Category Archives: Jesus

This changes everything in missionology

reaching parachute students for ChristWhen Howon Chun showed up at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica, he was a confirmed atheist.

“I thought religion is for those who are weak psychologically,” said the Korean foreign exchange student. “Christianity was just one of many religions, and I was not really interested at all. I thought Christians were unstable and just wasting their time going to church. I thought the church was corrupt and only wanted to get their money.”

His perspective changed after a year of hearing Bible class and then voluntarily attending a Bible conference in Tucson with his host dad (who happened to also be his principal and teacher).

evangelizing parachute studentsHe was surprised by the thousands of people whose joy was evident. He decided he should at least re-evaluate his atheism.

If this many people believe they are saved by Jesus, how can I ignore what they believe? he thought.

“I liked their energy. I wanted to have a purpose in life like them. I learned that Christians weren’t weird. They have a loving community. They weren’t corrupt.”

Howon wound up hanging around for three more years at Lighthouse. He just graduated, acing the SAT math with a perfect score, and enrolled in Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to study business. Part of his college choice based on accompanying his host dad, who is planting a church nearby Pismo Beach.

Howon’s story upends the traditional missionary model of sending workers into the foreign field. Here’s a vein of gold. The Christian Examiner reported that 300,000 Chinese students alone enrolled in American schools in 2016, and they prefer Christian schools, regardless of their government’s atheistic values.

There’s much discussion about how the surge in foreign students, who pay higher tuition than natives, has been a blessing to struggling private schools (public schools have strict limits on the amount of foreign students they can receive).

But there is precious little discussion about making a concerted effort to evangelize them. Read the rest about evangelizing parachute students.

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Nagma, Bollywood star, comes to Christ

Nagma-christianHer mom was Muslim and her dad was Hindu, but Nagma Arvind Morarji was born on Christmas Day so she identified with Jesus from an early age.

“Because I was born on Christmas, I always felt I was the chosen one and the world celebrated my birthday,” she said lightheartedly in an interview with Daystar’s Joni Lamb. “I was very intrigued with Jesus’ personality. I went to a convent school, so mass was compulsory. Somehow I felt He was my knight in shining armor.”

She catapulted to enormous success in Bollywood, India’s version of Hollywood, starring in such classics as Gharana Mogudu, Kadhalan and Baashha. She speaks nine languages and tried to make films in all her languages.

NagmaIn the last few years, Nagma has become more politically active, fighting against sectarianism – violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims as well as persecution against Christians and other minorities. She has worked for 10 years on behalf of the Congress Party because of her admiration for Rajiv Gandhi.

“We were brought up to respect all religions. Communal riots pained me,” she told rediff.com. “I wanted to do something.”

Nagma is also using her influence to fight female foeticide (abortion of female babies) that stems from a societal preference for sons.

“Demographically, we are going into a very critical situation because people are killing the girl child,” she says.

Born to a father who hailed from royalty and a mother from a family of freedom fighters, Nagma was encouraged to get into movie making by her step-dad, who worked in the film industry. In 1990, she debuted in Baghi: A Rebel for Love, which became Hindi cinema’s seventh highest-grossing film.

Even from childhood, she felt Jesus’ presence in her life. “I always felt He was my friend, philosopher and guide — everything,” she says. “It was a really close bond, but not until I got saved did I realize what my relationship with Him really was.” Read the rest of the article: Nagma Christian in Bollywood.

Liz Vice nearly died of kidney failure

liz viceBy Hailey Johnson —

Since the 60’s, Portland has become home to a menagerie of zany indie (secular) rock bands, such as Blind Pilot, Sleater-Kinney (led by Portlandia’s Carrie Brownstein), and more.

But one artist has emerged from this conformity cloud to mesmerize audiences with another sound — Christian music.

Meet Liz Vice, the black Christian R&B singer converting Oregonians into provisional Christians with her luscious vocals.

A native of the Beaver State, Vice — along with her five siblings — was raised in Portland by a single mother.

During her formative years, she never envisioned herself as a singer but instead spent her days fantasizing about becoming a filmmaker.

gospel music liz viceAt 15, however, her inspirations came to a clamorous halt, as she was diagnosed with a severe autoimmune kidney disease that soon led to kidney failure.

For the next seven years, Vice faced dialysis appointments, hospital infections, heart failure and her own mortality.

“Instead of praying that I’d be healed,” Vice admits, “I was just so tired that I would pray for death every day. But every day I woke up, I decided to live that day to the fullest.”

After enduring all this, in 2005, Vice was favored with a kidney transplant, allowing her dreams to finally pick up where they left off. Read the rest about Liz Vice gospel singer.

Muslim teen found Jesus in America, ran away from oppressive home

fathima-rifqa-baryRifqa Bary convulsed America when she appeared on national television in tears, saying her parents would kill her for leaving Islam and converting to Christianity.

“This is not just some threat, this is reality, this is truth,” she sobbed. Rifqa had run away from home at age 16 and was taken in temporarily by an Orlando, Florida, pastor, whom she contacted through Facebook. Eventually, she was turned over the Child Protective Services.

The Sri Lankan-born Fathima Rifqa Bary came to America with her family to seek treatment for her eye, blinded by her brother. The family took up residence in Columbus, Ohio, and Rifqa attended school and participated in sports.

While she prospered academically and socially, she suffered under the stringent, oppressive brand of Islam practiced by her parents, she said.

“It meant that I learned how to read the Quran before I could even speak,” she recalled. “It meant that I learned how to pray five times a day. It meant that I had to fast 30 days starting at age six or seven, no water.”

Her nature was happy-go-lucky. She earned straight A’s, participated in cheerleading and track in high school and thoroughly embraced American culture. Her dad did not.

rifqa-bary sri lanka“I remember being joyful and happy and if I were too happy I would remember my father just beating me to the point where I went flying across the room,” Rafqi said. Islam “was so empty and I felt like I was caged and suffocating in rules and I wanted out.”

Secretly, she attended church with a friend from middle school and even dared to get baptized.

“I went and I had a life changing encounter where I experienced the love of God that captured my spirit and left me changed,” she testified.

She surrendered to Jesus as her Lord and Savior and was born again!

Eventually, her parents discovered her closely guarded secret. They found her Bible and realized she had been reading it secretly in the bathroom. Apostasy is considered a disgrace to Muslims, and the Koran stipulates death as the penalty. Her father grew angrier and angrier demanding she renounce her newfound faith, she recounted.

“He gave me an ultimatum and it was — kind of in his sick way having mercy on me — to return to my old ways,” she said. Read the rest about Rifqa Bary converts to Christianity.

Padina found God in Islamic Iran when her mom had MS

converts from islam iranGrowing up in Iran, Padina memorized the Quran before she started school. She faithfully recited her prayers every day.

“I hated Christians and I became very happy when I found out that they were being persecuted. They always told us that if they killed a Christian, we had a one way ticket to heaven,” she told Hormoz Shariat, president of Iran Alive Ministries.

She was fastidious about applying the Quran to her life. If she forgot the ceremonial washing before prayer, she would stop mid-prayer, go back and wash correctly and start all over again.

Christianity in Iran

“I was a very strong Islamic believer,” she affirmed.

But all her religious piety was in vain. She grew depressed to the point of wanting to commit suicide.

“I felt so distant from Allah,” she confided to Hormoz.

Meanwhile, her mother, afflicted by multiple sclerosis, grew deathly ill.

Padina confided to her mother about her suicidal tendencies. Instead of discouraging her, she shocked Padina by asking her to kill her also — a double suicide!

“I will do this for you, and we will both die,” she told her.

But then one day, mom in her deathbed tuned in to the satellite broadcast of Hormoz Shariat, who has been called the “Billy Graham of Iran.”

Hormoz Shariat“If you are hopeless, if you are oppressed, if you are planning to commit suicide, the Lord says, ‘Stop.’ He has a hope and a future for you,” Hormoz said on the broadcast. “If you’re planning to kill yourself, stop and call me right now.”

Padina’s mother was so desperate that she didn’t care that Islam punishes with death those who convert to Christianity. She didn’t care that the Koran dooms all “apostates” to hell. She didn’t care, so she dialed.

After conversing for half an hour with Hormoz, she repented of her sins and received Jesus into her heart with the prayer of faith.

Meanwhile, her daughter was watching from the kitchen with alarm. Read the rest of how Christianity revival in Iran.

Remi Adeleke, movie star, Navy SEAL and trafficker

remi-adeleke transformersBefore Remi Adeleke was a famous actor, he was a Navy SEAL. And before he was a Navy SEAL, he was a drug dealer in the Bronx.

God brought about an incredible transformation in the life of the “Transformers” star.

Remi’s life spiraled downward after his father died in 1987. He had immigrated to New York from Nigeria with his family when he was five. Without a father’s love and guidance, he was left to himself. He liked movies, but the message to black men was mostly negative.

“It said you’re a young African American young male you need to be a hustler, or you need to be a thug or a player,” he says on an “I am Second” video.

rem adeleke show whats underneathAccordingly, he fell into stealing, running scams and dealing drugs as a young person in the Bronx.

But if movies hastened his journey into the “valley of the shadow of death,” movies also brought him through. When he watched “Bad Boys,” he saw black men who were heroes, not thugs. He began to re-imagine his self-image.

Then he watched “The Rock” by Michael Bay about Navy SEALs that lived heroic lives, running, gunning and saving the day.

“I was just blown away at this portrayal of men who were coming out of the water and going into this place to go sacrifice themselves and save others,” he says. “It really resonated and I thought if I was to ever turn my life around, that’s what I would do.”

remi adelekeA drug deal that went bad provided the spark to turn his life around. At age 19, he joined the military with the goal of becoming a Navy SEAL. There was one snag to his freshly forged ambition: he didn’t know how to swim.

He worked his bum off through boot camp, learned to swim, and qualified for SEAL training.

“When I wanted something, I would literally run through walls to get it,” he says.

He had reinvented himself, and he loved Remi 2.0.

“There’s not many jobs where you can get paid to jump out of planes and go after bad guys and protect those who couldn’t protect themselves — essentially be that guy who stood in the face of bullies and said not on my watch.”

During cold weather survival training in Alaska in 2008, he found a measure of solitude that caused him to think about his journey. Read the rest of Remi Adeleke Christian.

While in the NFL, he took cocaine. Today, Miles McPherson is a pastor

miles-mcpherson-the rock churchMiles McPherson wanted to see how they made crack cocaine, so he went to a crack house with a buddy.

There the NFL Chargers football player saw a skeleton of a man, dallying with death because of his addiction. McPherson despised him. “Man, look at that pitiful guy. Drugs is killing him.”

Then the God he didn’t even know spoke to McPherson: What about you? He was in your seat not that long ago.

mcpherson milesThat was McPherson’s first wake-up call. “I asked myself, ‘What am I doing? I’m in the NFL. I’m living my dream. And I’m destroying it.’”

Today, McPherson is the senior pastor of the Rock Church, a megachurch in San Diego with 15,000 attending weekly. The church focuses on reaching the lost through 150 specialized ministries.

McPherson was born to a nurse and a cop in Long Island. He was confident in his playing ability, even though he attended a Division 3 university he predicted he would make the NFL.

A coach mocked his aspirations. “He told other players behind my back that I was too small, too slow, too short. But that just motivated me to keep working.”

mcpherson marriagesOn his first year at the University of New Haven, the team had its first winning season, going 6-3. During his second year, the team was undefeated. In his third year, he was named “All American.” In his fourth year, the Rams recruited him.

“I didn’t know God, but I just knew in my heart that I was going to play in the NFL and that my life was going to mean something,” he says.

Almost as soon as he got picked by the Rams in 1982, fellow players introduced him to cocaine.

“It was one of the peer pressure things, fitting in,” McPherson says. “I was a rookie, and there’s about six guys in the room. I didn’t know what we were going in for, and they just pulled out cocaine. I said, ‘Oh man.’ But I saw everybody else doing it, so I thought, ‘This can’t be that bad.’ I knew it was wrong. I knew it was dangerous, but I lived on the edge.”

The first try led to addiction. Soon, he couldn’t stop taking cocaine. It became a futile, inexorable search for fulfillment through partying.

After one season, he was traded to the then-San Diego Chargers.

Then a fellow player shared the gospel with him. After a night of partying in 1984, he made the decision to call it quits to drugs. He retired from football in 1985.

“I said, ‘I’m done. I’m gonna give God the commitment I’ve given football, the commitment I’ve given drugs, the commitment I’ve given fun. I’m going to give God that commitment.” Read the rest Miles McPherson pastor of Rock Church

When his dad died, it wasn’t funny

Tim Allen the BuilderFunny man Tim Allen had a very unfunny start to his life that made him doubt God’s existence. When he was 11, his father was killed by a drunk driver.

“I wanted answers that minute from God,” he said in 2012. “‘Do you think this is funny? Do you think this is necessary?’ And I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with my Creator ever since.”

He used drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism and then was arrested and convicted of felony possession of 650 grams of cocaine in 1978.

“Don’t ever sell drugs to policemen. They don’t like it, they tend to tell judges, people get you, and then you eat very bad food for a long time,” he wisecracked in an interview with ABC.

allen drug chargeAfter completing his two-year prison sentence, Allen was released and decided to get into comedy, which he says, “saved his life.” Shortly after that, he got a call from Jeffrey Katzenberg of the Walt Disney Studios saying they wanted him to become a part of the Disney family, which he found very ironic considering his felony.

He went on to star in various T.V. shows and films such as The Last Man Standing, The Santa Clause trilogy, Wild Dogs and the Toy Story trilogy (he was the voice of Buzz Lightyear). He was succeeding in the world, but he hadn’t dealt with his demons.

“For years, I just did not like this idea of God, church,” he said. “(I was) still a churchgoer, but constantly a cynic.”

As much as he wrestled with doubts, he couldn’t deny the incredible creation in which he lived. It begged for a logical conclusion.

tim allen lost his father and his faith“Whoever built me, this is too much, too weird that it happened by accident,” Allen said. “It didn’t happen by accident.”

Slowly, Allen began to open his heart to God as he saw His guiding hand throughout his struggles. He reached a point when he dedicated his life to Jesus Christ.

Sometimes Allen refers to God as “the Builder.”

“I always ask… ‘God what did you want me to do?’ But you got to be prepared for the answer,” he said.

Allen has received criticism due to his unflinching stand for faith.

In an episode from Allen’s sitcom Last Man Standing (in which he stars as Mike Baxter), Allen found an opportunity to incorporate Jesus Christ. Read the rest of the story about Tim Allen Christianity.

Snoop Dogg returns to Jesus?

snoop dogg gospel albumSnoop Dogg — the marijuana-smoking pimping gangsta rapper who’s cycled through Nation of Islam and Rastafari — says he’s now returning to his roots in Christianity. He just dropped a 32-track double gospel album titled “Bible of Love.”

“I’ve always referred to my Savior Jesus Christ on my records,” Snoop says in an interview on YouTube. “I would let people know I was a born-again Christian. Church is supposed to welcome sinners. If you find somebody trying to find their way back home, the naturally thing to do is to be warm welcoming, open your arms and say, ‘Brother, we accept you for who you are. We know you’ve been doing wrong but you wanna get right, so we’re gonna help you get right. We’re not going to throw stones on you.’”

e16cb1f8ccf7d2bda963eb2aee03dc72-snoop-dogg-taylorsSnoop, whose real name is Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr., took the hip hop world by storm in 1992 when he was discovered and promoted by Dr. Dre. His freshman album Doggystyle shot to Billboard’s #1 spot and earned quadruple platinum.

His music belonged to the controversial genre that brought calls for censorship for promoting violence and misogyny, and Snoop’s life backed up his words. He denied belonging to a Rollin’ 20s Crips as a youth in Long Beach, CA, but was once tried for the murder of a rival gang member (his bodyguard got off for self defense). He was in and out of jail for cocaine possession and other charges after high school.

snoop-dogg-bad-boyBut before plummeting into spiritual chaos, before rocketing in the rap world, before he became reviled and revered, the kid Snoop went to church with his family, singing and playing piano at the Golgotha Trinity Baptist Church. He’s come full circle.

Since launching his hip-hop career, Snoop Dogg has proven to be one the most enduring and successful rappers, selling 35 million albums worldwide.

Through the years and different albums, Snoop backed away the unsavory G-funk after his friend Tupac Shakur was killed in a drive-by shooting and after his producer on the label Death Row, Suge Knight, was indicted for racketeering.

Marijuana smoking became his favorite motif and the signature of his music. He once bragged he smoked 80 blunts a day.

Always looking to cash in on shock value, Snoop claimed to Rolling Stone that, unlike other rappers who adopt a pimp persona, he actually worked as a pimp between 2003 and ‘04 and gave it up on the advice of fellow pimps to spend more time with his family.

He ventured into television and movies, including Doggy Fizzle Televizzle, Snoop Dogg’s Father Hood and Dogg After Dark. He turned his acquittal of murder charges in February 1996 into a short movie Murder Was the Case. In 2009, Snoop converted to the Nation of Islam and publicly praised minister Louis Farrakhan. But in 2012, he converted to the Rastafari movement and, changing his name to “Snoop Lion,” produced a clumsy reggae album.

All the while, his grandmother and mother were praying for their prodigal son. They are elated by the announcement of his return to Christ, along with a gospel recording.

“Momma said, ‘God told me you’s gonna do this years ago.’ She been waiting on me,” he says. Read the rest of the article on Snoop Dogg Christian.

The meaning of meaninglessness

imagesActually, snorting condoms makes perfect sense. As does chewing Tide pods. Along with cutting.

After all, if there is no meaning to life, then why not engage in something meaningless? If an attempt to find value shows your stupidity, then all we have left is getting attention through stupid means.

Atheists will bristle at my mockery, but their insistence that morality is an evolved feature — along humanity’s unusual drive for significance — is absurd. There is no evolutionary sense of morality or man’s quest for importance. Deprive man of God, and you get teens snorting condoms.

images-1And please, my dear atheist friends, don’t tell the gunman plowing down schoolchildren that he is inherently or obviously wrong. What is obvious is that there are no morals, no values, nothing. That is all atheism has to offer: nothing. There is no noble sense to humanity, no purpose, no beauty, no humanity. We are just an evolved species, and the evolutionary economy makes no judgements on killing another animal: it is the way of the alpha male.

You have kicked God out of schools, so kids are turning to insanity to imbue their lives with some semblance of the significance you robbed out of life. Enjoy the fruits of your labors. You have been working for decades through the media you dominate, through Hollywood and through government to cast doubt on God, the Bible, absolute moral codes, eternity and significance. It is working.

downloadBut the end of atheism is not humanism — the betterment of humanity through human effort. The product of atheism is selfishness.

Are there any hospitals around the world founded by atheists? No. But there are countless ones founded by Christians.

This is not to say that atheists are good at nothing. In addition to specializing in selfishness, they are good at sniping at people of faith. It is their delight to wield logical arguments that ridicule the obvious, that all of creation has a Creator. I have seen friends fall from faith under their onslaught. I am not a perfect Christian, nor do I arrogantly pretend to have all the answers. But I know there is a God. And I know He forgives me of my sins and offers me eternal life. I’m not letting go of that. To do so would be surrender to meaninglessness.

Panhypopituitarism led to low self esteem and homosexuality, then Jesus got involved

panhypopituitarismWhen Ricardo Hernandez was in high school, he had the body, face and brain of an eight-year-old, but he never got bullied because his older brothers were in gangs, and they watched out for him.

Born with panhypopituitarism, which causes reduced secretions of most or all of the pituitary hormones, doctors didn’t think he would survive past infancy. Miraculously, he lived. But because his brain was behind his classmates, he failed all his classes. Lacking a special education program to help him, the teachers passed him along to the next grade. Also, Ricardo was tired all the time, a result of the syndrome.

Once at the end-of-lunch bell, a kid hurrying off to class bumped into him and knocked him down with all his books. Almost instantly, a bunch of gang bangers jumped him and started beating him up. Ricardo, knowing it was an accident, tried to call off his brothers’ fellow gang members to no avail. “They told me to get to class,” he said.

disability and homosexuality

Ricardo is 14 in this photo

In the 11th grade, his high school counselor finally put an end to the free ride and halted his graduation, suggesting he seek an independent study program. (Ricardo enrolled in continuing education later, when his body and brain caught up, and received his high school diploma as an adult.)

He had two major challenges: a slowly developing brain and chronic fatigue, which kept him from working. With not much to do but lay around most of the day, Ricardo became the object of unwanted advances by a cousin who was gay. Slowly but surely, he seduced Ricardo.

“I was very susceptible. I was very depressed. I had no self esteem,” Ricardo said. “I was also sexually abused by my oldest brother. He was homophobe but yet he did this act. Once I started, I went from being non-sexual to like going on a rampage. I was 21-years-old, but my mental age was 13 or 14-years-old.”

Ricardo started a relationship with a neighborhood boy that lasted for two years. Kicked out by his mother for adopting the homosexual lifestyle, he rented government-sponsored housing in Pacoima with his brothers-in-law.

freed from homosexualityRicardo entered the gay lifestyle for about 13 years. Then his mother died in 2012.

“When my mother passed away, it totally destroyed what little foundation I had, and I fell into deep, deep, deep depression. I was already depressed. It got me more into wanting to end my life. I was already contemplating suicide, but after my mother’s death, it was like, ‘What’s taking so long. Get it over with already. Take courage and do it.'”

Fear always held him back — even though once he took a whole bottle of pills to no effect. The cousin who had induced him into homosexuality was abusing drugs and attempting suicide.

“I saw how the family got around him. I thought to myself, if I attempt a suicide and fail and my entire family knows that I tried to end my life, one they’ll probably make fun of me, two they’ll hover over me. I didn’t want to feel that scenario. Waking up after an attempted suicide in my mind was the worst. It would be embarrassing.”

Then near Mother’s Day in 2015, a friend came to visit that had been heavily involved in lesbianism and Heavy Metal.

She knocked on his door with a Bible in her hand, proclaiming Jesus Christ!

“Wait a minute…who are you?” Ricardo asked, incredulously.

She said she had visited a church and during the song service, God spoke to her and she started weeping. From that day, she changed. She surrendered to Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior and found real joy.

Ricardo, however, got furious because he felt like she turned her back on him.

“I told her off and she took it like a champ.”

His friend stopped wearing black, changed her Mohawk hairstyle, and got married. She and her husband prayed for Ricardo and continued to visit him.

“She became a professing Christian, one who did what she said she did,” Ricardo said. “That shook the very core of my being,” he said. “But I told her that I could go to her church and read her Bible but nobody could ever change me.”

As Mother’s Day approached, his depression deepened. He planned to end his life when he visited his mother’s grave. He called his aunt — the closest thing he had to a mother — to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day, but she retorted, “Are you on drugs?” He hung up and cried.

He left a message on his sister’s phone saying goodbye. She was in Mexico. “I told her how much I loved her. I told her I was sorry for everything.”

That night he went into his bathroom.

“God if you’re real, because I see you transformed my best friend and she’s a whole different person, I ask you to end my life, because I’m a coward,” he cried out. “I’ll be an embarrassment to my family. If you’re willing, I ask you to end my life. I don’t ask you for your joy, peace or love — or anything you have to offer. All I ask is just end my life.” Read the rest of panhypopituitarism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did Aaron Hernandez get saved before he died?

aaron hernandez thomas hodgsonBefore ex-Patriots star Aaron Hernandez hung himself in his jail cell, the sheriff was reaching out to him with the gospel.

“I did read the Bible,” the New England All-Pro tight end told Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, according James Patterson’s All American Murder excerpted in the New York Post. “The weirdest thing happened: I opened it, randomly, and it was all about me,” he said.

But before long, Hernandez’s defense team got wind of the growing closeness between their client and the sheriff — and they demanded a transfer to another jail. They didn’t want any ‘fraternizing with the enemy’ during the ongoing trial.

hodgson reach out to aaron hernandezSheriff Hodgson, a grandstanding God-fearing American, who styles himself after Joe Arpaio, wasn’t fishing for evidence but for souls. A zealous Christian, Hodgson believed that a high profile story of redemption would teach the nation’s youth the dangers of sin and the power of God’s forgiveness. But, after 18 months of chatting him up about the Bible, his progress got cut short.

When Hernandez, at age 27, was found suspended by a bed sheet noosed around his neck and tied to the window at 3:00 a.m. on April 19, 2017, he had written John 3:16 on his forehead. His Bible was open to the same passage. He was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead an hour later.

aaron-hernandez-patriots-christianHernandez’ meteoric rise to the top NFL team and his tragic demise following the murder of his fiancée’s sister’s boyfriend is a story of the hollowness of the American Dream without God.

Hernandez was an anomaly in football. While street toughs abound in the bruising sport, most of them leave the streets behind when they enter the glory of the gridiron. They have traded up for the trappings of wealth and fame.

But Hernandez didn’t transition. He had a 7,100-square-foot house and a $40 million contract, but he stayed loyal to his “hood” and thug life.

Hernandez relished violence and feared nothing. Together with Rob Gronkowski, they formed the most feared pair of tight ends in the NFL. While Gronk offered some of the stickiest hands and trickiest feet, Hernandez was the rampaging ball runner who was turned on by pain. To have either one on your team was a huge advantage; the Patriots had both.

Then in 2013, Hernandez was arrested. In April 2015, Hernandez was found guilty of the murder of Odin Lloyd, who dated his fiancée’s sister. Two years later, he was acquitted of a double slaying — just days before his suicide. Speculation abounded, but no one could ever ascertain why he killed or why he committed suicide.

aaron-hernandez-arrest-350x320Thomas Hodgson is better known as the tough-talking sheriff of Bristol County than as a Christian. He deprived inmates of TVs, reduced meal portions and sent out shackled prisoners to work in crews. He offered to build Trump’s wall along the Mexican border and charged his prisoners $5/day/room to help offset prison costs.

In Massachusetts where Democrats run deep, his law and order ethics resonated with many blue-collar workers and ran contrary to the elitists that ran the state. Was he politicking like Joe Arpaio, the anti-immigrant Arizona sheriff?

Maybe. But he was also genuinely concerned for the spiritual well-being of his inmates. To gasps of civil rights hounds, he ripped out equipment from the prison gym and made it into a spiritual retreat center.

Growing up in Chevy Chase, Maryland, Hodgson was one of 13 children. He went to Catholic mass every morning at 6:00 a.m. and studied at a Catholic military high school before taking college classes in criminal justice.

The Bristol County House of Corrections in Massachusetts was under Hodgson’s administration; 41% of its population were defendants, according to the Boston Globe.

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Hernandez’s Bible, open to John 3:16 when he hung himself in his cell

When Hernandez was brought there, Hodgson took a special interest in his high profile inmate. He spoke frequently about him publicly.

“He had the world in his hands. His destiny was set for greatness, until he made a bad decision. And suddenly, his life changed,” he sternly warned eighth graders on a field trip to the Fall River Justice Center on Law Day.

But Hodgson wasn’t just capitalizing on the footballer’s fame for self-aggrandizement. Behind the scenes, he was genuinely interested in the condition of his soul. Taking advantage of his role as maximum authority in the jail, Hodgson began to meet Hernandez privately and talk to him about his faith and his father, who died when he was 16.

“There’s a saying my father used to always use with my 12 brothers and sisters,” Hodgson told him. “He used to say, ‘Always remember, God writes straight with crooked lines.’” Read the rest of Aaron Hernandez Christian?

St. John was losing basketball games, so coach Chris Mullin told his players about the time he was losing to alcoholism

NCAA Basketball: St. John at DePaulTo help his team snap an 11-game losing streak and stun #1-ranked Villanova, Coach Chris Mullin pulled a skeleton out his closet of personal failures and revealed his battle with alcoholism.

“Where do you think I was on this date 30 years ago,” he told his players, who were languishing in last place in the Big East Conference, lost in basketball oblivion.

The players, depressed in doldrums of dearth, responded mostly by looking blankly at him, the New York Times reported.

The answer? Thirty years prior, the millionaire NBA player was kicked off the Warriors squad and thrown into a bedraggled rehab with homeless winos, heroin addicts and crack heads in the middle of L.A.’s gangland. On his first night at the AA 12-step, after the speaker droned on about an alcoholic’s powerlessness to kick the habit, gangsters in a van drove past and strafed the church building with automatics. “Damn, I’m trying to get sober here, not get killed,” Mullin thought.

12-chris-mullin.w710.h473.2xFour years later, Mullin was on the Dream Team that swept the Barcelona Olympics. Fellow teammate Magic Johnson said of him: “When God made basketball. He just carved Chris Mullin out and said, ‘This is a player.’”

But to pull himself out of the mire, he needed to endure the month-long program of 6-hour group therapy sessions with uninspiring cast of rehab mates. Then he had to drive back to the Golden State training court and fight, humbly but forcefully, for his place on the team — a feat that five other previous addiction-afflicted players had failed to do.

St. John is where Mullin started his trajectory; he took the New York university to the Final Four in 1985 as a star player. His signing as coach in 2015 was supposed to restore glory. Instead, in his third year, the Red Storm lost 14 games, his program in a malaise of ongoing roster turnover as developing prospects transferred and significant signings fizzled.

Dream_Team_2_641x405But then in February, sophomore point guard Shamorie Ponds and crew pulled off the improbable: they beat #4-ranked Duke. Then, the impossible: they defeated Villanova 79-75 on Feb. 7. Suddenly, the nation was asking about St. John.

The story of Mullin’s life — and the story of his team — is a story of redemption.

The Irish Catholic credits God: “Faith is everything,” he told Organic Catholics. “My Catholic upbringing I rely on daily. If you live a good life, good things will happen.”

Mullin was born in Brooklyn. With a passion for basketball, he took the subway all over New York City to find the most ferocious competition. Frequently, the palest player found it in the African American neighborhoods.

“For me, going up to a neighborhood if I had a bad game, I might not be allowed to come back,” Mullin said in the New York Daily News. “That was real pressure.”

legends-chris-mullinWith his hustle, ace shooting and unwillingness to be intimidated, the young Mullin gave them reason to learn his name.

During summers, Mullin attended local basketball camps at nearby St. John’s University. Hall of Fame Coach Lou Carnesecca spotted his talent and saw his raw hunger. A relationship began to form, and signing for the school was a natural choice for the Brooklyn native. He won the Big East Player of the Year three times.

A first round pick of the 1985 draft, Mullin carted across the country to the Warriors. He was lonely and called home excessively. By his third season, his alcoholism was taking a toll. He was overweight and missed practices. Coach Don Nelson gave him an ultimatum: shape up or his suspension would become expulsion.

Black Panther cast is largely Christian

chadwick-boseman-michael-jordan-christianThe box office-smashing Black Panther is not a Christian movie, but many of its actors are men and women of faith.

“During breaks (from filming) we shared our testimony of how we got to where did and most of the people were testifying to God’s miracles,” said Sope Aluko, who plays Shaman in the movie. “It was almost like church.”

The Nigeria-born actress raised mostly in the U.K. was not the only Christian on the set of the superhero movie that is being heralded as a watershed for black actors to shed minor roles and stereotypes. Just recently, the film became Marvel’s third-highest grossing, sending a rebuke to the mainstream media which constantly stokes the rifts that supposedly fracture our society along racial lines.

sope-aluko-christian-black-panther

Sope Aluko

In the movie, King T’Challa is the Black Panther and learns to save the world and break with an isolationist past of Wakanda, a fictional nation blessed by a vibranium meteorite that gave it supernatural powers.

It can be seen as a parable encouraging Christians to break out of their four walls. But the movie contains elements of witchcraft; in two scenes rival kings visit to the world of the dead and speak to their fathers. One must distinguish movie fantasy from demonic reality and not be tempted to dabble with evil.

The movie’s title role actor, Chadwick Boseman, credited prayer with him landing the role as the Black Panther.

christian-actors-black-panther-letitia-wright“You pray for something and then it actually occurs, you almost can’t believe it,” Boseman told Hunger magazine. “When they called me it was surreal. I had already written about Black Panther in my journals as something that I wanted to do.”

Boseman is maybe less vocal about his Christian faith, but his childhood pastor from Welfare Baptist Church in Anderson, South Carolina said what Boseman is doing now is a continuation of what he was doing in the church.

“I just seen him mature, and blossom into a man,” Pastor Samuel Neely told the Christian Post. “He did a lot of positive things within the church and within the community,” Neely said. “With him singing in the choir, with him working the youth group, he always was doing something, always helping out, always serving. That was his personality.”

Bullied as a child, singer Jamie Grace now invites everyone to her wedding

jamie-grace-bullyingJamie Grace knows about being bullied.

Her eyes and neck twitched, her hand involuntarily hit her chest – all a product of Tourette syndrome. Kids in middle and high school made fun of her.

Once at a youth rally, Jamie Grace, a mere 13 years old, approached a cluster of guys. Her first crush was taking hold.

jamie-grace-atlanta-georgia“They were having a lot of fun,” she said in a YouTube video. “But when I got closer, I realized they weren’t just making any kind of noise and weren’t just saying anything. They were actually mocking me and mimicking me. They were taking their hands and hitting their chests and slobbering at the mouth and calling me a retard.

“All I wanted to do in that moment was disappear,” she added. “I just stopped in my tracks. This was the worst. It was overwhelming.”

When she was a new adult walking around a mall, she saw teenie boppers pointing fingers at her and taking out cell phones to film her tics.

“Here I am like 19 or 20 years old running from girls in the mall because I was so overwhelmed and frustrated,” she said. “I was trying to get away. I was so embarrassed.”

jamiegrace-and-adele_

Adele was wowed by her voice

Today, Jamie Grace Harper is a Christian pop singer, whose “Hold Me” featuring Toby Mac earned her a 2012 Grammy nomination and a Dove Award for New Artist of the Year. The Los Angeles-based singer is using her fame to fight bullying.

“Throughout “my middle and high school years, I would deal with a lot of people bullying me because of my Tourette’s Syndrome and because of having been homeschooled. It was a difficult thing to face,” she said. “There was never any hardcore bullying like kids hitting me or putting me in a dumpster, but anything where someone treats you badly, it hurts.”

Jamie-grace-and-toby-mac

Jamie Grace and Toby Mac have parted ways

The solution for the victim? There are truths in being a “bigger person” to not take the cruelties to heart. There is emotional release in understanding that “hurt people hurt people,” she said.

But ultimately, she realized one needs to find acceptance in God.

“How do we recover? I believe I was created by the same God who created the mountains and the seas. I know that when I chose to focus on the rude teenager who called me retarded, I can get easily defeated and roll my eyes and watch a Law and Order marathon and not leave my room. But I instead choose to focus on what He thinks of me.

Jamie-grace-engaged-aaron-collin

Once she thought she never could be loved. Now she’s engaged to Aaron Collins and invites everybody to her wedding.

“There is Someone greater and more powerful whose words mean so much more. No matter what they say or do, realize that you are not their words. No human has the power to define your worth. Find your worth in the words of Someone greater, and know that your value has been established by Someone so much greater.

“It doesn’t matter who you are but whose you are. Find your identity in Christ, not about what other people say about you, not what billboards say you should look like. You were made in His image. Psalms says, ‘You are beautifully and wonderfully made.’”

Jamie Grace was born into a Christian family in the Stone Mountain suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. Her dad was the jazz-playing pastor of the smallish Kingdom City Church, where the family showed a lot of love to people. She was precocious and breezed through school. But since she was sometimes isolated, she turned to the guitar.

Her talent was evident. Starting in 2006, she posted videos of herself on YouTube – and bullying reared its ugly head there too. In the comments, 50 of 70 were insults about her Tourette syndrome, being female and being African American.

“It does get to you. It does hurt us,” she remembered. “It’s irritating and agitating and it’s evil and it’s cruel.

Comments assured her she would never succeed in the music industry.

Then in 2010, Toby Mac saw her videos and signed her for his label, Gotee Records. Her career catapulted.

“Hold Me” was the first of slew of hits that got played widely on Christian radio stations. With happy-go-lucky lyrics and a candy-apple voice, Jamie Grace fused hip-hop, folk and pop to wow audiences.

In 2016, Adele called her out of the audience up onto the stage. Jamie Grace sang “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You,” earning Adele’s admiration. Read the rest of Jamie Grace on bullying.

Christian actor Denzel Washington portrays evil characters as a lesson

 

denzel-washington-handsomestEven as a child of the Light, Denzel Washington hasn’t shied away from playing children of darkness, and his latest collaboration with Nightcrawler director Dan Gilroy is no exception – even as it carries a warning to avoid the enticements of evil.

“God put us together,” Washington told the Gospel Herald. “We prayed every day, we read the daily Word every day. Dan and I have been prayer partners in this whole collaboration. We were on the same page from day one. We know Who we work for, and we’re just trying to do our best work.”

Washington is a vocal Christian, whereas Gilroy maintains a low profile regarding his faith.

In the film Roman J. Israel, Esq., Washington plays a bumbling, autistic lawyer, who is a law genius but socially awkward. The crux of the plot centers on the moment when Israel loses his idealism and sells out to become rich. As cynicism takes over, his life spirals downward.

Just before he’s killed by a rival’s henchmen, he sees how his life, before giving up self-sacrificing heroics, impacted others positively. The movie is a parable to anyone who has quit pursuing noble goals, whether a disgraced pastor or 1960s activist.

denzel-washington-christian-roman-j-israelThe son of a Pentecostal preacher in New York, Washington once considered becoming a pastor, but he decided he could reach more people through his acting. That might seem an odd choice since his father didn’t let him watch movies as a kid, but Washington found that his gift for acting was given by God.

“I speak now and I’m doing what God told me to do from the beginning,” Washington said. “It was prophesied that I would travel the world and preach to millions of people. It was prophesied when I was 20. I thought it was through my work and it has been. I’m all about the message, to the degree that I know it, and I’m unashamed and unafraid to share it.”

Pastor A.R. Bernard, senior pastor of Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York, helped him understand his calling, Washington said. Pastor Bernard spoke to him from Daniel chapter 10: “God puts leaders in place for a reason and a season… There’s a reason, you may not like what’s going on but the Boss has a reason.”

The 62-year-old actor has won two Academy Awards and has a long list of credits dating back to the 1970s that include Cry Freedom and Malcom X. While filming a T.V. movie, Washington met Pauletta Pearson, whom he married in 1983. The couple reside in Los Angeles and have four children.

About his latest role, Washington said he was drawn to the moral and psychological complexities of Israel.

“He is Old Testament, he knows the law, but, not to say he doesn’t have faith, but he has faith in the law,” he said. “His conviction was through the law.”

If he doesn’t balk at depicting evil on the screen, Washington also doesn’t falter from being a spokesperson for clean-living and loving God. Read the rest of Denzel Washington Christian.

At long last revival comes to Spain

559662fb0e300_557effad207e6_marcha9There was a time, during the reign of Franco, when Spain was arguably more Catholic than Italy. Evangelicals were forbidden to evangelize, meet outside their homes or print religious materials. Nevertheless a small band of fervent faith grew mostly in the independent region of Barcelona.

But now, the country – technically and symbolically part of the so-called 10-40 window most resistant to the Gospel – is experiencing unprecedented revival. Two new churches open every three weeks, and there are now 4,045 houses of worship, according to a new survey.

franco persecution of christians

Franco

More than 80 new places of worship opened in the last six months of 2017, according to the bi-annual report of the Observatory of Religious Pluralism of Spain’s Justice Ministry.

The growth is being consistently sustained, according to Maximo Alvarez, head of In Depth Evangelism in Spain.

“The figures keep growing thanks to initiatives of church planting that are being carried out by churches and denominations,” Alvarez told Christian Today.

Spain had been slow to catch on to the trend in Latin America, its former colonies, where the Gospel has spread like wildfire. From 1900 to 1960, 90 percent of Latin Americans identified as Catholics, but according to Pew Research the number has fallen to 69 percent. One in five Latin Americans consider himself Protestant.

marcos vidal

Marcos Vidal, Spanish Christian singer

Meanwhile, Muslim houses of worship also grew to nearly 1700 in Spain.

Historically, Spain was hostile to the Gospel. While England, Germany, France and Switzerland experienced the Protestant Reformation, Spain sponsored the Inquisition to stamp out similar movements with appalling tortures and lynchings.

Then, Francisco Franco took over in 1939. While officially neutral in World War 2, the dictator was fascist friendly. Political opposition was squelched mercilessly.

Franco was also deeply Catholic and actively repressed evangelical movements. It was said, “Franco was more Catholic than the Pope himself.” Religious “freedom” under Franco meant Christian evangelicals were only allowed to conduct church services in their homes, even with their own families. No visitors were allowed. Read the rest of revival in Spain.

Joy Villa loves controversy and babies

Joy_Villa_pro-life_dressJoy Villa always turns heads at the Grammy’s, but in January observers wondered if she went too far, too political, when she sported a white gala dress hand-painted with an 8-month-old fetus surrounded by a rainbow womb with the words on her matching purse: “Choose Life.”

make-america-great-againVilla — who among entertainers was a rare supporter of Trump with a “Make America Great Again” evening gown in the 2017 Grammys — shared that her motive to brazenly flout normative Hollywood politics was that she herself, pregnant at 20, alone and frightened, made the “most difficult and important decision of my life,” she wrote for Fox News. “I decided to carry my baby to term and then give her up for adoption to a loving family. I put her life over mine. It wasn’t easy. Every day was a struggle.”

Today Villa has an estimated net worth of $3 million. Her song (non-Christian) “I make the static” spiked charts at #1 after her MAGA/Trump publicity stunt. She lives comfortably in New York with her husband, Danish photographer Thorsten Overgaard.

But her life wasn’t always gold and glitter.

joy-villa-and-ivanka-trump“I was penniless, far from home and trapped in an abusive, toxic relationship with a man who had become a shadow of what he once was,” Villa wrote. “At 19 I fell in love with an older man who was very kind hearted with a good heart, but once he began using drugs our relationship quickly became a nightmare. The same arms that once held and protected me were weaponized; night after night, I’d hide in a corner, terrified of being beaten.”

She worked in entertainment but hadn’t achieved success, so she found herself at the mercy of a merciless man. When the contraception failed, she found herself in a clinic with a nurse pressuring her to avail herself of the easy escape.

“She told me, ‘We can do it now, it’ll make it all go away. I’ve had several abortions, in fact all three of my daughters have had several. You are too young to have kids. This is the best choice for you,'” Villa shared. “I had never considered abortion, I wanted to stay and make things right with the father, to have a real family. (The nurse) had already made my choice for me.”

The pressure from a “medical professional” warped her mind.

“I couldn’t stop crying: I had a beautiful baby growing inside of me,” Villa recalled. “For many women, becoming pregnant is a dream come true, but I was overcome with guilt, agony and shame.”

But Villa gathered courage to defy the urgings of so many people. Read the rest of Joy Villa abortion.

Even greater glory after Super Bowl for Nick Foles

Nick-Foles-JesusImprobably, second string quarterback Nick Foles carried the Philadelphia Eagles to lofty heights with their first ever Super Bowl championship. But he may soar to even greater heights after he retires.

Foles, a born-again Christian, wants to be a first string pastor.

“I wanted to be a pastor in a high school. It’s on my heart,” Foles told the AP. “I took a leap of faith last year and signed up to take classes at seminary. I want to continue to learn and challenge my faith. It’s a challenge because you are writing papers that are biblically correct. You want to impact people’s hearts.”

nick-foles-mvpFoles — and the Eagles — were somewhat of the underdogs of this year’s permutation of football glory. Not many thought they could out-pass Tom Brady or out-fox the Coach Bill Bellichick. After all, it’s no fluke that Brady and the Patriots have won five Super Bowls.

And when first-string QB Carson Wentz tore his ACL in the playoffs, there were those who saw the Eagles falling to earth with no more wind in their feathers.

In stepped Foles. He humiliated the Vikings to clinch the NFC conference championship.

nick-Foles-wife-Tori-Moore-FolesThen he squared off with Brady, the QB famous for making NFL players look like a gaggle of high schoolers. He faced him calmly.

“I felt calm,” he said in CBN. “We have such a great group of guys, such a great coaching staff. We’re very blessed.”

Then Foles executed an audacious pass reception for a TD. It was a trick play. But what silenced his detractors was the fact that Brady had just attempted basically the same play — and failed. The king of the gridiron bumbled the ball.

Did Foles intentionally mock Brady, succeeding where the Master had fallen?

Whatever the motive, Foles was named MVP of the game. He also earned bragging rights: He became the first QB to pass and receive touchdown passes in a Super Bowl.

He bested Brady 41-33 and bagged the bragging rights.

But he isn’t bragging: “All glory to God,” he said. Read the rest about Nick Foles Christian.

Bitty & Beau’s: a coffee house that employs special needs people

cnn-hero-amy-wright-super-They starred on Broadway, but their most celebrated roles came later as parents of two Down Syndrome kids, for whom they opened a coffee house.

Amy and Ben Wright — deacons at the Wilmington, NC, First Baptist Church — launched Bitty & Beau’s Coffee specifically to employ people like their children, workers with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

The Wrights have become a national sensation, winning CNN’s Heroes of the Year, after being featured on national news. But their trajectory towards canonization was marked by emotional turmoil and disgrace.

cnn-hero-amy-wright“There was just an enormous amount of grief — it was like I was grieving the son I thought I was going to have,” Amy told Baptist News about the turmoil of disappointment before Beau’s birth. “When we learned about Beau’s diagnosis I felt so sad and overwhelmed.

“We are so embarrassed about that now,” she added to the Wilmington Star News. “But if we had had more exposure to people with Down Syndrome back then maybe we would have felt differently.”

She came to love her Down Syndrome boy.

no-one-will-hire-kids-with-down-syndrome-so-parents-open-shop-that-employs-only-those-like-them“I feel that was the moment I was drawn closer to God,” Amy said.

It wasn’t long before Amy saw that her special needs son was not a burden but a blessing. She saw his effervescent joy, and she discovered his giftings. People with Down’s Syndrome are in no way inferior or less worthy of life than others — and God has given them special qualities that others don’t have.

Six years later, Jane Adeline — called “Bitty” — was born also with Down Syndrome. Having two children with Down Syndrome is extremely rare.

“When you become a parent of a child with special needs, you are instantly thrust into becoming an advocate,” Amy said in CNN. “Trying to make people see the beauty in their lives that we see. My children are not broken.”

Eventually, Amy and Ben decided they would do something to help other people with IDD, 70 percent of which are unemployed. In February of 2016, they opened a coffee shop, which they named after their kids, and hired a crew of 40 with IDD ranging from autism to cerebral palsy.

To see Bitty & Beau’s employees making java or ringing up customers, to see them singing and laughing with clients in their new 5,000-square-foot facility, brings a sensation of faith restored in humanity. It packs a joy-filled jolt that’s better than caffeine. Read more about Bitty & Beau’s Christian coffee house for special needs employees.

She bombed a South Korean passenger jet. Then she found Jesus.

kim-hyon-hui-arrestedAs a North Korean agent, Kim Hyon-hui killed 115 passengers on a Seoul-bound flight to disrupt the 1988 Olympic games in South Korea. She was apprehended by authorities and after her trial she accepted Jesus Christ as her personal Savior and found new life in Him.

As the Winter Olympics are underway, Kim’s story of redemption and a fresh start — and her plea to be forgiven by the South Koreans — has come to the forefront after years in which she maintained a low profile.

wreakage-of-1990-KAL-plane“In North Korea, I lived as Kim Il Sung’s robot,” Kim, now 56, told the Washington Post. “In South Korea, I got to live a new life. Can my sins be pardoned? They probably won’t be.””

While the general public may never forgive a mass murderer, God’s grace pursued this unlikely recipient of His unmerited favor.

Born in Kaesong in 1962 to a diplomat, Kim excelled in school and was recruited early in her college career to work as a spy for the world’s most repressive communist dictatorship. Schooled in propaganda from childhood, Kim thoroughly believed in the absolute benevolence of her dictator — and the malevolence of South Korea, of Japan and of the United States. She believed she was defending her nation.

Kim hyon huiAfter seven years of training in Japanese, Chinese, martial arts, code-cracking, infiltration and covert operations, Kim was ready to carry out orders to blow up Korea Airlines 858 in a desperate attempt to disrupt and discredit South Korea during their hosting of the 1988 summer Olympic games.

Traveling with a senior partner under a fake passport and Japanese identity, Kim boarded and left a time bomb, disguised as a small Panasonic radio in carry-on luggage. She and her partner, Kim Seung Il, got off the plane in Abu Dhabi.

Tragically, the bomb exploded and killed all the passengers over the Indian Ocean.

Kim and Seung crisscrossed the globe to throw off tails, and eventually make their way back to North Korea. But in Bahrain, security grew suspicious and detained them.

Realizing they were about to taken into custody, the couple bit off cyanide pills hidden in cigarettes to commit suicide.

“We were taught that if an agent fails on a mission, he or she needs to commit suicide,” Kim told the Daily Mail. “We need to swallow the pill to protect the secret. We know very well that our families in the North would be harmed, so naturally we decided to swallow the pills. At the time I thought my 25-year-old life ends like this.’

The poison worked for Seung, but Kim woke up in the hospital. Read the rest about Kim Hyon-hui Christian.

Girl forced to marry speaks out against child marriage

When she was 10 years old, her parents were pressuring her to marry a 26-year-old. That marriage was never consummated, but a year later they were pressuring her again to marry an older man, so she ran away from home.

“I can’t live with them anymore. What have the children done wrong?” Nada Al-Ahdal asked in a video posted shortly after she fled in 2013. “I would have no life, no education. I’m better off dead. I’d rather die (than get married). They threatened to kill me if I went to my uncle. What kind of people threaten their own children? I won’t go back to live with them. They’ve killed my dreams. This is no upbringing. This is criminal, simply criminal.”

Nada fled to the house of her uncle, who took her in and agreed to raise her and make sure she received a good education. Nada filed a police report against her mother in her native Yemen. Her video hit 7 million views in three days, according to Wikipedia.

“I managed to solve my problem, but some children can’t solve their,” she said, according to MEMRI. “They might die, commit suicide or do whatever comes to their mind. Some children decide to throw themselves into the sea. They’re dead now. This is not normal for innocent children.

“My maternal aunt was 14 years old. She lasted one year with her husband, and then she poured gasoline over herself and set herself on fire,” she added. “She died. He would beat her with metal (chains). He would get drunk.”

Finish reading about Nada Ahdal.

Fast and Furious star, no doubt, driving fast in Heaven

Paul-Walker-Fast-and-the-FuriousJust before The Fast and Furious star Paul Walker crashed and killed himself, his father admonished him: “No more daredevil stuff.”

While the steel-eyed Walker loved adrenaline driving in movies and in real life, he was less reckless with his soul.

“I’m a Christian now,” Paul Walker Jr. told USA Today. “The people I don’t understand are atheists. I go surfing and snowboarding and I’m always around nature. I look at everything and think, ‘Who couldn’t believe there’s a God? Is all this a mistake?’ It just blows me away.”

Walker-left-with-Vin-DiesOn Nov. 30, 2013, Walker was executing a high-speed “drifting” turn in Valencia in his Porsche Carrera GT when he slammed into a light post and tree. The car burst into flames and the celebrity died “within a nanosecond,” according to one account.

He exited this world, leaving the hearts of hundreds of thousands of adoring fans. He roared into Heaven, no doubt, at speeds he could never imagine.

Walker — who played the levelheaded Brian O’Connor in the The Fast Furious franchise — was born into a Mormon family in Glendale, CA, but was sent to a born-again Christian school, Sun Valley’s Village Christian School, from which he graduated in 1991. At some point in time, his convictions changed from those of his parents and he sided with the teachings of his school.

usa-paulwalkerHis first acting gig was for Pampers diapers when he was a toddler. He studied marine biology and developed a passion for sea life. His grandfather raced factory cars for Ford in the 1960s, and Walker apparently inherited the speed demon from him.

Until his breakout role as the level-headed Bryan O’Connor in the $5 billion grossing series The Fast and Furious, Walker featured in small parts in Highway to Heaven, Who’s the Boss?, The Young and the Restless, and Touched by an Angel.

A “fun, funny and carefree” guy, Walker was liked by his fellow actors, his former schoolmates and his millions of fans.

He loved surfing, tagging sharks for study and jiu-jitsu.

He also cared about suffering around the world. He founded the charity Reach Out Worldwide and led teams of doctors and aid workers to places struck by natural disasters. In January 2010, he flew to Haiti after a massive earthquake left people homeless, without power, hungry and in need of medical attention. Ironically, he had surfed there a year earlier.

“The idea that people I’d gotten to know might have been hurt or killed brought the disaster a lot closer to home,” Walker told Merrill Lynch. His group built shelters and attended to the injured. Read the rest: Paul Walker Christian.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freedom from meth

Jesus-breaks-every-chainNot even jail was as hard as rehab at the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center in Pasadena, according to Dominique Perry.

To be sure, during his lock-up he faced simmering racial tension and even violence. But he had a lot of free time and made hairbrushes out of soap bars and toothbrushes that he could sell to buy Cokes and chips.

In the rehab, he thought they overloaded him with rules and endless meetings. They raided his room based on “stupid suspicions.” Once, Dominique got raided for an electric toothbrush with attachments that someone thought could be used as a weapon.

meth-addict-saved-by-Jesus“In jail it’s all about survival of the fittest, the bigger guy getting on the little guy. But all you have to do is listen to the guard. You can sleep all day,” Dominique said. “But in rehab you have to wake up early. Two cursings is a kick out. You have to go to three meetings a day. It gets you out of your comfort zone.”

Despite seething under the regimen, Dominique, now 26, graduated after eight months at the rehab center in July 2017, He had kicked meth, is serving the Lord and got a job as a dispatcher for a security company.

street-evangelismHe’s come a long way since his early days in Pacoima, a poor, mostly African American neighborhood of Los Angeles. His father left the household when he was a tyke. In high school, he started smoking weed, skipping class and trying to be cool.

“I always said we never needed dad. My mom always gave us everything. She was full of love,” Dominique said. “But maybe I needed him.”

He was good at football and was offered several scholarships for community colleges. But with his mind clouded by drugs, he never accepted one.

“I was picking and cocky. I was ignorant. I wasn’t really thinking,” he said. “I didn’t go to any of them. I just stayed home and started smoking more weed. I started deviating and falling into gangs.”

In Catholic middle school, he was taunted by the Boys from the Projects, a Latino gang. Dominique is half Mexican and half African American, but he looks more African American. So the Boys from the Projects started throwing rocks at him during PE.

The nuns were afraid themselves, he said, so he took matters into his own hands. He was already getting big, bigger than his taunters, so he beat them and chased them off.

“I felt powerful,” he said. “That day I went to the barber shop and told my story. Some bloods were there. There was a guy there with new shoes, and he said, ‘You wanna go get them?’ That was the worst mistake of my life. I wanted to feel protected and I wanted to claim something that people would recognize that I could strike fear.”

He was jumped the next day by six gang members. Seeing the bruises afterward, his mom cried and took him to the ER. He lied and said he fell down.

“Joining the gang opened the door of sin. I was constantly trying to prove myself. It led to worse and worse things – shootings and drugs and violence. I started losing control of my own personal life. I lost track of going to school. I lost track of my family. I thought what I was doing was more important.”

He got arrested for showing off some brass knuckles in high school. Later he was nabbed for wearing red gang gear and throwing signs. When the cops grabbed him, he also had Ecstasy pills and marijuana, when it was illegal in California.

His third arrest was for meth.

“I used to look down on crackheads,” Dominique said. “But some females introduced me to it. I started to think it was cool because I wanted to be a player. I was young and reckless. I wanted to stay up all night and party, and meth was a booster. They persuaded me to smoke it, and I accepted. There was a rush in my body, and then I started smoking it more and more.” Read the rest of freedom from meth.

She brought and got happiness at Santa Monica Christian school

Christian-school-santa-monicaSenior Petrina Gratton is a honor-roll tri-athlete at the Lighthouse Christian Academy. She participates in soccer, volleyball and swimming. She says her favorite sport is volleyball, and that makes sense because she was the captain!

She is graduating this year as a 16-year-old senior.

“I will miss all of my friends and all the goof goobers I have to interact with everyday,” she says.

Trina’s favorite thing about the our Santa Monica Christian school is “how the teachers actually put in effort to try and talk to you and get to know you a little because most bigger schools tend to not really build relationships with the students. I appreciate all the sacrifices they have made for me, as well as the whole school, because they really work together to try to make this place the best it can be.”

Trina says that Lighthouse has helped her reconnect with her faith and helped her figure out some of her passions.

“They have helped me discover more about my faith as well as my interest in film because if I didn’t go to LCA I don’t think I’d realize how much of a passion I have for filmmaking,” she said. “So there’s a shoutout to Mr. (Jack) Mefford for being the best film teacher ever!!” Read the rest of Santa Monica Christian school senior reminisces on wonderful experiences.

A hero lost in heroin got saved by Jesus

Pasadena-Community-Christian-ChurchCarlton Edwards ran and shot so well in Vietnam that he earned the Army’s Bronze Star Medal. But recognition for his heroics could not assuage the stress of war, so when buddies introduced him to heroin outside of Saigon in 1972, he readily indulged.

Carlton grew up in Mt. Vernon, New York, with six other family members in a three-room apartment governed by an alcoholic father. He was drafted out of high school in 1969 and served four years in Vietnam but never got busted for drug use.

“I was a very functional addict,” he said. “I used two or three times a day. It was to help me deal with the pressures of the war. It gave you comfort, totally relaxation, almost sleep, but you were aware of the things around you. It took you out of the reality of the pain you’re going through. It was sedative.”

Stationed in Germany years later, Carlton hung with the Army’s bad boys, the guys who had killed and strutted around flaunting their toughness. But a little guy named Morphus kept harassing him, popping up behind him to remind him, “God loves you.”

Carlton thought he was way beyond God’s ability to forgive, with all the terrible things he had done. Plus, “this God thing didn’t go with being in military and hanging with the tough crowd,” he said. So Carlton asked the annoying Morphus what he wanted – hoping he would leave him alone.

Morphus told Carlton that if he attended his Bible study the next day at noon, he wouldn’t pester him again. Read the rest of Vietnam vet freed from heroin.

Army Ranger Tim Moynihan found God

Tim-Moynihan-Ranger-1993-Preacher-2016Growing up in East Hartford, Connecticut, Tim Moynihan loved war, espionage and sci-fi. He chaffed at school with a longing for adventure, so at 18 he enlisted and started boot camp following his graduation.

He first jumped out of an airplane with the Army Airborne during the summer between his junior and senior college years as an ROTC cadet at Providence College in Rhode Island.

“I wanted to be the guy, Captain Willard, portrayed by Martin Sheen” in Apocalypse Now, said Moynihan, now 52.

Through the Army, he became a commissioned intelligence officer and entered Ranger school in 1990.

Tim-Moynihan-Ranger-Christian-family“It was brutal,” he said bluntly.

One day, he was climbing up a cliff when he fell. He had read Hal Lindsey’s Countdown to Armageddon. Biblical prophecy fit in with his other interests in UFOs, Nostradamus and metaphysics.

He was no Christian, even though he had grown up in a staunchly Catholic family. Mostly he pursued punk rock, beer and girls.

But as he was falling through the air, a prayer flashed through his head, a prayer to an unfamiliar God. Suddenly and inexplicably to him, the rope tightened and broke his fall, a mere matter of feet from a bloody crash on the ground.

Tim-and-Sue-Moynihan-Army-1992“That was a close call,” he said. “Somehow I knew God had saved me. Then out of the blue, a man at my unit invited me to his evangelical Bible study.”

At first, Moynihan declined, but the guy persisted and he eventually relented.

“I went, hated it, didn’t want to return,” he said.

The Word confronted areas of sin he wasn’t ready to surrender.

His buddy challenged him to attend the Bible study again, but, honestly, the tough Ranger was…. afraid… to go.

“I felt fear about going back,” he admitted. “Yet I had just graduated from one of the toughest, most dangerous military schools in existence, so I forced myself to go again. Then again.

“Suddenly it all made sense,” he added. “One day I was reading in my room and it dawned on me that I was going to hell. That I had been just plain wrong for 26 years. I got off my bed and knelt on the floor and asked God to forgive me for being an idiot for 26 years.”

He became a new creation in Christ on that day in 1991. He married his live-in girlfriend, Sue, within the week – even though she wasn’t convinced of the truths of Christianity until about a year later. Read the rest of the article about Tim Moynihan.

Leader of first Iranian church in America got saved after bargaining with God over grades

Iran ChristiansFlunking out of engineering at Pepperdine College, Shah Afshar contemplated suicide as he faced the fact that he was failing his family in Iran.

“The pressure of trying to make it, being the oldest son in the family, and trying to make an honorable name for myself and thus bring honor to my family, I very nearly committed suicide, because I was bringing shame to my family,” he said.

But Shah, whose full name is Shahrokh, fell in with a group of ex-hippies.

“They had two things that were very lacking in my life. They had peace and joy,” he said. “When I asked them, ‘what makes you different?’ They told me, ‘We’ve become born-again.’ They were followers of Jesus Christ.

new-tv-show-shazam-factor“Of course, that really offended me, coming from a Muslim background. I began to argue with them because I believed I had Mohammad, the greatest and the last prophet in the world. Who were they to tell me that a second-class prophet named Jesus was better?

“But I couldn’t deny the fact that they had something I didn’t have,” he added. “And as long as I was around them, I could experience the peace.”

Because Islam was deeply ingrained in his life, he retrenched and became a devout Muslim. But the suicidal broodings haunted him everywhere – except when he hung out with the Christians.

“They continued to love me and accept me,” he said. “And they would take me to their Bible studies – where I would never understand what is going on. I kept going because I couldn’t deny the fact that they had something I didn’t have.”

He was invited to a Thanksgiving dinner. The father prayed for the food. “That really touched me,” he said.

On the way home, Shah cried out to God.

“Look at me, I’ve tried Mohammad, I’ve tried Ali, but I want to kill myself today,” he said. “Then I said, ‘Jesus, if you’re really who these people tell me you are, I’ll accept you if you give me good grades in school.

“I had no idea who Jesus was. I didn’t believe he was the Son of God. I didn’t believe he was divine. I certainly didn’t believe he died on the cross. I just knew that if anyone could get me out of the mess, it would be him. I had nothing to lose. So I called on him.”

Part of accepting Jesus was a condition. “I said, ‘Jesus, I’ll follow you if you give me good grades in school.” It was a “feeble and theologically wrong” prayer, but God met Shah at the encounter.

A month later, he was expelled from college, but he still Read the rest about Iranian Christians.

Mike Pence, a solid Christian influence in the White House

pence trumpWhile at Phi Gamma Delta in college, Mike Pence was intrigued by a fraternity brother’s gold cross — and even more intrigued by what he said about the necklace pendant.

“Remember, Mike, you have got to wear it in your heart before you wear it around your neck,” his “big brother” told him, according to the New York Times.

karen and mike pencePence, 58, was born into an Irish immigrant family with five other siblings on a farm in the small town of Columbus, Indiana. Along with his three brothers, Pence served as an altar boy at the St. Columba parish church and attended as many as seven days a week. They grew up in Catholic school.

When he went off to Hanover College, a small liberal arts college in Indiana, he began to feel drawn to a more intimate, less ritualistic, approach to God.

Christian-vice-president“I began to meet young men and women who talked about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” he told CBN. “That had not been a part of my experience.”

At a Christian music festival in the spring of 1978 in Kentucky, he accepted Jesus as his personal Savior and Lord and was born again.

Still, his heartstrings remained firmly entrenched with his Catholic upbringing. He called himself an “evangelical Catholic” and even considered the priesthood as a career path.

“He was part of a movement of people, I’ll call it, who had grown up Catholic and still loved many things about the Catholic Church, but also really loved the concept of having a very personal relationship with Christ,” said Patricia Bailey, who, along with her husband Mark, worked at the Pence law firm in the 1980s in Indianapolis. Pence and Mark started every day with prayer at the firm.

In law school at Indiana University, Pence met Karen, who became his wife. As their relationship turned serious, she bought a gold cross with the word “Yes” engraved on it and carried it around in her purse to be ready for the inevitable proposition. Pence calls her “his prayer warrior.” The couple has three children.

In the political arena, Pence was a Democrat. His heroes were fellow Irish American John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. But as the Democratic Party fully embraced abortion, the man who grew up a staunch Catholic found himself feeling betrayed.

After voting for Jimmy Carter in 1980, he became attracted to the politics of Ronald Reagan. He never looked back.

After two failed campaigns for Congress, Pence won election in 2000 and served in the House of Representatives until 2011. He proved himself a man of convictions, not a political opportunist, and threw his support behind the Tea Party Movement. He declared he was willing to shut down the federal government in the fight to defund Planned Parenthood, the IndyStar reported. Read the rest of Mike Pence Christian.

The cure, not the curse

the-curePeople today reject morality imposed by others. That’s fine.

If you don’t want to follow the Bible, that’s your choice. But you might want the heads up. There are consequences to sin. There is slavery and addiction. Your decisions lead you somewhere. If you flout the manual of the factory, then don’t get mad if things break.

We live a fallen world under a curse. To the extent we escape sin and live in God’s forgiveness, we live in God’s blessing.

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.

Sherri Shepherd, The View host, left Jehovah’s Witnesses to find Jesus

sherriCelebrated actress and comedian Sherri Shepherd found herself trapped in Jehovah’s Witnesses, but overcame her fears, fled the aberrant group, and discovered a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Because I had been a Jehovah’s Witness so long, that was all I knew,” she told BeliefNet. “And as a Jehovah’s Witness I learned that all the other religions were false and that they were from Satan. So when I left the Jehovah’s Witnesses I really thought I was going to die and that I was going to go to hell.”

Ssherri shepherd on magazinehe did indeed “go through hell,” but she was willing to face poverty and hardship to break with the group after their leaders prohibited her from talking with her father.

“Now my dad at that time was working three jobs because we had moved to the suburbs because he wanted a better life for us,” she said. “So it was very expensive where we lived and he was working three jobs to support us. I was like you’ve got to be kidding me, tell my daddy I can’t talk to him and he is working at Denny’s?

sherri shepherd the view

“As the oldest I was a daddy’s girl and loved him with all my heart. My daddy had holes in his shoes so that he could pay for my photography classes. I just kept thinking you can’t be serious and all I could think of was the Scripture that references love (1 Corinthians 13:13) and says the greatest of these is love. I was like where is the love in that?”

Before Shepherd became a notable actress, she passed through a series of misfortunes. In 1993 her mom was dying. Shepherd was evicted on several occasions. Her car was repossessed. Her boyfriend began stalking her and later went to jail. Shepherd herself went to jail for a week due to unpaid traffic violations. Even though she won plaudits for her stand-up comedy, she couldn’t pay her bills.

“I felt like I was going to die. All this stuff was happening to me because I didn’t have God,” said the vivacious star. “I wasn’t going to church. I just felt like it was so evil from my upbringing. Why am I going to go to a church that was from the devil?”

42nd Annual GMA Dove Awards - ShowHer life changed one day when she went to West Angeles Church of God in Christ, one of the largest mega churches in Los Angeles. “I used to pass it all the time on the bus. So on that day, I was feeling so miserable. I really felt like I had no other place to turn so I was like let me just try it,” she said. “When I stepped into that church and that was an immediate sense of peace came over me.”

The peace helped her quickly overcome years of ingrained fear that everything outside of Jehovah’s Witness was of the devil. But as she became a regular attender, Bishop Blake, who preaches at the church, helped her make steps toward Christ.

“One day he said, ‘Would you like to come up and accept Christ?'” she remembered. Read the rest of the story about Sherri Shepherd Christian.

You knew that Flamin Hot Cheetos came from God — Here’s why

montanez-cheetos-350x458This is the story of how God inspired a lowly janitor at the Frito-Lay factory in Rancho Cucamonga to create “Flamin’ Hot Cheetos,” propelling his rise to the top of the executive ranks.

Richard Montañez grew up in a farm labor camp picking grapes in California. He grew up with his family crammed into a one-room shanty lacking basic indoor plumbing — the communal bathroom was outside. They couldn’t buy luxuries and sometimes went to bed hungry. His was a life of food stamps, welfare and even times of homelessness.

Without any education, he salivated for the opportunity to work at the local Frito-Lay factory scrubbing floors. When he got the job, his father and grandfather sat him down and exhorted him to execute it with excellence.

“When you mop that floor, you let people know that a Montanez mopped it,” Montañez told WKNO television station. “In my heart, I was going to be the best janitor that Frito-Lay ever had. I saw that I had an influence because they would walk into the break room and it would smell fresh and they would smile.”

Then someone shared the gospel with him and his wife, Judy.

richard-montanez-rancho-cucamonga-350x234“I never felt like I belonged. I always felt like I was an outsider, like second-class citizens,” he told the Faith with Flavor program. “Then somebody started telling us about Jesus Christ. I wanted that so bad. We were never going to be picked for anything. Why would God take the time to deal with somebody like me when nobody else would? We figured we’d give God a chance. He was doing things for me before I could do anything for Him.”

He started reading the Bible and learning from his pastor, from mature church members and from mentors.

RichardMontanez-350x211“I started going to church. It’s so full of wisdom,” he said. “If you read the Bible, it will educate you.”

Then one day at work, the president gave a lecture about empowerment. He told all the employees to think and act like they were the president. This was the message Montañez longed to hear. He looked around at his co-workers and was surprised that they didn’t seem to care much for the inspirational speech.

Montañez was praying one day for an idea, a vision that would help him break out of poverty. He took his small son to eat elotes, corn on the cob that Latinos cover with chili, cheese, lemon and other condiments. As he munched on the chili-coated elote, he thought of the puffed-corn snacks that his factory coated with powdered cheese.

Frank Sontag, LA rock legend, goes from New Age guru to born-again Christian

It wasn’t the car that slammed into his motorcycle at 100 mph. It was a round of golf that brought L.A. rock legend Frank Sontag to Christ.

After he was sent spinning across the highway, Sontag holed himself up in a Tahoe cabin and lived primitively off rudimentary supplies while he poured over Eastern mystic texts in search of the meaning of life. It took years to physically recover from the accident. But he emerged a New Age guru.

“I read the Koran, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita,” he said in an interview with Greg Laurie. “I never would open a Bible.”

For two decades, Sontag interviewed the “royalty of rock” on classic rock station KLOS. He broadcast music and announced sports events. He was part of #1-rated Mark & Brian show, which would mix Aerosmith with humorist rants and raucous call-ins.

On his own highly-rated, thought-provoking program called Impact, Sontag peddled a self-styled “spirituality” that encouraged people to get in touch with their inner selves, discover their purpose in the universe and feel good about themselves. No repentance needed.

“When somebody would call up and try to share the gospel, I couldn’t hang up on them fast enough,” he said. He would shout down and shut down Christians.
Once #1 in LA, Mark and Brian.

Then one of his closest New Age buds got saved. Three years later, the friend and his pastor brother invited Sontag to golf. Sontag was taking his fairway shot when the pastor fired at him: “Frank, is Jesus Christ the Son of God?”

“We’re not going there,” Frank retorted and knocked the ball towards the green.

A few holes later, Sontag was putting when the pastor asked another pointed question: “Frank, who’s God?”

Miffed, Sontag brushed the question off with, “I’m spiritual.”

After nine holes, the threesome decided to have lunch, and that pastor swung a final shot: “If you were to die today, would you be with God?”

Sontag snorted in disgust.

But something inside told him he should consider the question more. Challenged by the pastor, he sat in his car afterwards and asked God to prove Himself. Immediately, he felt strangely hot.

Then a voice said: “Are you ready to submit to Me?”

“It was unmistakable. Call it ‘because He created me I knew His voice.’ I knew Who He was. I felt no coercion,” he said. “And I freely said, ‘yes.’”

Later the voice said: “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

Sontag had never read the Bible. He didn’t have any way to recognize Scripture.

It wasn’t until nine months later that he stumbled across the same phrase – this time in the Bible. Right there, he prostrated himself before God and prayed: “Lord, I’m yours forever.” It was 2009.

‘Full House’ star Candace Cameron-Bure found Jesus

candace cameronBy Hasset Anteneh

Taking the role of D.J. Tanner on the mega hit Full House TV series in 1987 set the stage for a successful acting and writing career for Candace Cameron-Bure.

She’s not shy to talk about her faith, just like her brother, Kirk Cameron, who went from child star to evangelist.

“My faith is my basis of who I am. Not only does it affect the choices I make career-wise, but it also affects the things that I want to do,” Bure told The Blaze. She is married to former Russian NHL hockey player Valeri Bore with whom she’s had three children.

candace cameron and husbandBure said her family had never discussed religion, until they were invited to church by a friend, and started actively attending church when she was 12.

“When I was growing up, my family wasn’t Christian,” she said on her website. “We didn’t talk about God and I didn’t know anything about him. When I was 12 years old, my parents told us we were going to church; a friend had invited us. It was strange to me, and I giggled at the thought of God. But as we continued to go every Sunday, my heart felt warm, and I saw how happy my mom, brother and sister were. I decided that I wanted to feel the same way. It was Jesus Christ that was producing this change in them, so one Sunday morning, I asked Jesus into my heart as my personal Lord and Savior. I was baptized along with some of my family at a later service. I was extremely excited about what I thought was my new Christian life.”

full house candace cameronHowever, it wasn’t until her 20s that the word of God began to truly resonate with her. Her brother, Growing Pains actor Kirk, gave her a book, Ray Comfort’s The Way of the Master, and it was then, she said, that Christianity truly began to make sense.

“After reading a book my brother gave to me, now called The Way of the Master it changed my walk with God forever! It talked about the 10 commandments, and showed me my sin in it’s true light. You see, when I prayed the ‘sinner’s prayer’ that day in church when I was 12, I asked God to forgive my sins. But I didn’t even know what my sin was. But, the law showed me my sin.

candace cameron jesus saves“As I went through every commandment, I saw that I’d broken all of them. Then I learned that God was going to judge me by this standard, not the world’s standard. So, while I thought I was a good person compared to other people, I saw that I was a horribly bad person by God’s standard. It was then that I truly recognized and understood my sin and what Jesus did for me. I broke the Law, and Jesus paid my fine,” the actress said.

To read the rest about Candace Cameron Christian click here.

Hasset Anteneh is my student at the Lighthouse Christian Academy on the westside of Los Angeles.

Some journeys require patience

C7eJ4sGVUAUU9Od.jpg largeThe Bible says we’re pilgrims, sojourners on this Earth. In our times of jet planes and email (as opposed to “snail mail”), we have little understanding of long journeys. But when Nehemiah traveled back and forth between the capital of the Persian Empire and Jerusalem, it took days or weeks.

Impatience is the enemy of the Christian. When bad situations don’t turn around fast enough, too many give up and return to the world. There is need of stick-to-it-iveness, of perseverance.

I’m sure Moses would have liked to make the journey to the Promised Land in an appropriate amount of time — not 40 years! God is patient with us, and we should be patient with Him.

Justine Bateman found God overcoming anorexia

justine batemanActress Justine Bateman thought her binge eating and purging was normal, but when a friend gently suggested she had an addiction as serious as alcohol or drugs, she entered a 12-step program. That’s where she found Jesus.

“I found the highest high by hitting the lowest low,” the 51-year-old told the New York Daily News. “I’ve actually become the person I always wanted to become, although not in the way I thought it would happen.”

The former star from “Family Ties” and “Men Behaving Badly” battled eating disorders for 10 years before getting help. “I realized I had eating disorders, went into recovery and found a relationship with God,” Bateman recounted.

Bateman said it all started at age 16, when she suffered bouts of anorexia, bulimia and compulsive overeating, without understanding the danger of what she was doing. “I had a horrible body image,” she said. “I always had the tape measure out. I was always getting on the scale.” Read the rest of the story.

His wife chased him with a knife. Korn’s bassist Reginald Arvizu came to Christ after much suffering

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Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu sought to shield himself from any and all pain after his parents divorced.

“I was like, this is not going to hurt me,” he said. “That’s what I told my dad, ‘I’m moving in with you. Let’s get a keg, and let’s throw a party and make music.’ And I put a wall up to not feel the emotions. That’s when it became full-on drinking and a way that nobody’s going to hurt me. From that moment on, I never had a sober day.”

He became an accomplished bassist and rose to stardom with the nu rock sensation group Korn that sold out arenas.

korn-concert-ukHe cycled through two marriages riddled by infidelities. He used speed to stay thin for the glam metal look which required a stick-thin physique for tight pants. More than once his wild partying landed him in jail.

“I had my nights of being in hotel rooms and destroying them by myself, crying because I’d wake up in the morning feeling so bad from partying. I’d be shaking,” said Arvizu, who’s known by the stage name “Fieldy.”

“I’d wake up and throw up in the morning. I’m like, ‘Man, I can’t handle this.’ So I would just take some Xanax or Adavan and let that kick in and I’d just be wasted again. It’d bring you so down, then smoke weed after that. Then night would come, and I could start drinking.”

reginald-arvizuThe nu metal bassist wasn’t very kind to women in his effort to build walls around his heart.

“I would bash on them, say women are just sluts, no good. I was really mean to women to where I could make almost any woman cry, any time,” he admitted. “I guess that’s what I did to keep from getting hurt.”

He fully accepted the responsibility for his first divorce due to his incessant cheating that drove his wife berserk, according to Contact Music.

“She ran into the kitchen, grabbed a butcher knife, and came toward me like a crazed animal, wildly swinging at me. She cut open my shirt and made four shallow gashes in my chest,” Arvizu confessed. Read the rest of the article.

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.