian school. You can have a purpose in your life!

*Photo Credit: James M. Berry, photographer extraordinaire, and a great friend.

Narrow places

narrow path ChristianityThe Narrows enjoys status as maximum attraction in Zion National Park. Indeed, the charming stream has carved through the rock canyon some of the eeriest and most beautiful geological sights in the world.

Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only  a few find it. — Matthew 7:14 NIV. Lots of youth abandon the church because they long for freedom — freedom to sin. The chafe against the strictures of the Word of God. They want to drink or fornicate.

But beauty is in the narrow way of Jesus. There is love, friendship, successful family, peace, joy, blessing.

Zion National Park | NarrowsWhile you are leaving the church happy to be “free,” notice first those who are coming into the church wanting to be free from drugs, alcohol, and the myriad of traps the devil tends with sophisticated arguments from the universities of America.

You can come back. We welcome and love you. As for me, I want to stay in the Narrows.

Goodbye, for now. Hello soon. (True friendship)

She left our school this year to move to the East Coast with her family. Goodbye.

She left our school this year to move to the East Coast with her family. Goodbye.

You never really say goodbye in Christianity.

One of the hardest things about ministry is when people leave because you love them.

But I’ve hung around long enough to see that Christian friends are true friends. I would venture to say that only Christian friends can be true friends. Because they offer a friendship that doesn’t die out through separation or adversity.

And yes, some friends we won’t see until Heaven.

Guatemala mission

With my longtime friends, Aparicio and Max, at the church we founded 20 years ago. Only in Christ does friendship last.

But on my trip to Guatemala, I’ve been reunited with friends, guys who helped form the church 20 years ago when I was a missionary here. We were great friends, comrades in the war for souls. And we still are great friends.

Life is like an airplane trip

life is an airplane tripAtheists deny the final destination. They affirm only what they can see and perceive immediately in front of them.

Hedonists try to enjoy the ride as much as possible because they’re not sure if there’s anything afterward.

But the airplane trip is just an airplane trip. Compared to eternity, life is short, uncomfortable and unpleasant. You can pay for more amenities. But the final destination is where the enjoyment really begins.

Don’t make the trip your everything.

Faith girl

Iglesia Cristian La Puerta | GuatemalaWhen her husband wasn’t doing well, she continued serving the Lord. When her friends counseled her to leave the church, she counseled them to come back to church. When her children didn’t do so well, she kept encouraging them to come back.

Blanca has been an amazing woman of faith. When others around get discouraged, make poor decisions and spout negativisms, she remains steadfast with her God. She’s a hero, as far as I’m concerned. I want to be like people like that.

He sold stakes in a gold mine with no gold. Now he preaches the gospel.

Iglesia Cristiana la Puerta | Guatemala

John Mira, preaching in Guatemala. He’s pictured with Pastor Ludving and his family.

Ever since he started working for the owner of a gold mine in Las Vegas, John Mira lived a lavish lifestyle with limousines, mansions, women, and illicit drugs.

His part was to sell foreign investors a stake in the mine. John would drive Japanese clients there, walk them past the armed guards at the gate, show them the chemists studying soil samples, let them inspect the smelters. He even slipped $30,000 to the reps of investment companies to curry their favor. In his sales role he brought in millions of dollars for his boss.

Incredibly, Mira never realized he was at the center of a scam. After investors viewed the mine supposedly valued at $2 billion, his boss sent all the “actors” home. Wanting to show off one day to his girlfriend, he drove her out to the mine – and nobody was there.

Suddenly, he realized he was an unwitting participant in fraud!

He was deluded into thinking he was a huge success. While he wallowed in riches, he was also addicted to drugs. He made fun of a Christian friend who sold him jackets from a beaten-up Volvo.

One day, John found himself pinned to his bed. He felt a claw in the back of his head. He was hallucinating and believed he was dying. Drug-induced paranoia kept him from calling his parents for help.

Desperate for help, he called the coat salesman who always invited him to church.

“Lock yourself in your room and cry out to God,” his friend told him.

John followed the man’s instructions. Then God impressed this on his heart: In your left hand is your death and your family’s death. In your right hand is your life and your family’s life. Choose. Read the rest of the article.

The beauty of children

colegio cristiano guatemala

The smiling faces at the Christian school El Liceo Bilingue La Puerta in Guatemala City

One of the strong points of the ministry in Guatemala is the school and its children. If you save a 40-year-old, he will serve Christ for 40 years (supposing he lives to 80). But if you save a 12-year-old, he will serve Christ 68 years.

Of course, it’s good to get the old guy saved; he needs it as much as the young guy. But there are certain advantages to working with youth. You also help them avoid so many sins and destruction if they learn to live wisely from a young age. Well, that has been our philosophy behind the Christian school, El Liceo Bilingue La Puerta. We’ve seen some great testimonies through the years.

John Mira, man of God

John Mira, man of God, with the pastor in Guatemala.

There’s great joy in seeing the smiling faces: so many kids needing and receiving love. My friend, John Mira, is here with me. He’ll be preaching, and I’m translating. He preached to the junior highers in Bible class. It gives them the chance to accept Christ and point their lives in a positive direction.

A bit nervy… Need to keep trusting Jesus

John Mira | Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica

Mike Ashcraft and John Mira, members of the Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica.

I’m writing this from LAX. We put the ticket on the credit card, and so I’m off to Guatemala. My fundraising campaign has been a bit hair-raising. Hahaha. JK. What I mean to say is that you can still donate because I haven’t raised all the funds yet. Gofundme is convenient gofund.me/MikeToGuatemala

Taking this trip is moving by faith. I’m praying and believing that God will bring in all the finances. It’s easier for me to just stay in America and not risk, but there are critical needs now in the church I founded 16 years ago — paperwork that only I can do as the owner of the school, el Liceo Bilingue La Puerta.

Pastor John Mira is going with me. He was born in the Philippines and got saved in the United States. He became a lawyer, works with stocks, but his real vocation is preaching the gospel. He’s passionate about it.

He was one of my first friends when I returned to the States five years ago from the mission field. His son was in my class, and I reached out to him. And he always encouraged me. This is the first time I’m tag-teaming up with him for some spiritual warfare abroad.

I ask you to pray for us! Thank you!

Christian soccer star brings home women’s World Cup

holiday's goalLauren Holiday’s stunning volley against Japan was the third of a tsunami of goals that gave the U.S. Women’s National Team the Women’s World Cup on July 5.

Though winning that competition and two Olympic gold medals for women’s soccer has been gratifying for Holiday, it pales in comparison with her love for Christ.

“Success is being the best soccer player I can be,” the midfielder says. “The wonderful, wonderful thing about loving Jesus is, it’s not about me. And the spotlight isn’t on me. So when I do step out on the field, I get to play with freedom because I don’t have to worry about if I score or what happens if we lose or if I make a bad pass, because success isn’t determined on that with Christ.”

Holiday, 27, retired from international soccer immediately after winning the cup. She is part of a cadre of Christians on the national squad that also includes Tobin Heath, Amy Rodriguez, Heather O’Reilly and Jillian Loyden.

Holiday was raised in a Lutheran Church but embraced a vibrant faith when she went into junior high school.

“I went to some youth camps and that’s where I started to discover the presence of God,” she told BeliefNet. “I was able to experience God through the singing and by talking to other girls that had similar experiences. That opened my eyes but I still had to seek out that relationship.” Read the rest of the article.

He once caroused the streets of Scotland. Now he preaches in them.

Scotland Christianity revivalFor his 40th birthday he planned a 3-day drinking binge at a hotel in Edinburgh for him and five buddies, but his Dad called. His mother was deathly sick.

At the hospital, the surgeon said his mom, who had suffered a massive heart attack, had two days to live. Stephen Christie let his born-again sister stay with her that night, and he would come in the morning.

“When I went in the very next day, I didn’t know what to expect,” Steve says. “What was I going to see? Am I going to see sadness or depression? Am I going to see tears nonstop? I walked into the hospital room, and there my mom was lying in her bed, knowing she’s going to die, but with a huge grin on her face.

“I asked my sister Jacqi, ‘What’s happened? Has he got the wrong diagnosis?’ She said, ‘No, Steve, it’s better. Mom is saved.’

“I went, ‘Saved? Saved from what?’”

Four years ago, the baffling grin of a dying mom was the first “link of the chain” leading Steve, now 44, to salvation and to outreach in the streets. Today, the Scotsman from Aberdeen chides himself for shelving the Bibles, tracts and CDs his sister left in an effort to see him come to Christ.

His conversion and subsequent involvement in ministry is heartening for a nation that helped found the Protestant Reformation through John Knox but now languishes in spiritual apathy that many observers call “post Christian” times. Read the rest of the article.

The Gates of Hell or the Gates of Righteousness

heaven hell gatesIt all depends on your perspective, from where you come and where you want to go.

If you want to bolt from Christianity, the gateway bears the title: “The Gates to Hell.” But if you are already in the life of hellishness and you want to escape to Christianity, the headpost declares: “The Gates of Righteousness.” But it is the same doorway.

Either you exit godliness or you exit godlessness. Either you enter the world and the wide path that leads to destruction, or you enter salvation by grace and continuing a walk with Christ that leads to blessing and Heaven. But it is the same doorway by which some enter and others leave.

Walls are NOT for good people

walls are for bad people, not goodWalls are for bad people. They either KEEP OUT wrongdoers (such as thieves from your house) or they KEEP IN wrongdoers (such as prison convicts). But the good person is free to go in or out as he pleases.

When we look at God’s law as walls, we need to keep this in mind. God’s walls are not restrictions on our fun, to keep us pinned in to His boring Kingdom, as some see it. They are protections against all the harm the devil wants to bring on us.

Ask the hopeless drug addict if he could have done it all over would he never touch drugs. Ask the alcoholic if it would have been preferable to never taste liquor. Ask a million and one people destroyed by sin if God’s walls were arbitrary morals imposed upon them by cruel religious people who had no right to tell others what to do. Go ahead, ask them.

Ask the people in Hell.

Don’t chaff at Christianity’s “limitations,” viewing them as a horrible prison to suppress your freedoms. No, you are free to go. You are a good person. Walls are NOT for the good person. They are for the bad person.