Category Archives: Financial Talk

How the Lord can Bless you!

Apartment managing fail #8 #ValleyBoyPastor

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If you hear screams late at night coming from my room, don’t call the cops. Everything is OK. I’m just having a nightmare about dishwashers.

101’s dishwasher was spraying water on the floor. It had been doing so — whenever the tenant infrequently used it — for eight months. The previous manager apparently couldn’t find the problem.

But replacing it was no slam dunk. The Home Depot guys returned because the voltage was 220. The electrician scolded me because the shut-off valve was corroded and sprayed him. The tenant feels like her apartment has turned into a museum as I, the handyman and an assortment of workers traipse through day after day.

Ugh.

I’m the Valley Boy Pastor, and I’m new at apartment managing. And I’m loving it. It offers me the chance to make friends and win souls on the basis of the rapport of being the manager. I guess you could say the job is a little bit “complex.” Sorry, can’t resist a pun regardless of the quality.

Thanks for your prayers for this church plant. So far, no one has come to the Thursday Bible study.

Fear and loathing in Los Angeles (and Guatemala)

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I conquered fear for 16 years. As a result, there’s a church and Christian school in Guatemala.

It was a contest of scary stories, but these were real — about assaults. The people one-upping each other were pastors in Guatemala. As the only gringo in the group, I begged them to stop since they worked worse in my mind. The Guatemalans gave accounts of the times they were held up at gunpoint or at knifepoint sometimes out of humor. I never got the joke.

Eventually the terror of the reigning insecurity in Guatemala got the best of me, and I high-tailed it to the U.S. Guatemala is nation dominated by drug-traffickers. Government officials are too busy stealing from the country. Police officers join the fray. You never know who to fear more, the crooks or the police officers.

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By the time I succumbed to fear, God had raised up leaders to take over and keep the work going.

I held out in faith for 16 years, but when I got held up by pros, after exchanging money at the bank, I was afraid for my kids. They would rapt them and demand ransom.

Please don’t be glib. You can spout scripture (“perfect love casts out all fear” comes to mind) from here in the United States where you face virtually no threat. But I’ll listen to a person who has been through worse things than me.

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The smiles are worth whatever fears I had. People have come to Christ.

Not all fear is bad. As David Bowie observed grimly: There are no atheists on the battlefield. Those who face death daily don’t have the luxury to flout their intellectual pride and declare themselves free-thinkers. Those who face fear hold to faith. I believe David Bowie, after promoting so much sin during his musical career, came to God at the end. Selling records and making money was cool, but it was useless to solve the death problem. Only God can do that.

Have you conquered all fears? Maybe you just haven’t had a big enough trial yet. You don’t fear God? Some go into eternity sticking to their pridefulness and insisting they don’t believe in God.

 

Far from my wife on her bday

IMG_9800There wasn’t a good time to come to Guatemala. First we determined Hosea would come with me, so we had to renew his passport. Then we looked for cheap tickets. The result? We are missing Dianna’s birthday?

We celebrated it early. Di likes Chinese, Rebekah Japanese, I Mexican, Rob red meat and Hosea Idk. So we opted for middle ground: Italian. That’s how we celebrate at the Ashcraft house.

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Italian food was the compromise.

I am currently in Guatemala, preaching the gospel. There are sacrifices for serving God. But these sacrifices are better than the sacrifices in the world: parents who sacrifice their kids for money, for example.

Still, I’m missing her.

Fun, fellowship and discipleship at a Christian school in Guatemala

Christian school Guatemala

Hosea with Teacher Banner.

Whenever Pastor Michael Ashcraft visits Guatemala, he wants to play soccer with the private school, and this time he won with Teacher Banner Ajcip’s team 10-8 over Teacher Mario Ajcip’s.

The sporting event included the visit of Pastor Mike’s son, Hosea, who was born in Guatemala and studied at the private school until third grade. Hosea, who had an innate skill for goals as a kid, hit the inside of the net three times. Father and son played together on the team of Teacher Banner.

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta zona 1 ciudad guatemalaPastor Mike realized two assists before moving to the defense to stop the attack of superstar opponent, Carlos Marroquin, a 9th grader. With 200 pounds weight and 6’3″ height, Pastor Mike presented a formidable defense. Nevertheless, the youth broke his ankles various times. Even so, Pastor Mike limited his goals and contributed to the victory.

While the guys played soccer, the girls preferred basketball and indoor soccer adjacent to the soccer field.

soccer guatemala christian school capital city

After two hours of straight playing, most of the boys got tired and left. These are the survivors.

“I can learn a lot from Guatemala,” said Hosea. “I want to return to the United States much better than everybody because I played here in Guatemala.”

The field trip and sports event is important because it allows the students to make friends and inter-relate. Everything the Door Bilingual School does is focused on an integral formation of youth: mind, body, emotions and spirit. The Guatemalan Christian school has maintained this focus in Guatemala City since its beginnings when Pastor Mike started with only three students in the Colon neighborhood.

Now, the Door Bilingual School is located on 6th Avenue 2-34 Zone 1 in front of the San Sebastian Park in the City of Guatemala. The original story appeared in Spanish here.

My dad is not afraid to die

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Me at the hospital.

He fell and broke his hip yesterday. He’s 88.

I was thunderstruck by his declaration today when I came to the hospital. He’s never been a gung-ho Christian. He didn’t even go to church. But he confessed to be a Christian. He said he was envious of Mom, who died quickly, suddenly of a massive heart attack. He said he was ready to go — even, he wanted to go.

Of course, I argued that such feelings were foolishness. We — my brother and I and our wives and families — don’t want him to go. But he sees no point of lingering with the body breaking down. He says he never imagined living for so long.

A year ago, he was hospitalized, and it was a wake-up call for me to neglect my professional duties some to dedicate more time to him. I started visiting once a week. I’ve learned things I never knew: about his time in the Army in Korea post WW2, his studies at Berkeley, his previous girlfriends. He’s tipped me off to great stories about Christian golfers and tennis players that I’ve parlayed into articles for God Reports. The man I didn’t have much of a relationship with since I was a youth and he didn’t talk to me began to figure centrally in my life.

When my mom died 10 years ago, I had an incredible peace, not just because she was a Christian but because I felt I had learned so many lessons from her that I was putting into practice in my life. From Mom, I learned to love and serve God above everything. She was a chaplain in the Sylmar juvenile hall, and I was a missionary in Guatemala.

For the first time ever, my dad seems to have gotten excited about the service I render to the Lord. I was telling him (before his fall) about a student in my class that came to our high school from the public system, where he was a trouble-maker, a fighter and who knows what else. Now, he’s reading the literature and making intelligent contributions to the class. My secret educational tool is to believe in the kids. Maybe no one ever believed in him before. Now he is responding.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen it register on Dad’s face that this work, though miserably remunerated, is gloriously valuable. Could it be that facing eternity, the man who hammered financial stability is finally understanding true value?

No doubt, my dad will recover from this second hospitalization. He won’t like the transition for physical therapy at the nursing home. But he’ll probably get home.

But he won’t be with us forever. Will I have learned from him everything I needed to?

 

Difficult roads often leads to beautiful places

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Source: Difficult roads often leads to beautiful places

Be careful about the road ahead

crashThose who fail to plan, plan to fail.

So says a generation of financial planners. As Americans, we are proud that we can forge our own destiny.

But are we planning for eternity.

All you need is a little bit

P8112143A little light can be seen in much darkness.

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

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

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

Led by a guy who likes to sleep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those ‘Marginal’ People

“Light shines in the darkness for the godly.
    They are generous, compassionate, and righteous.”

Psalm 112:4, NLT

The Glory of Jesus lies in this: in weakness, vulnerability, and apparent failure He has called forth disciples to come after Him, willing and able to carry the cross and relive His passion with compassion.

They are marginal people, not part of the scene, irrelevant to the “action.” In their ministry or quiet presence they do not need to win or compete. They may look like losers, even to themselves.

The world ignores them. But they are building “the Kingdom of God” on earth by reaching out in vulnerability and weakness to share the suffering of  their brothers and sisters.

Where the compassionate One is, there will His servants be.”

 

Reblogged on WordPress.com

Source: Those ‘Marginal’ People

Whatever you can do….

Photo post by @HOsarobo.

Source: Whatever you can do….

My life in parallel in the Christmas Carol

Christmas Future

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

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

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

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

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

Love God more than money.

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

One soul worth more than 15 million views

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

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

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

One soul is worth more than 15 million views.

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

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Just me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anonymous ministers

anonymousWhen I was head pastor, I romanticized being an anonymous servant. I even prayed to be one.

Then I became pretty much an anonymous member of the church. No more high-flying ministry. Honestly, I didn’t like it too much.

God had to remind that I had prayed to become anonymous. If you’re not on the kudos list here on Earth, don’t despair. Just praise Jesus because you’ll be getting your reward in Heaven.

Crazy easy way to calm a fussy baby


Dr. Bob Hamilton shows in the video a simple hold that calms the crying infant right down. The video shows babies who just got shots. They immediately settle down.

Dr. Bob always helped me when I was on the mission field. He saw my kids for free when we came to Bible conference in Santa Monica. His Pacific Ocean Pediatrics attends to a lot of people, including the kids of the stars.

He stages clinics twice a year in Africa and elsewhere. His Lighthouse Medical Missions has done some 20 such free clinics in 20 years.

This technique for calming babies is so easy!

Unselfishness wins

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Unity won the day for Barca.

Barcelona left eternal rivals Real Madrid in shreds Saturday 4-0 in a game that showed that individual prowess doesn’t win games.

The Catalans have not one but three superstars. And those three — Neymar, Messi and Luis Suarez — share the goals unselfishly.

Usually teams are built around and for one superstar who won’t stand for competition on his own team. (Kobe Bryant infamously ran Shaquille O’Neal off the Lakers years ago.)

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Luis Suarez scored two and made assists.

Barca works because it works like a team.

Not Real Madrid. Marcello took a shot when his best option was to pass. The ball went wide, and his teammates got mad. He sought individual glory but brought collective disgrace.

By contrast, Brazillian magician Neymar shared as many balls as he fired. And Suarez, who pretty much defines goal-making precision, foots off as many or more killer assists. Messi, recovering from injury, came on as a late substitute and set up the fourth goal with a pass that would have made a brain surgeon taken note for its precision.

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No rivalry between players. Messi left and midfielder Andres Iniesta

The Bible says: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you want passes to you, then follow the Golden Rule. That’s what Barca did, and today the followers of the Golden Rule are the Golden Boys of soccer.

Note: I don’t own the rights to these images, and I’m not making any money on them.

God doesn’t help those who help themselves

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

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

Pay a scholarship for at-risk students for soccer

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Levi shows why he’ll be midfielder.

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

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

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

100% Native American 100% Christian: Angie Behrns West Los Angeles hero

100% Native American 100% Christian

Angie Behrns at the Keruvungna Springs on University High School in West Los Angeles. She fought to save the springs.

When her sister died of cancer, Angie Behrns locked herself in the bathroom and smashed perfume bottles on the floor.

“I was angry at God,” she cried. “I said, ‘God, what did you do? Out of all of us, she was the strong Christian. She worked with underprivileged children. If You are real, where are You?’”

As she worked out her questions over time, Angie eventually arrived at acceptance – and resolved to not become mired in passivity.

“The devil took somebody who was a hard worker, who worked with the children no one wanted to work with,” she said. “I decided I was going to step up to the plate. The devil took out one soldier, but I was going to be another. What my sister did, I was going to do, and I was going to go full speed ahead.”

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Angie in front of Dal Basile, her daughter, both Tongva Native Americans, both uncompromising Christians.

At 78, Angie shows no signs of slowing. In addition to leading a Sunday school ministry for years, she has served tirelessly with her Native American brothers and sisters to conserve springs in West Los Angeles where a Tongva village once sat.

For Angie, there’s no conflict between faith and heritage. “You don’t ask whether I feel more Native American or more Christian,” the tribal elder said. “One is my culture and the other is my religion. It would be like asking if someone feels more American or more Christian.”

When asked to perform blessings at civic and cultural events, Angie dons her regalia and prays like all Native Americans to the Creator – or also called “Grandfather” – whom she identifies as Jehovah, the God of the Old and New Testament.

She also doesn’t feel any of the antipathy that many Native Americans harbor towards the church. “A lot of Indians are still angry at the Church. They hate Christianity because their ancestors were beaten, tortured and killed. They were treated as slaves to build the missions. I forgive them for what they did in the past. There is only one God.”

Angie’s daughter, Dalphina Basile agreed: “We are Native Americans who love the Lord. We’re not involved in witchcraft or New Age ideas. Each time I go to the springs, my spirit begins to praise God for His provision and beauty. We become aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

Angie’s faith in God began with her mother. Her father was an incorrigible drunk who hated the church but always made the sign of the cross. Read the rest of the article.

Editor’s Note: I wrote this article. So I feature it here also.

Patch man

sports injury

The doctor extracted the blood that caused the painful swelling.

My son Rob keeps smashing his body to pieces in sports, and he keeps going back to the orthopedist to be put back together.

Keith Brookenthal (quite a name for a man who deals with broken bones, right?) is an sharp and optimistic doctor. He emanates confidence and allays fears with his smile.

You might as well and try to finish your season. See how much your leg can support you. The right ACL was partially torn Sept. 11. Since it was Rob’s senior year, he ought to go for the glory and not play it safe.

On Saturday, Rob finished tearing the ACL. But he made a touchdown, threw a touchdown pass and helped his team to their first win.

Come Monday morning, we’re back in Dr. Brookenthal’s office. The knee is swollen. He has pain. We are worried about further damage done. He tests the leg, smiles and orders another MRI. (Dr. Brookenthal successfully repaired Rob’s left ACL tear two years ago. Now, he’s doing the right ACL.)

Something about this doctor — whom I call Patch Man because he keeps patching up my son — reminds me of Jesus. We go out into the world and get smashed up. We come back to Jesus, and He heals us. He beams with a smile and inspires confidence.

When I  put my son into Dr. Brookenthal’s hands, I know everything is going to be all right. When I put my soul into Dr. Jesus’ hands, I know everything is going to be all right.

Dear past

Photo post by @HOsarobo.

Source: Dear past

But was it smart to bring her special needs girl on medical mission?

Medical Missions | Lighthouse | Central AmericaNow Dal Basile knows for sure that it wasn’t foolhardiness to bring her special needs daughter on a medical mission to Guatemala.

Originally she worried that Michelle Villasenor, whose academic level is second grade, might could get lost in a crowd and never be found again. Dal has performed as a nurse on almost 30 medical missions, mostly to Africa, and taking Michelle was never even contemplated.

But Lighthouse Medical Missions leader Dr. Bob Hamilton prodded Dal to bring Michelle on this trip, fairly near, to Guatemala. Not too quickly, Dal acquiesced. Would the Santa Monica mom regret the decision forever?

On Tuesday any vestige of doubt about the wisdom of bringing Michelle was quashed.

That’s because Abigail Esteban appeared with heart palpitations provoked by anxiety over her own special needs daughter, a case of developmental delay fairly similar to Michelle’s.

“She broke down crying,” Dal said. “I told her I know what it’s like to have a special needs daughter, and I know that God can work in your daughter’s life. I told her, ‘God chose you because you’re a gifted person.’ I went and brought Michelle. And Michelle prayed for the woman. Michelle perked up. She relates to special needs people. She bonds.” Continue reading.

We all get to go #BackToSchool

With God, you’re always learning. Sometimes He gives us a break, especially if the lessons have been painful or tiring. But you won’t be able to rest always. You can’t have only blessing and enjoyment in Christianity. There are going to be some times of difficulty. During those times, God is not screwing with you (excuse the expression). He is teaching you. Not all of His lessons are painful.

So ask yourself: What is God teaching me?

Photo source: Google

Souls are crying

Gautemala mission

My Korean missionary friend at left, my Egyptian Christian friend at right.

I hear their cry, their agony. People need Christ. I’m heading back to Guatemala on a 3-week mission trip to restore and work in the church and school I planted there five years ago (I was there 15 years).

You can help in this project. You can donate by clicking http://www.gofundme.com/MikeToGuatemala. A lot of my blogger friends already have, but I’m still not halfway to the goal. When you give, when you pray for me, you participate in this mission, and you share in the Heavenly rewards.

I’ll be writing soon from Guatemala about all the adventures, challenges and victories. Thank you for supporting me!

I wanted to help my friend Zeke.

IMG_3531It’s been two long years that I have wanted to visit my friend, Ezekiel. I met him playing soccer just before the accident. I wanted to pray for him and embrace him. He lived far away, in Salt Lake City.

I wanted to somehow bless him. Instead, he blessed me.

I got a vision of him preaching. I saw him functioning as a powerful man of God. I could totally visualize him being used by God. I saw no obstacles for him.

This was convicting to me. Because I see all kinds of limitations and disqualifiers for myself. While I had no doubt that God wanted to use Zeke, I am plagued by doubts about myself.

Tucson Bible conference and the quest for coffee

mcdonalds hwy 10

At an old-school McDonald’s for breakfast

The mistake was to bundle up too many errands in one stop. I wanted to get cheap Arizona gas AND quality coffee. That wasn’t going to happen on the 10 Fwy from California.

I settled for some coffee called “Zippy” at a gas stop.

A far cry from a coffee whose size is specified in Italian, but what can you expect from a road trip through the desert wasteland between San Bernardino and Phoenix.

church in tucson

My son after the workout.

We hit the mini gym at the hotel before opening night. The Door Church conference is where fires ignited in me to dare to believe in myself and go to Guatemala, where I pastored for 16 years. The excitement is high to see what God might have for me in the future.

Love letter written in blood

Jesus whip wounds

To show their love, some give flowers, chocolates or a diamond ring. This is what Jesus gave.

Bears are re-writing the signs

sin no longer sinDanger is no longer danger, sin is no longer sin.

Surviving drought

California droughtAs we enter the worst drought in 1,200 years, Californians are shifting into survival mode. Farmers are cutting water use 25%, and Angelinos are ripping out grass and installing turf in their yards. I’m scolding people in my household for long showers and shutting off the spigot between rinses at the kitchen sink.

You gotta do what you gotta do.

There are spiritual droughts as well, and the key to them is to survive them. Of course, you’ll hear countless seminars about getting rain. But sometimes, you can’t make it rain, in your marriage, in your finances or in a relationship at church where the other person doesn’t want rain.

So hunker down and survive. Don’t move to another state (out of the state of salvation).

#WorthWayMoreThan$5Million

#worthmorethan$5million

Our small school’s senior class.

My church recently voted “no” to selling our high school property, which we are in arrears for a year and a half. The offering price: $5 million.

It seems like some people thought the price was too much to pass up, even a blessing given by God. By contrast, I thought the price was the devil’s temptation. This property contains a small two-story building used for the high school, a small church and a parsonage. Getting rid of it would mean one less church in Santa Monica, a reversal for revival in a needy city.

Three weeks ago I blogged about my despair, and many of you joined me in prayer. Today, things are on the upswing. We are getting new students every week for next year. These are kids who are going to hear the Word of God daily. They’re coming out of public school chaos and into an environment of loving teachers and fellow students. We have a girl who was cutting herself; now she’s rocketing for Jesus. We have former gang-bangers, kids who got bullied, the list goes on.

Maybe $5 million seems like a lot of money. But I feel that each of these kids individually is worth WAY MORE THAN $5 million. To describe them as worth $5 million is to sell them short.

Hey, Christ gave his life for each one of them. Why would not value them more?

I’m praising Jesus that, at least for now, we are keeping the school on track with expansion. We should sell it when we outgrow it, and we should sell it to whoever will conserve the church, not to some developer who will turn it into condos or something.

YOU are worth WAY MORE THAN $5 million

You’re either building muscle or losing it.

building muscle

Somewhere in middle age, you need to consciously build muscle. Otherwise, you’ll be losing it.

I’m 47. I go to the gym. I’ve found that going to the gym is great prevention: you either suffer at the gym or you suffer in the hospital later in life. I feel very healthy, young, vibrant.

What’s true for the body is true for your spirit. If you’re not building up your spirit with the Word of God, prayer, fellowship and active kingdom work, you’re atrophying spiritually.

*Image source: dromo.co/5-reasons-why-youre-not-seeing-results/

For love of mom and dad

love of mom and dad

Moving Mountains

whatcherylsaid...

mountains6

Have you seen the movie “The Shawshank Redemption” which starred Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman? The movie was about a banker (Tim Robbins) who is sentenced to life in Shawshank State Prison for the murder of his wife and her lover although he claimed to be innocent. He befriends an inmate “Red” (Morgan Freeman) who also protects him from the wrath of the prison guards. Although, the movie is not a very thought provoking movie; It is a very uplifting movie. Which means it’s not a complicated thought provoking movie, but more of a feel good kind of movie.

The way the two men bonded and found such solace and redemption within one another was amazing. It is a movie about hope and believing in the will to overcome even the greatest of obstacles. In the scene where Tim Robbins character plans to escape from the prison, it took him…

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First century resurrection texts

texts between Jesus and Peter

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Fatigue failure

fatigue failure

I was surprised that planes crack more from pressurization than from turbulence. That’s why 747s that do long flights have been around fro 30 years while small planes doing several flights a day hit the scrap heap quickly.

It turns out that we can only stand so much. Depending on the elasticity of the material, the on-and-off loading wears it out and it eventually breaks.

God promises NOT to give us more than we can bear, but sometimes it seems like it is more than we can bear. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it — 1 Cor. 10:13 NKJV.

I’ve wondered why older Christians struggle with bitterness. There’s some truth to burn-out. Pray for renewed in your strength, rejuvenated in your spirit and to run like the youth.

But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
— Isa. 40:31 NIV.

Irena Sendler “An Angel among us”

Amazing story. May she inspire us.

johncoyote

Remember this lady?
Remember this lady?

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10 Reasons I would never forgive

amazing observations from an amazing man of God!

Refining theological understanding. Sharpening ethical rigor. Heightening devotional intensity.

I hope to capture in a few phrases, the power of forgiveness, the absolute necessity of it and the reasons why forgiving others should be a lifestyle of the believer.

If forgiving others were not a righteous requirement for receiving God’s forgiveness – I would never forgive others.

If forgiveness others were not the soil in which I could grow in holiness and become a bit more like Jesus – I would never forgive others.

If forgiving others were not the right attitude for maintaining my sanity (mental and emotional) – I would never forgive others.

If forgiving others were not the springboard from which a life of momentum, zeal and endurance ensue – I would never forgive others.

If forgiving others were not a testimony, a declaration and a demonstration to the world of how much I’ve been forgiven – I would never forgive others.

If forgiving others didn’t…

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With God’s help, he survived this crash

miraculous accidentEvery side of his pickup truck was completely smashed and compacted after Kaleb Whitby struck a semi from behind and was then hit by another semi in a highway pileup caused by morning fog and black ice.

Whitby literally walked away unscathed – with just two Band-Aids – after his Chevy Silverado was banged, spun, and ultimately came to rest in the vice-grip of parallel semi trucks. By God’s protective hand, he narrowly escaped death.

“I do believe in God. I do believe He protected me,” Kaleb told GodReports.com. “I don’t know if it was an army of angels that held those trucks apart, but I know it wasn’t my strength. I have faith that somebody was there to protect me.” Read more here: Christian news.

You have to lose in order to win

Christian school Santa MonicaOur first game was against a C-team. We won 2-0. Our kids didn’t learn anything from the win.

But when we started playing B- and A-teams, we lost 0-8. Then the kids realized they didn’t know squat about soccer and would need to really learn. We have lost every league game (the win was a scrimmage) — except yesterday.

In the last game of the regular season, we tied 2-2. Now the kids are learning how to play.

Losses are valuable. You tend to learn more from a loss — if you don’t cast yourself in the pit of self-pity. A lot of people learn nothing from a win — in the self-congratulation there is no self-study, no refining, no fixing.

If you are currently losing, rejoice. Study, work and improve. The win is ahead. You can’t get to win except by losses.

I’m proud of the progress of my co-ed team (playing against all boys teams) at Lighthouse Church School in Santa Monica.

Marriage, worth fighting for

marriagePeggy in our church is 94 years old. A Christian, she married under the illusion of naivete. Once in wedlock, her husband, a drinker, threatened her not to go to church. She felt the Holy Spirit nudge her to obey. For 20 years, she skipped church but never left God.

After that period, the rough-living husband accepted Jesus on his deathbed, and Peggy went back to church. In fact, she’s something of a heroine, a pillar at the Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica, the longest-attending member and practically the historian.

Today the story is stirring, but back then there was plenty of pain. What Peggy did, few would, especially today when marriage is esteemed about as much as disposable diapers. People chuck it when it gets poopy.

My generation has much to learn from Peggy. We can learn of her stick-to-itiveness, her fight-through-it attitude. We Christians win in the end, if we can just hang in there till the end.

Marriage is worth fighting for. He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD — Pr. 18:22 NIV. It seems like our current culture is doing everything to waylay marriage. It gets mocked on the sitcoms, degraded by the affair-touters, and now redefined. Hmmmm.

I haven’t been a cakewalk for Dianna, but maybe she’d say it’s been worth it. I know it’s been beautiful to build together for 24 years instead of tear asunder under the deception that someone somewhere is a “soulmate.” You trade in one set of problems for another. Nor do I think loneliness is a good answer. When God saw Adam alone, He made Eve for him. It was the first thing in the perfect creation that was imperfect.

Stop the war (in your marriage)

marriage war

Bring back the lightheartedness, the laughter, the rush of romance, the sensation of feeling in love.

If you have banned that from your marriage, if you evolved through a business-like partnership into dwelling on faults, you are in danger. It is hard for any marriage to survive where love has turned to bitterness and anger.

Without the delicacy and delight, with difficulty a marriage may survive. But where love is renewed and refreshed with romance, it may grow through the years.

Make love, not war.

Be grateful

be gratefulAs a wordsmith, I’ve always envied the simple and compelling power of pictures. This one, of a gaunt, starved African child’s hand, speaks volumes to Westerners about the blessings we take for granted. No matter how poor you are, compared to other nations, you are rich, simply because you live in the First World. We ought to be grateful for the blessings GOD has bestowed on us.

There is no I in team work

Cowardice

cowardice | AbrahamHe defeated a vast enemy army with 300 guys just to rescue his nephew. He wandered off from his homeland following his dream, his call. He braved 1000 woes and adversities.

Then he wimped out. When Abraham entered Egypt, he worried they’d kill him to get his wife. So he told her to lie, to say she was his sister. Instead of standing up for his wife, Abraham decided to sacrifice his wife to save his own skin.

The same despicable cowardice he repeated when he moved into Gerar. He told Sarah to lie again to Elimilech. (I guess Sarah was really beautiful.)

Ugh! Ugly stuff.

Sin is always ugly. We tend to see it as delightful — and we see God as a killjoy. But really, sin destroys people. It hurts others. It hurts ourselves.

Because of cowardice, we go with the flow with the world (it takes courage to be a Christian!). Because of cowardice, we are afraid to give to God, we are embarrassed to call ourselves Christians. We cover up our sins instead of confessing and repenting. We hold our tongue when we should speak up against injustice.

Other sins covered in this series so far:

Revolutionize your life (one small decision at a time)

revolutionize your lifeThis world is mean. If you obtain bad results, it criticizes you virulently. It casts you off.

But if you start to get a victory — a small victory — nobody says anything. So you may need to congratulate yourself for every small good thing you do:

  • you passed up the donut
  • you didn’t yell at your wife
  • you turned off the television and did something productive
  • you didn’t take a swig of alcohol.

Since no one is taking the time to pat you on the back, let this blog be your congratulations! Woo-hoo! I’m impressed for you! Keep it up, and soon, no one will recognize you. Your critics will fade away. You’re on the road to success.

Short-lived savors of glory

world cup trophyAnd so it goes. Four a few hours, the squad of German players who attained World Cup glory could caress the $10 million, 14-pound, 18-karat gold trophy.

Then after posing with the most-coveted sports prize in the world, it was taken from them and locked away. Two previous cups have been stolen, and FIFA guards against further theft.

Germany’s name was carved on the base with “2014.” Germany only gets a gold-plated replica.

Such anticlimax exposes this world’s essential hollowness. Jesus warns that the treasures you store here can corrupt or get stolen. If not, you can’t take it with you when you die — even if you put it in your coffin — because you (your spirit) won’t be where your body is.

Jesus tells us to work for rewards in Heaven.

And the German squad? They have bragging rights. That might last them for their lifetime.

Why I teach at Lighthouse


Only one minute video. No further words needed. This is what we strive untiringly to do.

A return to the beginning

image from darrellcreswell.wordpress.com

image from darrellcreswell.wordpress.com

In the beginning, this blog was very narrowly focused on a niche: encouraging pastors and leaders to pray for finances for their ministry. But as I interacted with the blogging community, I was drawn into reaching out with non-thematically related posts.

I believe I will be returning to the Mustard Seed Budget theme. I believe I will start pioneering a church again. So praying for finances to cover costs will start to figure large in my life again.

Everyone loves Psalm 23. But I was struck just now how it basically starts with finances: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. God will take economic care of his people.

Since returning four years ago from the mission field (where I was almost 16 years), my wife and I have done a lot to try to re-establish ourselves in the States. The transition has not been easy. We started with no money. Thank God for a nearby church that gave us food right when we had none.

Isn’t it interesting that this famous Psalm, which many recite for consolation, starts with finances? That shows how important is God’s care of us!

Actually, the Psalm also ends with a promise of financial blessing: Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me all my days. The verb pursue is used everywhere else in the Old Testament to refer to an army in pursuit of a retreating enemy. David is saying that he WON’T be pursued by soldiers, debt, problems. He WILL be pursued by goodness and mercy.

Africa medical mission report 1

BANJUL, THE GAMBIA — From Southern Italy to California to West Africa, Dr. Kevin White’s participation on the Lighthouse Medical Mission is as improbable as it is unusual.

Africa medical missions

Dr. Kevin White in Africa medical mission.

On March 31, Dr. White, a cardiologist and two nurse practitioners attended to 300 patients here, kicking off a clinic that is likely to grow in numbers and seriousness of cases as the week progresses.

A pediatrician from Ventura, Dr. White was a chef carousing in Naples in 1985 when he woke up on a park bench to see an Anglican Church. Surprised to see such a thing in the land of Catholicism and wanting to hear some English, he stumbled in — to find his life totally change through Jesus.

Now instead of serving alcohol, he wanted to serve humanity, so he studied dietetics on the American East Coast, then medicine. When he diagnosed an old missionary from Africa with malaria, the patient told Dr. White that God wanted him in Africa.

So Dr. White set up practice in Southern California with the exclusive purpose of raising money to fund his twice-yearly forays into the Dark Continent. He leads teams from his church. Now, two-thirds of his family is in The Gambia with him — as is two-thirds of his office.

beautiful African children

That’s me with the kids. I fell in love with the kids!

“This is the week I go broke,” quipped Dr. White, who left only one doctor behind manning his office. He now is attending three times as many patients as his busiest day is America — 100 patients a day. The need is critical, and West Africans don’t have access or finances for quality medical attention.

On Monday, there were patients with pain, a snake bite, and a keloid. Though the Lighthouse Medical Missions coordinates logistics with local churches, all are welcome to the free clinics. Gambia’s huge majority is Muslim.

I came to observe and report on their activities. I’m impressed with the level of compassion in every team member’s heart. After a breakneck pace for eight hours, the nurses, high school students, nursing students, a retiree and others were still smiling.

On these trips, medical practitioners are a premium, but no one is useless. At the first hour, I was packing pills. Later I was praying for patients and then sweeping up. It seems not too many of our patients and a few of our volunteers didn’t understand the concept of a trash can.

I’m no stranger to the Third World. I was a missionary in Guatemala for 16 years. But even I had trouble plugging in the fan that didn’t have a plug; it was just two wires that were stuck into the outlet.

malaria pills

Don’t forget to take your malaria pills. (I kept forgetting.)

Try as I might, I couldn’t get them to stick, and the fan kept shutting off.That’s when Dr. White surprised me giving me the tip: Stuff two plastic ear speculas in with the wires to wedge them in. It worked, and doctor and patients enjoyed the breeze.

Yeah, he’s been to 17 Africa week-long trips since he started in 2004. But I was a missionary full time for 16 years in a developing nation. How does he know more than me?

I guess Dr. White’s a certified intrepid medical missionary.

If you would like to help pay for volunteers or medicines, or fund a water project, your tax deductible donation can be made at www.lighthousemedicalmissions.com

NOTE: This article originally appeared on the SantaMonica.Patch.com on April 1.