Category Archives: Christianity

Rasputin-like Manson mesmerized him until Jesus set him free


Dennis Rice had just stolen 160 guns to bust Charles Manson out of jail when the police pulled up. He and his partner blasted out the patrol car’s windshield with shotguns and sped away.

Cops filled his van with bullets in a wild chase lasting seven minutes. Shots even grazed his body. At the end, police from five police departments arrested Dennis, and he was never able to storm L.A. County Jail to free the mass murderer who had mesmerized him.

How Dennis fell in with the grisly Manson “family” who killed seven in a war against society is a story about drugs and the disaffected youth of the 1960s. How he came to Christ and became a pastor is the story of the forgiveness and power of God.

Born in Phoenix in the 1950s in the middle class, Dennis chose the path of a rebel. He was kicked out of school after school. He was attracted to “forbidden knowledge” and read Herman Hesse’s Siddartha and Louis-Ferdinand Celine’s Death on the Installment Plan, according to his self-published autobiographical pamphlet “Free Indeed.”

His self-styled philosophy justified reveling in sex, drugs and rock and roll with other hippies. He was deeply suspicious of any authority. After hitch-hiking in Mexico when he was 17, he wound up in San Francisco and fell in with the counter-culture Beatniks.

He also tried heroine and soon was addicted. To support his habit, he started committing burglaries. Eventually he got caught and went to jail.

Instead of it being a wake-up call, prison life only seemed like part of the adventure. He saw himself as an outsider, misunderstood and maligned by hypocritical society.

At a concert after his release, he introduced a girl to amphetamines. Eventually, she became his wife and mother to three children. With three children in the picture, Dennis decided to settle down and kick the drugs, but his wife could not.

The couple separated and Dennis found himself raising the kids on his own. He started working at an all-night bookstore in Hollywood. That’s when he first saw the headline in the early morning newspaper that actress Sharon Tate had been brutally murdered on Aug. 9, 1969.

While the homicide frightened him, there were signs of a “revolution” at the scene of the crime that resonated with him. The perpetrators had painted “pig” outside Tate’s door with her blood. The next night, there was another murder, a wealthy couple. Again, “Rise,” “Death to pigs” and “Helter Skelter” were etched in blood.

“I already believed that revolution was the only solution for America’s problems,” Dennis wrote. “I was an anarchist. I believed we needed to tear down the whole society and start over. Could this be the revolution?”

Eventually, police arrested Manson and some of “the family.”

On a Sunday with his three boys, Dennis decided to drive out to the Spahn Ranch where Manson’s group of outcasts became a psychotic cult that believed their leader was Jesus Christ.

While the boys rode horses under the care of some of the ladies at the ranch, Dennis talked with the men. Rolling Stone interviewed Manson in prison, and his humor came through in the article.

“I wondered how this man, who was accused of all these heinous crimes, could have a sense of humor,” Dennis said. “I was intrigued.”

He visited again. The boys finally had several ladies who acted as maternal figures. And Dennis enjoyed the discussions, the friendship and the sex he was getting at the ranch.

He visited Manson in prison, and the Monster of Mayhem began to exercise a Rasputin-like sway over Dennis. Read the rest about Charles Manson family.

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Why do so many Muslims hate America?

why-muslim-countries-hate-americaWhile floodwaters threatened innumerable lives in Houston, Muslims half way around the world rejoiced openly on social media that calamity had befallen the “infidels” in America.

“Allah, destroy them more and more because they destroyed our countries,” Bushra Atwani commented on a Facebook post showing flood waters flowing.

Muslim-Hate-for-America“I had fire in my heart against America,” wrote Ali Albaghdadi. “But when I saw this video, all the fire is gone. I’ve become very happy. America is the head of the snake. We prayed for that. We asked Allah to destroy America like they destroyed our country.”

The outpouring of hate, the disturbing gush of glee among Muslims who see the devastation in Texas, makes one wonder what kind of religion they have.

“We ask Allah to protect the Iraqi people there and kill everyone else,” wrote Qasim AL Gohrabi. Houston has a sizeable Iraqi population.

“This is Allah’s punishment for everybody who is against us,” wrote Ahmed El Zrafy. “I ask Allah to not help them, to leave them to their fate.”

Muslim-opinion-of-AmericaSadly, the comments, which were interpreted by a translator and not software, are not a smattering of isolated fringe elements but represent wide swathes of Muslim opinion. In the view of the translator who reviewed the comments, about 80% wish evil upon America. Those expressing grief usually do so because they have a friend of relative living in Houston.

A Pew Research poll in 2014 found 85% of Egyptians hate America and 62% of Pakistan also express anti-American sentiment, as reported by Foreign Policy. By contrast, Israel holds the second highest regard in the world for the United States, with an 81% favorable outlook, according to Pew.

“We tend to see more negative sentiment among Muslims in the Middle East, such as those from Egypt and Jordan,” noted Bruce Stokes, director of global economic attitudes at Pew, as reported by the BBC. Read the rest of the article about what Muslims think about America.

Note: This article’s purpose is NOT to stir up hate and violence against Muslims. As Christians we must love those who persecute us. The purpose is to fight the leftist delusion that Muslims are an oppressed minority that need to be appeased. The policy of appeasement failed with Hitler, so why is it be retaken by the Left?

Burning Man evangelism of a different kind

160907084704-burning-man-art-cars-5-super-43It’s not the tie-donning, Bible-toting crowd that heads to the Nevada Desert to evangelize at Burning Man, the art hipster festival that draws more than 50,000 for a blistering week on the dry alkaline lakebed.

No, it even draws Christian iconoclasts who flout church conformity. Styled on the born-again hippies of the Jesus Movement, these guys see beyond the largest pagan cult gathering in America. They see misguided souls thirsting for truth.

jesus-crossBurning Man, for the uninitiated, is religion for the religion-less. From Aug. 27 to Sept 4, “Burners” camp in Black Desert and revel in alcohol, drugs, biking, electronic dance music and unbridled hedonism. The bacchanal culminates when a gigantic wooden centerpiece – or temple – is burned in effigy on Saturday night.

The celebration has elements of religion: ritual, a code of conduct and a sense of community. But there is no clear focus on a deity.

phil wyman

Phil Wyman, aka Gandalf/Indiana Jones

This is where Phil Wyman comes in. A Christian pastor who reaches out with love and acceptance to the witches at the Halloween fest in his native Salem, Massachusetts, Wyman is long-haired preacher who’s been described as a cross between Gandalf and Indiana Jones.

Wyman, like other Burners, erects an interactive art display with a message that seeks to activate a quest for true spirituality. In 2011, his Pillars of the Saints honored Simeon Stylite, the ascetic pole-sitter who sought to connect with the Spirit through a radical disconnect with this world.

746984168Wyman’s messages are suggestive, not authoritative, which is why they resonate with the lost souls at Burning Man but they also raise eyebrows among straight-laced Christians who want a more orthodox message. Wyman employs the Socratic method and gets people thinking by asking questions.

“I wondered why Christianity had not typically embedded itself into these festivals, why we weren’t among the leaders of new cultural developments and wildly creative thought,” Wyman wrote in Christianity Today. “Certainly God is wildly creative—enough to find his way into human hearts in other cultures around the world.”

burning-manOne church from Ohio became famous for passing out waters, which is pretty handy in the scorching heat and dust of the desert. It was a way of showing the love of Christ in a practical way.

There have been Christians who dress like Jesus and carry the cross.

Burning Man is a ripe harvest field for out-of-the-box evangelism. Read the rest: Christians at Burning Man.

Christianity exploding in Iran despite efforts of government to stamp it out

Christians-mark-2014-at-Sarkis-Church-in-Tehran-4-HRChaffing under repressive Islam, young Iranians are secretly turning to Christ in record numbers, and Iranian-born Shahrokh Afshar wanted to be part of the revival. So he filmed 13 programs for young people and offered them to SAT7, which broadcasts Christian programming into Iran via satellite.

“Iran is 25% 14 years or younger. Iran has the largest number of drug addicts per capita in the world. Alcoholism, prostitution. The economy sucks; it’s like 15% unemployment,” Afshar said. “Life is very very hard for the average young Iranian. There wasn’t much being done as far as programs are concerned to reach out to these kids.”

christians-in-underground-church-in-iranIran has the fastest-growing evangelical population in the world (estimated at 19.6% by Operation World in 2015), despite an atrocious human rights record against people who abandon Islam, according to Christian Today. In fact, the explosive growth has overloaded the religious police.

A network of underground home churches thrives, and at least six satellite stations broadcast Christian programs continually into Iran. Afshar personally knows of 400 house churches with 5000 members. The number of Muslim converts to Christianity was “a handful” before 1971. Now, it is perhaps 1 million.

Afshar’s program, “Clear Like Glass,” cost him $3,000 per episode. Each program includes a funny skit and a frank interview and discussion of taboos in Islam. What people usually hide, Afshar brings to light. He conducted research about his target audience and found they didn’t want just preaching.

Christians in Iran“Clear Like Glass” is being shown over and over again, at least twice a day, Shah said. He is preparing to film another 13 programs.

After the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, Afshar joined three Egyptian pastors and one American to drive from Turkey to Baghdad and find pastors whom they could help. The fact-finding mission was fruitful. He connected with pastors from Iran and even gave them training in Turkey.

“My contacts tell me that they walk into a party and tell people they are Christian, and boom, they have an instant audience. People want to hear more about Christ. It’s very very easy for them to share,” Afshar said. “Of course, it’s dangerous. They can end up in prison very easily. But people are read the rest of Revival in Iran.

Leader of first Iranian church in America got saved after bargaining with God over grades

Iran ChristiansFlunking out of engineering at Pepperdine College, Shah Afshar contemplated suicide as he faced the fact that he was failing his family in Iran.

“The pressure of trying to make it, being the oldest son in the family, and trying to make an honorable name for myself and thus bring honor to my family, I very nearly committed suicide, because I was bringing shame to my family,” he said.

But Shah, whose full name is Shahrokh, fell in with a group of ex-hippies.

“They had two things that were very lacking in my life. They had peace and joy,” he said. “When I asked them, ‘what makes you different?’ They told me, ‘We’ve become born-again.’ They were followers of Jesus Christ.

new-tv-show-shazam-factor“Of course, that really offended me, coming from a Muslim background. I began to argue with them because I believed I had Mohammad, the greatest and the last prophet in the world. Who were they to tell me that a second-class prophet named Jesus was better?

“But I couldn’t deny the fact that they had something I didn’t have,” he added. “And as long as I was around them, I could experience the peace.”

Because Islam was deeply ingrained in his life, he retrenched and became a devout Muslim. But the suicidal broodings haunted him everywhere – except when he hung out with the Christians.

“They continued to love me and accept me,” he said. “And they would take me to their Bible studies – where I would never understand what is going on. I kept going because I couldn’t deny the fact that they had something I didn’t have.”

He was invited to a Thanksgiving dinner. The father prayed for the food. “That really touched me,” he said.

On the way home, Shah cried out to God.

“Look at me, I’ve tried Mohammad, I’ve tried Ali, but I want to kill myself today,” he said. “Then I said, ‘Jesus, if you’re really who these people tell me you are, I’ll accept you if you give me good grades in school.

“I had no idea who Jesus was. I didn’t believe he was the Son of God. I didn’t believe he was divine. I certainly didn’t believe he died on the cross. I just knew that if anyone could get me out of the mess, it would be him. I had nothing to lose. So I called on him.”

Part of accepting Jesus was a condition. “I said, ‘Jesus, I’ll follow you if you give me good grades in school.” It was a “feeble and theologically wrong” prayer, but God met Shah at the encounter.

A month later, he was expelled from college, but he still Read the rest about Iranian Christians.

Soft tissue found in dinosaur bones undercuts evolutionary timetable

soft-tissue-dinosaurWhen Mary Schweitzer found soft tissue in dinosaur bone in 2005, her boss got mad.

“Dammit, Mary, the creationists are going to love you,” Jack Horner snapped, according to what she wrote for Biologos.

Indeed, Schweitzer discovery threatened to upset the evolutionary biologists’ timeline for the world because soft tissue decays relatively quickly. If she found soft tissue in bones from a Tyrannosaurus rex perhaps it wasn’t 58 million years old, as the geologists argued. Maybe it was just a few thousand years old – trapped by sediment in a catastrophic worldwide flood and fossilized.

jack horner mary schweitzer

Mary Schweitzer with Jack Horner at a dig site

Smithsonian called her discovery a “shocker;” LiveScience, “contorversial;” and Discovery magazine, “dangerous.” News show 60 Minutes said it “posed a radical challenge to the existing rules of science.”

Young earth creationists, who argue that earth’s history reaches about 10,000 years, cackled with satisfaction.

“I invite the reader to step back and contemplate the obvious,” wrote Carl Wieland on the Answers in Genesis website. “This discovery gives immensely powerful support to the proposition that dinosaur fossils are not millions of years old at all, but were mostly fossilized under catastrophic conditions a few thousand years ago at most.”

soft-tissue-header

What are blood cells doing in dino bones?

For its part, Creation praised Schweitzer’s research as “powerful testimony against the whole idea of dinosaurs living millions of years ago. It speaks volumes for the Bible’s account of a recent creation.

Since her initial discovery, Schweitzer, a molecular paleontologist at North Carolina State University, has found red blood cells, blood vessels, bone cells and even hemoglobin and collagen. A supposedly 80-million-year-old duck-billed dinosaur bone has also yielded soft tissue.

CRS-iDino-digging-5The Christian Science Monitor reported this January that scientists found collagen, a protein basic to animal tissue, in an allegedly 195-million-year-old fossil of a Lufengosaurus dinosaur in China.

Proteins are complex molecules which break down quickly and can’t survive for a millennia.
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But Schweitzer, a conservative evangelical Christian who adheres to evolutionary theory, floated the theory in 2013 that iron may have preserved the soft tissue much like formaldehyde. If shown to be true, her theory would take wind out of the sails of the young earth Christians.

Schweitzer got her start in paleontology after studying molecular biology. She audited a course with famed paleontologist Jack Horner, the scientist who is trying to create dinosaurs in modern times from chicken DNA. Horner consulted for the movie Jurassic Park.

Schweitzer was thrilled with the course, worked her way through her doctoral degree and began lab work under Horner.

Through three summers of digging , Horner unearthed a T. Rex skeleton from an escarpment in northeastern Montana known as Hell’s Creek. Because of the remoteness and rugged terrain, the bones had to be helicoptered out but were too heavy, so the team reluctantly broke one of the leg bones into two pieces.

Horner handed some of the resulting fragments to Schweitzer to analyze. The first thing she realized was the dinosaur had been a pregnant mother because of the presence of medullary bone, which is a calcium overproduction to supply the eggs. (Originally, the fossil had been nicknamed “Bob.”)

But the real astonishment came when Schweitzer’s team dissolved some fragments in weak acid, a practice that was never done before because it dissolves bone matter. The lab assistant had only tried to eliminate the outer crust on the bone but wound up disintegrating all the hardened minerals.

When Schweitzer looked at the only remaining chunk under the microscope, she couldn’t believe its elasticity. It took her quite some time to realize that it was soft tissue, which had never before been seen by a scientist. Read the rest of the story about soft tissue dinosaur bones.

Almost aborted, Bianka is a sterling youth. What would the(ir) world be without her?

almost-abortedBoth moms were convinced that pregnant 15-year-old Diana wasn’t old enough to be a mom. They thought she would be dumping off her baby for either mom to raise, and neither wanted the duties. The solution was obvious and logical.

The young teen received an ultimatum: get an abortion or move out.

Pressured and confused, not knowing any options, Eric and Diana – naturally – scheduled the appointment to terminate their unplanned pregnancy. No one would ever know – and not because they lived in Las Vegas, but because that’s the way abortion laws work.

But a funny thing happened. The nurse called Diana’s name once, then twice over the public address system. It was time to hand over the money and terminate the pregnancy.

But Eric Pagan looked at his girlfriend, and she looked at him.

“Let’s just get out of here,” he said.

church-in-the-park---san-fernando-valleyThey stood up together and skipped out.

Just this June, Bianka – a strikingly beautiful teen with pink rose petal cheeks – graduated from high school in the San Fernando Valley. She’s planning to earn a teaching credential. She cares for her four younger siblings. And she broke the cycle of teenage pregnancy. She’ll wait until marriage. Now, for the parents, it’s inconceivable that she almost didn’t come into existence.

“Not once in my life did I ever regret NOT having the abortion,” Diana said. “No matter how hard things got, how hostile the relationship between my husband and I became, we’ve never ever regret, NOT having the abortion.”

How Eric and Diana met and fell in love is not the plot line of a fairy tale. He was running from police heat in his neighborhood. A gang leader, Eric saw patrol cars prowling his neighborhood, and he figured the cops were looking for him.

abortion-on-demand-withou-apologyWhen some acquaintances cruised past, he jumped in front of their car and asked for a ride. His buddy was with him and remembered a certain señorita in another neighborhood at whose house he figured they could hang out.

That’s where Eric saw the dark brown eyes of Diana. He had time to kill, so he tried to strike up a conversation with her. It was no easy matter because she spoke Spanish exclusively.

Of mostly Hawaian descent, Eric didn’t know much Spanish. What he knew was the rough lingo of the streets where words were used to steal cars and fight rivals.

So what sparked the romance? Cupid’s arrow smote not “in spite of” but “because of” the communication barrier. She could only understand the most rudimentary English, and he had to be careful not to use street Spanish laced with expletives.

abortion-and-over-populationIt was a challenge to get to know each other, and the challenge made it an adventure. The difficulty of conquering Diana was part of the attraction.

It was a challenge also because she was dating someone else – a fact she tried to communicate to Eric to throw water on his evident interest. He either didn’t understand or didn’t care.

Eric kept visiting the dark-haired beauty secretly. Sometimes, he would tap on her window after midnight, and they would talk – or TRY to talk.

Their romance had all the precursors of an unwanted pregnancy. He was 17, a mere two years older.

“Our parents told us to get an abortion, but I had a feeling come upon me not to do it,” Eric said.

Uncertainty prevailed in Diana’s heart. “I felt cornered. I had only known my husband for six months. My mom felt she was going to end up raising my baby, so she said, ‘Either get an abortion or move out.’ To me, I kind of didn’t even know this guy, so I only saw the option of going through with the abortion.” Find out how Diana heard a lucid baby’s cry the night before she was considering abortion.

Mike Pence, a solid Christian influence in the White House

pence trumpWhile at Phi Gamma Delta in college, Mike Pence was intrigued by a fraternity brother’s gold cross — and even more intrigued by what he said about the necklace pendant.

“Remember, Mike, you have got to wear it in your heart before you wear it around your neck,” his “big brother” told him, according to the New York Times.

karen and mike pencePence, 58, was born into an Irish immigrant family with five other siblings on a farm in the small town of Columbus, Indiana. Along with his three brothers, Pence served as an altar boy at the St. Columba parish church and attended as many as seven days a week. They grew up in Catholic school.

When he went off to Hanover College, a small liberal arts college in Indiana, he began to feel drawn to a more intimate, less ritualistic, approach to God.

Christian-vice-president“I began to meet young men and women who talked about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” he told CBN. “That had not been a part of my experience.”

At a Christian music festival in the spring of 1978 in Kentucky, he accepted Jesus as his personal Savior and Lord and was born again.

Still, his heartstrings remained firmly entrenched with his Catholic upbringing. He called himself an “evangelical Catholic” and even considered the priesthood as a career path.

“He was part of a movement of people, I’ll call it, who had grown up Catholic and still loved many things about the Catholic Church, but also really loved the concept of having a very personal relationship with Christ,” said Patricia Bailey, who, along with her husband Mark, worked at the Pence law firm in the 1980s in Indianapolis. Pence and Mark started every day with prayer at the firm.

In law school at Indiana University, Pence met Karen, who became his wife. As their relationship turned serious, she bought a gold cross with the word “Yes” engraved on it and carried it around in her purse to be ready for the inevitable proposition. Pence calls her “his prayer warrior.” The couple has three children.

In the political arena, Pence was a Democrat. His heroes were fellow Irish American John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. But as the Democratic Party fully embraced abortion, the man who grew up a staunch Catholic found himself feeling betrayed.

After voting for Jimmy Carter in 1980, he became attracted to the politics of Ronald Reagan. He never looked back.

After two failed campaigns for Congress, Pence won election in 2000 and served in the House of Representatives until 2011. He proved himself a man of convictions, not a political opportunist, and threw his support behind the Tea Party Movement. He declared he was willing to shut down the federal government in the fight to defund Planned Parenthood, the IndyStar reported. Read the rest of Mike Pence Christian.

A missionary with Muscular Dystrophy

IMG_4500As the #2 executive at the biggest waste hauler west of the Mississippi, Chris Banducci was the envy of his friends. He lounged in a nice house, drove a hot sports car and wallowed in money. “Work hard,” his neighbors told their kids, “and you’ll be a success like him.”

Then, at 29 years old, Chris was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, and his world fell apart.

“I was angry. I was lonely. I was miserable and full of self-hatred. I just wanted to die. My drinking got worse; I drank myself to sleep every night,” Chris recalled. “I couldn’t imagine that any woman could love this ‘cripple.’”

taiwan-missionary-in-wheelchairToday, Chris Banducci, 61, is a Christian missionary in Taiwan. With God’s help, he overcame many obstacles and took on increasing challenges as his body began to fail him.

Looking back at his early years, it would be hard to imagine Chris answering a call to the mission field. After he graduated from high school, he drove a trash truck.

“This was the best job I ever had,” he said. “I learned how to operate every bit of equipment at that place, to prepare for a supervisory role. Then I began to learn from my leaders how to manage people and make good business decisions.”

He felt some early physical symptoms of his disease, but shrugged it off.

As a supervisor, he was hated and feared.

cfm-pics-chris-banducci“I mistreated people,” he said. “I stepped on people, lied, cheated and eliminated competition. I was not an easy person to be around. My reputation with women was such that they avoided me.”

Through raw ambition, Chris worked his way up to the director of recycling and resource recovery, second only to the owner and CEO. He reached the pinnacle of success.

“My neighbors would tell their teenage and college-age sons, ‘Look at him. If you work hard and apply yourself, you can be like that!’”

It was heady stuff. But while he relished the admiration, Chris knew on the inside he was a mess. His family lived up north, so he was lonely. He was good at intimidating people but not at making friends. He was drinking heavily.

Then he walked into the doctor’s office one day and received the jolting news. Read the rest of Muscular Dystrophy Missionary.

Trump’s track record on abortion

focusing abortion debateBefore Inauguration Day, liberal magazine Mother Jones moaned that Trump would be a “nightmare for abortion rights.”

Today, pro-life leader Cheryl Sullenger is hopeful about the pro-life movement under the Trump administration.

“He’s been their worst nightmare,” said Sullenger, senior vice president of Operation Rescue. “They’re desperate to keep their funding. These people are a business. I don’t care if they call themselves a non-profit. They’re making money doing abortions, and fewer and fewer women are going in for abortions. Basically, federal funding is propping up a failed abortion industry.”

Trump anti abortionAccording to Sullenger, Trump has done more to save babies than all previous Republican presidents since Roe v. Wade.

“All the other Republican presidents just gave lip service to the pro-life movement. It’s been really frustrating,” said Sullenger. “Even Reagan did nothing substantial to move the ball down the field.”

“Trump’s been great,” she said. “The only reason he hasn’t done better is that he’s met with resistance in Congress. It’s not for a lack of trying. There’s been no other president who has done more” to protect babies from the death industry.

prematurebaby16

So why hasn’t Planned Parenthood been defunded yet?

Ironically, it’s a handful of conservative and moderate Republican senators who stymied the repeal of Obamacare, which enshrines abortion funding, Sullenger said. Read the rest: Trump’s track record on abortion.

Gonzalez’ tenure denial shows universities close ranks to exclude Christians regardless of their credentials

250px-Guillermo_GonzalezGuillermo Gonzalez’s rise in astrophysics was meteoric, but when he openly espoused Intelligent Design, a scientific theory that allows for God’s involvement in creation, his university dumped him.

Gonzalez had written 68 scholarly articles for peer-reviewed scientific journals, including important work on the Galactic Habitable Zone concept. The Chronicle of Higher Education noted that he had at the assistant professor level “amassed a better publication record than almost any other member of the astronomy faculty,” according to Jeff Schloss on Counterbalance.

Nevertheless, when Gonzalez came up for tenure approval in 2007 at Iowa State University, he was denied.

Just prior to his tenure review, a petition disavowing Intelligent Design had garnered signatures from 130 Iowa State faculty members who feared “the negative impact of Intelligent Design on the integrity of science and on our university.”

gonzalez-denied-tenure-for-view-of-intelligent-designIt used to be that “free-thinker” meant you weren’t “constrained” to follow a biblical world view. But now, university professors are compelled within a rigid atheistic orthodoxy. Academic freedom is a slogan being emptied of meaning.

Some controversy ensued after Gonzalez was denied tenure. University officials superficially denied that his faith factored into his firing. They said his publishing had declined and he had not won funding for research. But the Des Moines Register obtained emails through a request for public records that indicated that the controversy over Intelligent Design was indeed a factor.

As early as 2005, there were emails discussing how Gonzalez’ belief in Intelligent Design might adversely affect his candidacy for tenure. Iowa State Physics Professor John Hauptman even noted that the anti-Gonzalez sentiments were “starting to smack of a witch’s hanging.” Read the rest of Gonzales’ tenure denial.

A water roller coaster

no-bullies-christian-high-schoolMost people think of camping as something they would never want to experience: Sleeping on the dank ground, eating only unsavory camp food, days without showering and nothing to do. But going on a trip at Lighthouse Christian Academy will change that.

I came to the Lighthouse when I was in seventh grade. They also offer the rafting trip to the students who attend our gradeschool counterpart the Lighthouse Church School, but it wasn’t until my freshman year that I decided to go on the rafting trip. What shocked me was the lack of people that wanted to go. With the urging of Mrs. Lisa Clancy, I decided to go and had a great time.

rafting-tripNow during my sophomore year, the trip rolled around and no one seemed like they wanted to go. Granted some people had other engagements but the group of people that went was small.

Even though the group was small, it was a fun time. The drive to the campsite seemed short because you bonded with the people in the car — or slept. When we arrived at the campsite, all of us from the Santa Monica Christian school were all taken aback by the breathtaking nature around us.

The campsite that the school goes to every year was better than any campsite I had been to before. There was indoor plumbing, a pool, and a small shop if you wanted to buy snacks. This made the camping part of the trip so much easier.

The rafting part of the trip was both frightening and entertaining. We rafted one of the more harder rivers, and though some people had a better time than others, the scared feeling before you rafted is worth it. There is an adrenaline rush you feel when you’re riding a literal water roller coaster. Read the rest of the rafting trip story.

Joy of teaching

Christian-school-Los-Angeles

The greatest joy of teaching is NOT seeing heads full of knowledge but hearts full of Jesus. Of course, we do (try to) cram in a lot of studies into these youthful brains. We do (try to) prepare them for 4-year institutions. But sending them off to make millions and lose their soul is NOT what we are about.

Lighthouse Christian Academy has been my plowing terrain for six years, and another school year has concluded. Since I got off the mission field, it has been my mission field in America. We give the kids Bible and love. It turns out a lot of studies need love, and a lot of students want the Bible.

I taught U.S. Literature and A.P. Spanish this semester (and journalism). The kids learned about unforgiveness through The Scarlet Letter, Moby Dick and A Cask of Amontillado. They learned about transcendentalism, realism, modernism and post-modernism. They really got the chance to see if they want hopelessness to be their life compass.

What can I say about Spanish? Resulta que nunca nadie se esfuerza tanto como yo quisiera. Es difícil porque tratamos de reducir tres cursos de un año a tres semestres y ni modo los resultados no alcanzan mi esperanza. Pero todavía espero que ganen el examen de A.P.

And journalism? That’s always a favorite for me, though I think I put more effort into it than the students. Oh well.

A toast to all my fellow teachers out there.

 

6 albums, tours, pastoring, a family — and Trip Lee sleeps 18 hours a day due to chronic fatigue syndrome?

triplee_rise1In the middle of his sophomore year at college, Trip Lee got hit by overwhelming exhaustion that caused him to sleep 18 hours a day. He started failing his entire academic course load.

After seeing many doctors they discovered he was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, a mysterious debilitating disorder that afflicts a million Americans. Ultimately, he dropped out of college.

Trip-Lee-95% preacherIn spite of the ups and downs of his condition, Trip Lee has managed to grind out six rap albums, pastor a church in Atlanta, write books, tour and still have time for his wife and two kids.

The fatigue “is the hardest part of every area of my life,” he told Parle magazine. “It’s the hardest part of my marriage, it’s the hardest part about my music, hardest part about pastoring, everything.”

Born William Lee Barefield III, Trip grew up in a well-to-do family in a part of Dallas where everybody said they were Christian. He asked Jesus into his heart as a tyke but didn’t understand it until at 14, under the preaching of his youth pastor, he comprehended the concepts of sin, judgment and atonement.

trip leeHe confirmed his earlier decision to be a Christian and began to voraciously read the Bible to understand how it would apply to his life.

He had a knack for whipping out rhymes and gradually felt he should dedicate his hiphop talent in service of the Lord. In 2004, when he was in high school, he met Lecrae at a concert, and the godfather of Christian rap took him under his wings and mentored him. He signed with Reach Records and released his debut album, “If They Only Knew,” a few days after his high school graduation in 2006. He became a founding member of the 116 clique, a Texas group of rappers who took their name from Romans 1:16 in which Paul boasts he’s not ashamed of the gospel. “Unashamed” became a song name and a motif through their music.

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With his wife and kids.

He enrolled in Philadelphia Biblical University, now Cairn University, where he enjoyed studying. “I’m a little nerdy,” he said.

But he was still afflicted by Chronic Fatigue. Sometimes his body would shut down and he was forced to lie prostrate in bed for long periods of time. His health challenges severely impacted his Biblical studies major. He wants to be more active, but his body rebels.

“At times, it’s been a disaster,” he told the Washington Times. “My body’s wrecked. My family’s strained. Church life is strained. People don’t see me for weeks when my body crashes.”

trip-lee-press-2012-2There have been times when he’s gathered his favorite talent to help him in the creation of a new album — and he has to put them all on hold. When he’s sleeping 16 hours some days, how does he get anything done?

“He was a trooper,” Gawvi said in Rapzilla. “He really worked so hard where, there were moments when everyone in the studio would tell him, ‘Trip, you need to go take a nap. You need to go rest your body.’ … I haven’t seen a man work so hard on an album.”

While he didn’t pick up a degree in college, he did pick up a wife. Jessica took some of the same classes and walked in the same circles. They saw each other at church. He admired her passion for Jesus. He was passionate too — so much so that she was a bit taken aback by his commitment to purity and the steps he took to guard his heart. The couple married in 2009. They now have a daughter, Selah, and a son, Q.

Trip’s songs regularly rank in the top Billboard 200. He was nominated for two Dove Awards and won the Stellar Award for Best Hip Hop Album in 2011, according to Wikipedia. His penultimate album Rise chugged through iTunes sales at 3rd.

Christian rap slaps you across the face with a refreshing candor. Rappers hit head-on the issues facing their communities; they confront sin without apology. And Trip is no exception. Read the rest of the article about Trip Lee Christian.

The cure, not the curse

the-curePeople today reject morality imposed by others. That’s fine.

If you don’t want to follow the Bible, that’s your choice. But you might want the heads up. There are consequences to sin. There is slavery and addiction. Your decisions lead you somewhere. If you flout the manual of the factory, then don’t get mad if things break.

We live a fallen world under a curse. To the extent we escape sin and live in God’s forgiveness, we live in God’s blessing.

Resurrect your potential, not your problems

resurrection

Too often, I “resurrect” my problem. I mull them, overthink them. I need to learn to stop, to “take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

A much more productive thinking mode would be “resurrect” your potential. Expel the negative thinking from the mind and fill it full of positive thinking. Fill it with prayer and praise, not rehearsings of conversations gone awry.

As sure as negative thoughts lead to negative actions, so do positive thoughts.

Move over, Jesus Freaks. Here come the Jesus Geeks.

code for the kingdomJust the mention of the word “hacker” evokes the image of the online netherworld, of spies surreptitiously downloading blueprints of the latest stealth fighter or shutting down power grids.

Now are there Christian hackers?

Apparently so. Since 2014, Code of the Kingdom has held 44 weekend “hackathons” worldwide for programmers to help non-profits. Around 100 technologists compete for $10,000 in prizes while tackling the ills of the world. They’ve launched an app to fight human exploitation and streamlined access to social services for the homeless.

christian coders“We write code and create technology to help release the oppressed, teach God’s Word, heal the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked and support the church and the body of Christ,” their website declares.

Hackathons are nothing new; they gather topnotch coders to brainstorm solutions in marathon sessions that harness the collective nerd power of diverse professionals. What is different about Code for the Kingdom is the participants’ undergirding faith. Some 4,000 techies worldwide have participated so far.

christian hackathon“I wanted to be in a place where there’s a stronger connection between my work and my faith,” Kristen Stark told GeekWire. She’s an engineer at Midfin Systems in Redmond, California. “We love Jesus and other people and want to help them. Helping the users and offering them alternatives by showing that others care for their underlying needs is a very Christian approach to intervention.”

Their weekday jobs are for Amazon, Google, Microsoft and a slew of startups. Then on select weekends throughout the year, they gather in Seattle; Nashville; Cali, Columbia; Bangalore, India; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; London; Jakarta, Indonesia; Manila, Philippines; La Paz, Bolivia — in all 32 cities in 12 countries.

Finish reading the article on Jesus Geeks.

Steve Harvey is becoming increasingly vocal about his Christian faith

steve harvey smileBy Jordan Sheppard

In school, Steve Harvey never got an A and never got a star. So when in high school the teacher called him to the front to share his life goal, he thought he would FINALLY get a congratulation of some sort.

Instead, he got ridiculed for saying he wanted to be on T.V.

“She called me up there to humiliate me. She knew I stuttered severely,” the famous comedian shared at an Alabama State University commencement ceremony. “She said, ‘Why would you write something like this? Who in this school ever been on TV? Who in your family ever been on TV? You can’t even talk right. You ain’t gonna be nothing.’”

steve-harvey-familyBut Harvey turned the humiliation into a life lesson.

“Every Christmas I send her a flat screen TV because I want her to see what God had done for me in spite of everything she had said about me,” he said. “God put your imagination in your mind to show you a preview of what He has for you. If you want to kill your big dreams, tell it to a small-minded person.”

As his comedic stardom continues to grow, Harvey is becoming increasingly vocal about his Christian faith.

“My momma and my daddy left me empty-handed, but boy the church they put in me! The God they put in me!” he said. “My life is full of grace. You better go get yourself some. You can’t buy grace. It ain’t for sale. If I take all the money you have – and thank You Jesus, I got some money – I would take all of it and buy grace with you, but you can’t. It’s free.”

Harvey was born in Welch, West Virginia in 1957 to a coal-mining father who taught Sunday school.  His father taught him to be a man of his word. The family moved to Cleveland, where he attended Glenville High School. He jokes that he graduated 690th out of 695 seniors.

steve-harvey-miss universeIn his early years, Harvey found employment as an auto-worker, insurance salesman, a carpet cleaner and a mailman. While getting his comedy career going, he was homeless for several years, slept in a 1976 Ford, and showered at gas stations and public swimming pools.

In 1990, he gained attention as a finalist in the Johnnie Walker National Comedy Search. Eventually, he landed the long-standing job as host of It’s Showtime at the Apollo. He later starred in ABC’s Me and the Boys in 1994 and ran The Steve Harvey Show on WB network from 1996-2002.

In 2010, he boosted Family Feud’s ratings as their host.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta-based T.V. show host struggled through two divorces and had four children. He’s on his third marriage to Marjorie Bridges, whose three children he treats as his own.

“I’ve lost everything I’ve ever owned twice,” Harvey summed up his life. “Struggled through two marriages to finally learn to get it right. I lived in a car 3 years, washed up behind bushes at the gas stations.”

His latest marriage is largely responsible for shaping him up, he said.

“You’re looking at two people who were messing up for real and making bad decisions without conferring with God,” he said on Tlcnapttown’s website. “But the fact that you can mess up that many times and still come out okay is a testament to just the grace and mercy of God, man.”

In 2015, Harvey was praying for God to increase his audience overseas. How God hearkened to that prayer became another life lesson about trials and blessings.

It happened through his famous Miss Universe blunder. Hosting the pageant in the Philippines, he was fed through the teleprompter the wrong name. Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutierrez was overcome with emotion and adulation, but Harvey found out backstage it was a mistake. The winner was Miss Philippines, Pia Wurtzbach.

As organizers were scratching their heads wondering what to do, Harvey walked out on the stage and owned the error. His correction crushed Miss Colombia and prompted a gazillion memes making fun of Harvey. He apologized to both and laid low for a time, even though the organizers were responsible for the mistake.

People he considered close friends ridiculed him publicly.

While the faux pas caused no end of embarrassment to Harvey, it also raised his international profile and increased his business. To read the rest of the article, click Steve Harvey Christian.

Out of the miry clay

lonelySinking, sinking, sinking. You realized with horror that the mud would fill your lungs and suffocate you. There was no bottom to the sludge.

Then God pulled you out. He rescued you. There was nothing you could do to rescue yourself. Only be rescued.

Cry out to God in the day of trouble. No, you don’t deserve to die. He loves you and wants to pull you up into Heaven with Him.

A ‘journey’ to Jesus for Jonathan Cain

Jonathan-Cain-350x233His “Don’t Stop Believing” became an anthem for a generation, and now it looks like Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain has put it into practice because he has revived his childhood passion for Jesus.

Cain felt like early love for God got snuffed out when he prayed fruitlessly for the Almighty to spare the lives of 92 kids trapped upstairs by a fire at a Catholic school in Chicago where he was a third grader. Three nuns also died in the 1958 blaze.

“I was praying to Jesus hard that afternoon, ‘Please, let these children out,’ you know, and it wasn’t to be and they got trapped upstairs and 100 of them perished.’” Cain told The Blaze. “So I was a little disillusioned. How could Jesus let that happen?”

Cain’s dad tried to help his son overcome the grief and despair by encouraging him towards his natural gifting for music. Cain abandoned his original desire to become a priest and began to pursue the dream of becoming a musician.

Journey_publicity_photo_2013-350x399He learned the accordion, guitar, bass and harmonica. He moved to Nashville and then to Los Angeles. He was part of The Babies in 1979 but skyrocketed to stardom the next year when he became the keyboardist for Journey. His composition for “Don’t Stop Believing” wowed fans and critics everywhere. Allmusic called it “one of the best opening keyboard riffs in rock.” He went to pen the classic ballad “Faithfully.”

He played for Bad English, released 11 solo albums and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame April 7th of this year for his work with Journey.
Married to Evangelist Paula White in April 2015.

But while accolades and money flooded in, he was empty on the inside.

Cain remembers accepting Jesus as a teen at a Baptist church in Chicago. “I had a breakthrough when a pastor laid hands on me on an altar call,” he told the Christian Post. “I wept that evening and realized how numb I had become with God and how He was calling to me for restoration.”

He raised his three kids going to a Lutheran Church where he lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, but his commitment to Christ was irregular: “I felt my faith was on again off again.”

ghanaOne day, Journey lead singer Steve Perry brought a Bible into the studio in 1996 as they worked on the album “Trial by Fire.” It piqued Cain’s curiosity and stirred him to explore renewing his relationship with Jesus.

But it wasn’t until he met televangelist Paula White on a Southwest Airlines flight that Cain worked up the gumption to go “all-in” for God. By then he had divorced twice.

“I wanted to become a true follower of Christ — not just a part-time Christian,” Cain recalled.

As he sat across the aisle from her, Cain opened up to White — who had already mentored other celebrities in the things of God.

“And I said, ‘Is it possible that that little boy could find the Jesus that he knew. Is it possible that I can feel that?’” he said. “And she said, ‘The Lord has something for you.’” Read the rest about Jonathan Cain Christian.

Sherri Shepherd, The View host, left Jehovah’s Witnesses to find Jesus

sherriCelebrated actress and comedian Sherri Shepherd found herself trapped in Jehovah’s Witnesses, but overcame her fears, fled the aberrant group, and discovered a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Because I had been a Jehovah’s Witness so long, that was all I knew,” she told BeliefNet. “And as a Jehovah’s Witness I learned that all the other religions were false and that they were from Satan. So when I left the Jehovah’s Witnesses I really thought I was going to die and that I was going to go to hell.”

Ssherri shepherd on magazinehe did indeed “go through hell,” but she was willing to face poverty and hardship to break with the group after their leaders prohibited her from talking with her father.

“Now my dad at that time was working three jobs because we had moved to the suburbs because he wanted a better life for us,” she said. “So it was very expensive where we lived and he was working three jobs to support us. I was like you’ve got to be kidding me, tell my daddy I can’t talk to him and he is working at Denny’s?

sherri shepherd the view

“As the oldest I was a daddy’s girl and loved him with all my heart. My daddy had holes in his shoes so that he could pay for my photography classes. I just kept thinking you can’t be serious and all I could think of was the Scripture that references love (1 Corinthians 13:13) and says the greatest of these is love. I was like where is the love in that?”

Before Shepherd became a notable actress, she passed through a series of misfortunes. In 1993 her mom was dying. Shepherd was evicted on several occasions. Her car was repossessed. Her boyfriend began stalking her and later went to jail. Shepherd herself went to jail for a week due to unpaid traffic violations. Even though she won plaudits for her stand-up comedy, she couldn’t pay her bills.

“I felt like I was going to die. All this stuff was happening to me because I didn’t have God,” said the vivacious star. “I wasn’t going to church. I just felt like it was so evil from my upbringing. Why am I going to go to a church that was from the devil?”

42nd Annual GMA Dove Awards - ShowHer life changed one day when she went to West Angeles Church of God in Christ, one of the largest mega churches in Los Angeles. “I used to pass it all the time on the bus. So on that day, I was feeling so miserable. I really felt like I had no other place to turn so I was like let me just try it,” she said. “When I stepped into that church and that was an immediate sense of peace came over me.”

The peace helped her quickly overcome years of ingrained fear that everything outside of Jehovah’s Witness was of the devil. But as she became a regular attender, Bishop Blake, who preaches at the church, helped her make steps toward Christ.

“One day he said, ‘Would you like to come up and accept Christ?'” she remembered. Read the rest of the story about Sherri Shepherd Christian.

Son of Atheist Apostle Madalyn Murray O’Hair became Christian after suffering under her parental treatment

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The way the secular media reported it, Madalyn Murray O’Hair – the famous atheist who got Bible reading kicked out of public schools – was a national hero after the Supreme Court ruled in her favor in 1963.

A year earlier, the Supreme Court prohibited government-sponsored prayer in schools. After O’Hair won her case, a 1964 Life magazine profile referred to her as “the most hated woman in America.”

But secularists went so far as to say the historic ruling placed the U.S. on the vanguard of a new morality with the “triumph of rationalism over superstition.”

madalyn-murray-ohair

Because she spouted a liberal agenda, reporters were willing to overlook murmurings about psychological abuse towards her children and her employees at the American Atheists organization.

When rumors surfaced of her skimming tens of thousands of dollars from her non-profit, investigative journalists turned their attention elsewhere. The latest gloss on the Madalyn mystique was applied last month in a Netflix movie which portrayed her as a doting mother and dedicated civil rights activist, her eldest son said.

William Murray III knew the real Madalyn, the churl who bullied her children and bragged to them when they were very young about watching X-rated movies. She was an ardent feminist who resented men, Bill says.

images“One of her favorite stories — I’ve heard her repeat it many times — is that when I was born and the doctor told her, ‘It’s a boy,’ she asked him if there wasn’t some way he could put it back,” Bill told People magazine.

She bit him, smashed his model airplane to pieces in a fit of rage, and ridiculed his attempts to play baseball. She kept a liquor closet full and the refrigerator stocked with fattening, unhealthy foods. She extolled the virtues of sexual liberty and wrote for Hustler magazine. She even tried to defect to the Soviet Union with her entire family and supported communist causes, Bill says.

As a middle school child in Baltimore, Bill became an unwitting pawn in her 1963 Supreme Court battle against school prayer. Madalyn sued the school district and rode a movement to strike down prayer and Bible reading.

indexWith a petulant eloquence, she tirelessly voiced the acrimonious atheism, and the media lapped up pretty much everything she served. “We find the Bible to be nauseating, historically inaccurate and replete with the ravings of madmen,” she said. “We find God to be sadistic, brutal and a representation of hatred.”

Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin and Phil Donahue all hosted her on their evening TV programs. Madalyn reveled in the attention. Every misfit in the country wrote her letters of praise that included generous checks of her non-profit, American Atheists, Bill says.

“My mother was an evil person, not for removing prayer from America’s schools, no, she was just evil,” Bill wrote online in 2011. “She stole huge amounts of money. She misused the trust of people. She cheated children out of their parents’ inheritance. She cheated on her taxes and even stole from her own organizations.”

While Madalyn busied herself with “rhetoric, newsletters, fund-raising and publicity,” Bill grew increasingly disaffected. He eloped and divorced, was drafted in the military and worked for an airline. He left his daughter Robin under the care of his mother. His second marriage was unraveling and he had run-ins with the police.

william-j-murray1_0While he drifted through struggles and failures, he began to harbor doubts about the atheist manifesto. Why was his mother spending the non-profit’s money on a new Cadillac and mobile home? Why would she sue to keep NASA from airing Astronaut Buzz Aldrin taking communion on the moon? Why not instead spend on new X-ray machine for a hospital? If atheism was the savior of modernity, why did it focus mostly on the antagonistic roll of shutting down others? Why not do something in favor of humanity?

“I started to think it was because my mother was basically negative and destructive,” he said.

Bill turned increasingly to alcohol to quash his anxieties and misgivings.

Once when police arrived after he had a dispute with his wife, he accidentally fired a rifle through the door. Bill was charged with aggravated assault and sentenced to five years probation.

It was, perhaps, the nadir of his life.

The incident served as wake up call. Read the rest about Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s Christian son.

‘Full House’ star Candace Cameron-Bure found Jesus

candace cameronBy Hasset Anteneh

Taking the role of D.J. Tanner on the mega hit Full House TV series in 1987 set the stage for a successful acting and writing career for Candace Cameron-Bure.

She’s not shy to talk about her faith, just like her brother, Kirk Cameron, who went from child star to evangelist.

“My faith is my basis of who I am. Not only does it affect the choices I make career-wise, but it also affects the things that I want to do,” Bure told The Blaze. She is married to former Russian NHL hockey player Valeri Bore with whom she’s had three children.

candace cameron and husbandBure said her family had never discussed religion, until they were invited to church by a friend, and started actively attending church when she was 12.

“When I was growing up, my family wasn’t Christian,” she said on her website. “We didn’t talk about God and I didn’t know anything about him. When I was 12 years old, my parents told us we were going to church; a friend had invited us. It was strange to me, and I giggled at the thought of God. But as we continued to go every Sunday, my heart felt warm, and I saw how happy my mom, brother and sister were. I decided that I wanted to feel the same way. It was Jesus Christ that was producing this change in them, so one Sunday morning, I asked Jesus into my heart as my personal Lord and Savior. I was baptized along with some of my family at a later service. I was extremely excited about what I thought was my new Christian life.”

full house candace cameronHowever, it wasn’t until her 20s that the word of God began to truly resonate with her. Her brother, Growing Pains actor Kirk, gave her a book, Ray Comfort’s The Way of the Master, and it was then, she said, that Christianity truly began to make sense.

“After reading a book my brother gave to me, now called The Way of the Master it changed my walk with God forever! It talked about the 10 commandments, and showed me my sin in it’s true light. You see, when I prayed the ‘sinner’s prayer’ that day in church when I was 12, I asked God to forgive my sins. But I didn’t even know what my sin was. But, the law showed me my sin.

candace cameron jesus saves“As I went through every commandment, I saw that I’d broken all of them. Then I learned that God was going to judge me by this standard, not the world’s standard. So, while I thought I was a good person compared to other people, I saw that I was a horribly bad person by God’s standard. It was then that I truly recognized and understood my sin and what Jesus did for me. I broke the Law, and Jesus paid my fine,” the actress said.

To read the rest about Candace Cameron Christian click here.

Hasset Anteneh is my student at the Lighthouse Christian Academy on the westside of Los Angeles.

Some journeys require patience

C7eJ4sGVUAUU9Od.jpg largeThe Bible says we’re pilgrims, sojourners on this Earth. In our times of jet planes and email (as opposed to “snail mail”), we have little understanding of long journeys. But when Nehemiah traveled back and forth between the capital of the Persian Empire and Jerusalem, it took days or weeks.

Impatience is the enemy of the Christian. When bad situations don’t turn around fast enough, too many give up and return to the world. There is need of stick-to-it-iveness, of perseverance.

I’m sure Moses would have liked to make the journey to the Promised Land in an appropriate amount of time — not 40 years! God is patient with us, and we should be patient with Him.

George Foreman found God when he was dying

Foreman-MoorerHis powerful punch and menacing demeanor in the ring led George Foreman to Olympic Gold and heavyweight championships, but when Jimmy Young brutalized him in a humiliating defeat in 1977, the street bully from Houston felt he was dying.

“In the dressing room, I was walking back and forth to cool off,” he told The Houston Chronicle. “Then in a split second, I was fighting for my life.”

He lay on a locker room table. While friends and staff attended to his physical body, the battered brute battled with the God he learned little about as a kid.  He admitted later he only went to church for the free lunches.

george-bible“I kept thinking, ‘You believe in God. Why are you afraid to die?” Foreman told The New York Times. “But I really didn’t believe.”

Foreman began bargaining with his Creator. If God saved him, he would give his prize money to charity.

“I don’t want your money,” a voice responded. “I want you.”

Foreman was bewildered and confused. He had never met anybody who didn’t want money.

Foreman485“It was the saddest, most horrible place I had ever seen,” he said. “Tears fell. I was scared. I’d never heard anyone turn down money. There I was fighting for my life with something that you couldn’t deal with. That changed my life forever.”

Then as his life ebbed away, too late to repent, Foreman felt a “giant hand” thrust him back into consciousness. He saw his friends. At the same time, he felt strangely filled with the presence of a dying Christ. He felt his forehead bleed and he imagined it pierced by Christ’s crown of thorns. He sensed his wrists punctured as if by the nails of the cross.

“I knew that Jesus Christ was coming alive in me,” Foreman told The Times. “I ran into the shower and turned on the water and — hallelujah! — I was born again. I kissed everybody in the dressing room and told them I loved them. That happened in March 1977, and I never have been the same again.”

A passion began to stir in his heart. “I started reciting the Bible, talking from the pit of my stomach in that dressing room. I was talking about how Jesus was God’s son and that he was alive. So when I came out of that, I asked a friend to go get me a Bible. And he said, ‘What kind?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know, one like your mother has.’ So, he went out and bought me a King James version of the Bible. And that’s how I got into religion.”

The turnaround in Foreman was immediate and dramatic. Today, he preaches punchy sermons as pastor at the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in Houston.

Transformed from a rage-filled street punk into a humble and sweet Christian, Foreman found he couldn’t muster the will to fight anymore, so he dropped boxing for 10 years. Read the rest of the George Foreman story.

Amazing grace for Valley Boy Pastor

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My two sons performing in the drama.

God’s goodness and unmerited favor is not only for salvation. I’ve been seeing it in the formation of the startup church in Van Nuys, California. The San Fernando Valley Lighthouse Church is running on eight cylinders.

We recently did a drama to bless another, well-established church in Palmdale, about an hour away from L.A.

The church continues to meet at Lake Balboa, when it’s not too cold or rainy. Attendance doubled in December.

I am floored that God would bless me. It’s His amazing grace, usually applied to salvation, but applicable to any and every area of our lives.

What you need in life is God’s favor, which you can’t earn. Jesus earned it for you. The best thing we can do is be grateful.

Stephen Baldwin got saved, thanks to nanny

330 stephen baldwinOf the 18 or so tattoos scattered all over Stephen Baldwin’s body representing different stages of his life, one is a scripture: 3:30. It’s on the back of his neck and stands for John 3.30. “I must decrease so that he may increase.”

The youngest sibling of the Baldwin acting clan accepted Jesus in the aftermath of 9/11. But the wake-up call only came after a Brazilian nanny was singing about Jesus in Portuguese to the Baldwin’s baby in front of Stephen’s Brazilian wife, Kennya.

“So, we hired this lady from Brazil named Augusta, and the whole first week she’s working for us she’s singing in Portuguese, which she only spoke that language with my wife,” said Stevie B., as he calls himself.

Baume & Mercier and LOVE146's " Into The Light" Benefit Hosted by Stephen BaldwinKennya suddenly realized whom the nanny was singing about. She went to Stephen and said, “Do you hear what she’s singing about?  She’s singing about Jesus.”

After overhearing the singing a few more days, her curiosity could not be contained and she approached the nanny directly. “I noticed your singing, and I’m wondering why every song is about Jesus?”

Kennya was taken aback when Augusta burst out laughing.

“What’s so funny?” she asked.

“Quite frankly, I think it’s a little bit funny that you think I’m here to clean your house.”

To Kennya’s amazement, she explained that through a prophetic word, she was told that if she went to live with the Baldwins, Stephen and Kenya would one day come to faith in Jesus Christ and be involved in ministry.

“She goes on to tell my wife that, before she had accepted the job, she prayed with her pastor and some church members in Brazil. I haven’t told this part of the story a lot. She had a dream and saw me, saw my wife and saw my first daughter Aliya.”

But Baldwin was not impressed or moved about what appeared to him at the time to be religious gibberish.

“Didn’t faze me for a second,” he said. “Raised Roman Catholic up until 11 or 12. Didn’t stick. Went out into the world and did my own thing.”

Among his “own things” were roles in Born on the Fourth of July (1989), Posse (1993), Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994), Threesome (1994), The Usual Suspects (1995), Bio-Dome (1996), Fled (1996), The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000), Fred Claus (2007) and The Flyboys (2008). In addition to being an award-winning actor, he became a producer and an author.

Kennya was first one in the family to receive Jesus. After spending much time talking about Jesus with Augusta, Kenya attended a Brazilian church in New York City, seeking answers and learning more about Him.

As time went on, Stephen became curious and felt drawn to God and began asking questions. Then 9/11 struck.

“September 11th kind of freaked me out,” Baldwin recounted. Read the rest of the fascinating account.

Not exactly who you want as worship leader, but Alice Cooper is saved

Dark-themed rocker Alice Cooper — whose onstage theatrics included handling boa constrictors and staging mock suicides with guillotines — has returned to the God of his childhood after dumping alcoholism and feeling dissatisfied with riches.

“When you get out there and realize you’ve had every car, every house, and all that, you realize that that’s not the answer,” Cooper told CNSnews. “There’s a big nothing out there at the end of that. So, materialism doesn’t mean anything.  A lot of people say that there’s a big God-sized hole in your heart. And when that’s filled, you’re really satisfied, and that’s where I am right now.”

“The so-called “Godfather of shock rock” was born Vincent Damon Furnier in 1948 to a pastoral family in Arizona. He performed missionary work with his dad among the Apaches. His grandfather was a pastor too. But when he went AWOL on God, he stretched the outer limits of what it means to be a prodigal.

His high school band from Phoenix was discovered by Frank Zappa in 1969. They struck gold with the album Love It to Death, which gained national notoriety.

Meanwhile, he drew on lessons from Edgar Allan Poe to optimize publicity with lurid dramatizations of horror in his concerts. His creepy makeup and macabre shenanigans drew ire from Christian leaders, which only served to fuel his sales to disaffected, rage-filled adolescents. Giddy with his success, Cooper conveniently forgot the early chapters of his life and his relationship with God as he entered the stratosphere of mega-stardom.

What brought him back to Earth was the booze.

“I was throwing up blood every morning,” he said.  “I was really a bad alcoholic. I wasn’t a cruel or mean alcoholic, but I was certainly self-destructive. My doctor said I was a textbook alcoholic. He said, ‘You drink in order to get things done, it’s like a medicine for you.’ I said, ‘You’re right.’ I was always on a golden buzz. I drank all day, but I never slurred my speech or anything.

“When I came out of the hospital, I kept waiting for the craving to come, and it never came. It was a miracle,” he said. “I tell people I’m not a cured alcoholic, I’m a healed alcoholic. I never went to AA or anything like that, and I give all credit to God for that. Even the doctor said, ‘This is a miracle that you’re not falling back on alcohol every time there’s a stressful situation.’ So, it’s gone. It’s just gone.”

When God delivered him from alcohol, he went back to church. Cooper and his current wife of 41 years, Sheryl Goddard, now attend the Camelback Bible Church in Paradise Valley, Arizona, to focus on growing and strengthening their faith in Christ.

“When you get out there and realize you’ve had every car, every house, and all that, you realize that that’s not the answer,” he said. “There’s a big nothing out there at the end of that. So, materialism doesn’t mean anything. A lot of people say that there’s a big God-sized hole in your heart. And when that’s filled, you’re really satisfied, and that’s where I am right now.

“God has a plan for everybody. I look at my life and I think, ‘How is it possible that I didn’t die?’” he said. “God’s chipping away at your life all the time to try to make you more like Him. That’s what a Christian is, a person that’s being molded and shaped all their life. I think the Lord expects you to do your best in His name. I had to struggle a long time about rock and roll. I realized it’s not really the music. It’s what’s being said with the music. So I think you have to be careful of what you’re writing, what you’re representing.” Read the rest of the macabre article.

Grandma Krav Maga beat up bad guy. New version of Good Samaritan

baton-rouge-cop-saved-by-good-samaritanA Baton Rouge grandmother is being called a Good Samaritan after she plunged into the middle of a life-or-death struggle between a cop and bad guy, saving the officer’s life.

Vickie Williams-Tillman, 56, didn’t think twice when she pounced on the back of a hulking Thomas Bennett after a routine drug arrest escalated suddenly into a dangerous fight for control of the officer’s weapon.

“I could see in his eyes he needed help,” said Williams-Tillman, who stopped her car, called 911, and lunged into the fray on Feb. 19. “You don’t have time to think about it. I did what God needed me to do.”

vickie-williams-tillmanThe grandmother pulled on Bennett’s arm as cop and suspect wrangled for the officer’s gun. All three fell to the ground.

Quickly, a backup unit pulled up and another officer stun-gunned the suspect, who was arrested on charges of battery on a police officer, resisting an officer with violence, possession of cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Baton Rouge Mayor President Sharon Weston Broome lauded the lady for fearlessly joining the brawl.

“Vickie Williams-Tillman epitomizes the true Good Samaritan,” the mayor said, as reported in The Blaze. She reached out and offered a courageous and unconditional response to the officer. Ms. Williams-Tillman is a hero and demonstrates the true meaning of loving God and loving your neighbor.”

Cpl. Billy Aime was handcuffing the suspect after spotting incriminating evidence when Bennett suddenly resisted arrest. The cop struggled without success to subdue the suspect. Read the rest of the article.

Kevin Hart Christian?

kevin-hartKevin Hart’s mother was going to help him with rent to kick-start his comedy career, but when the due date passed he called his mom, and all she could say was: “Have you been reading your Bible?”

A week later it was the same thing: “When you read your bible, then we’ll talk about your rent.”

Annoyed at his “over-religious” mom but desperate about an eviction note on his door, Kevin grudgingly sat down and opened the Good Book.

eniko-parrish-8-141“I go home and say, ‘Man let me open this Bible up,’” Hart explained to Oprah Winfrey. “Open the Bible up, six rent checks fell out. She put all my rent checks in the Bible.”

Score one for mom and the Lord!

Hart, the self-spoofing star of Real Husbands of Hollywood, doesn’t need Mom’s rent money anymore. He’s enjoyed a steady stream of movie roles starting with Paper Soldiers (2002), Scary Movie 3 the next year, Soul Plane (2004), In the Mix (2005) and Little Fockers (2010). He ranked as the highest paid comedian by Forbes, valued at $87.5 million.

In his latest gig, a quixotic Hart fails hilariously in his constant attempts to climb Hollywood’s social ladder.

And while he’s not overly vocal about his Christianity, Hart is believed to hold the values of his mother, even if he pokes fun at her zeal in comedy routines.

kevin-hart-heaven-and-hendrix“His whole family was dedicated to Christianity, and Hart uses his family’s faith as a frequent topic in his stand-up. He doesn’t make fun of Christianity itself, but he does make fun of how people can be hypocritical with religion (like his drug addict Jesus-loving cousin),” according to Hollowverse.

On that same day when the checks tumbled out of his Bible, Jesus tumbled out too.

Hart was born in Philadelphia in 1979 to a cocaine-addicted father who was in jail more than he was in Hart’s life.

As a teen growing up in a harsh reality, Hart resorted to humor as a coping mechanism. His love for slapstick eventually won several amateur comedy competitions on the East Coast until landed recurring role on the TV series Undeclared. Jump to the rest of the story.

Marriage and carriage brought McConaughey back to God

mcconaughey-and-his-wife-alvesFatherhood brought Matthew McConaughey back to faith.

The Oscar-winning actor, a heart-throb in romantic movies, has been lauded for breaking Hollywood’s high divorce rate by staying married to his supermodel wife, Brazilian Camila Alves, who was raised Catholic.

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“As soon as we had children, I was like, ‘You know what? Church was important to my childhood, even if it was just for the ritual of giving an hour and a half on Sunday to yourself, to pray and to think about others, even if you’re tired or whatever,’” McConaughey said. “I noticed how much I missed it and needed it.”

He and his wife have three children: Levi, aged 6; Vida, aged 7; and Livingston, aged 4.

McConaughey was raised in Uvalde, Texas. His mother, Kay was a kindergarten teacher and a published author. His father, James, was a Green Bay Packers football player before becoming a Texas oilman.

Hmatthew-mcconaughey-inscribed-wedding-ringis childhood dream of being a pro football player along with his college plan of being a lawyer all got cast aside. He worked in a commercial and then performed minor roles until he was cast as the lead in the John Grishman-based movie A Time to Kill.

The breakthrough roll led to more, and McConaughey found himself soon in romantic roles in such movies The Wedding Planner and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

In his rising success, the God of his childhood became all but forgotten.

Then, the man accustomed to making women swoon met and swooned over Camila Alves. When they met, he was hiding his identity under a huge hat and a bushy beard at the Hyde Club in Hollywood. As soon as he saw Camila, he was pierced by Cupid’s arrows.

“I said, ‘What is that?’” McConaughey recalled, as quoted in Ever After Guide. “I was like, ‘Woo-ha! Wow!’” Read the rest of the romance.

His wife chased him with a knife. Korn’s bassist Reginald Arvizu came to Christ after much suffering

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Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu sought to shield himself from any and all pain after his parents divorced.

“I was like, this is not going to hurt me,” he said. “That’s what I told my dad, ‘I’m moving in with you. Let’s get a keg, and let’s throw a party and make music.’ And I put a wall up to not feel the emotions. That’s when it became full-on drinking and a way that nobody’s going to hurt me. From that moment on, I never had a sober day.”

He became an accomplished bassist and rose to stardom with the nu rock sensation group Korn that sold out arenas.

korn-concert-ukHe cycled through two marriages riddled by infidelities. He used speed to stay thin for the glam metal look which required a stick-thin physique for tight pants. More than once his wild partying landed him in jail.

“I had my nights of being in hotel rooms and destroying them by myself, crying because I’d wake up in the morning feeling so bad from partying. I’d be shaking,” said Arvizu, who’s known by the stage name “Fieldy.”

“I’d wake up and throw up in the morning. I’m like, ‘Man, I can’t handle this.’ So I would just take some Xanax or Adavan and let that kick in and I’d just be wasted again. It’d bring you so down, then smoke weed after that. Then night would come, and I could start drinking.”

reginald-arvizuThe nu metal bassist wasn’t very kind to women in his effort to build walls around his heart.

“I would bash on them, say women are just sluts, no good. I was really mean to women to where I could make almost any woman cry, any time,” he admitted. “I guess that’s what I did to keep from getting hurt.”

He fully accepted the responsibility for his first divorce due to his incessant cheating that drove his wife berserk, according to Contact Music.

“She ran into the kitchen, grabbed a butcher knife, and came toward me like a crazed animal, wildly swinging at me. She cut open my shirt and made four shallow gashes in my chest,” Arvizu confessed. Read the rest of the article.

Korn’s Brian Welch goes from metal star to Jesus freak

brian-head-welchBrian “Head” Welch shocked the rock world in 2005 when he left the band, Korn, and jettisoned his adoring fans, along with a lifestyle that included girls, drugs and an embarrassment of riches.

“All I know is that I was chasing all that stuff and it left me empty,” Welch told the Christian Post. “And I was a complete empty shell – just totally like nothing inside. I had everything. I had the money; there was girls everywhere, all the drugs – pills, doctors’ prescriptions, illegal drugs, everything. And it was just empty, so empty.”

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I

God surprised Welch when he ventured into a church. “And as soon as I went to church, I felt the love from Jesus. That’s when I was fully satisfied. And I was totally done with everything in the world because I was satisfied inside, and I got filled up.”

Welch, a talented guitarist who enthralled fans with his “nu rock” licks, needed to break his drug addiction and wanted to nurture his newfound faith in Christ, as well as dedicate more time to his family.

He cleaned up his act and launched a solo career with his debut album Save Me from Myself.

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In India.

Korn was formed when the group “L.A.P.D.” broke up after they lost their lead singer. The remaining musicians Reginald Arvizu, James Shaffer, and David Silveria recruited Welch and Sexart vocalist Jonathan Davis, who acceded to join only after he consulted with a psychic. With the new members, they re-branded themselves “Korn.”

“It sounded kinda creepy because it reminded us of that horror movie Children of the Corn,” the Stephen King horror story, Welch said.

Starting with Korn’s self-titled debut, and preceding albums such as Life Is Peachy and Follow The Leader, the band became one of the best-selling nu metal groups of all time, selling out arenas and earning $25 million in royalty payments.

But as they ascended charts and the finances flowed, each of the members suffered personal battles with addiction, according to Welch.

“We were only sober for just a couple of hours a day in Korn — every day,” Welch recounted. “And then when you come home and you’ve got to deal with real life and your wife isn’t having that, crap goes down.”

korn-bandBy 2003, Welch was addicted to meth, Xanax, sleeping pills and alcohol. He would prep for tours by stashing as much meth as he could in vitamin capsules, deodorant containers, and his clothes. His dreams of stardom had come true, but he no longer enjoyed touring.

“I got hooked on methamphetamines the last two years I was in Korn, and I did meth everyday,” he wrote later in his book Save Me from Myself: How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs, and Lived to Tell My Story. “I wanted to quit, but I couldn’t quit. I tried to quit. I went to rehab, and I just couldn’t quit.”

Both he and his wife, Rebekah Landis, were drug addicts. They had violent fights. The night after he rocked 200,000 fans at Woodstock in 1999, he punched his wife in the face. Blood sprayed out, and she passed out on the bathroom floor.

As he looked at blood running down his knuckles, Welch questioned why his vaunted stardom had failed to bring happiness. Read the rest of Brian’s testimony.

Roof access

img_4316As apartment manager, I can get on the roof — no one else.

Maintenance duties oblige me to inspect. As a result, I’ve delighted by some of the most glorious views of sunsets and skies. I’ve witnessed beauty that can be observed at street level, at the level of the tenants.

You have access to the roof as a Christian. You have access into the things of God, a higher life, a life of beauty. The direction of the Christian is upward.

Enjoy.

We shook them up

img_4605Since they steamrolled us in our first game, Einstein Academy expected to win handily on the rematch Friday. One player even heckled a Saint: “I guarantee that there is no way we will lose this game.”

Well, Lighthouse Christian Academy made them sweat to earn their win. LCA rattled their nerves and hacked their hubris. And even though the Saints went down 1-6, the Christian kids from Santa Monica could hold high chins by the final whistle.  With only one club player and a former club player, the Saints had stood tall against a high school team of 10 club players of varsity soccer.

“You guys don’t give up,” said Einstein coach Ken Erenberg. “I thought that was great about your team — the whole game they kept fighting through, no matter what the score was. They kept fighting. You got that goal at the end. It was the never die. It was nice to see that.”

Indeed, it took the Rockets 25 minutes to break down the Saints dogged defense.

In the first match, the Einstein players had notched two goals in the first 10 minutes. And then they stepped off the gas pedal and coasted to an easy 0-6 victory.

But on Friday, Coach Erenberg sounded frustrated as his team couldn’t manage to open the deadbolt. The Rockets keeper too scolded his team.

It was a different Saints team. On the first matchup, the Saints were presumptuous. They were on a 3-game winning streak that included the shock defeat of last year’s champs. As they oozed confidence, they lacked concentration. Since they took to the field thinking they’d win without even having to play, the Saints crashed and burned terribly. They committed enough errors to make the discriminating soccer observer turn his nose inward face palms.

The scoreline –0-6 — was a humiliating wake-up call and could have been far worse, except that the Rockets sent on their second string for some practice in the second half.

On Friday, the fierce determination of the underdog Saint was back with a vengeance, and a growing alarm in the voice of the shouts from the sidelines and on the field was evident.

Ultimately, the Saints committed an error, and the Rockets buried the ball in the net for their first at 25 minutes. By halftime, they had three goals, all products of a lapse of concentration and the lack of experience.

As the score crept upward, Coach Jack Mefford noted that Einstein did NOT take off their star player, #43, this time — a move that credits LCA’s improved performance.

“I’ll take that as a badge of pride,” he said.

As the minutes crept towards the final, the Saints refused to cower like a dog with its tail between its legs. They continued to press, and their resilience paid dividends. Read the rest of the article.

High-flying (and prideful) LCA soccer loses to Einstein Academy in a reminder they will need to work to compensate for their lack of technical and tactical ability

lighthouse-christian-academy

With three consecutive wins, Lighthouse soccer was flying high — perhaps too high — when Einstein Academy knocked them down back into the Earth’s atmosphere with a stinging 0-6 loss on Jan. 27.

The players for the Lighthouse Christian Academy were ebullient as they entered their fourth league game undefeated. They were joking. They were confident cocky. They weren’t listening to coach. They weren’t concentrating.

After cooly beating last year’s high school soccer champs 2-1, what could possibly stand in their way?

Albert Einstein Academy for Arts, Letters and Sciences of Valencia had read the game record on MaxPreps and prepared for a formidable foe. “We thought we were going to have to give everything we had to beat you,” admitted the Einstein coach.

Instead, Einstein’s 10 club players and other assorted players faced a disorganized Saints team that hemorrhaged goals with a succession of mistakes. In the first half, Lighthouse held a deep defensive line on two free kicks, allowing Einstein players with powerful kicks to get within goal range with long airborn passes. The 50-50 ball needed only to be turned into the net.

Lighthouse managed the improbable win against Newbury, the reigning league champs, by working some slick passing. But on Friday, Saints players were selfish, attempting impossible penetration through a thicket of players with individual dribbling. At best, they would get past three and get caught by the fourth while an open teammate called for the ball.

Other mistakes were made by the Christian school in Santa Monica.

After a winning run that Coach Junior Cervantes qualified as “miraculous,” it was a crushing loss but not an undeserved loss. The pre-game glut of confidence was inappropriate.

As the Bible says, pride comes before a fall.

With only one club and one former club player… Finish reading the article.

Her dad was killed evangelizing N. Korea. Now she wants to go there.

kung-yu-sungHer father was, in all likelihood, executed for evangelizing in North Korea, and yet Kung Yu Sung wants to go to that closed communist nation to be a missionary herself.

“God has placed in my heart a great love for North Korea,” the 18-year-old said in a YouTube video. “My father was used there for God’s kingdom. I want to bring the love of Jesus to North Korea.”

Today, Yu Sung is in high school in South Korea, where she was granted asylum. Her father had been a high-ranking government official until he fell out of favor with the totalitarian dictator and had to flee to China with his wife and then-six-year-old daughter.

closed-society-north-korea

North Korea is among the most closed nations of the world.

It was in China that he accepted Christ at a Bible study he attended with relatives, Yu Sung said. He was growing in the Lord and the love of God’s work when he was reported to Chinese authorities and arrested for being in China illegally. Then he was deported to North Korea, an ally of China, where he served a prison sentence of three years for leaving his native land illegally.

Meanwhile, Yu Sung’s mother died of leukemia while pregnant with what was to be her second child, and little Yu Sung was left alone in the world. She was adopted by a pastor’s family in China.

“They showed me great love and care,” she said. “Through them, God protected me.”

After her father finished his prison sentence in North Korea, he fled to China. “The time in jail only made my father’s faith stronger,” she said.

After a time of continued study in the Bible, he decided to return to North Korea as a missionary. He was fully aware of the risks, but he wanted “to share Christ’s message of life among the hopeless of his homeland.” He chose not to go to South Korea where he could have enjoyed religious freedom and lived more comfortably.

Instead, he went to North Korea to share the love of God in a dangerous land,” Yu Sung recounted.

“It breaks my heart to tell you that in 2006 he was discovered by the North Korean government and he was again imprisoned,” she said. “I have heard no words from my father ever since. In all probability he has been shot to death in public on charges of treason and espionage.” To read the rest of the story, click here.

‘Make sure he fails at everything that is not of You,’ Grandma prayed over Chance the Rapper

chance-the-rapper-jesusBy his own account, Chance the Rapper had turned into a Xan-zombie when his grandmother marched him in and prayed a prayer that left him wondering if it was a blessing or a curse.

Chance’s popularity was spiking as a young hip hop artist, but grandma was not impressed.

She looked at him intently and said, “I don’t like what’s going on. I can see it in your eyes. I don’t like this. We’re gonna pray,” she declared.

“And she prayed for me all the time,” he told GQ magazine. “Like, very positive things. But this time, she said, ‘Lord, I pray that all things that are not like You, You take away from Chance. Make sure that he fails at everything that is not like You. Take it away. Turn it into dust.’”

chance-rapper-grandma

With

The prodigal son was thunderstruck. “I’m thinking, like, damn, I don’t even know if God likes rap! You know what I’m saying? Is she praying that I fail at everything I’m trying to do?”

But as he mulled over the prayer, and after he learned his in-utero daughter was diagnosed with atrial flutters, Chance decided to accept the prayer as a blessing and start to make his way back to God.

The baby’s health concerns caused him to “pray a whole lot, you know, and need a lot of angels and just see s— in a very, like, direct way. And…you know, God bless everything, it worked out well.”

God answered his prayers and daughter Kinsley Bennett was born without health complications in 2015.

chance-the-rapper-baby

With the baby girl who helped him seek God.

The following May, Chance the Rapper dropped his third mixtape, Coloring Book, which streamed 57.3 million times in its first week exclusively over Apple Music. Featuring Kanye West and an array of non-Christian rappers, the album also includes some overtly Christian musings along with candid acknowledgement of sins like lust, addiction and pride.

In “Blessings,” he unashamedly sings, “I’m going to praise Him, praise Him ‘til I’m gone, good God!” and “When the praises go up, the blessings come down.”

Chancelor Johnathan Bennet was born and bred on Chicago’s rough streets. His father, Ken Williams-Bennet, is currently the deputy chief of staff to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and once worked for then-Senator Barack Obama.

When Chance got suspended for 10 days in 2011 for possessing marijuana in high school, he recorded his first full-length project, a mixtape titled 10 Days. After its broader public release, he won critical acclaim and made connections with artists and producers.

In 2013, his album Acid Rap was listed on many 50 best albums of 2013 lists, including 26th for Rolling Stone, 12th on Pitchfork’s list, and ranked 4th by Complex. It was also listed as one of NPR Music’s 50 Favorite Albums Of 2013, according to Wikipedia.

Then he moved to Los Angeles and began to spiral out of control. “I was just f—ing tweaking. I was a Xan-zombie, f—ing not doing anything productive and just going through relationship after relationship after relationship.”

He went back to stay with his grandmother in Chicago and get right with the Lord. In February 2016, he tweeted, “Today’s the last day of my old life, last day smoking cigs. Headed to church for help. All things are possible thru Christ who strengthens me.”

With its jazzy brass influences, men’s choir and Kirk Franklin-gospel overtones, his third mixtape, Coloring Book, sounds as vibrant and joyful as its lyrics. It’s a secular recording from a Christian man who’s unafraid to be sincere about his struggles, reflecting his growth as an artist and a follower of Jesus Christ. Finish the article.

Atheist doctor found God trying to disprove resurrection

atheist-to-christianInstead of being happy and fulfilled, Dr. Greg Lehman was always frustrated and angry – despite having an envious lifestyle that included ski trips, luxury cars, and a fancy home.

“I was going from one thing to the next: buy a new car, and when that didn’t do it, I’d go out and buy new clothes or take a trip,” Lehman told OTG Ministry. “I went though hobbies. I did triathlons. I took up wine as a hobby.”

Lehman was a proud atheist. He’d cruised through medical school. He ran a profitable practice, had a wife and two kids. Despite the accouterments of success, contentment eluded him.

happy-marriage“It was a combination of you’re sad, you’re empty. At the same time you’re angry, you’re frustrated because you’re like, ‘Why? What’s wrong with me? Why am I not fulfilled? Why don’t I feel like I have achieved what I worked my whole life for?’” he explained.

Dr. Lehman tried to mask what he was feeling inside. “You’re embarrassed. You’re not going to tell anyone. You keep it inside. So what you wind up doing is taking it out on other people.”

Lehman “took it out” on his wife and family.

“He was good but he had a short fuse,” his wife Ruth told OMG. “He was arrogant. He was always right.”

If he was irritable with his family, he was even more annoyed with his Christian neighbors, because he thought their lifestyle didn’t line up with the Bible.

Setting out to expose his neighbor’s hypocrisy, he began to arm himself with ammunition by reading the Bible. He would confront their inconsistencies with their own book.

Instead the power of the Word confronted him. He was dumbfounded by the Gospels’ claim that Jesus was God in the flesh. “That quickly got my attention because I realized if that did happen, it was the most important event in history,” he said. “I forgot about the neighbors and set out to find out if this really happened.”

After weeks of researching, he realized everything about Christianity hinged on the resurrection.

As a doctor, he tried to rule out options, weighing hypotheses that could explain away the resurrection: “The apostles stole the body. It was a hallucination,” he considered.

After carefully examining the theories of the naysayers he came to a startling conclusion. “None of them were credible. The only thing that could make sense with the historical facts of the way it was set up with the Roman guards was that the tomb was empty and He actually rose.”

He was impressed by Luke, a fellow doctor. To finish the article, click here.

Mute the past

samuel-pisarSamuel Pisar became a Harvard-educated lawyer and statesman out of the horrendous beginnings of a Nazi concentration camp. He eluded death sentences twice while watching hundreds of fellow Jews die in gas chambers. He escaped on a death march. A hardened and cruel boy, Samuel survived post-war Poland selling cigarettes and stolen coffee grounds. A French aunt from rescued him from the streets, and he began a new and completely different life.

In doing so, he provides a model for Christians trying to slam the door on the past: “I had to wipe out the first 17 years of my life,” he said. “I muted the past” and “turned to the future with a vengeance.”

When God made us a “new creation” and “born again,” it was to “wipe out” how ever many years were previously lived in sin.

 

The first woman to successfully mount a presidential bid is also a Christian

3a34bed800000578-3933784-donald_trump_and_his_campaign_manager_kellyanne_conwayWhen Donald Trump gets sworn in Jan. 20, he owes a debt of gratitude to Kellyanne Conway, the first woman to run a presidential campaign, who helped turnaround a double-digit polling deficit. She also happens to be a Christian.

“It was all down to her,” Trump said. “Kellyanne has been a trusted adviser and strategist who played a crucial role in my victory.”

Conway was raised in a divorced household in Atco, New Jersey. Her deadbeat dad left when she was three and never supported her or her mother with alimony. Instead, her mother, grandmother and two sisters helped raised Kellyanne with a strong work ethic, plenty of faith and an abundance of food prepared by a mom and grandmother with Italian roots.

“They doted on me with everything that is important — love, attention, prayerfulness, patriotism, the value of being more of a giver rather than a taker,” Conway told the Washington Examiner. “Faith plays a minute by minute part of my life,” she said. “It is constant.”

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She grew up picking blueberries during eight summers on a nearby farm. She picked so fast that at age 20 she even won the World Champion Blueberry Packing competition. “The faster you went, the more money you’d make,” she said. “Everything I learned about life and business started on that farm.”

Not only were her hands fast. Her brain also ran on 16 pistons. She was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society out of college and completed her law degree with honors in 1992 from the George Washington University.

Her quick intelligence earned her an invitation to join a law firm, but she politely declined. She had worked for Reagan political pollster Richard Wirthlin and had gotten hooked on the science of survey and market data. After working for pollster Frank Luntz, she launched her own polling company at age 28 in 1995.

As an entrepreneur, Conway successfully landed major clients like American Express, Hasbro, Major League Baseball ABC News and Vaseline. With conservative values, she worked for politicians Congressman Newt Gingrich and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who served in the House of Representatives then.

In 2001, she married George Conway, a conservative New York lawyer who helped spearhead the impeachment campaign against then-President Bill Clinton. The couple had four kids and met Donald Trump after they purchased a condo in a Trump complex. She sat on the board and chatted politics with the real estate mogul between mundane decisions about property.

Trump’s campaign was slumping in August of 2016. The pugnacious political disruptor found himself 10 polling points behind Hillary Clinton after he verbally attacked the family of a Muslim American hero who had died saving fellow American soldiers in Iraq. The dad of Humayun Khan lambasted Trump’s immigration stance at the Democratic convention, and Trump couldn’t let the matter alone. His second campaign manager was being thrown out, and supporters were moaning about the pointlessness of working for a candidate who would shoot himself in the foot.

That’s when Conway had a private meeting with Trump and asked him why he looked miserable.

“You are running against the most joyless person in presidential political history (Hillary Clinton),” she told the candidate, according to the Washington Examiner, “and you don’t look like you are having fun anymore.”

Right then and there, Trump hired her. Continuing reading.

Princess Leia worth $50 million

carrie-fisherYou are worth more.

$50 million is the sum Disney could collect on the insurance policy they took out on their Star Wars hero. It’s a handy profit on the heart attack. Disney will cast about for a look-alike, and it shouldn’t be too much of problem.

Did she realize that she was worth more than that? God took out a policy on her life — on my life, on your life — that cost the life of His Only Son on the cross. That’s way more than what Disney fetched for Princess Leia.

Don’t marvel over the money machinations of the mega corporations. Marvel over value in God.

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Homeless pill popper delivered by Jesus

marijuana-to-jesusFor six months, Yvette Castillo was homeless, popping pills and drinking alcohol. She was pregnant and found refuge in abandoned house with crack addicts where she was raped.

“I was trusting the drugs instead of trusted God to make me happy,” Yvette said in a YouTube testimony. “I thought it was an easier solution, but it wasn’t.”

Yvette now lives in Houston with her husband and kids and goes to church. She’s come a long way from the beginning of her downfall at three-years-old, when she was first molested.

yvette-castilloRaised by an alcoholic father and a mother who also disappointed her, Yvette became a troubled teen. With hate raging within from deep hurts, she actually invoked the powers of darkness one day while alone in her bedroom.

“I said, ‘Give me the power to hurt everyone, to stop people from messing with me.’” she said. “I didn’t know that I was making a pact with the devil. I knew who I was talking to, but I didn’t know how serious it was.”

She fought everyone at school who looked at her funny and disrespected her teachers. She was cutting and using drugs. Not youth camp, not juvenile hall, not counselors could help her change course.

She gave birth to a child at 14 years old.

“Not even my child stopped me from doing bad things,” she said. “It was a force that had taken over me, and nobody could stop me.”

Kicked out of school and her house, Yvette fell into the clutches of an abusive boyfriend.

“He hit me. He mistreated me. And I felt like I deserved every bit of it.”

In the midst of her ordeal, she had two abortions.

Leaving that boyfriend is how she became homeless. Pregnant and alone, she tried to mask the inner pain with pills and alcohol, which she paid for by stealing.

“I no longer had a heart,” she said. “I couldn’t love my kids. I couldn’t love myself. I was so drained.”

Her next boyfriend got saved and pulled her into church. She was on fire and serving God for a time, but then… Read the rest of the story.

The smiles are real now

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Behind the popularity, the beauty, and bubbly personality, Alison Henry harbored self-hatred and misery that led to broodings about suicide.

Today, the 23-year-old YouTube make-up artist with a following of 880,542 has found inner joy.

“I cannot even tell you how unhappy I was, and the bad thing was I couldn’t even tell you why,” Alison said in a recent video.

alison-henry-christianBorn in Atlanta, Alison was raised in a Christian family, lived in a beautiful house, and had the right pieces in place to become successful. But during high school, her torments began as insecurities rose in her heart. She locked herself in her bedroom for hours and spilled expletive-laden bitterness into a personal journal.

“In high school people would look at me and think I was normal, I was happy, there is nothing wrong with my life,” she said. “I put a smile on every single day. There was nothing wrong that people could look at me and tell that I was hurting. But I was hurting SO bad. I was messed up. I hated myself.”

She questioned her existence, felt like her life lacked direction and wondered if anybody cared.

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“I would really wish I was dead. I did really mean that. It was my little secret.”

Alarmed by their daughter’s downturn, her parents sent her to a professional counselor who prescribed anti-depressants. The medicine didn’t work, she said. “I’m unfixable,” she glowered.

Trying to anesthetize the hurt, Alison turned to boyfriends, weekend parties and alcohol and drugs.

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“It was a coping mechanism, but it never fixed things,” she said. “When you wake up, you’re as sad as ever.”

During her junior year, her best friend started attending a church youth group. That’s when the tug-of-war began: Alison would beg her friend to go to the parties, and her friend would beg her to go to youth group.

“For months I would say, ‘No, I don’t belong there. I’m not a church girl.’ I thought they were all like people who wore turtle necks and sang kumbaya around their guitar.”

alison-henryEventually, Alison caved in. Seeing hundreds of high schoolers lifting hands and singing to something invisible made her feel “weirded out.”

But “I didn’t understand it, and I couldn’t stand the thought of me not understanding something,” she said.

However, she decided to go back. During her third visit to church, God met her.

“I knew in my heart that the pastor was talking about me,” Alison said. Read the rest.

Professors from Harvard and MIT talk about their faith

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A group of high-powered MIT and Harvard professors were featured recently at a forum to debunk the notion that there is a conflict between science and faith.

Rosalind Picard and Ian Hutchinson are professors at Massachusetts Institute of Technology while Tyler VanderWeele and Nancy E. Hill are professors at Harvard University – and all four are firm believers in God and see no conflict between faith and science.

“People who think they can’t deal with faith are really just deceiving themselves,” said Picard, the founder of the branch of computing known as affective computing. “All people in science are accepting something on faith. The question is what are evidence for that, and do you accept the kinds of evidence that is not scientific?”

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Ian Hutchinson of MIT

Recently featured on the Veritas Forum, the academes are debunking the notion that all scientists are atheists and that science opposes faith.

“The famous scientists of history, many of them were in fact Christian believers,” said Hutchinson, who is developing magnetic “bottles” for nuclear fusion. “If you think about James Clerk Maxwell or Michael Faraday or (Arthur) Eddington or (Robert) Boyle or Newton and so on and so forth, these were people who were not atheists. They were deeply believing Christians. It’s a fallacy, it’s a myth that science and religious understanding of the world have always been at war.”

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Tyler VanderWeele of Harvard

Picard began as “proud atheist” who, in middle school, boasted to her mom that she would debate evolution and “whop those stupid creationists. I thought religion was something for people who were non-thinking or it was a crutch.”

Her neighbors in Atlanta invited her to church, and she faked stomach aches to get off the hook for six weeks, until finally they suggested she just read the Bible.

“Then I remembered it was the best-selling book,” Picard said. “I started reading the Bible, and I didn’t want to tell anybody. But I started to change. It started to change me. I thought it would be full of fantastical crazy stuff. I started reading Proverbs and it immediately hit me that with all my intellectual arrogance, I had a lot to learn.”

But it wasn’t until her undergraduate studies in electrical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology. She got her PhD from MIT in 1991 and joined the faculty seven years later, winning a full professorship in 2005. She is the founder and director of MIT’s Affective Computing Research Group.

Her research team is developing wearable technology that can detect stress in people who are poor at expressing their emotions, such as patients of autism.

Ian Hutchinson also grew up without God on his radar. When he studied as an undergraduate at Cambridge University, however, “I had some good friends whose lives seemed to be attractive and whose Christian faith seemed important to them and seemed coherent,” he said.

He agreed to attend some lectures by Michael Green and essentially heard the gospel for the first time in his life.

“After a period of consideration, I realized that I kind of did believe,” Hutchinson said. “Christianity made sense to me. It made intellectual sense to me. In order for me to be true to what I thought was reality, I needed to take a step of commitment to faith and become a follower of Jesus.”

As he learned about the natural world in universities, he learned about Christ in church, and there never appeared to be any conflict between the two, he said.

Today, Hutchinson is a professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT and researches nuclear fusion as a cheap and powerful alternative to produce electricity. He has written 160 journal articles and was the chairman of the Division of Plasma Physics group of the American Physical Society in 2008. He has written about the limits of science and the power of faith in a book titled “Monopolizing Knowledge: A Scientist Refutes Religion-Denying, Reason-Destroying Scientism.”

“Science has not disproved religion. That idea is wrong,” he said. “People believe or disbelieve in religion for much more complicated reasons than just their intellectual ideas.”

Tyler VanderWeele, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, rocked the secular world when he published in May of 2016 a study that showed churchgoers live longer than people who eschew the pew.

“For the most part, I see the relationship between science and the Christian faith as not one of antagonism but one of mutual contribution,” VanderWeele said. “Science has given us tremendous insight into our world and how it works. It’s made clear the incredible order that’s manifest in Creation. It’s given us a better understanding of God’s work in the world.” To read the rest of the article, click here.

Save

Evicted!

colegio-cristiano-guatemalaA criminal pornographer hacked and hijacked my Guatemala CHRISTIAN school website for the Guatemalan ministry. He posted pictures of “girls next door waiting for you” and links to other sites where you can indulge all kinds of sin with pay-per-view (they do this to not pay their own hosting). The nightmare came at the worst possible time, right when moms are looking at new schools in Guatemala.

And evicting him was not easy. We deleted files, changed passwords and regenerated the original content. He came back. Thinking we were battling and invisible Trojan, we nuked the site and regenerated it.


He came back.

It was maddening. Thank God my friend (let’s just call him Yoda) discovered the posting number settings, which no one ever looks at or changes, were altered allowing the public to post on the site. Ugh! That was a sinister trick.

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After two months, I can confirm we are back to promoting God after a painful period of promoting Satan. Yes, I missed the best window of opportunity. But I have my clean bill-of-health from Google, and we’re back in business!

Please pray for new students in my old school in Guatemala. What a relief to have evicted the evil.

Pursue beauty

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I have found beauty in the salvation of just one soul. It is a beautiful thing to see a life, lost in self-destruction, change to a smile and happiness. This is why I pastor.

I have found beauty in seeing students, who never thought they were good enough for college, realize they have what it takes to make it. They clamber out of the slimy pit of poverty.

I have found beauty in restored relationships, in rediscovering love between spouse, between sons and fathers.

I have seen beauty in God’s creation. My life is not lived for money. I do not have much. My life is lived for the smile in my heart that comes when I see God’s hand in all around me.

Photo credit: My friends, missionaries, in Ecuador.

God in Gotham: Finally revival comes

statue-of-liberty-new-york-cityNew York City – never considered the spiritual heartbeat of America — is now experiencing revival, especially among millennials flocking to upbeat services with vibrant faith communities.

“A lot of people told us, ‘this is the graveyard of churches. Don’t go there. All the hipsters won’t want to come to church.’ We felt that’s the best place to be, where no one wants to go to church,” said Josh Kelsey, senior pastor of C3 Brooklyn Church.

In 1989, less than 1% of city residents attended church, according to CBN. But now about 5% goes to church, and there are hundreds of churches, big and small, scattered throughout the city.

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The C3 Church in Brooklyn

“New York has reached the tipping point,” CBN concluded. If current trends continue, it could become a majority Christian city by the year 2026, according to CBN.

It turns out that Batman is not going to save Gotham City. Jesus is.

The formula for success has been to revive the unchanging elements like prayer and Bible study while changing the liturgy and relational dynamics to fit the multi-cultural, educated population of the city, pastors say.

“Church for me was a place where I always felt I had to be perfect,” said one church-goer. “C3 allows me to embrace my imperfections and know that God still loves me regardless. So it’s changed my perspective because I know I can still be a human and still beloved by God, which is not an idea I had before.”

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Pastor Josh Kelsey

A 2013 Barna survey found 32% of residents of the Big Apple considered themselves born-again, up from 20% in the 1990s, Religion News Service reported

“New York City is not known as a particularly religious place,” the RNS article stated. “But it is more spiritually active today than even 2001 in the wake of 9/11.”

The Presbyterians and the Dutch Reformed Churches were strong in New York City in the early 1800s but began to misfire as the city grew and changed its ethnic makeup, according to Pastor Tim Keller, a prominent minister in NYC.

When Catholic immigrants flooded Lower Manhattan in the 1880s, churches found themselves with fewer and fewer members. Restaurants, stores and theaters burgeoned, supplanting churches as a social gathering place. Many churches moved out of the ethnic downtown, and others built houses of worships in a fruitless effort to attract congregations, Keller said.

With numbers dwindling, churches grasped for fixes. Charles Briggs of Union Theological Seminary tried modernizing the message, teaching that much of scripture contains error. This gave rise to liberal Chrstianity, and instead of attracting followers with a more “intellectually reasonable” message, it finished off local churches, Keller said. Read the rest of the article.

Savior’s Creed

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Christ came to overthrow the control of the devil. He came to die. Death was necessary to obtain the ever elusive forgiveness necessary to save mankind. The original script was written by God and can be found in the Bible. It is doubtful that Jesus’ birth was actually on Dec. 25, but since we don’t know and since tradition has held it for centuries, it is just as good as a day as any to remember His coming. Merry Christmas.

Finding Jesus in Iran is no simple matter

One man recounts how he turned from bad boy to Jesus follower and then emigrated to Europe

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Not the subject of this article. This man, a convert from Islam who emigrated from Iran, now serves Jesus in England. Pic. The Guardian

By Zach Catalano

He was the bad boy of his family. His parents worried that he might become a drug addict or get arrested. They never expected him to become Christian.

In Iran, accepting Jesus Christ can get you killed. But the now-27-year-old immigrant to Europe (interviewed by the World Watch Monitor) didn’t worry much about the risks when unexplainably he suddenly felt urges to learn about Christianity.

“My parents weren’t happy about my new faith, but they also didn’t give me a lot of trouble,” he said. “It was because of the people who discipled me that I eventually chose to leave the country. If the authorities would have found me, it would have led to those who discipled me, and they would have been in big trouble.”

Ironically, it was an undercover cop friend who investigated churches that told the youth where to find Christians who would, at great personal peril, break the law and explain to him, a Muslim, the tenets of Jesus.

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An article in the Daily Beast used this photo and discussed the long lines for Christian baptism in Germany by Muslims.

“My friend’s job was to track all underground activities, including ‘underground’ Christianity and illegal evangelism,” he said. “I knew that my friend could get into a lot of trouble for helping me to contact someone who could tell me more about Christianity, so I decided to bring up the issue playfully so he wouldn’t notice I was actually being serious. My plan worked. My friend gave me the address of a church that he knew was open to Muslims.”

Christianity is the fastest growing religion in Iran with an average annual rate of 5.2%, according to Wikipedia. But conversion is prohibited the Shia version of Shariah law.

At the time 18 years old, the young man lived a life of pursuing diversions.

“My father was always busy finding ways to earn more and more money,” he said. “He always followed Islam, except when it had to do with money; money was more important than religion. Like my dad, I also loved money. Money gives you friends, respect and fun. I just wanted to have fun growing up. Every night I spent time with my friends, going from place to place in the city.”

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He tried to follow Islam and be a good Muslim.

“But it was hard. Sometimes I would try to say my prayers regularly, but I soon forgot about them or skipped them to sleep in or have fun with friends.” he said. “As a Muslim, I often had the feeling that I was failing on so many sides. Then I thought, ‘I’m lacking in so many ways. I will not go to heaven anyway. What is the point?’”

That’s when bizarre thoughts surfaced in his mind: “Go find out about Christianity.”

He had always regarded Christians as “weird people.” Christianity had a long history in Iran dating back to the Day of Pentecost when Jews from Persia heard Peter declare the wonders of God. Despite its antiquity, it has always been a minority religion.

The Iranian Revolution of 1976 tried to quash Christianity. Consequently, the youth gambled with persecution for himself and his family by pursuing a quest for truth.

But when he mustered his courage to inquire, he had difficulties finding a Christian willing to talk to Muslim because doing so was punishable under the vice grip of Shariah Law. He approached a few Christians outside church, and one after another was too skittish.

iran-map-largeStill, the impulse toward truth only grew in his mind. That’s when he remembered the friend with the job investigating churches.

“I was so excited! I’d learned that Sunday was the day of the Christians, so the next Sunday I went to the address my friend gave me.,” he said. “When I got closer I saw that there was a worship service going on. At the time I knew nothing about Christianity, so I didn’t know exactly what they were doing. I didn’t know how long it would take. But I just decided to wait outside until someone came out.”

He queried the first man who came out. Like so many others, he was unwilling to answer any questions. Next week, he returned and finally a Christian emerged and invited him in.

“This is something you just don’t do as a Muslim in Iran, so my first thought was:,‘No, no, no!’” he said. “But at the same time I knew this was the moment. So I took a deep breath and said, ‘Yes.’ The man opened the door for me. The feeling I had when I entered the church was something I’ve never felt before. It felt so peaceful.”

He didn’t understand much of the sermon, but afterwards a man invited him home. He opened up with lots of questions.

“The answers were strange, but in a good way,:” he said. “It was, for instance, the way he talked about Heaven. ‘A place in God’s absolute presence,’ he [called it]. ‘A place in which your spirit is at peace totally with your Creator.’”

The man’s description of Heaven contrasted sharply with the Islamic version of paradise, where you spend your time fulfilling your sensual desires with different women.

“His words about heaven made complete sense to me,”

Another contrast was the concept of God.

“God isn’t a far-away Person but Someone who created the earth and put us as humans in the center,” he said. “God made us in his image. He even gave us a piece of his very own Spirit. I compared him to Allah, who was far away and got angry about the little things. But with the Christian God I was welcome the way I was. He created me with my weaknesses; He even used my weaknesses to be more like Him. This was a big difference from Allah, who would punish me for any small thing. No, God was my Father, someone who knew me as a person.”

“Still, my Muslim background was too strong to just let go. It took a lot of struggling. I told God: ‘If you really care, please show me the way.’

As he attended church, some of his friends realized he was drifting from his moorings in Islam, so out of concern they recommended he consult with a man specially trained to unconfuse Muslims who have been indoctrinated by Christianity, he said.

“The funny thing is he helped me understand Christianity better,” he said. “I call him a a ‘mini-Ayatollah,.’ With everything this religious leader said about Islam, I found an alternative in the Bible that was much better.”

Gradually, he came to embrace Christianity. “It was like the curtains that had been hanging in front of the truth for a long time had been opened for me,” he said. “What I saw was beautiful.”

As certain friends discovered he was becoming Christian, so did his family. After all, he brought home the DVD movie of the life of Jesus and watched it at home with his younger brother.

“I had always been a bad boy and I started behaving differently,” he said. “They’d expected me to go on drugs, or get in trouble with the police. They didn’t expect me to become a Christian. My parents weren’t happy about my new faith, but they also didn’t give me a lot of trouble.”

But with the new faith came the danger of persecution. So at age 18, the man decided that only by emigrating to Europe could he save his family and his disciplers from governmental crackdown. For nearly a decade, he hasn’t seen his parents.

“It’s a big sacrifice,” he said. “Despite everything, I am undoubtedly happy and thankful.”

Zach Catalano is a sophomore at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.