Category Archives: San Fernando Valley

Revival in public schools through Christians in athletics

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

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

“It’s been phenomenal to see.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cancer twice, a bad attitude only once

Christian saved from cancerThe first time Lynn Cory got cancer he developed a bad attitude. Perhaps it’s understandable, but he resented that others had a future while he was diagnosed with a particularly virulent kind of cancer.

“I got really angry and I felt really hopeless,” the 74-year-old pastor says. “I was removed from people: ‘They get to live and I didn’t get to live.’ I would see other people — friends of mine — and I would say, ‘They get to live, and I don’t get to live.’”

But he did live.

pastor lynn cory and wife jo

Lynn Cory and his wife jo

Between his first and second bout of cancer, he saw Sherry, a sister deeply involved in 12 Step programs. Diagnosed with breast cancer, Sherry never flinched, never wavered, and never lowered her head. She kept ministering to others.

Her funeral was packed.

Lynn felt very ashamed of his previous gloom and doom. He felt like Sherry had shown a much more Paul-like attitude. Paul said in Phil. 1:21 “To live is Christ, and to die is gain,” and Sherry lived like she believed it.

Lynn felt so ashamed that he almost wished he could have a second round of cacer to learn to have a better attitude.

“Under my breath I said I wish I had a chance to do it right,” Lynn says. “I was joking at the time, but I got that wish.”

Hi second bout with cancer was completely unrelated to the first — it was not a flare-up of the previous cancer.

Round one was diagnosed as testicular seminoma cancer, the variety that caused the removal of one testicle from cyclist Lance Armstrong. The prognosis was pretty bleak; not much chance for survival.

“It really took me out,” Lynn remembers. “I was really shocked by this. I’d never had anything life-threatening.”

The first thing he did was the wrong thing: he started reading everything he could about it, and his growing awareness depressed him even more. Death was haunting him.

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Lynn Cory in the Air Force. That’s when he was exposed to Agent Orange, he says, which caused the second cancer

The next thing that happened was annoying. Everybody and his brother started giving him advice. There were home-remedies to eat or not eat certain foods. There were alternative medicine treatments. Everybody was a self-proclaimed expert, and the endless contradictory and confusing counsel irritated Lynn to no end.

Then after days of despair, he got the call from across the country. The biopsy changed the diagnosis, t wasn’t seminoma cancer and prospects for recovery were bright. Surgery and radiation did the trick.

Lynn resumed his duties as associate pastor of the San Fernando Valley Vineyard church, a post he held for 28 years.

Then, Lynn saw Sherry, “a remarkable woman. Sherry just went through the whole thing with the Lord. She was strong in the Lord the whole time. She never doubted. She was like Paul, whether in life or death, she wanted God to be glorified.” Read He Got Cancer Twice but Had Faith in God the Second Time.

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

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

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

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

Surya's as a boy

Surya as a young man

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

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

“I became so angry.”

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

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

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

Nepalese refugees

Surya with his family today in Los Angeles

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

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

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

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Revival in Nepal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Born-again Palestinian pastor holds hope for Israel, Palestine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prevailing strategies for evangelism turned on their head – Lynn Cory and the Neighborhood Initiative

Lynn-Cory-Neighborhood-InitiativeDespite leading a 500-student college group, Pastor Lynn Cory felt something was very wrong with his ministry at a San Fernando Valley mega church. It was too “churchy.”

So after 10 years of thriving ministry, he quit a paid ministerial position and worked for an advertising firm where he could rub elbows with the unsaved and share his faith.

Today, Lynn has an aversion for what other pastors crave: big crowds, fancy buildings and better programs. God has led him to a different approach, bringing individuals to Christ one at a time through “neighboring.”

Neighboring to save souls outreach

He offers some drastic advice: Throw your megaphone in the trash. Ditch the building programs; rid yourself of growth strategies from corporate America; stuff the showmanship of Hollywood. And, above all, dispose of the mantra that bigger size equates with success.

Go and be a neighbor, he advises. Make friends with the people next door. Bake them a pie or invite them to dinner. Shred your packed agenda and share the love of Christ slow-cooker style, by gaining their confidence through months and years.

Lynn calls this approach to evangelism “Neighborhood Initiative,” and has expounded the virtues to turning church paradigms upside down in two books, Neighborhood Initiative and the Love God and The Incarnational Church. This latter book coins the term from what Jesus did: being the face-to-face reference point bringing God to those who don’t know Him.

Lynn sees a movement forming, from Chico, California to Illinois. Even mega church pastors are signing up. They are moving away from the big splash, substituting the unglamorous grind of returning to what the Book of Acts calls “house to house” ministry.

Lynn’s argument is compelling. He cites data from George Barna that found 80% of church growth was membership transfer. Churches are not converting people; they are stealing from churches with fewer resources.

Plus, not every church has the resources to mount a Greg Laurie-style outreach. Because they can’t, many churches have excused themselves entirely. Anyone can visit his neighbor with a pie and show concern for his well-being.

“God moves at the speed of relationship,” one chapter says. Read the rest of Neighborhood Initiative.

Jesus for the San Fernando Valley

jesus-for-the-san-fernando-valleyI have been in a flurry of reporting and editing student reporters. I enjoy this. But I haven’t updated y’all on the progress of my start-up church. We have revival, despite myself. The church has doubled with the addition of another family, with lots of kids. They are kind people and have a heart for evangelism.

Do you want to evangelize the world? Go to Super King supermarkets in Los Angeles. It caters to immigrants with all kinds of exotic foods. We evangelized Arabs, Persians, Armenians, Greeks, Latins, Jews, Egyptians all in one night of evangelism recently.

img_4853It’s been too cold to meet at Lake Balboa, so we have been meeting in my apartment. Fortunately, it’s an old one, which means it’s spacious. The newer apartments are really small. We cram 20 people into that front room. Keep praying because it’s working!

What man cannot do

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My wife, in the glamours sunglasses, with a visitor at church this morning at the Lighthouse Church of Van Nuys.

God is doing what I cannot humanly do.

He is bringing in people who have dropped out of church for years over hurts.

It makes me want to cry. A lady (not pictured) came with her daughters today. It has been ??? years since she left her previous church, upset over poor treatment. Today, somehow, she mustered the courage to return.

The Lighthouse Church of Van Nuys is meeting at 10:30 a.m. on Lake Balboa, San Fernando Valley’s treated water lake that flows in the Los Angeles River. It is scenic and smells very nice (considering it started as flush water). I’m called the Valley Boy Pastor.

When I started the church in April, I was determined the let God build it. (When I started the church in Guatemala, I think in my mind, I was going to do — and let God help a bit too. It took me many years to figure out that I really didn’t have any abilities to do things myself. So now I am a tired 50-year-old. I don’t have the same energy. I work three jobs. I don’t have the time. What do I have? I have faith to let God do what I cannot.)

God is shattering our expectations, doing things that no one saw coming. Like this mother. She had been out of church for so many years. Today she came to church.

Praise the Lord!

Because people are precious

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I liked jewels. Their glint and luster always caught my eye.

At an invitation to a meal, Jesus gets his feet washed by a woman of ill repute. The inviting Pharisee scowls: If Jesus were a man of God, he would know what sort of woman this was touching him. The Pharisee saw a sinner, Jesus, a future saint.

We Christians need to have the eyes of Jesus, not condemning, but believing in “sinners.” Sometimes, the worst of sinners have become the best Christians. Take Paul for example. He started killing Christians and ending the most fervent evangelist of the gospel. It is our Christian duty to see the future of people more than their present, whether they be drunks, gang-bangers, Muslims or whatever. At least, let’s step down from the soap box of being shrill with all the “worldly people.”

So I bought quite a bunch of jewelry for my wife (before I was a missionary). Sixteen missionary years later and two bank consolidations later, the bank box of jewels is gone, unaccounted for, lost. Why did this happen?

Maybe part of the reason is God wants me to focus on the treasures of people instead of material treasures.

All the jewels in Guatemala — the people who got saved — are still serving Jesus! And now we are seeing new jewels in the church plant at the San Fernando Valley. They are people who are hurt. They are damaged goods. The devil has destroyed their lives. But Jesus sees them as treasure, and so must I.

People are precious.

The expansion of the Gospel in the San Fernando Valley

San Fernando Valley map

A map of services and studies of the Lighthouse Church. The line shows how we have advanced in the central region.

We own the central region of the Valley. We have Bible studies and services running up its spinal cord. Now to expand laterally.

I don’t think Christianity was supposed to be an armchair faith. It was meant to be active. We need to get out and project light, not just meet and talk about doing it.

In an extraordinarily short period of time, God multiplied a simple Bible study in my home to three nexus points of evangelism: church services in Anthony Beilenson Park at Lake Balboa, a Bible study at Las Palmas Park of the City of San Fernando and my Van Nuys Bible study in my apartment.

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Our intensive Bible study last night took place in Las Palmas Park of the City of San Fernando

I am surprised by this. I have known both growth and vast expanses of “stagnation” in ministry in my 16 years in Guatemala. Explosive growth is unusual, beautiful, special. It cannot be manufactured, planned for, conjured up. It comes sovereignly from God.

The only thing you can do when God moves is try to not screw it up. Excuse the expression. But what I mean is that if you let it go to your head, or if you get distracted, then you lose the wave or revival. The best thing to do is to keep your head down and try to ride the wave as far and long as you can.

And give the glory to God.

The Valley Boy Pastor is quite astonished at what God is doing.

Valley Boy Pastor

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I never imagined I would return to the San Fernando Valley. My childhood memories there were mostly not pleasant. I went to college at UCLA, to church in Santa Monica and then to my mission in Guatemala. I only visited the Valley to see my dad.

Now, I’m apartment-managing in Van Nuys, with hopes to starting a church. The welcome in the complex has been heartening. There’s an Egyptian family that’s hooked me up with falafel. Mmmmmm.

The community belongs to the immigrants. Everybody has at least two jobs. These are hard-working, decent people, and it is my joy to share Christ with those who don’t know Him. I’ve been there for a week and half. Your prayers are appreciated for this project.

In our group of churches (Christian Fellowship Ministries), we call this sort of venture “pioneering.” It’s an apt description for a start-up church because you start with no resources other than your own hard work and prayer. You toil long hours to raise up an established church. I saw God do it once for me in Guatemala. This would be the second venture.