Category Archives: God’s work

After murder and hurricane destruction, she found hope in a hug

Cassenda Nelson often spent the day crying in her truck because she didn’t want to be reminded of the brutal murder of her mom and aunt in her home.

In August 2017, Cassa’s mother, Frances Nelson, and her aunt, Mamie Childs, were murdered in an alleged domestic violence dispute.

“My mom and my aunt were murdered in front of my children at her home,” Cassa reports. “My mom was someone I could go and talk to about anything. It felt like something was ripped out of me. How do you bounce back from being in that place of so much despair?”

Life became unbearable.

“I lost all hope. I didn’t want to get up in the morning. I didn’t want to see sunlight,” Cassa recounts on a Billy Graham video. “My plan was to take a whole bunch of pills to commit suicide.”

Then barely over a year later on Oct. 9, 2018, Hurricane Michael swept through her town with blockbuster Category 5 ferocity and tore up houses, knocked over trees and left the town a shambles.

Cassa’s home was also damaged.

“I’m standing here at the door watching this storm, and I’m saying, ‘Oh my God. When am I going to get a break?’” Cassa remembers. “I lost the most important people that would have been right here with me.” Read the rest: Hope in a hug for Cassenda Nelson

She prayed husband out of drugs and into pastoring

time and norma pena indio california free from drugsFirst there was blood on the pillowcase. Second, her husband slept all day, had circles under his eyes, and a persistent bad attitude. Eventually, he lost his job, his car and his dignity.

“I was naive,” Norma Pena says. “I didn’t recognize the signs of drug abuse. Although I came from a dysfunctional home, I didn’t know what addiction was.”

It got so bad, Norma told Tim to move out. Three years of marriage was coming to an end. She felt “numb to him,” she says. “I had no feelings for him anymore.”

Today, Tim Pena has been pastoring a church in Visalia, California, for almost 20 years. It’s a mind-boggling turnaround. And they are still married.

Tim Pena and Norma Pena Visalia pastorWhen Norma accepted Jesus into her heart in 1997, the marriage was on a fast train to Splitsville. Her friend, Sandra, who had evangelized her tirelessly for three years, encouraged Norma to contend for restoration of their relationship.

“At first I didn’t believe he could get saved,” Norma says. “He made my life a living hell.”

But there was a grain of sand in the oyster that irritated her thoughts. Her mother was a single mother of four, her grandmother a single mother of six.

At the time, Norma had only one child — but she was worried that she was falling victim to a vicious legacy.

At the constant encouragement of Sandra, Norma prayed for her husband. Things were not going well for him. He was sofa-surfing at friends’ houses. His life was spiraling downward, propelled by cocaine and alcohol.

Then one day, he showed up at the same church Norma attended, the Potter’s House in Indio, California. Tim answered the altar call for salvation.

She watched from the congregation. She thought the conversion was faked.

But her friend urged her to persevere in pray.

“The Bible says you have to pray for your enemies. He was my enemy because he made my life a living hell,” Norma relates. “But he was the father of my daughter, and I wanted him to be a good example to her.”

She did NOT pray for her marriage to be restored however. Read the rest: Wife prayed husband out of drugs and into pastoring.

Matt Whitman and the anti-testimony

matt whitmanFor almost half his life, Matt Whitman lived off of the faith he found in Christ at age 15. But at age 29, after a falling out in his church, he decided that none of it made sense anymore and he became an atheist.

“I went from being in a Christian home and being a Christian as a young person to having my faith fall apart completely in adulthood,” he says on a Ten Minute Bible Hour video on YouTube.

Matt documents his own “spiritual deconstruction” to counter an emerging trend on YouTube of former Christians posting “anti-testimonies.” They explain how “reason” made them doubt and abandon their faith. Included are Hillsong song-writer Marty Sampson, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” author Joshua Harris and singer Lisa Gungor, who “anti-testified: on Buzzfeed.

matt whitman familyMatt Whitman was raised in a household where they discussed theology, history, philosophy and art. His dad was a pastor, and home life in Fort Collins, Colorado, was nothing but enjoyable.

“We did ‘thought’ for fun growing up,” he remembers. “We talked about books and movies and music and stories. I loved it. It was a blast to process all this. Through and in that context, the basics of the Christian concept made sense, and I signed up.”

He was 15 when he completed “Christianity 101,” gaining an understanding of some of the fundamentals of faith like God’s eternal nature.

“I got a lot of applause for being a good Christian young man,” he recalls. “I got a Christian job at the Christian bookstore. I went to a Christian high school. I got an award there for being a good Christian or whatnot. I felt like I had arrived.”

Ten Minute Bible HourBut his young mind had fixed mostly on behaving well to earn people’s admiration, which is a “pretty ugly build of faith to take out of childhood,” he says.

“Sure enough, I crashed against the rocks,” he explains. “The wheels fell off.”

As he grew up, got married, became a leader in the church, the simplistic answers of his childhood faith never got updated and were inadequate for the interpersonal relationship struggles and daunting philosophical questions presented to his maturing mind.

At age 29, he was driving away in a moving van with his young wife and weeks-old daughter from a church where he worked after “stuff got weird.” He never wanted to work at a church again and had nowhere to go.

“I started crying — like ugly crying,” he says. “Part of the reason is because that was the time that I wanted to have everything together for (my family),” he says. “I didn’t want there to not be a God, but I really felt there was no God.”

But in all honesty, his faith had vanished. “On that drive I kept coming to the conclusion that it was all fake,” he says.

Months later, he decided to re-read the Bible before he shared his atheism with his wife. But this time he vowed to read the Bible with an open and critical mind. He decided to jettison any and all delusions and break past his once infantile faith.

Viewed with fresh eyes, what he saw in the Bible shattered his preconceived notions.

“Very quickly I realized, ‘Oh, I have a false assumption here. My false assumption was that I was the main character of the document, that humans were the point’ but we’re not,” he says. “God is clearly the main character of the document.”

Whoa! Mind-blown. Read the rest of Why I’m Glad I didn’t make an Anti-Testimony.

Long Beach church girl found her way back to God

praising JesusAt 10, Veronyka dressed like a boy and wanted to be a gangster. Then her father got radically saved and she started attending church.

“My family gang-bangs,” she said on a video posted by the Long Beach Door Church. “That’s just the life I came from. I come from generations and generations of gangsters. When you come from the lifestyle that I come from, there are strongholds.”

But after tasting church life, she decided to follow her secular friends and leave the church.

veronyka sanchez“I was going to church but I was also walling out, drinking and going to parties,” she said. I was living a double life. I never had a real one on one relationship with God. When I was 17 and I got my first real taste of the world, I decided, ‘This is awesome. I love it,’ and, ‘Freedom!’ and I got pregnant. I just kind of went downhill from there.”

Veronyka left home and lived house to house during the pregnancy and after giving birth. Then when her baby turned one, Veronyka turned to do what she thought was the only career available to her.

“I started dancing,” she says. “I was in a really hard place, and I felt very alone. I felt like I needed to get quick money fast. Everything that I ever knew was unraveling so fast, so I started dancing. Little did I know that I was going to go down a really dark rabbit hole once I opened that door.”

For three years, she made good money “dancing.” She got her own place and her own car and lived in San Bernardino.

“I got involved with some people who definitely took advantage of me and manipulated me,” she says. “As dark as an environment that I got in, I could have gotten deeper. It scared me to a point where I was like, ‘Am I going to go fully into what I’m doing or am I going to stop all of this and turn back to God?’ Read the rest: Church in Long Beach.

Best-selling author Andrew Klavan came to Christ

Author 1Andrew Klavan, international best-selling author, grew up in a Jewish household devoid of God.

He felt like a hypocrite at his bar mitzvah when he recited Hebrew statements of faith neither he nor his parents believed. “Judaism is a beautiful religion, but when you empty it of God, it has no meaning,” he told CBN.

He threw himself into reading. He didn’t get along with his dad, so he searched for male role models in books. He struck on the noir, Hemingwayesque hero, the tough guy womanizer who held to his own moral code.

The Long Island native liked reading so much that he started writing, first for a newspaper in Putnam County, NY, and then riveting detective novels. He wrote prolifically and read widely.

100780_w_760_724“The more I read, the more I found that Christianity was at the center of almost every great story that I loved,” Klavan said. “I started to read the Gospel according to Luke as a piece of literature just to find out what everybody was talking about, and I found that the figure of Jesus Christ was at the center of Western Culture.”

At first, he examined the issues only as a sociologist, trying to understand the origins and evolution of Western Civilization’s values and development. But the quest for truth that his protagonists portrayed resonated in his heart and eventually Klavan realized nothing made sense without the existence of God.

“I began to believe in my mind that there actually was a God, but I didn’t know Him yet,” he explained to CBN.

One day he read in a book that a character prayed before going to sleep and Klavan decided he could try the same. Tentatively, he muttered a very terse prayer.

“Thank, You, Lord,” he uttered.

Undramatically, he fell asleep.

“I woke up the next morning and truly everything had changed,” he says. ”There was a new clarity to everything. My heart was filled with gratitude. I was experiencing a joy that had been locked away. Suddenly, knowing God opened me up to my own experience of life.”

That tiny prayer turned into titanic growth in the Lord. Read the rest of the article Andrew Klavan Christian

Beyond God’s forgiveness because he altered his body to be transgender?

72137812_1391789564304612_6296076620306317312_nSamuel’s mother prayed but couldn’t get pregnant. So when Samuel was conceived, he was her miracle child.

Growing up in a Christian household in Fort Myers, Florida,, little Samuel Jordan III dreamed of becoming a pastor.

But at eight years old, he was sexually abused by a friend’s family member.

“He starts saying things like ‘We’re just acting, I’m gonna be the man, you’re gonna be the woman,’” says Samuel. “The innocence that I carried as a little boy that loved Jesus, I really felt like that got snatched away from me,” he recounts on a 700 Club video.

samuel jordan as a kidSamuel didn’t tell his mom about the first traumatic abuse. It happened again, followed by more violations.

Perversely, Samuel began to enjoy the sin and seek it regularly.

By age 14, he was exploring homosexuality on his own with friends from school.

Meanwhile, feelings of guilt and shame troubled him at church.

“I asked God, ‘Whatever this feeling is, I need you to take this out of me,’” Samuel recalls. But “it seemed every time I prayed, nothing really changed.”

The routine of secret sin got upended when mom discovered an explicit note in his backpack. She was shocked and decided to take a radical stand of tough love: to cut off her relationship with her son.

“My relationship with her at that moment took a shift. She told me, ‘If this is how you’re gonna live, I can’t talk to you.’” Samuel remembers, crying. ”I was like her blessing, but I became her curse, and she could no longer look at me.”

In hopes to restore his relationship with his mom, he halted the promiscuity.

transgender transformedHe never could patch things up with his mother. She died of cancer after two years of broken communication with her son.

“I felt like that last piece of me had left the earth,” he says. “There was a hollowness in my heart and Samuel was gone.”

Then his father moved in with another woman and Samuel was left on his own.

With no one around to support him, Samuel gravitated back towards the life of sin and found acceptance in the gay community.

“I really hated Samuel. He wasn’t accepted, Samuel was disowned, Samuel was alone,” he continues. “So when I finally saw (the gay) lifestyle and found a sense for belonging, I went for it.”

Samuel changed his name to Simone and lived as a transgender and got breast implants.

He even worked as an escort.

“Simone was that person that got the level of affirmation and love and acceptance that Samuel never got,” Samuel states.

At the same time, he wrestled with guilt and shame.

“Though I had become this person, I didn’t know who I was looking at,” Samuel recalls. “I just felt like my inside who I really was, was now being destroyed.”

After he dropped out of Tallahassee Community College, he moved back to Fort Myers into the home of a family friend who took him on the condition that he go to church with her.

He wasn’t altogether turned off by the idea of going to church. He felt very lost and hoped to find some direction.

As he listened to the worship, he felt a new sensation coming over him.

“I knew I was desperate for something, and that moment made sense,” Samuel says. “I was desperate for Him and I was lost without Him, and so as he began to sing, began to cry from a very desperate place.” Read the rest: transgender not beyond the forgiveness and restoration of God.

Homeless 11-year-old waif rescued because of Christian group in Honduras

Operation Blessing HondurasEleven-year-old Linda was rescued off the streets by her cousin from another village.

Cousin Myrna was able to take her in because of her affiliation with Operation Blessing.

poverty in HondurasLinda’s demise began because of extreme poverty in a remote village in Honduras. Her parents left her to fend for herself and she found shelter in an old abandoned house, where she slept.

“When I slept at that house, I used to hear some very scary noises. Then I would become very afraid,” she told Operation Blessing. “I wanted sunrise to come quickly.”

During the day, the little street urchin begged for food, and sometimes people gave her tortillas with nothing on them to stave off starvation. Other times she went hungry.

“Some people gave me something to eat,” she said. “Other people just looked away.”

Because of the poverty in the rural area, Linda lacked a birth certificate and wasn’t allowed to enroll in school. Read the rest: Honduras poverty Christian help.

“I wanted to learn to write my name, read, study and do homework,” Linda says.

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How can a brain tumor be a good thing? Ask Scott Hamilton

Scott_Hamilton_olympicsFigure skating sensation Scott Hamilton owes his Olympic gold medal to… a brain tumor.

It limited his growth as a child and baffled doctors who could never find the cause of the problem. Through an unlikely series of events related to his frequent visits to doctors, he wound up in figure skating.

“Who would I be without a brain tumor?” Scott reflects in a White Chair Productions video. “I could choose to look at it as debilitating, to choose to focus on the suffering. (But) I choose to look at that brain tumor as the greatest gift I’ve ever gotten because it made everything else possible.”

In 1984, the United States hadn’t won a gold medal in men’s figure skating for 24 years. Hamilton’s feat made him one of the top eight most popular American athletes, according to an Associated Press study.

The 5’4” athlete was adopted by two college professors who raised him in Bowling Green, Ohio. Badgered by health issues from childhood, his lack of normal growth caused experts to search in vain for a cause.

“When I came back from being in and out of hospitals, I ended up going to the skating club by accident,” Scott remembers. “I found skating.”

Scott_HamiltonHe excelled on ice. His progress in the sport caused him to move away from home to receive training by better coaches.

His first awareness of a need for God arose after his mother lost a battle to cancer. “Something awakened in me,” he says. “I knew I needed something better. I knew I needed some strength.”

Beginning in 1981, Scott won 16 consecutive national and international championships. He loved entertaining spectators. His signature move was a backflip, a move so dangerous it was banned by U.S. Figure Skating and Olympic competition rules. Because it was risky, it was also a crowd-pleaser.

B9315966892Z.1_20150124003822_000_G7A9OQ2N3.1-0After bringing Olympic gold to male figure skating, Scott won another world championship and retired from amateur competition to the professional, entertainment sector, where he performed until 2001.

In 1997 Hamilton was forced to leave figure skating to undergo chemotherapy for testicular cancer. It was a scary moment because cancer had claimed the life of his mother. With God’s help Scott overcame the health battle, but it was emotionally staggering.

“I survived something that took the most important person, my mother, off this planet,” he says. “My mom died. I survived. Why?”

He started to ask what his purpose was. His soon-to-be wife helped answer that question. Tracie Hamilton introduced him to Jesus and they began to attend church together.

As he was getting to know the principles of Christianity, Scott and his wife prayed to be able to have a child — no easy thing for a survivor of testicular cancer.

But God answered their prayers. Nine months after their wedding in 2002 they were blessed with a baby boy, Aiden.

Anyone would say that Scott had already suffered through more than his share of health issues. But after the growth deficiency and his battle with testicular cancer, Hamilton discovered he had a brain tumor.

His wife took his hands in hers and they started to pray.

“It was in that moment I knew where I was going to put everything, my trust, my faith, everything,” he remembers. “That was the most powerful moment in my life. From that moment forward, we just said, whatever it is, whatever it takes.”

The biopsy was fear-provoking in itself. Doctors drilled a hole through Hamilton’s skull, weaved their way through the coils of the brain, cut out a small piece of the tumor, extracting it for later analysis.

“We seem to have found a safe corridor to do that,” the doctors told him at the time. Read the rest: Scott Hamilton Christian.

Transformed by glory from gay lifestyle

ECJym7ZXoAEZ4KJBy Laken Wilson —

Becket Cook lived a dream life as a set designer in the fashion world. Flaunting an openly gay lifestyle, he swam in Drew Barrymore’s pool and vacationed in Diane Keaton’s vacation home.

But the luster lost its shine at one party: “I can’t do this anymore,” he realized.

In his book Change Of Affection, Beckett documents his identity transformation, as well as a peace and freedom previously unimaginable.

Becket’s demise into homosexuality began when he was 10 at a sleepover with a friend in Texas where he grew up. The friend’s dad molested him at midnight.

becketcook2-8b38574“It was very shocking and scary, and I had this image in my mind that if I didn’t allow him to do what he was doing, I had a picture of him with a knife,” Becket recalls on a 700 Club video. “He was going to stab me or kill me.”

The molester came back three times during the night.

“I did not tell my parents because I knew my father probably would of had him killed,” he said. “I didn’t want my father going to prison over this.” He was the youngest of eight and didn’t want his siblings to be fatherless.

“Also I didn’t want people to know,” he says. “It was a shameful experience.”

gay no moreSo he locked up the horrors in the safe deposit box of his heart.

“Living as a gay man, I never really thought that affected me,” Becket said. “I didn’t want my identity as a gay man to tied to such a scary, weird, gross night. After I became a Christian, I realized, that night had a huge impact on my sexuality. It cemented it.”

He was popular in high school with the girls and went to dances, but when he got older, he had gay bestfriends and went to gay bars and explored the gay life.

“I kind of felt like this was home for me, these are my people. But it wasn’t until after college when I had my first relationship with a guy,” Becket says. “We fell in love and that is when homosexuality as my identity was known.”

He “came out to his parents and family.

His parents were Christians and believed it was a sin, but they were very loving about it. His father asked him if he did anything wrong and if he was angry towards him about anything.

“No dad, I’m fine,” Becket responded. “This who I am, and it’s not your fault.”

Over the years in LA, he went through five serious relationships.

He was at Paris Fashion Week March 2009 at an after-party when he looked over the crowd and remembered asking himself: “This is not it. This is not the meaning of life. What am I going to do for the rest of my life?”

He went to a coffee shop where he came across people with Bibles, and he and his best friend ended up having a conversation with them.

They invited him to their church the next week. Becket asked them what they believed in about homosexuality. They replied it was a sin. Becket ended up going to the church the following Sunday, and while he was listening to the sermon everything was resonating as truth to him and heart.

“I was processing the sermon and worship music, and all of a sudden the Holy Spirit just overwhelmed me.” he remembers. “God was like, I’m God, Jesus is my son, Heaven is real, Hell’s real, the Bible is true and you are now adopted into my kingdom. Welcome.”

Becket started bawling and was able to see the truth for the first time in his life — and the new meaning of life for the first time. He knew in that moment that that was no longer the gay man he used to be.

“The curtains just parted,” Becket said. “I knew instantly in that moment that this was no longer who I was. Being gay was not who I was. It was over. I was done with it.”

Laken Wilson is my student at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica and wrote this for extra credit in literature class.

Leader of L.A. Rescue Mission lost leg in fight against homelessness, willing to sacrifice the other if it would make a difference

union rescue mission changes livesAndy Bales’ leg was amputated in 2016 after he contracted an infection related to homeless people defecating on LA’s Skid Row.

“I’d give my other leg if they would actually do something” to get people off the streets, he declares.

While politicians dicker about who’s to blame for the city’s acute homelessness crisis, Andy, CEO of Union Rescue Mission, believes they have the answer that manifests Christ’s love in a pragmatic way. It’s called a Sprung Structure, a cheap and durable fabric tent that can house 120 people.

andrew bales ceo union rescue mission outside city hall“The answer is IMMEDIATELY getting people off the streets so they are not continuing to be devastated,” he says. “The longer we leave so many people on the streets, the worse it gets for them and for all of us.”

In 2014, Andy participated in a triathlon and scraped open a sore on his foot. He was wearing a “wound boot” when he walked around with staff handing out bottled water and invited people to take advantage of Union Rescue Mission’s services.

“I got an infection from human waste outside on the sidewalk on Skid Row,” he says.

Andy Bales CEO Union Rescue MissionRight now, there are only nine public toilets to service 2,800 people on Skid Row. The numbers don’t add up and actually fall short of toilets available for refugee camps in Syria (the refugees have it better). He calculates 184 toilets would be needed to keep the homeless from defecating and urinating on the sidewalk.

He describes a dangerous situation with grave infections happening to people all the time. Aside from cleaning the street every two weeks, the City hasn’t done much, he says.

Los Angeles’ homeless crisis is worse than New York’s or San Francisco’s. Last year, there were 41,000 on the streets. This year, there are 44,000, Andy says.

Andy, 61, is no Ivory Tower theorist. He’s a man of the trenches.

To remind himself and draw attention to the plight of the homeless, Andy spends New Year’s Eve on the streets every year. He denies himself his bed, his warm room, his shower, his bathroom, and his dinner. He spends the entire night outside, with whoever volunteers to help him, on the streets.

The first time he did it many years ago, he did it alone. Throughout the night, he broke up fights and fought off rapists — five physical altercations in total, he says. Never again would he brave the streets alone. Sometimes he’s accompanied by Bible college students, sometimes by staff.

So he experiences firsthand the horrors of homelessness. When the news reports of violence and even murder perpetrated by the homeless, Andy knows what goes wrong.

“I don’t know how anyone continues to sleep on the streets night after night without beginning to think in a wrong way,” he says. “I’m still recovering two days later. You can see I have a shake in my hands. And that was just one night. I can’t survive one night on the streets. How can I survive two. Or how could I survive weeks or months or decades on the streets?” Read the rest: Homelessness Los Angeles.

Bullets through his car window made Young Noah turn to God

young noahYoung Noah was succeeding wildly in the secular rap game while his life was going down the drain, but he turned things around after he nearly got shot to pieces.

“Duck,” God told him.

“I ducked down in the car and pushed my buddy’s head down into the steering wheel,” he says on a 2016 Testimony Stories video. “The next thing I knew there were shots fired and glass was just flying everywhere,” “It was at that moment I realized that I was about to die.”

He had been trying to help some girls escape a college party, and “a hundred football guys, drunk and high and out of their minds” chased him down because they wanted the girls, he says. He had pulled out a non-working gun to scare them off and keep from getting beat up. They had run off but returned before Noah and his buddy could escape in their car. They had at least one gun, and it worked.

Young Noah and V. RoseWilliam Noah Bohannon aka Young Noah was born in Neunan, Georgia, into a family so Christian that he wasn’t hardly aware of the world. He accepted Jesus at a young age and got baptized. He was being home-schooled, but when he attended secular high school he got involved in hip hop, alcohol, marijuana, gangs and robbery.

“It was weird to grow up in church and end up so far away from God,” he says. “Church and growing up in church can’t save your soul. It kind of shapes you, but eventually you have to make a decision whether or not you’re going to allow God to live in you and cause you to do good works. Church can’t save you. You need to accept Christ. You need to have a regeneration in your mind. You have to be born-again.”

Winning a rap contest, he was given the chance to record in Los Angeles. By the time he got there, however, God had already orchestrated events to the point that he was already questioning his great breakthrough.

“I found myself succeeding in this dark industry,” he says. “At the same time I began to wonder if God really approved of my lifestyle. I knew that if I was really going to be a Christian, I was going to have to let this music thing go. I told my manager, I told the record company, I told everybody that I couldn’t continue. Read the rest: Young Noah’s testimony

Joey Vantes, suicide rapper

62335bc62cfb6ff575a23f9280507c1b.1000x1000x1“Sending love and prayers for all those facing loss, depression, or heartache this season. DM me if you need someone to talk to and to pray with you.”

That’s what Christian Hip Hop sensation Joey Vantes wrote on Facebook Dec. 14th. He knows that Christmas, for many, heightens their isolation, depression and thoughts of suicide. He has a heart for more than just music or stardom. He has a heart for the hurting.

joey vantes suicideThat’s because Joey Vantes (formerly Joey Jewish) tried to commit suicide himself. He was trying to quit the partying and drugs from his days at the University of Arizona. But he kept lapsing back into drinking, and the cycle of failure detonated depression.

“It was just a mess. I couldn’t break free,” Joey told Rapzilla. “I was so depressed. I was so bound to this thing that I just wanted to die to escape what I was feeling on a daily basis.”

One day when his wife sent him for groceries, he decided to end his life. He would drive off the road down a steep embankment.

“I jerked my wheel to the left to pull off at this ramp and right when I [did] it, my wheel locks, my car shuts off and I slowly just kind of fade over to the left side of the road,” Joey said. “Immediately, the Spirit of God just hits me right where I am in my car.I feel this intense love come over me and say, ‘I love you and I forgive you. Just call out to me.’” Read the rest: Suicide rapper Joey Vantes

‘Fat slob’ boxer beat reigning champ, credits Jesus

0_BOX-JOSHUA-RUIZRidiculed as a “fat slob” in the boxing world with 1-25 odds against, Andy Ruiz Jr. shocked the world when he defeated the heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua eight months ago.

On Saturday, the first Mexican-heritage heavyweight champion rematches in Saudi Arabia against the Nigerian-born British boxer who’s taller, more muscular and has a longer arm reach. (He lost the rematch.)

“God’s everything,” Ruiz said on a Seti Afoa video on YouTube. “I don’t think I would be here without Him, without His help. He’s always been in my life since I was a little kid. I’m a Christian, and I believe in God. I fight for God. On my fighting shorts, it says, ‘God is real.’ When I win, I’m going to give all the glory to God. If you believe in God, everything is possible.”

Andres Ponce Ruiz, now 30, grew up in the sparse desert town of Imperial, California, just 10 miles from the border of Mexico, where much of his family got swept away in the drug- and human-trafficking prevalent in the region.

A hyperactive kid who liked to get into trouble, Ruiz fell into street-fighting; even then he was always underestimated as a chubby kid. The streets learned that behind the baby face was a fast and furious succession of brutal blows that laid rivals flat.

“I was always hanging around with the wrong crowd and crew. There are a lot of gang members out there where I live. They’re all druggies. Some of my family members are gang or related to the gang,” Ruiz said in the UK’s Telegraph.

“I’ve been in many street fights. I fought street fights for my friends to protect them. My dad would go and look for me everywhere: alleys, houses and knocking at the doors to get me to go to the gym. I’d be hanging around with the wrong crowd. Thanks to boxing and my dad, I was steered in the right direction.” Read the rest of the article: Andy Ruiz Christian.

Gambling addiction broken after man sees in Bible what God told him

john simmonsJohn Simmons first entered a dingy poker room where guys were smoking on his 21st birthday in Vegas.

“There’s no better feeling than putting in a wad of money in your pocket knowing you didn’t really do anything to earn it,” says Simmons on a CBN video. “There’s a lot of adrenaline that builds up in your heart. The feeling of chasing that moment is intense.”

It was the start of a decade-long gambling addiction that saw John, from St. Louise, Missouri, fall into more than $200,000 of debt, depression and hopelessness.

IMG_5510His demise began with a celebration for his birthday, when it was finally legal for him to go into a casino.

“The guys at the tables got their sunglasses on and they’re bluffing each other,” John says. “It’s just filling me up with all this joy and i’m like I love this.”

John decided to pursue poker as a career. He got a job as a casino card dealer and he made good money.

‘Gambling gave me a sense of purpose. It gave me a sense of identity,” John says. “I would be a person that could be seen by others as a multimillionaire. If I wasn’t working, I was playing. If I wasn’t playing, I was sleeping.”

IMG_5509But when gambled on his free time, he lost.

After three years at the poker table, John was more than $200,000 in debt and had to declare bankruptcy. As part of the court settlement, he still had to pay off some debt. So John worked overtime to scramble the money.

“In my mind, it wasn’t that I was failing. I just needed to keep going and figure out how to fix it,” he says. “If only I could win the next thing, none of these losses matter. I would spend my entire paycheck over the course of a weekend trying to chase my debts. A lot of times, I had zero dollars in my pocket.

“It was such a terrible way to live,” he adds. “I couldn’t stop though. I kept thinking, ‘If all I do is win this one tournament, if I win a million dollars, no one will be mad at me anymore.’”

At age 30, he was again hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

He decided to survey the debris of his life. Read the rest of gambling addiction.

Triad gang member scraped with death before finding Jesus

ChobySiau3As multiracial dyslexic at 11 years old, Choby Siau was an easy target for bullying at his new school in New Zealand.

“Because of that, I started to fight. I started to fight to defend” my brother and me, Choby narrates in the video he made documenting his salvation.

Choby grew up in a church, but he never had a personal relationship with God. He felt hurt by the church.

“I knew He was real, but I just really thought, ‘How can God let abuse happen to me and my brother?’ I had a distrust of God, and I blamed God for what I went through,” Choby continues.

At 13 years old, Choby and his family left to Penang, Malaysia, where he joined a local Triad, a Chinese mafia.

ChobySiau2

Choby in his gang

“My goal was to raise in the ranks,” Choby says. “I wanted to become a boss in the Triad.”

Choby got kicked out of school in the 8th grade.

“Choby, because you’re out (of school), I’m going to teach you about the ways of the Chinese Triad,’” Choby’s boss told him.

Choby was hooked for life.

Choby started as a fighter. Anytime there was a problem for the Triad in Penang, he was called upon to settle scores.

At 17, he and his family moved to America, far away from his girlfriend. Through his connections in the Triad, he learned she was cheating on him.

“Listen,” he threatened his girlfriend over the phone, “I want you to tell that guy that I have a present coming for him.”

But before he could board the plane, his mom had a very serious talk with him.

“Son, I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again,” she told him ominously.

“God spoke to her that I was gonna die in Malaysia,” Choby explains. Read the rest of Triad gang member comes to salvation

He met the devil in the psych ward

JephHoagland5When an 18-year-old was sent to a psych ward and encountered Satan, a surprising series of events led him from darkness into the light.

As a teenager, Jeph Hoagland smoked weed and used psychedelics.

“I realized now that it’s wrong, and I really don’t support that way. It led me to nowhere,” Jeph says.

While he was still in rebellion, God was trying to get his attention. One day Jeph came to work drunk and was instantly sent home. Driving home, he raced around a turn too quickly, veered off the pavement, and crashed into a tree.

“The airbag went off. I got out of the car, I was fine, but the car was totaled,” Jeph recounted in a video.

After a few days, he went back to the tree where the crash happened. What he saw there was shocking.

JephHoagland1“I saw on the tree my initials, J.H. I was like, ‘Wow, this is insane. I didn’t put that there, no one put that there.’ It wasn’t like it was carved in, it was engraved in the tree,” Jeph recalled.

Did God do that? he wondered.

Jeph instantly thought there must be a higher power calling him. From then on, he started to believe God is real.

However, as he considered the reality of God’s existence he still continued to abuse drugs.

‘’I had these experiences searching for God. I had experiences on acid, where I thought I was enlightened. I felt good, and I was still feeling this void, this God-sized hole in me,” he explained.

In the process of searching for God, Jeph gave up drinking. But even without alcohol in his life, he still used mushrooms and LSD.

Then he moved to Florida and lived on his own. He was invited over to party at the house of a friend, an “angry drunk.” Jeph brought his own mushrooms.

“I felt that there was this negative presence in the room. This was the time God revealed himself to me,” Jeph recalled.

His friend suddenly got angry and demanded, with others, that Jeph drink alcohol.

“I got up and I got into a fighting stance. I saw where I was going without

having my eyes open. It was like an out-of-body experience, and I felt like I was being taken over by something,” he said.

Jeph got hit by someone. He threw the person off, and everyone started attacking him. He eventually passed out after being choked.

“When I opened my eyes, there were people circled around me. All of a sudden I felt this amazing peace, this incredible peace in me,” Jeph said.

Due to the mushrooms, Jeph continued to act erratically. He removed his clothing and began to hug the friends who had beaten him.

In response, they called the police and reported him for possessing psychedelics. Read the rest: He met the devil in the psych ward.

Malice becomes No Malice

No_Malice-304Deep down, Malice always knew that staying in his platinum-selling worldly music group would lead to his demise.

But Malice (his real name is Gene Elliott Thorton Jr.) found a new reason to live in 2012. He changed his stage name to No Malice and gave up millions of dollars. Today his career, which hasn’t seen much light since, got a boost with a feature on Kanye West’s new album Jesus is King.

“I was just letting the wind carry me left, right, swing, either which way in my life,” No Malice said in a HipHopDX video.

“I wasn’t fulfilled. To have achieved the American Dream and still not be fulfilled only frustrated me more,” he told CBN. “I wasn’t having a good time. And when I did have a good time, it was only to find out afterwards, I was in more misery.”

Born in 1972 in the Bronx and raised in Virginia Beach, No Malice was drawn to hip hop and R&B as a child. Unlike many kids in his neighborhood, his mother and father took him to church. Still, he managed to get into all kinds of trouble.

clipse-pusha-t-malice

Malice with Pusha T in Clipse

“Even with foundation and having a good head on your shoulders, you can still make some pretty decent mistakes,” he said.

He and his brother, who went under the stage name Pusha T, formed the group Clipse, which brass-knuckled its way into the rap game. At the time hip hop was just beginning to compete against pop with choruses and anthems, but Clipse broached untouchable topics, introducing a sub genre dubbed coke rap, filled with chilling hood depictions of trafficking and addiction.

It caused a sensation and opened new terrain for hip hop. Running and gunning, killing and cursing became the new trend. Lord Willin’ in 2002 debuted #1 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip Hop album. XXL gave its coveted and rare 5-star rating to their 2006 album Hell Hath No Fury. They toured and collaborated with all the top artists.

gene thorton“Clipse blew my brain open in 2006,” wrote Nathan Slavik on DJBooth Net.

In 2009, when he hit the cusp of notoriety, riches and ever growing celebrity, No Malice suddenly pulled the plug and quit secular rap. How could he? How could he leave his brother, leave the fame, leave the riches, leave his fans?

“You can have it,” No Malice told DJ Vlad. He didn’t even let Vlad finish building the question. He cut him off with a tart reply that declared in no uncertain terms that he had no regrets and no remorse about leaving his former path. Read the rest: Malice becomes No Malice.

Gamer turns the tide to the (real) game

brandon farah, hero of lighthouse christian academyBrandon Farah hadn’t figured prominently in any play this year. Or last year.

But on Friday, the senior — who’s 99 parts gamer and 1 part football player — came up big in the third quarter with an interception that hammered the nail into the coffin of Beacon Hill Classical Academy. His heroics, in the red zone, preceded a 70-yard touchdown run by Marcus Scribner that left no doubt that tide had turned. Lighthouse Christian Academy won 56-28.

“I didn’t know the ball hit me until I got it, until I looked down,” Brandon said, projecting modesty in his moment of glory.

Brandon Farah, the softie, played hard. The cocoon burst, and the kid who always said he loved football was finally playing real football. Not just on a monitor.

“It was a great game. It was a great four quarters,” said Justin Kayne, offensive coordinator filling in for head coach Zach Scribner who was out sick. “We came out and it was a battle. We scored, they scored, we scored, they scored. We made a few adjustments. Our guys answered the call, and look what happened when we played four quarters of sound, hard-hitting football.

“This was a statement game,” Kayne added. “We made a statement. This is what Lighthouse football is all about. This is one win. We are going to build on this win. We’re going to continue to build on this.”

The Saints now have one win and two losses in CIF Southern Section 8-man football.

No one could have predicted a landslide victory by half time. Both teams seemed pretty even, score for score, man for man, plays for plays. One ref called the high-scoring 1st quarter a “track event” because there was so much running for touchdowns. LCA was ahead by a slim 22-20.

When the Saints fumbled in the 2nd quarter, it gave the Gryphons a chance to pull ahead.

However, the team from Camarillo failed to capitalize on that gift. In response, the Santa Monica boys scored. It was 30-20 at half time.

In the second half, both teams wanted to come out strong. LCA got the upper hand.

Marcus Scribner was running rampant with the ball. He was burning opponents with speed, breaking ankles with cuts and punishing with stinging hits when Gryphons were making tackles. He smashed them, strong-armed them and ground down their will to put up a fight. Every WWF body slam was an injection of intimidation for opponents.

While Marcus was playing the unstoppable superhero, his LCA teammates were stepping up and making contributions.

Senior Hosea Ashcraft, alternating with Marcus, ran the ball to keep the Gryphon defense guessing. Originally a soccer player who never really understood the intricacies of football, Hosea was dashing with speed, power and cuts that he had never made before.

Quarterback Pat Canon was making unaccustomed tackles on defense, and secret weapon Steven Lahood was catching passes when the opponents concentrated too much on countering the “thunder and lightning” attack of Marcus and Hosea.

Even the kid brother, freshman Rob Scribner made a 2-point conversion reception. Overwhelmed with excitement that as a slender and small freshman he had succeeded in varsity football, Rob spiked the football, a violation that penalized the Saints kickoff 10 yards.

The offensive and defensive lines are to be credited. The Gryphons couldn’t make a single sack.

But the runaway surprise was Brandon. Read the rest of Making men out of boys through football at Christian school in Santa Monica.

President of synagogue accepts Yeshua

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nevertheless, she had piqued his curiosity.

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

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

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

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

Take the scenic, not the cynic, route in life

take the scenic route, not the cynic routeIt’s easy to fall into cynicism. There are a lot of injuries, disappoints and heartbreaks in life. Cynicism is a defense mechanism. It only expects bad and judges only bad motives in others.

It is a life devoid of fun. Try to keep a positive outlook, despite the setbacks. Look for joy, beauty and God in everything.

Utterly helpless… not utterly hopeless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian rapper Canon fell 30 feet and almost died

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

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

His recovery took two years.

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

canon's fall

The bridge from which Canon fell.

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

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

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

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

canon's wife

Just three weeks before his fall, Canon married

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

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

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

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

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

canon's accidentThen he met some authentic Christians.

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

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

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

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

canon grateful

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

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

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

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

He was climbing the hierarchy.

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

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

He had only gotten married three weeks earlier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dad binged drugs. Mom was schizophrenic. Flame came out burning for Jesus

flame-picMarcus Tyrone Gray took care of his schizophrenic mom while his dad was in the streets, binging on drugs in the projects of St. Louis.

“I had the responsibility of really overseeing my mom,” Marcus told CBN. “There would be times where she wouldn’t even recognize me. She could curse me out or call me names or just start treating me as if I’m her enemy or something like that. My dad would be gone days on end, blowing time, you know, getting high. Everything was just unstable.”

flame hip hopUntil her death, his grandmother was the only solid foundation in his life. But with her untimely passing, 16-year-old Marcus began acting out, picking fights at school. It was a way of asserting control over a reality that was out of control.

It got him arrested and expelled.

“When (Grandma) passed away, I felt like I lost a part of my own soul, a part of my being had been cut off. Because she was my everything. I just remember trying to be strong, but not having the ability to. My natural bent was to check out and to retreat, you know, stay in the clubs, do whatever would distract me, block me, numb me from reality.”

His life was spiraling quickly toward becoming a hardened criminal, a pariah of no use to society.

flame offered $1 million to rap but no jesusThen he developed a crush on a girl, and she invited him to church.

“I decided to go because of the hopelessness. I felt like I’m trying all of these different things to bring about what I actually want,” he says. “I was overwhelmed with the Gospel message of Jesus’ love. Jesus loves you. And I was so overwhelmed with this love, you know, Jesus’ love, and I remember thinking like, he does love a bad person. And it sounded exactly like the things that my grandmother would tell me.”

As the Word and Spirit touched his heart, he was born again.


The next thing you know, Marcus was on fire for God. He would take his Bible to school and stand up on the desk in middle of class and preach to his fellow students (for this he wound up in the principal’s office). He would invite people to church incessantly and fill up a whole pew of 15 needy kids headed towards a life of crime if Jesus didn’t intervene.

From death and destruction, his life became an intense flame. So that’s his stage name today, Flame.

A Billboard topper and Grammy nominee who launched Clear Sight Music, Flame has nine albums. He was offered a million dollar contract from a secular label, with only one condition: no mentioning Christ. He turned it down.

Flame does outreach in the streets of St. Louis constantly. After a shooting on the dangerous west side, Flame was praying with sinners and handing out Bibles when he met gang member Travis Tremayne Tyler. The hardened criminal wound up accepting Jesus and became a fellow Christian rapper star, Thi’sl. Continue reading and find out about Flame’s fight against racism.

Clemson’s QB is Christian. So is ‘Bama’s.

christian quarter backs national championshipClemson freshman sensation quarterback Trevor Lawrence made clear that he doesn’t care as much about football as he does about Jesus.

“Eerily similar” to Deshaun Watson, Lawrence made heads turn as he threw for 2,933 total yards, 27 touchdowns and four interceptions with a 65.5 completion percentage, leading his team to the national championship game on Jan. 7th.

“Football is important to me, obviously, but it’s not my life; it’s not like the biggest thing in my life, I would say my faith is,” the 6’5” 215-pound precision passer said in a postgame interview. “That just comes from knowing who I am outside of (football). No matter how big the situation is, it’s not going to define me. I put my identity in what Christ says and who He thinks I am and who He says I am.

trevor lawrence christian“So really, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what people think about me or how good they think I play or whatever.”

Clemson University is happy to have the calm, cool and collected QB marshaling their missiles.

“When he first got here, you could always tell. He just had a presence about him. His talent, it’s fun to watch.” says senior offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt on The State website. “I always sensed it in practice.” Read he rest of Trevor Lawrence Christian.

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.”

Is Christian Hip Hop dying?

Lecrae-Ty-Dolla-SignChristian Hip Hop is imploding. Its stars, lured by secular money, are leaving. New singers are ditching hard-fought standards (like no cuss words) and marginalizing salvation. It’s become disunited and sexist.

From what you read or watch online, you get the feeling Christian rap has a bad rap and its fans are now singing the blues. But is it true that Christian Hip Hop is descending to a deplorable demise?

A survey of CHH conducted by God Reports suggests that, contrary to controversy, Christian Hip Hop has never been more robust or vibrant. It’s reaching growing audiences and diversifying its message. It’s getting played all over the place, from the gym to WWE.

“Andy Mineo and Lecrae and some of these guys coming in rap are as good as the top rappers in the game,” says Sway Calloway, the host of the secular shows “Sway in the Morning” on SiriusXM Shade45 and MTV’s TRLAM. “It gives me chills when I can hear someone rap as good as them and put God in it.”

Part of the “problems” of CHH can be chalked up to growing pains. And another part is simply click bait; platforms fabricate or inflate controversy to swell their views and, by extension, their bottom line.

better late than never tour los angelesAny discussion of the current state of Christian rap starts with its de facto father, Lecrae. A fusillade has been unleashed on him for being too political, for signing with a secular label, and for working with artists who punctuate their work with profanity.

“Partnering with secular artists is very, very dangerous. You don’t see that worked out in scripture,” Wil Addison said in 2015 on Trackstarz. “Lecrae’s grown on the back of the church, and it seems like at one point he jumped off… You’re abandoning what you built your platform on.”

Wil Addison is not alone in his concern for Lecrae’s direction. Dismay is expressed over his collaboration with Ty Dolla Sign; is Lecrae muddying his message by working with a secular artist who raps X-rated filth?

Lecrae Devaughn Moore is no stranger to muck. He was sexually, emotionally and physically abused as a youngster. He learned to seal up the pain and pretend it wasn’t there, he said recently at Yale University.

Without a father in the house, Lecrae looked to male role models in the community and took up drug trafficking as a teenager. His grandmother was a churchgoer, but Lecrae wasn’t interested — at first.

In college he responded to the gospel and was piqued by evangelistic rappers. At a time when nobody thought Christian rap would sell, he co-founded Reach Records in 2004 and started releasing albums. He won Grammies and topped Billboard charts.

When he was at his peak, he signed with Capitol Records, which has been making incursions into the increasingly profitable Christian hip hop market, snapping up the surest bets (also NF, Social Club Misfits). How could he own a Christian label and become an artist on a secular one (albeit their Christian department)?

bizzle warriors anthemIt seems Lecrae was turning into a missionary. He saw the chance to work with secular artists and rap at more venues as simple evangelistic math.

If the Capitol signing wasn’t controversy enough, Lecrae — who’s always been vocal for African American rights — joined the Black Lives Matter movement. There were a string of innocent blacks gunned down by police, and the long-suppressed feelings of rage and powerlessness from the childhood abuse reared its ugly head.

Lecrae found himself marching on the streets in protests — and in the cross hairs of a political reaction against ambushing cops and a tide that swept Trump into the presidency. Broad swaths of fans and Christian leaders threatened to bolt. Lecrae couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t support the cause of the oppressed and judge the sins of the oppressors.

At an October concert in Los Angeles, Lecrae admitted that the last two years have brought disillusionment and depression. He even contemplated turning his back on Christianity altogether, he said. But a wise old Christian asked him to consider if God — not his fans — had ever abandoned him. Days of meditating that question brought the man of God back to God.

At the October concert, Lecrae’s language and performance undermined the accusation that he’s ditching his faith. Lecrae spoke of struggle and confusion. But his words were a testimony in front of the church.

Lecrae’s failings are emblematic of the growing pains of the wider spectrum of CHH artists. There are hundreds of rappers who associate to some degree with Christianity. No survey could cover all of them, but among those examined in in this census, the conclusions award CHH a clean bill of health: souls are being won, disciples are being made and the cause of the Gospel is advancing. The good things outweigh the bad:

Influence on secular artists

One of the biggest proofs of the strength of CHH is its impact on secular rap. This is ironic because people keep worrying that CHH stars are going to be influenced by worldly stars if they cross over into the secular market. But they don’t see that CHH is exerting its own gravity that pulls on mainstream mike-kickers.

Today, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and Chance the Rapper — all top rappers — have mentioned God in a positive way in their music. Snoop Dogg, saying he’s returning to his Christian upbringing, just produced a double gospel album.

In “Jesus Walks,” Kanye says:

They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus
That means guns, sex, lies, videotape
But if I talk about God my record won’t get played, huh?

Meanwhile, new artists like John Gives are returning to their parents’ faith and becoming a testimony through their music. Malice renamed himself No Malice and began spitting the Christian message. He saw the light: his previous music was leading listeners down the wrong path and he wanted to rectify it.

This is what is missed with the Lecrae-Ty Dolla Sign collaboration. While Christians bemoan the “loss” of their star, they’re missing the positive — the potential of gaining for Heaven a worldly singer.

Once upon a time, secular rap artists and fans rolled their eyes at CHH, which they loathed like an embarrassing kid brother. But now such collaborations prove that secular artists have moved light years beyond the eye roll. They are more than giving the nod to CHH; it is now “game respects game.”

Saving souls in the streets

Getting celebrities saved is cause for enthusiasm. But we need to remember that God is no respecter of persons. The unheralded are just as important to Him as the BET idol. And here too CHH has a positive balance sheet.

Aaron Cole reported on Twitter that his music touched the son of a drug dealer. Shai Linne started a church in Philadelphia to create an ethos in which street sinners could relate.

One way for CHH to reach sinners is when its music gets featured in non-Christian venues. When CHH gets used in movies or played at the gym, the exposure has the potential to draw in unsaved, new fans much like a church picnic can draw sinners to church where they can hear the message of salvation.

On this front, it’s worthwhile to mention that Derek Minor was featured on Black Ink Crew, and Social Club Misfits got their music used on WWE. When the NBA Warriors wanted a new anthem for their basketball team, they tapped outspoken Christian rapper Bizzle for the job.

Even a Louisville strip club played Lecrae. When asked about it, he responded with the sarcasm that is becoming his go-to response to the controversy that hounds him as CCH’s #1 man: “I’m a real rapper now. Everything I’ve done earlier pales in comparison. I’ve made it,” he told Rapzilla in 2015. On a serious note he added that he supports ministry to the women trapped in the sex industry, and the power of the Gospel in his message needs to get where sinners are. Read the rest of Christian Hip Hop in controversy.

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.

Her own dad was her stalker

esther_fleeceShe thought she had overcome the trauma of her childhood through a relationship with God, but then her dad started stalking her again.

Esther Fleece built a successful career as a motivational speaker and writing pro. She had healthy friendships and accepted speaking engagements throughout the U.S.

She was talking in front of an audience of 15,000 when she got the news that made her blood run cold. Her dad had begun stalking her again after a 20 years reprieve. He was at her home.

“I never thought I’d see him again,” Esther says on an I am Second video produced by White Chair Films.

dealing with a stalkerFor many years, her childhood appeared normal enough. For reasons she does not know today, things turned south suddenly. Her mom was getting bruises, and they’d have to go to motels to sleep. Even though they lived in the suburbs, her mother would pick out clothes at the Salvation Army Thrift Store. Young Esther was confused by all this.

Police showed up at her home so often she mistakenly believed they were friends with her father. But then she began to see the violent episodes. “It’s pretty hard to hide blood.”

“It was like my hero is becoming the most unsafe man that I had ever been around.”

While Esther was in school she immersed herself in after school activities and even ran for class president. She’d stay after school to be away from home.

People started noticing her bruises and that she did not have a place to sleep. “It was just awful.”

She’d go home and the locks would be changed. In her mind no one could be trusted.

Esther-Fleece-WeddingShe was called into court and ordered to testify, but had little grasp of what the proceedings were about. Somewhat bewildered, she meekly spoke about the problems. “Our home life was incredibly unstable, both of my parents hurt me, (but in court) I have to pick who I’m going to say nicer things about so I don’t get hit more when I go home.”

Her father was eventually taken away by the police and spent time in and out of jail.

When her father got out of jail, he was fixated with “rescuing” Esther. “He was very dangerous. Numerous times he tried kidnapping me.”

Her mother ended up marrying another man who was unfaithful. Esther discovered the affair and told her mom. The stepdad left.

“And that’s when my mother began hating me.”

At 13, she was forced to make it make it in the world on her own.

Esther graduated and took to writing. She found God and began sharing on how to overcome past trauma. This went on for 15 happy years.

Then in 2010, her biological father showed up and began stalking her.

Esther stayed with friends, attempting to hide herself from danger. She got restraining orders from court, which were all violated.

“The nightmares were terrible,” she says. “None of my coping mechanisms worked anymore. Busyness didn’t work, being performance driven didn’t work anymore. I just didn’t want to get out of the bed in the morning.”

All the old feelings of being unloved by her dad reared up once more. She felt her current successful life was just “plastic. Success could be taken away suddenly. I started hating life again. I didn’t want to get out of bed.”

Esther sought counseling, which she called a “Band-Aid.”

“The path towards healing and forgiveness was more excruciating than the physical threat to my safety,” she says. “How do I feel the full weight of what happened to me and seriously forgive people. How do I redefine what love is.” Read the rest of Her Own Dad was her Stalker.

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.

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.

A ‘journey’ to Jesus for Jonathan Cain

Jonathan-Cain-350x233His “Don’t Stop Believing” became an anthem for a generation, and now it looks like Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain has put it into practice because he has revived his childhood passion for Jesus.

Cain felt like early love for God got snuffed out when he prayed fruitlessly for the Almighty to spare the lives of 92 kids trapped upstairs by a fire at a Catholic school in Chicago where he was a third grader. Three nuns also died in the 1958 blaze.

“I was praying to Jesus hard that afternoon, ‘Please, let these children out,’ you know, and it wasn’t to be and they got trapped upstairs and 100 of them perished.’” Cain told The Blaze. “So I was a little disillusioned. How could Jesus let that happen?”

Cain’s dad tried to help his son overcome the grief and despair by encouraging him towards his natural gifting for music. Cain abandoned his original desire to become a priest and began to pursue the dream of becoming a musician.

Journey_publicity_photo_2013-350x399He learned the accordion, guitar, bass and harmonica. He moved to Nashville and then to Los Angeles. He was part of The Babies in 1979 but skyrocketed to stardom the next year when he became the keyboardist for Journey. His composition for “Don’t Stop Believing” wowed fans and critics everywhere. Allmusic called it “one of the best opening keyboard riffs in rock.” He went to pen the classic ballad “Faithfully.”

He played for Bad English, released 11 solo albums and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame April 7th of this year for his work with Journey.
Married to Evangelist Paula White in April 2015.

But while accolades and money flooded in, he was empty on the inside.

Cain remembers accepting Jesus as a teen at a Baptist church in Chicago. “I had a breakthrough when a pastor laid hands on me on an altar call,” he told the Christian Post. “I wept that evening and realized how numb I had become with God and how He was calling to me for restoration.”

He raised his three kids going to a Lutheran Church where he lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, but his commitment to Christ was irregular: “I felt my faith was on again off again.”

ghanaOne day, Journey lead singer Steve Perry brought a Bible into the studio in 1996 as they worked on the album “Trial by Fire.” It piqued Cain’s curiosity and stirred him to explore renewing his relationship with Jesus.

But it wasn’t until he met televangelist Paula White on a Southwest Airlines flight that Cain worked up the gumption to go “all-in” for God. By then he had divorced twice.

“I wanted to become a true follower of Christ — not just a part-time Christian,” Cain recalled.

As he sat across the aisle from her, Cain opened up to White — who had already mentored other celebrities in the things of God.

“And I said, ‘Is it possible that that little boy could find the Jesus that he knew. Is it possible that I can feel that?’” he said. “And she said, ‘The Lord has something for you.’” Read the rest about Jonathan Cain Christian.

Repaint your life

repaint-your-life

During his retirement, my dad took up repainting. He’s no Michelangelo, but he has fun.

One cool thing about painting is if you get it wrong, it’s no problem; you just paint over. You can literally cover your prior mistakes with a fresh coat. You can start anew as many times as you want. Keep correcting until you get it right.

God is painter. And he covers over our mistakes (sins) with a fresh layer. He cleans up our blotches and smirches. He’s making our ugly flailings into beautiful art.

A skateboard fall causes trouble for medical mission in Guatemala

medical-missions-guatemalaWhen his doctor prohibited Robert Hamilton from going to Guatemala, Lighthouse Medical Mission workers were perplexed: Could the clinic function without its founder?

Something of a crisis developed when Dr. Bob – a Santa Monica pediatrician who has led teams all around the world for more than 20 years – fell off a skateboard and injured his shoulder.  His surgeon wouldn’t let him brave the 5-hour curvy mountain road trip by bus to Coban.

At Day 2 of the clinic, how have his supporters survived without Papa?

“He is very missed,” said Alison Hagoski, RN, who whips through triage, the crowded line and the doctor’s curtain-divided “offices” keeping things whirring.

“We are just barely able to run the clinic without him,” she said. “Only because God is big have we done okay.”

On Tuesday, doctors doubled the previous day’s output, seeing more than 400 patients for medical, dental and reading glasses visits. The day’s statistics calmed worries that  LMM would fall short of its normal 1,500 – 2,000 patients.

Lighthouse Medical Missions is known for its twice-yearly trips to Africa. But recently Guatemala has become a target once a year because its cheaper and can attract young volunteers. Dr. Bob aims not only to touch people abroad but also to encourage Americant high schoolers to pursue a career in medicine. Two students from the Lighthouse Christian Academy and one from Pali High are on this trip.

Starbucks may feature Guatemalan java from the tourist mecca of Antigua, Guatemala. But coffee conniseurs know that the better brew comes from Coban, a rain-drenched city of 250,000 nestled in the lush green mountains north of Guatemala City.

It was here that Dr. Bob, an avid traveler, desired to aid the rural poor. Continue reading.

The Christian must have patience

God works by stages

David wasn’t instantly made king. He had to flee from Saul for years and raise an army in a cave in the desert.

Joseph wasn’t named instantly the vice president of Egypt. He had to work first as a slave, then in the jail.

Abraham didn’t instantly get his baby boy. He had to wait around 25 years and in doing so panicked and came up with his own plan, having a child with Hagar — and that brought him great headaches.

It’s hard to wait on God, but waiting is part of God’s plan. He is patient with us. Why shouldn’t we be patient with Him?

Normally, you won’t understand what the Heaven God is currently doing in your life. Only after the fact do things make sense. This is a great truth that requires wisdom: God works in stages.

Simple faith

IMG_9717

My son and I pose with the pastor and his wife.

When their daughter was admitted to med school, the got on their knees and thanks God. It was the fourth and final round of exams in Guatemala for the public university (affordable). They’ve had so many things work against them, and yet the plug on for Jesus and reach blessings.

I’m their pastor, but at times I learn from them. I yearn for a simple faith, uncluttered by the prosperity gospel, unmoored by cliques and church politics.

IMG_9856

Accepted to med school, she poses with her sister.

It is my experience that Christians in the Third World nations have a much more unadulterated faith simply because they don’t have hardly anything else. Their hope is placed on God alone because outside of God, they have virtually no hope. I have seen the poor praise God with sheer joy that makes you wonder how can they do that when they are suffering hunger and they have no future.

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.

Prayer is a journey from pain

tree tunnelIf we didn’t feel pain, I don’t suppose we would pray. Not until we hit anguish do we remember our limitations and God’s limitlessness. So prayer, then, is a journey from pain to pleasure, from bruises to blessings, from hits to happiness.

If pain is the starting point, however, the journey doesn’t have to be painful. After all, we leave pain behind.

We need to see prayer less like instant answers and more of a pathway. Some hikes are short and easy, others long, still others strenuous. I don’t know about you, but I like hikes of all sizes and shapes. In fact, I haven’t met a hike I didn’t like yet.

Regardless, it is the destination that makes you forget about the process of getting there. Once you reach happiness, all previous pain is pretty much forgotten. Part of knowing how do I pray is staying on the path towards happiness.

What God does IN us

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

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