Category Archives: Christianity

He astounded with his viral video to calm crying infants. Now Dr. Bob Hamilton has a book

dr bob hamilton holdBob Hamilton was still a college student in the throes of getting a medical degree and becoming a doctor when his young wife delivered shocking news.

She was pregnant.

“How did this happen?” he wondered almost out loud. “What are we going to do now?”

A line of well-meaning friends and fellow students began to lecture them: having a child at such a young age, while in medical school, while scrimping finances, would “destroy us both, along with any career plans,” he remembers. They spoke “with great authority.”

“What we discovered was quite the opposite,” says Dr. Bob in his new book 7 Secrets of the Newborn: Secrets and (Happy) Surprises of the First Year.

51pTEm-HXZL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_The stated goal of the book is to reassure overly-worried newlyweds that parenting is still possible in the perfection-obsessed 2010s and that having children is delightful. It might as well have been a how-to guide as he delves into the nitty-gritty details of changing diapers, scheduling sleep and coping with colic.

Robert Hamilton is a Christian pediatrician in Santa Monica who has led medical teams into Africa and Latin America for 20 years. His viral video “The Hold” — showing how to stop an infant’s crying by wrapping his arms and holding him at 45 degrees — created a sensation and put him on the world’s radar. Currently clocking 37 million views, the 4-minute video earned him the moniker “The Baby Whisperer.”

First he calmed babies, now he’s calming anxiety-ridden parents: Relax and enjoy the cute critters.

The book spends considerable time describing the wonder and beauty of babies in scientific detail. With elegant prose, it evokes images as if it were a documentary inside and outside of the womb. It leaves the reader with a sensation of awe and wonder.

The book also includes fascinating scientific discoveries in the form of excerpted nuggets scattered throughout that are worth a read by themselves. Hamilton could have aimed at the abortion debate directly, but he wisely avoids polemics. Read the rest of  7 Secrets of the Newborn: Secrets and (Happy) Surprises of the First Year.

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Raised in Appalachian family fighting culture, he found peace with God

usa_today_10392817.0Once, Cody almost sliced off his brother’s finger with a knife. On another occasion, his brother punched his ear so hard, it swelled and became a “cauliflower ear.” Another time, they took their squabble outside city limits where they wailed on each other for 45 minutes. This is how Cody Garbrandt became an MMA champion.

But he almost lost a battle with depression until the same brother intervened.

“I almost hung myself,” Cody says on an I am Second video. “He busted down the door and came in and saved my life. He gave me the biggest hug and sat there with me and cried with me. He said everything was going to be all right. That day was a changing point for me in my life. That brought us even closer, you know, attending church together.”

cody-garbrandtCody grew up in the Appalachian mountains of Ohio in small towns where people are as proud of their hometowns as they are poor in the economically depressed areas of Uhrichsville and Denison.

Fighting is a way of life there — especially for the Garbrandt family.

“From both sides of my family, we were fighters.” Cody says. “We had a last name to uphold. Oh you’re from Garbrandt clan or the Mease clan. You don’t mess with those guys.”

He watched his uncle fight, while his grandfather, drunk in the stands, fought with a spectator.

With his brother Zach Garbrandt

“We’d just be sitting there watching it,” he remembers. “That was normal for us.”

Since fighting was “normal,” Cody and his brother Zach made grappling a normal part of sibling rivalries.

“Out of the womb, I was fighting over the bottle,” Cody jokes. “Zach was my fierce competitor. My brother was always bigger, stronger, faster, meaner than me growing up, so that’s why I was always quick to fight: I had something to prove.

“Me and Zach, we fought so many times in our lives. We had some pretty violent fights.”

Once when Zach provoked him to punch him, Cody grabbed a knife in the sink and slashed him, nearly cutting off his middle finger.

0_1218_SPO_LDN-L-UFC-GARBRANT-HG13“I remember he looked at me, wrapped his finger in a paper towel, punched the stove and shattered the whole glass stove and went back to bed,” Cody remembers.

In their last fight, Cody was 17; Zach, 18.

“We ended up fighting over a Subway sandwich,” he recalls.

After Grandma intervened to stop, the brothers jumped in their cars and drove to “the pump house.”

“That’s where we would take out-of-towners to fight,” he says. “We would take them out of city limits where cops wouldn’t go.”

The fight lasted 45 minutes.

“It was always a knock-out, drag-out fight with Zach,” he says. The fights were so fierce it was possible someone might die.

“My knuckles were all cut up, my lip was bloodied, my teeth were all busted up,” he says. “I hit with a right-handed, overhand right. He had the stanky legs like he was walking in potholes. He looked at me with this crazed look, like, ‘Alright, awesome. Cody finally hit me with a nice shot that hurt me.” Read the rest: Cody Garbrandt’s toughest fight.

Son of Pastor of Calvary Chapel went prodigal but came back

ryan ries skateThey called him the “cocaine pirate.”

“In one point in my life I was in this room at my friends house and I was putting ecstasy, heroine, and coke together and I was shooting it up while smoking crack and drinking,” Ryan Ries says in a “This is Me” video. “I mean it got dark in my life, and I’m just sitting in this big mansion going, ‘Is this what my life has become?’”

Growing up in Southern California, Ryan loved skateboarding and partying. As a freshman, he was invited for rides in the cars of the senior girls at lunch. They lit up joints, so he did too.

“That was the beginning of a whole snowball effect of things that would happen,” Ryan says. “You got the hottest chicks in school. They’re seniors, you’re a freshman.”

He was introduced to electronic scene in 1990 where people did hallucinogenics and LSD for hours in the hills.

Ryan started dating a girl. Weeks later, she got an abortion. When he found out, he objected.

ryan ries baptism“I didn’t even know you were pregnant,” he told her. “Next time something like this happens, call me. I’m in love with you. The next time you get pregnant, let’s have the kid.”

Five months later, she informed him of her second pregnancy. By then, Ryan was making money, so he offered to buy a condo for her to raise the kid in.

“I’m too young to have a kid,” she informed him. “Ryan, I love you. I wanna stay with you. But I need to get the abortion.”

He responded that he would leave her if she carried out the plan.

She aborted the baby anyway.

Ryan broke up with her and got mad at God.

ryan-and-crystal ries“How could God do this to me?” Ryan recalls. “I remember being in my room and saying, ‘God, I want nothing to do with You. I hate You, and I’m going to live for myself.’”

It was a chaotic relationship anyhow, more founded on sex than on real love, he says.

A few weeks later, he started a job as director of Skate & Music Marketing for internationally known brands such as Forum Snowboards, C1RCA Footwear, Special Blend, and Foursquare Outerwear. They traveled nine months out of the year doing skating activities and staging concerts. His party routine ramped up. He was in a feeding-the-flesh frenzy.

“Playboy mansion parties, porn stars hosting our events, taking cocaine like crazy,” he remembers. “It feels good for a while. But what happens is the hole in my heart keeps getting bigger and bigger. I keep having to fill it with more alcohol, more drugs, more girls. It’s like the dog that chases its tail. That’s what I felt my life was.”

During 10 years of partying, Ryan tried to go sober three times.

“The problem is you become accustomed to the routine, the habits,” he says. Read the rest: Ryan Ries comes back to Jesus.

Woman who led Trump to Christ had a hard childhood

paula white pastor who led trump to christIn the summer of 2016 when Donald Trump was losing by double digit polling numbers a presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton, he called in pastor/evangelist Paula White for a personal Bible study and wound up accepting Jesus into his heart

Trump “holds his faith close to his chest and is not as open about it as some people,” Paul says.

Paula, who pastors megachurch The New Destiny Church Center in Apopka, Florida, has a knack for getting celebrities and famous people saved. She has ministered to pop icon Michael Jackson, talk show host Tyra Banks and baseball stars Darryl Strawberry and Gary Sheffield.

Paula Michelle Furr grew up in poverty in Tupelo, Mississippi, after her father committed suicide when she was 5. Her mom worked and struggled with alcoholism. Meanwhile care-givers took advantage of Paula through physical and sexual abuse.

paula-whiteWhen she was 9, her mom married a 2-star admiral of the U.S. Navy and family moved to Washington D.C., where they lived in better circumstances, but she struggled with emotional baggage from the past.

“There were the eating disorders: bulimia, anorexia, sleeping with different people, thinking this is how you find love,” she told CBN. “There was such a fear in me that men would never come back so do whatever you have to — hit me, beat me, call me a dog, do whatever, just don’t leave.”

In 1984, while living in Maryland, she converted to Christianity at the Damascus Church of God and received a heavenly vision instructing her to preach the gospel.

paula_white“The Lord gave me a vision that every time I opened my mouth and declared the Word of the Lord, there was a manifestation of His Spirit where people were either healed, delivered, or saved,” she says in Holy Mavericks. “When I shut my mouth, they fell off into utter darkness and God spoke to me and said ‘I called you to preach the gospel.'”

Accordingly, the young lady skipped college and began ministering in the inner-city of Washington D.C. in the late 1980s. After Los Angeles’ Rodney King riots, she moved to L.A. to minister to needy people, whose neighborhoods had been burned and decimated.

Paula started rising up in ministry and led large churches. She started Paula White Ministries, a global media ministry that has touched the lives of hundreds of millions of people. It included her television program Paula White Today, which apparently was how Trump became aware of her and asked for private Bible studies in 2002.

At the time time, Trump was an international businessman and probably hadn’t even entertained the idea of running for president as the tough-talking dark horse candidate.

“He genuinely listened to us,” Paula remembers. “He genuinely cared.”

Paula was then co-pastor with her husband Randy White the multicultural Without Walls Church in Tampa, which ministered up to 15,000 people at a time. She appealed to people of many ethnicities and her program was featured on Black Entertainment Television and either other networks.

“You know you’re on to something new and significant when the most popular woman preacher on the Black Entertainment Network is a white woman,” Ebony magazine said of her at the time. Read the rest of Paula White.

Star-Lord worships the Lord of the stars

5b1045a92000006505b9311cBefore he played Star-Lord of Avengers Endgame, actor Chris Pratt told his high school wrestling coach he would become famous one day and make a lot of money, but the path he chose in his teens did not look very promising at first.

He dropped out of community college part way through his first year, then found work as a discount ticket salesman and daytime stripper.

At 19, he ended up homeless and weed-smoking in Maui, sleeping in a van or a tent on the beach.

Chris-Pratt-01One day he went to the supermarket with some friends to buy booze. Outside a Jews for Jesus worker confronted him: “What are you doing tonight? Will you fornicate tonight? And drugs and drinking?”

“Most likely, yeah,” Pratt replied. “Probably all three of those things. I mean, at least two of them, possibly all three.”

“I stopped because Jesus told me to stop and talk to you,” the man told Pratt. “He said to tell you you’re destined for great things.”

By the time his friends emerged with the liquor, Pratt had already decided to say goodbye to his sinful lifestyle. He accompanied the guy to the Jews for Jesus meeting.

Moved by the power of the Word and the Spirit, Pratt was born again. He surrendered his life to Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

chris pratt wife and childWithin two days, he was busy stuffing envelopes, helping Jews for Jesus spread the gospel. He witnessed to a pastor’s prodigal daughter who was strung out on meth and helped her return to the Lord.

Four weeks later at his job as a waiter for the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Pratt was “discovered” by a movie director and cast for a role. He became famous on NBC’s Parks and Recreation but really catapulted with The Lego Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy.

In 2007, Pratt played opposite his movie love interest Anna Faris in Take Me Home Tonight. The fictional romance on the screen blossomed into a factual romance in real life, and they eloped on a whim, marrying in Bali, Indonesia in 2009.

Pratt got the chance to let his faith grow when their baby was born prematurely and remained hospitalized for months. The couple “prayed a lot,” he said. “It restored my faith in God, not that it needed to be restored, but it really redefined it. The baby was so beautiful to us, and I look back at the photos of him and it must have been jarring for other people to come in and see him, but to us he was so beautiful and perfect.”

Pratt constantly raves about parenting.

“I’ve done all kind of cool things as an actor…but none of it means anything compared to being somebody’s daddy,” he says. “I made promises in that moment about what kind of dad I wanted to be and I just PRAYED that he’d live long enough that I’d keep him.” Read the rest of Star-Lord worships the Lord of the stars.

Racism left her staggering. Jesus gave her self love

christineHer boyfriend broke up with her because his family didn’t want him with a Korean girl.

“I was in complete shock. I did not really understand,” says Christine Petric, in an I am Second video. “Literally, I was being judged off of a picture because of the color of my skin.”

Christine wanted to be on the U.S. women’s soccer team after college. But God had other plans for her and today she runs a fashion business and speaks about self-love and Christianity.

Christine-Petric-4aChristine’s rejection issues started with her birth. She was born in South Korea to a single mom who gave her up for adoption so her daughter could have a better life.

Christine was raised in Texas in a predominantly Caucasian community. The other 6-year-olds asked her why she was so dark, why the backs of her hands weren’t the same color as the palm of her hands.

“When you’re young, all you want is to be like everyone else,” she says. “You want to be normal.”

3d9b0d42b588181629ee3ad3bc5c1460Her parents taught her about God. She asked God why He made her different.

“Why me?” she says. “Why am I the one who has to be different?”

She loved soccer and won a spot on the squad at Rice University and dreamed of Olympic glory.

But that too met with hardship. During the preseason of her freshman year, she pulled her hamstring and was injured. It was a significant setback to her dreams.

Again, she asked, Why God?

With her dreams shattered, Christine began to look elsewhere for fulfillment. She got into a relationship with a guy.

“I so wanted a release from struggling with soccer and from not being on the field,” Christine recalls. “It helped me not to think about it as much if I had something that SEEMED to be good going on off the field.”

She was happy — for a while.

“I haven’t been totally honest with you,” her boyfriend told her one day.

“He basically told me that his family did not approve of me because I wasn’t white,” she remembers.

It was a staggering blow. “I had never met his family,” she recalls. “It made me secretly hate myself. I don’t think I ever felt worse about myself at any other point in my life.” Read the rest: Racism, rejection and self love in Jesus

President of synagogue accepts Yeshua

steven scrap metal business jewAs president of a Jewish synagogue, Steven decided to divorce his wife when she started attending a Christian church. But later he did some soul-searching to find the truth and made a surprising discovery.

Steven’s first encounter with Christianity as a Jewish boy growing up on the East Coast was when his grade school friend leveled a malicious accusation: “You killed Jesus!”

“What are you talking about?” Steven responded, on a One for Israel video. (His last name was not provided.)

For centuries, American and nominal European “Christians” have perpetuated anti-Semitism by calling Jews “Christ killers” when in fact Jesus willingly laid down his life to pay the penalty for everyone’s sins.

synagogue president comes to JesusIn college, a musician friend introduced Steven to drugs. The sensation induced was like nothing he’d ever experienced before.

“What is this stuff?” he said at the time. “It was the most incredible feeling I’ve ever felt.”

He decided to become a musician and left his Jewish faith behind.

While performing at a club one night, he noticed a really cute girl in the attached cafe, and he asked her out. It didn’t take long for him to decide he wanted to marry Monica.

Steven got into the scrap metal business with a couple named Sam and Louise.

Louise “started talking about the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua,” he remembers. “She was like, ‘You’ve gotta hear about this, it’s changed my life. You’ve never heard of Yeshua?’ I said no, and she said, ‘I bet you’ve heard of him as Jesus.’”

“Stop right there,” he cut her off. “I’m Jewish. I don’t believe in Jesus.”

Nevertheless, she had piqued his curiosity.

“I was intrigued about this Yeshua guy, but this Jesus is a no, no, it’s not for me.”

During the next decade, Steven continued to use drugs. After his father passed away at the age of 52 from cancer, Steven felt intense pain and began to abuse drugs even more.

While driving home one day after taking himself to the emergency room, he decided to commit suicide. He knew that the stretch of highway was frequented at that time by heavy trucks, so he decided to spontaneously swerve in front of one and die.

“I can’t take it anymore,” he said. “I’m history. I just wanted to kill the pain.” Read the rest: President of synagogue accepts Yeshua.

As gunfire erupted, he forced official back to sign his marriage license

52592586_307531283287572_4124672598627844096_oLucas N’dile wanted to get married so badly that not even a military coup in Guinea Bissau could stop him.

He was at the courthouse when shooting erupted. People scurried, including the government official who was just about to sign his marriage license in 2005.

Lucas — whose reception was scheduled the next day and was planning to migrate with his family in a week — figured he couldn’t put off the wedding.

So he ran after the bureaucrat, caught him and hauled him back to the desk. All the while, gunshots rang out.

20617081_108153213225381_4877097212088411152_o“The man who was signing my document dropped the pen and ran away. I ran after him. I said, ‘Please I need my wife. I want to marry,”” says Lucas. “He said, ‘People are dying and people are shooting people at the gate, and we are inside the court.’ I said, ‘We are all going to die one day. But I need my marriage today.’”

The bureaucrat couldn’t believe it. But he returned and signed the document.

Throughout life, Lucas’ chutzpah has served him well as a Christian and especially now as a pastor in Dakar, Senegal.

“He’s tenacious and he’ll keep pressing through,” says Pastor Ralph Bowen, who started the church Lucas now leads.

Lucas was born in the Balanta tribe in Bissau, a people group steeped in pagan worship, libations to ancestors, blood sacrifices, palm wine and cashew wine for getting drunk.

In 1995, he dreamed God spoke to him: “If you don’t give your life to Christ, you’re going to die.” Read the rest of Christianity in Africa.

Isn’t Jesus Italian? A Jew thought so.

Mottel-59-400vAs a Jew who grew up in New Jersey and attended public school with Italian Catholics, Mottel Baleston assumed Jesus was Italian.

“My expectation was that the New Testament was a book on how to persecute the Jews,” he recalls.

Since many Jews incorrectly identified Hitler as Christian, generations have warned their children about the dangers of Christianity (there is also a long history in the Middle Ages of Christians persecuting Jews).

But the Jewish rules didn’t appeal to young Mottel either.

“You’ve got to first shave your head, dress in black, you’ve got to wear a white robe, eat only kosher foods, you’ve got to become a vegetarian. You have to face Jerusalem and you’ve got to face Israel when you pray, you pray in Hebrew, and grow a nice big beard,” he remembers. “And if you do all of those outward cultural things, you’ll know the God of the universe.”

He was unconvinced.

18-kotel2“I’m thinking this is crazy that someone thinks that they can force their culture on God or that God is going to be impressed by what you wear, what direction you face, what you eat and all other sorts of things.”

It seemed to him that if there was a God out there who could be known, he should be able to be recognized no matter where he faced, no matter how he’s dressed, because he’s God.

Eventually, his curiosity got the better of him because of his doubts about Judaism. He went to the library and got a New Testament. To be sure, there was a dose of fear with reading a book that his elders had warned him was basically a manual of war on the Jews.

“My expectation was a book on how to persecute the Jews and it was something you should stay away from.”

But as he read the words of Jesus, Mottel was shocked. He discovered the Jesus was Jewish and that the New Testament was written almost entirely by Jews.

He couldn’t believe it.

“I was expecting to find a handbook on how to persecute the Jews,” he says.

But the first sentence (in Matthew) described Jesus as the son of David, and the son of Abraham — all who were Jewish. Read the rest: Jew thought New Testament was a manual of how to wage war on the Jews.

Out of a dark place, Manafest found his call.

manafestChristopher Greenwood fell more than four steps when he attempted a kick-flip off some stairs on a skateboard while trying to go pro in high school.

Permanently injured, his dreams crushed, Greenwood fell into depression.

“My world just fell apart. Everything I had ever wanted to be was just taken from me,” he says. “I was in a dark and discouraged place for a while.”

Since he wasn’t skating anymore, he hung out with musicians and he made rhymes just for fun to while away the time. He discovered he was good at it.

One thing led to another, and today he’s a Dove-award winning Christian rap-rocker using the stage name Manafest (as in manifesting the truth). His daily passion of skating was replaced with singing for the glory of God.

Manafest was born in Pickering, Ontario. His father committed suicide when he was five-years-old, leaving him with his mother and sister. He accepted Christ into his heart a few years later at a Bible camp.

maxresdefaultHe started skating at age 14 and skated every day of his life. After high school, he took off a year from skating and tried to pick up sponsors. Then the fateful accident happened.

Life was doom and doom and gloom. But his buddies helped lift his spirits. Because they played music, he started tinkering. He wasn’t any good — at first.

“I really sucked at it for a while — at rapping. I had to work at it,” he says. “But God just gave me a dream and a passion for this music. I saw a picture of performing in front of a lot of people and sharing my heart on things.

“God did a lot of big things in my life and set me free from a lot of junk,” he says. “I was embarrassed about my past. I wasn’t proud about it. That was a turning point when I was starting to do music.”

Since 2003, he’s produced nine studio albums. He has won multiple awards for the GMA Canada Covenant Awards and GMA Dove Awards. Read the rest: Manafest, out of dark place, he found his call.

Steph Curry’s wife urges women to dress modestly, put husband before kids

ayesha curry modest dress controversyWhen Ayesha Curry tweeted that women should dress modestly, a maelstrom of criticism rained down on her from people who felt she was “shaming” women.

”Its okay for Ayesha Curry to have a preference for how she dresses,” retorted Brandon Patterson a day later in December 2015. “It’s not okay for her to shame other women who don’t share it as classless.”

When it comes to strong faith, Ayesha Curry, wife to NBA sensation Stephen Curry, is a very passionate Christian. She also is the author of the best selling cookbook The Seasoned Life: Food, Family, Faith, and the Joy of Eating Well. She began her career by posting videos of herself cooking on YouTube, which have also featured Steph Curry.

Screen-Shot-2017-12-08-at-7.18.05-AMAyesha invented a meal kit called “Homemade” which delivers family inspired ingredients and recipes that she handpicked herself. The meals are available in the San Francisco Bay area through Whole Foods or can be ordered in 48 states for $75 per week.

Ayesha also thinks about the community. She is an active brand ambassador for team FNV and No Kid Hungry, which are organizations built to end worldwide child hunger.

Her love for cooking and giving back to the community brings out her happy side. But her opinion on apparel brings out controversy.

gettyimages-477494668_ef6a73c5d7e7beaecc72f509d03ad5e3.nbcnews-fp-1240-520“Everyone’s into barely wearing clothes these days huh?” tweeted Ayesha on the fifth of December in 2015,” Not my style. I like to keep the good stuff covered up for the one who matters.”

A backlash came immediately.

”Sounds as if Ayesha Curry thinks her body/other women’s bodies are like consumer goods marketed exclusively for use by men, or something,” tweeted Félicicette La Critique Ayesha.

“@ayeshacurry you’re tearing women down by saying that certain types of dresses make them not ‘classy,’” tweeted Paige.

Some people defended Ayesha.

“Twitter feminists: your body, your rules! Ayesha Curry: I prefer to be covered up. Twitter feminists: No, you can’t do that,” tweeted Kingdakkar.

Ayesha responded, “Regardless of if you like my “style of clothes” or not (which I don’t care) please do not tear women down and degrade them… Not cool peeps” Read the rest of Ayesha Curry modesty controversy.

‘That’s MY Messiah’ Jewish politician declares upon reading Sermon on the Mount

john besser jewish christianJohn Desser has a rich Jewish heritage that includes a maternal grandfather who participated in the First Zionist Congress, which led to the formation of modern Israel.

His father studied at an orthodox Jewish seminary in New York City. When he was in medical school, he donated blood on Shabbat to a Gentile, an infraction under the Jewish code.

“While he knew this wasn’t right under the law, it felt right in his heart, so he went ahead and did it,” Desser says on a One For Israel video. When he consulted rabbis later about his decision, he received a tongue-lashing. It was disillusioning.

“He walked out of the yeshiva, bought a ham sandwich (also prohibited for the Jew) and was never going to look back,” Desser says. “Because if the laws aren’t true, then God’s not true. My father’s heart was broken.”

As a result, Desser was raised in a secular Jewish home and never attended synagogue. “We had a Christmas tree growing up because my father wanted us to be Americans,” he recalls.

jews in politicsWhen Desser finished college, he decided to get involved in politics, so he moved to Washington D.C. where he was hired on the staff of a little-known freshman senator, John McCain.

“While I was working with the staff of McCain, I was invited by another staff member to a breakfast, and another man pulled out a book, and began reading it and as he was reading it, the thought crossed my mind, ‘Is that the Bible?’” he remembers. “‘Is he reading the Bible in front of all these people? Is this a Bible study?’”

When a friend asked Desser what church he attended, he responded curtly: “I DON’T!”

Next, he was invited to a National Day of Prayer breakfast. Because he admired one of the speakers, Secretary of State James Baker, he went.

“He got up in front of 3,000 people and said, ‘It’s pretty neat being Secretary of State to the wealthiest nation in the world, and it’s pretty neat being chief of staff to the most powerful man in the world, and it’s pretty neat being Secretary of State to the most influential country in the world,’” he remembers. “‘But the thing that’s really getting me up in the morning these days and I’m excited about is Jesus.”

Desser was flabbergasted.

“Did he just say, ‘Jesus?” he thought at the time. “Why would James Baker talk about Jesus as something that’s interesting to him?” Read the rest of Jew who found Jesus in politics.

Christian drummer prayed for a penny to stick to the wall — and it stuck

Chuck on the DrumsHis love for drums started when he was two years old.

Charles Christian asked his parents for a drum set. Because they lived in an apartment complex, they thought the incessant banging beats would generate angry complaints from neighbors.

Confronted with his parents’ “no,” the tyke turned to prayer: “Jesus, Jesus!” were the only words his infantile mind could form to give voice to his frustration.

“Acknowledging my little prayer, they saw my faith in Jesus and bought my first drum set,” Charles says. “Miraculously so, we did not get a single noise complaint while living at the apartment.”

Not one complaint.

Christian drummerToday, Charles is known by “Chuck on the Drums” and plays and produces with the pros. The Scottsdale, Arizona, resident plays everything from alternative rock to funk/hip hop with both Christian and secular musicians, including rapper Murs. He uses his talents to shine the light into the lives of the stars who still don’t know the Light.

“I am called to lead people to Christ through music,” he says. “I view music to be my ministry. God will continue to use me as a light that displays to the lost in this broken world. He will create opportunities for me to share the Gospel with those who do not know Jesus.”

Chuck plays and produces for ARCiTEC, a hip hop/ R&B duo in Arizona. He is part of two other bands and plays worship at the Highlands Church in Scottsdale.

He grew up in Chicago, the only child of Bible-believing parents whose faith “never wavers,” he says.

“It was not until I went to my church’s middle school winter camp that I really got saved,” Chuck recalls. “In between the set during worship, the worship leader stated that we as believers should have our own personal relationship with Jesus that does not rely on our parents’ faith.

“That truly rocked me.” Find out how a penny encouraged a Christian drummer to faith in God.

‘Unplanned’: the story of a former Planned Parenthood director turned pro-life

Unplanned-Cable-Networks-Refuse-Tv-Ads“Beam him up, Scotty.”

Saying these words of grim humor, the doctor pushed the vacuum closer, sucking up legs, then torso, then the head.

Abby Johnson had been a Planned Parenthood director but had never seen images of the baby during an abortion. Today, she was pitching in to help the surgeon perform the procedure by manning the ultrasound.

JaredLotz-EmmaElleRoberts-Unplanned-900What she saw made her cry. The baby wriggled and tried to escape the vacuum.

“They always do,” the doctor deadpanned.

Unplanned — in theaters now to coincide with the 40 Days for Life to mobilize prayer warriors outside abortion clinics — is the dramatization of a former clinic director who turned pro-life based on a book of her life.

Abby became the head of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas following missteps in college and out of a sincere desire to help women. She was born into a Christian family, but got attracted to the Planned Parenthood pro-woman propaganda at college club day.

First she volunteered. Then she had two abortions, one surgical, the other chemical. After graduating, she went on staff and worked her way up to director. During her tenure, she oversaw approximately 22,000 abortions.

web3-unplanned-movie-screenshot-youtube

Despite the trauma of her own abortions, she still clung to the ideals of the pro-choice movement — that is, until she saw the baby squirm and try to escape death on the ultrasound screen that guided the surgeon’s aim of the vacuum.

She fled to the bathroom and cried. Later, she walked down the street to the Coalition for Life’s office. She decided to resign. Read the rest Unplanned movie.

She overcame lack of love of father: CASS

Cass synthesizer musicHaving a distant dad only heightened her teenage insecurities.

Cassandra Kanda, a Zimbabwe-born Christian musician making waves in Christian Hip Hop now, grew up in New Zealand where she NEVER fit in high school.

“I struggled with rejection. I was bullied pretty badly when I was 8 years old in school,” she says an exclusive interview with God Reports. “So by the time I was a teenager, rejection was something I didn’t want to ever experience. And when I did experience it, it would hurt more than anything because of all the baggage I was carrying from it since I was young.”

In her soon-to-be-released album, Cass (usually her stage name is stylized CASS) explores the perceived lack of fatherly love and its subsequent repercussions in low self-esteem. It wasn’t until she profoundly understood the Heavenly Father’s love that she righted.

Cass in christian hip hop“When I discovered God’s fatherly love, it revolutionized my life,” she says in email interview. “It’s something till this day that still makes me emotional because I’ve only ever experienced a Father’s love from God. That’s why I’m so passionate about it.”

Cass is the synthesizer wunderkind of Christian music. She was featured recently on Reach Record’s collective song “Light Bearer,” which was a mantra for the label starting 2018.

Who would have thought the immigrant would amount to — or surmount such hardships — to attain renown in Christian music? Her beginnings were humble.

She immigrated, with her family, when she was 7. She attended church unrelentingly with her family and accepted Jesus as a youngster and then rededicated her life to Christ when she saw the play “Heaven’s Gates & Hell’s Flames” at age 16.

cass in concert christian“That’s when I really started to walk with God fully,” she says.

The adjustment to a new culture was worsened by a hostile reception at grade school where she, as a small African girl, was bullied by the New Zealand kids so badly that her parents had to change her educational center.

Her father, perhaps because of the African culture, was emotionally detached, Cass says, and this further damaged her self-concept.

“I grew up with a distant parent. This teamed up with the fact that I was bullied pretty badly,” she says. “So I tried everything I could do to fit in (which never worked cause I NEVER did fit in in high school), and it would bother me so much.”

Fortunately, she was growing in the Word and prayer, and eventually she realized fully God’s love.

“It’s not until I realized who I was in Christ, that’s when that fear of rejection broke of me,” Cass says. “What I was looking for — that acceptance or approval from people I was never going to find from the crowd. I would only find it in God.” Read the rest of CASS Christian musician.

John Givez leaves Christian Hip Hop, smokes pot

john givez marijuanaAfter singing for Christian Hip Hop for two years, talented musician John Givez stepped away from faith and returned to smoking pot, as seen in his music video “After Hours,” filmed in 2017.

When the rhythms & blues artist from Oceanside joined with Christian rappers Ruslan and Beleaf, it was heralded as a huge catch for Christian music.

But his turning away brought the CHH world great sadness, with many praying for the return of a prodigal.

Growing up, Givez attended church five times a week. His dad was a preacher and his mom worked in the choir. But his church and home were in the rough east side of town, and he was constantly harassed about joining a gang — either Pozole or East Side Crip — inside school and even coming out of church.

john givez backslideAdd to that the fact that his dad suffered emotional issues of PTSD as a veteran and schizophrenia, and you have the perfect storm for a trouble-prone youth who had an uneasy relationship with his father.

“The devil really tried to have his way with my family,” he remembers. “It took awhile for him to be diagnosed. That took a toll on me.” He stopped attending church during his teen years.

“I started getting into trouble with the law,” he says. “I caught a case for burglary, and I got caught with some Oxycontin. The burglary was a misdemeanor, but (the drug) took my case to the next level.”

john givezGivez faced a three-year prison term.

His dad bailed him out of county jail in 2014. The gesture of love and compassion from his father paved the way toward reconciliation.

“I remember sitting in the holding tank with these other fools, I remember God speaking to me. That was the first time I heard Him” in a long time, Gives said.

Look around you, God impressed on his heart.

“I look around, and all of us in there hated authority, and I didn’t know why,” he remembers. “That right there was a life-altering moment for me, in my own life, having to learn, just being hard headed, being smacked by the way things go.”

When he was bailed out, his dad urged him to get a job to show the judge he was changing.

At that time, a Christian rapper named “Beleaf” started dating John’s sister. He invited John, then 19, to church and offered him a job.

“That took me off the streets to where I didn’t have so much idle time, you know, to be bored and get into something stupid,” he says. “The Lord really started working on me. I was still smoking and drinking.”

Givez started reading his Bible, which was hard because he didn’t like to read. He wound up reading the Bible for eight hours.

“I gave my life to the Lord right there,” he remembers. “This was real. I would start in Revelations. (I realized) I’m going to Hell, for sure. Then I learned that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. From that moment I was like, ‘I don’t know how my homies are going to feel about this.’”

When he finally emerged from his room, his mom looked at him quizzically and remarked: “It looks like a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders.” Read the rest of: Is John Givez still Christian?

When the voodoo lords tried to kill him, Nestor Kouassi had to pray and stand up to them

nestor kouassi christianity vs voodooNestor Kouassi had seen the voodoo priests and witches do unutterable things: make statues move, bury people alive who later come out of the jungle, send bird spirits to kill enemies.

So when he accepted Jesus in 1997 and started what became a high-stakes spiritual battle with them in his town of Houndjohoundji, Benin, it was a fearful thing.

“A lot of people didn’t like it that we were calling with fire and praying all night,” Nestor says. “They threatened us they would kill us. They make false accusations. Anything to get us in trouble.”

Nestor got introduced to the gospel even when there wasn’t a single Christian church in his village of 1,400 people. His nation, Benin, is renowned for being the worldwide birthplace of voodoo. Even the name of his village was a satanic incantation.

voodoo ritualPeople feared the voodoo lords. Christianity couldn’t crack the town.

But then one Christian, a certain Mr. Lawson, when he came to visit his mom in town from time to time, would preach and share the gospel with anyone who wished to listen.

“We would mock him,” Nestor remembers. “People would insult him.”

Then his best friend, Cyrille, accepted Jesus to get cured of a nasty, prolonged stomach pain. Cyrille was a “rough man” who would steal and fight for nothing, so when Nestor saw an authentic change in him after two weeks, he became convinced.

“He completely changed,” he says. “I said, ‘If this guy can change, there must be a God. I want to get to know that God.’”

HoundjohoundjiBut Cyrille didn’t remember the “sinner’s prayer.” So they just read the Bible together 4-5 hours a day. After one week, Nestor was born again.

“Something happened in my life, and I knew that I knew that I knew that I had met the man Jesus,” Nestor recalls. “It felt like a liquid fire going through my soul, and all of my fears of witchcraft and voodoo disappeared and the river flowed from the inside.”

The nearest church was seven miles away. When they couldn’t attend service there, they devoured the Bible together. After two weeks, they were inspired to share their faith.

“We could not hide it anymore. We took to the streets and wanted to share with people our new discovery: Jesus of Nazareth, woo!” he recounts, relishing the memory.

The power of Jesus began to be proclaimed and demonstrated with healing miracles in town, and the town chief and ruling class — all priests and witches of satanic magic — didn’t like the competition.

“Our preaching was met with hostility like you’ve never seen before,” Nestor says. “What made them furious is that we would pray for people and they would get healed. People would say, ‘If you’re sick, go to the Jesus guys.’”

V4Another friend, Valentin, converted and the three friends read the word and ministered in the streets together. But nobody else dared cross the powers of the town and join their group, even though they viewed them favorably.

The prayers of Nestor and his friends began to disrupt the voodoo power, he says. So the witches attacked them.

“They didn’t want real Christianity. It disturbed them,” Nestor says. “They wouldn’t be able to operate anymore. If we’re calling upon Jesus, there is a power struggle. The witches cannot operate when we are calling upon Jesus.”

The witches had a technique they called a “spiritual gun,” and the victim target of their incantations would writhe in pain from what felt like shards of glass cutting his insides. But the gun didn’t work on Nestor and his buddies, he says.

The priests had a special “founder drum” that when they beat it and pronounced their incantations, lightning would strike the targeted victim even when there was no thunderstorm. Again, it didn’t work.

For six or seven years, the arm-wrestling match continued. Nestor was going to high school in the biggest town in the area nearby, Grand-popo. He would face off with the voodoo priests on weekends and vacations.

The voodoo festivals began to misfire. Things didn’t work. The supernatural tricks fizzled. The town was abuzz with the goings-on.

“People began to question the witches’ power,” he says. “They said, ‘These Jesus guys must have something.’ They were scared. They listened to us, they admired us, but joining us was a real problem.”

Tensions were rising and the threats were increasing. When the chief witch threatened Nestor’s mother with her son’s death, Nestor went to confront him. He found all the witches together in their afternoon gathering in the public place.

“They told us they would reduce us to nothing. I told them nothing would happen,” Nestor remembers.

“In this battle, you will definitely see Jesus,” he responded to their threats. Find out what happened in this power struggle between this new Christian and voodoo witches and priests in Benin.

He always won until his he lost his wife

zGkHc3DQ_400x400Chicago Bears star Tommie Harris was the best at everything, but he’d never been tested — until his wife died unexpectedly 41 days into their marriage.

“I was #1 getting drafted, #1 going to Oklahoma University, so I never was tested,” Harris recounts on a Grace For Purpose video. “I knew God in a good place. I didn’t know Him in a place when things didn’t go the way I wanted them to go.”

The Texas native was playing for the San Diego Chargers at the time. On a visit from his fiancé, Tommie decided to move the wedding date forward and go to the courthouse right then and there on New Year’s. They already had two kids together.

tommie harris and wifeThe church ceremony would come a few months later, and to fit the white dress better, Ashley wanted a breast reduction. It was a simple procedure, but she never woke up. A brain aneurysm tragically snuffed her life out on the operating table in 2012.

“I had something like $25 million in the bank when I lost Ashley, and not one dollar had been able to help her,” Tommie laments. “If it could have, I would have given every last cent to save my wife.” Read the rest of Tommie Harris’ loss.

A Jewish millionaire lost it all, got Christ and thus found more than he ever had

steve olin olshanskySteve Olin, a Jewish boy from Brooklyn, made and lost millions, fell into drugs and was close to becoming homeless when he found the ultimate answer to set his life on course.

As a high school pitcher, he threw baseballs in the high 90 mph range. The New York Yankees wanted to sign him in 1962. His lifelong dream was within reach.

But his family, of modest means, insisted he go to college.

“The Yankees were impressed with me,” Olin says on an Israel Media Ministries video. “But my father and my family had never gone to college. My dad wouldn’t co-sign the contract because I was a minor. He said, ‘Son, I want you to get a college education, and then after college you can go into baseball.’

“I was heartbroken,” he says.

steve olshansky st johns baseballStill he honored his parents. He received a full scholarship at St. John’s University, where he is listed as Steve Olshansky on their ’65-66 roster. (Steve Olin who played for the Cleveland Indians is a different person.)

“I wanted to stay in New York,” he says. “God has a sense of humor that a Jewish boy went to a Catholic university.”

On the college baseball team, Olin injured his pitching arm.

“My team went on to the college world series without me. My arm was lame. I couldn’t pitch anymore. My fast balls had gone down to mediocre speed.”

Needless to say, he was crushed.

“God has different roads for us to go down,” he says, now looking back over his life. “He just didn’t have baseball as the road for me.”

Instead, Olin went into the business world.

“I rose very, very quickly to the very, very top of the business world,” he remembers. “God opened every door for me. Every position I went into as I climbed up in the business world got better and better and better.”

At 31, he started his own electronics business. “I was fortunate to get the Atari video game line. Every door I went through, it was like God opened up for me. It was like magic. It was like going to Las Vegas and throwing sevens, one after another. I had millions of dollars in the bank, a penthouse in New York, a penthouse in Miami, a 15-acre weekend estate in Connecticut.”

In eight years, he did $2 billion in sales, and his public company was valued at $6 billion, he says. His wife and child lived the good life with him.

Out of the blue, panic attacks hit him. Read the rest of Jewish millionaire comes to Christ.

Barely — miraculously — escaped from rebels in Sierra Leone

pa gbino

Pa Gbani

When the Sierra Leonean rebels swept through Kabala torching houses and government buildings, Pa Gbani decided not to run. In his room, he read his Bible, prayed and waited for the inevitable.

As a detective at the police barracks, Pa was among the targets as 30 rebels trained by Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gadaffi doused buildings with gas and fired rocket-propelled grenades during the 1994 attack.

church kabala sierra leone

Pastor Ralph’s church Kabala, Sierra Leone, circa 1994

Miraculously, the fire died down before reaching his room. In fact, the same thing happened for everybody in his church.

“Nobody was killed or injured or had property loss that was in our church,” says Pastor Ralph Bowen, a missionary from Santa Monica at the time in Sierra Leone. “God just protected them. It was a day of miracles.”

It was Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego all over again.

One church member hid in a banana tree. Two guys lay quietly on top of a thick wall hidden in the dusk. Pastor Ralph had the good fortune to have a vehicle, in which he fled with his wife and a few disciples.

ralph bowen missionary africa

Pastor Ralph and Brenda Bowen

At one point on the road out of town, a total stranger came out to him and warned him to head down an alternative route. The rebels were ahead, he warned. Ralph found out later it was true.

There were an estimated 50 deaths in the rebel attack on Kabala.

The deliverance of the American missionary’s church members was extraordinary because they weren’t known for caution. The fact of the matter is that Ralph and his street-preaching disciples courted danger as a result of their boldness. Read the rest of the dramatic details of American missionary under attack by Sierra Leonean rebels in 1994.

CHH artist came out as gay, then announced he had HIV

jgivens christian or notAfter “coming out” as homosexual in June, Jeremiah Givens, a gifted lyricist who stormed Christian Hip Hop, just announced he has HIV.

“As a man living with HIV, I’m taken aback right now,” tweeted the man whose Twitter handle is @pray4jgivens. In response, his peers in the industry have shown him love. “You are in my prayers bro,” responded DJ Wade-O, for example.

This is not a tidy gutter-to-glory story. This is a Christian tragedy in five acts, which includes the latest doctrinal assault on 2000 years of church teaching. Some may debate whether this story ends in glory or tragedy, but most will be praying a redemptive thread prevails.

Jeremiah Timothy Givens was born on May 27, 1987 in Los Angeles, California, but his parents moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, so that their son wouldn’t get ensnared in gangs.

huge_avatarGivens was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from USC when he was introduced to drugs.

He partied on weekends, but followed a pattern of cleaning up his mess so he could return to school on Monday. A friend introduced him to crystal meth, a potent and deadly drug, and it became nine-year battle to finally get free.

Towards the end, Givens was lying on a bathroom floor, not caring if he died. He walked away from that near overdose and eventually stumbled across the hip hop of Jackie Hill-Perry. She was a Christian rapper who had turned her back on lesbianism.

Because of her music, Givens started attending church. Eventually, he met Propaganda, a CHH sensation, and Prop helped him get signed on his then-label Humble Beast Records in 2014. His album Fly Exam, a takeoff of the Icarus myth, was an examination of the fallacies and enticements of drug addiction.

“It’s about being dope and struggling with doing dope while being dope in Hip Hop,” Givens told HipHopDX. “It’s kind of a chronicle of my life in that time period of writing it. It’s sad that the older generation can’t forewarn these teenagers about the comedown part” after getting high.

jeremiah givens rapperRappers who praise drugs should be truthful about the negatives, Givens said. They should say, “Yo if you go down this road, you’re gonna feel like a superstar at the party, but it’s gonna lead to this and this and this and this.’”

Fly Exam peaked at number 19 on BillBoard in the category of Top Christian Rap Albums.

After erupting in CHH, Givens broke the Internet when he announced his homosexuality in June 2018. He responded to a Twitter follower who said, “You gay bro. Instead of hearing form others, imma (sic) just ask.” His reply: “Yup.”

CHH colleagues were quick to express love towards him and suggest fans pray for him, but other commenters resorted to a more confrontational approach: “He just needs to get delivered,” one said.

Givens retorted with a flurry of blistering responses until 5:00 a.m., according to Jay from The Crew who monitors CHH.

“Y’all are in a cult and calling me the devil,” he retorted. “Zealots are insane.”

Again: “I see why people have disgust for self righteous. They’re so fragile & full of false piety… They can curse you to hell, attack your business, defame your character, while secretly jerking off to incognito browser tabs.”

Givens response contained some valid points: Most Christians would be wise to remember that Jesus says the one without sin should be the first to cast the stone.

But behind the conflagration is an even bigger issue: Should homosexuals be accepted in evangelical churches and doctrine revised to no longer see it as a sin? Intentionally or not, Givens became a beacon for those pushing for a major revision of the Bible. Read the rest of JGivens gay CHH artist.

Tori Kelly rejected?

tori kelly smileFirst she got cut from a record label. Then she got cut from American Idol.

Tori Kelly was told she wasn’t pretty enough, wasn’t bubbly enough, wasn’t talented enough.

“This wasn’t just one door closing. This was ANOTHER door closing out of all these doors that have closed in my face,” Tori says on an “I am Second” video. “I was so devastated. I was this singer who if I failed, then people would be disappointed.”

Wut? Tori Kelly cut?

tori-kelly christian singerToday, Victoria Loren Kelly, 27, is one of the most heralded singers in pop music. The Capital Records-signed Christian gospel musician has won two Grammys after songs on her two albums “Unbreakable Smile” and “Hiding Place” charted Billboard’s Hot 100.

The painful rejections in her attempt to follow her dreams have led her to some insights valuable to young girls who think they don’t measure up.

“It might take a while but one day your going to grow into your own skin and be the woman that God uniquely made as you,” the star says. “You’re being built into the woman that God wants you to be. And you don’t have to compare yourself to anybody.”

Tori Kelly ChristianBorn in Wildomar, California, Tori had a dad of Jamaican and Puerto Rican ancestry and a mom descended from German and Irish blood. Her parents loved music, exposed her to every genre and encouraged her early interest.

At age 12, she signed with Geffen Records, but that deal fizzled. She taught herself the guitar and began composing songs, which she uploaded to YouTube, getting one million subscribers. She competed in American Idol’s ninth season but fell out before the final 24.

“That’s when I went back into my room and I started to journal a lot,” she confides. “I wrote about confusion, feeling different. I was getting out these emotions that I’ve never been really good at explaining. It was just kind of this messy book of all my thoughts and prayers. (I wrote down:) ‘Lord, guide me. I don’t know who I am without singing.’”

The downtime — the time alone crying with God — was unpleasant. But ultimately, they were good for her. Read the rest: Tori Kelly failed.

El Chapo’s mom is a Christian who prays for her son to repent

Consuelo Loera Pérez, madre del Chapo.
foto RiodoceWhile drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman sits in a New York jail waiting a likely life sentence, his mother in Sinaloa lives modestly, attends church and prays for him to “turn himself over to the Lord to serve Him before it’s too late.”

“He’s already experienced what there is in the world and knows what it has,” María Consuelo Loera Pérez told Univision in 2014. “Now he should seek God so that he knows that only God can sort out his problems.”

chapoHer simple house doesn’t look like a mega drug trafficker furnished it. It can only be reached using rugged dirt roads that wind into the mountains.

For the last 36 years, Consuelo has faithfully attended the Apostolic Church of the Faith in Jesus Christ.

ivan guzman drug trafficking money

While El Chapo’s son flaunted his wealth, Consuelo conspicuously lacks such luxuries.

Her humble lifestyle consisting of sewing, reading her Bible and attending church is a stark contrast to the lavish lifestyle her son once lived. El Chapo, 61, rose to prominence in the Sinaloa Drug Cartel by pioneering drug trafficking pathways into the U.S. through long tunnels, CNN reported.

Once the drugs were inside America, it was distributed by cells in Arizona, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York overseen by El Chapo.

Chapos momBy murdering rivals, El Chapo amassed an estimated fortune of $14 billion and lived in resort-like mansions with gold-plated AK-47s and diamond-encrusted pistols. He reportedly bragged to have killed up to 3,000 people to stay at the top of the world’s largest drug cartel.

Twice El Chapo was arrested by Mexican authorities and twice he escaped prison, in 2001 and again in 2015. He was recaptured in 2016 and extradited to the United States. He was found guilty on Feb. 12 of all 10 federal charges for trafficking, money laundering and illegal possession and use of firearms. He will be sentenced in June and is expected to be condemned to life in prison without parole.

chapo wife

Chapo’s third wife.

“God is strengthening me. I know He is with me and with my children,” says Consuelo. “As his mother, I’m always asking God for his well being. As a mother, I’m feeling bad for what he’s going through. As a mother, one does her best to raise her children, and then when they’re grown, they go and do whatever they want. Whether they do good or bad, one still is mother.” Read the rest: El Chapo’s mom is Christian and praying for her son.

Boredom, stress, frustration

boredom, stress, frustration They are simply dangerous foes. They send you into drugs or some other sin.

When the Bible exhorts to “take captive” every thought, these are intended to be arrested and hauled off to jail. It’s a telling image, but how?

How many a saint has dabbled with sin simply out of boredom? How many a saint has sought a release from stress? How many a Christian has reacted against frustration by throwing himself into sin?

Because of boredom, David falls with Bathsheba. Because of stress, Elijah abandons post and runs off to the desert. Because of frustration, Moses calls it quits and retires to shepherding.

If you are in Christianity for the long haul, you will eventually grapple with these three, which threaten to become your demise.

This is why the fruits of the spirit counter each. Instead of boredom, we have joy. For stress, peace. In place of frustration, trust. In Christ, we possess the arms to counter the devil’s wiles. This is not to say I have perfectly mastered it. No, I rather encourage myself while encouraging others.

Colorful Johnny Cash, the outlaw, comes to Christ

10-73In 1944, Johnny Cash’s much-loved older brother got pulled into a table saw that nearly cut him in half. After lingering between life and death for a week, Jack tragically passed away. The 11-year-old Johnny was plagued with guilt because he had premonitions and failed to warn his brother.

The troubling tragedy set the tone for the tortured singer’s entire life.

With more than 90 million records sold, 1,500 songs written and 24 #1 hits, Johnny Cash is easily one of the most famous musicians in the world. The man who wore black, sang country music and got ensnared by amphetamine and barbiturate abuse would ultimately side with God at the end of his life.

34-53“I am not a Christian artist,” said the man who reignited his career by singing concerts in prison. “I am an artist who is a Christian. There is a spiritual side to me that goes real deep, but I confess right up front that I’m the biggest sinner of them all.”

Johnny Cash was born Feb. 26, 1932 into a family that received farmland under the New Deal in Arkansas. He was raised on Gospel hymns and joined the U.S. Air Force out of high school even though his dream was music.

He married Vivian Liberto in 1954, but she divorced him 12 years later because of his alcohol and drug abuse, constant touring, and infidelities.

johnny cash bad boyIn Memphis he signed for Sun Records in 1955 and made such hits as “Hey Porter!” and “Cry! Cry! Cry!” His bass-baritone voice, train-sound guitar rhythms and rebelliousness mixed with a somber and humble demeanor won the hearts of Americans.

With his notorious free prison concert at San Quentin in 1958, Cash exploited his outlaw image to catapult to even greater fame. His record “Folsom Prison Blues” hit #5 country music in the nation. Read how Johnny Cash came back to Christ after trying to commit suicide by descending into a cave in Tennessee. The story also details is amphetamine addiction, his arrests, his marriage to June Carter, his prison concerts , how he threatened to whip the KKK with 40 lashes and how he set 508 acres of national forest on fire.

Saudi admired Bin Laden until he compared Bible to Koran without prejudice

al fadi fan of obama bin ladinAl Fadi was proud to be a Muslim born in Saudi Arabia, the center of Islam. As a teenager, He was so proud that he even wanted to join the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan and die for his convictions under the leadership of Osama Bin Laden.

“I really admired this man to be able to leave the wealth of his family for the sake of proving that, ‘I’m here to fight and die for the god that I worship,’” Al Faid told CBN. “I knew that if I were to go die for the cause of this fight to promote Islam, that’s the only time my sins would be forgiven. I would not just go to Heaven but to the highest level, to paradise. So why not go for what is guaranteed, and that is to die?”

But his parents forbade him. By the time he was 16, he memorized half the Koran and led prayers in his local mosque. He was learning the branch of Islam called Wahhabism, a strict version that also generated a large number of extremists and terrorists.

Al Fadi Jihadist Christianity“Maybe the version of Islam I had learned was a little bit twisted in its teachings,” he said.

When he completed his engineering degree, his father encouraged him to get a graduate degree in America. He was accepted to the University of Arizona. But at the same time, he was nervous. “There was the danger that I might be drawn away from the path that I was taking, the rigid Islamic path.”

He decided he would not just resist temptations in America; he would actively proselytize and bring people into Islam.

At the university, he got involved in a language and cultural orientation program. The purpose was to improve his English and ease his transition to America. He was hooked up with a volunteer family that took him under wing, talked to him and would help him understand the cultural differences.

He decided to start his proselytizing mission with this family. But they were Christian.

He had been taught that Christians in America were morally weak. But this family showed a strong sense of values and character.

al fadi wahhibi muslim“It was very baffling to me because I asked myself, ‘Where did they get this moral value from?’ I had been taught that their Bible was corrupt. But I felt like a spiritual midget compared to them.”

He was further mystified by their selfless concern. When he graduated, they took off work to attend his ceremony. God began to soften his heart.

“I started to realize that Islam was not the religion I grew up thinking it was,” he admitted.

When he landed a job in America, he found that a co-worker was also a Christian. The tug-of-war of competing faiths started again, and Al Fadi was again impressed by his Christian testimony.

“Why is it that by following the prophet Jesus, he was transformed?” he recalled. “Yet I was following the best of the prophets, Mohammad, and I was still feeling the same inner ache. I began to realize that Jesus was the source of the change.”

The downfall of his faith came when the Twin Towers fell down. Jihadists hijacked jets and crashed them into the World Trade Center skyscrapers in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.

The cold realization that he once aspired to be like them suddenly hit him.

“To watch people willing to go that far, to take with them hundreds of lives… These are innocent people. They have nothing to do whatsoever with a war,” he said. Read the rest of how this Muslim converted to Christianity when he compared the Bible to the Koran.

Eating to die young. Here’s how.

eating to dieFor decades, Bible-believing Christians have been told and retold that one of God’s promises is they can live to a ripe old age, 80 years to be exact. This “promise” is based on Psalm 90:10 NIV: ” “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures…:” It was a mantra for decades.

There’s a problem with this thesis though. First off, this psalm was written by Moses, who lived to 120. Secondly, there’s another verse equally valid that seems to have been overlooked. It is Genesis 6:3 (NIV): humans’ “days will be be a hundred and twenty years.”

Why was the promise for Psalm preferred over Genesis? There is no exegetical reason.

So I adhered to 120 years. I started proclaiming in faith, as we Christians are wont to do, that I would live 120 years. “If you want to live only 80 years, that’s fine,” I would tell my friends. “But I’m believing the promise in Gen. 6:3 for 120 years.”

I was onto something. I mean, who wants to die?

But I also understood that I played a part in the fulfillment of that promise. I knew enough to understand that my body is “temple to the Holy Spirit,” as 1 Corinthians 3:16. I wouldn’t “trash” the temple. In Christian terms, I would “steward” by body as a precious gift from God, not to be abused.

Here’s what you need to do if you want to push the upper limits of the Bible’s longevity promises:

Exercise – So much good comes from a vigorous walk through the neighborhood or a trip to the gym! God didn’t design the body for today’s sedentary jobs; they were supposed to labor in the fields. The switch to desk jobs has been a death knell for health: obesity, heart disease, even cancer. Make time for exercise and it will make time lengthen in your life.

Cut down on fat – Nor did God intend for us to eat so much meat. In New Testament times, some sort of porridge was the everyday fare. Only on special occasions did the common man enjoy meat. Modern man has multiplied exponentially its consumption, and the the overload has clogged up our blood vessels and burdened the heart. Saturated fats are loaded into processed foods to improve taste. Is it any wonder that heart disease is the leading cause of death in America?

Read the rest of the tips for longevity.

Confession: I failed to become a vegan. Best thing for my health ever.

transition to healthyNo wonder a huge segment of America simply ignores them.

The health nuts.

They are simply failing you and themselves because they fail on the secret keyword: transition. You don’t, can’t, shouldn’t drop sweetened iced tea cold turkey. Not overnight will you win become the crossfit queen.

There’s something better than a new habit, and that’s a new direction.

Start slow because the key is to enjoy your changes.

Embark on change but don’t rush into the  Army Ranger’s regimen. Your journey to a healthy lifestyle is a just that: a journey. Make small digestible changes.

I once endeavored to become vegan. I only got halfway there. In so doing, I learned that halfway is better than no way. I came short of my full goals, but I learned that the progress I had made was good

Since then, I’ve never gotten off the path to health. And progressively through the years, I’ve continued to get healthier, both in terms of eating and workout.

Here are some tricks to transition to health:

  1. Drown it with salad dressing. They are calorie- and fat-laden. But who cares? You are starting to each lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli and other ground-born roughage that can be hard for those used to Twinkies.
  2. Spread the butter. While it’s loaded with fat and usually contains a jolt of salt, it eases down the transition to brown and whole grain breads.
  3. Heap on the cheese. Lurking in this delicacy is a buttload of fat (the fat from a whole gallon of milk is used for just one pound of cheese). But it packs and protein punch and help you get over the hot pocket.

Read four more tricks to “transition” to healthy.

Start to live

We all die, not all of us live

The Declaration of Independence enshrined “the pursuit of happiness,” but lately Americans have deified it to the point of banality. In the quest for fun (money, pleasure, entertainment, etc.), almost everybody comes up short.

In the end, Jesus gives greater satisfaction than all the world’s schemes. Don’t arrive at the end of your life, never having started it. Today, receive Jesus and discover true love, true meaning, true purpose.

By mistake, her mom brought her a Bible

muslims JesusChaima wanted to join ISIS and kill Christians.

“I loved to see people dying, I loved to see them bleeding,” Chaima says on a Peter Ahlman video on YouTube. “I was seeing videos of decapitation on the Internet and I loved it. I was just blind.”

Her mother was an immigrant from Africa to Sweden and both parents were devout Muslims. Chaima saw life as cruel and wondered, “What am I doing in this world?”

wanted to join isis“I tried to kill myself 3 times. I was doing drugs. I just wanted to destroy myself.”

As a teenager, she contemplated running away to Syria to join the ISIS terrorist group. She had friends who encouraged her and she even arranged to marry a man in Ankara.

“I hated people who were not Muslim. I wanted to kill them. I was bound to dangerous things,” she says. “I didn’t feel loved by anyone. I was weak; she showed me love. I fell in the trap.”

She had a passion for reading, so her mom, concerned for her bouts with depression, brought her library books. One of the books, by accident, was the Bible. Chaima decided to read it and try to prove to Christians that they were wrong.

“I started to read the Bible to prove to Christian that they were wrong,” she says. “But I was wrong. The grace of Jesus Christ started to touch me. I started to read things like, ‘Pray for your enemies’ and ‘love them.’”

baptism of ISIS girlThis cast in stark contrast her own murderous religious ideas.

Everything inside her mind told her to reject the Gospel. “But in my heart Jesus started to do a work.”

She finally let down her defenses against the pure Word of God and the Holy Spirit. She accepted Jesus into her heart and became born-again.

Soon, she felt the need to inform her Muslim family of the change in her heart.

“That’s when the persecution started,” she says. “They stopped talking to me. During months, I was alone in my room. It was like a prison. Because I had a past of being alone and thinking about suicide and feeling depression, it wasn’t good for me.”

But this time she only fell into depression once. Read more about Don’t read the Bible; it’s dangerous.

He forged prescriptions for pain killers

David Valcich FCADavid Valcich was charged with 18 felonies and three misdemeanors for writing fake prescriptions and turning them in to pharmacies. He faced a maximum of 45 years in prison.

When David was 9 years old, his parents divorced. The beleaguered boy was asked which parent he wanted to live with. His dad encouraged him to stay with mom.

“It was tough. My world was shattered,” David told CBN.

His reaction to the crumbling stability in his life? Uncontrollable behavior.

Shuttled frequently between mom and dad, it seemed neither could impose good behavior on him.

David parents divorced to drugsHe got into fights, bouts of anger, confusion and rebellion. He spent time in juvenile delinquent centers “going from one foolish act to the next.”

In middle school, he found he could channel his rage in weightlifting and football.

“It gave me some sense of control over some area of my life,” he recalled.

He graduated high school “by the skin of my teeth.” He walked onto a Division 1 football team at Middle Tennessee State University, but he fell into partying. First it was steroids. Then injuries introduced him to painkillers. Like so many, he got hooked.

A “computer savvy friend” helped him write out prescriptions for more drugs.

“Anything to numb the pain from emotions and wounds that had never been dealt with or healed,” David told CBN.

One day when he walked in the pharmacy, there were two undercover narcotic agents waiting for him. He resisted arrest and in the ensuing melee, the whole pharmacy got trashed.

david vallesHe was then charged with the 18 felonies and 3 misdemeanors — confronting him with a maximum possible sentence of 45 years.

All but one of the charges were dropped, leaving him to serve a mere month in jail.

He realized that his chances for an education and a sports career had gone out the window, which led him to do cocaine for the next 10 years.

He calls his 20s “the lost decade.”

“It was a miserable existence completely devoid of meaning and hope,” he said.

David overdosed three times, and on that last time, in June 2006, when he woke up in the hospital, the doctors told him his kidneys were shutting down. He had renal failure and had tested positive for Hepatitis C.

Doctors gravely informed him that he would need dialysis and he’d be dependent on it for the rest of his life unless he got a transplant.

“It was like someone had just dropped a payload of bricks on my chest,” he says. “Utter hopelessness and despair. As I waited there in the hospital, I was mourning the wasted years.”

After four days, he was told that he was not getting any better and that they needed to start him on dialysis the following day.

That night, David cried out to God: “I don’t even know if You’re real, but if You are, I want to know You. Please help me.”

The doctors came in the next day with shocking, yet great news. They didn’t know how, but he had a complete turnaround and was being discharged later that day.

He was instantaneously, miraculously healed!

“I knew it was God answering my prayer,” he says. “I was amazed.”

Over the next six months, David moved in with his mother and asked many questions about his faith and sought out God.

On Christmas morning at 3:00 am, David couldn’t sleep and went out to his living room to watch television. The Gospel of John was playing and he knew, again, that “God was doing something in him and that Jesus had died for me.”

“I just knew that not only did God heal my kidneys in that hospital bed, but that Jesus Christ was real and was born into this world,” he says. “I didn’t have this full grasp of the gospel, but I understood in that moment on that morning that Jesus died for me. It was just mind-blowing.” Read the rest of prescription pain killer addiction.

Lost in lust, Brittni responded to the Gospel after reading about Jezebel in the Book of Revelations

From Porn Star to Preacher Brittni de la MoraStrapped for cash in college, Brittni De La Mora found it pretty easy to fall into sex work. She started with stripping and made great money compared to her peers at school in Santa Barbara.

“I felt very rejected as a child,” she says. “So I was basically looking for love in all the wrong places.”

An attractive young lady, she drew a lot of attention, a lot of tips — and offers to get deeper into perdition.

“Producers came, and they started saying things that I didn’t hear at home. They were saying, ‘You are beautiful. You are destined to be a star. We absolutely love you. We make ‘romance movies.’ If you’re ever interested, give us a call,’” she says.

Brittni de la Mora and child“There’s nothing romantic about a porno. I knew what they were talking about and I figured, ‘I’m already promiscuous, and I already take my clothes off for money, so I might as well take it one step further.’”

Ultimately, she dropped the college career. Why continue? She was earning $30,000 a month making movies and another $50,000 escorting in New York on weekends. What were her fellow students making with 4-year degrees? Nothing close.

Brittni also fell into drugs — which are widespread in the industry. A lot of workers abuse drugs to get through the scenes, which for a woman is usually traumatic and even tantamount to being raped. Drugs helped Brittni with this side too, but she started for another reason.

“I started because I weighed 105 pounds, and a director told me I was fat and needed to lose weight.” Brittni says. “I started using cocaine, and it was like this instant rush, and it actually helped me get through the porn scenes.”

Under the stage name Jenna Presley, she became a superstar in the industry and featured in more than 300 films.

Brittni-de-la-Mora-2“The first time I filmed a porn scene — weird. It was like, gross. It was really bad,” she remembers. “Emotionally, I just started to go downhill.”

She got hooked on heroin, pills, cocaine and briefly crystal meth, she told Fox News.

The depravity started to lose its luster and after three-and-a-half years, Brittni, who had been reading a Bible, accepted Jesus into her heart.

“I made Jesus my Lord and Savior,” she says. “But Satan wasn’t happy about my decision and sent a man in my life because men were my weakness.”

The guy was a backslidden Christian who initially took her to church — a ruse only to play her.

“He won me over through manipulation,” Brittni says. “In the beginning, he made me feel good about myself.”

Eventually, he steered her back into the sex industry. In a time when they needed money, he suggested she do some work to help out.

“It’s time,” he told her. “Let’s get you back into the adult film industry.”

She had burned bridges with her family, so she thought she had no alternative. She returned to films. This time she was stuck for three years. And all the money went to the guy. He became Brittni’s pimp.

“This time I was giving all my money away to a pimp,” Brittni says. “He definitely had that type of power over me.”

While she was under his sway and lost in an abyss of lust, she nevertheless kept reading her Bible.

One day, she was scheduled for a film in a few hours when she read Revelation 2:20-22: I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching, she misleads my servants into sexual immorality… I will cast her on a bed of suffering.

“That’s not a very fun scripture to read when you’re on your way to film a porn scene,” Brittni remembers. Read the rest of porn star to preacher.

Latinos, burned by politics, are converting to Islam

Raul Sanchez Latino convert to Islam in HoustonDisaffected by anti-Latino rhetoric in politics, a growing number of Hispanics are converting to Islam in Houston and elsewhere, finding solidarity with other maligned groups, according to a Vice video on YouTube.

In America today, there are as many as 250,000 Latino proselytes who have renounced their Catholic upbringing and now adhere to the tenets of Mohammad, says Rice University Sociology Professor Craig Considine.

“With all the racism and xenophobia happening in this country, where are the Christian leaders who are taking a strong stand against it?” says Considine, who is himself Catholic but reaches out to Muslims. “A lot of Latinos are saying, ‘Maybe Islam is offering something that Christianity doesn’t offer.’”

Latino Muslims in AmericaIslam conquered Spain in the Middle Ages but was stopped in its northward advance at the Pyrenees Mountains by the formidable army of Charles Martel. Almost eight centuries later, Ferdinand and Isabella expelled the Muslims out of Spain fully by 1492 in what as known as the Reconquest.

For the 34% of American Catholic population that is Latino, the battle for the hearts and minds of Spanish speakers is back on.

Jaime “Mujahid” Fletcher was raised in Columbia and Venezuela before he immigrated to America at age eight. His parents wanted a better life for him, but he fell into gangs and drugs. When he searched for solutions, he gravitated to the Koran.

Today Fletcher is the founder of America’s first Islam in Spanish Center in Houston, which has a thriving Latino Muslim congregation. They also mass-produce and distribute Islamic propaganda. Their online proselytism reached 14 million people during the month of Ramadan, Fletcher says.

Jaime Mujahid Fletcher“I looked for answers in so many different religions. Someone gave me the Koran, and the more I read it, the more life made sense,” Fletcher says on the “Minority Reports” Vice video. “My mother thought I was brainwashed when I became Muslim because I stopped drinking alcohol. I stopped going out with girls. I let go of all this stuff.”

Four months after his conversion to Islam, Fletcher was asked by his leaders to speak to Telemundo and Univision, Spanish channels in America, on behalf of Islam after Muslim terrorist hijacked planes and crashed them into New York City’s World Trade Center twin towers.

“They asked me to explain why Islam is not what people were thinking,” he says. “That some Colombians sell drugs doesn’t make me a drug dealer. That some Muslim goes and commits a wrong act, shouldn’t make me feel bad about being Muslim.”

His own family became very upset at his shifted loyalties, Fletcher admits. “How could you be part of that?” they asked him.

Raul Sanchez is a Mexican immigrant and DACA Dreamer in North Houston who converted in 2011. His family, like many other Latino families of converts to Islam, disowned him.

latina converts to islam in houstonBecause he lacked papers, he could only find under-the-table jobs, such as washing dishes for $5.00 an hour. The exploitation is what drove him to find solidarity with other marginalized people, he says.

“That’s when I really started getting the idea of what is Islam, how deep it was, and how it wasn’t what the media was portraying,” Sanchez says. “Being Latino and Muslim is a double whammy for me. I’m going to be attacked from all sides.

“My mom kicked me out of the house and threw all my clothes out,” Sanchez says. “She said I was joining a terrorist organization and they were training me to kill people.”

Eventually his mom visited the community and was won over. She apologized for her earlier rejection of her son and his coreligionists because she saw him feeding the homeless and doing other positive activities. She also converted to Islam.

Rice University’s Considine urges dialogue, not demagoguery, when competing for the hearts and minds of Latinos against Muslims in America.

“We are having a hangover from 9/11,” Considine says. Read the rest about this troubling trend of Latinos converting to Islam.

Ganesha stampeded her

preeti krishnanShe had 300 million gods to help her, but when Preeti Krishnan struggled with her MBA studies none of the Hindu pantheon answered her prayers.

“I was sensing that there was something between me and God that had gone wrong, otherwise God wouldn’t let me go through this. I was getting depressed,” she says. “I thought I had to appease the gods. I was really desperate and thought that if I didn’t get help, I would go crazy.

When she cried out to one of her beloved gods, he responded with a terrifying vision. “I started praying to my favorite Indian god called Ganesha. Ganesha is the elephant god, and he is the god of education and knowledge.

“So I said, ‘If he’s on my side, I’ll succeed.’ As I closed my eyes praying, I saw huge Indian elephant charging toward me. As I opened my eyes, I said, ‘This is really bad because even my favorite god Ganesha has turned away from me.’”

She asked her gaggle of gods for help, but all 300 million remained silent.

ganesha god hinduism“No one was answering me,” Preeti says. “Then I remembered that I had a Gideon’s Bible, a little small Bible that I got free in school. So I opened it. I don’t remember what I read, but in a matter of a few seconds, something very tangible, something like white light, it was so clean, so strong, so forceful, just flowed through me.”

As the “flow” poured from her head to her feet, her burdens and anxieties lifted away.

It was 2:00 am, and Preeti’s sister, sensing something unusual happening, woke up and asked her sister what was wrong.

“My goodness, your face is glowing,” her sister said. “Something has happened. What happened?”

Read the rest of Hindu converted from Ganesha

A kiss saved him from the Hebrew Israelites

jourdan ortiz freedom from hebrew israelitesJourdan Ortiz first got free from the witch, then from the Hebrew Israelites.

When his parents got divorced, Mom was distraught and went to the witch “doctor.” Little Jourdan thought that the waiting room looked very similar to a regular medical office.

But when he went in the patient room, his stomach turned from a bitter smoke smell. His mom took off his shirt and rubbed oil on his body. Then the “doctor” blew cigar smoke on him. There was also a voodoo doll with a cigar in the corner.

The appointment had no effect on him, but his mom seemed adversely affected. She started losing her vision and hair.

One day, his mom seemed terror-stricken. “Promise me you won’t leave me,” she pleaded to her son, who was full of fear and incomprehension. He tried to calm and console her, but he had no idea what to do.

wtich doctor cigar smokeAnother day, his mom was sitting at the edge of the bed looking angry and afraid. “Mom are you ok?” a scared Jourdan recounts on a YouTube video.

She responded in Spanish, but since he never learned his mom’s native language, he only caught “God” and “cross.”

He drew crosses in the dust of the TV set and in a foggy windowpane.

“What do you think that is going to do?” his mom asked. It wasn’t his mom speaking.

But Jourdan didn’t know what to do.

“Jourdan please help, please help me,” his mom pleaded.

Both mom and son were traumatized by the event.

Eventually, mom met and married a good man who cared for and loved them. He was part of the Hebrew Israelites, a group of blacks and other minorities who believe they are descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The movement is active in the jails and in the ghettos and helps people get out of drugs and gangbanging with a message that promotes obedience to the Old Testament.

jourdan ortiz baptismObservers have described the group as black supremacist at its extremist fringe. Some members “believe that Jews are devilish impostors and … openly condemn whites as evil personified, deserving only death or slavery,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Happy to find some stability in his family and life, Jourdan naively joined the group all the way up to high school.

But then he got a retail job and met a girl. They started going out and eventually kissed, which was a grave infraction of Hebrew Israelite norms. Read the rest of the story about freedom from Hebrew Israelites.

Utterly helpless… not utterly hopeless

utterly helpless not utterly hopelessThe human condition is fallen, sinful, failure-riddled. Can we defeat temptation? Jesus is our only hope.

Pastor prayed and fasted for neighborhood, one ‘hooligan’ responded

Nigeria missionariesBy Lortoume Hang’andu —

Bitwell grew up in Lusaka, the red-soiled capital of Zambia. Along with his friends, the fatherless teenager assaulted people to fund his drinking habit. They also engaged in hooliganism at the local soccer stadium and fought rival fans.

His mother, a Christian, tried in vain to control her son.

Then a pastor moved in across the street and fasted for seven days for the neighborhood. The Spirit moved on Bitwell’s heart. At 24, he was tired of endless crime and alcohol, so he began attending church.

“I wasn’t really converted,” he says. “I just went to church.”

Then Bitwell got struck with Cupid’s arrows. He saw Mary walking to the store and struck up a conversation with her. Mary was a more serious Christian and refused his advances. He persisted, and Mary laid down an ultimatum: Either he go to church seriously or give up hopes for her.

Bitwell still drank, but he worked hard to hide it from Mary. The first time he went to Mary’s church, he was hung-over. Three years later, they were married.

Back to AfricaSeeking a better life, Bitwell and his wife applied for and were granted a tourist visa to visit a friend in Chandler, Arizona. Bitwell flew to the U.S. three months before his wife.

He was on a layover in New York on 9/11 when the Twin Tower terrorists struck and he was grounded at the airport. Eventually, Bitwell took a Greyhound bus to Chandler to join his friend, a zealous believer at the Door Church.

Bitwell accepted an invitation to attend church. He never heard preaching like that before. After hearing moving sermon after fiery sermon, he decided he needed to get serious about God. With his wife at his side, he gave his life to God and was born again.

Pastor Joe Campbell became a father figure to Bitwell and Mary. He gave them a car and was constantly checking up on them. They matured in the Lord and participated in ministry for four years.

One day, Pastor Campbell called them into his office. Would they go back to Africa to pioneer a church? They belonged to a group of churches that focuses on church planting.

It was no light matter. They had overstayed their visa and were “illegal.” If they left the country, under current rules they would not be granted a visa to America for at least 12 years.

“God called me to go,” Bitwell says. “When I was in America, God provided for me. So I thought that if I went to Africa, God would still provide for me.”

Jesus says to count the cost. For every Bitwell, there are hundreds of illegal immigrants who get saved, called, and decide not to return to their home countries. The American Dream often holds greater sway than the dream of ministry. Don’t miss the surprise ending of pastor returns to Africa.

Tammy (Lortoumi) is Pastor Mike Ashcraft’s student at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Los Angeles.

‘Machine Gun Preacher,’ from biker gang to fighting Joseph Kony

machinegunpreacherBy age 11, he was doing dope. At 13, dropping acid. After he turned 15, he was sticking a needle in his arm, shooting cocaine and heroin.

“I went in deeper into selling drugs. I’m not talking about small amounts. I’m talking about large amounts of drugs. I kept going deeper until I became the shotgunner, the hired gun for drug deals,” Sam Childers says in a Next Step film.

Childer’s wife, Lynn, can take the credit for wrangling this rebel into the Kingdom of God. She was an ex-church-kid-turned-stripper who fell in love with the bad boy. They did drugs together. But eventually, Lynn, despairing of pigs’ portions in her prodigal path, returned to Jesus.

orphanageafricaThis did not sit well with the renegade outlaw. For two years, he fought her to give up her “religion.”

Then Childers got into a shootout in a barroom over a drug deal gone bad.

“I almost lost my life that night,” he recalls in the film. “I don’t have a problem with dying. I got a problem with what I’m going to die for. I knew that if I kept on living the life I was, I was going to die for some stupid reason. On my way home that night, I said, ‘God, I’m done living this life.’”

He showed up for revival services in an Assembly of God church in mid-1992, surrendered his heart and life to Jesus, and was born again.

The pastor prophesied that night that Childers would minister in Africa.

angelsofeastafricaRemarkably, Childers went from biker gang member and barroom brawler to eventually becoming a preacher. When he became a Christian, he didn’t give up the guns. He kept them handy for what would become very dangerous work overseas.

His first mission trip to Uganda was a 5-week stint building roofs in a village where there were landmines. While there, he happened across the legless body of a boy decimated by a landmine placed by Joseph Kony’s insurgency. Kony, a brutal warlord, had been conscripting child soldiers, perpetrating mayhem throughout the region.

When he saw the condition of the boy, Childers smoldered with rage.

“I knew I had to do something,” he declared. “I’m devastated inside. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew I had to do something. I stood over that body, and I said, ‘God, I’ll do whatever it takes.’”

“I returned home. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t hardly eat,” he recalls. “All I could see in my memory was children that were starving.”

In response, he sold his fishing boat, camper and other possessions to raise funds for Africa. He tried to enlist others in the fund-raising.

On a subsequent trip, he felt God tell him to open an orphanage, situated in the hottest thicket of danger. In that Valley of the Shadow of Death, he linked up with Sudan People’s Liberation Army, which granted him his own militia to protect the orphanage — and to battle Kony’s forces, according to the Washington Post.

He became known as the “Machine Gun Preacher” after a documentary on his life revealed him walking the bush of Sudan with an AK-47 slung over his shoulder, deep in the warzone of Kony’s insurgency. Read the rest about the Machine Gun Preacher Sam Childers.

The greatest gymnast of all time needs God too

simone biles christian olympianShe’s been called “the greatest gymnast of all time” and “light years ahead of the competition,” but Simone Biles, 21, credits God with her tour de force at the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics where she became the first US gymnast to win four gold medals at once.

“I can go to (God) at any time,” Simone told Fox News. “He knows exactly what I need. Faith can calm me down. Everything happens for a reason.”

The fact that Simone would say everything happens for a reason is profoundly significant. She was born to parents lost in drug and alcohol abuse. She was caromed around the foster care system like a pinball until her grandmother and step-grandfather were contacted by a social worker, and they took her in.

simone biles bibleThe compact dynamo took overcoming adversity to the next level. She didn’t just “overcome,” she vaulted over obstacles with graceful twists and gasp-inducing flips to impose her dominance on the world stage and declare she would not be held victim to a troubled past.

In addition to her Olympic exploits, Simone is a four-time World all-around champion (2013–15, 2018), four-time World floor exercise champion (2013–15, 2018), two-time World balance beam champion (2014, 2015) and the 2018 World vault champion.

“Some of us older Olympians have talked about there being a physical limit to the sport, and then along comes Simone with all these incredible skills,” says Mary Lou Retton, a gold medal gymnast from 1984. “She’s like nothing I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

Simone was born in 1997 in Columbus, Ohio, the third of four siblings. Her mother, Shanon Biles, struggled with drugs and alcohol, while her father, Kelvin Clemons abandoned with family because of his own addictions.

After bouncing around foster care, Simone moved in with her grandfather Ron Biles, in Houston, Texas, in 2000. Together with his new wife, Nellie Cayetano Biles, Ron provided the necessary stability and Christian upbringing that helped Simone forget her dark past and become a champion.

Simone is 4’8” and so muscular that she used to wear a jacket at school to hide her muscles. She didn’t want to be embarrassed because she looked different than other girls.

1216-gl-well64-01_sqIt was Ron and Nellie who got Simone into gymnastics as an outlet for her boundless energy — as her older brother Adam says, Simone “was always flipping and jumping on furniture. My parents figured it would be better to put them in a safer environment.”

“I wouldn’t (have been in Rio) without my family,” Simone told the Houston Chronicle. “I can’t thank them enough for all the things they’ve given up for me to do what I love. Every time I compete, they can see that I’m happy.”

The couple officially adopted Simone and her siblings in 2003. They always took them to church on Sunday morning, prayed prayers and even got Simone out early from Wednesday gymnastics practice — to the chagrin of her trainer — to go to Bible instruction. She was homeschooled to accommodate intensive training schedules in the gym.

“I’ve been brought up to never take anything for granted and to always be the best Simone—the best version of myself,” Simone says on Glamour magazine. “From a very young age, (my adopted parents) always believed in us and told us to believe in ourselves.”

Nellie sees the hand of God in Simone’s coming to join her family.

“I’m a very prayerful person,” Nellie told CBN. Find out how Simone Biles overcame childhood with parents who abused drugs and alcohol.

Aliens led him to Jesus? And then he kicked heroin?

how to get off heroinKenneth H was hooked on heroin, marijuana and sexual immorality.

“I tried to quit many times. I couldn’t do it. It was very difficult to quit because I would get sick if I didn’t smoke heroin every day. I would get withdrawals,” he says on his Youtube channel. “It was very depressing. I felt like I was stuck in a hole.”

He blames drug abuse for the loss of his gallbladder, which hospitalized him. “It was probably related to my addiction because I know heroin does stuff to your insides.”

His hospital visit gave him one advantage: he had made it through the withdrawals and was no longer chemically addicted to the drug.

“When I got out of the hospital, I tried to stay clean but I couldn’t stay clean for very long. I ended up falling back into pretty regular use of it. I could not shake it. The addiction was still there. I couldn’t stay away from the drug.”

His depression deepened, compounded by the fact that he wasn’t working and had a lot of extra time to do nothing profitable.

He became ensnared in the intrigue concerning the Mayan calendar ending in Dec. 12, 2012, which sparked speculation about the end of the world. Kenneth grew particularly keen about New Age stories and aliens.

“One time I was on YouTube and I saw this video titled ‘Aliens are demons,’ and it hit me right there: I knew that I had to serve Jesus,” he says. “It spoke to me, and I knew what team I had to be on.” Read the rest of get off heroin.

Rehab didn’t help crack addict, but a statue drove her into Jesus’ arms

get off drugsAshley Johnson’s struggles with drugs began when her mother was four-years-old in a barn being raped. That was the beginning of the cycle of destruction, depression and despondency.

Years later, when mom was pregnant with Ashley, the devil tormented her with suicidal thoughts, Ashley says on a YouTube video. Eventually, Mom got saved and kicked the devil out of her life.

But before that, mom was an alcoholic and left little Ashley to stay with grandma, who took her to church.

Her first touch from God came when she was nine. After participating in an evangelistic play as one the main actors, she answered the call to the altar.

“I realized Jesus was real,” she says. “I remember being super excited and standing outside of the church and telling everybody how good God is.”

get off crack jesusNevertheless, she says, she didn’t accept Jesus yet. She only felt God.

“I didn’t pray that prayer (of salvation),” she says. “Everybody prayed it for me. But I did not make Jesus Lord over my life. He did not save me, but He did call me.”

As she grew up, she felt insecurities; especially that she was the only child who didn’t have a mom actively involved in her life. Unlike the other kids brought to church by their moms and dads, Ashley was brought by her grandmother.

“I grew to hate church,” she says. “I became very embarrassed. I was very insecure about a lot of things. I was a very shy and timid kid.”

Evil things started happening in her life, and in response, she rebelled. It came to the point that grandma couldn’t handle her, so Ashley was sent to her parents to live.

“I didn’t want to go live with my parents,” she says.

ashley johnson saved drug addictHer parents were alcoholics, and Ashley fell out of church attendance.

At a party at age 11, Ashley got drunk and high for the first time.

“When it kicked in, I was like whoa whoa whoa. I didn’t know what it was like to be drunk,” she says. “That night, I almost got eaten by a dog because I tried to leave. I almost got shot by a gun. I woke up the next morning, and I was wearing this guy’s boxers. He had to be in his 30s at the time. He had his arm wrapped around me.”

Depression overtook her by the time she entered junior high.

“I would look out the window and imagine dying. I was so depressed and suicidal,” she says. “I was just a very miserable kid.”

The world’s answers — partying, experimenting with drugs, skipping school — did nothing to help the fundamental reason for the agony in her heart.

“I was a pretty wild child by the time junior high rolls around,” she says.

In high school, she dated a drug dealer. Read the rest of kick crack

Paunchy pastor changed eating habits, won’t have to squeeze thru Pearly Gates

steve reynolds before and after

Steve Reynolds

Is eating the area where Christians have trouble with self-control? There are fellowship dinners and snacks at Bible studies. We may not go to the bar to drain alcoholic beverages, but we go to the restaurant and knock back the extra fries and milkshakes. It’s not a beer belly; it’s a potluck paunch.

Extra pounds around the waist or on the thighs are more often carried to church than Bibles. In fact, one pastor in Guatemala teased a slim colleague, “Pastor sin panza no da confianza,” which translated means: A pastor without a paunch doesn’t inspire confidence (it’s mirthful in Spanish because it rhymes).

But while there is a disturbing trend in Christianity toward obesity, there is a new generation of shepherds who are saying no to the second helping of shepherd’s pie.

joel-osteen abs

Joel Olsteen

Take Steve Reynold for example. The way he sees it, he was “trashing” his temple of the Holy Spirit (his body), according to US News & World Report. The pastor of Capital Baptist Church in Annandale, Virginia weighed 340 pounds.

While Reynolds never pumped iron, he downed a tub of ice cream each night. While he circumvented cardio, he crammed carbs.

As a result, doctors ordered him to take eight separate medications to stave off diabetes and other disorders. At some point, Reynolds had an epiphany.

“I’m looking forward to heaven,” came the flash, “but I’m not ready to get there yet.”

church potluckReynolds had to upend some bad habits. He started an exercise regime and began a diet inspired by the Bible. It turns out the Holy Writ has much to say about healthy living, but he hadn’t noticed previously. By searching the word “body” in his concordance, he found some inspired guidance.

According to Reynolds, healthy diet and exercise “has been a kind of forsaken thing in churches.”

faithfully fitHealth Fitness Revolution unearthed stats to back up Reynolds’ claim: A 2006 Purdue study found that the fundamental Christians are by far the heaviest of all religious groups, led by the Baptists with a 30% obesity rate. A 2011 Northwestern University study tracking 3,433 men and women for 18 years found that young adults who attend church or a bible study once a week are 50% likelier be obese.

Jesus “could walk 40 miles, not in Reeboks but in leather sandals,” Reynolds wrote in his book. “Yet His followers on this planet are unhealthy, overweight, sedentary couch potatoes.”

As a result of the regimen developed by Reynolds, he dropped 100 pounds and no longer needed the medications. His findings and testimony were published in his book Bod4God.

“We believe our bodies are very important to our faith,” says Scott Roberts, head of William Jessup University’s kinesiology department, where faith-based fitness courses are offered.

chuck bernal before after

Pastor Chuck Bernal

If 1 Timothy 4:7 says, “Bodily exercise profiteth little” to highlight spiritual health, nevertheless the verse does says that there is value in physical health. The purpose is not to counter pose bad/good, but to compare good/better.

In 2014, Health Fitness Revolution named the top 10 fittest pastors. Joel Olsteen topped the list for his enviable six pack.

Scott Bennefield was also featured as the “Iron Man Pastor.” Prior to 1991, he never gave much thought to fitness. But then he decided he’d better start running for exercise. He progressed and amplified his goals: at age 43, the pastor of the New Covenant Church in New Mexico competed in his first Iron Man competition and completed six more by time of publication.

Chuck Bernal, pastor of the LifePointe Church in Crowley, Texas, also earned an honorable mention. Through diet and exercise, he slimmed down from 367 pounds to a fit 226.

Mega-church Pastor Rick Warren joined the list. His introduction to health came by way of baptizing 858 people. Two-thirds of the way through dunking disciples, his arms grew tired. And he noticed the excess water displacement by the obese — including himself. Consequently, he lost 30 pounds.

Today, there are Christian diet plans, aps, tapes, exercise routines — all of which motivate through the Word of God for the goal of fitness. Exercising has become as important to some as healthy eating. Read the rest of Christian health.

Advantage of steaming fish

steamed fishHonestly, I was initially put off by steamed fish, but that was mostly because of some unfortunate words.

You see, my in-laws criticized the restaurant I had invited them to. It was my favorite fish food place, and they offered grilled filets.

My father-in-law was perhaps a tad too sincere: “It’s kind of tough.”

So his rejection of my favorite food closed me off to his favorite food.

The years have rolled by. I’ve lost my prejudices. I can now taste steamed fish objectively, untainted by rejection-association. And I must say, my father-in-law was right: It’s tender.

The Bible says we need to tell the truth in love, and there are some “truths” that are better left unsaid. Instead of convincing people, we close them off entirely.

Fish is my favorite food. It’s pure protein (I’m trying to build muscle). It doesn’t have cholesterol. Some actually lowers your cholesterol. It doesn’t have increase your risk for hypertension.

I’ll eat grilled filets still because I’m not against them being “tough.” But I do relish a Chinese steamed fish!

Fentanyl: the killingest drug yet


Hi guys. I’ve been teaching health class at the our private Christian school in Los Angeles, the Lighthouse Christian Academy. Naturally, I have been researching for the units, including the latest on drug abuse. The emergency of fentanyl alarms me. So this video is to increase awareness. From the internet, it looks like there is hope for fentanyl addicts, but there are some scary stories too. The easiest way to get off is to never get on.

Sevin, former gang member, now a missionary rapper to the hood

christian gangsta rapSevin was a rising star in Christian hip hop, and he was homeless.

Marques Adams, his real name, was born in San Jose but grew up in Sacramento. His parents, Tracy and Debra Adams, raised him in a church that emphasized rules to the point of excluding God from the picture.

“I didn’t understand God as personal,” he says on a Next Step film. “I looked at Him how you look at a police officer in your community: somebody who enforces rules, but he’s not somebody you really wanna ‘kick it’ with.”

His parents moved a lot, cutting him off from friends and always putting him into the awkward situation of having to make new friends sometimes with a rough crowd that rejected him.

“All I ever wanted was love and people to accept me,” he says. “I was being treated like evil, and over time it wound up hardening my heart.”

At age 13, one of his few friends died, and he reacted with self-mutilation and suicidal thoughts.

sevin christian outreach hood“I was always angry and hurting, and it was growing worse and worse and worse,” Sevin says. “I just kind of let go of any care for life or my future or anything. I fell into an abyss. I started self-medicating really young, 12, 13 years old stealing bottles of Nyquil out of the store.”

He discovered marijuana and prescription pills, “just anything to try to numb myself,” he says.

Because he longed for acceptance, he started hanging with gang members. The Oak Park Bloods took him and “treated me like their version of family,” he says.

“Not understanding what true love or God’s love actually looks like, the world was able to lie to me,” he says. “The streets was able to suck me in with that false sense of brotherhood and fellowship.”

His parents were oblivious to the signs that their son was getting lost. He went to the wrong people for advice, who pulled him “deeper and deeper into my own destruction,” he says.

Because of his depression, he went so far as to deny God to his father.

sevin christian rapper“I felt like if God is so good, then why are we suffering?” he says. “At that point I was so beat up and at that point so demonically influenced that I walked into my room and I ended up putting my gun to my head.”

But while he was turning his back on God, God never turned his back on Sevin.

“The Holy Spirit ended up falling on me, and I felt this overwhelming sense of love and peace and acceptance that I couldn’t deny,” he remembers. “It literally reached through my body and touched my heart and changed me. The God of the Bible that I always thought was this impersonal, fake entity that either wasn’t real or didn’t care about us, that God came off of these pages and jumped into my real life.”

The previous week, he went to school, as was his custom, with a gun. The next week, he went with a Bible and told all the “homies” at the lunch table that they needed to study with him.

“In my past I felt like I was in this black hole, isolated and alone,” he says. “Now I don’t feel that way. God’s in me, with me, around me everywhere I go.”

Being born-again, he had a burning desire to use his musical talents for the Lord. Having made a name for himself as a rising rapper on the streets, he wanted to dedicate to the Lord the talent he had used for Satan.

He almost immediately got involved in music, but he hadn’t completely left the world and wound up with charges related to drugs. Now he thinks he was put on a platform too early in his baby Christian faith. He should have concentrated first on his growth in the Lord without launching straight into leadership ministry.

But hindsight is 20/20. When he wound up in jail with a felony, the same people who embraced his turn to Christianity now turned their back on him and reviled him for his “hypocrisy.” It stung Sevin deeply that apparently nobody would stand with him in his court case.

The sting ran deep and formed the foundations of his current ministry. Now, Sevin says he doesn’t allow anyone to advance in ministry until they have served for a year. And he reaches out to those who backslide and fall into jail. When fellow Christian rapper PyRexx got locked up, Sevin visited and offered to pay his bills and watch over his wife.

In the meantime, his heart was growing hard due to what he felt was betrayal. When he was young, he was molested at church. Church people, he believed, would hurt you but not stand with you when you were hurt.

While he continued with that thought, he was still drinking and using drugs, even while he put out Christian music, he said.

“I was betrayed by people who were claiming to be the people of God,” Sevin says. “I had one foot in because I knew the truth, but I had no fellowship and didn’t have a real deep understanding of the gospel.”

He was “stuck in limbo.” Read how Sevin Christian rapper got unstuck and out of limbo.

Christ helped Katelyn Ohashi return to gymnastics and beat body shamers

katelyn ohashi perfect 10 floor routine uclaWhen Katelyn Ohashi dropped out of elite gymnastics due to injury, she felt relieved.

“I was happy to be injured,” she says starkly in a video.

Katelyn broke the Internet last week when her perfect-10 floor routine at UCLA wowed people with rarely seen feats that included a mind-boggling splits bounce.

Katelyn, who has identified as Christian, was born to a Japanese dad and German mom and raised in Seattle. She thrived at gymnastics from childhood and made the national team at age 12.

She actually beat her famous teammate Simone Biles in the 2013 American Cup, but a shoulder injury and subsequent back injury ruled her out of competition for two years.

american_cup_2015_katelyn ohashi with simone bilesThe blow would have been crushing to any aspiring star and might have provoked an identity crisis. But for Katelyn, it meant the end of unbearable pressure and body shaming she was subjected to over the Internet.

“After my first and last senior competition, I was told that I might never be able to do gymnastics again,” she said on Good Morning America. “It was like this weight was lifted off of me.”

Unlike her comrades, she was happy to drop down to Level 10 gymnastics and enter UCLA as a freshman in 2015. Without the glare of the cameras, she was able to rediscover her love for the sport and simply enjoy life. She could eat a burger and fries without feeling guilty and fretting about getting chubby, which had elicited anonymous snipes online.

“As a 14 year old, it’s kind of hard to cope with because you are still developing as a person,” she says. It’s an age when “everything really impacts you.”

During her freshman year in UCLA gymnastics, she told her coach, “I just don’t want to be great again. When I was great, there was nothing joyful about it. I wasn’t happy. So why would I want to go back there?”

Recently she interviewed with Serve Your Truth and confided: “Right now, I’m reading a lot to get more content with my blog. I’ve been reading the New Testament in the Bible because I am trying to improve my relationship with God. Someone once told me, ‘I don’t put my trust in people down here; I put my trust in God up there.’”

katelyn ohashi younger yearsApparently, it worked because joy permeated her most recent floor routine from start to finish.

Today, the 21-year-old sensation wants to shame the body shamers.

“In gym, makeup is forced on really young girls. If we don’t put on makeup, we are docked points,” she says. “I never felt the need to present myself with makeup because I believed I should be judged on my skills. After that competition, there were so many comments about my hair not being perfect. I won a big competition and people only cared about how I look.”

She wrote a poem entitled “Self-Hatred Goodbyes.” Here are some lines:

That only those people with the right, perfect bodies have the right to stand.

But here today, I stand, with the love that penetrates deeper than any wedding band.

Because I am my own size, and no words or judgmental stares will make me compromise.

For the bittersweet satisfaction that lays within my eyes, within my thighs,

I finally got my cake and ate it too for my old self-cries.

And today, my self-hatred says its goodbyes.

“There was a time when I was on top of the world, an Olympic hopeful. I was unbeatable — until I wasn’t,” Katelyn says on a video uploaded by the Players Tribune. “That girl that you would think had it all — all these medals in her room, the podium she’s standing on, she thought she had nothing.”

Her confidence wavered over fan criticisms that focused on her looks or weight, the shape of her body. She wanted to eat junk food and exercised constantly after eating so that she would pass periodic weight tests to not be kicked off the team.

“(I) was on this path of almost invincibility, and then (my) back just gave out,” she says. “I was broken.”

But the brokenness wasn’t the disappointment over the injury. It was the internal self-doubt from the lacerating comments from nasty “fans.” She embraced the pull away from gymnastics.

“I wanted to experience what it was like to be a kid again,” Katelyn says. “Nobody ever knew really what I was going through, and I could never say what was wrong with me. I couldn’t accept myself. I was happy to be injured.”

Others, however, didn’t embrace her injury and urged her to strive to return to the top flight. “I was compared to a bird that couldn’t fly. I hated myself.” Read the rest about Katelyn Ohashi Christian.

He sought Allah. He found Jesus.

hazem farraj with adelle nazHis father brought American-born Hazem Farraj back to Jerusalem to teach him the ways of Islam. But the then-12-year-old stunned his parents by adopting a different path, one that would lead to his family’s rejection.

Farraj committed himself to his father’s plan to rediscover his roots. But the more he prayed and practiced the rituals of Islam, the more his doubts grew.

“If you’re praying to Allah, and you don’t see no response from Allah, then you need to figure out who’s listening or who’s answering that prayer,” he says on a Road to Jesus video. “That’s what I had to do. Praying prayers to heaven it was like heaven was brass. They would fall back to me. I was searching.”

But in his quest to know Allah, he grew frustrated and angry. “It made me mad because here we came as a family halfway around the globe from America to the Middle East,” he says, “and the god I came to follow was not responding.”

It only made him angrier to meet upstairs neighbors in his building that were Christian. Why did they have joy and peace while Farraj had nothing? He describes the one and a half years quest for truth as “an identity crisis.”

hazem farraj“I was getting trained culturally as a Muslim, but the Islam I found shocked me,” he says. “Instead of running into the god of Islam, I found Jesus.”

The upstairs neighbors smiled a lot. They were nice. They showed love.

They projected the image of God in their faces, and it bothered Farraj. So one day he challenged the family’s father, who was legally blind. Why hadn’t Jesus, if He were real, healed him?

The man explained everything Jesus had done for him. They talked for four hours. Farraj was intrigued but not ready to relinquish the faith of his upbringing.

Some weeks later, the family invited him to McDonald’s — with a catch: first they were going to church. Would he come with them?

hazem farraj palestinian christian“I was observing all the happy Christians raising their hands and worshiping God, singing to someone they knew was real. To see these people happy and so alive in Jesus was a shocker,” he says.

But then the grave warnings against abandoning Islam reared their monstrous memory in his mind. He was attracted to the Light but fighting it every step of the way.

Farraj left the church and went down to the first floor, where he knelt to Mecca and prayed his Islamic prayers. It was no good.

“When you taste something so sweet and then you taste something so bitter, the bitter became so bitter. So that’s what happened in this prayer,” Farraj says. “I went from this amazing, glorious presentation of a God who loves His people and the people who loved their God to praying and hearing crickets.

“At that point I was so angry. I finished my prayers on my knees, and I said with tears rolling down my face, ‘Whoever you are, whether you are the god of the Koran, I’m needing you to do something because I’m being lost to this Jesus I sure as heck hope that you see this struggle because I’m losing this one, man. I’m trying to do your job and this is not working out. I’m trying to hold on to Islam by the skin of my teeth, wanting it to be real.”

After pledging his loyalty to Allah and asking for help, he considered the possibility of the legitimacy of the antithesis.

“But if you are Jesus who these people are happy believing, whatever the truth is, I’m going to find it.”

He returned to the service.

“I got up and went to sit back in my pew, and I wasn’t angry anymore and I was appreciating that these people were in a place in their relationship with God that I was desiring for so long.”

The next day, he climbed the stairs to talk with the blind father.

Farraj attempted to say, “I want to become a Christian,” but fear kept him from pronouncing the word “Christian.” For 40 minutes, he tried but could only pronounce the “c” sound. Finally the father told him he had to leave, and if he wanted to complete the sentence, he needed to do so immediately.

Farraj gathered all his strength, focused his energies and ripped the words out: “I want to become a Christian.”

Two days later at the appointed time, Farraj accepted Jesus into his heart and became born-again. It was a feeling like no other.

“I literally wanted to jump, scream, shout,” he says. “I didn’t want the Christians to think I was crazy. I literally had to tame my spirit. I was set free. My countenance changed completely. My life changed.” But his Dad was not happy. Find out what happened by finishing the read: Palestinian converted to Christianity.

How an Iranian Muslim went from Israel-hater to born-again Christian who loves Jews

iranians who lie on immigration applicationEvery morning in school, Darwish shouted the customary class-wide chant repeated like the pledge of allegiance in America: “Death to Israel!”

As a Muslim in anti-Semitic Iran, Darwish hated the Jews but never knew why.

He graduated military school and became a commander in the Iranian army. He was moving up the ranks, but he acquired a nasty drug habit. “I became addicted,” he says on a One For Israel video on YouTube.

When he was discharged from the army, he got a fabulous job with great compensation.

why do muslims hate jewsBut he wanted even more success, so he decided to go abroad where opportunities were greater. He made the dangerous journey from Istanbul to Bosnia and finally to England, where he applied for asylum.

On his application, he justified his need for asylum by stating he was a persecuted Christian.

This was a lie, only a ploy to increase his chances of being granted legal status in the West, where he enjoyed freedom and prosperity.

He realized that eventually he would be called to account for his version, so he decided to arm himself with knowledge of Christianity. Dutifully, he went to church. He filled his mind with the basic doctrines of Christianity.

Still, he felt no compulsion to accept Jesus as his Savior.

darwesh one for israel“My brain was full of information,” Darwish says. “But my heart was still dark.”

On the day of his interview, he asked his pastor to go with him, but his pastor refused.

“You are not a Christian,” the pastor told him. “It is all a lie (on your application). Yeshua asked you to stand on truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Darwish was outraged by the pastor’s refusal to support him. Why wouldn’t his pastor help him? He was now in very real jeopardy of being deported to Iran.

That night alone at home, he cried out to God. “If there is any God,” he prayed desperately, “show yourself to me because I can’t continue anymore.

Then something remarkable happened. God revealed Himself to Darwish. “In that moment, He healed me completely of drugs. He touched my heart.”

Darwish was born again, filled with resurrection power by the Holy Spirit. “That was a power just working in my heart,” he remembers. “I tried several times before to give up the drugs, but I couldn’t. But that time I asked Yeshua to start a new life, and He did.”

The next day, he confessed his lies on the application to the immigration official. His status change request was, naturally, denied.

But Darwish wasn’t completely without resources or hope. Most importantly, he had finally started a legitimate relationship with Christ. Embarking on a new life, he also was given a new legal strategy, one based on truth.

He appealed the summary denial of his visa application and was granted a court hearing.

By the ironic sovereignty of God, he wound up in a Messianic congregation. Darwish, the man who grew up hating Jews without knowing why, suddenly found himself in a body of completed Jews.

He even became part of the worship team.

When his court date came, the judge asked him what he had done the day before.

He had led worship. He had been reading Psalm 96, and he recited it to the judge and the court. Read the rest of Iranians hate Israel.

Jesus helped addict kick meth, drive away gnarly hairy demons

img_7467After his father succumbed to cancer, David Silva Jr. was “eaten up with guilt” because he hadn’t been there for his dad through the chemotherapy and hospitalizations.

So he tried to commit suicide. When his girlfriend left, he tied a noose around his neck, fastened it to the bar in a closet, took a bunch of pills and let himself fall.

But his girlfriend came back in suddenly and rescued him, marking the beginning of David’s turnaround from meth abuser to Christ follower, now 31-years-old. Nearly half his life had been consumed by addiction.

“I never thought it would be so easy for me to quit. It had to have been God. I didn’t have no withdrawals or anything,” says David, who hasn’t been sober for a year yet. “I felt I was on fire for Jesus.”

the day the meth addict came homeDavid first got into trouble because of the kids he was hanging with in Pacoima where he grew up. They took drugs, so he eventually tried them in the 10th grade. Very quickly he transitioned from marijuana to crystal meth.

“I’ve always been upity up. So I liked meth because the feeling you get is you’re alert. It’s a stimulant, but eventually you start losing control of your own mind,” David says. “Because of the lack of sleep you start hallucinating, hearing things and seeing things. When you open your mind up to that much evil, you’re actually seeing things that are actually there.”

David did construction work with his dad, but since the two of them argued constantly on the job site, he eventually left home. He “screwed up” some really good employments because of his drug use.

“Me and my dad had a big blowout,” he says. “We always bumped heads. We had a really bad relationship on the job site. We always wanted to be in control. We had ups and downs. We had a love-hate relationship with me.”

He was sleeping in his truck but eventually found favor with a drug dealer to sleep on his couch. Fixing a car for a friend of his dealer, he met the girl who would become his girlfriend. He fell asleep on the patio at a barbecue at her house and just stayed there.

church camping tripHe would do handyman jobs and install security systems and cameras and home entertainment units. Sometimes, he would be at police officer’s houses installing systems — and he would be high while he was doing it.

By many accounts, methamphetamines are second only to opioids in popularity on the mean streets of America. The drug triggers a jolting release of dopamine, the happy hormone. Users go for days without sleeping or eating as the drug becomes their single focus in life. David stuffed toilet paper in his cheeks for his driver’s license photo so he wouldn’t look so gaunt.

“You can do $300 of meth and it won’t hit you because your body is so exhausted. They call it the burn out,” David says. “No matter what amount of meth you do, it won’t hit you.”

Towards the end, David starting hanging out in underground casinos, “getting involved in some really heavy things, with some really gnarly gang members who were notorious” in the criminal world, he says. “I was involved in all kinds of illegal activities.”

Meanwhile his mom and dad were praying for him. Even when he was high, he would remember God and even talk to other users about God.

meth addict freed by jesus“God had purpose for me,” he says. “Smoking with 20 guys I was still talking about God and get into debates about good and evil. I would wonder how I could debate about God while I was high. God never leaves us.”

David’s parents hadn’t heard from him in nine months when his dad was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Mom was afraid to tell her son the complete diagnosis for fear it might make him spin out of control with the drugs, but she sent word that dad was in the hospital through some friends.

David came home and made peace with his father. Eventually he found out he was dying of cancer, and he began to spin out of control.

“I lost it. I started using drugs really really badly, even worse than before,” he says. “I became reckless. I didn’t care.”

When his dad was in the hospital for the last time with liquids oozing out of his mouth and nose, David was there to help.

“I love you,” he told his father, who stared back with eyes of fear, unable to speak himself.

“It was too late,” David says. “It ate me up so bad. I was afraid he didn’t hear me when I told him I love you. We didn’t really make that peace. The guilt was so much. I wasn’t there for my dad like I should’ve been. I was too busy getting high. I got in a really dark place, and I lost sense of everything.”

Two days after his father (a born-again) Christian died, David was overcome with guilt and grief and tried to commit suicide but was interrupted by his girlfriend.

With no sense of closure or peace, David threw himself into rabid drug use with a fury. This time, not even his girlfriend knew where he was, in a tent underneath an overpass bridge. He dropped from 188 to 140 pounds when an acquaintance brought him a message.

“Finally one of my friends came looking for me and said, ‘Dude, your mom is really worried about you she wants you to come home,” he recalls.

He agreed to go with mom to church where he met a fellow former user, Eric, who encouraged him in God. Especially important was that Eric told David his father was proud of him. That made him feel good, but also guilty because he wasn’t living a life to be proud of. So he decided to give it a try.

And then came the radical change in his life: a church camping trip.

It’s funny how the church has advanced to streamed sermons, devotional apps and seeker-friendly sermons, but the old methodology for Christian camping is still one of the most powerful discipleship tools.

David went to the Sequoia National Forest. He had always loved camping, and he made himself useful helping set up tents and doing most of the cooking. He led hikes into the mountains and helped chop wood for the campfires. He fellowshipped with Eric and grew strong in the camaraderie.

But it was the last night that broke his heart and solidified his decision to serve Jesus. At a campfire his younger brother Elijah publicly thanked God for giving him back his older brother.

“I’m sorry for being a screw up all those years,” David responded through tears.

When Moses came down Mount Sinai, his face glowed from the glory of God. Something similar happened to David.

“After the camping trip, I felt I was on fire for Jesus,” he says. “Just having my family back. Just knowing that I was doing something that my dad wanted for me. Just knowing that I was doing something that would make him feel proud of me.”

He kicked meth.

He didn’t suffer the usual physical symptoms of withdrawal. But at night, he saw demons. This was strange to him because he’d never hallucinated while taking meth. It was when he quit meth that he saw the fiendish beings mocking him at night.

“I couldn’t sleep. I’d be afraid to fall asleep because I was afraid I would see more demons. They were imps,” David says. “It was like an out of body experience, like I was watching myself sleeping, and these gnarly hairy creatures, imps with lots of teeth, were moving around harassing my brother as if they were saying, ‘If we can’t have you, we’re going to take your brother.’” Read the rest of the story about meth addict freed by Jesus.

Christian rapper Canon fell 30 feet and almost died

canon homeOn a pitch-black night, Canon couldn’t see he was on a bridge when he stopped to help a driver involved in a crash. As gasoline poured out from the vehicle, the driver turned his ignition without thinking. Panicking that the action might trigger an explosion, Canon leaped over what he thought was just a median divider.

The Lecrae protégé plunged 30 feet to the ground and nearly killed himself. Canon, whose real name is Aaron McCain, shattered his ankle, broke his jaw and suffered a concussion following a Dec. 20, 2014 concert.

His recovery took two years.

Canon, famous for his speed rap, returned from his death-defying fall with the third and final installation of his popular mixtap series Loose Canon (a pun). He’s followed that up with the album Home in December. The brush with death brought a new dimension to his ministry: it’s less about hip hop and fame and more about Jesus.

canon's fall

The bridge from which Canon fell.

Canon has come a long way since he was a rebellious church teen.

Growing up in Chicago, little Aaron began to see that churchgoers were often hypocrites. His mom worked at the Moody Bible Institute, and his parents forced him to go to an “old school” black Baptist church. Except for the pretty girls that attracted him at church, he didn’t like it.

“I hated church, that’s the truth, that’s the reality of it,” he declared in a 2103 YouTube video filmed at a small concert. “Church was all fake to me. Christians was (sic) all fake to me. Christians made me feel awkward.

“Every time I walked up to someone, I felt like I had to be perfect. Every time I went to church, they made me take my do rag off. They were like: ‘You look like a thug,’ And I was like, ‘Well you look like a pimp.’ I never liked the church culture. They made me feel weird.”

canon's wife

Just three weeks before his fall, Canon married

Momma forced him to participate in ministry. He didn’t want to be an usher because they had to wear fancy white gloves. Being a deacon had no appeal to him because he didn’t know what the Greek-derived word meant, so he opted for the less painful ministry: being in the choir.

He went to all the youth camps and activities, but he never contended for a miracle or a real encounter with God in his life. His life remained unchanged.

“I knew how people acted in church and how people acted out of church,’ he says. “When I was around Christian people, I knew what face to put on, I knew what words to say. But when I was around ‘my boys,’ I knew how to put on that face. I knew how to play the game but after a while I got tired of playing the game.

“It got old after a while,” he recounted. “I got tired of wearing that mask.”

He explored the party scene and sought only fun for a time.

canon's accidentThen he met some authentic Christians.

“I met some real believers who actually live out the faith,” he recalled. “They did a lot more than my old group of Christians did. They actually prayed. They weren’t fake. I was able to look at their lifestyle and say, ‘If your lifestyle looks like that and you’re a believer, then I may not be a believer.’”

He was unnerved because their testimonies upended his understanding of Christianity. Ultimately, he decided he’d better get right with God, and he made the decision of his own accord to accept Jesus into his heart and was born again.

Because of his penchant for hip hop, he began attending The House, a rap-culture church in Lawndale, a suburb of Chicago.

“I felt like I’d found something I’d been looking for my whole life—a hip hop church with kids around my age, doing things I wanted to do,” he told Christianity Today. At the time, he called himself MC Spook “ because I want my lyrics to be deep enough to spook people into really thinking about faith and everyday life.”

canon grateful

His comeback song after recovering from the accident two years later was “Grateful.” The video was filmed in a graveyard, where he could have wound up.

Eventually, he met Lecrae, who made him his hype man and took him on tour. His relationship with the Christian hip hop legend grew, as did a friendship with Derek Minor, another big name in CHH. Ultimately, Canon would sign for Minor’s Reflection Music Group.

“Canon is like a mad scientist,” Minor says on an RMG video about Canon’s accident. “He’s like, (changing to Dr. Jekyll voice) ‘Let me go to the studio, and I’ll bring you back a hit.’ You don’t hear from him for three months, and then he comes back with a Dr. Frankenstein monster of an album.”

Lecrae featured Canon on his album Rehab. Applying lessons learned through the mentoring Canon released “The Great Investment” in 2009 to widespread positive reception.

He was climbing the hierarchy.

canon-eagles-video-e1470357918356Then he plummeted — literally, not figuratively.

His death-defying dive resulted from him trying to help a truck driver.

He had only gotten married three weeks earlier.

The December concert was unusual because Canon was somber. He cut off the music, asked the fans to sit down and talked to them about being serious for Christ. “At any point, you could be gone,” he told the crowd, according to his road manager Brandon Mason.

Afterwards, he delayed hobnobbing with fans at the merchandise table, so Derek Minor got impatient and went ahead to the agreed-upon restaurant.

When Canon, his road manager and the deejay left in three separate cars at 10:30 p.m., they saw the flipped truck on a stretch of road with no lighting.

“I didn’t realize I was standing on a bridge,” Mason says. “That’s how dark it was.”

Both Canon and Mason parked and jumped out to aid the fateful truck driver. Canon kicked out the window and offered to help the driver get out. Canon warned about the fuel pouring over the pavement, but the driver was in some kind of shock and instead started the ignition, Mason says.

Canon jumped the median. He fell to the bottom of the ravine. Mason ran down to him.

“Man, I’m scared,” Canon told him. Read more about Canon’s fall.