Category Archives: Christianity

Bombings made him a good tennis player

novak-djokovic

By Michael Ashcraft and Mark Ellis

To win the Australian open, a tennis player needs composure – something Novak Djokovic, 28, developed when his city was bombed by NATO for 78 consecutive nights in 1999.

A Christian of deep faith, Djokovic – also known as Super Novak – made use of his poise under pressure to take the Jan. 31 open by storm. He slammed contender Andy Murray 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 in a display of dominance proving why he’s tennis’ new #1 ranked player.

Djokovic grew up playing tennis in Belgrade when NATO imposed an embargo and bombed the city during the Kosovo War in 1999, causing great shortages of food.

us open 2015“We started the war living in fear, but somewhere during the course of the bombings, something changed in me, in my family, in my people,” Djokovic wrote in his memoir, Serve to Win. “We decided to stop being afraid. After so much death, after so much destruction, we simply stopped hiding. We decided to make fun of how ridiculous our situation was. One friend died his hair like a bulls-eye, a target.”

Young Djokovic himself stumbled and fell while scrambling to a bomb shelter one night. He looked up and saw a fearsome F-117 bomber release its cargo upon a hospital, he said.

If you can play tennis while dodging bullets and standing in long lines for bread and milk, then nothing can unnerve you. After facing the hardships of war, the psychological games played by opponents on a tennis court are relatively tame to Djokovic. His inner resolve has resulted in many come from behind victories.

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His opponents seem befuddled next to his highly-trained concentration level that screens out distractions of any form.

When Djokovic did the unimaginable and recovered from a breakdown in the fifth set to beat Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open of 2013, the Australian news.com.au proclaimed it an act akin to turning water into wine or opening up the Red Sea.

“No one does that,” the reporter wrote. “Djokovic wins a lot of matches he should lose.”

Djokovic, jubilant over a triumph that made the world stand up and notice, tore off his shirt to celebrate. The wooden cross around his neck bore visible testament to his faith.

Other players choke. Djokovic brings out his best tennis when the heat is on. At the 2011 U.S. Open he played 16-time major winner Roger Federer and returned a mind-boggling ball on match point  that seemed impossible to retrieve – now memorialized as “the shot” – that shocked Federer and the entire tennis world. Federer was reportedly upset about it for months.

Once upon a time, Djokovic was the upstart among tennis champions. He was the “third man” behind Federer and Nadal. Now, he stands alone. He has won 11 Grand Slam singles titles – four of the last five. In 2015, he won 82 of 88 matches – a 93% win percentage.

Read the rest of the article: click here.

Can Christians dream?

Elon Musk figured it would be better to build his own rockets after the Russians offered to sell him a retro-fitted ICBM for a sky-high price (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, the pun is bad). Then Musk — who owns Tesla electric sports cars and is making lithium batteries for your home that charge at night when electricity is cheaper — decided he would still save more money by landing the first stage booster (to be re-used). He almost landed it on a floating barge this month, as you can see from the video.

When I read about the technological advances (Musk is contracting for NASA), I see men and women who dream.

Can Christians dream to do great, unthinkable things for God?

All you need is a little bit

P8112143A little light can be seen in much darkness.

One drop of blood is enough for a shark to smell a quarter of a mile away.

Don’t ever discount your impact or potential for Christ. God can use small things to overcome huge things.

The darkness doesn’t quash the light. To the contrary, the darker it is, the greater the light is seen.

David Bowie became a Christian?

david bowieIn the months before he succumbed to cancer, David Bowie, the moré-smashing hedonist who resonated with a generation of young people, reconsidered the God he flouted most of his life as a rocker iconoclast.

As his life ebbed away quietly in the grips of end-stage liver cancer, there were signs the 69-year-old titan of rock and rebellion found peace with the Creator.

“He reassessed everything when he was terminally ill a year ago,” a family friend told the Sun UK. “He concluded there was something greater than all of us, and that may be some version of what others might call God. This was probably quite comforting. He certainly wasn’t scared of death.”

david bowie christianWhile he mostly abused drugs and lived like a libertine, Bowie searched through Buddhism, Satanism and Nietzsche’s existential philosophy for the balm to the raging angst in his soul. At one point he quipped that he had even tried to make a religion out of pottery and finally settled on singing as his faith of choice.

Still the London-born glam rock pioneer was searching. In an interview in 2003, he recognized he could never utterly reject faith. “I’m not quite an atheist,” he said. “I’m almost an atheist. (But) all the clichés are true. The years really do speed by. Life really is short as they tell you it is. And there really is a God.” Found out if it’s true: David Bowie Christian?

Led by a guy who likes to sleep

varsity soccer santa monicaWith two ties and a win last week, Lighthouse soccer is surging under a reluctant leader this season.

Adrian Brizuela has played soccer all his life, so it was natural for the LCA senior to be the point man for the ad-hoc team, but it is a role that he has not exactly sought.

“It’s hard for me to take the leadership role because I’m always goofing around,” the Santa Monica student said. “I never take anything seriously. I don’t want to seem like a boring guy. I want to seen as a laidback guy.”

santa monica high school soccerPlaying soccer has always been a way to escape reality for Adrian. “It helps me stay out of trouble and keeps my mind free from all the things going on in my life,” he said. “It keeps my mind clear from any temptations the devil throws at me.”

Although Adrian is seen as the MVP, he doesn’t relish the role. “ I don’t feel like the MVP, I feel like there is always room for improvement and I’m still getting there.”

Brizuela was born with a soccer brain. He’s played since age two. He’s also the highly-prized left-footer who can whip in crosses or strike from range.

Because he’s played club since age eight, Brizuela is the logical choice to lead Lighthouse’s team, which has total beginners and others with a smattering of experience.

He tells teammates where to position themselves, how to body and contain, how to pass. But he never shouts or gets mad. He’s sometimes disappointed with the performance though because he’s used to the high standards of club soccer.

“It is difficult because I come from a team where we have a lot of experienced players to a team where everyone is inexperienced,” he said.

In the classroom, Brizuela sits back and hopes the teacher doesn’t call on him. He’s not the leader. But on the pitch, he’s the frontman.

“I It’s a lot of weight on my shoulders,” he said. “It’s also a little bit fun. It’s cool that people want to see me as a leader, but it’s also like wow, am I read to step up to the plate?”

Soccer motivates him to study, he admits. “It’s helped me to come to school because you can’t play in the games if you don’t come to school,” he said. “I like sleeping in.” Read the rest of the story.

It doesn’t matter where you are but where you’re going

pathChristianity is a journey towards better. We pray, hear sermons and do works, not to earn our salvation but to align ourselves with the blessings God wants to pour out on us. By pleasing God, we discover happiness.

I’ve been a Christian for 36 years. I’m still not perfect. Sometimes it gets discouraged when sin raises its horrible self in my heart. I find the flesh a persistent adversary.

What I have learned to start over 50 kabillion times, to get back on the path to right, to persist in trying and to keep doing good things.

Maybe you’re at a low point in life. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and set yourself once again (for the millionth time!) on the path towards God. Keep striving to be and stay in God.

‘Impossible fossils’ puncture evolution

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The Alvis Delk Cretaceous Footprint

A handprint, a finger, a footprint and a hammer are part of a smattering of “impossible fossils” – so called because they upend the evolutionary timetable and puncture the theory of evolution.

A handprint in limestone from the Cretaceous Era – 110 million years ago – was found near Weatherford, Texas, in the 1970s. It is on display at the Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, Texas. Either human-like creatures were on earth much earlier than thought, or the dating methods are flawed and the earth is much younger than most scientists will admit.

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From the Cretaceous Era by dating methods — long before man was believed to be alive.

A fossilized human finger also from the Cretaceous Era was found also in the 1970s in the Commanche Peak Limestone formation in Texas and is on display at the Creation Evidence Museum. The fact that flesh has been fossilized (normally only bones make it through millennia as fossils) could result from instant entombment in mud (from a huge flood, for example).

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The London hammer

A footprint – known as the Burdick Track – was found again in Cretaceous limestone in the Cross Branch stratum, a tributary to the Paluxy River in Glen Rose, Texas.

Staunch evolutionists have worked vigorously to poke holes in the credibility of these discoveries – with good reason, because they poke holes in the theory of evolution. The extent to which they defend a pet theory in spite of discrediting discoveries reveals a lack of scientific integrity, many believe.

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Ken Ham debates Bill Nye the Science Guy about evolution in 2014

“These amazing fossilized imprints/remains have left the scientific community scratching their heads,” said Mihai Andrei on ZME Science, himself no creationist.

Another footprint – called the Alvis Delk Cretaceous Footprint – is even more intriguing because it is intersected by the footprint of an Acrocanthosaurus dinosaur print. This suggests that dinosaurs and man walked the Earth at the same time. The infrequency of such intersections in fossils makes sense: humans tried to stay away from the fearsome animals. Read the rest of the fascinating story.

Don’t miss Jesus

road-to-emmaus-2Circumstances can get you down to the point where you miss Jesus altogether.

Consider the case of the two disciples walking with Jesus on the Road to Emmaus. They are so bummed out by the crucifixion, they’re blinded by the crushing of their hopes for a Messiah to throw off the hated Roman Empire and restore Israel’s glory. Jesus walks with them but the depression blurs their vision so badly that they don’t recognize Him.

Now maybe other factors played a part. Maybe Jesus’ resurrected body was different (See 1 Cor. 15:44 at foot of this blog). Maybe he was shrouded by a turban (just because the Bible doesn’t say anything about it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen). But these factors seem to come up short.

What is sure is that these disciples were kicking themselves for not recognizing Jesus quicker. Discouragement played huge in missing Jesus.

As you go through trials, re-calibrate your vision to discern Jesus. He has not failed you or forsaken you.

1 Cor. 15:44 My paraphrase: The earthly body is sown a natural; the resurrected body is spiritual.

Meanwhile we throw away a stadium full of food every day

food waste

The Huffington Post reports that Americans dump daily enough food to fill a stadium. What wasters we are.

Meanwhile, malnutrition plagues Africa, Asia and Latin America. Ugh. I hate waste. Yes, I’m one of those annoying people who tells his kids to eat everything on their plate. And the wise-alecks who tell me to send it in the mail to Africa, I wana sock ’em. (Yes, my faith goes on hold momentarily).

We don’t have a lot of money, but I always try to have plenty of food on hand in case anybody is hungry. We live on the same property as our Christian high school in Santa Monica, and most of the time that means hungry teens can traipse into my house, open up the fridge and help themselves — the only requirement for them is to clean up afterwards and NOT waste.

What can we do to eliminate waste and help the hungry?

Photo: Pinterest.

Don’t worry about the foundation

All foundations are equal, they say. Don’t worry about what the Bible says, they say. Morals are relative, they say.

Jesus says: Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock — Matt. 7:24 NLT.

In 2016, I’m still sticking with the Bible. I’m not joining the downgrade crowd, those who want to “move on” from the Bible to “better things.” Because when your life gets swallowed up by the uncertain foundation, it’s too late to change.

New Year comes regardless if you want it. New you, only if you want it

Michael-Bernhardt-1-810x508The New Year grinds forward. You may long for it or try to hold it off. You may think it augurs a new beginning, or you may be fretting for 36 things still to do in 2015. It’s forward progress is unstoppable.

But a new you doesn’t proceed forward in the same manner. A new you comes only if you change existing habits. If you set new goals — or maybe just goals, then you can pursue. A new you requires effort.

This is why I am a Christian. I want a better version of myself. I want to resolve not just once a year but daily for it and strive for it. Christianity is all about looking forward, embracing change. Christianity is about idealism and yet it is practical.

I encourage you to seek the new you — and, yes, I highly recommend you find it where I think it can only be found, in God.

Image: Michael Buehner on Pinterest.

Humanism worships us

humanismHumanism cuts God out of the equation: We don’t need the supernatural any more. We can engineer our own solutions. We have done good, not God. Humanism points to humanity.

Amid the constant carpet-bombing of the humanist message, I point to God. We Christians are not opposed to science or using the wisdom and talents God gave us to achieve. But we recognize our limitations and mortality. Science may continue to advance but ultimately will come up short.

Don’t look inward, look upward. There is a God who loves you and beckons you into relationship with Him. This is not superstition. This is common sense recognition that we, as much as we can create, ultimately cannot create creation. God made the raw materials which we use to make things.

Image: Pinterest.

Don’t ditch it

marriageMarriage is worth the work, the heartache, the pain.

We study thousands of hours for our careers. But we don’t want to spend any time preparing or repairing our marriage — and yet a good marriage is by far a better source of happiness than a career!

Some are so impatient they are floating alternative models: shacking up, equality marriages. The message is always the same: it’s just as good.

It is not.

One has the solid foundation of the Bible. The other has no foundation. It is a hastily-erected hut on dirt. It will stand and look pretty but won’t withstand an earthquake.

Love is worth it.

Many of my blogging friends have faced divorce. In order to succeed, marriage requires 100% of both — and yours collapsed because only you were giving 100%.

Remarry. Give happiness another shot. Give your 100% to another person.

The first “institution” was not the church. Nor was it government. God instituted marriage from the very creation.

Don’t ditch it.

Image from Pinterest.

Speak life

speak life

It only takes a few words to destroy a fellow human being. And some are actually proud of blandishing their words like a caveman his club. Meanwhile, the sensitive among are committing suicide — some only to their self-belief, their self-worth, their dreams. You will be held accountable by God for the words you uttered, and there will be no justification.

Why not speak life to those around you instead? As much as words can hurt, they can build up, encourage, spark genius, give the impulse to carry out success. You can make a person smile. You can make a person beautiful just by your words. You can save a life.

Use your words wisely. Here is a great secret of wisdom: not everything that occurs to your head needs to occur on your tongue.

Original image: Huffington Post via pinterest.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions

resolutions

They only last three weeks. Then the gym empties out, the fridge fills up, and the checking account empties out. It’s sad.

I believe in church service. At the end of each service, we have the chance to go forward to the altar and “repent.” For the unchurched, that means, we make resolutions. No, were not a bunch of hypocrites. We’re just human. And humans need to constantly redirect their paths for the good.

We receive exhortation to forgive, to avoid pratfalls, to put our family first, to not waste our money, etc. I go to church at least three times a week. I make resolutions to be a better man at least three times a week.

This actually helps me to be a better human being. The constant forming of resolutions works better than the once-a-year grandiose life-changers, at least in my opinion.

Have you ever succeeded at at New Year’s resolution? Maybe I’m wrong. Share in the comments your experience.

‘Black Hawk Down’ hero found a better way to transform the world than ‘kicking in doors and slinging lead’ with enemies

MAJ-Ret-Jeff-StrueckerWhat impacted Jeff Struecker most was NOT the thousands of hostile Somalis swarming his Humvee, nor the hailstorm of bullets and RPGs as he attempted to rescue fellow Rangers in the ill-fated 1993 raid of Mogadishu made famous by the movie Black Hawk Down.

What impacted him most was the next October morning back at base when his buddies one by one asked him about death and afterlife.

“It changed my life forever,” Struecker said. “I would still be a sergeant in the ranger regiment today if it wasn’t for what I saw the morning after the firefight. It wasn’t really the blood and the bullet holes that had an impact on me. It was back at the base the grown men, some of the toughest warriors on the planet, with tears in their eyes. They said, ‘Jeff, what happened to my best friend who just died last night? Jeff, what happens to me if I get on a helicopter or a Humvee tomorrow and I don’t make it home?’

fast rope“Almost all of them were saying, ‘Jeff, there was something different about you last night, and I want to know what it was,’” he said. “For the next 24 hours, I had guys lined up to ask me about Jesus Christ because they could see the difference that He makes when you’re getting shot at and when the bullets flying.”

Tom-in-Black-Hawk-Down-tom-guiry-25144097-853-480So 24 hours of giving advice did more than the extended, intensive Ranger training to direct Struecker’s career. Seeing a chance to impact the lives of men, Struecker became a chaplain for his same Ranger buddies in the 82nd Airborn Division, a post he’s held for more than a decade.

black-hawkThe Ranger/Delta Force mission code-named Operation Gothic Serpent on Oct. 3 began to go awry when Ranger PFC Todd Blackburn failed his fast-rope drop-in and fell 70 feet to the ground headfirst While other Rangers secured the perimeter and Delta Force operators seized two of Mohammed Farrah Aidid’s top lieutenants, the subsequent efforts to rescue the fallen ranger led to two helicopters being shot down and 18 deaths. Click here to read the rest of the article.

I’ve cut down on sarcasm

sarcasm“Sarcasm” comes from “sarx” in the Greek, which means flesh. It is cutting someone up.

It’s telling someone he’s stupid and you’re superior, more intelligent. You resort to sarcasm to show how obvious something is (but wasn’t to the first person who made the statement or asked the question — hence he’s dumb.) It is a humiliation.

Of course, sarcasm has plenty of attractiveness. It makes people laugh. It makes you look witty. People like to hang out with winners. You’re the winner if you use it quickest and cuttingest. It’s a pride thing.

I’ve cut down on sarcasm because I’ve been cut up by sarcasm. I’ve decided that I don’t need it to attract friends. I’ve realized that true friends are what I want, and they won’t be coming around for my barbs and witticisms. They’ll love me if I love them. The only love the sarcasm knows is self-love.

Don’t place a halo on my head yet. Sarcasm comes out more frequently than I’d like to admit. I’m not totally sincere and humble. I’ve still got my flesh.

Sarcasm is delusional. You begin to believe you are superior to others just because of quick tongue.

She forgave would-be killer

immigration attorney los angelesWhen the gang-banger was on trial for nearly killing her brother, Cynthia Santiago wrote a letter to the court asking for leniency.

“We are Christians. We believe in forgiveness,” said Santiago, 31, now an immigration lawyer based in El Segundo. “We prayed for him (the shooter). We prayed God transform his life. I’m not the person to pass that kind of judgment on another human being.”

Santiago said her brother got involved in a race-based altercation at 20th St. and Delaware in Santa Monica in the early 2000s, and he was shot with a 22-caliber gun from close range. One bullet shattered his jaw and another pierced his heart and lung, she said.

He was rushed to St. John’s where he lay unconscious for nearly three weeks. When he woke up, he asked about his kids. After months of physical therapy, he returned to normal life.

Santiago’s extraordinary plea for clemency is part of the troubled past of a Santa Monica once beset by gang violence. Part of the reason she chose law is because she saw her own parents, as working class residents, struggle to get sound legal advice for her troubled brother. Read the rest of the article.

Editor’s Note: Cynthia Santiago was the flower girl in my wedding 25 years ago. My wife and I lost track of her when we spent 16 years in Guatemala as missionaries. When I found her on Facebook 24 years later, I’m surprised to see her all grown up and a lawyer! I praise God she, coming from a family without college students, had the wherewithal to study and achieve a dream. It seems to me that her choice to forgive is extreme and compelling. Her choice to help the neediest who need help only makes me admire her more.

Thank you for friendship

AshcraftsTo all my followers who have been with me through the ups and downs, exchanging encouragement and exhortations, thank you. Some of you are dear friends. Others of you I would like to get to know more.

Gifts received and gifts given

gifts serviceA gift received is a gift given. Whatever God has given you as a talent or a special characteristic, you must give to others.

Too many stars and intelligentsia use their talents for themselves. They believe themselves entitled to superior treatment. They fail to recognize that their beauty, voice or ability comes from God. God didn’t give you that gift because He has favorites — not to use it just for your own benefit.

If you are in the church, you must understand that God’s giftings come from God and are owed back to Him. I’m mystified by Christian servants who charge fellow servants for the use of their giftings. We are governed by capitalism more than the Bible. If we hold back on our service to the church, we are not being faithful to God.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in various forms — 1 Peter 4:10.

 

 

Being highly favored

mary angelHail, Mary, highly favored of God! That’s how the angel greeted Mary in Luke 1:26.

Though she was favored to carry in her womb the Son of God, she was also in for some bad trials — like the loss of her “normal” life and dreams for a perfect marriage with Joseph. Her son would be crucified in front of her eyes. Yeah, a lot of trials.

But what I want to say here is that we are all favored of God. He loves us all. We all have a unique destiny. God has good things for us.

For Christmas, just realize how special you are to God. You are a gift to Him!

Shame’s power

young-pip

Pip

From the moment Estella despised his coarse hands and thick boots, a shroud of shame hung over Pip’s life, in Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations.

And that’s how Pip came to despise his dad, Joe Gargery, and his life’s destiny as a country blacksmith. Pip strives to become a “gentleman” but instead becomes a snob and a spendthrift. When his sham of a life implodes, it is the humble blacksmith, Joe, who pays off his bills.

Estella great expectations

Estella

Shame is dynamite to blow up family, loyalty and values. When we live for others, we lose ourselves.

Shame entered the world with the first sin and continues to rage, a byproduct of sin. Paul exhorts us to never be ashamed of Christ (Rom 1:16). Only worry about receiving praise from Him.

He could have played for instead of against

lionel-messi-Lionel Messi, with whom defenders can only keep up with their eyes, was loaded with so much talent, but clubs in Argentina were unwilling to give him the costly growth hormone he needed.

At 9, he would put 100s of touches on the ball to elude the best kid defenders. At 11, he was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency. His club, Newell’s Old Boys in Rosario, agreed to pay the daily injections that would cost $1,500 a month but only wound up given him 300 pesos.

messi cup of clubsSo he signed for FC Barcelona, which has since seen its investment amply paid back. Messi has won four consecutive Ballon d’Or, three Champion Leagues and six Spanish League titles.

He just won the World Cup of Clubs against an Argentine club, River Plate. When he scored the first goal, he raised his hand to apologize out of respect for his motherland. Still, ultra fans insulted and spat on him at the airport. But had River Plate been willing to invest in Messi, the world’s best player (my opinion) might have played for them.

I have seen this in the church and it makes my stomach churn. Don’t despise anybody God brings in. Everyone has talents and destiny. Appreciate everybody; they’re there for a reason. They have talents you don’t. Without their contributions, your church will be deficient.

My life in parallel in the Christmas Carol

Christmas Future

She plays one of the family girls in the play. I’m a Matrix-like creep.

In the sixth grade, I played Bob Cratchet, and it proved prophetic for my life, because I have never gotten rich and always worked like a dog.

Not at age 48, I’m Christmas Future in the Palisades Theatre (Pacific Palisades, CA). I warn that greed will lead to eternal torments. This has been part of my life as a preacher.

Is it possible that a life can be summed up in a simple play? How did Charles Dickens cast my personality?

The Bible says there is nothing inherently evil with money. It is the love of money that rusts the human heart. As a missionary in poor Guatemala, I saw that not only the opulent love money. The poor can easily do this too.

Love God more than money.

Those who figure that this life on Planet Earth is all there is…. well, we’re all going to find out sooner or later.

You’re saying your pregnant and you haven’t had sex?

mary.jpg

Yeah, right.

What about Joseph’s faith? He had to have A LOT of faith to marry Mary, to believe that she hadn’t fooled around and been unfaithful. When Mary got pregnant, he knew that he was not the father. One tends to assume the worst, the obvious, faced with such circumstances.

Even with the angel telling him, Joseph would doubt. Was the vision a nightmare, a hallucination? What would his friends think?

Joseph needed tons of faith too.

People tend to look at the Christmas story as an aw!-moment. But there was real angst. It wasn’t easy to bring the Savior to the world. Not for Joseph.

If you’re going through a crisis during Christmas, Joseph did. Be encouraged and keep faith.

Note: Apologies to the actress whose picture I use. No slander against her. I searched for “Mary,” and this image came up.

Sprinkles of delight

sprinkle cakeQuite unexpectedly I fell in love with sprinkles on the Christmas cake this year. There’s something delightful about the crunch on the soft white frosting.

I usually run AWAY FROM treats. I run TO the gym. But it’s Christmas, a time of celebration of Jesus’ birth. So I’m letting myself go a little bit and enjoying things I usually avoid.

The problem with America’s obesity is the problem with America’s morals. We want too much too often. We can never say no. We cannot stay with what is good for us. God made sex for marriage, for example. And we want sprinkles on everything and all year round.

Here’s the message America needs: we need to enjoy God-given pleasures within God-given limits.

He taught me to return shopping carts

my friend channingAfter 35 years of not seeing my old friend, Channing and I got together. He found me on the internet. He’s face has changed, but his have-fun life philosophy remains the same. My face is the same and so is my faith.

Channing taught me to do a good deed every day. That lesson has stayed with me all these years.

We were two 12-year-olds heading off to Thrifty’s for ice-cream or candy. It was about a mile walk. Channing grabbed a straggler shopping car to push it home.

“Come on, Channing, leave it,” I said. “It’s gonna slow us down. It’s not your problem.”

His simple reply stuck with me all these years.

Sure, why not. I have time and energy. I can do a good deed. There is reward inherent in doing things not for a reward.

Now everybody leaves their shopping cars right where they parked their cars (here in Los Angeles). It used to be that people returned them to the corral for the supermarket guy to take in to the store, but people are more self-centered than decades ago. I always try to grab one or two and roll it up to the front of the store. I can do this. It doesn’t require much time or effort. Do a good deed just because.

After years of doing this thankless good deed, someone finally thanked me.

I have Channing to thank for the lesson.

Look up

sky poolThe latest rage is no longer glass bridges and glass platforms extended out from skyscrapers or canyon edges over the hair-raising expanse. The latest rage is sky pools. But only the wealthiest can enjoy them.

I think it’s as much to show off as the thrill of swimming in the air: not just feeling like Superman but flaunting Super Riches.

It’s pretty cool to look up and admire the architectural beauty in the sky.

Look up to the architectural beauty of Heaven. If earthly opulence is out of your reach, heavenly riches are within it. The pricelessness of Heaven is incalculable price free to you and me because Christ paid with his life.

Even psychopaths and creeps

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Don’t be scared. It’s just me submitted to a trial run on stage makeup.

After longing to be in our church’s plays for years, I got cast in one role — and I nailed it! Now I am included in every production. Yippee!

What was the role I nailed? Barabbas, the psychopath. I guess that comes naturally to me (LOL!), and I thought would be typecast.

Now our church, the Lighthouse in Santa Monica, is producing a revamp of the Scrooge. My role is a surprise, but I’m something like the federal agent from The Matrix. I’m a creepy guy.

This is a lot of fun, but it’s also unnerving that I should so easily fall into roles of evil people. I guess we are all saved — those of us who choose to receive Jesus — by grace and not by works. Even psychopaths and creeps can get forgiveness.

The Land of Milk and Honey

ice-creamIf you mix milk with honey (and freeze it), you get ice cream.

What the in the Old Testament is promised to God’s people (to possess the Land of Milk and Honey) is in the New Testament promised as “abundant life.” Jesus says: I have come that you may have life — life abundantly. (John 10:10).

The idea is that serving Jesus not asceticism. It is joy. When Jesus was born, “peace” and “great joy” was promised to Earth. Salvation would be lavished upon humanity with blessings, both here and in Heaven.

I love ice cream. It is a good symbol for the Christian life. I hope you can learn to enjoy a relationship with Jesus Christ (not empty rigorous religion with rules and hopelessness).

Priceless

christmas-crossSalvation is priceless because you and I don’t have to pay.

Salvation is priceless because no payment could ever be enough.

Christ is the most exquisite gift you could receive a Christmastime.

Harming children

7e77618403045b167b4ec3fb88d10cc8The worst crime is the one done against children because they are defenseless. They are born to innocence and play. They believe in the good nature of everyone and cannot understand evil. To deprive them of love, warmth and goodness, to destroy their innocence is the worst of evils.

Pip has been wronged. Miss Havisham set him up to fall in love with Estella, and she did this only to delight in seeing him be heart-broken. This evil design she perpetrated since his childhood in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations.

At the end of her life, she begs forgiveness. Her usually air of superiority gets dashed. She abandons all noblewoman’s dignity and shockingly falls to her knees to cry in repentance. Her money, her family, her nobility mean nothing. The only thing now is to be granted forgiveness. She feels the full horror of what she did too late. Pip does not withhold the forgiveness for a second.

We have all be wronged as children. Born with sin in our nature for Adam’s fault, we all wake up eventually to the attractions of temptation and become sinners. Jesus has come to restore the innocence, the beauty, the joy of life.

It matters what map you use

I live in LA, where we describe time-to-get-there in two categories: with traffic or without traffic. This amuses my friend who has never seen “without traffic” since moving here from Chicago.

A good smart phone map app can help you scoot around traffic. But I’ve discovered that not all map apps are equal. To be blunt, Apple’s map comes up short. Sometimes it sends you to the wrong place. It doesn’t detect construction. It doesn’t list new roads built. It can be woefully frustrating.

frustration apple mapsIf you want to get to where you’re going without any hassles, use Google maps, which is far superior.

It matters what map you use in life too. Contrary to the incessant barrage from the left-leaning intelligentsia, not all maps are equal. If you want to get to Heaven, have a happy marriage, raise well-adjusted kids, use the Bible. Not all all moral yardsticks do the job.

Bible mapOh they may work for easy jobs, but for a sticky situation, only the Bible will deliver the goods. I apologize to Apple for having to expose its flaws. But remember that time you made me an hour late after an 18-hour trip? Yeah, I was not happy with your shortcomings.

Forgiveness is sweet

revenge is sweetNo longer does her riches matter. At the end of her life, Miss Havisham has lost the adopted daughter she treasured. In Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations, Miss Havisham steeled Estella against the inconstant love of men. She only wished to spare Estella from her own heartbreak; she had been jilted on her wedding day. But in trying to protect Estella against the dangers of love, she made her incapable of love.

She also made her an instrument of revenge upon all men.

A tease, Estella was drilled on how to break hearts. She would wreak her Miss Havisham’s vengeance.

Stunned when Estella turns against her, Miss Havisham moans alone on her vast estate in the wee hours of morning. Nothing is left, nothing matters.

So she tries to do good. To Pip whom she trapped with Estella’s beauty, she now asks for forgiveness. No longer the haughty rich woman, she falls to her knees and begs desperately to have played with Pip’s emotions such that he was tortured by unrequited love for almost 20 years. He willingly and readily forgives her.

The dramatic scene from the book highlights a hugely underrated satisfaction in life, that of being forgiven.

As you move along in life, you accrue wrongs to yourself. You offend and sin against people dear to you. You become burdened with guilt and regret. The antidote is not more sin, drugs, alcohol or therapy. It is forgiveness.

First and foremost, mankind has need of forgiveness from God. Second from his fellow man. Third, he has need to forgive others. This is true bliss.

Revenge is not sweet; it is bitter. Forgiveness is sweet.

One soul worth more than 15 million views

IMG_7379My friend, Dr. Bob, is now officially famous, with 15 million views of his video “The Hold” and appearances on Good Morning America and Dr. Oz. But I don’t think his heart will change. He’s a vibrant Christian.

As an SEO, I helped promote his video so that it caught the attention of some influencer, who reposted it and it caught the attention of massive online media. He’s being called the “Baby Whisperer” for his intuitive way to calm fussy tykes.

I don’t think I want to be famous myself. I’ve found a greater joy, the happiness of saving souls. I work at a Christian high school in Santa Monica. The smiling faces you in the photo are some of the people who have exited the misery of bullying at school and entered the joy of Jesus.

One soul is worth more than 15 million views.

On the video of Christians condemning the Koran only to find out the passage read was Bible

michael ashcraft

Just me.

Almost always, the end of the book concludes the story. There is character and theme development that only makes complete sense when you get to the final chapter.

This is acutely important with the Bible: Jesus is the conclusion of the matter. He is the “new covenant” prophesied by Jeremiah. With Him, significant portions of the Old Testament hit their expiration. Hence, Christians no longer offer animal sacrifice nor observe dietary prohibitions.

And they don’t massacre. In fact, Christ told his followers to turn their cheek when struck, to pray for their enemies, to not resist their enemies. Inaugurating the new covenant, Christ’s followers suffered endless persecution at the hands of the Romans. They were mauled by animals in stadiums and held worship services in the catacombs. If Christ was a revolutionary, his was not an uprising with arms.

It seems a lot of observers are giddy with the trick video making the rounds in which Christians are first told their being read a passage from the Koran. They condemn “oppressive” religion. Then the trickster shows his hand: Sorry, the passage was from the Old Testament. I guess they think this is proof that all religions are equally evil.

I’m not surprised that a lot of Christians don’t know their Bible well enough to recognize the cited passages. They don’t have to. We are saved by faith, not by holding a degree in Bible knowledge. If these Christian sound outraged by the passage, it is because it resonates with the horrors of the news perpetrated by Islamic extremists.

It doesn’t resonate with the practices of Christianity. We get people out of alcoholism all around the world. We build hospitals, care for the untouchables, staff schools for inner city kids. We don’t wage wars; Ephesians specifically proclaims: We don’t have struggle against flesh and blood. The crusaders were motivated by money, always the true cause of war. If they did have some vestige of Christianity, it wasn’t authentic to the Master who sent his disciples out two by two to preach, heal and free people from demonic oppression.

The trouble with this video is it’s complete lack of sincerity. I’m sure its producers are not so ignorant of the simple truth the end of just about any book is the dramatic conclusion. It would be completely senseless to cut off the end of Hamlet, Farewell to Arms or Moby Dick. The story would be meaningless. So why are they filming Christians who know the end but mess up middle details? Surely, the videos producers cannot be so stupid.

I’m afraid it’s just another shameless attempt to shame Christians, to degrade our faith, to try to make all religions equal. If you want to expose the evil of a religion, don’t ask the guy on the street. Ask the experts. And don’t pull pranks on unsuspecting people that you wouldn’t want pulled on you.

She went to impact Guatemala, but Guatemala impacted him

Lighthouse Christian Academy impacts the world

Cindy Gutierrez with Dr. Bob Hamilton in Guatemala on medical mission.

By Cindy Gutierrez, LCA senior

As Maria, an 8-year-old girl, walked through doors of the clinic, I couldn’t help but notice the sadness in her eyes.

Maria approached the pediatric station where we asked her what was wrong. Her aunt was there to explain that Maria had not been eating much for months and wasn’t sleeping at night.

IMG_8385

Cindy Gutierrez holds a baby as Dr. Bob Hamilton examines a patient. This is Lighthouse Medical Missions in Guatemala.

Maria’s aunt informed us that she had been physically abused and neglected by her mother because of her skin color. Maria’s mom despised the fact that Maria was of darker skin tone while sisters had fairer skin.

She was called “ugly” and “not good enough” by her own mother for years until finally the mom just walked out and left her with her aunt.

cute Guatemalan kid | medical missionI could see how heart-broken she was. When I told her she was beautiful she started crying because for so long she was told she was ugly by someone who is suppose to love her and accept her.

Going on a Lighthouse Medical Mission to Guatemala was my first time traveling without my parents. As a high school student, I was so scared to go at first and was questioning even going. I made about a million excuses on why I shouldn’t go, but then God gave me a trillion reasons why I should. So I got time off from the Lighthouse Christian Academy, a Christian high school in Santa Monica, to give of myself.

I had been praying to God to give me a sign. I didn’t have the money at the time to cover all the expenses of the trip, but in less than two weeks my friends and family covered all the expenses.

When I first arrived to Guatemala, I felt a little homesick. I missed my parents so much already (I know, I’m such a big baby) but it wasn’t long till I felt at home. The church welcomed us all and treated us like family.

It was heartwarming and touching to see how giving everyone was despite them not having much to give. Read the rest of the article.

The saint with the wicked kick

holly holmHolly Holm, whose lightning left kick shocked the world when it felled the UFC’s undefeated Ronda Rousey, is a Christian who recently got married, sews, cooks and brings her Bible to Starbucks.

After surmounting 20-1 odds to outfight the aggressive Rousey, the Albuquerque native, known in the ring as “The Preacher’s Daughter,” is now the reigning bantam weight champion in mixed martial arts.

the deadly kick“At first they wanted to call her Holly Hottie or Holly Hollywood or something like that. She said, ‘I don’t want to be known for that part of it,’” her dad Roger Holm told KOAT channel 7 news in New Mexico. “I said, ‘Well, you’re a preacher’s daughter.’ And she said, ‘That’s it! Call me the preacher’s daughter.’”

Holm, now 34, was raised in the church. She accompanied her dad on hospital visits, participated in potlucks and baby-sat countless times for church members.

holly dad preacher

Holly Holm’s dad, Roger Holm

“I went to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night,” she told the Albuquerque Journal. “We grew up living in a house owned by the church. I always had to be on time for services and held out with the nursery. I couldn’t be a selfish kid.”

Holm loves thrift shopping, quilting, baking from scratch, watching “Family Feud,” caring for her two cats and getting her waist-length blond hair highlighted and fingernails and toenails manicured and pedicured.

“But I must prefer, if I have the time, to go to church,” she said. “I feel really not focused and detached if I don’t go to church. I feel like I feel better about myself and life and my relationship with God if I go. I feel more connected. I try to go every Sunday morning. If I can’t, I get a little irritated with myself because I’m like, ‘Really Holly? God sacrifices and has you in mind all day, every day.’ How can I not want to give back one day, one hour even?” Read the rest of the story.

Restoration

restoration

Our God restores, and maybe there is no sensation quite as wonderful. If you have walked away from God, come back today and let the waves of grace restore your pristine glee, that childlike joy.

For such a time

queen estherMaybe Esther thought she was privileged, chosen to be queen just to enjoy luxury herself. But when a crisis requires her intervention, she worries about personal jeopardy. Her uncle reminds her that God brought her into power “for such a time as this.”

No matter who you are, no matter where you are, no matter what you have suffered, God has brought you to the perfect station to intervene and impact souls for Christ. Don’t be discouraged or discount your potential. God has you where He wants you with a plan to use you greatly.

God’s greatest work comes

hand drowningat a time of your greatest adversity.

The darker it gets, the more we need to look up and believe.

Fear or faith?

unexpected-guestsPerfect love casts out fear — 1 John 4:18.

Running away from evangelism is what has made things run amok in the world. We Christians have abdicated our responsibility for too long. We can blame ourselves, not the politicians, for the problems of the world. Now we should not run to them looking for solutions that only we can provide.

Love is a choice. Fear is a knee-jerk reaction. We must choose to follow the Spirit lest we follow the flesh. The first Christians risked being thrown into the arena to be eaten by starved savage animals. We cannot expect a riskless Christianity. There is no drone Christianity where we direct evangelism from afar without putting boots on the ground. We haven’t wanted to go to the souls; now we don’t want the souls to come to us.

The days of isolationism are over, like it or not.

God doesn’t help those who help themselves

ben franklinDon’t misunderstand. I’m not advocating abdicating responsibilities. But I am hacking away at a mentality that flaunts self-sufficiency and human arrogance. Because Christianity at its most basic level recognizes how helpless humans are to please God. Hence, the need for forgiveness. Christ did for us what we could never do to gain for us what we could never gain for ourselves.

I thank God I’m a Christian. This doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I’m means I humbly and repeatedly ask for God’s forgiveness, intervention and favor. Join us. It’s a beautiful life.

Pirates’ manager came back to Christ

Pirates at Orioles June 14, 2012

Pirates at Orioles June 14, 2012

On the outside, Clint Hurdle was a huge success: 10 years as a Major League Baseball player, he had his image splashed on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was only 20. As a pro baseball manager two decades later his team was in the playoffs. But on the inside he knew something was wrong: his two marriages had ended in divorce and he struggled with alcoholism.

Then he met Karla. After eight years of dating her, Clint Hurdle mustered the courage to ask her hand in marriage – and what she said brought him back to Christ.

“I found my way back like the prodigal son,” Hurdle told What Christians Want To Know. “It was the best decision I ever made in my life, and it also led to my recovery with alcohol. Christ has given me the strength, endurance, and courage to live a sober life for the last 16 years. It has been the way it is supposed to be, serving Him. Through my weaknesses, His (Christ) strength is glorified.”

Not only did accepting Christ help Hurdle overcome weaknesses, it also benefits him in his professional life. In 2013, he was named National League Manager of the Year.

Baseball was not the only sport in Hurdle’s blood as a kid. In fact, he played all three of America’s top sports. He was offered the quarterback position for the University of Miami when the Kansas City Royals drafted him in 1975 for the outfield, but he chose baseball over football and basketball.

Raised in a small family with humble roots, he played for the Royals, the Cincinnati Reds, the New York Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals.

After retiring, he became manager for the Colorado Rockies for eight years, leading them to their first National League pennant. He was then hired by the Pirates in 2010 and coached them to a playoff in 2013, the first such appearance for the club in over 20 years.

He was a huge success in the world’s eyes. But his private life had careened out of control. He had drifted away from the Jesus he accepted at age 17. Hurdle went after his own dreams, pursued his own pleasure and got himself into trouble with sin.

He married and divorced twice. Nightclubs figured prominently in his life.

“I went through 23 years of wandering, similar to the Israelites in the desert,” Hurdle said. “I used Jesus as an ATM card. I would not relinquish me. I would continue to find times where I would try to take over or take control.”

Floundering, he met Karla, whom he dated for eight years. When he finally summoned the guts to pop the question, Karla, who was always sweet, counter-offered. Read the rest of the article.

Editor’s Note: This article was original posted on GodReports.com. My journalism student, Anthony Gutierrez, wrote it.

Truth, not trends

truth not trendsAssail it all they can, the Bible stands as God’s unaltered message to humanity. Science advances, societies evolve, morals change, fashions come and go. But the Bible remains unchanged.

Its message: We are sinners, but God loved us so much that He punished His Son in our place. We must come to Him in repentance and gratitude.

God’s code of conduct doesn’t evolve. We can’t improve upon it. The very thing people hate about the Bible is its strength, its eternal nature.

Original image by Tom.

Pay a scholarship for at-risk students for soccer

photo(189)

Levi shows why he’ll be midfielder.

This blog has always been about people. Even more than writing, I love interacting with and helping people. I’ve seen through the years how our school’s soccer team is another way to reach out to kids: to teach them discipline, excellence, respect and teamwork. Actually, I’m amazed at sport’s power to assist in the transformation of youth.

So I’m ask you, my loyal readers, if you can chip in for a scholarship for kids to play. Some kids can’t even afford the paltry $100 sports fee. Additionally, we need new penny jerseys and money for parents to drive kids to practices. There are park fees, game fees and referee fees. Pretty much everybody charges a fee except me. I do it because I love soccer and I love helping people. You can help too! Here’s my GoFundMe account gofundme.com/9tb5ehjw.  (Sorry, looks like you have to cut and paste it due to WordPress’ refusal to transfer the link.) I’m trying to raise $750 for the benefit of the team. I need your help because I don’t have this money myself.

I’m excited for a new season. Thanks for helping!

Evil religion

franceIt mystifies me to no end that atheists accuse Christians of being an evil religion. The Bible says, “By their fruits, you will know them.” My church just realized a medical clinic in Guatemala, giving meds, giving life. Meanwhile, the extremists show what their religion has to offer.

Image by min_juny on Instagram.

I love you, Jesus Christ

facebookPeople all over the world need Christ. He is the solution and salvation from sin.

Drugs are destroying us

drugs destroying us

Artwork per Dan Luvisi. I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it.

Every empire that has risen, has fallen — and the U.S. hegemony will be no exception. When historians refer to our downfall, surely the rise of atheism will be counted as the motor behind our growing corruption. I pray for revival to break out and return American into right relationship with God.

You’ll be drooling | a former student is a hit chef in LA hipster restaurant

Sam Forman at Petit Trois

Sam Forman at Petit Trois

The way Sam Forman tells it, he found his first love before he found his great love.

He married fellow LCA student Marielena Champney in March 2013, and then he discovered his passion for cooking.

“When I met Marielena, I realized I needed to find a career,” Sam said. “I prayed and asked God to give me direction, and looking back now, I can definitely say he did that.”

Sam is a line chef at the highly touted French restaurant Petit Trois, a hipster hole in the Melrose District of Los Angeles. Chef sensation Ludo Lefebvre’s eatery was named top seven best new restaurants nationwide by James Beard and top five internationally by Food & Wine.

“It doesn’t really feel like work,” said Sam, who only coursed his senior year at LCA. “It’s something I love doing. It’s a fun job.”

Of course, Sam loved the food in France, where he lived five years as a missionary’s kid in Marseilles. He delighted in downing crepes, baguettes, ratatouille and fresh mussels on the port of the Mediterranean Seaside city.

“France definitely had an impact on my appreciation for food,” he said. “Food is a big part of the culture in France. The French are very well known for their food.”

At that time, Sam loved basketball and was able to swing a homestay with the Petersons to study his senior year at Lighthouse Christian Academy and play b-ball. He graduated in 2007 and eventually fell in love with the Guatemalan LCA student Marielena, who graduated in 2011.

Then he coursed the $17,000 yearlong culinary course at Cordon Bleu in Hollywood. His first gig afterwards was Latin fusion food at Playa Restaurant in West Hollywood, which quickly changed into an upscale taquería called Petty Cash.

Sam hit it off well with the chef, who moved over to Republique in the La Brea neighborhood and brought him along.

Sam began working mornings at Japanese Knife Imports, where chefs go for high quality dicing knives. The boss there recommended him to Chef Lefebvre for Petit Trois. Today Sam works both the knife job from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and the restaurant 4:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.

“I’m young,” he said nonchalantly, when asked about the heavy work load. Read the rest of the article here.

Editor’s Note: Sam Forman is a Christian who goes to our church. His decision to marry required faith because he didn’t have a career yet. God helped him find a job he loved. We are proud at Lighthouse of the successes of our former students.