Category Archives: faith

I still believe

I still believe

In 37 years of being a Christian, I’ve seen lots of friends tap out. They go through disappoints, failures, humiliations, emotional abuse. Out there, there are ravenous wolves disguised as sheep. Jesus warned as much, but it’s still pretty hard to swallow  bitter pills.

I haven’t given up in part because of the alternatives. As Peter said, Lord, You have the words of eternal life. Where else can we go? Jesus had just shown a horror flick, and His popularity took a nose dive; He had just told people to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Grisly material. Not even the disciples understood, but the stuck with Him.

I read articles and opinion pieces galore about trends of people leaving the church. They are “spiritual but not religious.” That sounds nice, but Jesus left just one institution. The gates of Hell would not prevail against His church. He did warn that there would be corruption in it.

Hitting up against corruption doesn’t feel particularly good. Or getting hit by it. Whichever. How much can a normal person stand? There’s no trite answer. All I can say is, “I still believe.”

Expecting God

IMG_0241Gideon seriously doubted that God could use him:

  • He questioned why the angel addressed him as “mighty man of God.”
  • He questioned his pedigree and his capability.
  • He asked for a sign twice, in opposite ways from one day to the next.
  • He needed to hear the enemy prophecy his victory.

Despite his doubts, God moved through him greatly. With 300 men, he defeated the Midianites.

As I venture out for a second time in my life to start a church, I have more confidence that God will move. He is blessing each step.

Today, he gave me a free dinner. Some Egyptians in the apartment complex I manage gave me food. Since my wife and kids are still in Santa Monica (until the end of the school year), this is tremendous blessing because I can pretty much cook only scrambled eggs for myself.

If you look for problems on every side, you will find them. If you look for God’s blessing at every point, you will find them. If you expect God to move, He will be happy with your faith. If you doubt His backing, He may move anyhow.

He fled North Korea and found Jesus in China

060515josephkim04awStarving North Korean teenager escaped, found Jesus in China

After his father died his mother abandoned him to go to China in search of food. So Joseph Kim, at 12 years old, became homeless, left to fend for himself in the throes of the great famine of North Korea, which started four years after the USSR collapsed and withdrew its financial support for the communist state.

With no one to turn to, Kim joined other streets urchins begging in the marketplace: “May I have your last spoonful of soup?” he asked with a plaintive cry.

kkotjebi

A kkotjebi in North Korea (not Joseph Kim)

But his stomach was never filled from the handouts of a few gracious diners in his native town.

“They called us kkotjebi, ‘wandering sparrows,’ because of the way we would bend over and look for grains of rice or kernels of corn on the ground,” he said.

Next he resorted to stealing. He wouldn’t pilfer manhole covers because if he got caught he would face execution (since the manhole covers belong to the state and any crime against the state was severely punished). He fell in with a band of thieves who believed they were re-distributing wealth. His comrades eventually were arrested, but mercifully, he was absent when the police raided.

“The famine had thinned out the village, as many of our friends lost grandmothers, aunts, sons and cousins,” Kim wrote in his 2015 book Under the Same Sky: From Starvation in North Korea to Salvation in America. “The graves climbed up the mountainside as if it were infected with a virus.”

northkorea-defectors_-1

The border between North Korea and China

The young Kim tried the exhausting and dangerous work of coal mining. With no safety equipment and hand-powered ventilation, Kim eked out an existence for three months. But mining only lasted until you died, and with no safety standards, death was usually inevitable.

His relatives entertained him for a time, but some of them were desperately struggling themselves, and another mouth to feed at the table was the last thing they wanted. A few relatives were simply greedy and lazy.

Without an immediate family, “either you lived with rich relatives or you stole – or you died,” Kim observes grimly. “Really, those were your only options.”

north korea revere leader

When he was guarding his uncle’s vegetable crops (from thieves like himself), he met an ex-convict who imparted a wonderful secret: If he managed to elude authorities and defect to China, the Christian churches there would give him money.

What was a Christian church? Kim wondered. Raised in the closed and atheistic totalitarian regime, he had been taught to revere the country’s leader and distrust outsiders – especially Americans and Japanese, who had no greater pleasure than to drive bayonets through North Koreans.

“Why do Christians give money to strangers?” Kim asked the ex-convict.

reddit joseph kim“It’s just what Christians do,” he replied. “They give things away. They’re not like normal people.”

One day, almost on a whim, with no previous planning or preparation, he decided to cross the frozen Tumen River bordering China on foot in plain daylight. His audacity contributed to his success. No one ever dared defect during the day. At night, those who got caught were either shot or tortured in prison.

When North Korean soldiers finally caught sight of him on the far side of the river, their shouts were more of astonishment than outrage. Not a shot was fired. He was only 14-years-old.

Once in China, Kim decided he would try to find his long-lost sister, Bong Sook, who had been sold off by their mother – either to be wedded or to sex exploitation, he didn’t know which. But before he could find her, he had to avoid capture by Chinese soldiers who would send him back to North Korea, where he would be imprisoned.

When he knocked on doors in the countryside asking for food, some Chinese were gruff and told him to go away. He had heard about the limitless riches of China and couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t share. A few gave him food. He slept in an abandoned house or under the stars.

Eventually, Kim made his way to the city of Yanji, where he looked for churches. He asked for money, and some of them gave. One kindly pastor’s wife took him in, even though, he learned later, she didn’t have money to fix her husband’s teeth at the dentist.

After a few weeks, someone in the church hired Kim for household help. He called the elderly Christian lady “Grandma,” and she taught him many things about the Bible.

Except for the longing to find his sister and see his mother (who was in prison in North Korea for defecting to China), he was happy. He was eating his fill, dressing his version of cool and reading the Bible, which he slowly began to understand.

Once when he sang a hymn with Grandma, he was deeply moved by the lyrics: “Father, I stretch my hands to Thee, No other help I know; If Thou withdraw Thyself from me, Ah! Whither shall I go?”

The Holy Spirit touched his heart and imparted saving faith. “I felt something pierce my heart,” Kim recalls. “I understood this. This was my life. That night alone in my room, I began to cry.

He attempted to talk to God for the first time. “I don’t know who you are,” he said. “I don’t understand the Scripture. But I’m surrendering myself to you.”

At that pivotal moment of submission to Jesus as his Lord and Savior, Kim was born again.

Not long afterward, a missionary visited Kim and explained to him the option to go to the U.S. as a political refugee. At first he didn’t like the idea because he remembered the North Korean indoctrination that Americans are evil.

But after praying, he agreed to go to a shelter partially funded by Liberty in North Korea, an activist group dedicated to resettling North Koreans in America. That’s where he met “Adrian,” who agreed to take him to freedom.

So as to not arouse suspicion of patrolling Chinese immigration officials, Adrian taught Kim and two other North Korean refugees to act like rowdy Korean-American tourists. Once in the market, Kim grabbed his fellow North Korean in a headlock that drew stares and mutterings from the local Chinese about the poor behavior of Americans.

Adrian bought them American clothes, and Kim was transformed into a “skater type – baseball cap turned to the side, bright graphic T-shirt and narrow pants.” Decked out as new personas, they rode the train to Shenyang.

There, they were taken to the U.S. consulate. But when the guard subjected Kim to a black wand metal detector search, Kim panicked. He thought he was being arrested.

Seeing the terror in his face, Adrian realized he should have explained the drill beforehand. “You’re safe now!” he shouted to Kim.

After months of paperwork, Kim was flown to the U.S. and moved in with host families. He attended high school and became a speaker on behalf of human rights organizations. He currently attends Bard College on full-ride scholarship in New York.

He is serving Jesus, happy and free. His only remorse is for his mother and his sister, Bong Sook, whom he still longs to see. Once while giving a speech in Scotland, he opted to sleep in the airport under a glass roof that allowed him see the stars. He meditated that somewhere in China was his cherished sister.

“I wonder what you are doing tonight,” he whispered. “Are you warm and safe like me? I will not forget you. Right now, we only share the stars. I can look up at night and see that you are under the same sky.”

That is how he came up with the title of his autobiography, Under the Same Sky. While he doesn’t know what’s happened to his mother, Kim believes one day he will be reunited with his beloved, long-sought sister.

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on God Reports. I wrote it, so I feature it here too.

Atletico de Madrid believed in themselves

griezmann

Antoine Griezmann had the sparkle that Barca lacked.

There are reasons why the best team in the world lost the Champions League quarter finals today to an upstart. Barcelona played flat, with no one showing flair. Atletico were sharp, precise, technical and quick.

They were outmatched in skill, but they compensated with belief. Most teams are so intimidated by skills-rich Barca that their objective is to limit the humiliation. But Atletico brought a greater work ethic to the pitch. While Messi, Neymar, Suarez and Iniesta lacked their typical flair, Antoine Griezmann showed up with sparkle.

Don’t worry about what you lack. You can make up for it with self-belief.

Sometimes the hardest thing is to believe

believeWe pride ourselves on being rational beings, well adjusted to reality. We are scientifically minded, and therefore what is impossible get ruled out. Miracles are a moonshot best avoided.

But miracles prove God, and God is interested in proving Himself to humanity to show humanity His love. So he drops us in impossible quandaries and waits for us to turn to him.

If you can believe, all things are possible for him that believes. — Mark 9:23. Jesus spent more time developing faith, but we Christians spend more time developing personal perfection. Jesus sought faith while we seek programs. Jesus encouraged Peter to walk on water, and the church is busy building boats.

Maybe you’re in financial trouble — believe to tithe. Maybe you have an incurable disease or disorder — believe for healing. Perhaps you don’t dare take on a ministry — believe and do it. Perhaps a long time has passed without any sign of hope — keep believing.

Reinvest in a bad investment


way of GodYou wouldn’t? Jesus did. You and I were bad investments. But He believed in us — again. He forgave us — again. He gave us another chance we were demonstrated repeatedly that we weren’t worth it. This is what Christianity is.

Sometimes I wanna explode

Isaiah 30at the outrageous unfairness.

Then God leads me to Isaiah 30:15: In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.

He calls me to exude peace, to trust and be unperturbed. The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. — James 1:20.

Don’t panic or rant. God will have His way. Stay and pray.

God is slow to anger

God slow to angerSo should we be.

The War of Words is on!

FullSizeRender(2)I called her “Munchkin Punchkin.” She called me a “Monkey Pumpkin.” I guess that’s what she thought I said.

I was preaching revival services in Bakersfield for a pastor. I played soccer with the kids between services. And I was teasing the pastor’s kids.

I should follow the presidential’s example. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are exuding such civility and dignified debate.

Kidding aside, I would like to address the real War of Words. Every time we get someone to say the sinner’s prayer, we are stealing a soul from Satan — and that is war. So we should wage a war of words; we should use our words to pray, to evangelize and to lead people to Christ.

This War of Words is on and should be on. Always.

Don’t underestimate your impact

little groupsLittle groups have always been the ones to change the world.

The disciples were 11 — and they made the world largely Christian. How many people were on the original Apple team? — and now they are one of the world’s most profitable. The Wright brothers were only two guys — and they flew the first plane.

Maybe your church is small. Don’t count yourself out.

The wilderness shall become like Eden


I give waters in the wilderness. — Isaiah 43:20

He will comfort all her waste places, and He will make her wilderness like Eden. — Isaiah 51:3

The hard ground, the drought, the chronic problem — God will change it all. Where there is no hope, He will miraculously bring revival and blessing.

Death Valley is not miss-named. But unusually large amounts of rain this year have produced a “Super Bloom.” It seems to be the kind of thing God does in  a spiritually way. It opens your eyes to what God can do: the impossible turnaround.

Cross the bridge of Christianity

chengduChristianity is not prohibitions. It gets you where you want to go. To bliss and peace. To stability and security. To acceptance. To eternal life.

So cross the bridge.

Want more

want more

We are the “want more” generation. There are those fighting the uphill battle of the simplified life counter culture movement.

And we think we are simply entitled to whatever luxuries and blessings free of charge because we are Americans — or whatever the basis is.

Meanwhile, the free gift of salvation is despised and ignored. We don’t want Heavenly riches; we want earthly ones! We can’t be happy without them, and we have someone to blame if we don’t get them — because the whole society was “set up to benefit” only the richest. Or so they say.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not Trump supporter.

*Picture from Pinterest.

‘Seoul Sisters’ glorify God on LPGA tour

mihyunkim

Mi-Hyun Kim

They call them Seoul Sisters because these Korean golfers are taking over the Ladies Professional Golf Tour – and among their ranks are many Christians.

“The Korean players keep their faith closer to their chest. It’s not that they’re less evangelical, they just present it differently,” said Cris Stevens, who leads a Bible study on the LPGA.

Lydia Ko is one of the South Korean golfers smashing records by smashing balls. The youngest ever #1 ranked player at 17 years old last year, Ko won the Evian Championship in France last year.

lydia_ko

Lydia Ko

For her success, she credits her parents – who brought her to New Zealand at an early age – and God

“Having faith gives me a sense of belief, tranquility, serenity and comfort,” Ko said in Golf MRX. “It constantly brings me back to reality. We are all the same human beings at the end of the day, living in the same world.”

She’s perhaps the youngest success story among the LPGA Christians. One of the older LPGA stars is Mi-Hyun Kim, who retired in 2011. She had won eight LPGA events and her best major was second place in the Women’s British Open in 2001. She was one of the original four dubbed “Seoul Sisters.”

When Kim won $210,000 in May 2007, she donated $100,000 to victims of a tornado in Greensburg, Kansas. She expressed her faith as the motive for the generosity.

“Honestly, I made a lot of money in the United States on the LPGA Tour,” she said. “Most of time, I get the money here and donate to South Korea. But, I want to help people here, too. The win was a surprise for me, and I think God gave it to me like a special present or he is using me like, ‘okay, I give you this, but after that you give to help the people.” Read the rest of the story.

Gold on and off the field, Kaka belongs to God

real-madrid-v-ajax-kaka-_2870368After Kaka impossibly threaded the ball through three Manchester United defenders and slotted for goal in the 2007 Champions League semi-final, he ripped off his jersey to show the world his T-shirt emblazoned: “I belong to Jesus.”

When his team, AC Milan, claimed the title — second in prestige to the World Cup, it was anti-climatic compared to Kaka’s sensational solo performance in the semi-final. He was just too quick and precise, always a nano-second ahead of defenders. In fact, when a stalwart defender came crashing in to shut down the attack with physicality, he wound up smashing his own teammate instead.

It was his most glorious moment in world-class soccer — and yet it was completely devoid of glory.

article-0-0071E53F000004B0-697_634x429That’s because for the Brazilian crack, glory is a thing belonging to God. Currently he plays for Orland City SC in the U.S.’s Major League Soccer. When his ball-kicking days are over, he plans to study theology and become a pastor. That’s when the real glory will start.

Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite became good at soccer because he was skinny and had to work harder than everybody else to excel. In 2001, he was catapulted to international fame when he scored two goals to win the Brazilian championship for his native Sao Paolo FC, which had never won a championship.

His little brother in childhood couldn’t properly pronounce his name and simply settled on “Kaka.” Graciously for the rest of us (who similarly can’t pronounce his name), the moniker stuck.

God and goals always went together for Kaka. Born into a devout Christian family, he experienced Christ in a profound way when he was baptized at age 12.

“Something supernatural happened to me. I cannot explain it, but after that experience I grew closer to God and began to know Him in a more in-depth way,” Kaka said. “My life changed and was never the same again.”

He won the respect of his teammates and fans by being a young man of integrity while witnessing boldly for Christ. He was involved in a Bible study and Athletes for Christ. Unlike many other stars who waver in the spotlight, Kaka has always held strong convictions. He married his childhood sweetheart, Caroline Celico, in 2005. Both had maintained their virginity until their wedding.

From Brazil, Kaka moved to Italy in 2003 to play for AC Milan for a transfer fee of €8.5 million. Within a month, he was a starter for the team. Read the rest of the story.

Editor’s Note: This story was written by my high school student, Adrian Brizuela, at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica. Of course, I edited and helped polish it. I’m proud of him. I hope he realizes that he is not only good at soccer.

Uncle wrestles shark to shore, retrieves arm

Go get it back. Fight for it.

12717813_10153370571943715_8719346761798835583_n

Vance Flosenzier dashed into the water after a shark bit off his nephew’s arm in 2001 at a beach near Pensacola, Florida. He grabbed the 7-foot bull shark by its tail and hauled the wrangling monster to shore. There, a ranger shot the shark in the head and paramedics extracted the arm from its gullet.

Jessie Arbogast passed into coma because of loss of blood, but surgeons were able to re-attach his arm, and when he woke up, it worked. Recovery has been long and slow. But he has his arm, thanks to the guts and courage of an angry uncle.

There are times when the devil rips you off. He steals your joy, your purity, your marriage. Whatever. Don’t cry and wring your hands by the shore. Go and fight, get it back!

This Iraqi kid loves Messi

messi bag jerseyToo poor to buy the real thing, this Iraqi boy turned a plastic bag into the jersey of his favorite soccer player, Leo Messi from FC Barcelona. How do you show your love for God?

Thanks to the internet, Messi saw it and is going to send him a real jersey. This will probably thrill him for 110 years.

The Bible says that Jesus was so impressed by the Roman centurion’s faith that He granted the miracle. Lesson: You can impress God (though we should distinguish: you can’t “earn” his favor — ok, it’s confusing, but the two truths work together in tension much like a guitar string is tightened across two frets). How do you show your love for God?

Smiling at death

Stjepan_Stevo_FilipovićWith a noose around his neck on the scaffold, resistance fighter Stjepan Filipovic defied his Nazi captors. “Death to facism! Freedom to people!” the Yugoslav jeered.

There is a cause that is worth more than conserving your life: it is fighting evil. There are men who are unafraid to pay the ultimate price for the highest good, whether they be our armed forces or missionaries in remote villages. They are unafraid because they realize if they don’t live for something valuable, they don’t live.

She forgave would-be killer

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Christmas, I want your forgiveness

havisham estella

The altercation between Estella and her adopted mother.

The fact that I’m 48 doesn’t make me any smarter or wiser than my high school students. It makes me more experienced, particularly in the area of mistakes. I’ve committed more errors than these kids by simple abundance of years.

Of all my sins and guilt, the thing I regret the most are the sins (errors) I committed against my children. I offended my parents rather nonchalantly. I offended my brother and my spouse. But what hurts the most is the conscience of wrongs done against my kids.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Can my children forgive me?

Miss Havisham moans as she wanders aimlessly around her estate in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. She has lost her only love, the love of her adopted daughter, whom she sought to protect against jilting love by making her incapable of love. Call it karma, but the girl who cannot love turned the lack of love against her adopted mother.

So she moans. Her life is now meaningless. Can we forgive ourselves for the wrongs done against our children? Can they forgive us? The cycle of victim-victimizer can only be broken by forgiveness.

What God does IN us

God's work in usis more important than what He does THROUGH us.

This is sometimes important to remember in our Christian life. Especially when things aren’t going well.

In Finland, the Rock rocks

Haka Kekalainen

In Finland, where heavy metal is mainstream, a movement melding the lyrics of traditional hymns with the snarl of hard rocking ‘Metal Mass’ is drawing sinners through churches’ doors.

In 2006, Haka Kekalainen, a pastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, decided with four other heavy metal aficionados to do the unthinkable: wedding their passion for rock with their love for the Rock.

“We didn’t change the lyrics of the hymns,” says Kekäläinen, a 50-year-old with a ponytail who drops his leather clothes for priestly garb on Sundays. “We only changed the musical arrangements to fit the rhythms of metal music. The hymns contain some very cruel words. It fits with metal music.”

The first “mass” where metal hymns were played was packed by 1,300 in the Temppeliaukio Church of Helsinki, Kekalainen, according to the website This is Finland. More than 100 similar Metal Masses have been offered throughout Finland since then, and all 8,000 copies of the subsequent album Metallimessu were snapped up. The recording hit #12 on Finnish billboard charts and stayed in the top 40 for three weeks.

Metallimessu

“It was really good,” Akseli Inkinen, a 17-year-old with long, messy hair, told The Washington Times. The pews get packed with teens who pump the air with fists while the lead singers mosh around the stage.

Mika Mäkinen, a 30-something man with his blond hair in a ponytail, eschews normal church services. But since his first Metal Mass, he’s become a regular to the services, the rock and hearing the Word of God. “This is my ninth time,” he told This is Finland. Read the rest

Editor’s note: My student at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica wrote this article as an assignment.

The adventures continue

Mike Ashcraft to Guatemala

My brother at left is an engineer. He likes to smirk.

Pathos is my passion. Wherever there are humans involved in a titanic struggle to alleviate the evils of our world, that’s where I’m helping and writing. God has given me a gift for communication.

Now, I’m going to Guatemala, my old stomping ground. I raised up a school to help the poor in the Capital City. They pay only a fraction of costs. Recently, the government has cited an audit, and I need to hurry down to  take care of paperwork.

Of course, while I’m there, I’ll be bringing to this blog some of the great stories of struggle and triumph, of the humans spirit almost breaking under pressure, like I’ve always done.

Why am I telling you this beforehand? I need a little bit of help. Fund my trip to Guatemala. Whatever you can pitch in is greatly appreciated. I’m “scheduling” this post ahead of time because I don’t think I’ll have internet access. So far Carmen Lezeth Suarez has very graciously donated. I want to encourage you too to pitch in. Click the link to go directly to my campaign. Thank you! http://www.gofundme.com/MikeToGuatemala

Bible knowledge is overrated

Christian love

Though I have … understand all mysteries and all knowledge … and have not love, I am nothing. — 1 Cor 13:2.

I went to seminary. It was mostly very useful. I learned how to solve the majority of the “problem texts.” I learned to how to contextualize. I learned Greek and Hebrew. All important stuff to “rightly divide the word” for preaching and applying.

But the gold standard for Christian leadership is not Bible mastery. It is love. Paul says, “Knowledge puffs up.” In other words, you can sin with pride over your superior knowledge. But the daily grind of living the Christian life consists mostly in exhibiting love.

A lot of Bible knowledge doesn’t help when it come to “loving your enemies.” In fact, loving and forgiving difficult people is one of the toughest challenges for Christians. I may be good a parsing, but I have much to learn at loving.

Strong finishers

strong finishers

Luis Suarez is one of the strongest finishers in soccer.

Useless is the team that defends well, keeps possession, gets to goal, but then can’t put the ball in the net. Every team has the need for a strong finisher, someone who consistently strikes on target, someone who bamboozles the goalie.

The finisher may not dribble well, may not pass well, may not have great stamina. That’s not his job. His is to finish all the work up to the goal.

As Christians, we need to be strong finishers. It’s useless to a meteoric rise, a glorious carrying forth, only to die out at the end. God help me to be a strong finisher.

Believe

believe

Senior Joel Lahood makes a mad dash to the touchdown line

ROLLING HILLS, CA – Lighthouse suckerpunched Rolling Hills Preparatory 41-15 Friday in its third straight win since the 2013 season of CIF 8-man football began.

Lighthouse Christian Academy

LCA Saints can’t stop smiling after an improbable win, product of hard work and faith in themselves.

The undermanned Saints outgunned their numerous opponents on Sept. 13 and avenged two straight losses to their South Bay rivals from previous years. Sophomore Tex Hagoski opened scoring within minutes of the game start with a daring dash, wiggling free of would-be tackles. With each play, Santa Monica’s Lighthouse Christian Academy showed its intentions of rolling all over Rolling Hills.

8-man football in Los Angeles

Hagoki limps off the field

Next, senior Joseph “Raising Cain” Kayne powered through to the big 6 points. Next came senior and toughguy quarterback Joel Lahood to sprint into the end zone. In the second half, sophomore Adrian Brizuela, a soccer star cajoled into playing football, intercepted a pass and demonstrated fancy footwork to cross the touchdown line.

where can I get on a varsity football team?

Brizuela makes a touchdown??? But his sport is soccer!

Finally, senior Nate Peterson jack-knifed through an onslaught of hulking opponents to get his name on the scoreboard.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. Rolling Hills had requested a game with the slumping Saints (slumping for the last two years) because RHP had lost a slew of seniors this year. They had hoped for at least one easy win (against us). Instead, our lopsided victory will be sure to pile up their misery.

believe

Lighthouse fans have yet to show they have the faith in their team

But if Rolling Hills had fewer seniors, their entire squad outnumbered ours by almost three to one. In a now-common pattern of brutal injustice, our opponents field both a defensive and offensive squad, which gives their players a needed respite. Meanwhile, our dogged dudes must dig deep down inside to find the energy to equal their adversaries, moving both forward and backward.

football is for men

War Wounds: “Raising Cain” Kayne shows scrapes on the forehead (barely visible in the photo) and on both arms.

When starlet Hagoski limped off the field with a knee injury, Lighthouse threw on its one and only substitute, freshman Will Clancy, who’s never played football before

When his older brother, senior Nick Clancy, took a particularly hard hit, Hagoski removed his ice pack and hobbled back onto to the field to fill the position for one play.

On the surface, it’s pure insanity. But it was a gutsy kind of testosterone  display that men love to see on the gridiron. When you analyze the numbers, Lighthouse, with fledgling resources, should NOT be winning. But these kids believe in themselves enough to make every tackle, to make every wild run, to make every handoff.

In a sign of their growing confidence, Lighthouse is making pass completions and surprising opponents with unsuspected plays. That these young men believe in their own leadership and ability is clear. Will the Lighthouse fans, jaded by previous losing seasons, believe in them also?

Audacious faith

apbewsafmanstandsaloneOne man stands alone against 750 false prophets, against a despot and against his power-hungry wife who runs death squads.

Elijah challenges virtually an entire nation when he calls down fire from Heaven upon a water-saturated sacrifice that gets incinerated. Seeing this, the Israelites remember God Jehovah and turn back to their roots.

Where did such faith come from? Everything was against him. I want this kind of audacious faith. Procure in prayer and Bible study a faith that:

  • never cowers
  • always hopes
  • always loves
  • never complains
  • accomplishes the impossible
  • whips the devil
  • never wavers no matter the storm’s intensity
  • does not let fear creep in

Some of my favorite faith-filling verses are:

  1. James 5:16 NIV Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly…
  2. Matt. 17:20 NIV if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.
  3. Matt. 9:29 NIV According to your faith let it be done to you
  4. Matt. 21:22 NIV If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.
  5. Heb. 11:1 NIV Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

His biggest blunder

Don't get out of the path.

Don’t get out of the path.

Without a doubt, Abraham blew it when he tried to “help” God. After not seeing the promise of God fulfilled for more than a decade, Abraham slept with Hagar, his wife’s maidservant, to have the descendant through her.

Oops. Talk about a doozy. Now we can’t have peace in the Middle East as a result. The baby, Ishmael, grew up to fight and cause trouble to the true promised child, Isaac. His 1360711691731572240590805063076419_wYkaoZMI_b descendants, the Arabs, want to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. If only Abraham and Sarah would have had patience…

Herein lies a great lesson for prayer. Hang in there believing for the miracle, and don’t try to “force” the hand of God with an easy, half-baked “answer.” Continue contending for His best, not your compromise.

You can serve God half way, but you won’t get 71494712804052847_GCszxYOs_bcomplete blessing. In all, Abraham and Sarah had to wait 25 years (give or take a few) to see their child born. Abraham was 100, and Sarah, 90. God was faithful. If they hadn’t fallen into desperation, the world would be a better place today. Your world will be a better place, if you don’t get frantic for the answer.

Choose today faith

Horse Swimming, MaltaIn Joshua’s day, it was a choice between Baal or Jehovah. In our day, it is a choice between doubt or belief.

Step up in your faith!

Step up in your faith!

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then CHOOSE  for yourselves THIS DAY whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. — Josh. 24:15 NIV my caps.

173177548140880392_SOA4TQPh_bIf you doubt, the hordes of naysayers will applaud you and show you the path of reckless abandon. If you believe, it will be a lonely, hard, uphill road.

The results of doubt are disaster. The much-admired atheist Frederick Nietzsche died insane (brought on by syphilis?), fighting against a carriage driver who was whipping his horses. A tree is recognized by its fruit — Matt. 12:33b NIV.

226868899950361526_1irBNNtn_fAside from total doubt (atheist, agnostic) there is partial doubt. This is the “believer” who does not believe for healing or for answers to prayers. This is a midroader, neither an unbeliever, nor a total, radical, Bible-believing Christian. I find myself constantly trying to wrestle my way out of this quandary.

The addict struggles to believe he can be free. The failure struggles to believe he can be a success. The sick struggles to believe for 841761873_W9nRPOpy_lhealing. The pioneer pastor struggles to believe for people and finances. Write your circumstance here: ____________ struggles to believe.

Belief is a daily choice. It requires effort. To not believe, requires no effort. That’s why prayer and Bible-reading in the morning is such a good idea: it fills you with faith. Choose to believe today.

Formerly scavengers, rising up the food chain

Surrounded by opponents, forward Rob Ashcraft dribbles toward goal

Surrounded by opponents, forward Rob Ashcraft dribbles toward goal

Untiringly aggressive, Tex Hagoski shut them down in the field.

Untiringly aggressive, Tex Hagoski shut them down in the field.

They played their hearts out — and at the final whistle Lighthouse Christian Academy had executed the most improbable upset in the league, defeating touch-perfect New Roads 3-2 in varsity soccer.

With girls, freshmen, and inexperienced players on the team, LCA Saints are

Only our team has girls on the team in our league, but with Tori Scribner it doesn't make a difference.

Only our team has girls in our league, but with Tori Scribner it doesn’t make a difference.

understandably bottom-dwelling fish. But somehow this season, they believed in themselves, winning four and tying one. Friday’s game was the crown jewel of the season. New Roads left the field in despair.

These kids who played with unaccustomed verve teach us a lesson in life.

Robert Ashcraft was unstoppable.

Robert Ashcraft was unstoppable.

No matter how many failures, no matter what the man-to-man analysis, you can prevail with spunk and belief.

When you go to prayer today, when you minister, expect the victory. Whatever your shortcomings, whatever your handicaps, remember God grants triumph. Faith is key. Last year, we lost every single game.

For the full story, read http://www.thelighthousechristianacademy.com/saints-embarrass-in-big-upset/

You get what you praise for

from pinterest

From pinterest. (This is not me.)

Praise is very much like prayer, only that it is confident (full of faith) of the answer.

One of the “secrets” I have learned in decades of prayer is to have time to praise God. (Usually the “big secrets” that the “gurus” know are simple truths that other people already know anyhow.) This key to successful prayer transformed my prayer life, which previously was something of a whine session.

It also served the second purpose of filling up my faith

Another random photo from pinterest.

Another random photo from pinterest.

tank. As I remembered all the good answers God had brought to my prayers (I compile lists), I am filled with faith to pray for today’s challenges. Yessiree, it’s that simple.

Get into the habit of faith

To form a new habit, willpower is more important than self-esteem. In his book Willpower, Roy Baumeister demonstrates that willpower is key to success in college, success in life, longevity and health. The possessor adheres to an unshakeable determination to achieve his goals.

If you’re accustomed to a dreary day of negativity, make some practical changes: Introduce or lengthen prayer time. Sprinkle your day with the Word of God. Arrest negative thoughts and force yourself to assume the best. Audibly confess the opposite of what gets you down. Continually go up to sit on God’s lap and tell your loving Father your struggles.

It’s amazing that willpower is akin to faith. They’re overlapping circle graphs with a significant shared region. This is the overcoming spirit of which the Bible speaks.

Is it possible to go from pessimism to belief? I am one who emigrated from the country of unbelief and unhealthy depression. I journeyed to the land of faith. Transforming my outlook has transformed my life. So I encourage you to get off your “but” and become a person of faith.

Impact God

Aphrodite doted on Paris for his beauty. Zeus loved Hector for his courage. God is a glaring contrast to the chaos of the Greek pantheon. When He declares Himself “holy,” He is saying He is different. “I am NOT similar to false gods.”

So what does God like? He likes FAITH. From Abraham to Daniel, He gets excited about people who believe Him. The problem with the Israelites in the desert was NOT their whining so much as their lack of faith.

You won’t hardly find Jesus marveling over someone’s personal uprightness. Nor their “sound interpretation of scripture.” Nor their “acts of righteousness.” Over and over, Jesus admires just one thing: faith.

When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. — Matt. 8:10 NIV.

Publicists teach how in marketing to impact. But what impacts God? Stand-out faith. He is drawn to it. He searches for it. He responds to it. He gets disgusted when He can’t find it.

In the verse above, a Roman gentile — despised by the Jews — garners the open admiration of the Jews’ Jew, Jesus. The gentile — supposedly an outsider to the business of God — earns higher marks than the insider, simply because of faith.

It’s easy to NOT believe. When you pray for finances for your ministry, stir yourself to stand-out faith.

%d bloggers like this: