Category Archives: God

From Russia to love: Another KGB agent turns into Christ’s agent

Jack, seine Frau Shawna und seine Tochter Trinity zuhausFinally, the FBI caught up with Jack Barsky – and so did God.

For 19 years, Barsky spied on America for the Soviet Union during the Cold War and for Russia after. His job was to infiltrate U.S. society and get close to security officials and pry information from them. And the “sleeper agent” went undetected until May 1997 when the FBI at long last pulled him over.

His marriage to an American was unraveling. Years later, when he married Shawna, a devout Christian from Jamaica, God caught up with him too.

“I came to terms with (the fact that) I did a lot of bad things – never mind breaking laws,” Barsky told Glenn Beck. “I hurt people. I did bad things. I served a bad cause. And I realized goodness doesn’t come from inside. I always thought of myself as a good person. (But I learned) there is no morality with God.”

at age 22 when he was DittrichBarsky was born Albrecht Dittrich in East Germany in 1949. In college studying chemistry, he proved he had a brilliant mind and a matching hauteur. When the KGB approached him to work as a spy in America, it conjured an inner ubermensche. “I could see the world and I didn’t have to go by the usual rules — I would be above the law,” he told Der Spiegel.

In East Germany, Dittrich learned secret handwriting, Morse code and how to lose a tail. In Moscow, he devoured English mastering 100s of words daily.

He was shipped off to America in 1978 with $6,000 in his bags and instructions to assume the position of a businessman and get cozy with politicians and other influential people in Washington. Specifically, he was told to make contact with then-National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.

An employee at the Soviet Embassy scored him the birth certificate that would give him the basis to get a passport. He had spotted a tombstone of 10-year-old Jack Barsky who had died in 1955 and procured the birth document.

Under his new name, Barsky first worked as a bicycle messenger in New York, a job that provided him with plenty of opportunity to get to know the city, observe people and learn the intricacies of the city’s commerce.

Jack-Barsky in new york

“The messenger job was actually really good for me to become Americanized because I was interacting with people who didn’t care much where I came from, what my history was, where I was going,” he told the BBC. “I was able to observe and listen and become more familiar with American customs. So for the first two, three years I had very few questions that I had to answer.”

Later, he studied computer science and worked as a programmer for Met Life insurance. If anyone ever asked about his slight accent, he responded that his mother was German.

Christian soviet spyDuring the day, he was good neighbor and upstanding citizen. At night, he prepared profiles for the Soviets of potential agents and wrote assessments of developing political and military situations, which he stuffed in small steal containers to be left at dead drops outside the city or in parks. He received instructions from Moscow via a shortwave radio.

He never managed to sidle up to national security advisors, but he stole computer code that helped the Soviet Union economically.

With his America persona in full swing, he vacationed yearly to East Germany for debriefings. He married his college sweetheart, Gerlinde, and started a family. It was an awkward situation because his wife was never full aware of what he was doing in America.

deep-under-cover-christianIn America, he was taking his double life to another level. He married a girl named Penelope, a native of Guyana, in 1985 and with her had two children, Chelsea and Jessie.

“I did a good job of separating the two” lives, he said. “Barsky had nothing to do with Dittrich and Dittrich wasn’t responsible for Barsky.”

But the facade had to crumble.

The collapse started in 1988 when Moscow ordered his immediate return. The KGB had information that Barsky was about to be arrested and wanted him to escape.

After 10 years of American lifestyle, he balked at the idea. He had discovered that Americans weren’t evil, as he had been told, and he had fallen for the American Dream. He stalled for a week.

When he got the ultimatum, Barsky concocted an elaborate excuse. He knew the Soviets feared AIDS and chalked the epidemic in America up to its moral inferiority. So he told his handlers that he had contracted the HIV virus. He assured the Russians he wouldn’t defect or surrender any secrets.

Of the Soviet fears, nothing materialized. The FBI was still clueless. He eased in middle-class life in America in a comfy home in upstate New York.

Then in 1992, his cover was blown. A KGB archivist, Vasili Nikitich Mitrokhin defected and named a slew of agents to British authorities.

The FBI finally started watching Barsky to see if was an active agent.

The FBI bugged his home. They purchased the house next door, and an FBI agent, Joe Reilly, posing as an ornithologist, kept him under surveillance with binoculars.

In the end, Barsky blurted the evidence that the FBI needed. In the middle of a heated argument with his wife, Barsky tried to show her how much he’d given up for her.

“I was trying to repair a marriage that was slowly falling apart,” he said. “I was trying to tell my wife the ‘sacrifice’ I had made to stay with Chelsea and her. So in the kitchen I told her, ‘By the way, this is what I did. I am a German. I used to work for the KGB and they told me to come home and I stayed here with you and it was quite dangerous for me. This is what I sacrificed.’”

Instead, she grew angrier. He had a secret life? He was in danger of being arrested?

Just days later, Barsky was driving home from work. When he drove out of toll station, and a Pennsylvania state trooper pulled him over. Dressed in plain clothes, Reilly asked to talk to him.

“I knew the gig was up,” he said.

Still, Barsky met the arrest with bluster: “What took you so long?”

He had gone undetected for almost 20 years – a massive embarrassment for the FBI.

For a weekend, Reilly interrogated Barsky in a motel. Bargaining for clemency, Barsky came clean with everything. Ultimately, the FBI validated his entire story and decided to let him go free.

It would take more years for God to “catch” him. Find out how God “caught” Jack Barsky Christian KGB agent.

When discouraged, keep doing right things

when discouraged

The bane of most is to succumb to discouragement, to compromise your values, to lower your sights, to throw out your dreams in search of pleasure instead of goals.

Keep believing in higher goals, even when others don’t believe in you, when others ridicule your dreams and scoff at your possibilities. Keep doing right things in the midst of overwhelming discouragement.

This is the trademark of Joseph, who, sold into slavery, kept serving his God with enthusiasm, who, next incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit, continued in the straight and narrow. When his day came, he became vice president of Egypt and saved the very people who nearly killed him.

This is the trademark of Daniel, who was ripped from his homeland and taken captive to a foreign land. With no discernible future, he steadfastly served God and wound up distinguishing himself from all those who settled for less.

This is the trademark of David, who, shunned by his own brothers and fathers, believed it important to practice his aim and took on bears in lions in defense of lambs. He thought one day his skills would be useful for taking down giants. And God gave him big things.

Let this be our trademark.

What possibly could go wrong? Misadventures of the #ValleyBoyPastor

IMG_0551Bed, Bath & Beyond has a complimentary gift wrap station — which is fantastic because I didn’t have to go buy wrapping paper for my friend’s wedding gift! They have scissors, tape, ribbon, everything you need except my own skill to execute it.

I’m afraid to admit that I miscalculated the first time I cut the paper. Then I accidentally gave it an unsightly rip. I re-did the folds several times, tried to trim when they flaps didn’t fit. It was anything but tightly wrapped. I fumbled the bow. DIY? LOL! I can’t do any of those “easy” Pinterest projects! I’m the king of klutz.

Here’s the kicker: Once upon a time, I was a gift wrap worker — at a posh French gift shop on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Where did everything I learned go?

Sometimes life is like gift-wrapping. It doesn’t come out as nicely as you wish. You miscalculate and miss-cut.

I hope Darwin enjoys his toaster and doesn’t pay too much attention to the hapless wrap. Hopefully, his eyes will be so full of love for his new wife that he won’t notice my disaster.

Things on the outside maybe a mess. God is watching the inside.

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Gratitude for others’ sacrifice

memorial dayConfession: I was somewhat unpatriotic as a youth. I always saw people around the world as equal. I learned in college that the belief in one’s superiority is ethnocentrism. I mixed in a bit of Christianity: God sees all people equal.

But when I was in dire straits, this country came through for me.After 16 years as a missionary, I fled kidnappers in Guatemala to the safety of America. My Guatemalan friends told me crime was everywhere, but it’s not true. Thank God for America. Thank God for godly principles upon which it was founded — and continue to be present despite a cultural distancing from God. Thank God for the blessings of America. Donald Trump says he wants to make America great again. He’s wrong; America hasn’t lost its luster.

I have seen the world, and there’s no place like America. No need to brag. America is still a light to the world, despite our many failings.

Thank God for men and women who have bravely defended our country, who have fought for freedom around the world, who have rained down upon evil men a hail of bullets and blasts. The university professors may criticize our government because we have the freedom to do so. I have been in countries where no one has the freedom to criticize governing authorities.

Today I wish to honor the dead and the living soldiers who keep America great.

There was opposition going forward

the fat of the land

“The fat of the land” was the King James version translation of the prosperity and blessing promised to the Israelites once they took possession of their God-destined territory. But there were significant obstacles — giants and stuff and heavily fortified cities.

When the Israelites finally mustered their courage, God blasted the walls in a way that puts modern demolition crews to shame. And the giants weren’t such a problem. Boys with slingshots took them out. Why did the first generation succumb to fear, doubt God and die in the desert? Yeah, in THAT place, they lived on the “lean of the land.”

Not everybody sees “fat” as bad around the world. In Nicaragua, they call a chubby guy “hermoso” — beautiful. That’s because in places where malnutrition is a chronic health issue, chubbiness is seen as healthy and blessed. Here in America, we’re blessed, but our forefathers had to act with great courage to win those blessings for us.

I encourage you to courage. Don’t stay in your comfort zone. Take up the greatest challenge God is stirring you to because that’s where His blessing is for you.

It’s a new day

let God brighten your day

Start with a new hope. Bring a new faith in God. Begin with a positive outlook. Confess good over life, and not bad. Trust in God, for He loves you.

The road to utopia

utopiaIn case you didn’t know, they are setting up the ideal society, one based on justice and harmony. As long as what they say goes.

Human history is rutted with human attempts to establish utopias. The reason why these fail and fuel massacres is that humans can’t agree on what set of rules. This band thinks radical Islam. That band says communism.

So long as sin remains in the heart of man, there will be no ideal society. On this earth, the best we can do is give rights and freedoms to everyone. In Heaven, there will be an ideal society in which we give to each other (and not take from each other), in which one no longer imposes on another and musters his own leadership by killing all opponents. Until that day, my job is to get people there.

Free from trauma

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I believe I’m 98% free from the the fear that seized me when I was assaulted at gun point by four armed men in Guatemala. That was six years ago.

Six. Years.

All they got was a few thousand dollars — and my checkbook (which made me think they would come back for a kidnapping). No, they stole something else. They stole my confidence.

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With one of the students in the Door Bilingual School we founded with the church.

On every subsequent visit to Guatemala, I was weighted by irrational fear. I wouldn’t go anywhere without a member of the church as a “body guard.” (I had planted the church during 16 years, so people we’re quite willing to serve.) I stayed inside. I tried to keep a low profile. I didn’t even want them to make flyers announcing the revivals with my picture on them. In my mind, the same criminals would get a flyer and swoop in for more money.

The thing that strikes about this is how really insignificant was my “trauma.” I wasn’t raped or beaten as a child. I didn’t suffer the scathing burn of emotional abuse from a parent. No. I was simply robbed.

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Here’s the junior high and high school after Bible class.

And yet it has taken me six years and God’s help to recover.

So who I am to judge people who have suffered true trauma and spend the rest of their lives floundering? In fact, I have a friend who suffered all three — sexual, physical and emotional abuse. He still struggles to overcome.

If you would have told me to simply shake it off, get over it, I would have been deeply hurt by your insensitivity and cut you out of my friends list. How much more so a person who has really suffered.

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A sixth grader in the Door Bilingual School.

It is my observation that people who have never suffered are generally insensitive.

There’s a inscrutable irony in this: God helped me out, but as many sufferers ask: Why did God allow the suffering in the first place?

I have friends who became atheists because as children, they experience a loss of innocence that never should have been perpetrated on a child. My friend has worked his way back to God, and God is helping him.

I hope God can help you too, because He was the major factor helping me. So I recommend Him. Maybe you can work your way back to Him?

Heaven is real

castle in clouds

One day I´ll be there. Will you?

My dad is in a transitional care facility. He had fallen and broken his hip. He was transferred from the hospital to here. He was in a lot of pain last night. He’s 88.

I’m face to face with our body’s breakdown and mortality. We all expect a long life, but no one has a guarantee. Are you ready to go to the Heaven God made for you because He wants to enjoy friendship with you for all of eternity?

God is slow to anger

God slow to angerSo should we be.

God’s tattoo

God TattooThe trouble with tattoos is you can’t erase them (easily). Most people spend the rest of the lives entrenching themselves in the defense of the tattoo they got when younger. It’s easier than to own up to an error.

Did you know God’s got a tattoo? Yeah, I didn’t believe it either. But check this out:

Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands. — Isaiah 49:16

This means you are God’s permanent possessions, His love. He’s not going back on you.

A friend of mine got married. I don’t know if they got wedding rings, but I see he got his wife’s name tattooed on his arm. This is a younger generation. I love Dianna, but I don’t think I’ll get a tattoo.

But God is so over the top in love with us that He has our name “engraved” — read, “tattooed” — on his palms, right where He’ll see it constantly (although if you want to get technical, this is an anthropomorphism, but the principal is there).

Art out of food

food artJessie Bearden plays with her food.

I was always taught not to play with my food. Maybe that’s why I never became the artist I aspired to be as a child.

Actually I was discouraged from being an artist because I was told you can’t make any money at it.

food-art-1But I rebelled and became a wordsmith, an artist with words.

food art 2God tells us to be like Him; He created. As much a I admire art around the world, none compares to the daily painting God spreads on his canvass of a sunset. None equals the beauty of a flower. Consider the lilies of the field…even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these — Matt. 6:28-29.

I’m going to be a fan of Jessie Bearden, who create surprising portraits out of food. And I’m going to keep writing.

jessie bearden

Jessie Bearden

But I can’t wait to get to Heaven to see the wonders of God’s art there. I admire His beauty everywhere here on Earth.

I bet the artists continue doing their art in Heaven.

A lot of confusion

path forwardThe trials, the “reversals,” the difficulties all make sense when we look back over our lives to see how God has blessed and used us. In the middle of the tempest, you’re tempted to throw up your hands in despair.

But Christianity is not a backwards-looking religion. We are to pray for a better future, invest time in relationships and Bible study, work hard — all to see more of God in our lives. While we strive for better things ahead, we keep faith and remember the promise of Psalm 23:6: Surely your goodness and love will FOLLOW me all the days of my life. I may not understand today what God is doing, but eventually I will.

Artists reflect God

artists reflect GodWhen the Bible says humans are made in the image of God, it does NOT mean God has a body (with armpits, boogers, ingrown toenails, etc.) It means we have the potential to imitate His superior attributes.

Today I want to praise artists and challenge everybody to create. Among His qualities, God is Creator. Whether it be music, photography, painting, sculpting, dancing or (my favorite) writing, be like God and use your imagination. Delight, tantalize, surprise.

At the same time, I want to say there is no artist as good as God. Whether it be a sunset or a canyon, human beauty or animals, God is the artistic winner.

Image: something that inspired me from pinterest.

Being highly favored

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

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

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

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

He taught me to return shopping carts

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

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

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

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

His simple reply stuck with me all these years.

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

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

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

I have Channing to thank for the lesson.

Love never fails

Love never failsHumans have the capacity to love — and the capacity to turn off the love valve. It is a horrifying reality: to stop loving what naturally we love. To be so caught up in drugs and alcohol that a parent neglects a child. To be so embittered by moral failures that a spouse chooses hate.

“The greatest fury comes from the wound where love once issued forth,” said Pat Conroy, author who conducted minute forensics on his own divorce. “I find it hard to believe that this number of people voluntarily or involuntarily submit to such extraordinary pain.”

If love is the most ennobling emotion of all humanity, shutting off the valve the most diabolical. By turning off the valve, you think you are asserting control over your life and destiny. In reality, you become a mini-Hitler annihilating your own race.

Don’t give up on love. God made humans different than animals! The tragic consequence of belief in evolution is that notion we are basically no different than animals, so we can/should behave like animals do. But the human heart shrieks against this wrong-headedness. We are different! We need to receive and give love. To deny it is to lower our image-of-God imprint into the sewer.

God’s love will NEVER fail you. 1 Cor. 13:8 says: Love never fails.

If your spouse has failed you, don’t give up on love. If you parents have failed you miserably, don’t become an unbeliever in love. Bitterness is a deforming solace.

If you have received nothing but despising, you should:

  • Throw yourself on the love of Christ.
  • Give love to other needy people.
  • Keep believing in love.

Love is eternal. Many things will end when we enter Heaven. We won’t take our Taylor Swift songs with us. No Teslas in Heaven. But love, which starts like a spark here on Earth, carries on into a Heaven a powerful conflagration.

I believe in God because I believe in love.

Here’s every element of the series:

1 Cor. 13:4

1 Cor. 13:5

1 Cor. 13:6

1 Cor. 13:7

1 Cor. 13:8