A church for Muslims: Compassion not suspicion

Adrian-churchPastor Adrian Rodriguez has been preaching the gospel, translated by his wife, to about 30 people every Sunday in a church on the outskirts of Hartford, Connecticut, and not one of the congregants is Christian.

All of them are Muslim.

“We’re dealing with very hardcore Muslims,” he says of the immigrant refugees from the Middle East who are drawn to his church. “They’re very indoctrinated. But God is speaking to their hearts.”

Pastor Adrian’s response to America’s burgeoning Muslim enclaves is perhaps Christianity’s best model: View them with eyes of compassion, not with eyes of suspicion.

With 375 Muslims per 100,000 residents, Connecticut is the 14th most Muslim state in the nation, according to a Huffington Post article in 2012. The number of mosques has doubled to more than 2,100 nationwide since the year 2000, according to a survey.

While most Americans are not hostile towards Islam according to reports, there has been concern about radicalized youths. The Homeland Security Department estimates 100 U.S. citizens have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS.

Read the rest of the article.

He was just a tyke at Lighthouse when I taught there. Now he’s a hero.

saving Iraqi refugeesAs a scout for the U.S. Marines 4th Light Armored Battalion, Tyler Smith is no stranger to weapons. But now in Iraq on a dangerous mission near the Islamic State war, the Santa Monica resident is completely unarmed.

Tyler, who studied and worked in Santa Monica, is currently deployed in Iraq with Operation Soul Shepherd helping refugees. He and seven other men as part of an advance team are setting up a safehouse for women and girls who have been raped by ISIS jihadists.

“I couldn’t let myself sit at home doing nothing while people here were suffering so immensely,” said Tyler. “I CAN help, so there’s no reason not to. I’m just a man trying to do the right thing. I’m not a hero.”

Not everyone agrees with his self-effacing.

“Every one of these guys are heroes,” said Paul Neier, founder of Mississippi-based non-profit that fights human-trafficking. “They made made a choice to go into harm’s way. The craziest thing about this is they are in the belly of the beast. They have no weapons to defend themselves.”

Read the rest of the article.

I thought it was the year of the ram

year of ram?But my gym told me it was the year of me.

:(

Again? Selfishness prevails always.

Well, I went to Chinatown for the Chinese New Year’s parade and cheered on the marching bands. The exploding confetti bursts were exciting. My wife is Chinese American, so it’s cool to learn about culture. They say it’s the year of the ram, whatever that means.

photo(4)So you can imagine how completely disillusioned I was this morning at the gym to see that it’s not going to be the year of the ram. It’s the year of you.

I’M TIRED OF LIFE ALWAYS BEING SO SELF-CENTERED! Can’t we think of others? When is the year of others?

Christian forgiveness will prevail over Muslim hatred


The brother of two of the Christians decapitated by ISIS in Libya says the atrocity has only “strengthened our faith” in Jesus.

“Since the Roman era, Christians have been martyred and have learned to handle everything that comes our way,” says Beshir Kamel. “This only makes us stronger in our faith because the Bible tells us to love our enemies and bless those who curse us.”

His comments, translated into English by subtitles, were made live by phone to host Maher Fayez on the Christian television show SAT-7 ARABIC, which is broadcast in Arabic, Persian and Turkish across 22 countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

When asked about forgiving his brothers’ killers, Kamel calmly says, “Today I was having a chat with my mother asking her what she would do if she saw one of ISIS members on the street. She said she would invite him home because they helped us enter the kingdom of Heaven.”

Read the rest of the article: Forgiveness will prevail over Islam.

Revival in Southeast Asia

[Editor’s note: Mark Ellis is my editor at GodReports.com. He is currently in Southeast Asia reporting on God’s moves there. The following is one of his articles.]

Revival in Southeast Asia

By Mark Ellis

Raised in a strict Buddhist family in Chanthaburi, about three hours east of Bangkok, her parents didn’t understand when she became a born again Christian.

“My parents brought me to the temple, but I never felt connected to those things,” says Blue Erika Ployamporn. “They prayed in a language I didn’t understand.”

An unusual thing happened to her as a young teen. “When I was 13 brushing my teeth God called me,” Blue recalls. Her mother had been ill, and she told Blue she would have to take care of her brother and sister if she died.

She began to weep because she realized she didn’t know where her mother would go after she died. “I didn’t know how to see her again,” she says. “They said there is the next life, but you can’t choose where you go. I felt so hopeless.” Read the rest of the article here: Revival in Southeast Asia.

ISIS stealing, selling body parts

[Editor’s note: Forgive me for posting such disturbing news. This blog has generally been a place for uplifting devotionals. I post this because it is my reporting on GodReports.com and because I believe exposing evil and raising awareness is part of the solution.]

Pic: Daily Mail

Pic: Daily Mail

As a means to finance their murderous “caliphate,” the Islamic State is harvesting organs to sell on the black market in Turkey and Saudi Arabia, according to the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations.

Mohamed Alhakim said his country has found dozens of bodies with surgical incisions and missing body parts in shallow mass graves in recent weeks outside Mosul, where ISIS remains in power, the UK Daily Mail reports.

“We have bodies. Come and examine them,” says Alhakim, who made the allegations before the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday. “It is clear they are missing certain parts.”

Furthermore, dozens of doctors in Mosul have been executed in Mosul for refusing to perform organ harvesting, he says.

Read the rest of the article: click here.

God is a fireman, not a policeman

God firemanHis rules are for self-protection. He’s not prowling looking for somebody to bust.

God’s principle job is rescue.

We are a sinners, incapable of saving ourselves. God did that for us. Don’t conjure an image of a finger-pointing deity who is hankering to haul the sinner off to jail. That’s contrary to the message: God is love.

If you violate the fire codes, don’t be surprised if you get burned. You may not agree with the fire codes. You may use academic language like “morality is subjective.” But the fire codes — His Bible — is there to help you, not to hurt you.

Regardless, if you violate the fire code, God will rescue you when you call 911 — when you pray to Him.

Christian vets join the fight on the ground against Islamic State


The latest foreign fighters to flock into the war zone in Iraq and Syria are Christians who want to do more than their western governments allow.

U.S. vet Jordan Matson engages in firefights regularly with ISIS soldiers alongside pro-Western Syrian Kurds, according to an interview with Fox News.

“I decided that if our government wasn’t going to do anything about it, I would,” says Matson, who’s fought ISIS since September 2014. “We’re getting shot at on pretty much a daily basis. It’s more of a World War II or Vietnam style fight. We don’t have the technology that the United States military has to push our enemies away.”

Read rest of the article here.

Revival at our Christian high school

high school revivalOur students are experiencing revival. After frolicking on slopes of Utah snow, they savored a sermon by Pastor Zach Scribner and then Five Guys burgers. Since there was a community board, they posted “Jesus loves you” notes.

And even them I’m stuck here in Santa Monica writing articles about the Islamic State and not enjoying the fun, I rejoice. While other religious schools have trouble with church kids bolting their faith, at our Christian high school in Santa Monica kids are embracing Christ wildly.

Chinese students in Los Angeles high schoolThis is what I pray for, what I work for, what I live for. To see the fruits brings indescribable satisfaction.

I pretty much got kicked off Reddit, a mecca for sarcastic atheists. Have you seen American Sniper? You could call Reddit “American Snippier.” In any case, post after post mocks Christian warnings against sin.

Chinese students learn to ski | California high schoolOnce I read about a former Christian school kid forming a “support group” for those who were subjected to the horrors of being forbidden alcohol. I remarked on that message board that it was ironic that some ran from alcohol to Jesus and that others from Jesus to alcohol. I never heard from him. Nor do I know if she could appreciate the irony.

Excuse me for being so curmudgeonly on this post, but I’ve seen so many suffer and even die for flouting God’s ways. It is a joy to see kids embracing God’s ways. Some of them have been bullied in public schools. Some were lost in cutting. Now they are living happy serving Jesus. Why would you make fun of that?

Fatigue failure

fatigue failure

I was surprised that planes crack more from pressurization than from turbulence. That’s why 747s that do long flights have been around fro 30 years while small planes doing several flights a day hit the scrap heap quickly.

It turns out that we can only stand so much. Depending on the elasticity of the material, the on-and-off loading wears it out and it eventually breaks.

God promises NOT to give us more than we can bear, but sometimes it seems like it is more than we can bear. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it — 1 Cor. 10:13 NKJV.

I’ve wondered why older Christians struggle with bitterness. There’s some truth to burn-out. Pray for renewed in your strength, rejuvenated in your spirit and to run like the youth.

But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
— Isa. 40:31 NIV.

Irena Sendler “An Angel among us”

MustardSeedBudget.wordpress.com:

Amazing story. May she inspire us.

Originally posted on johncoyote:

Remember this lady?
Remember this lady?

View original

Take her shopping

shopping is sufferingI can handily find 1.75 million other needful things to do rather than go shopping. When forced to shop by myself, I’m a laser: straight to what I need — and out. Fast.

But here’s a key to a happy marriage: don’t make it “me” time. It is “her” time. Don’t impose on your wife what you like to do. (You can do what you like some other time — say, with your buddies, for example.)

When Dianna and I shop together, time goes into slow motion. Words get slurred, shoppers drudge about, my eyes cake up with glaze. I lose my ability to see color — everything runs grey (more than 50 miserable shades). There wasn’t even a Starbucks for me to take refuge at the concentration camp premium outlet. (No, it wasn’t a concentration camp. I couldn’t concentrate on anything.) It was surreal. (This is not hyperbole. This really happens.)

Why did I subject myself to such woe-begone suffering? Why did I willingly (yes, willingly) do what no man in his right mind would normally do? No, I’m not in torture training with plans to report journalistically  from the Islamic State with risk of being kidnapped.

No. I did it to make my beautiful wife happy. (Her beauty was the only glimmer in the T.S. Elliot-styled wasteland outlet.)

You see, if you manage to make your wife happy, she’ll make you happy.

If you always expect her to make you happy (because you’re the fist-pumping, Bible-thumping leader of the household), then maybe you have failed to notice that the Bible says you’re a leader only as Jesus was a leader (remember He laid his life down in sacrifice for the beloved church?).

Sacrifice yourself a little to be happy a lot.

Lust or sacrifice

valentines

For love, some only understand lust. If we are merely evolutionary beasts, then we can satiate whatever kinky idea that occurs to us. The “Sexual Revolution” is a misnomer; it is a “Sexual Devolution.”

These don’t know about the sublime love of Jesus. Lust procures to get for itself. Jesus’ love came to give. He sweated drops of blood, such was His agony in the buildup to his arrest and crucifixion. But he endured it all because He loved you and me. Jesus’ love is so unlike ours. It’s from another dimension. Can we even grasp?

The broken-hearted, the girl who’s cutting her wrist, the guy who’s contemplating suicide — needs to grasp it. The divorcee whose pain gushes where love once flowed. The celebrity who flashes smiles before cameras but drowns out his sorrows when alone. Christ is for losers — and in this cruel world, we’re all losers.

As the Good Book says, we’ve all fallen short of what God intended us for. We need something more gratifying than the excitement of sex. We need forgiveness. Are you lonely? Christ is inviting you to be His valentine.

Original image: Google. Thank you for your genius and creativity. I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it.

Ben Franklin’s failure is the Spirit’s success

tongues of fireUltimately Ben Franklin’s attempts to reign in his flesh failed because making lists and checking off behavior charts smacks of religion. Only the Holy Spirit can truly change a person.

We just read in our literature class fragments of Franklin’s autobiography, and Franklin discusses a sort of perpetual New Year’s Resolution scheme he had. He charts his successes and expresses frustration over his failures. While laudable, human power trying to dominate human impulse is doomed.

Instead of a list of “don’ts,” your relationship with Jesus Christ is better seen as love. I didn’t adhere to a list of prohibitions when I fell in love with Dianna. I simply WANTED to be with her and to please her.

This is what the Holy Spirit does, those tongues of fire that descended on the disciples on the Day of Pentecost. Peter, the despicable coward who denied Christ to a child, didn’t need to psyche himself up to eloquence, despite the danger of testifying publicly to the Sanhedrin. Once the Spirit came on him in power, he just flowed.

Don’t strive for less of world but for more of God.

*original image from smashingapps,com by Jayan. You’re awesome. I don’t own the rights to it, and I’m not making any money on it. Thank you.

Relatable Christian post #1: Temptation

relatable Christian post | temptationDang, why is temptation all around?

Lead me not into temptation, Lord. — the Lord’s prayer.

I can resist everything except temptation — Oscar Wilde. Yeah, I know, he’s not a Christian quotable, but maybe we can relate because we’re all human.

Thank God for His grace, forgiveness and restoration. We can start tomorrow with a pristine desire to not dig into the carrots.

Original picture source: Google+. Kudos and thanks to whoever worked this. I don’t own its rights, and I’m not making any money on it.

Outlasting stress and strain

stress and strainStress is the force exerted on the jet wing. Strain is bending to the elasticity limit; if it bends beyond that, it breaks.

My dad was the test engineer who discovered, with a torque rod, that the outside two wing cylinders would break on the F-104. But his superior thought faulty testing side load was to blame. So Lockheed skipped the redesign.

f-104When the prototype flew, the same cylinders were compressed. The redesign, so late in the game, was much costlier.

We all have our breaking points, when too much stress is straining our hearts more than we can bear. Just like different materials and different designs have different load capacities, so too all of us have different limits. There’s no point in making fun of me if my capacity to enduring stress is lesser than yours.

I want to spring back into the original shape. I don’t want to be distorted by the strain of bitterness, disillusion, betrayal. God increase my elasticity!

Same tragedy, different outcomes

blind beggar

Two men became blind in the same factory explosion — one doomed to pathetic beggaring, the other a successful insurance salesman.

Fourteen years after the accident, they meet up and the blind one corners the rich one for a handout, which he obliges. But as he presses for extra money, he rehearses the story. The guy behind me, knocked me down and trampled me to get out, he moans. The story is meant to heighten sympathy and squeeze out an extra dollar or two.

But the rich one confronts the beggar. No, he says, it was you who pulled me down and trampled me. The beggar had not recognized the rich one. In the re-telling, he lied to make himself a greater victim.

mackinlay-kantor

MacKinlay Kantor

In this genius story, Man Who Had No Eyes, by MacKinlay Kantor, one man succumbs to tragedy, another overcomes adversity. Which one will you be? Which will I? Will our painful circumstances reduce us to a shell of the former, outgoing, optimistic selves.

To get a better idea, read the super-short story yourself.

Embrace change

murmuringwithout murmuring. The Israelites complained so much at almost every step of the way out of slavery. They didn’t like the food. They were thirsty. They were afraid. God was too strict.

Then they said it. We were better off in slavery!

Can you imagine someone wanting to go back to slavery?

Ultimately, their bad attitude kept them from entering the Promised Land. The first generation died wandering in the desert. Their children possessed the good land.

If you’re in great upheaval right now, praise God for the trial. Try not to complain. I know it’s hard.

Image source: Beautiful pictures on Google+. I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it.

Deflategate Christians

under inflatedUnder inflated Christians are easier to grip (for the devil).

So make sure to fully inflate with the infilling of the pneuma, the Holy Spirit, the rushing wind, the breath of God.

The importance of schmoozing

fellowship Being the American that I am, I believed fervently in work-aholism. If you want to get things done, work 17 hours a day.

The lackluster church growth prompted heart searching and method revision. I discovered the power of not working (and praying). I also discovered the incomparable value of socializing. The latter upended my idea that useless chatter was a waste of time.

imagesIt turns out that socializing inspires people. If you want people to do things for you, then show them how important they are by talking to them. Here’s how it works: two or three people can always get more done than one. So if I’m the leader, I multiply my impact by delegating to followers. And I motivate followers to work by just taking the time out of my busy schedule to talk to them.

It wasn’t a sermon full of conviction that brought Zacheus to repentance. It was sharing a meal. Jesus took time out of his busy schedule to schmooze. That human connection made friends into followers, socialites into servants — for entire lifetimes.

socializing

from google images

Learn the importance of social activities.

*All the images are from Google. I don’t own the rights to any of them, and I’m not making any money on them. I applaud the photographers’ genius.

Not deflated balls but chaplain key to victory, Patriots QB says

jack easterbyQuarterback Tom Brady says it wasn’t under-inflated balls that helped the New England Patriots clinch the AFC Championship. It was the team chaplain. The 4-time Super Bowl winner is telling people that Jack Easterby, 31, gets a lion’s share of the credit for the Patriot’s season, which culminated with a final win against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. “He’s just a great person and friend,” Brady told ESPN. “You feel a special connection with him and with his genuine caring for all the people in his life.” patriots chaplainWhile some team chaplains may feel neglected by their organization, Easterby is on the Patriot payroll with an office near Coach Bill Belichick. He’s an exceptionally upbeat former college basketball player who connects with professional athletes. His website, “The Greatest Champion,” encourages viewers to accept the greatest champion of all — Jesus Christ — who hung on the cross and resurrected from the dead. Safety Devin McCourty called Easterby “a godsend to this team” who has “helped create better men,” ESPN reported. Read the rest of my Christian sports article.

I’m proud of the kids

Lighthouse Church School

There was no one faster in the league than our midfielder and defender, Caleb.

We were down 0-2 at halftime, and the kids walked off the field dejected.

Hey! We’re only down two goals. It’s not over! Let’s go out there and win this! I gave specific instructions to the kids. We needed more longer balls, through balls that our forwards could run on and beat defenders.

When the whistle blew, my son Hosea and his partner, Garrett Lahood, zipped through the midfielders and defenders straight to goal with three crisp passes. Garrett smashed it home. Woohoo! Now let’s get some more!

Santa Monica Christian school

Garrett’s quickness and ball-handling skills made coach move him from defender to forward.

But we didn’t win. Our inexperience began to show more. Errors were made, and our opponents, Westside Neighborhood School, beat Lighthouse Church School 7-1.

I’m not upset. Winning would have been almost impossible. For our small school with a co-ed team, to have made it to round 2 of playoffs was already an impossible dream. I’m proud of the kids.

It was a fun season. Kids learned about soccer, teamwork, effort. These are lessons they must apply to life.

Saints win 5-0 in middle school soccer

LCS Middle School SoccerMAR VISTA PARK – Lighthouse co-ed’s team resoundingly defeated Windward 5-0 to advance in middle school playoffs to round 2 on Monday.

They gelled when it counted most. Here was a team that during the league season would lose 8-0 and 7-0. The story of their turnaround is one of not growing frustrated, of learning from mistakes and of combining slow kids with fast kids, talented kids with not-so-talented kids into optimal formation.

Many middle schools have an A-team, a B-team and even a C-team. With less than 50 students, Lighthouse Church School in Santa Monica has only one team, combined with all sorts of players. To say all candidates make the cut is an understatement. Sometimes, the school begs kids to play.

With teams like that, the wrong thing to do is to let that one star do everything. Just give him the ball and get out of his way. Instead, the Saints focused on building a team around the stars.

A critical moment came when the Saints showed poor sportsmanship. In a pre-league scrimmage against Westside Neighborhood School, the Saints behaved very… um,unsaintly. After losing 4-1, some of the kids spat into their hands at the end-of-the-game high five, smearing it on their unwitting opponents’ hands.

Ugh! How despicable can you get?

While the opposing kids may not have realized they were the victims of an ugly prank, the opposing parents had seen it all.

Understandably incensed, the WNS coach spoke to Lighthouse coach. He couldn’t believe his ears (he had been herding stragglers to form part of the line when the offenders committed their crime).

LCS coach scrambled a quick investigation, which more or less confirmed the worse. A photographer produced incriminating photos. Kids broke down under interrogation and confessed.

It is sad to see top clubs and national teams defend their players – no matter how repugnant their behavior. Whether it is racial epithets uttered on the field or biting incidents, it’s shameful to see teams try to confuse the facts just so their players won’t be suspended.

LCS, a Christian ministry of the Lighthouse Church, decidedly reacted against self-defense. The athletics director and the coach immediately sent profuse apologies to the league organizers and offended school. They requested to NOT be excused; they asked for a sanction from the league.

Ultimately, league officials opted against punishment, acting on WNS’s gracious forgiveness. But Lighthouse benched for one game each of the offenders anyway. It was a matter of character – what Lighthouse most is trying to teach.

More important than winning league games was winning the souls of men. Since at least three players fessed up, three players sat out – and the team suffered on the field.

Read the rest of the story.

Latest martyr of ISIS, Japanese journalist was a Christian

kenji gotoJapanese journalist Kenji Goto, beheaded by ISIS in a newly released gruesome video, also happened to be a devout Christian.

A reporter seasoned in war zones, Goto traveled to Syria hoping that Japan’s pacifist stance would grant him relative safety, unlike other journalists from nations leading airstrikes against ISIS.

He failed to take into account this new brand of terrorists are breaking all previous norms, with no apparent limits to their depravity.

“You, like your foolish allies in the Satanic coalition, have yet to understand that we, by Allah’s grace, are an Islamic caliphate with authority and power, an entire army thirsty for you blood,” a masked militant says in the video while holding a knife to Goto’s neck. To read the rest of the article, click here.

Let your wife choose

Sweet Lady JaneI really don’t care too much for Sweet Lady Jane’s pastries. But if I let my wife choose where we go out, her eyes go sparkly. She becomes Sweet Lady Dianna.

If the husband insists on making every decision, he will sour his marriage, frustrating needlessly his wife. If you insist on making EVERY decision, you ultimately harm your own leadership. You show your self-centeredness, which diminishes your love.

Go where you don’t like. Go out on a date where she likes.

‘It was nuts’ How revival is sweeping Los Angeles high schools

God public high schoolOvercome by the darkness, this young Grant High School student decided she would end her life at the end of the school day. But instead, she went to an on-campus Christian club and heard Brian Barcelona share with about 150 other students.

After a stirring message, “she came running up to the front. She was weeping. She asked Brian to pray for her. She was going to commit suicide that day, but instead she found God,” says Allan Giglio, a coordinator for One Voice, which is seeing extraordinary revival in Los Angeles and Orange County high schools.

About 2,500 students at 15 high schools hear the gospel each week through campus Christian clubs, which invite One Voice representatives to speak, Giglio says. Kids have been saved from drugs, violence, sexual sin, and hopelessness.

Check out the rest of the article.

So are you ready?

Zachary Scott's workWe prepare for the SAT, final exams, a career, an interview, a game, a wedding, a speech and retirement. When do we prepare for death?

They say there’s no need since there’s nothing beyond death. You simply cease to exist, they say.

Are you so sure? The Bible, the world’s most read book, attests to a Heaven and a Hell. Even the heart of many longs for eternity. That feeling was placed in man by God.

To deny the existence of the afterlife is to deny the Creator of all of creation, which when looking at an architectural wonder is ludicrous to deny the architect behind it. (Go ahead, barrage me with Latin names for logical fallacies. Regardless, the point remains true!)

We are barely out of the womb and then we enter the grave. Compared to eternity, this life is b-r-i-e-f!

Photo credit: Zachary Scott’s series explores the issues of elderly. By dressing up toddlers as grandparents, he is suggesting that age is an issue of mentality. I like his reflection and add to it the thought of eternity.

10 Reasons I would never forgive

MustardSeedBudget.wordpress.com:

amazing observations from an amazing man of God!

Originally posted on Walter Bright:

I hope to capture in a few phrases, the power of forgiveness, the absolute necessity of it and the reasons why forgiving others should be a lifestyle of the believer.

If forgiving others were not a righteous requirement for receiving God’s forgiveness – I would never forgive others.

If forgiveness others were not the soil in which I could grow in holiness and become a bit more like Jesus – I would never forgive others.

If forgiving others were not the right attitude for maintaining my sanity (mental and emotional) – I would never forgive others.

If forgiving others were not the springboard from which a life of momentum, zeal and endurance ensue – I would never forgive others.

If forgiving others were not a testimony, a declaration and a demonstration to the world of how much I’ve been forgiven – I would never forgive others.

If forgiving others didn’t…

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The team star can’t shine without the support of the team

Virtually a one-man team, O.J. Simpson always praised his blockers.

A leader is measured not by his individual talent but by his ability to “rub off” on others. There’s no use bragging about how good you are if you don’t make others good around you.

Even Jesus “rubbed off” on his followers. In Christianity, this is called “discipleship,” and due to an excellent process of discipleship, Jesus could leave the entire ship in capable hands when he resurrected and handed off responsibility to his disciples.

Will we learn this in high school soccer?

With God’s help, he survived this crash

miraculous accidentEvery side of his pickup truck was completely smashed and compacted after Kaleb Whitby struck a semi from behind and was then hit by another semi in a highway pileup caused by morning fog and black ice.

Whitby literally walked away unscathed – with just two Band-Aids – after his Chevy Silverado was banged, spun, and ultimately came to rest in the vice-grip of parallel semi trucks. By God’s protective hand, he narrowly escaped death.

“I do believe in God. I do believe He protected me,” Kaleb told GodReports.com. “I don’t know if it was an army of angels that held those trucks apart, but I know it wasn’t my strength. I have faith that somebody was there to protect me.” Read more here: Christian news.

You have to lose in order to win

Christian school Santa MonicaOur first game was against a C-team. We won 2-0. Our kids didn’t learn anything from the win.

But when we started playing B- and A-teams, we lost 0-8. Then the kids realized they didn’t know squat about soccer and would need to really learn. We have lost every league game (the win was a scrimmage) — except yesterday.

In the last game of the regular season, we tied 2-2. Now the kids are learning how to play.

Losses are valuable. You tend to learn more from a loss — if you don’t cast yourself in the pit of self-pity. A lot of people learn nothing from a win — in the self-congratulation there is no self-study, no refining, no fixing.

If you are currently losing, rejoice. Study, work and improve. The win is ahead. You can’t get to win except by losses.

I’m proud of the progress of my co-ed team (playing against all boys teams) at Lighthouse Church School in Santa Monica.

Being there for Dad

Honor your father

I took him to his favorite restaurant Saturday.

I’m getting close to my dad. A week ago, he was rushed to the hospital from the supermarket with what turned out to be nothing. Sick with the flu, he felt like he was going to fall.

He’s 87, so I felt like this is the red flag I’ve been waiting for to take more care of him. My dad and I are so different. I was a missionary. He lived the American Dream. I love people; he’s a recluse. My life revolved around extending God’s kingdom; his life revolved around HDTV. I was closer to my mom. She’s in Heaven now.

I’ve been sleeping out in the San Fernando Valley to keep him company. I’ve been driving him on his errands. I’m happy that finally I’m able to honor him with this service.

While I was a pastor in Guatemala for 16 years, Matt. 15:5-6 befuddled me. You say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is “devoted to God,” they are not to “honor their father or mother” with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition NIV. That is what I was doing: I couldn’t help Dad and Mom with either money or service because I was serving God in Guatemala.

God brought me back to the States four years ago. I’m only an assistant pastor, so I’m freer now. God orchestrated everything so that I could honor my dad.

A happier coach

soccer girls | Santa MonicaI ran into two soccer coach friends at Wednesday’s game. They command winning teams and winning salaries. They were winning players.

I have a winninger attitude. I’m the happier coach. I coach for free, and I’m seeing the fruits of my labor, most importantly kids drawn to Christ at a Westside Christian school.

So far we have lost every league game of Middle School soccer in CIF Pacific League Basin. Monday will see if we finally win one.

Despite the dismal outlook, I’m enjoying the positives:

  • Our goalie, an adapted basketball player, won the opposing coach’s praise with “five first-rate saves.” “We thought we weren’t going to be able to score on you,” he said.
  • We limited an A-team to four goals.
  • My son scored a goal.
  • My son juked four defenders to get to goal and almost scored an individual effort.

More important than game highlights are kid highlights:

  • Kids are really enjoying soccer.
  • One kid told me he used to not like soccer; now he really likes it.
  • Beginners are scoring (at practice), and that’s  a thrill for them.
  • There’s such a good feeling of Christian good attitude and fun.

So I wouldn’t take the paid coaching position. The unpaid is better because the rewards outweigh financial compensation.

As wickedness increases, love decreases

cold heart We are warned. As sin goes exponential in the end times, it will wear away on the once-sincere love of many believers. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold — Matt. 24:12 NIV.

It would difficult to argue against the explosion of sin we have seen since the 1960s: drugs, free sex, redefining sin, massacres, crime waves in Latin America, terrorists worldwide. Standards are continually becoming looser. What was once the vilest subgenre (snuff movies) is now standard fare on cable TV (True Blood). What’s most disturbing is that nothing is disturbing any longer.

And Christian standards have slid. The line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior has been pushed back. I’m not point fingers though. I myself am susceptible. If anything, I am warning myself (and others) about the dangers of living in Sodom. Let’s not let our heart grow cold.

*I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it. If you own it, feel congratulated. It is genius. I found it on a design site.

Odysseus’ pride brought his demise

Keeping his wits, Odysseus got the cyclops drunk, blinded him and escaped with his Ithacans from the cave where Polyphemus kept them to eat them. As he sailed away, he had only to rejoice after his brush with death.

With only a short journey home ahead, Odysseus then makes the biggest mistake of his life. He shouts at the Polyphemus and boasts: “It is I, Odysseus, who have blinded you.” For indulging his pride, he paid dearly.

OdysseusPolyphemus’ dad was Poseidon, god of the seas. As long as Polyphemus didn’t know who blinded him, he had no one of asking his dad to exact revenge. But once he learned Odysseus’ name, Polyphemus could act. (This is the limitation of Greek gods.)

If you’re a sailor, you don’t want to get Poseidon mad. The god whipped up winds and storms. He drove Odysseus into one death trap after another. Ten years later, with all his men dead and all his ships lost, only Odysseus washes up on the shores of Ithaca.

It’s interesting that even pagan cultures echo the Bible: Pride goes before a fall. And yet, we Americans fail miserably to guard our tongue and heart from the dangers of pride. Strive for the virtue of humility.

Photo source: Actually I wasn’t swimming in the Adriatic Sea. I found this stunning picture somewhere on the Internet. I don’t own its rights, and I’m not making any $ on it. But if someone would pay for my ticket to go visit the Mediterranean, I’ll be more than happy to get my own picture of a beautiful boat. In the meantime, profound thanks to whoever took this one. You rock!

Missing Dad?

missing dadsI admire exuberantly Moms who’ve also had to be Dad. But I don’t think we can glibly replace him. I would rather exhort dads to fill their God-ordained roles. My fear is that if we say Dads are NOT important, then they won’t feel important and will choose a life of sin instead of role-modeling and loving kids.

*I don’t own the rights to the original image, and I’m not making any money on it.

On-line missionary faces ALS with hope in Christ

ALS bloggerHis blog is called “Unshakable Hope” – a striking contrast to what one might expect from an ALS patient of 18 years.

By far, Bill Sweeney, 54, has already outlived expectations for a normal patient afflicted with what’s otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a degenerative neural disorder that progresses until patients can’t breathe – usually within 3-5 years of diagnosis.

And though his paralysis keeps him cooped up at home, he never complains on his blog. To the contrary, he chides gently those who do rant – and his buoyant optimism would make anyone ashamed about sniveling over trivial inconveniences.


“One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from this long trial is that hope – and the joy, peace and faith that always accompany Christ-centered hope, only comes through a conscious, determined effort,” he writes on his blog through a painstakingly slow process that employs eye-tracking software to detect letter by letter what he wants to write on his computer.

“I’ve had my hope challenged many times, and I’ve become pretty good at conquering these challenges.” Read the rest of this Christian news article.

Perfect peace

Isaiah 26:3

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. — Isaiah 26:3 NKJV.

The devil assails our minds with worry. Trusting in Jesus means having peace.

Photo source: Pinterest. I’m not making any money on it. I don’t own the rights to it.

Heaven opens for 45 who died in AirAsia crash

philip-mantofaWhen they learned that 45 of their own were among the missing of the downed Indonesia AirAsia flight 8501, members of the Rose of Sharon Church of Surabaya, Indonesia, sprang into action.

They sent assistant pastors to console the grieving. They set up a care center of prayer and worship with food and beverages while family members awaited news of the fate of their loved ones. Trained counselors were on standby by shifts around the clock in the airport and in homes.

“When I witnessed how one bereaved family encouraged and prayed for another out of their initiative, I could say that I almost saw heaven in that situation,” Pastor Philip Mantofa, who pastors the 45,000 member church, told CharismaNews. “Particularly when the bodies of the their family members were found and they had to identify them, we couldn’t leave them to face these horrific situations alone.” Read the rest of the story.

Holy Spirit Alzheimer’s

holy spirit alzheimers

With some friends in Guatemala. We all pass through episodes of life that would best be forgotten.

My mom had Alzheimer’s, so I don’t mean to make light of this scourge. I remember when she walked out the front door in her pajamas, and Dad drove around looking for her. He found her on a busy street.

What I mean by Holy Spirit Alzheimer’s is to forget what we must forgive, to heal the wounds in our hearts, to remember the good and forget the bad, to move on, to stay in relationship with people who have hurt us deeply. When God forgives, He forgets. Would we could do likewise.

I’m going to pray to forget hurts because remembering them converts them into hinders. They hinder me from serving Jesus fully. Holy Spirit, come and help me to forgive AND forget.

Love, serve and sacrifice

love, service, sacrifice

With the kids of my disciples.

From across the street, he called me. On the bus, she almost threw herself on top of me to give me a hug. A couple grew teary-eyed in the market when they saw me.

People everywhere were greeting me and thanking me. Four years ago, I ended abruptly a 16-year mission stint in Guatemala. On my New Year’s trip to Guatemala, old friends were popping up everywhere.

I’m no celebrity. But I did one thing: I served people tirelessly. I walked 10 miles to do Bible studies in their house. I handed out scholarships left and right for our school. I visited people in the hospital, in jail. I gave time and again.

Then the wonderful mission life came to an end. I returned to the States, where I serve in my mother church. I teach in the school, and I write this blog. Every once in a while, I get the chance to visit Guatemala again.

I can see that all the love, service and sacrifice were worth it. People have been impacted for Christ.

Maybe better called ‘the Ten Blessings’

ten commandments

As with so many things in life, everything depends on your perspective.

“Commandments” illicits such negative reactions these days. Nobody wants anybody else telling them what to do. Well, on second thought, we DO want police and law to keep us safe from criminals and terrorists. But we don’t want God to exercise any such protection. We can handle morality on our own, we think.

So now it is time to rename the “Ten Commandments.” After all, we understand that if you misuse your new electronic device or car, you can suffer consequences. But on the other hand, if you use it correctly, it will be useful, work right and keep you happy.

So if you want a life that works right and keeps ya’ happy, follow the guidelines of the Manufacturer, which were formerly called the “Ten Commandments.” The blessings of obedience are within reach.

The difference is mercy

cute babyOne girl sputtered out of the church. Her pastor/uncle treated her gruffly when she got pregnant out of wedlock. Twenty years later, she’s still out of the church.

Another girl, in her down and out moment, got friendship, love, acceptance, encouragement. Today she’s serving in the church, a huge blessing.

It’s good to uphold a high standard for the church. But we must never lose sight of mercy. Sometimes striking a balance is tough. If we err, let’s err on the side of mercy. That’s what God does.

Soccer saves souls

soccer | soulsWhen Mario and Banner first met these guys, the noticed how much their buddies acted like gang-bangers: trash talking, threatening, being disrespectful and boasting about alcohol and drug abuse.

Then Mario and Banner, skilled streetballers from the church, played soccer with them and shared their testimonies. Today these guys no longer hang with the downwardly-spiraling crowd. They haven’t exactly come to Jesus yet, but they ask questions, and their choices in pastimes are positive, not negative.

Soccer saves souls.

Actually one these guys never hung out with a rowdy group. He was shy, quiet, and mostly watched T.V. He didn’t even know how to play soccer. After Mario and Banner with done with, he became an expert.

I had the chance to play. We won, and we are winning.

The man of 1,000 jobs had to leave…

Relaxing with a leader on my recent visit.

Relaxing with a leader on my recent visit.

… in order for 1,000 workers to rise up and do those jobs.

When I was the pioneer pastor of a church and school in Guatemala, I did everything.

I was intense. If I didn’t know how to direct worship, or something, I learned and did it competently. As members trickled it, it was hard to delegate. I was unwilling to relinquish ministry.

First God allowed my voice to unravel (somewhat) and forced me to seek a substitute (even if he sang out of tune).

Then He got rid of me altogether. Threat of kidnappers forced me to return to the States, and then EVERYTHING was handed off to others.

Jesus handed off ministry after 3 1/2 years. I took almost 16.

This is God’s pattern. The only way to raise up a future generation of leaders is by letting them lead.

Hard lesson: to cast your burdens on Jesus

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta | Guatemala

So when will I ever learn?

I’ve been a Christian for so many years that I have to pull out a calculator. And I still can’t grasp the fundamentals. I’m a worrier, and my greatest fear (now) is that the church I left in Guatemala will collapse (because I am no longer there). This is ridiculous. It’s Christ’s church, not mine. He’s got this.

Any time some “bad” news gets to the U.S., the worrying kicks into high gear. Imagination goes to worst case scenarios. Just recently, the school I left behind had a “deficit.”

It turned out to be more of cash flow problem that one panicky leader reported to me — and so I guess I’m panicky too. But when I went to Guatemala, everything I saw and every person I talked to had only good things to report. That doesn’t mean there weren’t trials. It just means that my fears were unfounded.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you — 1 Pe. 5:7 NIV.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus — Phil. 4:7

A visit made all the difference

Kata, left, with her sister-in-law, Karina.

Kata, left, with her sister-in-law, Karina.

Kata was the spiritual pillar of her household. The eldest of eight siblings, she came to Christ first. She prayed for each one to come to Christ. She counseled tirelessly. And then after encouraging so many others, she grew discouraged herself.

She was getting older and felt like she was losing her chances to get married. Lonely and dejected, she made a mistake.

Pregnant out of wedlock, she was basically shunned by her church and run off (not my church).

This all broke my heart. We all make mistakes. So I visited Kata. Her reception was wary. I spoke of her leadership in her family, of her past successes. I made no mention of her mistakes.

Today, Kata is back at serving Jesus. Compassion, not condemnation, is what she needed.  All I had to do was take some time out of my schedule to show her she was important to Jesus. She was valuable.

Today, it’s Kata who keeps our church and school cleaner than the National Palace. Everyone praises her. I am overjoyed.

To whom can you show mercy today?

Si le quedó grande el traje, pues ni modo

photo (24)Translation: If the suit was too big for him, well, of course. = If the shoes were too big for him, well, of course.

Four years ago, I handed off ministry abruptly to Pastor Ludving: a main church, a couple of church plants and the huge task of administering a financially-struggling Christian school. Previously, Pastor Ludving had only pastored a small pioneer work.

Suddenly, he found himself thrust into a situation where he was promoted among colleagues who inevitably questioned and compared his every decision to what I would have done (I was their pastor for 16 years). Sometimes, he didn’t get a fair shot because people sometimes didn’t give him a chance for a learning curve.

Yet, there he is still. Four years later he has won over most everybody. He has refined his dealings with people. And he has managed to succeed in areas that I never did: The accounting is up to date, and the building is immaculately clean!

He’s “grown into the suit,” despite being much shorter than me.

My trip to Guatemala came to an end yesterday with a huge sense of gratitude to God for what He does. You may find joy in some other achievements in life, but I love serving God.

(Sorry about the Spanish title. I don’t mean to put anyone off. I used it because nothing in English corresponds precisely and because I thought it was a nifty pun, given the stature differential. I hope you can overlook it. :D )

She cried at her graduation

photo (23)It’s a beautiful gesture, but usually I ask bluntly: Why are you crying?

Jenny graduated from our Guatemalan school in November. And I just found out that she cried because I wasn’t there to celebrate it. I founded the school and opened the doors for her, and many other Guatemalans without a whole lot of money, to attend.

Finding out about the reason for her crying makes me want to cry. It melts my heart to see good produce good. It motivates me to keep on serving Jesus and people.

Teachers who inspire

inspiring friendsIn 2007, Marcelino de Leon saw kids in the his neighborhood who didn’t sign up for first grade. Illiteracy is high in Guatemala, where people struggle to survive and have a hard time supporting their kids in education.

So Marcelino decided to teach them himself. Every Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 he taught nine kids first grade materials. When the next year came around four of those kids tested into second grade.

Nobody paid him for this. No one applauded. Marcelino didn’t get any awards. A professional teacher, Marcelino just wanted to help where he could. He lost track of those kids when he moved, but we expect them to find him one day and report on their success at college.

Marcelino helped us at the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta. As always, it was voluntary, since we were/are strapped for money. We charge most students a minimal fee, and it doesn’t cover expenses.

I was so impressed by his willingness to pitch that I offered to teach him English. Extraordinarily, after I left Guatemala, he continued helping our school.

It’s people like Marcelino who inspire me.  Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds — Heb. 10:24. He came to visit me today. I’m wanting to do more for God.