Category Archives: God

From zero to hero

overcoming adversity into goalJordan Sheppard was the hero Wednesday as Lighthouse Christian Academy attempted to hold back the tsunami of Newbury Park Adventist Academy in co-ed soccer.

That’s because the inexperienced goalie parried countless shots.

“His hands must be hurting,” the referee quipped after the game.

Jordan, 17, appreciates the chance to play. Had it not been for Lighthouse opening its doors, Jordan says he’d be on the wrong path in life.

“Without Lighthouse, I think my life would be somewhere on the lines of being in jail or about to go to jail — or dead,” Jordan says bluntly. “One of those three.”

Lighthouse lost 1-6. Without Jordan’s class act in the box, it would have been worse.

But even when it loses, Lighthouse is winning — with what matters most.

los angeles private school soccer goalieIt’s stories like Jordan’s that people LCA’s fabled history. As a Christian ministry, LCA prepares the college-bound, and at the same time it reaches at-risk youth. Understandably, not all succeed, but the stories of those who do are pure gold.

Coach Junior Cervantes was a similar story; from a Pacoima street tagger he turned into a college student, outstanding husband, son-in-law to Senior Pastor Rob Scribner of the Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica.

In terms of pure sports, Wednesday’s loss was an act of revenge. Newbury has been a league champion and a tough rival for Lighthouse. For the last three or four matchups, LCA has managed to get the upper hand.

The Gators were anxious to best the Saints. They fielded a top-notch team that moved the ball with precision and speed. They harried LCA all over the field. The Gators came ready to bite.

So unrelenting was their offense, the Saints were driven back to their half and only defended for most of the first half.

Coach Junior had to re-adjust at half time to offer some counter attack. Hosea Ashcraft pulled a foul outside of the box, fired the free kick around the wall bending it low on the far post for a consolation goal.

It was the Saints’ first loss of the season in four games in CIF Southern Section’s Omega League.

While the results were disheartening for the Saints, the game was nevertheless exhilarating. That’s because Newbury, playing at a high level, raised the level of the Saints players. The best way to get better is to play against better teams.

The supporting cast of non-soccer players got takeaways. They would have to work on ball control, improve on their passing, use their brain more in terms finding their position on the field. They need to use less touches and execute quicker.

As a newbie before the net, Jordan had to learn too. But the hulking 6-footer was up for the challenge and came off like a pro. How did he learn how to dive and perform the acrobats to frustrate Gator shot time after time?

“I just watched videos and I learned from different coaches. They all taught me what to do,” Jordan says. “I just go with the flow. People tell me what to do and I accept it and I learn from my mistakes.”

After learning to escape the unforgiving streets, learning goalie is easy. The senior credits a higher source for his own personal beating-of-the-odds.

“I didn’t do anything. It was all God. It was because of the friends He gave me,” Jordan says. “It was because of the stepping stones that He put in my life and the different achievements. If I wasn’t at Lighthouse I don’t think I would be a Christian and having so much fun playing.”

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El Bronco passes to eternal reward

46396483_2629585200400078_6933872078282031104_nHe was a gentle man. You never would have guessed that he made a living in Guatemala’s Lucha Libre, a the rough and rule-less version of today’s MMA. When Demetrio Monterroso came to the Lord, he softened.

His wife brought the two grandsons to our school. Zealous to reform her son who was wayward with women, she enrolled the boys in the our Guatemalan Christian school. Little Demetrio and even littler Federico were star students, quiet and shy, obedient and exemplary.

46507182_2100659899990322_9107253133536395264_nThey graduated and moved on. Their father mended his ways and started following God.

I left Guatemala after almost 16 years as a missionary there. After bumbling around in my parent church, finally I was released to start another church, this time in Van Nuys, CA. From time to time, I visit the church I left in Guatemala. I came in the nick of time to see El Bronco (his fighter’s name). Of course, I couldn’t talk to him, but I could pray for him, and seeing him one last time filled with some sort of peace. He was my friend, and I was saying goodbye. I’ll be seeing him again in Heaven soon enough.

Christian hip hop artist Datin raps about pending divorce, pain and self-medication

DatinRapper Datin always encouraged kids coming out of the death and jail traps of drugs and violence foisted upon unsuspecting kids by secular hip hop artists.

Now he has a new people group to encourage: those coming out of a divorce.

In his September 2018 video “Hell in the Hallway,” Datin says his own ongoing divorce has him living in a dark and lonely hallway. He can see the light at the end of the tunnel (hallway). But until he gets there, he’s out of the room of marriage and left in a gloomy limbo.

When his marriage foundered, Datin submitted to pastoral guidance and sought counseling but his wife didn’t want to participate, he noted on Facebook. (Her version could not be found online; she deleted her Instagram pictures with him).

Datin Divorce

It’s over with his beloved Johely

Because Florida law allows divorce on the basis of only one of the parties, Datin — whose real name is Edward Berrios — found himself hapless and resigned to the heart-wrenching conclusion of a happy chapter in his life.

In all cases of marriage, Christians should seek reconciliation. But if one party is unwilling to try, your life is not over, Datin says. God has a destiny for you beyond your present tragedy.

“When God closes one door, he opens another,” Datin says. “But right now I’m in the middle. It’s hell in a hallway.”

datin divorce

From the video “Hell in the Hallway.”

Datin is the raspy-voiced rapper who delivers hammer blows. His mad dog face, he says, is not an imitation of violence-peddling secular rappers. It’s because he’s upset by their lies and deception that have been misleading America’s youth.

Like his label boss Bizzle, he constantly calls out secular artists, whom he blames for inducing tens of thousands of young men into trafficking and violence. These artists profiteer from their recipe for death. They entice kids by flaunting a flamboyant lifestyle of riches and women.

“Their songs are like cyanide; the more we listen to ‘em, the more our souls die inside,” he raps on “Pull the Plug.” “This is for the deejay killing us with the poison he plays. Let’s pull the plug on ‘em.”

Datin Hell in the Hallway

From the video “Hell in the Hallway.”

Datin grew up in Newark, New Jersey, not on ritzy Jersey shore but on the backside ghetto. He has every right to aim at hip hop artists for their false narrative because he himself fell for their lies. He and his friends sold drugs, treated women poorly and acted like thugs.

As a result of adopting the gang lifestyle, one friend was killed and another jailed, he says in his songs.

But while he was sinning, the Holy Spirit was afoot in his life. He first turned on to Christ when he watched Mel Gibson’s 2004 “The Passion of Christ.”

But since hip hop was his priority, he kept his nascent faith low key and compromised his walk with sinful stumblings.

When he graduated high school, Datin gained renown in the battle rap world and was expected to sign for a big name label. To the surprise of many, he declined signing with Eminem’s Shady Records and Ja Rule and Swiss Beatz, according to Christian Post. His neighborhood pal signed and drove up in a Jaguar to invite him to also sign, he says.

datin high school battle rap

Datin won the rap battle in high school.

“It was such a struggle to say no,” Datin told Rapzilla. “It took every bit of my being. My whole life was based around my music, my hopes and my dreams. To say no was like chopping off my arm.”

In 2007, he got fully saved and extricated from the ensnaring world of hip hop. He laid down the microphone first, grew in God, and then years later picked the mic back up only to outreach, he says on a radio interview DJ Tony Tone.

He dropped projects in 2010 and 2012. In 2014, he finally signed — for the Christian label God Over Money. This was a natural move because the label is known for never soft-peddling the gospel — or from shirking controversy. For Datin — who preaches hellfire and brimstone for rappers who sell their fellow people of color down the river — it was an ideal fit.

His much-anticipated first studio album Roar charted 18th for rap on Billboard and hit the top 10 on iTunes.

With such a sterling testimony, Datin’s sudden announcement in April of his pending divorce was as startling as it was saddening.

“I have fought for my marriage to the very end,” Datin says. “I’m scandal free. There’s no issue of adultery or abandonment or abuse. I have seeked (sic) counseling. I have put effort in. But the effort was not reciprocate. So therefore, this is the unfortunate outcome.”

Christian rap offers a stark contrast with secular rap because marriage is idealized and honored. Datin in November 2017 rapped “Fight For Us,” his pledge to work for his marriage.

“I’m submitted. I’m committed. He’s my witness. Before the Lord I stand, Ima give it all I can,” he says. “Baby, Ima fight for us.” Read the rest of the Christian Divorce – a story of Datin.

Hottest new Christian rapper is Latino WhatUpRG

WHATUPRG-Christian hip hop artist.pngWhen he was only 7 and already showed signs of liking hip hop, a woman at church talked to Raúl García’s mother to warn her that rap was of the devil.

It’s a good thing Mom and Son ignored her. Today Raúl — known now as WHATUPRG — has literally exploded on the Christian Hip Hop scene, signing with Reach Records at age 21 without ever having made an album previously. RG (his stage name reads “What up, RG?”) is the face of the next generation of Christian rappers who are ministering to a new generation of fans.

wesside whatuprg“My parents have always supported me in my music,” RG says to NewH2O. “I know in my heart where I’m heading and where I’ve positioned myself allows me to speak to people and let them know it’s not about a bunch of rules but about His grace and His mercy and His love. So when I rap I want people to know that they’re not alone and there is grace for them too.”

RG is born of Mexican parents who immigrated (illegally) to the United States. He grew up in Gwinnett County, Georgia, where he went to church, listened to Christian Spanish rap and loved to perform at church functions.

Despite doubters in the same congregation, RG’s parents supported his musical inclinations and even paid for his first album to be produced when he was 14, a recording he now calls “trash.”

WHATUPRG_REACH-RECORDSWhen he was 16, his dad was nabbed by immigration officers and deported to Mexico. This tore RG and led him to be outspoken on the divisive issue. “I’m still dealing with the emotional trauma to this day,” he tweeted.

It appears his dad is back home in Georgia, since RG tweeted about going vegetarian in 2017, only to be contradicted by his dad, who said they were eating carne asada. “I can’t be Mexican and healthy,” he quipped.

RG got noticed by CHH heavies when he filmed a video of himself and his friends at Walmart in 2017 with his song “Don’t Forget to Live.” The filmography was amateurish, but pros were impressed by the vocals and music. He started getting calls.

latino christian hip hop artistsSoon he was nobigdyl’s Indie Tribe and was featured on Mogli the Iceberg’s song “Ride My Own” and others. Just months later, Lecrae signed him. He was making waves but was still an unproven quantity since he hadn’t dropped a professional album.

“On my 18th birthday, I was getting a 116 tattoo on my knee,” RG tells Trackstarz. “When I was turning 21, I was talking to my lawyer about the contract.”

RG’s blitz to fame has surprised even him, and he says he’s focusing on staying rooted in God. “God honors humility,” he says.

he fact he wants to stay low is refreshing to hear, especially when one contrasts that attitude with the braggadocio rife in secular rap, with artists boasting about their knife wounds and talk in hyperbolic terms about being “gods.”

In May 2018, RG dropped his debut album Pleasant Hill, which created a sensation. He hit #7 on iTunes hip hop sales. A Trackstarz interviewer said there’s not a song he doesn’t like on it. David Livick lists him among the Top 10 artists of 2018.

There are detractors, many of the historic fans of the 116 clique who don’t like the new direction of the label and want the Old School material. RG’s not Christian enough, some say. “STOP Imitating and Start innovating… what’s the point of copying the World, sounding, Looking and acting like them?” comments Leveled Head on the “Wesside” video. Read the rest about WhatUpRG Christian.

Revival in public schools through Christians in athletics

Football Linemen UCLA 2018 Fellowship of Christian AthletesWhenever Christians complain about declining attendance in established churches, Josh Brodt pipes up about the thousands of kids who accept Jesus every year. Revival is happening in our public schools, he says.

“We’ve seen quite a revival taking place in the San Fernando Valley,” says Josh, 34. “Students are hungry for something real, something more than what the world offers. It’s clear to me that students need genuine faith in something more than themselves, and they’re searching for that.

“It’s been phenomenal to see.”

FCA San Fernando Valley Revival ChristianityJosh works for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which coordinates with students to bring professional and college athletes to talk to high school sports teams. He personally meets with coaches and students at 15 high schools.

Last academic year, FCA workers in the San Fernando Valley, a part of Los Angeles that holds about half its population, saw 459 kids get saved, and they gave away 2,000 Bibles. The year prior, 900 students accepted Jesus, he says.

“A lot of students feel like outsiders, like they don’t have a place to belong, a place to call their own.” Josh says. “FCA is a place where people can belong, a spiritual community where students can feel comfortable.”

“On campuses people are desperate for God, they’re desperate for Jesus,” he adds. “A lot of them are recognizing that, and they’re making decisions towards that end.”

Revival high school athleticsMedia and sociological reports harp on declining memberships in established protestant churches and the growth of “nones,” people who report to Census and other surveys as having no religion.

But these depressing numbers don’t tell the whole story. While “established” churches may be declining and closing, those same surveys don’t catch the number of new churches opening simply because they don’t register them.

And while the number of “nones” grows significantly, the hopelessness of a meaningless and moral-less worldview make for a ripe harvest field. Read more about revival in public schools.

650 scientific articles, 120 patents, 7 companies, several academic degrees, 1 Jewish Messiah

James-Tour Jew scientist christianJames Tour obtained his PhD in organic chemistry, did post doctorate work at Stanford, was voted one of the 50 most influential minds in world, is a visiting scholar at Harvard University, has 650 published scholarly articles, has 120 patents and seven companies with products from everything from medicine to material science, electronics and computer memory.

“But more than that, what means the most to me is that I am a Jew who believes that Jesus is the Messiah,” Dr. Tour says on a One For Israel video.

He grew up outside New York City in a neighborhood so Jewish that he didn’t know there was anything else.

james tour yeshuaHe wasn’t interested in religion. “Once I tried to talk to a rabbi. He just brushed me off. There was very little explanation for me.”

In college he began to meet people who called themselves born-again Christians.

“That was a kind of an odd term,” he remembers thinking. “What’s ‘born-again?’ What do you mean ‘born-again?'”

It began to make sense when, in a laundromat, a man asked to show him an illustration, something of a chasm separating man from God. He labeled the chasm “sin.”

Dr. Tour recoiled somewhat. “I looked at him and said, ‘I’m not a sinner. I’ve never killed anyone. I’ve never robbed a bank. How could I be a sinner?'”

The man encouraged him to read Romans 3:23: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Modern Judaism never talks about sin, Dr. Tour says. “I don’t remember ever talking about sin in my home.”

Then the man led Dr. Tour to the passage where Jesus warns that whoever lusts after a woman has already committed adultery in his heart.

“Pow!” Dr. Tour says. “I felt as if I’d been punched right in the chest.”

Professor-James-TourSecretly, he’d been looking at pornography in magazines — enough to call himself an “addict.”

“All of a sudden, something that’s written in the Bible, somebody who lived 2,000 years ago was calling me out of it, and suddenly I felt convicted and I realized I was a sinner,” he remembers. “When I read the Scriptures, I knew I was a sinner. How would I get to God?”

As he poured over the Bible, he realized that there is no forgiveness of sin without shedding blood. In the Old Testament, animal sacrifice was stipulated. In the New Testament, Jesus was humanity’s Passover Lamb. Isaiah 53 described graphically how the Messiah would be punished for the sin of the world. He would bear it on the cross.

“The Perfect God comes and gives Himself for us. He is the one that gives Himself for us. I started to realize how Jewish the New Testament is.”

On Nov. 7 1977, alone is his room, he realized Yeshua was the Messiah.

“I said, ‘Lord, I am a sinner. Forgive me. Come into my life,'” he recalls. “Then all of a sudden, someone was in my room. I was on my knees. I opened my eyes. Who was in my room? That man, Jesus Christ, stood in my room. This amazing sense of God, Jesus was in my room. I wasn’t scared. I was just weeping. The presence was so glorious because He was there in my room. I didn’t want to get up. This amazing sense of forgiveness just started to come upon me. That was Him.”

Eventually he stood up. He didn’t know what to do, who to tell.

When he told his cousins, they were shocked. “’How could you do that? You’re Jewish,’” they said. “Telling my mother how I had invited Jesus into my life, she didn’t say much. She was weeping. She told my father. They weren’t happy at all.” So what happened to his family? Read the rest: Jewish scientist James Tour accepts Jesus as Messiah.

MC Jin, 1st Asian rapper, flopped, then succeeded with Jesus

mc-jin-ChristianAfter his ballyhooed album bombed, MC Jin — the first Asian American solo rapper to sign for a major label — dropped out of the public eye.

He learned about the resurrection, found God, and later resurrected his career.

Jin Au-Yeung was raised by immigrant parents from Hong Kong. They ran an unsuccessful string of Chinese restaurants in Miami. When he was teenager, Jin answered the phone in the restaurant while Mom and Pop were wrapping wontons.

His parents instilled in him success through hard work and college, but Jin dreamed of doing rap. After their last restaurant closed, they moved to New York where Jin began engaging in rap battles and hawking mixtapes on the streets.

Mc Jin familyJin was particularly good at rap battles, which require more quick wit than a smooth-talking attorney because you have to insult your opponent cleverly, in rhyme, with rhythm, instantly. He was so adept at rap battles that he got spotted by an agent and soon landed a spot on BET’s Freestyle Friday, where he won seven successive battles and entered their Hall of Fame.

His meteoric rise in rap led to signing with the eminent Ruff Ryders hip-hop label when he was only 19. He was heralded as the next best thing, evidence of America’s diversity and the diversification of hip-hop.

Despite recording with Kanye West and others, his first album, The Rest is History, fell flat.

Jin left Ruff Ryders and was reduced to selling indie music over MySpace through PayPal.

mc jin XIVLIX“As quick as I went up is as quick as I went down,” Jin surmised on the Christian Post.

After floundering for two years, Jin was given a second shot at fame and success in his parents’ native land. Universal Music Hong Kong, seeing a surge of popularity for hip-hop on the island nation, offered Jin a contract with proper promotion.

Jin didn’t have anything else going on, so accepting was a “no brainer.”

Originally he thought he would be in Hong Kong for four months, but those four months turned into four years. He recorded ABC (American Born Chinese) in 2007 and 回香靖 (Homecoming) in 2011 rapping in Cantonese. He landed roles on TV, movies and commercials. He became a sensation.

“I was the Justin Bieber of Hong Kong,” he later reported.

While he finally found worldly success, he also found spiritual success. In 2008, he rekindled his relationship with Jesus (he first accepted Jesus with his Aunt Kathy as an 8 year old). He joined The Vine Church, a bilingual congregation. Read more about MC Jin, first Asian rapper, becomes Christian rapper.

Tedashii lost child, fell into grief, experienced strain on marriage

tedashii grief strain marriageTedashii Lavoy Anderson was out to make his mark at Baylor University. He strove to be responsible and do the right thing, to be well-liked in school, in sports and on the social scene.

Then this random guy walked up to him three months into his freshman year.

“Hey, I heard you talk about yourself,” he told Tedashii. “I heard the jokes you made, the things you laughed about, the stories you told about the weekend.”

“I gotta be honest,” he continued. “I think the Bible would call that sin. Sin is when you disobey a holy God. There’s a real place called Heaven and a real place called Hell, and I don’t know if you’re gonna go to Heaven. You need a Savior.”

tdot-christian rapperTedashii’s competitive side suddenly flared, and he launched into a tirade insisting no one should judge him, especially someone who knew nothing about his struggles and background.

“I kind of shoved him down out of the way. I didn’t mean to put him on his back, but I did unintentionally,” Tedashii recounted in a YouTube video. “I kind of stepped over him and went to class angry because here’s this guy telling me I’m not good enough.”

Weeks later Tedashii was kicked off the football team due to injury, lost his scholarship, lost his girlfriend, and saw his parents separate. As a result, he couldn’t pay for college anymore.

Then the same random guy approached him and shared the gospel with him again. “God wants to have a relationship with you,” he told him.

tedashi family wifeThis time, there was a completely different response. “A light bulb came on. I felt like I got a hug from the Father. I just dropped to my knees on campus and prayed to God. ‘I get it. God, I need a Savior.’”

The random guy became Tedashii’s best friend, and later became the best man in his wedding.

He suggested Tedashii rap for the Lord, and the now-famous Christian rapper initially laughed if off. Only after the Spirit dealt with Tedashii did he whip up a terrible rap that evoked only laughter at a campus talent show.

It was a flop, but the infection had started, and Tedashii was intrigued by the possibility of spreading the gospel through the popular medium of hip hop. He’s now recorded five projects with Reach Records and hit #1 on Billboard’s Gospel Music. He’s on Lecrae’s Reach Record label. Tedashii also appears in videos with Trip Lee, KB and others from 116 Clique.

Also known as T Dot, Tedashii lives in Denton, Texas, with his wife.

In March of 2013, he lost his youngest son, a one-year-old, to a sickness the hospital couldn’t treat, and the untimely death triggered a crisis of faith that led to substance abuse and jeopardized his marriage.

He learned about the tragedy on a flight returning from a concert. “I literally broke… Read how Tedashii fell into substance abuse, experienced strain on his marriage and finally overcame the grief.

Marijuana-smoking Shiva devotee could only get free from weed through Jesus

IMG_6354From a very young age, Nepal-born Surya Bhandari had a fervent desire to please the Hindu god Shiva. Because Shiva smoked marijuana, Surya sought to please him by smoking weed himself — starting at age 8.

Then in the sixth grade he learned about the dangers of tuberculosis and cancer from smoking and began to question the wisdom of the god. Also, kids at school started pointing at him as a “bad kid” for his cannabis consumption.

“In my little mind, I started thinking, ‘Why do they call me bad?’” Surya remembers. “‘This great god Shiva smokes marijuana. Why would they call me bad? Is it really bad? If I am bad, then this god Shiva is bad. If he is bad, is he really a god?’”

Surya's as a boy

Surya as a young man

He belonged to the priestly Brahman class, but he turned his back on Hinduism, called himself an “atheist,” started using other drugs and alcohol.

“This Shiva destroyed my life,” he reasoned. “I’m not able to quit smoking marijuana. Someday I’m going to get TB or cancer and I’m going to die, and this god is responsible.

“I became so angry.”

One day he had a dream of being chased by a tall figure clad in a white gown. He thought it was a ghost. It scared him so badly that he didn’t want to go to his usual taekwondo that morning and instead decided to distract himself by reading one of his older brother’s books.

His older brother had either left home or been kicked out — he wasn’t really sure — because he had secretly become a Christian and was attending underground meetings somewhere downtown.

As Surya thumbed through the volumes on the bookcase, he happened to pull out a slim volume, opened it and saw — to his utter surprise — a picture of the same white-clad figure. Suddenly his fear abated, and he continued to read eagerly. “It was God, not a ghost,” he concluded.

Nepalese refugees

Surya with his family today in Los Angeles

From that moment on, he wanted to become a Christian. But attending a church was no easy matter in those days in Nepal. Carrying a Bible was a crime worse than drug trafficking.

But Surya was determined. He begged an old friend of his brother to tell him where he could find the underground church that his brother attended. The young man was backslidden at the time and didn’t want to say anything. But after days of begging, Surya got him to relent and give him some rough directions.

The first chance he got he went eight miles away from his village to Pokhara. He liked the songs and listened intently without understanding much of the sermon. To his surprise after the service, nobody approached him or talked to him to explain things, and he was too shy to ask.

christianity nepal

Revival in Nepal

Maybe people were afraid of the strict anti-proselytizing laws. They could get into a lot of trouble if they were perceived as trying to convert someone. Also, some may have been cautious, because a newcomer might be a spy from the police.

But Surya didn’t understand all of this at the time. It seemed to him that God’s people were indifferent. The next time Surya went to church it was the same. Nobody talked to him. So he quit going.

Then he did something that brought great shame on his family. He flunked out of school. His parents scolded him constantly and his brothers beat him.

So he took to the streets. He would leave before anybody woke up. He would come home, entering through the window, after everybody was in bed. HIs grandmother always saved him some food.

He tried but found that he couldn’t quit drugs. Everybody in town called him a bad kid. Even the principal of the school saw fit to take him aside and rebuke him for bringing shame on his family.

All this was too much for Suryam and he began to contemplate suicide.

“I loved my father so much. I did not want to bring shame on my father,” he says, reasoning to himself at the time: “If I can’t bring a good name for him, I have no right to live.”

He decided to throw himself off a cliff and into a river near his town. Read the rest of Chrisitanity in Nepal

Born-again Palestinian pastor holds hope for Israel, Palestine

Sameer.DabitAs a Palestinian born-again pastor in Los Angeles, Sameer Dabit sees himself as a bridge-maker.

“My dad grew up with a lot of wounds, so I grew up with the mindset of hating Jews and hating Muslims,” Sameer says. “When I got saved at age 16 and started reading scriptures for myself and learning more about God and history, I started to realize, ‘Hey wait a minute. I shouldn’t hate anybody.’”

palestinian pastorSlowly, he began to form his own convictions about what he believes.

Sameer’s Arab father was born in Palestine in 1948 and was forced to move when the Jews took over the newly formed nation of Israel. So he resented the Jews.

But as an orthodox Christian, he also resented the Muslim Palestinians who subjected him to cruel jeering and constant antagonism in school, Sameer says.

When he came of age, dad decided to leave behind the nightmare of the Middle East, move to the United States, study and make his life in L.A. He worked hard at the front desk of a hotel, saved his money and bought properties.

Sameer got to know the simmering anger in his father for the injustices suffered, but he identified himself first and foremost as an American. He changed his name to Sam so that it was easier for classmates and elicited fewer questions about his origins. He loved football.

“I assimilated to America,” he says. “I identified myself more as American than Palestinian.”

kingdom reality LAThen he did something that went beyond his newfound cultural identification. He accepted Jesus into his heart.

At a basketball clinic run by a church, he liked the dynamic music, heard about the forgiveness of sins and wound up wondering why this environment was drastically different from the reverence and mysticism of his family’s religious practice.

Joining the born-again Christians in America created conflict with his dad, who wondered why his son left their church, got re-baptized and hung out with evangelicals who supported Zionism.

“It started to bring an interesting conflict between my dad and me,” says Sameer, now 31. “I was trying to help him understand that I understood where he was coming from. Whatever someone had done to him or his family, I don’t agree with. He was abused. But at the same time, I believe everyone has a right to a place to live, and at the time, the Jewish people were distributed around the world and suffered the Holocaust. That wasn’t right as well. They did need a place to live. Israel needed to be established again, and obviously that was Biblical.

“It was an interesting balance that I had to help him understand,” he says. “That’s why my perspective is interesting because I love the Palestinian people. I love the Jewish people. I love the Muslim people. I love the Christian people. I love that place.

“I desire to see Jesus restore it all. I know ultimately He will when He returns, but I believe He’s preparing His bride to receive Him in Israel as well as everywhere around the world.” Read the rest about Palestinian pastor thinks peace in Middle East possible through Jesus.

He just wanted girls, but God had other plans

royce lovettRoyce Lovett went to the Christian youth conference only to “score a girl’s number.”

But the sudden appearance of a stye on his eyelid put a damper on impressing girls. So he prayed.

“I remember saying God, I know I’ve heard stories of you doing things for tons of people, but I need you to do something for me. If you can remove this thing from my face, I’ll know you’re real,” the Tallahassee native said.

“So I prayed but I kinda forgot about it after I did. A couple minutes later a friend and I went to the bathroom, and the stye was gone. I was like, yo, God did something for me. It meant so much.

Royce, now 29, rededicated his life to God at that Acquire the Fire conference. He had grown up going to church. His mother and father were ministers. But he didn’t really get to know God until that conference.

what label royce lovettSuddenly God was real — and immediately Royce understood that he had a purpose: music.

For 11 years, he recorded five indie projects and performed concerts all over the globe while his family made ends meet with government aid. Finally, in 2014, Royce signed with the legendary label Motown Gospel.

It’s no mistake. Much of his music has the feel that it belongs to a different era, that of the heyday of Detroit with the start of so many African American music stars. But some of his music has rock influences (“Runnin”). His sweet ballad “Fly” is totally out of the loop.

royce lovett family

With his wife and kids today

 

Royce started in hip hop, but Christian rap pioneer Soup the Chemist encouraged him to give up predictability and blaze his own trail with his prodigious talent on the acoustic guitar. Royce also plays the bass, the drums and the keyboard.

While he was playing music at a park, a random guy came up and starting jamming with him. The guy told him his music was like “cerebral soul,” because it had the feeling of soul but made you think. The genre tag stuck.

If his genre places him logically with Motown, his message places him directly in the human heart. He’s never one to downplay his faith or love for Christ. And he’s willing to be brutally honest about the struggles of temptation. Read the rest about Royce Lovett.

After dropping out of partying, Mat Kearney took off in music industry

matannie1-350x233Skate-boarding teenager Mat Kearney spray-painted graffiti on trains and sold pot. He got into Cal Sate University Chico on a soccer scholarship but was a lackluster English major. Whenever his roommate wasn’t watching, he swiped his guitar and played for hours and hours — that’s how his musical career was born.

After shedding the vacuous party life and finding Jesus, Matthew William Kearney now has five top 20 hits on the Adult Top 40 Chart. He sings “Hey Mama,” “All I Need,” “Nothing Left to Lose” and more recently the haunting ballad about overcoming conflict in marriage, “Ships in the Night.”

d45f4838-11eb-41aa-8394-fe872d21df2c_575011_TABLET_LANDSCAPE_16_9-350x197“I guess I lived it up and did what everyone said you should do in college,” he said on CBN. “I discovered the depth of depravity, the bleakness of that lifestyle. It just wasn’t working. I finally started understanding there must be more to life.”

Kearney’s journey to success has been just as accidental as the misspelling of his name on his birth certificate that he discovered only in the eighth grade. He says the nurse got it wrong, so he spells it: “Mat.”

His grandfather ran a fake cigar shop in Rochester, New York, that was a front for a gambling ring. The mob shut down the business because it was encroaching on their territory, he said. This was during the depression, so Kearney’s father suffered hardship.

imagesHis dad served in Vietnam, followed the rock group Pink Floyd through Europe, and later became a lawyer in America. He moved to Hawaii where he worked as a deckhand on a boat and met Kearney’s mom, who was working as a mermaid for glass-bottom boat tours. They married and moved to Eugene, Oregon.

Kearney could roam freely as a kid in Oregon. He got into all kinds of trouble and loved soccer. By his own account, he “barely” was accepted into Chico State, which doesn’t have the highest academic entrance standards and is famous for being a party school. He received a soccer scholarship and was appreciated by his coach for intensity on the field.

But as he experimented for hours with a piano and practiced his singing pitch, he fell out of love with soccer.

A friend who would later become a music producer spontaneously asked him to go with him to Nashville, Tennessee.

Kearney could roam freely as a kid in Oregon. He got into all kinds of trouble and loved soccer. By his own account, he “barely” was accepted into Chico State, which doesn’t have the highest academic entrance standards and is famous for being a party school. He received a soccer scholarship and was appreciated by his coach for intensity on the field.

But as he experimented for hours with a piano and practiced his singing pitch, he fell out of love with soccer.

A friend who would later become a music producer spontaneously asked him to go with him to Nashville, Tennessee.

I helped him pack up his trailer and we put a mattress on the back of his truck. We basically drove cross-country and slept in the back.” Kearney said. “When we pulled into Nashville we slept in a school parking lot for three days until we finally rented this apartment where the roof was caving in and mice were crawling all over.”

Robert Marvin recorded with him all summer, and Kearney fell in love with the farmland surrounding the blue-collar city, so that’s where he stayed and made his fame. For his second album, he signed with Columbia Records.

It was in Nashville that he met and married his wife, Annie Sims, who was an actress but worked at Anthropologie. He was smitten by the Southern belle and wrote “Hey Mama!” after seeing her. Today they have a one-year-old, Olive. Read the rest of Mat Kearney Christian.

Behind the dark lyrics lurks hope in NF’s hip hop

NF-lonelinessAdmittedly, NF’s hip-hop is “dark and moody.” Don’t look for a Sunday schoolish happy-ever-after in his music, though he is a Christian.

Nathan Feuerstein’s rage emanates from the festering wounds of a broken home. His parents divorced when he was young, and his mom struggled with opioid addiction.

As a kid, NF didn’t understand why Mom missed events — even his graduation. One of her boyfriends physically abused him and delighted in striking terror in his two sisters. In high school, NF cut all communication with her because he felt strange and uncomfortable when the court ordered a social worker to monitor his conversations with her.

NF-Christians-in-painWhen he was 18, he received a heart-rending call. His grandmother said Mom had overdosed.

His soul-wrenching dirge “Why would you leave us?” was born of that personal apocalypse. It is a bone-chilling confessional that leaves no skeleton in the closet. Its unfiltered pathos is making people cry across the nation.

If Mandisa tells listeners “you’re an overcomer,” NF reassures them if they haven’t found victory in Christ. He splatters ghouls into his lyrics, and the fiendish formula is resonating with millennials nationwide who want to know if there’s a viable alternative to suicide.

NF-Christian“I grew up feeling like pills were more important than I was,” NF says in a YouTube video. “I’m not past that. Some people pretend to be out of that place. Or they assume that’s what ‘Christian’ means. It means that we’re all great and everything’s perfect. That’s not what it is.”

NF was born in Gladwin, Michigan, in 1991. Rap was his escape, first listening to it, then writing it. His high school teachers mocked his musical inspirations.

His early flounderings seemed to confirm the admonitions to get a real job. He drove an old Volvo that overheated so much he changed his schedule to drive at night. Between concerts, he worked as an electrician to pay bills.

But in October of 2017, NF silenced his detractors and left behind hardships when his third album, Perception, unexpectedly ranked #1 on Billboard 200. At the time, Forbes Magazine expressed shock that a virtual unknown had nudged Tom Petty’s greatest hits album off the top perch.

NF is a street poet who lashes out stinging rhymes with 220-volt intensity. He’s drawn comparisons to Dr. Dre and fellow Michigan native Eminem, but his lyrics are devoid of curse words, misogyny, crime and utter despair.

While he sounds the depths of pain, he points to God. Read the rest of NF Christian hip hop artist.

She dedicated her life to help women after suffering Post Abortion Syndrome herself

post-abortion-syndrome-westside-los-angelesYears after having three abortions, Maria Field suddenly found herself numb, her emotions in disarray at a time she should have been joyful – her recent engagement to be married.

“I didn’t think my past affected me emotionally,” she said. “It took God to show me that this was the wall in my life that I needed to deal with. I needed to work through the loss and find forgiveness and healing.”

Because of her experience, Maria started a licensed family counseling practice specializing in Post Abortion Syndrome, something unrecognized by the medical community that bears striking parallels to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

teen-cryingSince opening her office in 1995 in West Los Angeles, she’s seen hundreds of patients. Some of them are coming to terms with their decision to abort 40 or even 50 years earlier. Others come to see her immediately after an abortion. Even men can suffer Post Abortion Syndrome because they are participants in initiating life and its deliberate termination.

“These people experience anxiety, depression, low self esteem, flashbacks and even suicidal thoughts,” Field said. “They have triggers. Sometimes it’s a sound that reminds them of the procedure. Sometimes it’s a song that reminds them of their partner.”

The syndrome has not been recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (fifth edition), or DSM-5, but not because it’s a bogus condition concocted by pro-lifers, as the secular media suggest.

Rather, the disorder simply lacks clinical studies in the same way PTSD lacked clinical studies and was not officially recognized immediately following the Vietnam War, Field said. It is hard to find subjects willing to offer themselves as subjects of study, which may re-open painful wounds.

the childless wifeTypically, women who abort adopt some coping or defense mechanism to suppress the grieving over the loss of a child, Field said. In her own case, her successful busy life, studies and professional career provided her a sufficient cover.

She was in denial about what happened. But she stopped going to church with her mom because church made her cry, and she didn’t want her mom, who didn’t know about the abortions, to ask why she was crying, she said.

The coping mechanism worked for 15 years. Then she planned to get married and suddenly a host of long-suppressed emotions surfaced like a boiling cauldron in her heart. At first, she couldn’t figure out what was wrong. But she had studied for her master’s in psychology at Pepperdine University, so she was in tune enough to start connecting the dots.

Eventually, she realized she needed therapy and drove once a week to Newport, the only place she could find a therapist who would deal with the issue.

“I realized, ‘Oh my God, this is a big issue!’” she said.

Even among Christians, who supposedly oppose abortion because of the belief it is murder, abortion is prevalent. Young girls feel the shame of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and think it will be too much burden for them or their family – so they choose the easy way out. Read the rest of the article: post abortion syndrome.

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

IMG_0062

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.

IMG_9932

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.

IMG_9650

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.

IMG_9643

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