Category Archives: Jesus

God’s gangster: former yakuza is now pastor

yakuzaAs a teenager, he was lured into a Japanese crime syndicate known as yakuza, and after surviving several violent episodes and prison experiences, God began to get his attention.

“I admired the yakuza for what was visible only on the surface,” Tatsuya Shindo told CNN. “They have lots of money, spend their money lavishly, and play glamorously. The bad guys looked so cool in my eyes. I was a child. I didn’t think too deeply.”

Many of the estimated 50,000 yakuza fall into a life of crime because they come from broken families. The yakuza cultivate a sense of family, of belonging and of loyalty.

But if there were issues that seduced him to the mob life, the harsh realities began to pummel him.

“People were killed in power struggles,” he recounted. “People’s legs were shot. A guy who was doing drugs with me died of intoxication. Suicides happened. Sudden deaths. I’ve seen many deaths,” said Shindo, 45. “I saw my henchmen get stabbed to death.”

He got addicted to crystal meth. He crashed his boss’s car while driving under the influence. As a result, his pinkie finger was cut off with a chisel, which is a form of penance in the syndicate. For a first offense, the wrongdoer must cut off the tip of his left little finger and give the severed portion to his boss.

160222022016-japan-life-after-yakuza-ripley-pkg-00001721-exlarge-169Shindo’s body is covered by tattoos, which make him an outcast in Japan. Many yakuza have full-body tattoos, which are still “hand-poked”, with homemade tools using needles made of bamboo or steel. The painful process can take years to finish.

Crime members cover their tattoos in public, but when they play cards with each other they often remove their shirts to show off their creative designs.

Beginning at age 22, Shindo was arrested seven times and imprisoned three times, according to CNN.

He saw his mob boss killed and friends die of overdoses. After his third prison sentence, he began to question the “lavish life of the yakuza” he once imagined. He finally decided it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

During his final 10-year prison sentence, Shindo began reading a Bible in solitary confinement.Read the rest of the article written by a Chinese student at our Santa Monica school.

Just days before daddy-daughter dance, her dad died

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Ten-year-old Kirby Minnick’s divorced dad was coming to visit her in America in only four days – but he never made it. Kirby found out after school her dad succumbed to a heart attack in London.

“I remember thinking, ‘I’m never going to see him again. He’s never going to walk me down the aisle. He’s never going to be there for my wedding,’” Kirby said in a YouTube video. “I ran upstairs and locked the door. I remember feeling so much pain and agony. I remember asking God, ‘Why? How could You do this to me? You’re a monster, God. Why do You hate me? What did I do wrong? This isn’t fair.’ I hated God.”

The bitterness of his untimely passing was compounded by flyers at school just days afterward inviting all girls to attend the daddy-daughter dance. As she looked at the flyer on her school desk, she burst into tears. Her friends asked her what was wrong.

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“My dad just died four days ago,” she cried.

“Eventually, I became like, ‘Ok God, let’s just forget this happened, like whatever, and move on,’” she said. “I began building up walls. I was so mad at God. My depression came back. I was so hopeless. I wouldn’t let people into my life. Eventually I kind of shoved everything into a corner in my mind.”

She fixated on suicide every night. But during the school day in Dallas, Texas, she pretended everything was okay.

“Whenever I went to school I was like the happiest kid,” Kirby said. “I was pretending to be that way. It was a mask that everything was okay and nothing was wrong. I let no one know.”

She traipsed in and out of therapy, blocking entire months and years of her childhood. At first the counseling was to help her overcome her parent’s divorce. Then it was for her dad’s death.

In eighth grade, a classmate began bullying her with passive aggressive behavior, eliciting in her a flood of insecurities.

“I thought I wasn’t pretty enough, I wasn’t smart enough, nobody loved me. I wanted to kill myself,” Kirby said. “I had this journal, and I would write in it every night, ‘I wish I could kill myself. I just want to die.’ Suicidal thoughts took over my life.”

But every time she resolved to carry out her plan, a voice in her head held her back: Just one more day, the voice intoned.

At a Christian summer camp before high school, she was going through the motions, singing the songs she sang every year at the camp. Her mom had heard about the camp and sent her hoping it would help.

“I was like singing, ‘Lord Jesus, blah blah blah,’” she said. Suddenly, God really showed up. Click here to read the rest of the story.

Princess Leia worth $50 million

carrie-fisherYou are worth more.

$50 million is the sum Disney could collect on the insurance policy they took out on their Star Wars hero. It’s a handy profit on the heart attack. Disney will cast about for a look-alike, and it shouldn’t be too much of problem.

Did she realize that she was worth more than that? God took out a policy on her life — on my life, on your life — that cost the life of His Only Son on the cross. That’s way more than what Disney fetched for Princess Leia.

Don’t marvel over the money machinations of the mega corporations. Marvel over value in God.

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True joy at Christmas

9b248ee363e2c2a1c727272ec55a14e2As a tyke at the local Methodist church, I muffed my lines in the Christmas play. The question posed was: What’s better — giving or getting?

At the time, I really felt that “getting” was what Christmas was all about. I loved getting toys, not sweaters. But I messed up and piped up: “Giving.”

The adult in the play, under her breath, scolded me for getting it backwards and then continued with the play.

Since then I have matured and discovered that maybe my mistake was prophetic. I have discovered that the true joy of Christmas is being able to give.

The irony is that someone has go gleeful with the gift, so somebody has to enjoy getting. Kids make easy targets for this.

Santa was on to something after all. This is why Jesus, the ultimate Christmas gift came. The Father wanted to see His children squeal with joy upon receiving salvation.

How to transition from public school to Christian private school

fullsizerender20Attending Lighthouse Christian Academy has opened my heart and my mind.

At my old school, I felt I had to be on guard and protect my emotions and feelings. At LCA, a small Santa Monica Christian school, I feel like I can be myself. I’m learning and growing everyday to be a better person and better student.

My old school, East Clinton, Ohio, was a public school and not very motivating or inspiring. I wanted to move to California because my aunt lives here, and I love it here. My aunt was searching Christian schools online, and LCA popped up on an internet search. She contacted me and told me it was a private school and it required uniforms. I was not looking forward to it at all because I absolutely hated the idea of uniforms.

I came in to do my interview with my principal, Mr. Mefford. He asked me questions about God; I know about Him, but I didn’t really go to church in Ohio. I felt like I didn’t think I could really fit in.

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I love LCA so far. The teachers and kids are so inspiring and always positive. The teachers really care about you and your grades. They want you to do your best and succeed. At East Clinton, I felt like I couldn’t really talk or be myself without getting made fun of. At LCA, you can be yourself and no one judges you.

LCA doesn’t dwell on people’s past. They move forward and focus on the present and help you become a better person.

Bullying was really high at East Clinton. It was a much bigger school — bullying, fighting and lots of drama, but the school didn’t handle it the same. At LCA, if there is an issue, it gets resolved very quickly.

East Clinton didn’t really give the kids much freedom and didn’t trust us to do the right thing. LCA trusts the kids and gives them choices to pick between right and wrong, and it teaches us self-control.

LCA is a college-prep school and the schedule is like a college schedule. The schedule here is very different compared to East Clinton where we had four classes per day plus two electives. That meant math, history, science, English and usually study hall and gym. Read the rest of the article.

More than see

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Both the priest and the Levite could see the man wallowing in his own blood. But they were too important or too busy to be bothered. No doubt, they were doing work for the Holy One. So they didn’t have time to do the work the Holy One dropped in front of them.

The good guys were bad and the bad guy was good. Along came a halfbreed Samaritan. No respectable Jew would associate with the Samaritans, whose blood was contaminated irremediably with gentile DNA. They weren’t children of God, the chosen people.

But the Samaritan did what God wanted. He administered first aid and brought the wounded man to the Inn, where he paid for his care during recovery.

Jesus asks: Who loved him like God does?

It is not enough to see the need around the world. To complain about godlessness, paganism and hedonism does nothing. You must act, showing the love of Jesus in real – not imaginary – ways.

Rest in Jesus

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Martha is the typical American. She’s busy doing. She doesn’t have time to sit and listen to idle chatter, even if it is Jesus who is speaking.

On the other hand, her sister Mary completely neglects the cooking to instead hear the pearls of wisdom that Jesus constantly spills from His lips.

This angers Martha. Overwhelmed with the double load of work, she resorts to Jesus. Surely, the all-knowing teacher would be kind enough to easy Mary out of her flagrant laziness and into the kitchen to help.

Jesus responds with words eternal that crept into the Canon: Martha, you are busy with many things. Mary has chosen the better portion, and it will not be taken away from her.

Don’t be too busy – even with ministry – that you exclude time just enjoying being with Jesus.

While everyone is collecting pokemon, I’m looking for souls

pokemon_go_3I wish Christians were as “crazed” about what God is crazed about as zillions of gamers are crazed about this game. Sorry for being so passé.

Eating is such a waste of time

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Avocado fries at Rustic Kitchen from West Los Angeles.

Yeah, I can find so many better things to do with my time. And they keep giving you rules: what’s healthy, what you shouldn’t eat. Why don’t they let me lead my life the way I want? They’re so judgemental, hateful, hypocritical. What’s the point? Why do they try to force you to eat?

Oops.

Sorry. Switch “eat” for “church” to understand my analogy.

Spiritual food is just as necessary, useful and delicious as physical food.

You are not alone

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Gehazi panicked when he woke up and saw the city surrounded by the Syrian army. It turns out the entire military was bearing down on the city to capture just one man — Gehazi’s boss, Elisha.

For his part, Elisha wasn’t worried. In fact, he already knew about the manhunt. He also knew about the angel hunt. And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. — 2 Kings 6:17 NIV.

When Gehazi saw that they were not alone, he probably laughed.

He laughed more at what happened next. Elisha prayed and the Syrians were “blinded.” He himself went out to them and asked them who they were looking for. When they responded that they sought Elisha, he said, “He’s not here. I’ll take you to him.” And he led the entire army to another town, where he prayed their eyes be opened so they could see their mocked haplessness. The king of Samaria asked Elisha if he should imprison them or kill him, but Elisha said, “Nah, give them something to eat and let them go.”

Are you the only one in your family or workplace that’s a Christian? Do they gang-up on you and pick on you? Do you feel alone? You are not alone. More are with you than with them. Pray for the Lord to turn your torment into triumph.

They call it freedom

freewayHere in LA, freeways aren’t often “free.” They’re clogged and miserable.

Here on Earth, the free ways of sin aren’t either. Being “free” from God’s law makes you a slave to sin. You may persuade yourself you’re free and happy — but that doesn’t, can’t, won’t last. True freedom, joy and peace can be found only in Jesus.

The intelligentsia has done a wonderful job of publicity. They have barraged the public with a continual onslaught so that people believe that Greenland is actually green. Ha!

If you’re tired of the lies, come to Christ and enjoy true freedom.

But I’m only worried about the toe nail clipper

IMG_0866There are boxes and piles around my apartment as I just completed my move to the San Fernando Valley to start a church. There 1,749 things that need to be sorted out and put away. But I’m not worried about any of them.

I’m worried about finding just one thing: the toe nail clipper. These are the misadventures of the Valley Boy Pastor.

The ridiculously mundane can crowd out Jesus. So easily I get stressed out or bummed out. Out of what? Out of the joy of daily relationship with Jesus.

There’s a lot to do and detractors prowling. It’s easy to forget Priority #1 among so many priorities. This is an appeal — to myself primarily — to keep focused on Jesus always as I plant a church in Van Nuys with the Christian Fellowship Ministries.

Mexico 2, Bible study 0 #ValleyBoyPastor

482125772.0Ah, the ups and downs of staring a work for God. I was wondering where the people were yesterday at my home Bible study. The one family that started suddenly disappeared. I just prayed for the full hour for everybody in the complex.

Afterward, I saw my neighbors and discovered the problem: Mexico was playing Jamaica in the American Cup. No wonder they didn’t come!

In my younger, more insecure days of pastoring, I would’ve prepared a message on not making an idol out of anything. This time, I took the Bible study snacks over to their place and watched the second half.

Actually, the same thing happened to the school in Guatemala. About one-third the school would miss on certain days, and I never could figure out what was happening. This was before I started to get into soccer.

Later, I took up soccer as a stress-buster. The disciples were passionate for Barcelona, so I got hooked on the team. They taught me about the history, the personalities, the techniques. I grew passionate about it.

So then we would show the Champions League finals at the school. Why not? It’s better they miss just two hours of class rather than the whole day.

… then too, I learned that sometimes, some of God’s biggest business is not transacted during the church service. I saw how one brother finally committed to marry his common-law wife at potluck. Seven sermons didn’t do what shmoozing and food did.

As Christians, we are about people, not programs. Our job is to get people in to Heaven, not into church. Church just happens to be the easiest way to feed the word to as many people all at once. But church time is no more sacred than any time. And God is not limited to service time to act.

By all means, bring the people to church. And if you can’t, bring God to them outside the church. This is what the Valley Boy Pastor is doing in Van Nuys.

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.

‘Two strikes’ scared him, so this gang banger turned to Jesus

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Edgar Cervantes in his car. He delivers for the deli and he drives to outreaches all over to share about Jesus.

By Jasmine Cervantes and Mark Ellis

Little Edgar Cervantes shrieked with terror when the cops raided his home in Pacoima, California, hauling his mom, dad and uncle off to jail for the drugs, hot money and stolen jewelry retrieved on the property.

The tyke, then only 6, was unceremoniously dumped off with his grandmother. From a tender age, he was marred.

By the 11th grade, Edgar had fallen into a calamitous family pattern: smoking marijuana, stealing, partying and fighting. Pacoima, a poor neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley, was a gang war zone in 1990s, so Edgar, joining the fray, became part of the Pacoima Cayuga Street Locos gang.

He was tagging, handling plenty of illicit money and ditching classes. Three times he got arrested for grand theft auto. While kicking back with some “homies” one day, he got introduced to Nadia, and they started dating. After a few months, she told him she was pregnant.

Edgar “freaked out” because he was still young and lived with his parents. Nadia wanted Edgar to take responsibility and come and live at her house with her parents, who were shocked but wanted to make the best of the situation.

Edgar, who had dropped out of school, started working but maintained his drug use and gang activities. He preferred his drug trips to spending time with Nadia. After an extended time of not getting Edgar to change, Nadia got fed up and asked him to leave.”

Nadia was left alone working and raising her baby, Jasmine.

Every day Edgar woke up feeling depressed and lonely. He quit his job and turned to heavier drugs – crystal meth, for example – to numb the pain and forget about losing his girlfriend and daughter. The meth produced erratic emotional states and made him violent.

At one party, a homosexual was trying to “hit on him,” and Edgar wound up beating him so badly that he went into a coma. After weeks lingering between life and death, the victim woke up – and Edgar was spared a murder charge. Find out how Jesus saved Edgar – click here. There’s a big surprise at the ending.

Jasmine Cervantes wrote this article as an assignment for my English class at the Lighthouse Christian Academy on the Westside of Los Angeles.

Alexander Rossi will roar into Heaven like he roared across the finish line to win the Indy 500

alexander-rossi-indy-indianapolis_3475754When the 100th Indy 500 concluded, Alexander Rossi had a greater reason to rejoice than his stunning rookie victory: as a Christian, he’ll roar into Heaven just like he roared across the finish line at the historic event on May 29.

“I believe there’s a greater plan,” Rossi told Bleacher Report. “I feel that driving race cars and being involved in Formula One and motorsports is my opportunity to share my beliefs.”

alexander-rossi-indy-indianapolis_3475756Ranked a 66-to-1 to win before the race, Rossi, 24, stayed mid-pack for most of the race to cut wind-drag and conserve fuel.

While the top two contenders made pit stops for a last douse of fuel in the final laps, Rossi continued driving at the underwhelming speed of 179 mph to stretch his tank and beat his opponents by staying on the track. He ran so low that he couldn’t finish his victory lap and had to be towed in front of the sellout 350,000 spectator crowd.

It was the strategy of the tortoise against the hare, and it worked. When he downed the traditional celebratory jug of milk, Colombian racer Carlos Munoz was clearly downcast over being outwitted by a driver in a slower car.

alexander rossi christianRossi grew up in Nevada City, California, where he started racing go-karts as a kid and graduated from nearby Auburn Forest’s Lake Christian High School. On his website, he cites God and his parents as his biggest influences. On his twitter account, he writes “In God we trust” frequently.

Rossi has been living in Europe where he races Formula 1 as a reserve driver for the Manor Racing. But he jumped at the chance to drive the Indianapolis 500 for the team Bryan Herta in conjunction with Andretti Autosport.

“Who would know that Rossi would win an oval race? Probably one of the toughest ones, too,” Mario Andretti told IndyCar Racing News. “Here again, it shows the moments of brilliance. It shows that he can be versatile, which is huge. I think it is a huge attribute to any driver to show versatility.”

Rossi is the 70th winner to enter the annals of the Indy fame. His name was already registered in the annals of Heaven.

This article first appeared here on God Reports.

Don’t be frightened by ‘repentance’

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Myriads fear “repentance.” Their eyes are on what they have to leave behind. This is a huge error. Repentance is more turning to God than turning away from sin.

You are wrong to think you have to leave sin to come to God. First come to God, and He will help you to leave sin. In fact, without His help, you are helpless to ever escape the chains of bondage.

Repentance is as easy as falling in love.  I don’t know to many cases where labored hard to fall in love. When I fell in love, it wasn’t a question of trying to find time for Dianna. I automatically neglected other things because I just wanted to be with her. So too with God.

As you get to know Him, you won’t have to strain to leave the things that seem so important to you now.

This cat has forgotten what it is

Cats are supposed to hunt rats, not the reverse. Cats are not supposed to be chased, intimidated or harassed by rats. The nature of the cat is to hunt and dominate rats, but apparently it can be lulled out of its instinct by being spoiled.

So too the Christian is not supposed to be pushed around by the devil. It is their nature, their spiritual DNA, to hunt and kill devils, to free sinners from demons’ oppression. But we can be lulled out of our very nature. When we look for self-pleasing and self-blessing, we forget who we are. Then this rat becomes a picture of the devil chasing us around.

The worst of sinners make the best of saints

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John Newton was a wicked man, a slave trader. But a severe storm off the coast of Ireland brought him to his knees and conversion. Years later, the wretch showed his gift. He penned the words to the most-loved Christian hymn, Amazing Grace. Behind the evil, there was a calling, a destiny and talent.

Paul persecuted the church. Aside from Satan, he was probably the early church’s #1 enemy. Then he met Jesus on the road to Damascas. He became the gospel chief propagandist and most avid evangelizer. He wrote the greatest defense and explication of the doctrine of salvation by grace alone in the book of Romans.

Are you rotten today? Salvation is a circuit breaker. We are broken by sin, but with the simplest of prayers, the light comes on in our lives. Then all the good we were destined to bring to this world begins to flow out.

Image isn’t everything

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People of this world focus on the exterior: makeup, facials, liposuction, fancy clothes, hot cars. Models are paid premium, and then not even they are good enough but have to be improved on Photoshop.

They say the heart is nothing. It’s inside. No one sees it. You can dirty up your heart with sin all you want — and don’t judge me for it. Look how beautiful I am on the outside.

But rust on the inside works it’s way out. Prince died of drug abuse. So much for all the adulation.

God tells us to not suppress the pricks of conscience that he has placed inside. You feel bad. You can’t sleep. You have a happy exterior, but inside you’re rotting.

You’ll only get peace from Jesus.

 

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.

He fled North Korea and found Jesus in China

060515josephkim04awStarving North Korean teenager escaped, found Jesus in China

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

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

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A kkotjebi in North Korea (not Joseph Kim)

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

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

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

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

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The border between North Korea and China

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple faith

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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.

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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.

Would you recognize him?


Nobody pays any attention to this bum, despite having pretty good soccer skills — at least not until he pulls off his beard, mustache and wig. Then, everybody wants to pay attention to Cristiano Ronaldo, star for Portugal.

Would you recognize Jesus if He passed you on the street? When you treat kindly one of the least of my brethren, you treat Me kindly. — Jesus said.

Try for yourself

cookie pileGod is good.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man that trusts in Him. –Psalm 34:8

Resurrection faked?

Jesus facebook status resurrected

If you say the resurrection was fabricated, then you must prove:

  1. The disciples had a motive. Usually people make elaborate lies for fame or money — or to cover wrong-doing. But the disciples got persecution and poverty. They lived on the run.
  2. The disciples were incredibly clever to devise the story. The Bible record states the contrary: They (the Jewish leaders) perceived Peter and John were unlearned and ignorant men — Acts. 4:13. Outside of the Bible, Josephus mentions Paul and his academic background. The omission of mention of the disciples is telling. They were fishermen.

If you say the resurrection was fabricated, you are confronted with the fact that the disciples all died for the lie. This would be very strange. You must look at these facts:

  • The Roman Empire (not all died at Roman hands) always gave people the chance to recant and walk free. But the disciples refused to walk free — because they had seen the resurrected Lord and knew they would be resurrected too!
  • Each of the disciples was martyred alone. There was no one there to cheer them on and encourage them to persist in the “lie.”
  • Paul turned from a persecutor of the church to its greatest promoter. Why? Because he personally saw the risen Savior.
  • Christianity prospered despite persecution of death, loss of belongings, imprisonments and beatings. Christians held meetings in unpleasant places (catacombs) and persisted in believing despite huge risk. They did this because either they had seen the resurrected Lord or knew someone who had.

Jesus chocolate eggs

If you say the disciples suffered a collective psychosis, you are confronted the story of Thomas, who wasn’t present when Jesus first appeared to the disciples. So he doubted vigorously. He seemed to want to show himself rational and reasonable; he distances himself from the other disciples. Maybe he regards them as naive or under the influence of extreme emotions. Thomas says, “Unless I put my thumb in his nail wound and my hand into his side wound, I won’t believe.” The next time Jesus showed up, Thomas was there, and he said: “My God and my Lord.”

Actually, the resurrection is the hardest miracle to dismiss in the Bible. It is also one of the biggest reasons to believe in the Bible. The cold, hard evidence inclines in favor of the resurrection being real.

Barabbas wasn’t a bad guy

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Chilling with my bud, Jesus.

No, Barabbas didn’t have snot dripping from his nose. For two years now, I’ve played Barabbas in the Easter play, and the directors tell me to act like a psychopath. Apparently, this comes naturally to me. Yeah, Miko the Psycho.

But I can’t find this reading in my Bible. Barabbas was an insurrectionist (one Gospel calls him a murderer, but the other explains the context more precisely)  in the scattered uprising against he hated Roman Empire. As such, he would have been something of local hero, much like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson.

So when the multitudes chose Barabbas over Jesus, it wasn’t an irrational act. Both were wildly popular with the people, so Pilate shrugged.

Barabbas was, however, a polar opposite of Jesus — not the demon-possessed against the Spirit-possessed. Rather, the earthly Savior vs. the heavenly Messiah.

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Barabbas is always taking on the Roman Empire. Do you like the realistic background? It’s the Lighthouse Church School. We used a classroom as a dressing room.

At the end of the day, Barabbas’ utopia was only going to be on earth. It was only going to be temporal. After the Romans, another empire would come and smash Palestine. Such was inevitable because Palestine was a crossroads connecting three continents, a bridge where the newest conquerors had to pass.

So Barabbas was more like Obama, trying to bring a better world. This is a good thing. I’m not deriding it. But some people are so busying focusing on making this life wonderful that they forget there’s another, eternal life to work for.

The wilderness shall become like Eden


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

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

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

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

Get into the ship

ship
Fellowship
Worship
Discipleship

Don’t miss the ship.

Don’t let them destroy your dream

dreamsPeople are nasty. You have a dream, and they want to destroy it. You must guard your heart against evil people. Don’t let them assassinate your vision, your self belief. Hold on to your dream and pursue. Believe in yourself and in God. He will make a way.

Original image from Pinterest.

God reminded me why

coaching soccerIt had been a frustrating day — criticisms of my efforts to get people saved and discipled. (It seems like the church is full of people who don’t save or disciple others, but they are experts to let others know what they’re doing wrong.)

As I prayed, God reminded me that I’m not working for the critics. I’m working for the kids.

I teach at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica and I coach for the middle school soccer team. We took some bruising losses this week, but I love the kids, and they seem to appreciate me. We have fun — all in Jesus’ name.

These are the powerful Saints! We have won only one game. But their enthusiasm, their joy, their love of Jesus, their positive energy makes them powerful in my book (quite a few players missed practice this day)!

Prayer brings down Heaven

prayerPrayer transports you to other worlds, and it brings other worlds to you. It takes you to God’s throne and brings down God’s power to Earth.

They carved a road through the rock walls

guoliang roadWhen Chinese government demurred on the multi-million dollar road construction, 13 men from the isolated Guoliang village took matters into their own hands.

Guoliang Tunnel 19They sold their livestock to buy hammers and chisels. Without civil engineering, they took five years to chip their way through almost a mile of solid rock. The resulting road — 15 feet high and 12 feet wide — opened the remote and inaccessible village to tourism and saved the town, but one of the original 13 lost his life in the construction.

guoliangRoadIt was a good thing they didn’t realize that what they wished to do was “impossible” for villagers lacking power tools and proper training. By having faith in their dreams, they defied the naysayers and gambled everything on their future. The wager — and the work — paid off.

The progress of the gospel in Japan

a-japanWith less than 1% of the nation Christian, Japan has been called the “missionaries’ graveyard.” In Africa missionaries died from exotic diseases, but in Japan Christian workers often face burn-out and leave with very few conversions after major commitments of time and money.

And yet, one missionary has hopes that recent events bode well for revival.

“The Japanese are not antagonistic toward the gospel at all,” said Gary Case, pastor of the Potter’s House Church in Tokyo. “If anything, they seem mildly avoidant and politely skittish.”

jack garrot baptism

Jack Garrott baptizes a believer

For months, Case met with Mr. N., an atheist retiree who attended his church to learn about being a better person. The two studied the Bible together over coffee, discussing God, Jesus and salvation until Mr. N. finally accepted Jesus as his personal Savior and Lord.

Japan is one the most secularized nations in the world, according to a World Values Survey. Because loyalty is one of their core values, Japanese see leaving their traditional Buddhism and Shintoism as a family betrayal. The average church has only 30 members. A brief revival after World War II netted significant converts, but many of those are graying, and some of the churches left behind are dwindling.

The Japanese wear crosses as a fashion statement but have no idea what the cross signifies. They celebrate Christmas with Santa Claus and gift giving but ignore completely the story of Christ’s birth.

Jack Garrot's churchAmid the bad news, many see cause of hope. Japanese Christian leaders point to the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear plant meltdown of 2011 as a time that began to soften the self-reliant Japanese character and open the Japanese to the need for the gospel.

“There’s a sense of hopelessness for the future. You can see it in their faces,” said Stephen Matsumura, pastor of the Mizuba Community Church, in a Billy Graham Evangelistic Crusade video. “There’s a high suicide rate here in Japan – issues of loneliness and isolation – which is a huge indicator of a bigger need.”

If natural disaster brought greater openness, so too is gospel music. The 1992 movie Sister Act starring Whoopi Goldberg popularized the musical genre. Since then, there have been workshops and gospel choirs formed, attracting non-Christians. In 2011, CBN reported that some 50 churches had formed gospel choirs.

“It opened the church to the community,” said Pastor Masahiro Okita. “And it’s a very unique ministry because the target of the outreach are the choir members themselves.”

In the 15th Century, Portuguese traders brought priests, based in the port of Nagasaki. These Catholic Christians won converts but eventually were expelled by the ruling class who reverted to isolationism. Many converts became “hidden Christians” and worship Christ in their hearts while at the Buddhist temples. They passed their faith on to their children, a UCAnews video on YouTube reveals.

Japan Tsunami Relief and Rebuild

Some 40,000 Christians who failed to hide their faith were boiled to death in many of the nation’s scalding thermal mudpots, the video says.

Jack Garrott’s dad was part of the missionary movement in 1930s and 40s, landing in Fukuoka, Japan. In 1981, he returned to Japan as a missionary himself in Omura, Nagasaki.

“I am told that the number of committed Christians is growing, but that appears to be in metropolitan centers, where people are perhaps more loosened from their traditional roots,” Garrott said. “There are growing, vibrant churches in major metropolitan areas like Tokyo and Osaka, but they are virtually nonexistent in the ‘boonies,’ which could be described as the ‘soul’ of Japan.”

Editor’s Note: This article, originally published in God Reports, is special to me because two of the men interviewed, Gary Case and Jack Garrott, are friends. I follow Jack’s blog. Please pray for their churches and for revival in Japan.

If you want a new beginning, go to the Source

new beginningsLong before New Year’s resolutions became the trend, God already had the market cornered. Twelve step programs, starting over and clean slates all are copies of the original version. And like most software, the original is the best.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland — Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV.

This marvelous piece of poetry is doubly wonderful because it’s not empty words — it’s empowered by the Spirit of God. In fact, God has committed Himself to this line of action, and He cannot go back on His promise. If you want true change in your life, cry out to God because He is the originator of change.

As a matter of fact, I don’t believe you can get true change without Him.

Every child wants to have an adorable monster friend

adorable monster friendQuite accidently, I’ve discovered the formula for Disney. As a joke, I got pictures of me, made up as the Ghost of Christmas Future, with the happy little kids in the play with fearful faces.

It seemed the kids were drawn to me, playing high-five-down-low-too-slow and what not. Every kid wants to have a friendly monster as a friend. I was the monster.

IMG_8702But here’s the flipside. If kids like it, so do monsters. The beast gets turned into a prince. The bad guy becomes good. Innocent love executes a transformation.

Who wouldn’t want to restore to the pristine innocence and untainted joy his monster soul? That’s why Jesus was was “without sin.” His love is pure, uncontaminated, simple childlike glee. Jesus says we must come to Him like children. We can shed the burdensome cynicism of being an adult. We can leave behind sin like a snake its skin. This Christmas, accept the best gift you could ever receive, the Giver of gifts.

Of course, our church Christmas play was very much along the Scoorgian lines. While I was waiting my role backstage, my mind was running through a completely different plot.

The Land of Milk and Honey

ice-creamIf you mix milk with honey (and freeze it), you get ice cream.

What the in the Old Testament is promised to God’s people (to possess the Land of Milk and Honey) is in the New Testament promised as “abundant life.” Jesus says: I have come that you may have life — life abundantly. (John 10:10).

The idea is that serving Jesus not asceticism. It is joy. When Jesus was born, “peace” and “great joy” was promised to Earth. Salvation would be lavished upon humanity with blessings, both here and in Heaven.

I love ice cream. It is a good symbol for the Christian life. I hope you can learn to enjoy a relationship with Jesus Christ (not empty rigorous religion with rules and hopelessness).

The reason we give gifts at Christmas

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Jesus was God’s gift to mankind. When we give each other gifts, we celebrate that Jesus was a gift and that salvation (forgiveness of sins) is a free gift to any who would receive.

I suspect there are many people giving and receiving gifts, celebrating Christmas, without knowing anything more than it is a family tradition. Little do they realize they are honoring Christ and proclaiming salvation.

Priceless

christmas-crossSalvation is priceless because you and I don’t have to pay.

Salvation is priceless because no payment could ever be enough.

Christ is the most exquisite gift you could receive a Christmastime.

It matters what map you use

I live in LA, where we describe time-to-get-there in two categories: with traffic or without traffic. This amuses my friend who has never seen “without traffic” since moving here from Chicago.

A good smart phone map app can help you scoot around traffic. But I’ve discovered that not all map apps are equal. To be blunt, Apple’s map comes up short. Sometimes it sends you to the wrong place. It doesn’t detect construction. It doesn’t list new roads built. It can be woefully frustrating.

frustration apple mapsIf you want to get to where you’re going without any hassles, use Google maps, which is far superior.

It matters what map you use in life too. Contrary to the incessant barrage from the left-leaning intelligentsia, not all maps are equal. If you want to get to Heaven, have a happy marriage, raise well-adjusted kids, use the Bible. Not all all moral yardsticks do the job.

Bible mapOh they may work for easy jobs, but for a sticky situation, only the Bible will deliver the goods. I apologize to Apple for having to expose its flaws. But remember that time you made me an hour late after an 18-hour trip? Yeah, I was not happy with your shortcomings.

Restoration

restoration

Our God restores, and maybe there is no sensation quite as wonderful. If you have walked away from God, come back today and let the waves of grace restore your pristine glee, that childlike joy.

Silver bells? No, just the f-word.

holiday stressIn the Costco parking lot, a man yelled, “Get you ef-ing car out of here!” He could be heard pretty much all over the lot. He repeated himself. I guess he didn’t resort to blows because the driver who stole his space was a lady. This is what Christmas has become.

Inside Costco, a kid whined: “Why can’t we have a 75 inch television?” Ho ho ho.

I did my best to navigate the carts and get my groceries without getting into a fight. I’m really getting into the Christmas spirit.

Leaving the parking lot, a lady honked and yelled at a driver who she thought should have pulled a quick right on a yellow. Apparently, she was going to follow.

Jesus went to the cross for peace on Earth and good will to men. Our ever-increasingly secular society, however, is replacing the true Christmas spirit with materialism and hatred. When we shop during this season, we need more patience, not less.

Shake the snake

shake the snakeWhen Paul and crew shipwrecked, they washed ashore. Paul helped gather wood for a fire, and a snake latched itself on his hand. The natives of the island thought it was karma, that Paul was a murderer and was being judged. But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed — Acts 28:5.

This miracle teaches us what we should do when we are bitten — by disappointments, by hurtful words, by unfair treatment.

Just shake it off.

Don’t let it bother you. Move on, forgive, forget. Don’t let the poison fill your body with death.

In Finland, the Rock rocks

Haka Kekalainen

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

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

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

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

Metallimessu

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

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

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

He stole cars. Then Jesus stole his heart.

Pastor Chayo Perez

With his wife and two of his four children at the Tucson Door Church Bible conference.

By age 14, Rosario “Chayo” Perez was stealing pickup trucks from Tucson and bringing them across the border, where mafiosos paid him $1,000 each.

“When you’re 14, and you’re making $1,000 a week, that’s good money,” he says. He dropped out of school after finishing the 6th grade. “I figured, ‘Why would I need school?’”

When Chayo was 16, his best friend was murdered at his house on Christmas day. The killer was looking for Chayo to avenge some wrong. “But my friend took the hit and got killed,” he remarks grimly.

“Life was such a haze,” he recalls. “You’re high so much, drunk so much, that the reality of death doesn’t hit you.”

radical conversion Christ

In his days of running the streets

Once a group of fellow hoodlums, seeking revenge, left a man bloodied and nearly dead.

“I reached a point where I was sick and tired,” Chayo said. “I was living like an animal – just partying, drinking, using drugs and fighting.”

Then his older brother, Alex, got saved at a church that street-preached and evangelized earnestly.

“He would come witness to me while I was partying with my buddies,” Chayo said. “I started to get sick of him. I kept telling him to leave me alone.”

Then one time, Alex found Chayo drinking beer with his buddies. It was embarrassing for Chayo. The other guys started to make fun of Chayo for his brother. Chayo threatened him and told him to leave him alone.

“He said, ‘Ok,’” Chayo recalls. “’But let me pray for you and if nothing happens, I’ll leave you alone.’ I put my beer down. He prayed for me, and the Holy Ghost came down. I started weeping. My friends were freaking out because I was weeping. It was something supernatural. Even to this day, I can’t explain it.” Read the rest of the article.

Love’s the answer. What was the question?

Love's the answerThis one is not my wisdom. It comes from http://justmebeingcurious.com/ So thanks for him for allowing me to share it here.

It certainly appears to me that another prominent religion is based on hate, but Christianity, whose adherents get killed around the world and then forgive, is based on love.

This is how you know that white supremacists are NOT Christian. They are in hate, not love. They reflect those who crucified Christ.

How do we reach a generation that gets further away from God by the day? Love. How do we Christians — not our secular government — respond to nations who send terrorists to wreak carnage? We send missionaries. We send love.

How do we face bitter accusing people in the church? Do we descend to their wickedness? No, we must respond with love.

Love is the answer. It is so much the totality of the answer that we can even forget the question.

Faith is overrated

faith is overrated

This is a tough one because Jesus spent most of his time upbraiding his disciples for not having enough faith. So faith was very nearly the characteristic he most cultivated.

So to dismiss faith’s importance borders on heresy. Faith is not unimportant! It is just lesser important than love.

Paul is resetting Corinthian theology, which was heavy on the sizzle and bang of show-off spiritual gifts. He forms a chaismus with chapter 12 and 14 talking about spiritual gifts. Then he says: But I will show you a better way. In the middle, he talks about love.

The ancients didn’t have all caps or highlight to draw attention to their writing. They didn’t have exclamation marks. So they made up the chiasmus, a rhetorical device that repeats a them twice, with the highlighted material in the middle. (It’s kind of like a hamburger. It’s not the two breads on top and bottom. The tasty important part is in between the breads.)

In the middle, then, Paul says, Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. — 1 Cor. 13:2.

In Christianity, love is the pinnacle of perfection. Holiness is not so much resisting temptation as it is having compassion on those who have fallen into temptation.

Bible knowledge is overrated

Christian love

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

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

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

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

Make Jesus your star

Jesus Star

Frankly, I don’t get the allure of Hollywood — and I don’t get the stars on the sidewalk. I host foreign students who learn English. They ALL want to see Hollywood. Little do they know that Hollywood is ghetto, with abundance of drugs and grimy streets.

But those foreign students, invariably, like to get a selfie with the star of their favorite performer.

Why anyone would want people to walk all over their name, I’ll never know. It seems like a dishonor, not an honor. But Hollywood is full of such contradictions that go totally unnoticed by people infatuated with this world.

This I know: the darker this world gets — and it IS growing darker — the brighter the light of Jesus. The more that sin becomes “acceptable,” the more people are going to suffer its ravages. They will need a Savior more and more desperately.

Hey, I’m tempted, and I sin, but the attraction of God is greater. I always come back. I keep following God. Because there’s nothing better, nothing like Him. His love is amazing. Freedom is incredible.

Make Jesus your star.

Strong finishers

strong finishers

Luis Suarez is one of the strongest finishers in soccer.

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

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

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

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