It was a humid day. The moist air nourished everything. An overlooked store, located in the middle of Western Street in the district of Sai Ying Pun, is so low-profile that seems unlikely that it has been surviving through furious storms over the past decades. Its name is Tak Chong Sum Kee Bamboo Steamer Company. […]
By age 11, he was doing dope. At 13, dropping acid. After he turned 15, he was sticking a needle in his arm, shooting cocaine and heroin.
“I went in deeper into selling drugs. I’m not talking about small amounts. I’m talking about large amounts of drugs. I kept going deeper until I became the shotgunner, the hired gun for drug deals,” Sam Childers says in a Next Step film.
Childer’s wife, Lynn, can take the credit for wrangling this rebel into the Kingdom of God. She was an ex-church-kid-turned-stripper who fell in love with the bad boy. They did drugs together. But eventually, Lynn, despairing of pigs’ portions in her prodigal path, returned to Jesus.
This did not sit well with the renegade outlaw. For two years, he fought her to give up her “religion.”
Then Childers got into a shootout in a barroom over a drug deal gone bad.
“I almost lost my life that night,” he recalls in the film. “I don’t have a problem with dying. I got a problem with what I’m going to die for. I knew that if I kept on living the life I was, I was going to die for some stupid reason. On my way home that night, I said, ‘God, I’m done living this life.’”
He showed up for revival services in an Assembly of God church in mid-1992, surrendered his heart and life to Jesus, and was born again.
The pastor prophesied that night that Childers would minister in Africa.
Remarkably, Childers went from biker gang member and barroom brawler to eventually becoming a preacher. When he became a Christian, he didn’t give up the guns. He kept them handy for what would become very dangerous work overseas.
His first mission trip to Uganda was a 5-week stint building roofs in a village where there were landmines. While there, he happened across the legless body of a boy decimated by a landmine placed by Joseph Kony’s insurgency. Kony, a brutal warlord, had been conscripting child soldiers, perpetrating mayhem throughout the region.
When he saw the condition of the boy, Childers smoldered with rage.
“I knew I had to do something,” he declared. “I’m devastated inside. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew I had to do something. I stood over that body, and I said, ‘God, I’ll do whatever it takes.’”
“I returned home. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t hardly eat,” he recalls. “All I could see in my memory was children that were starving.”
In response, he sold his fishing boat, camper and other possessions to raise funds for Africa. He tried to enlist others in the fund-raising.
On a subsequent trip, he felt God tell him to open an orphanage, situated in the hottest thicket of danger. In that Valley of the Shadow of Death, he linked up with Sudan People’s Liberation Army, which granted him his own militia to protect the orphanage — and to battle Kony’s forces, according to the Washington Post.
He became known as the “Machine Gun Preacher” after a documentary on his life revealed him walking the bush of Sudan with an AK-47 slung over his shoulder, deep in the warzone of Kony’s insurgency. Read the rest about the Machine Gun Preacher Sam Childers.
She’s been called “the greatest gymnast of all time” and “light years ahead of the competition,” but Simone Biles, 21, credits God with her tour de force at the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics where she became the first US gymnast to win four gold medals at once.
“I can go to (God) at any time,” Simone told Fox News. “He knows exactly what I need. Faith can calm me down. Everything happens for a reason.”
The fact that Simone would say everything happens for a reason is profoundly significant. She was born to parents lost in drug and alcohol abuse. She was caromed around the foster care system like a pinball until her grandmother and step-grandfather were contacted by a social worker, and they took her in.
The compact dynamo took overcoming adversity to the next level. She didn’t just “overcome,” she vaulted over obstacles with graceful twists and gasp-inducing flips to impose her dominance on the world stage and declare she would not be held victim to a troubled past.
In addition to her Olympic exploits, Simone is a four-time World all-around champion (2013–15, 2018), four-time World floor exercise champion (2013–15, 2018), two-time World balance beam champion (2014, 2015) and the 2018 World vault champion.
“Some of us older Olympians have talked about there being a physical limit to the sport, and then along comes Simone with all these incredible skills,” says Mary Lou Retton, a gold medal gymnast from 1984. “She’s like nothing I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
Simone was born in 1997 in Columbus, Ohio, the third of four siblings. Her mother, Shanon Biles, struggled with drugs and alcohol, while her father, Kelvin Clemons abandoned with family because of his own addictions.
After bouncing around foster care, Simone moved in with her grandfather Ron Biles, in Houston, Texas, in 2000. Together with his new wife, Nellie Cayetano Biles, Ron provided the necessary stability and Christian upbringing that helped Simone forget her dark past and become a champion.
Simone is 4’8” and so muscular that she used to wear a jacket at school to hide her muscles. She didn’t want to be embarrassed because she looked different than other girls.
It was Ron and Nellie who got Simone into gymnastics as an outlet for her boundless energy — as her older brother Adam says, Simone “was always flipping and jumping on furniture. My parents figured it would be better to put them in a safer environment.”
“I wouldn’t (have been in Rio) without my family,” Simone told the Houston Chronicle. “I can’t thank them enough for all the things they’ve given up for me to do what I love. Every time I compete, they can see that I’m happy.”
The couple officially adopted Simone and her siblings in 2003. They always took them to church on Sunday morning, prayed prayers and even got Simone out early from Wednesday gymnastics practice — to the chagrin of her trainer — to go to Bible instruction. She was homeschooled to accommodate intensive training schedules in the gym.
“I’ve been brought up to never take anything for granted and to always be the best Simone—the best version of myself,” Simone says on Glamour magazine. “From a very young age, (my adopted parents) always believed in us and told us to believe in ourselves.”
Nellie sees the hand of God in Simone’s coming to join her family.
“I’m a very prayerful person,” Nellie told CBN. Find out how Simone Biles overcame childhood with parents who abused drugs and alcohol.
Kenneth H was hooked on heroin, marijuana and sexual immorality.
“I tried to quit many times. I couldn’t do it. It was very difficult to quit because I would get sick if I didn’t smoke heroin every day. I would get withdrawals,” he says on his Youtube channel. “It was very depressing. I felt like I was stuck in a hole.”
He blames drug abuse for the loss of his gallbladder, which hospitalized him. “It was probably related to my addiction because I know heroin does stuff to your insides.”
His hospital visit gave him one advantage: he had made it through the withdrawals and was no longer chemically addicted to the drug.
“When I got out of the hospital, I tried to stay clean but I couldn’t stay clean for very long. I ended up falling back into pretty regular use of it. I could not shake it. The addiction was still there. I couldn’t stay away from the drug.”
His depression deepened, compounded by the fact that he wasn’t working and had a lot of extra time to do nothing profitable.
He became ensnared in the intrigue concerning the Mayan calendar ending in Dec. 12, 2012, which sparked speculation about the end of the world. Kenneth grew particularly keen about New Age stories and aliens.
“One time I was on YouTube and I saw this video titled ‘Aliens are demons,’ and it hit me right there: I knew that I had to serve Jesus,” he says. “It spoke to me, and I knew what team I had to be on.” Read the rest of get off heroin.
Ashley Johnson’s struggles with drugs began when her mother was four-years-old in a barn being raped. That was the beginning of the cycle of destruction, depression and despondency.
Years later, when mom was pregnant with Ashley, the devil tormented her with suicidal thoughts, Ashley says on a YouTube video. Eventually, Mom got saved and kicked the devil out of her life.
But before that, mom was an alcoholic and left little Ashley to stay with grandma, who took her to church.
Her first touch from God came when she was nine. After participating in an evangelistic play as one the main actors, she answered the call to the altar.
“I realized Jesus was real,” she says. “I remember being super excited and standing outside of the church and telling everybody how good God is.”
Nevertheless, she says, she didn’t accept Jesus yet. She only felt God.
“I didn’t pray that prayer (of salvation),” she says. “Everybody prayed it for me. But I did not make Jesus Lord over my life. He did not save me, but He did call me.”
As she grew up, she felt insecurities; especially that she was the only child who didn’t have a mom actively involved in her life. Unlike the other kids brought to church by their moms and dads, Ashley was brought by her grandmother.
“I grew to hate church,” she says. “I became very embarrassed. I was very insecure about a lot of things. I was a very shy and timid kid.”
Evil things started happening in her life, and in response, she rebelled. It came to the point that grandma couldn’t handle her, so Ashley was sent to her parents to live.
“I didn’t want to go live with my parents,” she says.
Her parents were alcoholics, and Ashley fell out of church attendance.
At a party at age 11, Ashley got drunk and high for the first time.
“When it kicked in, I was like whoa whoa whoa. I didn’t know what it was like to be drunk,” she says. “That night, I almost got eaten by a dog because I tried to leave. I almost got shot by a gun. I woke up the next morning, and I was wearing this guy’s boxers. He had to be in his 30s at the time. He had his arm wrapped around me.”
Depression overtook her by the time she entered junior high.
“I would look out the window and imagine dying. I was so depressed and suicidal,” she says. “I was just a very miserable kid.”
The world’s answers — partying, experimenting with drugs, skipping school — did nothing to help the fundamental reason for the agony in her heart.
“I was a pretty wild child by the time junior high rolls around,” she says.
In high school, she dated a drug dealer. Read the rest of kick crack
Is eating the area where Christians have trouble with self-control? There are fellowship dinners and snacks at Bible studies. We may not go to the bar to drain alcoholic beverages, but we go to the restaurant and knock back the extra fries and milkshakes. It’s not a beer belly; it’s a potluck paunch.
Extra pounds around the waist or on the thighs are more often carried to church than Bibles. In fact, one pastor in Guatemala teased a slim colleague, “Pastor sin panza no da confianza,” which translated means: A pastor without a paunch doesn’t inspire confidence (it’s mirthful in Spanish because it rhymes).
But while there is a disturbing trend in Christianity toward obesity, there is a new generation of shepherds who are saying no to the second helping of shepherd’s pie.
Take Steve Reynold for example. The way he sees it, he was “trashing” his temple of the Holy Spirit (his body), according to US News & World Report. The pastor of Capital Baptist Church in Annandale, Virginia weighed 340 pounds.
While Reynolds never pumped iron, he downed a tub of ice cream each night. While he circumvented cardio, he crammed carbs.
As a result, doctors ordered him to take eight separate medications to stave off diabetes and other disorders. At some point, Reynolds had an epiphany.
“I’m looking forward to heaven,” came the flash, “but I’m not ready to get there yet.”
Reynolds had to upend some bad habits. He started an exercise regime and began a diet inspired by the Bible. It turns out the Holy Writ has much to say about healthy living, but he hadn’t noticed previously. By searching the word “body” in his concordance, he found some inspired guidance.
According to Reynolds, healthy diet and exercise “has been a kind of forsaken thing in churches.”
Health Fitness Revolution unearthed stats to back up Reynolds’ claim: A 2006 Purdue study found that the fundamental Christians are by far the heaviest of all religious groups, led by the Baptists with a 30% obesity rate. A 2011 Northwestern University study tracking 3,433 men and women for 18 years found that young adults who attend church or a bible study once a week are 50% likelier be obese.
Jesus “could walk 40 miles, not in Reeboks but in leather sandals,” Reynolds wrote in his book. “Yet His followers on this planet are unhealthy, overweight, sedentary couch potatoes.”
As a result of the regimen developed by Reynolds, he dropped 100 pounds and no longer needed the medications. His findings and testimony were published in his book Bod4God.
“We believe our bodies are very important to our faith,” says Scott Roberts, head of William Jessup University’s kinesiology department, where faith-based fitness courses are offered.
If 1 Timothy 4:7 says, “Bodily exercise profiteth little” to highlight spiritual health, nevertheless the verse does says that there is value in physical health. The purpose is not to counter pose bad/good, but to compare good/better.
In 2014, Health Fitness Revolution named the top 10 fittest pastors. Joel Olsteen topped the list for his enviable six pack.
Scott Bennefield was also featured as the “Iron Man Pastor.” Prior to 1991, he never gave much thought to fitness. But then he decided he’d better start running for exercise. He progressed and amplified his goals: at age 43, the pastor of the New Covenant Church in New Mexico competed in his first Iron Man competition and completed six more by time of publication.
Chuck Bernal, pastor of the LifePointe Church in Crowley, Texas, also earned an honorable mention. Through diet and exercise, he slimmed down from 367 pounds to a fit 226.
Mega-church Pastor Rick Warren joined the list. His introduction to health came by way of baptizing 858 people. Two-thirds of the way through dunking disciples, his arms grew tired. And he noticed the excess water displacement by the obese — including himself. Consequently, he lost 30 pounds.
Today, there are Christian diet plans, aps, tapes, exercise routines — all of which motivate through the Word of God for the goal of fitness. Exercising has become as important to some as healthy eating. Read the rest of Christian health.
Honestly, I was initially put off by steamed fish, but that was mostly because of some unfortunate words.
You see, my in-laws criticized the restaurant I had invited them to. It was my favorite fish food place, and they offered grilled filets.
My father-in-law was perhaps a tad too sincere: “It’s kind of tough.”
So his rejection of my favorite food closed me off to his favorite food.
The years have rolled by. I’ve lost my prejudices. I can now taste steamed fish objectively, untainted by rejection-association. And I must say, my father-in-law was right: It’s tender.
The Bible says we need to tell the truth in love, and there are some “truths” that are better left unsaid. Instead of convincing people, we close them off entirely.
Fish is my favorite food. It’s pure protein (I’m trying to build muscle). It doesn’t have cholesterol. Some actually lowers your cholesterol. It doesn’t have increase your risk for hypertension.
I’ll eat grilled filets still because I’m not against them being “tough.” But I do relish a Chinese steamed fish!
Hi guys. I’ve been teaching health class at the our private Christian school in Los Angeles, the Lighthouse Christian Academy. Naturally, I have been researching for the units, including the latest on drug abuse. The emergency of fentanyl alarms me. So this video is to increase awareness. From the internet, it looks like there is hope for fentanyl addicts, but there are some scary stories too. The easiest way to get off is to never get on.
Sevin was a rising star in Christian hip hop, and he was homeless.
Marques Adams, his real name, was born in San Jose but grew up in Sacramento. His parents, Tracy and Debra Adams, raised him in a church that emphasized rules to the point of excluding God from the picture.
“I didn’t understand God as personal,” he says on a Next Step film. “I looked at Him how you look at a police officer in your community: somebody who enforces rules, but he’s not somebody you really wanna ‘kick it’ with.”
His parents moved a lot, cutting him off from friends and always putting him into the awkward situation of having to make new friends sometimes with a rough crowd that rejected him.
“All I ever wanted was love and people to accept me,” he says. “I was being treated like evil, and over time it wound up hardening my heart.”
At age 13, one of his few friends died, and he reacted with self-mutilation and suicidal thoughts.
“I was always angry and hurting, and it was growing worse and worse and worse,” Sevin says. “I just kind of let go of any care for life or my future or anything. I fell into an abyss. I started self-medicating really young, 12, 13 years old stealing bottles of Nyquil out of the store.”
He discovered marijuana and prescription pills, “just anything to try to numb myself,” he says.
Because he longed for acceptance, he started hanging with gang members. The Oak Park Bloods took him and “treated me like their version of family,” he says.
“Not understanding what true love or God’s love actually looks like, the world was able to lie to me,” he says. “The streets was able to suck me in with that false sense of brotherhood and fellowship.”
His parents were oblivious to the signs that their son was getting lost. He went to the wrong people for advice, who pulled him “deeper and deeper into my own destruction,” he says.
Because of his depression, he went so far as to deny God to his father.
“I felt like if God is so good, then why are we suffering?” he says. “At that point I was so beat up and at that point so demonically influenced that I walked into my room and I ended up putting my gun to my head.”
But while he was turning his back on God, God never turned his back on Sevin.
“The Holy Spirit ended up falling on me, and I felt this overwhelming sense of love and peace and acceptance that I couldn’t deny,” he remembers. “It literally reached through my body and touched my heart and changed me. The God of the Bible that I always thought was this impersonal, fake entity that either wasn’t real or didn’t care about us, that God came off of these pages and jumped into my real life.”
The previous week, he went to school, as was his custom, with a gun. The next week, he went with a Bible and told all the “homies” at the lunch table that they needed to study with him.
“In my past I felt like I was in this black hole, isolated and alone,” he says. “Now I don’t feel that way. God’s in me, with me, around me everywhere I go.”
Being born-again, he had a burning desire to use his musical talents for the Lord. Having made a name for himself as a rising rapper on the streets, he wanted to dedicate to the Lord the talent he had used for Satan.
He almost immediately got involved in music, but he hadn’t completely left the world and wound up with charges related to drugs. Now he thinks he was put on a platform too early in his baby Christian faith. He should have concentrated first on his growth in the Lord without launching straight into leadership ministry.
But hindsight is 20/20. When he wound up in jail with a felony, the same people who embraced his turn to Christianity now turned their back on him and reviled him for his “hypocrisy.” It stung Sevin deeply that apparently nobody would stand with him in his court case.
The sting ran deep and formed the foundations of his current ministry. Now, Sevin says he doesn’t allow anyone to advance in ministry until they have served for a year. And he reaches out to those who backslide and fall into jail. When fellow Christian rapper PyRexx got locked up, Sevin visited and offered to pay his bills and watch over his wife.
In the meantime, his heart was growing hard due to what he felt was betrayal. When he was young, he was molested at church. Church people, he believed, would hurt you but not stand with you when you were hurt.
While he continued with that thought, he was still drinking and using drugs, even while he put out Christian music, he said.
“I was betrayed by people who were claiming to be the people of God,” Sevin says. “I had one foot in because I knew the truth, but I had no fellowship and didn’t have a real deep understanding of the gospel.”
He was “stuck in limbo.” Read how Sevin Christian rapper got unstuck and out of limbo.
When Katelyn Ohashi dropped out of elite gymnastics due to injury, she felt relieved.
“I was happy to be injured,” she says starkly in a video.
Katelyn broke the Internet last week when her perfect-10 floor routine at UCLA wowed people with rarely seen feats that included a mind-boggling splits bounce.
Katelyn, who has identified as Christian, was born to a Japanese dad and German mom and raised in Seattle. She thrived at gymnastics from childhood and made the national team at age 12.
She actually beat her famous teammate Simone Biles in the 2013 American Cup, but a shoulder injury and subsequent back injury ruled her out of competition for two years.
The blow would have been crushing to any aspiring star and might have provoked an identity crisis. But for Katelyn, it meant the end of unbearable pressure and body shaming she was subjected to over the Internet.
“After my first and last senior competition, I was told that I might never be able to do gymnastics again,” she said on Good Morning America. “It was like this weight was lifted off of me.”
Unlike her comrades, she was happy to drop down to Level 10 gymnastics and enter UCLA as a freshman in 2015. Without the glare of the cameras, she was able to rediscover her love for the sport and simply enjoy life. She could eat a burger and fries without feeling guilty and fretting about getting chubby, which had elicited anonymous snipes online.
“As a 14 year old, it’s kind of hard to cope with because you are still developing as a person,” she says. It’s an age when “everything really impacts you.”
During her freshman year in UCLA gymnastics, she told her coach, “I just don’t want to be great again. When I was great, there was nothing joyful about it. I wasn’t happy. So why would I want to go back there?”
Recently she interviewed with Serve Your Truth and confided: “Right now, I’m reading a lot to get more content with my blog. I’ve been reading the New Testament in the Bible because I am trying to improve my relationship with God. Someone once told me, ‘I don’t put my trust in people down here; I put my trust in God up there.’”
Apparently, it worked because joy permeated her most recent floor routine from start to finish.
Today, the 21-year-old sensation wants to shame the body shamers.
“In gym, makeup is forced on really young girls. If we don’t put on makeup, we are docked points,” she says. “I never felt the need to present myself with makeup because I believed I should be judged on my skills. After that competition, there were so many comments about my hair not being perfect. I won a big competition and people only cared about how I look.”
She wrote a poem entitled “Self-Hatred Goodbyes.” Here are some lines:
That only those people with the right, perfect bodies have the right to stand.
But here today, I stand, with the love that penetrates deeper than any wedding band.
Because I am my own size, and no words or judgmental stares will make me compromise.
For the bittersweet satisfaction that lays within my eyes, within my thighs,
I finally got my cake and ate it too for my old self-cries.
And today, my self-hatred says its goodbyes.
“There was a time when I was on top of the world, an Olympic hopeful. I was unbeatable — until I wasn’t,” Katelyn says on a video uploaded by the Players Tribune. “That girl that you would think had it all — all these medals in her room, the podium she’s standing on, she thought she had nothing.”
Her confidence wavered over fan criticisms that focused on her looks or weight, the shape of her body. She wanted to eat junk food and exercised constantly after eating so that she would pass periodic weight tests to not be kicked off the team.
“(I) was on this path of almost invincibility, and then (my) back just gave out,” she says. “I was broken.”
But the brokenness wasn’t the disappointment over the injury. It was the internal self-doubt from the lacerating comments from nasty “fans.” She embraced the pull away from gymnastics.
“I wanted to experience what it was like to be a kid again,” Katelyn says. “Nobody ever knew really what I was going through, and I could never say what was wrong with me. I couldn’t accept myself. I was happy to be injured.”
Others, however, didn’t embrace her injury and urged her to strive to return to the top flight. “I was compared to a bird that couldn’t fly. I hated myself.” Read the rest about Katelyn Ohashi Christian.
His father brought American-born Hazem Farraj back to Jerusalem to teach him the ways of Islam. But the then-12-year-old stunned his parents by adopting a different path, one that would lead to his family’s rejection.
Farraj committed himself to his father’s plan to rediscover his roots. But the more he prayed and practiced the rituals of Islam, the more his doubts grew.
“If you’re praying to Allah, and you don’t see no response from Allah, then you need to figure out who’s listening or who’s answering that prayer,” he says on a Road to Jesus video. “That’s what I had to do. Praying prayers to heaven it was like heaven was brass. They would fall back to me. I was searching.”
But in his quest to know Allah, he grew frustrated and angry. “It made me mad because here we came as a family halfway around the globe from America to the Middle East,” he says, “and the god I came to follow was not responding.”
It only made him angrier to meet upstairs neighbors in his building that were Christian. Why did they have joy and peace while Farraj had nothing? He describes the one and a half years quest for truth as “an identity crisis.”
“I was getting trained culturally as a Muslim, but the Islam I found shocked me,” he says. “Instead of running into the god of Islam, I found Jesus.”
The upstairs neighbors smiled a lot. They were nice. They showed love.
They projected the image of God in their faces, and it bothered Farraj. So one day he challenged the family’s father, who was legally blind. Why hadn’t Jesus, if He were real, healed him?
The man explained everything Jesus had done for him. They talked for four hours. Farraj was intrigued but not ready to relinquish the faith of his upbringing.
Some weeks later, the family invited him to McDonald’s — with a catch: first they were going to church. Would he come with them?
“I was observing all the happy Christians raising their hands and worshiping God, singing to someone they knew was real. To see these people happy and so alive in Jesus was a shocker,” he says.
But then the grave warnings against abandoning Islam reared their monstrous memory in his mind. He was attracted to the Light but fighting it every step of the way.
Farraj left the church and went down to the first floor, where he knelt to Mecca and prayed his Islamic prayers. It was no good.
“When you taste something so sweet and then you taste something so bitter, the bitter became so bitter. So that’s what happened in this prayer,” Farraj says. “I went from this amazing, glorious presentation of a God who loves His people and the people who loved their God to praying and hearing crickets.
“At that point I was so angry. I finished my prayers on my knees, and I said with tears rolling down my face, ‘Whoever you are, whether you are the god of the Koran, I’m needing you to do something because I’m being lost to this Jesus I sure as heck hope that you see this struggle because I’m losing this one, man. I’m trying to do your job and this is not working out. I’m trying to hold on to Islam by the skin of my teeth, wanting it to be real.”
After pledging his loyalty to Allah and asking for help, he considered the possibility of the legitimacy of the antithesis.
“But if you are Jesus who these people are happy believing, whatever the truth is, I’m going to find it.”
He returned to the service.
“I got up and went to sit back in my pew, and I wasn’t angry anymore and I was appreciating that these people were in a place in their relationship with God that I was desiring for so long.”
The next day, he climbed the stairs to talk with the blind father.
Farraj attempted to say, “I want to become a Christian,” but fear kept him from pronouncing the word “Christian.” For 40 minutes, he tried but could only pronounce the “c” sound. Finally the father told him he had to leave, and if he wanted to complete the sentence, he needed to do so immediately.
Farraj gathered all his strength, focused his energies and ripped the words out: “I want to become a Christian.”
Two days later at the appointed time, Farraj accepted Jesus into his heart and became born-again. It was a feeling like no other.
“I literally wanted to jump, scream, shout,” he says. “I didn’t want the Christians to think I was crazy. I literally had to tame my spirit. I was set free. My countenance changed completely. My life changed.” But his Dad was not happy. Find out what happened by finishing the read: Palestinian converted to Christianity.
I’ve launched into bamboo steamer business. I’m into healthy food and exercise, so this is perfect for me. Here are observations of an expert: Moist heat techniques – steaming, cooking en papillote, shallow poaching, deep poaching and simmering are liquid and or water vapor based cooking. Steaming Cooking is done by water vapor in a closed vessel. Steamed foods don’t lose much of their color. This method doesn’t impart their own flavor as the frying or roasting does. So […]
- 2 tablespoons coconut cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 /2 tablespoons ginger, chopped
- 1 teaspoon garlic
- 2 white fish, (use fillets), around 110 grams each
- 1 cup leeks
- 1/4 cup tomatoes, sliced
- 1/4 cup broccoli, small florets
- 1 cup baby carrots, sliced in half lengthwise
How to Cook Ginger Fish
Blend together apple or coconut cider vinegar, light soy sauce , sesame oil, chopped ginger, and chopped garlic in a large bowl; set aside.
Combine white fish fillets, chopped leeks, sliced tomatoes, broccoli florets, and baby carrots; toss in the dressing until evenly coated. Divide into 2 equal portions. Wrap each portion of the fish and vegetables in a wax liner and steam in 10-inch bamboo steamer for 25 to 30 minutes. Let sit to cool before opening.
Editor’s note: Of course, I salivate over the enticing posts of many of my foodie blogs that I subscribe to (and that reciprocally subscribe to me). Now I am joining the throng with my own recipe I found that works.
Adopted from Yummy.ph
Every morning in school, Darwish shouted the customary class-wide chant repeated like the pledge of allegiance in America: “Death to Israel!”
As a Muslim in anti-Semitic Iran, Darwish hated the Jews but never knew why.
He graduated military school and became a commander in the Iranian army. He was moving up the ranks, but he acquired a nasty drug habit. “I became addicted,” he says on a One For Israel video on YouTube.
When he was discharged from the army, he got a fabulous job with great compensation.
But he wanted even more success, so he decided to go abroad where opportunities were greater. He made the dangerous journey from Istanbul to Bosnia and finally to England, where he applied for asylum.
On his application, he justified his need for asylum by stating he was a persecuted Christian.
This was a lie, only a ploy to increase his chances of being granted legal status in the West, where he enjoyed freedom and prosperity.
He realized that eventually he would be called to account for his version, so he decided to arm himself with knowledge of Christianity. Dutifully, he went to church. He filled his mind with the basic doctrines of Christianity.
Still, he felt no compulsion to accept Jesus as his Savior.
“My brain was full of information,” Darwish says. “But my heart was still dark.”
On the day of his interview, he asked his pastor to go with him, but his pastor refused.
“You are not a Christian,” the pastor told him. “It is all a lie (on your application). Yeshua asked you to stand on truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Darwish was outraged by the pastor’s refusal to support him. Why wouldn’t his pastor help him? He was now in very real jeopardy of being deported to Iran.
That night alone at home, he cried out to God. “If there is any God,” he prayed desperately, “show yourself to me because I can’t continue anymore.
Then something remarkable happened. God revealed Himself to Darwish. “In that moment, He healed me completely of drugs. He touched my heart.”
Darwish was born again, filled with resurrection power by the Holy Spirit. “That was a power just working in my heart,” he remembers. “I tried several times before to give up the drugs, but I couldn’t. But that time I asked Yeshua to start a new life, and He did.”
The next day, he confessed his lies on the application to the immigration official. His status change request was, naturally, denied.
But Darwish wasn’t completely without resources or hope. Most importantly, he had finally started a legitimate relationship with Christ. Embarking on a new life, he also was given a new legal strategy, one based on truth.
He appealed the summary denial of his visa application and was granted a court hearing.
By the ironic sovereignty of God, he wound up in a Messianic congregation. Darwish, the man who grew up hating Jews without knowing why, suddenly found himself in a body of completed Jews.
He even became part of the worship team.
When his court date came, the judge asked him what he had done the day before.
He had led worship. He had been reading Psalm 96, and he recited it to the judge and the court. Read the rest of Iranians hate Israel.
After his father succumbed to cancer, David Silva Jr. was “eaten up with guilt” because he hadn’t been there for his dad through the chemotherapy and hospitalizations.
So he tried to commit suicide. When his girlfriend left, he tied a noose around his neck, fastened it to the bar in a closet, took a bunch of pills and let himself fall.
But his girlfriend came back in suddenly and rescued him, marking the beginning of David’s turnaround from meth abuser to Christ follower, now 31-years-old. Nearly half his life had been consumed by addiction.
“I never thought it would be so easy for me to quit. It had to have been God. I didn’t have no withdrawals or anything,” says David, who hasn’t been sober for a year yet. “I felt I was on fire for Jesus.”
David first got into trouble because of the kids he was hanging with in Pacoima where he grew up. They took drugs, so he eventually tried them in the 10th grade. Very quickly he transitioned from marijuana to crystal meth.
“I’ve always been upity up. So I liked meth because the feeling you get is you’re alert. It’s a stimulant, but eventually you start losing control of your own mind,” David says. “Because of the lack of sleep you start hallucinating, hearing things and seeing things. When you open your mind up to that much evil, you’re actually seeing things that are actually there.”
David did construction work with his dad, but since the two of them argued constantly on the job site, he eventually left home. He “screwed up” some really good employments because of his drug use.
“Me and my dad had a big blowout,” he says. “We always bumped heads. We had a really bad relationship on the job site. We always wanted to be in control. We had ups and downs. We had a love-hate relationship with me.”
He was sleeping in his truck but eventually found favor with a drug dealer to sleep on his couch. Fixing a car for a friend of his dealer, he met the girl who would become his girlfriend. He fell asleep on the patio at a barbecue at her house and just stayed there.
He would do handyman jobs and install security systems and cameras and home entertainment units. Sometimes, he would be at police officer’s houses installing systems — and he would be high while he was doing it.
By many accounts, methamphetamines are second only to opioids in popularity on the mean streets of America. The drug triggers a jolting release of dopamine, the happy hormone. Users go for days without sleeping or eating as the drug becomes their single focus in life. David stuffed toilet paper in his cheeks for his driver’s license photo so he wouldn’t look so gaunt.
“You can do $300 of meth and it won’t hit you because your body is so exhausted. They call it the burn out,” David says. “No matter what amount of meth you do, it won’t hit you.”
Towards the end, David starting hanging out in underground casinos, “getting involved in some really heavy things, with some really gnarly gang members who were notorious” in the criminal world, he says. “I was involved in all kinds of illegal activities.”
Meanwhile his mom and dad were praying for him. Even when he was high, he would remember God and even talk to other users about God.
“God had purpose for me,” he says. “Smoking with 20 guys I was still talking about God and get into debates about good and evil. I would wonder how I could debate about God while I was high. God never leaves us.”
David’s parents hadn’t heard from him in nine months when his dad was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Mom was afraid to tell her son the complete diagnosis for fear it might make him spin out of control with the drugs, but she sent word that dad was in the hospital through some friends.
David came home and made peace with his father. Eventually he found out he was dying of cancer, and he began to spin out of control.
“I lost it. I started using drugs really really badly, even worse than before,” he says. “I became reckless. I didn’t care.”
When his dad was in the hospital for the last time with liquids oozing out of his mouth and nose, David was there to help.
“I love you,” he told his father, who stared back with eyes of fear, unable to speak himself.
“It was too late,” David says. “It ate me up so bad. I was afraid he didn’t hear me when I told him I love you. We didn’t really make that peace. The guilt was so much. I wasn’t there for my dad like I should’ve been. I was too busy getting high. I got in a really dark place, and I lost sense of everything.”
Two days after his father (a born-again) Christian died, David was overcome with guilt and grief and tried to commit suicide but was interrupted by his girlfriend.
With no sense of closure or peace, David threw himself into rabid drug use with a fury. This time, not even his girlfriend knew where he was, in a tent underneath an overpass bridge. He dropped from 188 to 140 pounds when an acquaintance brought him a message.
“Finally one of my friends came looking for me and said, ‘Dude, your mom is really worried about you she wants you to come home,” he recalls.
He agreed to go with mom to church where he met a fellow former user, Eric, who encouraged him in God. Especially important was that Eric told David his father was proud of him. That made him feel good, but also guilty because he wasn’t living a life to be proud of. So he decided to give it a try.
And then came the radical change in his life: a church camping trip.
It’s funny how the church has advanced to streamed sermons, devotional apps and seeker-friendly sermons, but the old methodology for Christian camping is still one of the most powerful discipleship tools.
David went to the Sequoia National Forest. He had always loved camping, and he made himself useful helping set up tents and doing most of the cooking. He led hikes into the mountains and helped chop wood for the campfires. He fellowshipped with Eric and grew strong in the camaraderie.
But it was the last night that broke his heart and solidified his decision to serve Jesus. At a campfire his younger brother Elijah publicly thanked God for giving him back his older brother.
“I’m sorry for being a screw up all those years,” David responded through tears.
When Moses came down Mount Sinai, his face glowed from the glory of God. Something similar happened to David.
“After the camping trip, I felt I was on fire for Jesus,” he says. “Just having my family back. Just knowing that I was doing something that my dad wanted for me. Just knowing that I was doing something that would make him feel proud of me.”
He kicked meth.
He didn’t suffer the usual physical symptoms of withdrawal. But at night, he saw demons. This was strange to him because he’d never hallucinated while taking meth. It was when he quit meth that he saw the fiendish beings mocking him at night.
“I couldn’t sleep. I’d be afraid to fall asleep because I was afraid I would see more demons. They were imps,” David says. “It was like an out of body experience, like I was watching myself sleeping, and these gnarly hairy creatures, imps with lots of teeth, were moving around harassing my brother as if they were saying, ‘If we can’t have you, we’re going to take your brother.’” Read the rest of the story about meth addict freed by Jesus.
On a pitch-black night, Canon couldn’t see he was on a bridge when he stopped to help a driver involved in a crash. As gasoline poured out from the vehicle, the driver turned his ignition without thinking. Panicking that the action might trigger an explosion, Canon leaped over what he thought was just a median divider.
The Lecrae protégé plunged 30 feet to the ground and nearly killed himself. Canon, whose real name is Aaron McCain, shattered his ankle, broke his jaw and suffered a concussion following a Dec. 20, 2014 concert.
His recovery took two years.
Canon, famous for his speed rap, returned from his death-defying fall with the third and final installation of his popular mixtap series Loose Canon (a pun). He’s followed that up with the album Home in December. The brush with death brought a new dimension to his ministry: it’s less about hip hop and fame and more about Jesus.
Canon has come a long way since he was a rebellious church teen.
Growing up in Chicago, little Aaron began to see that churchgoers were often hypocrites. His mom worked at the Moody Bible Institute, and his parents forced him to go to an “old school” black Baptist church. Except for the pretty girls that attracted him at church, he didn’t like it.
“I hated church, that’s the truth, that’s the reality of it,” he declared in a 2103 YouTube video filmed at a small concert. “Church was all fake to me. Christians was (sic) all fake to me. Christians made me feel awkward.
“Every time I walked up to someone, I felt like I had to be perfect. Every time I went to church, they made me take my do rag off. They were like: ‘You look like a thug,’ And I was like, ‘Well you look like a pimp.’ I never liked the church culture. They made me feel weird.”
Momma forced him to participate in ministry. He didn’t want to be an usher because they had to wear fancy white gloves. Being a deacon had no appeal to him because he didn’t know what the Greek-derived word meant, so he opted for the less painful ministry: being in the choir.
He went to all the youth camps and activities, but he never contended for a miracle or a real encounter with God in his life. His life remained unchanged.
“I knew how people acted in church and how people acted out of church,’ he says. “When I was around Christian people, I knew what face to put on, I knew what words to say. But when I was around ‘my boys,’ I knew how to put on that face. I knew how to play the game but after a while I got tired of playing the game.
“It got old after a while,” he recounted. “I got tired of wearing that mask.”
He explored the party scene and sought only fun for a time.
Then he met some authentic Christians.
“I met some real believers who actually live out the faith,” he recalled. “They did a lot more than my old group of Christians did. They actually prayed. They weren’t fake. I was able to look at their lifestyle and say, ‘If your lifestyle looks like that and you’re a believer, then I may not be a believer.’”
He was unnerved because their testimonies upended his understanding of Christianity. Ultimately, he decided he’d better get right with God, and he made the decision of his own accord to accept Jesus into his heart and was born again.
Because of his penchant for hip hop, he began attending The House, a rap-culture church in Lawndale, a suburb of Chicago.
“I felt like I’d found something I’d been looking for my whole life—a hip hop church with kids around my age, doing things I wanted to do,” he told Christianity Today. At the time, he called himself MC Spook “ because I want my lyrics to be deep enough to spook people into really thinking about faith and everyday life.”
Eventually, he met Lecrae, who made him his hype man and took him on tour. His relationship with the Christian hip hop legend grew, as did a friendship with Derek Minor, another big name in CHH. Ultimately, Canon would sign for Minor’s Reflection Music Group.
“Canon is like a mad scientist,” Minor says on an RMG video about Canon’s accident. “He’s like, (changing to Dr. Jekyll voice) ‘Let me go to the studio, and I’ll bring you back a hit.’ You don’t hear from him for three months, and then he comes back with a Dr. Frankenstein monster of an album.”
Lecrae featured Canon on his album Rehab. Applying lessons learned through the mentoring Canon released “The Great Investment” in 2009 to widespread positive reception.
He was climbing the hierarchy.
Then he plummeted — literally, not figuratively.
His death-defying dive resulted from him trying to help a truck driver.
He had only gotten married three weeks earlier.
The December concert was unusual because Canon was somber. He cut off the music, asked the fans to sit down and talked to them about being serious for Christ. “At any point, you could be gone,” he told the crowd, according to his road manager Brandon Mason.
Afterwards, he delayed hobnobbing with fans at the merchandise table, so Derek Minor got impatient and went ahead to the agreed-upon restaurant.
When Canon, his road manager and the deejay left in three separate cars at 10:30 p.m., they saw the flipped truck on a stretch of road with no lighting.
“I didn’t realize I was standing on a bridge,” Mason says. “That’s how dark it was.”
Both Canon and Mason parked and jumped out to aid the fateful truck driver. Canon kicked out the window and offered to help the driver get out. Canon warned about the fuel pouring over the pavement, but the driver was in some kind of shock and instead started the ignition, Mason says.
Canon jumped the median. He fell to the bottom of the ravine. Mason ran down to him.
“Man, I’m scared,” Canon told him. Read more about Canon’s fall.
Marcus Tyrone Gray took care of his schizophrenic mom while his dad was in the streets, binging on drugs in the projects of St. Louis.
“I had the responsibility of really overseeing my mom,” Marcus told CBN. “There would be times where she wouldn’t even recognize me. She could curse me out or call me names or just start treating me as if I’m her enemy or something like that. My dad would be gone days on end, blowing time, you know, getting high. Everything was just unstable.”
Until her death, his grandmother was the only solid foundation in his life. But with her untimely passing, 16-year-old Marcus began acting out, picking fights at school. It was a way of asserting control over a reality that was out of control.
It got him arrested and expelled.
“When (Grandma) passed away, I felt like I lost a part of my own soul, a part of my being had been cut off. Because she was my everything. I just remember trying to be strong, but not having the ability to. My natural bent was to check out and to retreat, you know, stay in the clubs, do whatever would distract me, block me, numb me from reality.”
His life was spiraling quickly toward becoming a hardened criminal, a pariah of no use to society.
Then he developed a crush on a girl, and she invited him to church.
“I decided to go because of the hopelessness. I felt like I’m trying all of these different things to bring about what I actually want,” he says. “I was overwhelmed with the Gospel message of Jesus’ love. Jesus loves you. And I was so overwhelmed with this love, you know, Jesus’ love, and I remember thinking like, he does love a bad person. And it sounded exactly like the things that my grandmother would tell me.”
As the Word and Spirit touched his heart, he was born again.
The next thing you know, Marcus was on fire for God. He would take his Bible to school and stand up on the desk in middle of class and preach to his fellow students (for this he wound up in the principal’s office). He would invite people to church incessantly and fill up a whole pew of 15 needy kids headed towards a life of crime if Jesus didn’t intervene.
From death and destruction, his life became an intense flame. So that’s his stage name today, Flame.
A Billboard topper and Grammy nominee who launched Clear Sight Music, Flame has nine albums. He was offered a million dollar contract from a secular label, with only one condition: no mentioning Christ. He turned it down.
Flame does outreach in the streets of St. Louis constantly. After a shooting on the dangerous west side, Flame was praying with sinners and handing out Bibles when he met gang member Travis Tremayne Tyler. The hardened criminal wound up accepting Jesus and became a fellow Christian rapper star, Thi’sl. Continue reading and find out about Flame’s fight against racism.
As a church kid, Dylan Phillips thought all he had to do was be good.
“I just thought that getting good grades, not talking back, going to church, those were all the same thing,” he says on Jam the Hype.
But how good? When he got into his teen years, he started sneaking off and dabbling in sin. Then his pastor hit him straight between the eyes with a sermon titled, “Faith without works is dead.”
“There wasn’t an outworking of that faith in my life. That really started to be evident in my teens,” Dylan says. “My pastor at the time preached in James 2. That showed me that intellectual belief, no matter how factually that belief is held, by itself, if there’s no outworking in your life as Jesus as your Lord, doesn’t make you any different than the demons.”
Now serious about his walk with God, Dylan Phillips is a red-hot Christian rapper for Capitol Records. His feel-good style and catchy melodies are enhanced by upbeat lyrics. Songs about purple dinosaurs and yabadabadoos! communicate themes of love and community.
Underscoring the fact that he doesn’t take himself too seriously and as a counterpoint for the secular rapper BIG whom he admired, he adopted the stage name nobigdyl. (dyl is the first part of his name). “The heart behind it is that my music isn’t about me,” he says. He insists it must be all lower case, the opposite of his collective colleague WHATUPRG?
His humility is a breath of fresh air amid the growing toxicity of trap rap pride taking over Christian hip hop.
Despite his self-deprecating stance, nobigdyl is a big deal.
His flows are oriented toward youth, about breakups, suicide, drug addiction and self-esteem.
But the dour broodings of NF may be contrasted with the buoyant optimism of nobigdyl.
Dyl was born in Hayward, California, in 1991, but his family moved to Bell Buckle, Tennessee when he was nine. He’s now based in Nashville. His dad secretly introduced him to hip hop (against Mom’s wishes), and he became a fan of The Notorious B.I.G. and Onyx.
He studied audio and production at Middle Tennessee State University before switching majors to focus on the business side of music. He grew academically, professionally and most importantly spiritually. “My faith didn’t really become my own until I went to college,” he says.
Through connections, he started managing CHH legend Derek Minor.
This led to his big break: he got fired. Find out how nobigdyl getting fired led to his success.
When the collegiate national championship game is played Monday, the two quarterbacks competing against each other on the gridiron will both be Christians.
Trevor Lawrence at Clemson and Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama are outspoken believers who put their faith before football.
Lawrence boasts a 67% passing accuracy this season, while Tua enjoyed 70% pinpoint precision.
Tua, whose full Somoan name is Tuanigamanuolepola, made Hawaiian waves (he’s from Hawaii, so of course…) when he posted a picture of himself with eye black painted in the form of the cross under his eyes against Tennessee University.
“Jesus pride!!! Go Tua…and all others who stand for Christ,” one person commented on Facebook. “I appreciate the fact that he isn’t at all shy about his faith. Way to go Tua!”
Tua selected the Crimson Tide of Alabama University despite intense competition for the quarterback position because Christianity is a big part of the locker room. The previous year, Jalen Hurts won the SEC offensive player of the year as the Crimson QB.
“A lot of people are rooted in the Word over here just like back home,” Tagovailoa noted on BamaInsider. “The Southern hospitality is almost the same as the love and the kindness that they show back at home.
“You have to go places to compete, so why not come to the best place?” he added. “You want to play with the best, I guess. That’s kind of my thing. Anywhere you go, you’re going to have to compete.”
Tua was given a chance to play during some blowout games during his freshman season. But in the championship game when Hurts was losing at the first half, Tua was given the nod to lead his team to a comeback 26-23 victory against Georgia last season. Read the rest of the story of Tua Christian
Nicknamed the “Archer,” Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks celebrates touchdowns by mimicking a bow and arrow shot as a reference to the Bible.
“It’s just another way to be able to glorify God rather than just pointing to the sky,” Cooks says in Sports Spectrum. “Just bringing a unique way, so my hope is when fans see me, they see God in me. That’s the biggest part of it all. If anything, I’m shooting it at God. It’s my way of thanking him and bringing a little twist to it.”
Cooks alludes to Psalms 144:6: “Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy; shoot your arrows and rout them.”
A devout Christian, Cooks shoots plenty of scriptural arrows through social media.
“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Whatever you do walk with boldness, and know you are fully equipped,” he tweeted recently.
Cooks was born on Sept. 25, 1993 in Stockton, California, and lived there with his father, Worth Cooks, and mother, Andrea Cooks. His father died of a heart attack when he was only 6-years-old so Wayne and his three brothers were raised by their mother.
He began to show promise in football playing for Stockton’s Lincoln High School. He grabbed 141 receptions for 2,508 yards and 28 touchdowns, which ranked him the 26th-best wide receiver and the 240th overall prospect in his class, according to the Recruiting Network.
Cooks then attended Oregon State University, where he caught 226 receptions for 3,272 yards and 24 touchdowns. As a senior, he was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in 2014. In Cooks’ first career game, he made seven receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown.
This made him the youngest player, at 20, to catch a touchdown pass in the NFL since Reidel Anthony in 1997. As he closed his first season, Cooks had 53 receptions gaining 550 yards and three touchdowns before injuring his thumb in Week 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
In 2015 Cooks began the season as the #1 wide receiver for the Saints. In the Week 5 game against the Philadelphia Eagles he received over 100 yards in one game for the first time in his career. His five receptions totaled 107 yards and a touchdown. Read the rest of Brandin Cooks Christian.
Clemson freshman sensation quarterback Trevor Lawrence made clear that he doesn’t care as much about football as he does about Jesus.
“Eerily similar” to Deshaun Watson, Lawrence made heads turn as he threw for 2,933 total yards, 27 touchdowns and four interceptions with a 65.5 completion percentage, leading his team to the national championship game on Jan. 7th.
“Football is important to me, obviously, but it’s not my life; it’s not like the biggest thing in my life, I would say my faith is,” the 6’5” 215-pound precision passer said in a postgame interview. “That just comes from knowing who I am outside of (football). No matter how big the situation is, it’s not going to define me. I put my identity in what Christ says and who He thinks I am and who He says I am.
“So really, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what people think about me or how good they think I play or whatever.”
Clemson University is happy to have the calm, cool and collected QB marshaling their missiles.
“When he first got here, you could always tell. He just had a presence about him. His talent, it’s fun to watch.” says senior offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt on The State website. “I always sensed it in practice.” Read he rest of Trevor Lawrence Christian.
Left dazed and reeling with fury, Kendrick Lamar was in a Food 4 Less parking lot after his buddy had just been shot and killed. Rage for revenge burned inside, but so did a gripping sense of horror at the evil in this world.
Seeing him in turmoil, a friend’s grandmother approached and talked to Kendrick about God, and the teenager accepted Jesus into his heart.
“One of my homeboys got smoked,” Lamar told the New York Times. “She had seen that we weren’t right in the head. That was her being an angel for us.” He got baptized a decade later.
Today, the seven-time Grammy winner makes frequent reference to God’s salvation and grace, as well as temptation and fear of judgment in his songs. While the rank and file of the church eschews him for his profanity and descriptions of sexual sin in other songs, his secular audience has no doubt about his faith.
“I’m the closest thing to a preacher that they have,” says Lamar, 31. But he adds, “My word will never be as strong as God’s word. All I am is just a vessel, doing his work.”
Vassar College professor of music Kiese Laymon calls him a “prophetic witness.” Revolt online magazine says Lamar “wears his faith, spirituality, and religious beliefs on his sleeve.” He doesn’t drink, smoke, use drugs or womanize.
Lamar is part of the bridge forming between secular and Christian hip hop. While Lecrae moves toward the secular side, Lamar and a host of other artists are pulling away from unbridled hedonism and exploring salvation themes. (Chance the Rapper, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West and even Drake also include songs that talk unashamedly about God and Jesus in their repertoire.)
Lamar grew up in Compton, Calif. His father belonged to the Gangster Disciples gang. Little Kendrick witnessed his first murder at 5 and his second at 8. His parents didn’t teach him about God, but his grandmother instilled him with Bible knowledge.
Growing up on welfare, living in Section 8 housing, the youngster worried that he would succumb to the debasing poverty, drug-trafficking, violence and hopelessness of the hood, even though he was a straight-A student.
At just 16, he signed for Top Dawg Entertainment, based in Carson, Calif., under the stage name K-Dot. After opening for prominent artists and working with Snoop Dogg, Lamar broke through on his own with his second album Good Kid, MAAD City, which hit Billboard’s #2 in its first week in 2012. In it, he depicts vividly the urban fiendishness of the hood.
He opens the album with these words: Lord God, I come to you a sinner, and I humbly repent for my sins. I believe that Jesus is Lord. I believe that you raised Him from the dead. I will ask that Jesus will come into my life and be my Lord and Savior. I receive Jesus to take control of my life that I may live for Him from this day forth. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for saving me with your precious blood. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
He followed up in 2015 with To Pimp a Butterfly, which went certified platinum and won a Grammy for best rap album of the year. Then in 2017 he came out with Damn, which fathoms the loss of faith in the light of a volatile world of malfunction.
While Lamar’s music is pioneering, it’s his vocal inflections and lyrical substance that earn him widespread respect. For Damn, he won the first-ever Pulitzer Prize not given to jazz or classical music. Former President Obama singled out Lamar as one of his favorite rappers. He’s called King Kendrick.
On Damn, an apparent endorsement of the Hebrew Israelite movement, an aberrant group with claims blacks in America are actually God’s chosen people from Israel, elicited a response from Christian rapper Flame, who in “Absolute Truth” exposes their flawed exegesis.
“A lot of people fall for it,” Flame said on the radio program of Vocab Malone. “It feels good. It puffs up your pride, the ethnocentrism.”
Damn is less uplifting than his earlier albums. By plumbing the depths of discouragement, Lamar is encouraging his listeners that platitudes should be discarded and that it’s okay to be real and raw before God. Read the rest of Kendrick Lamar Christian?
Almost all my gym buddies made it for the 2018 end at the gym. My wife and son are on the left. On my right (from left to right) is Captain America, Hulk and Spiderman. Hahaha. That’s what I call them. Only missing: David.
I’m a believer not just in spiritual health but physical health also. The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so we out to take care of it.
I cried for the villain in Creed II. His father didn’t abandon him.
Viktor Drago, the son of Rocky IV villain Ivan, challenges the world’s heavyweight champion Adonis Creed. Ivan was a terrifying boxing machine with an intimidating deep voice, the product of the Soviet athlete-production plan. When he lost to Rocky in the 1985 film, he lost fame, fortune and his wife.
He trains his son relentlessly. Inevitably, he’ll match up with Rocky’s “adopted” son, Creed.
Creed II follows a predictable come-back. What’s not predictable is the development of the father-son relationship theme that has much to teach Christians.
Adonis, the protagonist, gets adopted for training and mentoring by Rocky in the first movie. He’s the illegitimate son of Rocky’s old nemesis Apollo Creed and never knew his real father. While Rocky prepares Adonis for the big fight, Adonis helps Rocky fight cancer behind the scenes.
In Creed II, the father-son theme gets developed. Rocky abandons Adonis for the first matchup, which he loses. He reconciles for a second matchup, which Adonis wins. Meanwhile, Adonis has a deaf daughter, and Rocky re-starts his relationship with his real son and grandson.
But the biggest sensation is when Viktor loses. When his dad, Ivan, lost 28 years ago, his wife abandoned him. Ivan trains Viktor with a revenge drive. Viktor is destined to regain respect for the family.
Then he loses the bout.
A super short scene of father and son jogging together is the most touching of the movie. The heartless abandonment that happened to Ivan did not happen to Victor. It’s a strange twist in which the antagonist becomes the protagonist. Fathers and sons win.
Creed II can help America with its failing fathers.
Propaganda always felt like he didn’t belong.
Born in south Los Angeles, the Christian hip hop sensation was raised in the West Covina area where Latinos were predominant and violence prevailed. He couldn’t join the gang because of his color.
“I was the one black kid, being teased because of my color, getting chased home, getting banged on when we’re walking home: ‘Where you from man?’” he says on an I am Second video. “I’d recognize (the) homie. And I’d say, ‘Paco, what are you talking about? I live two streets from you.’”
Then Propaganda, whose real name is Jason Petty, moved to the suburbs, where he felt like the poor kid among so many Caucasians.
“We were these weird black people that spoke Spanish,” he says. “They didn’t get us.”
His dad had been a Black Panther in the 60s, energized by fighting police brutality. Mom and Dad eventually got divorced.
Propaganda began attending church. Of all the kids, he felt God the most intensely.
“I was getting convicted,” he says. “I felt like God had split the roof open and was talking to me directly.
Moved by the power of the Word and the Spirit, he was born again.
He was disappointed when his friends didn’t get it. “The guys at my age, I remember them not being affected at all. It tripped me out because I felt like nobody else felt like that. But in my mind, it went back to just the same way I grew up: I’ve been ‘the only’ my whole life. So if I’ve been ‘the only’ there, I’ll be ‘the only’ here.”
He never missed church, and mom forced him to take notes on the sermons. She wanted to make sure he was listening. People saw his sensitivity to God and predicted he’d be a pastor.
But he wondered about where he would fit in best — with the church boys, the college-bound students, or the tagging street thugs. What he really liked was not the typical man things; he liked art.
From the sixth grade until his junior year in high school, Propaganda examined his life and tried to figure it out.
“I always felt like I don’t belong,” he says. “Whether I was born the wrong color, in the wrong neighborhood, in the wrong decade, to the wrong parents. I was not an alpha male. I was an artist. I would draw all the time. I wrote poetry.”
Finally, his father tipped him off to Jeremiah 1:9 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” and to Psalm 139:14 “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” These verses helped Propaganda to accept himself as exceptional and different from everybody else, a unique gift from God to the world.
“It was there that I finally realized my value is not determined by some innate, particular quality that I have,” he says. “No, your value is because God was willing to pay the cost of his Son for you.” Read the rest of the story Propaganda hip hop
His father was a drug dealer, his mom an alcoholic, and his sister a stripper. So Steven Malcolm started life with a few strikes against him.
He grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and then Tampa, Florida. Malcolm’s dad got busted for dealing drugs and was deported to Jamaica. Mom, who struggled with drinking, moved back to Grand Rapids, Michigan, when he was in the fifth grade. His sister drifted into a life of easy money based on her looks.
“I raised myself. I call it the school of hard knocks,” he says in his video “Watch.”
His two main passions growing up were basketball and chasing girls. He memorized Snoop Dog lyrics and slid by with a 1.7 GPA in high school.
Malcolm wanted to play on the local community college’s basketball team, but the steady stream of partying interfered with his studies and he didn’t earn good enough grades to get on the court. In his first year at college, his mom moved away and he felt like an orphan, abandoned and adrift.
“Going into my freshman year of college, stuff just really hit the fan and life really smacked me across the face,” Steven says on his website. “My family was going through hard times and then I started having an identity crisis where I was looking at life and wondering ‘what am I here for?’ My grades were horrible that year, so I couldn’t play ball. My best friend and I fell out and my mom ended up moving, so I was really lost.”
Then a high school basketball buddy invited him to church. Steven had never ventured into a sanctuary of Christian worship, and the prospect put him off. But he felt so abandoned, and his friend said he would find The Edge Urban Fellowship relevant.
“I’d never stepped foot in a church before. Now I’m thinking I’m going to have to pick up my pants, it’s going to be boring and nobody’s going to speak my language, but then he told me it was a hip-hop church, and since I had nothing to do that night, I thought ‘okay, sure, why not?’” Steven says. “And it was like a breath of fresh air that just smacked me in the face.” Read the rest about Steven Malcolm Christian.
For Christmas this year, hip hop artist 1K Phew can thank God not only for the gift of eternal life, but just plain life.
That’s because he narrowly survived being shot to death. It was the turning point in his life that caused him to reexamine what matters most.
1K Phew, whose real name is Isaac Gordon, was raised a Christian but started getting into trouble in his teen years.
“What really got me in a real-deal relationship with Christ was when I got in a real bad situation where I got shot at,” he says on video for Jam the Hype.
“I was fortunate enough not to get shot. Once that situation happened, I knew right then and there that if I kept doing the things I was doing, I was going to end either dead or in jail. So I had to make a decision right then and there as to what I wanted to do.”
He surrendered his life to Jesus and was born again.
He says Christmas has always been special time of year for him and his family.
“When I was in school, I was getting in all kinds of trouble. I got through all the whuppings. When Christmas came, there was a certain spirit that came in the house,” he says. “Christmas was the time of year we all did things together. We all came together as a family. No matter what happened throughout the year, getting ready for Christmas was so powerful to let us know that we could still have joy, no matter what we went through
Recently, 1K Phew released a Christmas carol album on Reach Records.
Yes, you read that right. Christmas carols a la hip hop. In a world where fusion food marries irreconcilably different styles to tantalize the palette, why would this seem strange?
Even Reach Record’s Senior Director of A&R couldn’t envision such a union. “Honestly, I wasn’t sold on Christmas and hip hop,” says Lasanna “Ace” Harris on a Youtube video. “I thought Christmas and hip hop don’t go together.
“The only way this could work if you take classic Christmas songs and re-imagine them. We wanted to dial back on trendy sonics and put more nostalgic, lo-fi sound with warm textures. We pulled back to the classic vibe of hip hop because I felt this album was going to be something timeless.”
There’s plenty of “re-imagining” of such inmortal classics as “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night” on “The Gift A Christmas Compilation.” The 116 Clique does much more than just repeat lyrics to new music, as so many artists have done before (making country carols or Hawaiian ukulele).
They actually enter new terrain with new lyrical concepts, and the vintage carols are reduced to a motif in their rendition. The result is refreshing and original, a mixture of pop music, rhythm and blues, gospel and rap. But unlike most “new” Christmas music, Jesus shines through like the old. Read the rest about hip hop Christmas carols.
Jordan Sheppard was the hero Wednesday as Lighthouse Christian Academy attempted to hold back the tsunami of Newbury Park Adventist Academy in co-ed soccer.
That’s because the inexperienced goalie parried countless shots.
“His hands must be hurting,” the referee quipped after the game.
Jordan, 17, appreciates the chance to play. Had it not been for Lighthouse opening its doors, Jordan says he’d be on the wrong path in life.
“Without Lighthouse, I think my life would be somewhere on the lines of being in jail or about to go to jail — or dead,” Jordan says bluntly. “One of those three.”
Lighthouse lost 1-6. Without Jordan’s class act in the box, it would have been worse.
But even when it loses, Lighthouse is winning — with what matters most.
It’s stories like Jordan’s that people LCA’s fabled history. As a Christian ministry, LCA prepares the college-bound, and at the same time it reaches at-risk youth. Understandably, not all succeed, but the stories of those who do are pure gold.
Coach Junior Cervantes was a similar story; from a Pacoima street tagger he turned into a college student, outstanding husband, son-in-law to Senior Pastor Rob Scribner of the Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica.
In terms of pure sports, Wednesday’s loss was an act of revenge. Newbury has been a league champion and a tough rival for Lighthouse. For the last three or four matchups, LCA has managed to get the upper hand.
The Gators were anxious to best the Saints. They fielded a top-notch team that moved the ball with precision and speed. They harried LCA all over the field. The Gators came ready to bite.
So unrelenting was their offense, the Saints were driven back to their half and only defended for most of the first half.
Coach Junior had to re-adjust at half time to offer some counter attack. Hosea Ashcraft pulled a foul outside of the box, fired the free kick around the wall bending it low on the far post for a consolation goal.
It was the Saints’ first loss of the season in four games in CIF Southern Section’s Omega League.
While the results were disheartening for the Saints, the game was nevertheless exhilarating. That’s because Newbury, playing at a high level, raised the level of the Saints players. The best way to get better is to play against better teams.
The supporting cast of non-soccer players got takeaways. They would have to work on ball control, improve on their passing, use their brain more in terms finding their position on the field. They need to use less touches and execute quicker.
As a newbie before the net, Jordan had to learn too. But the hulking 6-footer was up for the challenge and came off like a pro. How did he learn how to dive and perform the acrobats to frustrate Gator shot time after time?
“I just watched videos and I learned from different coaches. They all taught me what to do,” Jordan says. “I just go with the flow. People tell me what to do and I accept it and I learn from my mistakes.”
After learning to escape the unforgiving streets, learning goalie is easy. The senior credits a higher source for his own personal beating-of-the-odds.
“I didn’t do anything. It was all God. It was because of the friends He gave me,” Jordan says. “It was because of the stepping stones that He put in my life and the different achievements. If I wasn’t at Lighthouse I don’t think I would be a Christian and having so much fun playing.”
Christian Leyden always had a struggle when he was a boy.
His father wasn’t around when he was younger, so his mom was the only father and mother figure around, and she had to work two jobs to keep Christian and his brother safe and maintain a home for them.
When he was in third grade he would send his mother suicide letters saying he didn’t want to live anymore.
“I started fighting a lot, getting angry with a lot of people,” he says on a YouTube video. “There was a lot of damage here and there not having my father around.”
This depression continued for three years.
“I started listening to metal music, hip hop music and all this death metal music and all this music that started to get strong in my life,” Christian recounted.
In his teens he succumbed to cultural influences to party, do drugs, get women and to live a wild and crazy lifestyle.
Christian was always a person who wanted to be accepted, so a lack of friends angered him. But one day when he went see to his first high school football game, his older brother’s friends asked him to smoke weed and hang out with them.
“Just because they wanted to hang out with me, I was like, ‘Heck yea man I wanna hang out with you guys,’” exclaimed Christian.
Since he cared so much about their approval, he would pretty much do anything “friends” asked him.
“Three months into me smoking and drinking, I ended in a psych ward for telling my family about me cutting myself for years,” he says. “I just went through different stages in my life.”
For eight years he was in and out of institutions.
He drank while attending Alcoholics Anonymous. He took meth, Xanax, pills and heroin, despite going through rehabs and living in halfway houses.
When Christian got locked up in jail, his new life began. Read the rest: How do I get off drugs?
Jadyn’s mom was a meth addict who died when she was in high school in 2010. She lived with her step-dad, who abused her.
A teacher found out and called Child Protective Services. Jadyn moved in with a friend of her mom’s family.
But when she came home late from school one day, the woman got upset and kicked her out.
Jadyn slept outside of her school for a few days. An acquaintance from school approached her: “If you need somewhere to stay, you can stay with me and my boyfriend,” according to a YouTube video by Exodus Road, a sex-trafficking ministry.
“Where else am I going to go?” she thought. It was a house with four or five other girls living there.
“This is my boyfriend, Joker,” the acquaintance introduced her. “He’s gonna take good care of you.”
Joker seemed very nice. He took Jadyn out to movies and to get her nails done. He bought her new clothes.
One day when she was sitting on the couch, Joker asked her, “We’re going to go out for a little bit. Do you want to go out with us?”
“Sure,” Jadyn responded.
With another girl in the car, they pulled up to a motel. They went into a room, and the other girl started talking to a man about sexual things.
“I’m starting to catch on,” Jadyn recalls. “Things are starting to click in my mind. And I’m like, ‘That’s why you were so nice to me.’
Jadyn shrank with fear as she watched the other girl strip. Then they had sex.
“I’m looking at Joker, and he’s sitting there with a blank face as if it’s something normal,” she recalls.
“After everything’s finished, and he pays her, Joker sits down and tell me, ‘I’m not asking you to do what they do. But I’m asking you to sit in on every appointment that we go on. I don’t want you living here just for free. This will be you’re way of paying me back.’”
Thinking she had no alternative, Jadyn obediently sat and watched every “appointment” for the next three months.
“The first couple of times was really hard for me. But after a while it was just a thing we did,” she says. She even saw an 11-year-old girl taken advantage of. “When you don’t have anywhere else to go, you do what you have to do.”
An estimated one out of six runaways become child sex trafficking victims; 86% of them were under the care of Child Services or foster care when they ran away, according to Exodus Road. There are currently 57,700 victims of human trafficking in the U.S., ringing up $99 billion for the exploitation industry.
Of course, things got worse. At one “appointment,” the man in the room fixed his eyes on Jadyn.
“I want her,” he said.
“I’m not doing this,” Jadyn responded.
He pulled out a handgun and pointed it at her head.
“I’m sitting there crying on the floor,” Jadyn recalls. “He’s telling me I’m going to do this thing for him, and I’m like, ‘I guess I am.’”
Later at the car, Joker revealed his endgame. Everything was just preparation to influence her to become a sex slave too.
Joker told Jadyn, “I hope you didn’t expect to live here and not do anything for us.”
She was crying. Her mind was playing different scenarios and outcomes for her life. Girls told her that she would have to get drunk or high to perform the exploits that men demanded.
“So I’m going to be a drug addict just like my mother,” Jadyn surmised. “I love my mom. I really did. And I saw her struggles. And I saw the way men treated my mom, and I told myself that that wasn’t going to be me.
“But I didn’t have anywhere else to do,” she says with tears, remember the pain of the moment.
Joker went into his room while the girls talked about the trauma of the man who pulled a gun on Jadyn.
For a long time, Joker didn’t come out of his room. The long time got even longer — to the point that finally the girls decided to go in his room and see if he was ok.
“Basically, I’m pretty sure he overdosed. He was foaming at the mouth,” Jadyn says. “I’m thinking it’s fight or flight. I left. I slept on the streets again for a couple days.”
She roamed the streets always looking for a place to stay.
Eventually she found a friend who invited her to church.
“I go to church and I meet this family. We met twice,” Jadyn says. “They told me they were interested in adopting me. I had a lot of disbelief because of all the things I’d gone through.” Read the rest of the story of Christians helping resolve human trafficking.
Sean Lowe had some serious misgivings about appearing on the Bachelor reality T.V. show. As a Christian, he worried his testimony might be tainted by the ambiance of contestants drinking and fornicating.
When he said he would wait until marriage to have sex after appearing on the show, he cleared up doubt among Christians — and he unleashed a maelstrom of criticism in the secular media. He was roundly ridiculed as the “virgin bachelor.”
“Never in a million years did I think I’d do a cheesy reality TV show about love,” he said later on the “I am Second” video series.
His sister set him up for it. Sean, who floundered with an investment business, got a call from the LA area code one day out of the blue. They wanted him to audition for “Bachelorette,” the “reality” show in which through weeks of dating on some remote tropical site a single woman filters through dozens of aspirants to finally get engaged to one.
“I had no idea what (the lady on the phone) was talking about,” he remembers. “I didn’t know if it was a joke.”
When he tracked down the source of the call to his sister, he confronted her. “Listen, I have no desire to be on a reality TV show, and I certainly don’t want to subject myself to all the public criticism.
“Guys go on there and get drunk,” he says. “And there’s the fantasy suite and sex and nudity, and it just didn’t seem like something that represented me.”
After waffling, he opted in because he was persuaded by the opportunity to travel and see more of the world on the expenses-paid show. He had bankrupted a financial services firm and was miserable in the family’s insurance company. “I just wanted a free vacation,” he said.
He started at a mansion with the other guys in North Carolina, then traveled to Bermuda, London and Croatia. Since he only went in for the travel, he was blindsided by the feelings of romance that bubbled up in his heart during the times he “dated” the bachelorette.
“After six weeks of being on the show, I knew I loved her,” he recalls.
But, in front of 7 million viewers, the girl chose Sean’s competitor. He was broken-hearted.
“I couldn’t understand why God opened the door for me to be on this reality show, to fall in love only for it to end like this,” he says. “I could not understand why He led me to heartbreak.”
Sean returned downcast to Dallas.
Six weeks later, the executive producer called and offered him the chance to appear as the bachelor in the next series. This counterpart version of the “Bachelorette” show is the same, only this time 25 girls vied for his affections. He starred in the 17th season of the show in 2013.
If he had misgivings about being on Bachelorette, he had real apprehension about being the lead of Bachelor.
“Dating 25 girls at one time felt wrong,” he says. “What if I’m harming my testimony? What if people look and me and they say, ‘This is what is wrong with Christianity. He’s professing one thing and he goes on TV and he’s doing the opposite.’” Read the rest about Sean Lowe the virgin bachelor.
The mind-blowing part about Wreck-It Ralph was that it aimed to teach kids empathy. It was also a brilliant idea and tightly written script. In fact, the only thing wrong with it was its publicity: an unappealing gorilla of a man.
The sequel had much to live up to, and it fell short (except for the publicity). To be sure, the script is clever: Vanellope’s game is being shut down, so she and Ralph go into the Internet to attempt to buy the steering wheel to save the game. There, they fall into a series of hilarious misadventures as they attempt to raise money to pay for their EBay purchase.
But when it comes to underlying theme, Ralph Breaks the Internet disappoints. The lesson? Be secure enough to let your friends go. Vanellope wants to driver around in an online game called Slaughter Race with her new friend Shank. Ralph doesn’t want to let go.
It is 1000-foot drop down from the lofty notion of teaching kids empathy. It was just jaw-dropping that the first film even attempted such a great undertaking. Empathy is one of those abstract human qualities that only the mature can hope to acquire. And this movie want to inculcate it into kids? It got my all my admiration.
Ralph Breaks the Internet prefers a clever plot with smooth jokes over a transcendent theme. The princess scene is delightful, and the King Kong part a handy evocation of past cinematography. You can enjoy the sequel with your kids. It’s safe. But if you’re hoping for your mind to be challenged and heart to be stirred to growing nobility, you’ll be disappointed.
One final note: Wreck-It Ralph‘s script was genius. There were no untied loose ends at the end. The hurtling spaceship crashing into Sugar Crush is paralleled by Vanellope’s race car glitching past King Candy. It’s one of those internal structures that you don’t see until you’ve watched several times, and it stirs awe at the writer’s ability to seamlessly weave such a delightful and structured tale. Ralph Breaks the Internet sadly ends with loose ends. What happened to that virus? It just drops out of the story with no explanation. Unsatisfying.
He was a gentle man. You never would have guessed that he made a living in Guatemala’s Lucha Libre, a the rough and rule-less version of today’s MMA. When Demetrio Monterroso came to the Lord, he softened.
His wife brought the two grandsons to our school. Zealous to reform her son who was wayward with women, she enrolled the boys in the our Guatemalan Christian school. Little Demetrio and even littler Federico were star students, quiet and shy, obedient and exemplary.
They graduated and moved on. Their father mended his ways and started following God.
I left Guatemala after almost 16 years as a missionary there. After bumbling around in my parent church, finally I was released to start another church, this time in Van Nuys, CA. From time to time, I visit the church I left in Guatemala. I came in the nick of time to see El Bronco (his fighter’s name). Of course, I couldn’t talk to him, but I could pray for him, and seeing him one last time filled with some sort of peace. He was my friend, and I was saying goodbye. I’ll be seeing him again in Heaven soon enough.
Christian Hip Hop is imploding. Its stars, lured by secular money, are leaving. New singers are ditching hard-fought standards (like no cuss words) and marginalizing salvation. It’s become disunited and sexist.
From what you read or watch online, you get the feeling Christian rap has a bad rap and its fans are now singing the blues. But is it true that Christian Hip Hop is descending to a deplorable demise?
A survey of CHH conducted by God Reports suggests that, contrary to controversy, Christian Hip Hop has never been more robust or vibrant. It’s reaching growing audiences and diversifying its message. It’s getting played all over the place, from the gym to WWE.
“Andy Mineo and Lecrae and some of these guys coming in rap are as good as the top rappers in the game,” says Sway Calloway, the host of the secular shows “Sway in the Morning” on SiriusXM Shade45 and MTV’s TRLAM. “It gives me chills when I can hear someone rap as good as them and put God in it.”
Part of the “problems” of CHH can be chalked up to growing pains. And another part is simply click bait; platforms fabricate or inflate controversy to swell their views and, by extension, their bottom line.
Any discussion of the current state of Christian rap starts with its de facto father, Lecrae. A fusillade has been unleashed on him for being too political, for signing with a secular label, and for working with artists who punctuate their work with profanity.
“Partnering with secular artists is very, very dangerous. You don’t see that worked out in scripture,” Wil Addison said in 2015 on Trackstarz. “Lecrae’s grown on the back of the church, and it seems like at one point he jumped off… You’re abandoning what you built your platform on.”
Wil Addison is not alone in his concern for Lecrae’s direction. Dismay is expressed over his collaboration with Ty Dolla Sign; is Lecrae muddying his message by working with a secular artist who raps X-rated filth?
Lecrae Devaughn Moore is no stranger to muck. He was sexually, emotionally and physically abused as a youngster. He learned to seal up the pain and pretend it wasn’t there, he said recently at Yale University.
Without a father in the house, Lecrae looked to male role models in the community and took up drug trafficking as a teenager. His grandmother was a churchgoer, but Lecrae wasn’t interested — at first.
In college he responded to the gospel and was piqued by evangelistic rappers. At a time when nobody thought Christian rap would sell, he co-founded Reach Records in 2004 and started releasing albums. He won Grammies and topped Billboard charts.
When he was at his peak, he signed with Capitol Records, which has been making incursions into the increasingly profitable Christian hip hop market, snapping up the surest bets (also NF, Social Club Misfits). How could he own a Christian label and become an artist on a secular one (albeit their Christian department)?
It seems Lecrae was turning into a missionary. He saw the chance to work with secular artists and rap at more venues as simple evangelistic math.
If the Capitol signing wasn’t controversy enough, Lecrae — who’s always been vocal for African American rights — joined the Black Lives Matter movement. There were a string of innocent blacks gunned down by police, and the long-suppressed feelings of rage and powerlessness from the childhood abuse reared its ugly head.
Lecrae found himself marching on the streets in protests — and in the cross hairs of a political reaction against ambushing cops and a tide that swept Trump into the presidency. Broad swaths of fans and Christian leaders threatened to bolt. Lecrae couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t support the cause of the oppressed and judge the sins of the oppressors.
At an October concert in Los Angeles, Lecrae admitted that the last two years have brought disillusionment and depression. He even contemplated turning his back on Christianity altogether, he said. But a wise old Christian asked him to consider if God — not his fans — had ever abandoned him. Days of meditating that question brought the man of God back to God.
At the October concert, Lecrae’s language and performance undermined the accusation that he’s ditching his faith. Lecrae spoke of struggle and confusion. But his words were a testimony in front of the church.
Lecrae’s failings are emblematic of the growing pains of the wider spectrum of CHH artists. There are hundreds of rappers who associate to some degree with Christianity. No survey could cover all of them, but among those examined in in this census, the conclusions award CHH a clean bill of health: souls are being won, disciples are being made and the cause of the Gospel is advancing. The good things outweigh the bad:
Influence on secular artists
One of the biggest proofs of the strength of CHH is its impact on secular rap. This is ironic because people keep worrying that CHH stars are going to be influenced by worldly stars if they cross over into the secular market. But they don’t see that CHH is exerting its own gravity that pulls on mainstream mike-kickers.
Today, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and Chance the Rapper — all top rappers — have mentioned God in a positive way in their music. Snoop Dogg, saying he’s returning to his Christian upbringing, just produced a double gospel album.
In “Jesus Walks,” Kanye says:
They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus
That means guns, sex, lies, videotape
But if I talk about God my record won’t get played, huh?
Meanwhile, new artists like John Gives are returning to their parents’ faith and becoming a testimony through their music. Malice renamed himself No Malice and began spitting the Christian message. He saw the light: his previous music was leading listeners down the wrong path and he wanted to rectify it.
This is what is missed with the Lecrae-Ty Dolla Sign collaboration. While Christians bemoan the “loss” of their star, they’re missing the positive — the potential of gaining for Heaven a worldly singer.
Once upon a time, secular rap artists and fans rolled their eyes at CHH, which they loathed like an embarrassing kid brother. But now such collaborations prove that secular artists have moved light years beyond the eye roll. They are more than giving the nod to CHH; it is now “game respects game.”
Saving souls in the streets
Getting celebrities saved is cause for enthusiasm. But we need to remember that God is no respecter of persons. The unheralded are just as important to Him as the BET idol. And here too CHH has a positive balance sheet.
Aaron Cole reported on Twitter that his music touched the son of a drug dealer. Shai Linne started a church in Philadelphia to create an ethos in which street sinners could relate.
One way for CHH to reach sinners is when its music gets featured in non-Christian venues. When CHH gets used in movies or played at the gym, the exposure has the potential to draw in unsaved, new fans much like a church picnic can draw sinners to church where they can hear the message of salvation.
On this front, it’s worthwhile to mention that Derek Minor was featured on Black Ink Crew, and Social Club Misfits got their music used on WWE. When the NBA Warriors wanted a new anthem for their basketball team, they tapped outspoken Christian rapper Bizzle for the job.
Even a Louisville strip club played Lecrae. When asked about it, he responded with the sarcasm that is becoming his go-to response to the controversy that hounds him as CCH’s #1 man: “I’m a real rapper now. Everything I’ve done earlier pales in comparison. I’ve made it,” he told Rapzilla in 2015. On a serious note he added that he supports ministry to the women trapped in the sex industry, and the power of the Gospel in his message needs to get where sinners are. Read the rest of Christian Hip Hop in controversy.
By Kiera Sivrican —
When Daryl Davis held the American flag for his Cub Scouts troop in a march from Lexington to Concord to commemorate Paul Revere’s ride, he swelled with pride as an American.
What the 10-year-old never expected was the bottles, soda cans and rocks hurled at him. As one of only two black children in the area in 1968, he was being targeted by some of the whites in the crowd.
“This was the first time I ever experienced anything like this,” he recalled. “I did not understand.” Scout leaders huddled over him with their bodies and escorted him out of danger. “I kept asking, ‘Why? Why? What had I done wrong?’”
But the Scout leaders said nothing, and it wasn’t until his parents were cleaning and patching up his bruises and scratches that he began to learn about the ugly underbelly of America.
“For the first time in my life, my parents sat me down and explained to me what racism was. I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about,” he recalls. “It was inconceivable to me that somebody who had no idea who I was, who had never laid eyes on me, who had never spoken to me, would want to inflict pain on me for no other reason that the color of my skin. So I did not believe my parents.”
As he grew up, he was faced with more racism, but he never understood it: “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?” The question haunted him, and, in his quest for the answer as he grew up, he read books about white supremacy, black supremacy and many others. None of these books offered an explanation.
So as an adult, he struck upon the idea of asking Ku Klux Klan members why they hated him. By now, he had become a professional R&B and blues musician and had played with the likes of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, B. B. King and Bruce Hornsby. He was also a fervent Christian. He proposed to write a book about hate in his spare time.
In 1983, he scheduled his first interview with Roger Kelly, the Grand Dragon for Maryland. Daryl neglected to mention that he was black, so when Kelly and an armed guard showed up, they froze.
But Daryl welcomed him warmly and encouraged him to talk. The spoke calmly and compared ideas. Tempers didn’t flare. They disagreed but treated each other with cordiality and respect.
The first conversation led to a second and then to a third. Soon they were friends. The armed guard dropped out of the picture. They shared lunches and dinners. Kelly invited Daryl to a KKK rally, and he attended. He listened to speeches and watched them burn crosses. Kelly went to watch Daryl play boogie-woogie on the keyboard.
Eventually, Kelly renounced his racism and resigned from the KKK. Daryl’s quest to comprehend racism had converted a racist.
“Respect was the key,” says Daryl, now 60. “Because I was willing to listen and he was willing to listen to me, he ended up leaving the Klan.”
Eventually, Daryl learned where racism comes from: “Ignorance breeds fear, and if we do not keep that fear in check, it breeds hatred,” he says. “And it we do not keep the hatred in check, that hatred in turn will breed destruction.
“It’s a wonderful thing when you see a light bulb pop on in their heads or they call you and tell you they are quitting,” he adds. “I never set out to convert anyone in the Klan. I just set out to get an answer to my question: ‘How can you hate me when you don’t even know me.’ I simply gave them a chance to get to know me and treat them the way I want to be treated.”
Today, Daryl has rescued more than 200 Klansmen from their robes. His tactic of making friends with his haters with the love of Christ and calm conversation has helped them see the light.
“I am a musician, not a psychologist or a sociologist,” he says. “If I can do that, anybody can do that. Take the time to sit down and talk with your adversaries. You will learn something from them, and they will learn something from you. When two enemies are talking, they’re not fighting. It’s when the talking ceases that the ground becomes fertile for violence, so keep the conversation going.”
But God brought Dr. Paul Lim back
By the time he got to Yale University, it wasn’t the logical arguments that made him turn his back on Jesus. It was the way kids in the youth group had marginalized him.
More often than not people’s problems with Christianity don’t have to do with intellectual hang-ups but with the stories of hurt, stories of rejection, stories of people who are supposed to embody the gospel in a compelling and endearing way, they end up doing the opposite,” says Dr. Paul C. H. Lim.
As an immigrant at age 15 from South Korea, he went to a Korean church in Philadelphia with his parents who previously were non-religious but sought support in their transition to America. Even though young Paul gave church the benefit of the doubt, he quickly realized he was being ostracized.
The youth pastor ran a Friday night program he called Triple B — Bible study, Burger King and bowling, but Paul was ignored and sat alone, ate alone and bowled alone.
“I wasn’t wearing the right clothes. I didn’t speak the language. I didn’t have the right haircut. I didn’t play the right sport. I wasn’t part of the cool crowd. I was part of the loser crowd,” he says. “The worst experience was to bowl alone. I would always pray that there would be an even number of kids so that somebody would join me, but when we had an odd number of kids, I would find myself alone on the lane.
“Why wouldn’t the youth pastor come over and bowl with me occasionally?” he adds. “Coming to America was a traumatic experience. But in church, I felt the alienation even more.”
So when his parents drove him to Yale, he was looking forward to ditching God and zeroing in on “hedonism and careerism to the core.”
“I was excited that I was getting the heck away from the church, and I was so excited that I was going to plunge headlong into this intellectual pursuit of the good life,” he says.
When his gray-haired New Testament professor said, “The Bible is a wonderful book but it’s not the kind of truth that you want to hang your life on,” Paul needed no more nails to shut the coffin on his Christianity.
He was an economics major set on making his mark in the banking industry, having a house in Long Island with two kids, two dogs and a cat.
But then his sister got engaged to a seminary student, this bewildered Paul.
“Why would you ever want to marry a guy going into ministry?” he wondered. “It was the oddest things I ever heard. To me, he was loser guy. Secretly, I hated him.”
But Paul’s mom was a vibrant believer, and she always asked him if he was going to church. Over winter break, she cajoled him to do the last thing he would’ve wanted to do with vacation. She asked him to go to a Christian retreat because his brother-in-law would be a speaker.
Paul rolled his eyes and dreaded it. But because he adored his mom, he acquiesced..
Read the rest of Dr. Paul Lim Christian.
Rapper Datin always encouraged kids coming out of the death and jail traps of drugs and violence foisted upon unsuspecting kids by secular hip hop artists.
Now he has a new people group to encourage: those coming out of a divorce.
In his September 2018 video “Hell in the Hallway,” Datin says his own ongoing divorce has him living in a dark and lonely hallway. He can see the light at the end of the tunnel (hallway). But until he gets there, he’s out of the room of marriage and left in a gloomy limbo.
When his marriage foundered, Datin submitted to pastoral guidance and sought counseling but his wife didn’t want to participate, he noted on Facebook. (Her version could not be found online; she deleted her Instagram pictures with him).
Because Florida law allows divorce on the basis of only one of the parties, Datin — whose real name is Edward Berrios — found himself hapless and resigned to the heart-wrenching conclusion of a happy chapter in his life.
In all cases of marriage, Christians should seek reconciliation. But if one party is unwilling to try, your life is not over, Datin says. God has a destiny for you beyond your present tragedy.
“When God closes one door, he opens another,” Datin says. “But right now I’m in the middle. It’s hell in a hallway.”
Datin is the raspy-voiced rapper who delivers hammer blows. His mad dog face, he says, is not an imitation of violence-peddling secular rappers. It’s because he’s upset by their lies and deception that have been misleading America’s youth.
Like his label boss Bizzle, he constantly calls out secular artists, whom he blames for inducing tens of thousands of young men into trafficking and violence. These artists profiteer from their recipe for death. They entice kids by flaunting a flamboyant lifestyle of riches and women.
“Their songs are like cyanide; the more we listen to ‘em, the more our souls die inside,” he raps on “Pull the Plug.” “This is for the deejay killing us with the poison he plays. Let’s pull the plug on ‘em.”
Datin grew up in Newark, New Jersey, not on ritzy Jersey shore but on the backside ghetto. He has every right to aim at hip hop artists for their false narrative because he himself fell for their lies. He and his friends sold drugs, treated women poorly and acted like thugs.
As a result of adopting the gang lifestyle, one friend was killed and another jailed, he says in his songs.
But while he was sinning, the Holy Spirit was afoot in his life. He first turned on to Christ when he watched Mel Gibson’s 2004 “The Passion of Christ.”
But since hip hop was his priority, he kept his nascent faith low key and compromised his walk with sinful stumblings.
When he graduated high school, Datin gained renown in the battle rap world and was expected to sign for a big name label. To the surprise of many, he declined signing with Eminem’s Shady Records and Ja Rule and Swiss Beatz, according to Christian Post. His neighborhood pal signed and drove up in a Jaguar to invite him to also sign, he says.
“It was such a struggle to say no,” Datin told Rapzilla. “It took every bit of my being. My whole life was based around my music, my hopes and my dreams. To say no was like chopping off my arm.”
In 2007, he got fully saved and extricated from the ensnaring world of hip hop. He laid down the microphone first, grew in God, and then years later picked the mic back up only to outreach, he says on a radio interview DJ Tony Tone.
He dropped projects in 2010 and 2012. In 2014, he finally signed — for the Christian label God Over Money. This was a natural move because the label is known for never soft-peddling the gospel — or from shirking controversy. For Datin — who preaches hellfire and brimstone for rappers who sell their fellow people of color down the river — it was an ideal fit.
His much-anticipated first studio album Roar charted 18th for rap on Billboard and hit the top 10 on iTunes.
With such a sterling testimony, Datin’s sudden announcement in April of his pending divorce was as startling as it was saddening.
“I have fought for my marriage to the very end,” Datin says. “I’m scandal free. There’s no issue of adultery or abandonment or abuse. I have seeked (sic) counseling. I have put effort in. But the effort was not reciprocate. So therefore, this is the unfortunate outcome.”
Christian rap offers a stark contrast with secular rap because marriage is idealized and honored. Datin in November 2017 rapped “Fight For Us,” his pledge to work for his marriage.
When he was only 7 and already showed signs of liking hip hop, a woman at church talked to Raúl García’s mother to warn her that rap was of the devil.
It’s a good thing Mom and Son ignored her. Today Raúl — known now as WHATUPRG — has literally exploded on the Christian Hip Hop scene, signing with Reach Records at age 21 without ever having made an album previously. RG (his stage name reads “What up, RG?”) is the face of the next generation of Christian rappers who are ministering to a new generation of fans.
“My parents have always supported me in my music,” RG says to NewH2O. “I know in my heart where I’m heading and where I’ve positioned myself allows me to speak to people and let them know it’s not about a bunch of rules but about His grace and His mercy and His love. So when I rap I want people to know that they’re not alone and there is grace for them too.”
RG is born of Mexican parents who immigrated (illegally) to the United States. He grew up in Gwinnett County, Georgia, where he went to church, listened to Christian Spanish rap and loved to perform at church functions.
Despite doubters in the same congregation, RG’s parents supported his musical inclinations and even paid for his first album to be produced when he was 14, a recording he now calls “trash.”
When he was 16, his dad was nabbed by immigration officers and deported to Mexico. This tore RG and led him to be outspoken on the divisive issue. “I’m still dealing with the emotional trauma to this day,” he tweeted.
It appears his dad is back home in Georgia, since RG tweeted about going vegetarian in 2017, only to be contradicted by his dad, who said they were eating carne asada. “I can’t be Mexican and healthy,” he quipped.
RG got noticed by CHH heavies when he filmed a video of himself and his friends at Walmart in 2017 with his song “Don’t Forget to Live.” The filmography was amateurish, but pros were impressed by the vocals and music. He started getting calls.
Soon he was nobigdyl’s Indie Tribe and was featured on Mogli the Iceberg’s song “Ride My Own” and others. Just months later, Lecrae signed him. He was making waves but was still an unproven quantity since he hadn’t dropped a professional album.
“On my 18th birthday, I was getting a 116 tattoo on my knee,” RG tells Trackstarz. “When I was turning 21, I was talking to my lawyer about the contract.”
RG’s blitz to fame has surprised even him, and he says he’s focusing on staying rooted in God. “God honors humility,” he says.
he fact he wants to stay low is refreshing to hear, especially when one contrasts that attitude with the braggadocio rife in secular rap, with artists boasting about their knife wounds and talk in hyperbolic terms about being “gods.”
In May 2018, RG dropped his debut album Pleasant Hill, which created a sensation. He hit #7 on iTunes hip hop sales. A Trackstarz interviewer said there’s not a song he doesn’t like on it. David Livick lists him among the Top 10 artists of 2018.
There are detractors, many of the historic fans of the 116 clique who don’t like the new direction of the label and want the Old School material. RG’s not Christian enough, some say. “STOP Imitating and Start innovating… what’s the point of copying the World, sounding, Looking and acting like them?” comments Leveled Head on the “Wesside” video. Read the rest about WhatUpRG Christian.
When he finally turned his back on the gold chains, the flashy rims and the swanky garb; when he finally turned his back on trafficking and pimping to make money to produce a rap album; when he chose Jesus, God came through for Bizzle in a big way.
With no resources other than the Bible in his hand and Jesus in his heart, Bizzle was given engineers, studio time and producers free of charge to whip out his first album — a Christian mixtape.
“You feel like you have to play by Satan’s rules in order to get where you want,” says Bizzle, whose real name is Mark Julian Felder. “All the stuff I felt that we had to go and cut corners and scheme to get money to pay for, the Lord brought these things without me having to spend a dime. He just sent them my way.”
Today, Bizzle, 35, has 12 Christian albums and mixtapes and his own recording label, which is called — what else? — God Over Money. His current Light Work EP cracked iTunes top 10. His material is both a compliment and counterpoint to Christian hip-hop legend Lecrae.
Bizzle was raised in Cudahy, a small neighborhood of Los Angeles, by his mother and grandmother, who dragged him to church. He never felt poor because Mom managed their Section 8 with wisdom. His dad lived in nearby Compton, a famous exporter of rap artists.
Bizzle had verses in his veins from early childhood. His idol was Tupac, and he became enamored with the vaunted thug life of pistols, revenge and crime. When he graduated from high school, he hawked mixtapes with worldly themes, bragging about gangster living he never did.
Then under the rap moniker “Lavyss,” he started to catch the eye of rap power brokers and opened shows for Lil Wayne, Juelz Santana and Lil Boosie, but he was sleeping at friends’ places or in his car. He borrowed finery and gold chains to look the part on stage. He got friends to drive him up in their ritzy “whips” when he arrived at concerts. He produced some mixtapes that showed promise.
But he wasn’t making money. So he decided he needed to turn to practicing what he preached (crime) to speed up the money-making. He began selling marijuana and pills. A prostitute who liked his music offered to help and started passing him earnings. That’s how he became a pimp.
“It’s like you go to the beach and you get out in the water and you don’t notice how far you’re getting way out there in the deep,” Bizzle says on his testimony video. “It wasn’t until I looked at Christ and saw how righteous He was that I realized how filthy I was.
“I never in a million years” would pimp, Bizzle says now. “Especially since I was raised by my mother and my grandmother, I always had respect for women. But since that was funding my dream at the moment, I gave it a pass. That was the furthest I got from God and it caused me to get the closest to God.”
Bizzle and a friend went to Las Vegas to hustle money with the prostitute. Bizzle had the habit of stowing her profits in his Bible. But he also read the Bible, and it intrigued him. One day his buddy came out of the shower and caught him reading his Bible.
“So what you gonna be a gospel rapper now?” his buddy mocked.
“You know what? I might,” Bizzle responded. “One day the Lord just had to put that conviction on my heart.”
After four years of rapping dirty lyrics and doing dirty deeds, Bizzle decided to switch to the Lord’s side in 2008. He surrendered his life to Jesus Christ and was born-again!
He had no funds but he was determined to serve the Lord instead of Satan. He took two years off, got married to his love in Houston and worked at Wal-Mart. Then he staged his return to rap, now for CHH.
It would be fair to say that Bizzle exploded onto the Christian hip hop scene with his 2010 song “You Got Some Explaining To Do” in which he called out Jay-Z and Beyoncé for their anti-Christian themes and lifestyles. Jay-Z and similar rappers were his childhood idols that led him down the wrong path. Now he was calling them to account.
Being brutally honest and criticizing a rival is regular fare for the hip hop genre, so not even Bizzle — still pretty much an unknown in rap world — could have imagined the controversy he generated. He had demanded Jay-Z explain what he was doing, but Bizzle found himself compelled to explain his diss.
It wasn’t necessarily a publicity stunt, but it worked well. Suddenly industry engineers came out of the woodwork and offered their services for free. Boi 1da (Matthew Jehu Samuels) — who produced Drake, Rihanna, Eminem, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj and Kendrick Lamar — called him and, saying he was a Christian, offered to produce him for free.
“When I decided to do rap for the Lord, I had no resources. I didn’t have any money for studio time. I didn’t have anybody to mix the records,” he says. Then “people started coming out of the blue.” Read the rest about Bizzle controversial Christian hip hop artist.
Tasked with converting The Three Little Pigs into a journalism article, LCA students show flair and fun.
Two pigs dead, another survived wolf attack
By Jose Hueso and Rachel Post —
Two pigs were eaten and a third successfully defended himself against a ravenous wolf who blew the houses down of the first two pigs yesterday in the woods.
Unable to blow down the third house which was made of bricks, the wolf entered with malicious intent by way of the chimney.
He was unaware that the chimney was booby-trapped. He fell into a pot of boiling water on the fire of the chimney and died. The third pig ate the boiled predator.
The wolf was able to knock down the first two pigs’ houses by blowing with all his might against them. One was made of hay and the other of sticks.
“I’ll huff and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house down,” the wolf threatened.
But huffing and puffing and blowing didn’t work against the house of bricks.
Two pigs dead, wolf gets into hot water
By Joey Catalano, Ryan Zepeda and Zhang Xiao-Tong —
Two pigs were found eaten alive inside a killer wolf’s stomach yesterday in the woods.
Local residents say the wolf was spotted blowing down the two pigs’ houses.
“He was just saying, ‘I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down!’ to all those poor piggies,” said Julie Rabbit.
The houses were made of sticks and hay. But a third pig escaped unscathed when the wolf attempted unsuccessfully to flatten his brick house.
Foiled in his huffing and puffing, the wolf attempted to get the third pig by shimmying down the chimney. The quick-witted third pig put a pot of boiling water on the fire in the chimney, and the wolf only fell to his death in the hot water.
‘Another brick in the wall’ not a bad thing, pigs learn
By Kiera Sivrican and Wang Jingtong —
A big bad wolf assaulted three little pigs in a rage of hunger yesterday in the woods, blowing two of their three houses down.
The famished wolf left his woods for a meal, when he stumbled on the three pigs, who had just finished building their separate houses as seemed best to each: one of hay, one of sticks, one of bricks. Read the rest of the Los Angeles specialized high school writing program
Whenever 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.”
Josh 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.”
Media 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.
He’s played Wolverine, Blackbeard, the Greatest Showman and Paul the Apostle. Among his many roles, versatile actor Hugh Jackman is also a person of faith.
“I’m a Christian,” he told Parade magazine. “I was brought up very religious. I used to go to different evangelists’ [revival] tents all the time. When I was about 13, I had a weird premonition that I was going to be onstage, like the preachers I saw.”
His parents accepted Jesus at a Billy Graham crusade. Natives of England, mom and dad lived in Sydney, Australia during his childhood. He got a pretty good start in his faith with church and Sunday School, but the horizon dimmed when his parents divorced and mom returned to England when Hugh was 8.
He waited, hoped and prayed for them to reconcile. When that didn’t happen in his early teens, his disappointment and sense of rejection turned to rage.
“My anger didn’t really surface until I was 12 or 13,” he remembers. “It was triggered because my parents were going to get reconciled and didn’t. All those years I’d been holding out hope that they would.
“From the moment Mum left, I was a fearful kid who felt powerless. I used to be the first one home and I was frightened to go inside. I couldn’t go into the house on my own. I’d wait outside, scared, frustrated. Growing up I was scared of the dark. I was scared of heights. It limited me. I hated it, and that contributed to my anger. Isn’t most anger fear-based, ultimately? It emanates from some kind of powerlessness.”
Venting his wrath, he smashed his head into the metal locker doors until they dented inward. It was a bravado thing that a lot of boys were doing. Hugh also found an outlet for his violent impulses in rugby.
“I’d be somewhere in a ruck in rugby, get punched in the face and I’d just go into a white rage,” he says.
Acting was something of afterthought for Hugh. He was looking to pick up some units in college in his fourth year and took a drama class. Seeing natural talent in him, his teacher assigned him the leading role in Václav Havel’s The Memorandum.
“In that week, I felt more at home with those people than I did in the entire three years” at university,” he recalls.
He studied journalism and once tinkered with the idea of being a chef on a plane, but once he figured out he could actually make a living as an actor, he gave himself to drama.
He met his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, who is 12 years his senior, on the Australian TV show Correlli.
“I was terrified when I realized I had a crush on the star of the show. I was like, ‘My first job, the leading lady. Embarrassing. She’s going to look at me like this young little puppy.’ I didn’t talk to her for a week. Finally, she said, ‘Have I done something to annoy you?’ I said, “‘Look, I’ve got a crush on you. I’m sorry.” And she said, ‘Oh, I’ve got a crush on you too.’ And that was 20 years ago.”
They were married in 1996. For medical reasons, they were unable to have biological children, so the couple adopted two children, Oscar and Ava. When he played Blackbeard in the movie Pan, Hugh wanted to be sensitive in his role in a movie dealing with orphans.
Hugh has distanced himself from the straight-laced, dogmatic brand of Christianity of his father, he says.
“I was brought up with a very strict, Protestant view of what God is and our place next to God, consisting of a deity, a bearded man telling us what to do, mocking us on our behavior, and hopefully granting us passage into Heaven,” he says.
He’s adopted a more unorthodox approach, practices Transcendental Meditation and yoga and attends the School of Practical Philosophy, a swami-led group that combines the teachings of Jesus with a hodgepodge of Hinduism, Buddhism and even Shakespeare.
He says his dad doesn’t care for the eclectic approach to Christianity. Read the rest: Hugh Jackman Christian.
James Tour obtained his PhD in organic chemistry, did post doctorate work at Stanford, was voted one of the 50 most influential minds in world, is a visiting scholar at Harvard University, has 650 published scholarly articles, has 120 patents and seven companies with products from everything from medicine to material science, electronics and computer memory.
“But more than that, what means the most to me is that I am a Jew who believes that Jesus is the Messiah,” Dr. Tour says on a One For Israel video.
He grew up outside New York City in a neighborhood so Jewish that he didn’t know there was anything else.
He wasn’t interested in religion. “Once I tried to talk to a rabbi. He just brushed me off. There was very little explanation for me.”
In college he began to meet people who called themselves born-again Christians.
“That was a kind of an odd term,” he remembers thinking. “What’s ‘born-again?’ What do you mean ‘born-again?'”
It began to make sense when, in a laundromat, a man asked to show him an illustration, something of a chasm separating man from God. He labeled the chasm “sin.”
Dr. Tour recoiled somewhat. “I looked at him and said, ‘I’m not a sinner. I’ve never killed anyone. I’ve never robbed a bank. How could I be a sinner?'”
The man encouraged him to read Romans 3:23: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Modern Judaism never talks about sin, Dr. Tour says. “I don’t remember ever talking about sin in my home.”
Then the man led Dr. Tour to the passage where Jesus warns that whoever lusts after a woman has already committed adultery in his heart.
“Pow!” Dr. Tour says. “I felt as if I’d been punched right in the chest.”
Secretly, he’d been looking at pornography in magazines — enough to call himself an “addict.”
“All of a sudden, something that’s written in the Bible, somebody who lived 2,000 years ago was calling me out of it, and suddenly I felt convicted and I realized I was a sinner,” he remembers. “When I read the Scriptures, I knew I was a sinner. How would I get to God?”
As he poured over the Bible, he realized that there is no forgiveness of sin without shedding blood. In the Old Testament, animal sacrifice was stipulated. In the New Testament, Jesus was humanity’s Passover Lamb. Isaiah 53 described graphically how the Messiah would be punished for the sin of the world. He would bear it on the cross.
“The Perfect God comes and gives Himself for us. He is the one that gives Himself for us. I started to realize how Jewish the New Testament is.”
On Nov. 7 1977, alone is his room, he realized Yeshua was the Messiah.
“I said, ‘Lord, I am a sinner. Forgive me. Come into my life,'” he recalls. “Then all of a sudden, someone was in my room. I was on my knees. I opened my eyes. Who was in my room? That man, Jesus Christ, stood in my room. This amazing sense of God, Jesus was in my room. I wasn’t scared. I was just weeping. The presence was so glorious because He was there in my room. I didn’t want to get up. This amazing sense of forgiveness just started to come upon me. That was Him.”
Eventually he stood up. He didn’t know what to do, who to tell.
When he told his cousins, they were shocked. “’How could you do that? You’re Jewish,’” they said. “Telling my mother how I had invited Jesus into my life, she didn’t say much. She was weeping. She told my father. They weren’t happy at all.” So what happened to his family? Read the rest: Jewish scientist James Tour accepts Jesus as Messiah.
After his ballyhooed album bombed, MC Jin — the first Asian American solo rapper to sign for a major label — dropped out of the public eye.
He learned about the resurrection, found God, and later resurrected his career.
Jin Au-Yeung was raised by immigrant parents from Hong Kong. They ran an unsuccessful string of Chinese restaurants in Miami. When he was teenager, Jin answered the phone in the restaurant while Mom and Pop were wrapping wontons.
His parents instilled in him success through hard work and college, but Jin dreamed of doing rap. After their last restaurant closed, they moved to New York where Jin began engaging in rap battles and hawking mixtapes on the streets.
Jin was particularly good at rap battles, which require more quick wit than a smooth-talking attorney because you have to insult your opponent cleverly, in rhyme, with rhythm, instantly. He was so adept at rap battles that he got spotted by an agent and soon landed a spot on BET’s Freestyle Friday, where he won seven successive battles and entered their Hall of Fame.
His meteoric rise in rap led to signing with the eminent Ruff Ryders hip-hop label when he was only 19. He was heralded as the next best thing, evidence of America’s diversity and the diversification of hip-hop.
Despite recording with Kanye West and others, his first album, The Rest is History, fell flat.
Jin left Ruff Ryders and was reduced to selling indie music over MySpace through PayPal.
“As quick as I went up is as quick as I went down,” Jin surmised on the Christian Post.
After floundering for two years, Jin was given a second shot at fame and success in his parents’ native land. Universal Music Hong Kong, seeing a surge of popularity for hip-hop on the island nation, offered Jin a contract with proper promotion.
Jin didn’t have anything else going on, so accepting was a “no brainer.”
Originally he thought he would be in Hong Kong for four months, but those four months turned into four years. He recorded ABC (American Born Chinese) in 2007 and 回香靖 (Homecoming) in 2011 rapping in Cantonese. He landed roles on TV, movies and commercials. He became a sensation.
“I was the Justin Bieber of Hong Kong,” he later reported.
While he finally found worldly success, he also found spiritual success. In 2008, he rekindled his relationship with Jesus (he first accepted Jesus with his Aunt Kathy as an 8 year old). He joined The Vine Church, a bilingual congregation. Read more about MC Jin, first Asian rapper, becomes Christian rapper.
Chris Bassett’s first interaction with God started when he attended a Christian karate class at age 8 or 9 years old at the Harbor Church in Lomita, California.
The class started with 20 minutes of Bible study and a call for salvation before the free karate lessons. One day, Chris felt like the pastor was talking directly to him, so he raised his hand at the altar call to receive Jesus.
“I felt the Spirit of God come down and descend on me like electricity through my body,” he recalls. “I remember walking away from that experience feeling cleansed, brand new. It was so tangible to me.”
He wished this was the end of his testimony and that his path to Christ was that simple, but it was not.
In later years, Chris entered junior high school and began feeling “super cool.” He slowly forgot God.
He got involved in a gang lifestyle, which was easy since a lot of friends and family were in the gang.
“It looked glamorous. The glamour was a lure,” Chris says. “These men I looked up to had a way of carrying themselves that was attractive. They had the nicest cars, the prettiest women, money, power, respect. If you grew up in the hood, you knew who was running the block. It was something exclusive. You had to prove yourself through violence. Once you were in, you were accepted, loved in a way. I knew my boys had my back. If I had any trouble, with just one phone call, I knew I had a carload of goons kicking down the door for me.
But as he participated in the gangster life, he became aware of the downsides.
“The reality of (gangs) is a nightmare. At the heart of gang-banging, I truly believe, (there) is a murderous demonic force, full of death and destruction,” Chris says. “I’ve been to many funerals. I’ve lost a lot of friends and family to that lifestyle, shot dead in the streets. I shot my first man when I was 15. I can still hear my ears ringing from the gunshot. I can still hear him screaming and praying to God. I can still see the blood pouring out of his head like a waterfall, so much blood that I could taste it in the air.”
Incredibly, his victim survived, and Chris fought a reduced attempted murder charge.
“That was just the beginning of my crimes in my gang-banging career,” he says grimly.
Chris not only shot but got shot at on numerous occasions. He’s been stabbed. He’s spent time in jail. He lost friends. Worse, he realized he was losing yourself.
There wasn’t one single moment that brought him to God, but progressively, Chris feels, God was “opening his eyes.”
One of those “opening eyes” moments was when he chased down an enemy and threw his Corona beer bottle at his head. The enemy responded by aiming the barrel of a gun straight at him in a red light on Western Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway.
“I almost got my head blown off,” he says. “I could say now that by God’s grace I survived that because if you could’ve seen the car, everywhere where my head was, the car was blown out. It was a big gun, one with thunder. It was probably five or six seconds. But time slows down through those things. I remember ducking and telling my friend to go, and I remember seeing glass flying.
“I had just kissed my son goodbye because he was going to his mother’s house. I remember coming out of that situation.”
But that incident alone was not enough to wake him up.
He began reflecting soberly about the possibility of dying and leaving his kids fatherless. In the streets he was a monster, but with his kids Chris played the part of a good father. His family was sacred. He pondered the discrepancy between the way he wanted to raise his kids and the way he was living in the streets.
“I remember thinking about my daughters,” he says. “I remember thinking how can I tell them not to smoke weed and I come smelling like Christmas trees?”
What scared him most was not the scrapes with death, but the frightening numbness towards the horrors of his own evil heart. Now, he thinks he was becoming like Pharaoh, whose heart got progressively harder until he was crushed under the Red Sea
But he still didn’t return to the Savior of his childhood because he liked smoking weed and sleeping around with girls. It took him a year.
At a funeral, he had another powerful reflection. Everybody was saying nice things about his fellow gang member.
“I remember thinking, ‘None of these things were true. He was a monster,'” Chris says. “I remember thinking, ‘What about my funeral? What will they say about me?’ I didn’t want my life to be a lie. I wrestled with that. I started negotiating with God.” Getting saved out of gangs.
His parents were always working and left him unsupervised, so Mark Wahlberg took to the streets and found drugs, racism, crime — and jail.
For beating mercilessly two Vietnamese men at age 16, he was tried as an adult for attempted murder. He pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to two years in prison. He ultimately served only 45 days of his sentence, but carries a permanent felony record.
“When I heard the jail doors close behind me … I knew that was just the beginning for me,” he says. It was the beginning of a life in crime or the beginning of a fresh start, if he turned his life around.
Wahlberg, famous for acting in Transformers Age of Extinction, turned to God and to his Catholic priest to help straighten out his life.
“I should be in a lot of places and it should not be here, so trust me, God is so good,” he says. “Thank you Father.”
Wahlberg goes to church for at least 15 to 20 minutes daily and also prays every day, allowing him to begin each morning with a clear outlook and avoid negativity.
“Faith keeps me focused, patient, calm, happy and gives me joy,” Wahlberg said in an interview with Walter Scott. “I start and end my day in prayer. It keeps me grateful, humble, hungry, committed to trying to do more and be more positive. It is the reason for everything good in my life. If I can start out my day saying my prayers and getting myself focused, then I know I’m doing the right thing. That 10 minutes helps me in every way throughout the day.”
Wahlberg, the youngest of nine children, starred in Daddy’s Home, Planet of the Apes and Boogie Nights. In 2006, he earned a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his roll in the neo-crime drama The Departed. Recently, he has served as executive producer of four HBO series: the comedy-drama Entourage (2004–11), the period crime drama Boardwalk Empire (2010–14), and the comedy-dramas How to Make It in America (2010–2011) and Ballers (2015–present).
Wahlberg got his start in entertainment in the music industry. He was one of the founding members, at age 13, of the boy band “New Kids on the Block,” which he quit after only a few months. He became the frontman for the group “Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch,” releasing the albums Music for the People and You Gotta Believe. His music is mostly Hip Hop and Eurodance.
Since his initial incarceration prompted a spiritual turn-around, his walk with Jesus has been a continual re-committing daily to the Lord. For Wahlberg, the “journey to redemption” is a “process” of seeking Jesus.
“That’s why I start my day everyday by getting on my hands and knees and starting a time of prayer and reading Scripture, and then I feel like I can go out there and conquer the world.
Initially, it was hard for him to break with the other bad boys of the block. He had to walk from his home to the train station everyday, and the guys didn’t like the fact that he’d left them. “If I wasn’t with them, I was against them” in their minds, he says. “So I had that to overcome, but I was committed to turning my life around.”
Eventually he came to the revelation that he belonged to a huge community of believers and dedicated himself to the church, to the people and to God. He saw it as a beautiful thing to have such a support network. “You just have to believe and have faith and know that you can accomplish it and turn your life around.” Read the rest: From racist to Christian actor, Mark Wahlberg.
If there’s anyone who could be confused by her own identity, it’s HeeSun Lee. She’s Korean by birth, Chinese-American by upbringing, a rapper who hangs mostly with African-Americans and Latinos.
But HeeSun Lee — her first name is Korean while her last name is Chinese — sees herself first and foremost as a Christian.
It wasn’t always that way.
Adopted when she was four months old in 1983, HeeSun grew up in a loving family with all her needs met in New York. But when she became a teenager, the idea that her birth parents had “rejected” her sent her reeling. Was she Korean? Why did her biological parents not want her?
“When I got into high school, I felt so different. That was the beginning of my journey of not knowing who I was,” she says in a YouTube video.
Her identity crisis sparked a downward spiral because she couldn’t speak Korean and didn’t even know what kimchee was; her new Korean friends commented in their native language about her and she felt awkward, rejected.
She was drawn to the hip hop culture of Tupac at the time and learned to party, take drugs and sleep around, according to her lyrics and an interview.
“I remember there was a point in my life when I was just completely lost. I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t know who I was,” she says on a Jahrockn video of her “I’m Supposed to Be” song.
At about the same time, she got introduced to Christianity when her grandmother, to whom she was very close, declined in health. A friend invited her to church.
“Once my grandma became sick I thought I’d find comfort in going,” she says. “It completely changed my life. I found God — I found my purpose.”
But her journey toward God wasn’t all smooth sailing. She stumbled.
“Through it all though, God was always with me,” she says. “He was just distant. But He kept me. He reminded me He was there for me. Finally I just realized, this is wrong. This is not where I’m supposed to be. So I just cried out to God.”
In college she could have gone either way — the world beckoned but God was fighting for her. Ultimately, she chose Jesus, marriage, and a family.
She also chose rap.
“When I started rapping, I wanted to rap about my own experiences, what I go through,” HeeSun says on a Korean American Story video. “I couldn’t picture myself rapping half naked and talking about sex. I mean, I partied and stuff, but that just wasn’t me. That wasn’t my character. At that time I was in and out of church. I believed in God. He was always helping me in some way. I was struggling. My songs are about my experience” coming to God.
That is how HeeSun became the Christian hip-hop artist who, perhaps, gets the most double takes.
Female Christian rappers are few and far between. So are Asian rappers, not to mention Christian Asians rappers. She’s even rapped while pregnant.
HeeSun married a New York police officer, and the couple have two girls.
Her first album in 2008 was Re:Defined on the Jahrock’n label. She found the definition of her identity in Christ, she says.
“I used to think I was unfortunate, unfortunate to live a life that could never tell me the origins of my story,” she raps in one song. “Most people know how they were born. Unfortunately, I was never given those details on my adoptions papers… I don’t know if I was a mistake” Read the rest: Christian female Korean rapper.
As a young man, Bill Hunt could not wait to move out of his parents’ house. They were strict, “which was good for me but I wanted out of their house,” Bill says on a church video produced by the Potter’s House in Prescott, Arizona.
Once he moved out, he attended Mesa Community College in Arizona. There he was influenced by “friends” to start drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana.
He dropped out after one year in college. Then he moved back to Prescott and made new friends who swept him into a party lifestyle that involved harder drugs. “That’s about all I could ever think of,” he says. “That was the ruling of my life.”
Bill grew out his beard and hair and became a full-fledged hippie. He was rude and liked getting into peoples faces. He thought he was cool, “the man”.
As he got older, he analyzed his life. “I was experiencing some things in my life that made me begin to see that my life was not together one bit,” he says.
One day in January he was driving to Chino Valley and a downpour hit. It was coming down so fast it was incredibly hard to see through the windshield. “It’d get so bad that my wipers weren’t wiping.”
He pulled to the side of the road and started sobbing, realizing that there are no real answers in the world. He thought there ought to be an answer somewhere.
That’s when Bill remembered his friend and co-worker Roger Fisher, who was a follower of Jesus. “He would tell me what God had done in his life.”
Bill was fascinated by his message. Roger told him to pray and ask Jesus into his life and to turn it around.
That night a spirit of repentance fell on Bill. He pulled to the side of the road and exclaimed, “God help me, help me! I’m just a mess. I don’t have any answers to life. Please come into my life.” Read the rest: Hippie saved from drugs.
The 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.
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.
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.