Reinvest in a bad investment


way of GodYou wouldn’t? Jesus did. You and I were bad investments. But He believed in us — again. He forgave us — again. He gave us another chance we were demonstrated repeatedly that we weren’t worth it. This is what Christianity is.

Would you recognize him?


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

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

Try for yourself

cookie pileGod is good.

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

Heaven is real

castle in clouds

One day I´ll be there. Will you?

My dad is in a transitional care facility. He had fallen and broken his hip. He was transferred from the hospital to here. He was in a lot of pain last night. He’s 88.

I’m face to face with our body’s breakdown and mortality. We all expect a long life, but no one has a guarantee. Are you ready to go to the Heaven God made for you because He wants to enjoy friendship with you for all of eternity?

They’re not really “stressed out.” Twenty One Pilots is reaching out to lost youth

twenty-one-pilots-stressed-outTop Ten Christian band Twenty One Pilots declared its musical manifesto three years ago in the song “Car Radio,” “I will try with every rhyme to come across like I am dying to let you know you need to try to think.”

Twenty One Pilots’ hit “Stressed Out” is currently played on secular radio stations across the country and in Europe, and the duo is selling out concerts at every venue. Even though they are open about their faith, the band continues to sneak like a hacker through the world’s default gospel-rejection mechanism.

While the dialectic voice confuses secular reporters, the message of salvation carries through to their listeners.

21 pilots

Tyler Joseph SAYS the black makeup on his hands symbolizes oppressive stress. But it’s likely more a symbol of sin for his adopted touring persona “Blurryface,” who is a representation of the Romans 7 alter ego.

“When I first listened to their music I was like, I’m not alone. I thought I was the only one,” wrote Mattie on a fan site in August 2015. “Twenty one pilots really did save my life in more ways than one.”

Twenty One Pilots is a genre-melding duo composed of vocalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun, both 27-year-olds from Ohio. They attended Five 14 Church (as in Matthew 5:14 — “You are the light of the world”) in New Albany, just outside Columbus. Josh now lives in Los Angeles.

The band was formed when Tyler ditched basketball in the eleventh grade to become a musician. He tore through learning piano to bass and ukulele.

twenty one pilots concert energy
“I had identity issues. I didn’t like being the guy who played sports,” he says in a YouTube interview. “So I set up a microphone and a little studio. My mom’s trying to do the dishes and she hears her son screaming his head off down in the basement trying to record vocals, and she’s gotta be thinking, ‘What the heck is going on with him?’ So they were really confused.”

Tyler’s crazy dream is today paying big dividends, not just in terms of downloads and crowds, but also in terms of souls. Their angst-riddled lyrics are resonating with Gen-Y’ers and Gen-Z’ers, showing them a way to hope and faith.

While “Stressed Out” is an innocuous ditty about young adults yearning for the carefree days of childhood, other songs on their two albums – Vessel and Blurryface – pack plenty of gospel punch.

The duo signed with a secular label (Fueled by Ramen) and gets played mostly on non-Christian radio. But make no mistake. Though subtle at times, they are unequivocally Christian. Read the rest of the article.

Sometimes I wanna explode

Isaiah 30at the outrageous unfairness.

Then God leads me to Isaiah 30:15: In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.

He calls me to exude peace, to trust and be unperturbed. The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. — James 1:20.

Don’t panic or rant. God will have His way. Stay and pray.

Resurrection faked?

Jesus facebook status resurrected

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

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

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

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

Jesus chocolate eggs

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

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

God is slow to anger

God slow to angerSo should we be.

God’s tattoo

God TattooThe trouble with tattoos is you can’t erase them (easily). Most people spend the rest of the lives entrenching themselves in the defense of the tattoo they got when younger. It’s easier than to own up to an error.

Did you know God’s got a tattoo? Yeah, I didn’t believe it either. But check this out:

Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands. — Isaiah 49:16

This means you are God’s permanent possessions, His love. He’s not going back on you.

A friend of mine got married. I don’t know if they got wedding rings, but I see he got his wife’s name tattooed on his arm. This is a younger generation. I love Dianna, but I don’t think I’ll get a tattoo.

But God is so over the top in love with us that He has our name “engraved” — read, “tattooed” — on his palms, right where He’ll see it constantly (although if you want to get technical, this is an anthropomorphism, but the principal is there).

The War of Words is on!

FullSizeRender(2)I called her “Munchkin Punchkin.” She called me a “Monkey Pumpkin.” I guess that’s what she thought I said.

I was preaching revival services in Bakersfield for a pastor. I played soccer with the kids between services. And I was teasing the pastor’s kids.

I should follow the presidential’s example. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are exuding such civility and dignified debate.

Kidding aside, I would like to address the real War of Words. Every time we get someone to say the sinner’s prayer, we are stealing a soul from Satan — and that is war. So we should wage a war of words; we should use our words to pray, to evangelize and to lead people to Christ.

This War of Words is on and should be on. Always.

Barabbas wasn’t a bad guy

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Chilling with my bud, Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lighthouse Medical Missions is off to Tanzania at a time of terror strikes

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Dal Basile and the meds she packs for shipment in the plane. She is joined by actress Katelyn Myer, who is going on the trip.

Once they almost drowned from tipping canoes trying to reach the medical clinic in the deep inland. Another time, Ebola broke out a scant couple hundred miles away from operations. Then, rockets were launched on the capital just a day before the team left on another trip.

Now, Lighthouse Medical Missions is traveling to Tanzania at a time of terrorist activities in airports – their medicines were being shipped out of Brussels and will now arrive two days late.

“We’re all ready to do our clinic and then bam! terrorism hits Brussels, and right away we know we’re in trouble because our medicines ship out of Brussels,” said Dal Basile, medicine coordinator for the team. “That’s two days without medications. So I’m scrambling around trying to see what I can send with the doctors.”

Dr. Bob Hamilton’s Santa Monica-based charity outreach to Africa has for 20 years braved some hair-raising misadventures to provide free attention and medicines to people who otherwise rarely – if ever – get a chance to see a doctor.

Twenty-six fly out today and are scheduled to arrive Sunday in Mwanza, the capital. Dr. Hamilton is a beloved pediatrician in Santa Monica. His video on how to calm a crying infant went viral four months ago because of the apparent ease of the little-known technique of folding the baby’s arms and rocking his bottom. The internet dubbed him “the Baby Whisperer.”

It seems their standard operating procedure is navigating chaos and brainstorming plan B’s based on developing risks. They’re real Indiana Jones, not in search of archaeological treasure, but the treasures of the human heart inside suffering human bodies.

“You can’t compare God-loving people to Indiana Jones. These are people who care about people they don’t even know,” Basile said. “These Americans are taking time off from work, their vacation time, to go and work. They work to pay for their time. They’re making a big sacrifice. They work their butts off. It’s hardcore.” Read the rest of the article.

Don’t underestimate your impact

little groupsLittle groups have always been the ones to change the world.

The disciples were 11 — and they made the world largely Christian. How many people were on the original Apple team? — and now they are one of the world’s most profitable. The Wright brothers were only two guys — and they flew the first plane.

Maybe your church is small. Don’t count yourself out.

Did Spaniards cheat the Taíno of Cuba trading brass for gold?

tainos gold for brass

A Taíno museum village in Cuba today.

Value is arbitrary.

Each person assigns the value he wants to whatever item. Of course, there is an international value assigned to gold and brass, and so you could argue the Spaniards took advantage of the naivete of the Taínos. But since brass was the scarce and beautiful metal for the Taínos, they were willing to trade gold for it.

Today, some people value brandname clothes. Others value attending their favorite band’s concert. Others treasure their pets and deprive them of no extravagance. And dumping boatloads of money on it is well worth it.

Some people value their family. Some people value cheating. Some people value faith in God.

Are you trading brass for gold?

Hubble telescope corroborates Genesis account of creation, scientist says

Cedric-Johnson

Cedric Johnson, who worked on the Hubble Telescope, discusses how it has corroborated the Genesis account.

A former CEO of the firm which built a critical Hubble telescope electronic subsystem believes the latest in cosmology and quantum physics substantially confirms the Genesis account of creation.

“It is not at all surprising to read the works of modern cosmologists and to discover that the book of Genesis provided such comprehensive insights thousands of years ago,” W. Cedric Johnson said. “Those first 27 verses in Genesis 1 [that talk about creation] are far, far more likely given contemporary scientific research and findings, than unlikely.”

Hubble-Mystic-Mountain

Hubble has produced stunning images of far away space, like this one. It has also listened into the cosmic noise of the universe, which has helped scientists peer at the origins of the universe.

Johnson, 64, an applied scientist, (mathematician) who is currently advancing the field of cryptography, has long been on the cutting edge of computer- and network-facilitated technology, having worked for Rockwell International as a high school student, a firm he joined full-time after completing undergraduate studies.

In addition to the Hubble work, Johnson’s firm oversaw design and development of critical electronics for the Space Shuttle, worked on Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, as well as the Global Positioning Satellite system, and worldwide communications systems engineering for the Air Force Communications Command.

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Johnson worked on electronics in the Space Shuttle.

Johnson grew up in a Bible-believing home and never doubted Jesus, he said. But at age 29 he says, “I came to the Lord by simply changing my mind. I said, ‘God, I believe that completeness resides only in a life in You. I believe that purpose and truth comes from You.’ From that moment forward, I renounced any competition.”

He says the Hubble Telescope reveals the universe has a tempo evidenced by the cosmic background noise of the universe. Carried to its rational and scientific conclusion, this lends tremendous credibility to the presumed discrepancy between Genesis’ six-day creation account and the apparently contradicting geological and anthropological conclusions, he said.

stephen-hawking

Cosmologist Stephen Hawking has famously doubted the existence of God. Johnson wonders what Hawking’s missing.

Much like a song can be played at a faster or slower tempo (not recorded and sped up or slowed down) but still corresponds 100% to the relationships of harmony and rhythm, so too the first “day” of creation was not confined to the reference of a 24-hour period tied to the rotation of the planet. “This was given for man’s perspective, as God, who is eternal, had no such use,” Johnson said.

The tempo of the first “day” indicates it was actually millions of 24-hour periods, the second “day,” 87 million 24-hour periods and so on. Even now, the cosmic background noise of the universes indicates “ongoingness,” he said.

“Many previous inconsistencies with other scientific timelines have found scientific bases for reconciliation,” Johnson said. “The loss of obvious aberrations between trying to make six 24-hour reference periods fit geological and the palentological timelines, is no longer so certain; they fit!”

With regard to the Big Bang as the origin of the universe, cosmologists substantially agree: The universe is the progeny of an intelligent beginner; the universe came into being from a first cause event, and everything came from great nothingness.

Even though these conclusions corroborate Genesis, many cosmologists do not agree that the intelligent beginner is or was transcendental, nor remains connected with the universe, a long answer for “we can’t confirm a God,” he said.

Cosmologists are not the only ones being forced to revisit the God question, Johnson said. “Quantum theorists are facing a new line of questions and potentialities,” he said.

He spoke of the phenomena of “entanglement.” Were two entangled photons entrapped separately and moved as far apart as New York is from Los Angeles, modifications in their states would be mirrored instantaneously, with no explanation and theoretically faster than the speed of light, he said.

“This is an awesome field of study, yet nevertheless startling stuff. For many, entanglement has ‘Oh my goodness moments,’” Johnson said. Some quantum physicists are quietly saying, “You know that book that says, ‘Let there be light?’ I think we need to look at that book again.” Read the rest of the article.

Effortlessness

SLCD-Bg-Hotel-Exterior(1)I’ve worked hard. I continue to work hard.

But the greatest things that have happened in my ministry have come without virtually any effort. They came when God moved sovereignly. They came as a result of prayer. Definitely, God can do more than any human minister.

When the Door Bilingual School got a band, it came together with no effort of my own. When we acquired a building, it came together with basically no effort of my own.

I still work hard, but I’m willing to wait on God to do His work. I’m going to pray.

Do less. Pray more.

The wilderness shall become like Eden


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

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

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

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

Enjoy the ride — even the tough parts

puppy dogI was wondering why life is so difficult (finances, health, other issues), and then I was re-reading Genesis 3. And I said, Oh! That’s why life is a pain in the neck.”

As part of the curse of choosing sin, God cursed the ground and foretold that man would toil with hard labor for all the days of his life. So, that’s why there so much difficulties.

This gave me peace because I realized I was in the norm. This helps me to relax and enjoy life, even with troubles. Reading the Bible brings great wisdom and consolation.

My dad is not afraid to die

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Me at the hospital.

He fell and broke his hip yesterday. He’s 88.

I was thunderstruck by his declaration today when I came to the hospital. He’s never been a gung-ho Christian. He didn’t even go to church. But he confessed to be a Christian. He said he was envious of Mom, who died quickly, suddenly of a massive heart attack. He said he was ready to go — even, he wanted to go.

Of course, I argued that such feelings were foolishness. We — my brother and I and our wives and families — don’t want him to go. But he sees no point of lingering with the body breaking down. He says he never imagined living for so long.

A year ago, he was hospitalized, and it was a wake-up call for me to neglect my professional duties some to dedicate more time to him. I started visiting once a week. I’ve learned things I never knew: about his time in the Army in Korea post WW2, his studies at Berkeley, his previous girlfriends. He’s tipped me off to great stories about Christian golfers and tennis players that I’ve parlayed into articles for God Reports. The man I didn’t have much of a relationship with since I was a youth and he didn’t talk to me began to figure centrally in my life.

When my mom died 10 years ago, I had an incredible peace, not just because she was a Christian but because I felt I had learned so many lessons from her that I was putting into practice in my life. From Mom, I learned to love and serve God above everything. She was a chaplain in the Sylmar juvenile hall, and I was a missionary in Guatemala.

For the first time ever, my dad seems to have gotten excited about the service I render to the Lord. I was telling him (before his fall) about a student in my class that came to our high school from the public system, where he was a trouble-maker, a fighter and who knows what else. Now, he’s reading the literature and making intelligent contributions to the class. My secret educational tool is to believe in the kids. Maybe no one ever believed in him before. Now he is responding.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen it register on Dad’s face that this work, though miserably remunerated, is gloriously valuable. Could it be that facing eternity, the man who hammered financial stability is finally understanding true value?

No doubt, my dad will recover from this second hospitalization. He won’t like the transition for physical therapy at the nursing home. But he’ll probably get home.

But he won’t be with us forever. Will I have learned from him everything I needed to?

 

I killed myself at the gym today, so…

killing yourself at the gym…I wasn’t surprised when the homicide detectives showed up at my door later.

Ok, this picture is not me. I’m more of a (bad) punster than a muscle man. Actually, I’m the pencil-necked kind of guy with spindly arms and legs.

But I enjoy going to the gym. I have lofty, unattainable goals. In the striving, at least I’m staying healthy. And a healthy body is will be useful for the Lord’s service longer than a sick or frail one. I like the gym almost as much as the church; both are focused on goodness, healthiness and improvement.

Granada Hills methane leak and people who are not good at math

Porter-Ranch-Gas-Leak-Image-Location-1-MapSouthern California Edison decided in 1979 it would be CHEAPER to remove instead of replace a safety valve at the bottom of a well in a methane storage facility just north of Granada Hills of Los Angeles because it wasn’t close to homes, according to LA Weekly. After an estimated 97,000 tons of pressured gas (stored in preparation for winter) escaped into the atmosphere, Edison is facing cleanups and lawsuits — not to mention the loss of their product — that will total into the millions of dollars.

The site, the second largest such storage facility in the U.S., is a huge underground cavern that was left over after oil was pumped out by J.Paul Getty. It has about 115 wells, once used for oil, that can pump in and out methane for distribution to 21 million customers and 14 power plants. As a public utility, Edison must argue rate increases in order to pay for refurbishment. Sometimes, it’s just easier to scrimp.

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Or so Edison officials thought. The aging wells leak regularly, but when well SS-25 was found leaking on Oct. 23, 2015, they couldn’t stop the gas from barreling out — until February  when a parallel well was drilled and they intercepted it at the point of leakage and stopped it up. Meanwhile, neighbors moved out as the poisonous benzene in the methane wafted through the community provoking bloody noses, nausea and pet deaths. Edison was forced to pay hotels for 100s of people and now is paying clean up of the homes (a toxic film was left on everything inside and out of the houses). The lawsuits will be, doubtless, awarding millions of dollars to the plaintiffs.

So much for finding the easier, cheaper way of doing things.

This disaster, which is near where I grew up in Chatsworth, reminds of others who are bad at math: namely, people who can’t calculate eternity, people who think they have cast enough doubt on the afterlife to justify the gamble of living for self and sin in this short existence on earth.

Actually, Edison’s fiasco will be absurdly insignificant compared to your miscalculation if you don’t make Heaven.

Ken Ham’s full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark

ark encounterA mind-blowing full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark is nearing completion in Williamstown, KY, displaying the remarkable grandiosity of the all-wood colossus.

While Noah and his family spent 100 years toiling on the ark, Ken Ham and his construction team — including dozens of Amish carpenters — will have taken five years by the time they are finished in July and it opens to the public.

“We want to reach millions more about the truth in the Gospel, the words of God,” said Ham, who is also the founder of the Creation Museum located 40 miles from the Ark. “I believe that the Ark of Noah is the greatest reminder we have for salvation.”

At 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high, the replica is so big it actually shatters previous records — becoming the biggest all-timber structure in the world, according to Ham.

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To mount the massive construction, Ham employed several dozen Amish carpenters to apply their traditional carpentry skills to meet the Genesis specs. The interior of the ark will have three stories and 130 exhibits, including animal specimen and statues of Noah.

The Ark Encounter website hopes the project will dispel the aura of childhood fantasy that is associated with the Ark story. “We consider the fairy-tale ark that appears in the drawings, kids’ books and toys, looking like a bathtub with the giraffes’ heads sticking out and modern animals on board, to be dangerous. The biblical account of the Ark and the Flood is not a fun story about an old man and lots of cute animals. It’s about God judging an exceedingly wicked world while sparing a righteous man, his family, and representatives of the land animals from destruction.” Read the rest.

Editor’s Note: Chad Dou, my journalism student, wrote this for God Reports.

When good guys fight each other, something is very wrong

batman-vs-superman

I admit: I’m not schooled in the intricacies of superheroes fighting among themselves, but the core of my being finds this repulsive Good guys are not supposed to fight good guys

So too, when the church fights among themselves, it’s a tragedy.

Some Christians fight over ministry. Others let personality conflicts prevail. These are wrong-headed approaches to church. First, God describes the church as a physical body without redundancy. Every part of the body has its valuable function They eye cannot say to the nose that it is superior.

Secondly, you can always go out and CREATE new ministry. As long as there are unsaved souls on the planet, there cannot be a limited number of ministerial positions.

Thirdly, Christ told us the greatest among us should be the servant of all. Usually, there are ministries in the church that need workers. I myself have taken up the cleaning ministry.

Fourth, church members who believe they have the gift of criticism are more Pharisees that Christians. Stop finding fault with what your brother is doing, and do something yourself to build up the church or add members.

I’m sure someone somewhere can explain to me the plot of Superman fighting Batman and how this makes sense. But can anyone anywhere explain why Christians fight in the church?

Our Chinese students loved surfing at our Santa Monica Christian high school

Chinese international student Santa Monica

The author, left, is a student in my World Literature class and completed this article as an assignment

By Jasmine Zhang, Lighthouse Christian Academy sophomore

The first time Brenda Liu and I, students from China, surfed and felt the crash of the waves, we thought we were going to die.

“I was so scared,” said Brenda Liu. “The big waves almost killed me. I saw how the big waves could whirl people away.”

I am from Yunnan, a highland in Southern China. I had only seen the sea in pictures and video before.

The sea exercised a wonderful attraction over me. I love the sea and swimming. I like surfing, even though I am not very good at it. So when I enrolled at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica, I opted for surfing elective. Actually quite a few of us Chinese foreign exchange students took the class, which in the Fall semester had seven students.

美国留学Brenda agrees with me about surfing. “I thought: ‘I am young. I should try something new and different and keep learning,’” Brenda said. “I knew how to swim and snowboard, so I thought surfing would not be so difficult.”

It turns out it WAS difficult for us international students. But it is fun.

“At the beginning, I was so excited and felt that I was going to do something very marvelous,” Brenda said. “I was surprised by how the sea is really salty. I basically didn’t even stand on the board the first time.”

Even though at our first outing we didn’t surf too spectacularly, we did see a dolphin, something we had never seen before. “That was the most interesting thing,” Brenda said. Read the rest of the story 美国留学.

Cross the bridge of Christianity

chengduChristianity is not prohibitions. It gets you where you want to go. To bliss and peace. To stability and security. To acceptance. To eternal life.

So cross the bridge.

#Hero

IMG_9350David Wainwright was the gentlest human being. He oozed the love of Christ.

He was a member of Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica long before me, so I always looked up to him. It was he who got me into coffee on a long, overnight drive to Prescott, Arizona, to pick up a van our church had purchased from the Potter’s House Church. He taught me how to outreach, how to care for people, how to clean the church. He showed me Jesus was first in everything.

David got set free from every addiction except cigarettes, which remained his nemesis for 10 years after getting saved. Then, he called on the children of the church to pray for him, and, finally, he was free. He never smoked again.

I went off to Guatemala to pastor a church. He stayed behind and worked in the J. Paul Getty Museum in the hills above Brentwood. Later he moved to Hesperia, CA, where he helped successive pastors lead the pioneer work there. Whenever I came back from Guatemala, I would seek him out to share a coffee. It was our particular fellowship.

Then six year agos, I came back from the mission field for good, and the coffees were more frequently. He was a big bear, a teddy bear, who would give you hugs that communicated the love of God.

The last time, he saw me first, came over and gave me a hug. I didn’t even see it coming. Who would have know that would be my last David Wainwright hug? He died Sunday. He graduated with high honors to Heaven.

The irony? He passed away while visiting people — up to the last breath of his life, he was living for others, encouraging others.

That’s what I call a hero. That’s what I want to be.

David, I won’t miss you because I have you inside of me. I will strive to be like you — gentle, humble, servant-hearted. It is no easy role model to follow, but I have imbibed of your spirit, and I know what I need to do.

Ingrid Bergman got saved playing the role of a missionary

Bergman-movie-posterIngrid Bergman, the Academy Award-winning actress famous for her role in the film Casablanca, got saved after playing the role of a missionary to China, and the irony is the missionary didn’t want Bergman in the part because of the star’s well-publicized adulterous relationship with an Italian director.

When Bergman was named to play the part of missionary Gladys Aylward in the 1958 movie The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, Aylward expressed her disapproval, and she prayed with Madam Chiang Kai-Shek who, after praying, told her God would “take care of it.”

Aylward assumed “take care of it” meant the infamous actress would be replaced. Instead, it apparently meant that Bergman’s own heart would be transformed by finding peace and joy in Christ.

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness was based on the life of sacrifice and fruitful ministry of Aylward, an English girl who was originally rejected from the Chinese Inland Mission at age 26 because her lack of schooling made it unlikely she would be able to learn Chinese.

gladys-aylward-1With no official sponsorship, Aylward made her way to China on her own. She worked as a maid so she could buy a ticket for the Tran-Siberian Railway. She got her ticket in 1930 and traveled to Yangchen to work with 73-year-old missionary Jeannie Lawson doing household chores.

Soon after her arrival, her patron died, and she took over the Inn of the Eight Happinesses (Hollywood changed its name for the movie). She lived in China at a time the nation was facing great upheaval, and many people suffered dire poverty.

When she happened upon a mother who offered to sell her own sickly, infant daughter for only nine pence, Aylward was moved to tears, paid the money and adopted her. She named her adopted daughter “Beautiful Grace” and nursed her back to health.

This adoption was the beginning of her orphanage ministry that swelled to 100 children.

Aylward was contracted by local authorities as an inspector to enforce the new national law banning foot-binding, an age-old custom of deliberating thwarting normal growth because tiny feet on females were thought to be attractive.

Because of her relationship with authorities, Aylward was called upon to quell an uprising in a local prison. The warden, calling her to account for her boast that God was capable of doing anything, sent her in as prisoners were rioting and even killing prisoners in protest of the squalid conditions. She walked straight up to the ringleader, who brandished a butcher’s knife, and commanded he hand over the knife.

Then she told the prisoners to form into ranks and explain why they were rioting. Her report and subsequent negotiation with the warden on behalf of the prisoners led to reforms and more adequate living conditions.

Though the Chinese were distrustful of foreigners, Aylward won them over with her continuous good works, and they called her “Ai-weh-deh,” a Chinese approximation of her name that also means “Virtuous One” in the native dialect.

In 1938, her city was attacked by the Japanese. Rather than face certain massacre, she embarked on a march with her 100 orphans to Chinese nationalist territory. In 12 days they marched 300 miles, sometimes sleeping on the mountainside under the open air.

The column of children had to run to escape Japanese bullets and avoid checkpoints. They were only able to cross the Yellow River by the miraculous appearance of a boat (all vessels had been seized by the Japanese) that offered to ferry them. Continue reading.

The genius of pioneering

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The band is called California Aftermath, and the guy on the drums is my son.

In our group of churches, all new church plants are called pioneers. And there’s genius in it. For one, the onus on the pastor to get new people saved in tremendous. Usually, these are net gains for the kingdom of God and not church transfers.

Secondly, it forces the pioneer pastor to go out to the harvest field. There’s no time to talk about it. You have to do it.

Christians should spend less time in the safety of the church and more time outside sharing the good news with those who do not know it.

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Pastor Jacob Salas at left. Jenna, at right, did all the driving.

This past weekend, my son and I went to Bakersfield, CA, to knock on doors and invite people. He performed in the concert in the park in the evening. Then we drove two hours home, exhausted by happy. Through the efforts of various area churches converging on Bakersfield, 20 people said the sinner’s prayer.

I know of no more satisfying work, no greater joy, than to wrest souls from Satan. I believe that fighting political battles is valuable, but less valuable than simply getting people saved.

Hoarders of bad memories

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Some people hoard newspapers and trash. They just can’t decide what to throw out so they don’t throw out anything. Their house becomes a trash dump.

Others hoard hurtful memories. These endanger us of turning bitter, grudging, inward, suspicious or anti-social. Everyone needs a sewage system connected to the heart to flush out the wrongs suffered, else we lose the joy of each day.

This is why Jesus urges his followers to forgive. From the cross, in excruciating pain, Jesus forgave his crucifiers. It is the model for us.

Want more

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We are the “want more” generation. There are those fighting the uphill battle of the simplified life counter culture movement.

And we think we are simply entitled to whatever luxuries and blessings free of charge because we are Americans — or whatever the basis is.

Meanwhile, the free gift of salvation is despised and ignored. We don’t want Heavenly riches; we want earthly ones! We can’t be happy without them, and we have someone to blame if we don’t get them — because the whole society was “set up to benefit” only the richest. Or so they say.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not Trump supporter.

*Picture from Pinterest.

Body builders and Christians

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Body builders understand things like Christians. They sacrifice. They discipline themselves. They put in effort. The forgo delectable but unhealthy treats. Results are what they’re after.

To be sure, there are many body builders who are so into themselves that they are far from Christian. No doubt, many are narcissists. Others are hedonists. But the principal they understand is the same of the Christian: A greater good is attained by forgoing sin.

Of course, we are not saved by behaving saintly. We are saved by confessing we are sinners and asking Jesus to be our Lord. This is the first sacrifice, the sacrifice of our self-sufficiency and pride. From there, there is a need to continue growing, setting goals and attaining them Go to the gym is not a New Year’s fad; it must be a lifestyle change, just like Christianity.

The analogy is not 100%, as no analogy ever is. But it seems to me that it wouldn’t be a major shift in thinking for gym rats to become church rats.

This frail nurse helped Gen. Stilwell’s group march 140 miles to escape Burma during WW2

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Gen. Joe Stilwell’s storied retreat out of Burma.

With the monsoon ahead and the Japanese in pursuit behind, Lt. General Joe Stilwell trekked 140 miles through steamy jungles and over 7,500-foot mountain ridges to escape an overrun Burma during World War 2.

His party of 117 carried money and Tommy guns, but their secret weapon was the singing voices of Than Shwe and 18 other Burmese nurses. Despite battling tuberculosis, Than Shwe, a devout Christian, led the hardy ladies in “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” to boost morale in the flagging marchers.

“All the way on the retreat we were singing. ‘Sing, girls, sing,’ Uncle Joe would say,” said Than Shwe, as quoted in Stars and Stripes.

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Than Shwe with Dr. Gordon Seagrave

She was still teaching English in Lashio, Myanmar, at 89 years of age when she was interviewed two years ago. Although she shares the name with the ex-dictator of Myanmar (Burma’s new name), Than Shwe has nothing else in common with the repressive military general who handed leadership over only recently.

Than Shwe is remembered for being peppy and cracking jokes. She was hardworking lady who offered her services as a nurse during World War 2 despite fighting her own battles against TB.

Stilwell’s retreat on foot out of Burma in May 1942 is the stuff of legends among history buffs. The no-nonsense general who wore no military insignia to show solidarity with his troops was charged with the Allies’ China-Burma-India theater. He sent much of his staff out on planes but refused the luxury and security for himself. Instead, he led the on-foot retreat personally.  “I prefer to walk,” he said.

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Than Shwe at 89 two years ago teaching English in Lashio. Photo: Stars and Stripes

When Stilwell – known to his soldiers as “Vinegar Joe” for his acid personality – found his forces disintegrating, he was obliged to retreat. On May 6 leaving Indaw, the group headed west into the impenetrable jungle, tramping a minimum 14 miles a day through mud and zig-zagging up and down switchbacks to India.

“The jungle was everywhere,” wrote Donovan Webster in The Burma Road. “Its vines grabbed their ankles as they walked. Its steamy heat sapped their strength. And every time they reached the summit of yet another six-thousand-foot mountain, they could only stare across the quilted green rain forest below and let their gazes lift slowly toward the horizon. Ahead of them, looming in the distance, they could finally see the next hogback ridge between them and safety. They would, of course, have to climb over that one, too.”

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Than Shwe as a young nurse in World War 2

Stilwell was committed to assuring that every member of his party – Americans, English, Indians, Chinese and Burmese – escaped alive. Japanese troops, trying to cut off Chiang Kai-Sheck’s supply line through Burma, were chasing him from the South, the East and the Northeast.

“By the time we get out of here, many of you will hate my guts,” Stilwell said. “But I’ll tell you one thing: You’ll get out.”

The nurses looked frail, hardly apt for such a rigorous journey, and Stilwell urged anyone incapable of completing such an arduous journey to stay behind and seek refuge in town. But instead of slowing up the group, the gospel singing nurses turned out to the godsend, constantly injecting enthusiasm with their lively songs. Follow the rest of the march.

Get into the ship

ship
Fellowship
Worship
Discipleship

Don’t miss the ship.

How to score a signed Messi jersey if you live in Afghanistan

Aghan boy Messi jersey

Be exceptionally cute. And poor. Living in a dangerous part of the world. Murtaza Ahmadi’s brother took this picture of him and posted it on the internet. While death via the Taliban has hit most families around them, it still has not struck them directly, the brother says.

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He was just a 5-year-old who loves soccer. The family, which subsists on farming, watches soccer as a distraction from the horrors that surround them. And Murtaza decided his favorite player was the Argentinian star who plays for Barcelona. So he wanted a jersey. He even cried.

But those jersey are too expensive for the poor (heck, they’re even too expensive for me). So his brother hooked him up with a plastic bag hand painted with colored sharpies. The kid was content. The kid was cute. His brother took the picture and posted it.

The internet went crazy, reposting and proliferating. People were asking: Who is this kid? Even Messi saw it and wanted to give the kid a real one. As a spokesman for Unicef, Messi through the charitable organization tracked him down and handed over the jersey (not personally).

Now my heart is warmed. I love Messi all the more for his kind gesture. I love this kid. The only bummer is that I still don’t have a Messi jersey myself.

Difficult roads often leads to beautiful places

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Source: Difficult roads often leads to beautiful places

Don’t put too much “I” in Sunday

sunday.jpgDon’t put too much “I” in Sunday — else it become SInday. Keep the “U” in Sunday.

Afterall, Sunday is about others. Put God and others first on Sunday.

China poised to become most Christian nation

revival in chinaWithin 15 years, China should become the country with the most Christians in the world, according to a study.

Fenggang Yang, of Purdue University, predicts that China will reach 224 million Christians by the year 2030, as quoted in the UK Financial Times.

“By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon,” said Yang, an expert in sociology and author of Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule, in the UK Telegraph. “It is going to be less than a generation. Not many people are prepared for this dramatic change.”

The explosion of Christianity in China will upend the traditional Christian powerhouses of the world. In 2010, the U.S. had around 159 million Protestants, and many observers say congregations are in decline.

china-balcome-churchAs part of a possible passing of the baton, China is now sending missionaries – especially to North Korea

“The number of Christians is extremely underestimated (in China) intentionally because the increase of religion would reflect negatively on government officials.” said Yang.

Currently, there are about 100 million Christians in the world’s most populous nation, which eclipses the 86.7 million-strong membership of the ruling Communist party, according to the Financial Times.

Jin Hongxin, 40, is not interested in the political or missiological implications of Chinese growth. She’s just proud to attend the mega church Liushi in Wenzhou, the city many outside observers call China’s Jerusalem due to its flourishing Christian churches.

“It is a wonderful thing to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It gives us great confidence,” she said at an Easter service, as reported by the Telegraph. “If everyone in China believed in Jesus then we would have no more need for police stations. There would be no more bad people and therefore no more crime.”

China’s churches started experiencing astronomical growth after the conclusion of the Cultural Revolution in 1976. A successor to Chairman Mao, Deng Xiaoping, reformed politics, liberalized the economy, and opened China to foreign countries. Read the rest of the story.

Editor’s Note: Chad Dou wrote this as a journalism assignment in my elective class at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.

Whacking a wiffle ball taught Bubba Watson to win tournaments

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At an auction, Bubba Watson bought “the General Lee,” a car made famous by the Dukes of Hazzard T.V. show.

He grew up wearing knickers sewn by his grandma, endured the rage of his Vietnam vet father, and learned to play golf smacking a wiffle ball around the house.

Bubba Watson, 37, arguably golf’s most colorful character, won the Los Angeles Riviera tournament Feb. 21, and he credited Jesus and the Bible with the win, his ninth PGA tour victory since 2010.

“I have a lot of fears in my life, which, as I’m reading the Bible, I’m not supposed to have — but I do,” Watson told the New York Times. “Me changing as a person has helped my golf, not my swing.”

bubba-watsonIt wasn’t too long ago that Watson would lose games in his brain. He struggled with insecurity, melted down after a bad shot, and looked for people to blame when things went wrong. He used curse words and rankled other players with some unfriendliness.

But with the help of his wife, his caddie, and fellow Christian golfers (who meet weekly at a PGA Bible study), Watson is overcoming the temperamental side of his personality.

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With his wife and first adopted child

“We’ve been working on it, a hard, slow process,” Watson said in Golf Digest. “Instead of swing thoughts and swing, it’s all about the mind for me. It’s staying patient, and having Teddy (the caddie) in my ear. Teddy’s been a blessing. It’s been a struggle over five years, but we’re working in the right direction.”

His twitter account is telling. Followed by 1.54 million, @bubbawatson describes him in this order: “Christian, husband, daddy, pro golfer.”

Watson told BillyGraham.org that he is “getting more in the Word and realizing that golf is just an avenue for Jesus to use me to reach as many people as I can.”

His walk with Christ started when he was 19. A neighbor invited him to church. It was his first time in a service. “I went to church with her a few times,” he told CNN. “I listened, thought about, gave myself to the Lord.”

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His hover craft golf cart that also hovers over water.

During college, his church attendance tapered off, but in 2004 he got baptized with his new wife, Angie, and renewed his faith.

On his first date with Angie, a college and professional basketball player, she advised him that she couldn’t bear children – and Watson told her that was fine. To date, they have two adopted kids, Caleb and Dakota.

After his baptism, he drifted away from God. Then his caddie yelled at him for his stormy behavior on the links, and Watson realized he needed to take things more seriously.

“I’ve been reading my Bible and getting stronger in my faith,” he said.

Today, Watson is a very visible and vocal Christian. After the won the Master’s at Augusta for the first time in 2012, he said, “I thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

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The Golf Boys with Bubba Watson

Famously, Watson never received any more golf instruction than from his dad when he was a tyke using a sawed-off club. That’s astonishing because the lefty hits the ball farther than pretty much anybody in the PGA (over 350 yards). And he can put spins on the ball that produce tree-rounding curves that will make you think he has Jedi powers.

To win the 2012 Master’s, Watson hit his ball out of some pine trees in a boomeranging hook that landed on the green only a few feet away from the pin of the second hole. It would seem that whacking that wiffle ball around the house taught him about spin. Read the rest of the story.

Be careful about the road ahead

crashThose who fail to plan, plan to fail.

So says a generation of financial planners. As Americans, we are proud that we can forge our own destiny.

But are we planning for eternity.

Mike Matheny, Christian coach of the Cardinals

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Mike Matheny’s only prior coaching experience was a Little League team when the St. Louis Cardinals called on him to manage their Major League Baseball team.

It was quite a promotion, but Matheny, now 45, a believer who follows the leading of Christ daily, took it with stride and led the Cardinals to playoffs four consecutive seasons, a record for new time managers.

“I can either take credit like I had done something great to deserve this or I can be humbly bowing down on the floor to the Creator of all things and realizing that there is an opportunity,” Matheny told the Christian Post. “I do want to make sure that it is noted that I truly believe that we get opportunities and I believe that we have to do something with those… I just believe that God is at work around me all the time and I want to be in tune to that.”

MikeMatheny41Matheny was an outstanding MLB catcher. He won four Rawlings Golden Glove Awards. He established the catcher’s record for 252 consecutive games without committing an error. After 13 years of MLB playing, he retired in 2007 with post concussion syndrome.

In 2010 Matheny coached Little League baseball, and the following year, the Cardinals sought him to replace World Series winning coach Tony La Russa. The moved surprised baseball observers not only because of his lack of professional coaching experience but also because he was at the time the youngest MLB coach. The Cardinals picked him because of his ties to the organization (he played five seasons for the Cards) and because of his demonstrated leadership as a player.

Matheny didn’t disappoint. In 2012, he led the Cardinals to the National League playoffs and only got eliminated by the eventual World Series winners, the Giants. The next year, despite having to use 20 rookies at one point or another because of injuries, Matheny led the team to the World Series, which they lost to the Boston Red Sox.

Matheny is known for his attention to details, his work ethic and good relations with his players. He is vocal about his Christian faith but doesn’t try to shove it down his players throats or hold them to his own moral code. With an easy-going Christian testimony, he has 20 players coming to the pre-game prayer sessions. The Cards etch a cross on the mound at home games.

“My faith has been clear and open. Every year at spring training I explain to my guys I stand for certain things as a follower of Christ. But you’re never going to hear me preach this at you or hold you to any sort of moral obligations that I try to hold for myself,” he told the Christian Coalition. “That opens a door so when they ask me a question, they know the foundation of the majority of my answers. It opens some great opportunities.” Continue reading the article.

Harper Lee remembered for her monumental contribution to Christianity

harper leeHarper Lee – whose To Kill a Mockingbird officiates the divorce of Christianity and racism – died in her sleep at the age of 89 on Feb. 19.

Lee, who catapulted to acclaim on a single novel, was a Methodist Christian who lived mostly in her childhood Monroeville, Alabama, from where her observations formed the basis for the novel that became required reading in American schools.

Lee’s contribution to Christian ethics was monumental. She fictionalized ladies’ missionary societies sharing teas and cakes while bantering about racial inequality. The central plot of a white lawyer, Atticus Finch, who courageously defends a wrongly accused black man, takes a back seat to the critique of a society which mixes toxically the liberating faith of Christianity with the oppression of racism.

Harper-Lee 1“What that one story did, more powerfully than one hundred speeches possibly could, was change the way we saw each other and then the way we saw ourselves,” said President Barak Obama in a statement. “Through the uncorrupted eyes of a child, she showed us the beautiful complexity of our common humanity and the importance of striving for justice in our own lives, our communities and our country.”

Published in 1960, To Kill a Mocking Bird sold over 40 million copies worldwide and garnered Lee a Pulitzer Prize. The world clamored for a sequel but Lee was uninterested, until she surprise-published in 2015 Go Set a Watchman, which some saw as a rough draft for Mockingbird and questioned if an aged Lee was truly cognizant and supportive of the decision of people surrounding her to publish.

In Watchman, the Atticus who once championed equality argued as an older man against school integration. It prompts soul searching about reconciling idealism about equality with deep-seated fears of people of a different color.

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With Gregory Peck

Lee was seen as eccentric because she shunned public attention. CBN reports that in Monroeville Lee was seen as warm, vibrant and witty. She enjoyed life, played golf, read voraciously and attended plays and concerts. Truman Capote was a childhood friend, purportedly the inspiration for Dill in Mockingbird.

Lee studied law and graduated from the University of Alabama but followed Capote to New York to become a writer instead of a lawyer. She worked as an airlines reservation agent while she wrote and struggled financially until Harper Collins published Mockingbird. A 1962 film adaptation starring Gregory Peck won an Academy Award and contributed to the book’s notoriety. In 2007, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contributions to American literature. Read the rest of the story.

‘Seoul Sisters’ glorify God on LPGA tour

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Mi-Hyun Kim

They call them Seoul Sisters because these Korean golfers are taking over the Ladies Professional Golf Tour – and among their ranks are many Christians.

“The Korean players keep their faith closer to their chest. It’s not that they’re less evangelical, they just present it differently,” said Cris Stevens, who leads a Bible study on the LPGA.

Lydia Ko is one of the South Korean golfers smashing records by smashing balls. The youngest ever #1 ranked player at 17 years old last year, Ko won the Evian Championship in France last year.

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Lydia Ko

For her success, she credits her parents – who brought her to New Zealand at an early age – and God

“Having faith gives me a sense of belief, tranquility, serenity and comfort,” Ko said in Golf MRX. “It constantly brings me back to reality. We are all the same human beings at the end of the day, living in the same world.”

She’s perhaps the youngest success story among the LPGA Christians. One of the older LPGA stars is Mi-Hyun Kim, who retired in 2011. She had won eight LPGA events and her best major was second place in the Women’s British Open in 2001. She was one of the original four dubbed “Seoul Sisters.”

When Kim won $210,000 in May 2007, she donated $100,000 to victims of a tornado in Greensburg, Kansas. She expressed her faith as the motive for the generosity.

“Honestly, I made a lot of money in the United States on the LPGA Tour,” she said. “Most of time, I get the money here and donate to South Korea. But, I want to help people here, too. The win was a surprise for me, and I think God gave it to me like a special present or he is using me like, ‘okay, I give you this, but after that you give to help the people.” Read the rest of the story.

Don’t let them destroy your dream

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

Original image from Pinterest.

Iranian-backed militia seize Christians’ property in Iraq

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The homes, belongings and finances of Iraqi Christians are being seized by Muslim militia backed by Iran, Christian members of the Iraqi Parliament said.

The military units, directed by Iranian advisers, are supposedly combating ISIS in a loose coalition with President Barak Obama, who has been quiet about their illegal targeting of Christians to appropriate residences, businesses and cultural sites on the basis of Koranic texts that authorize grabbing property of non-Muslims under certain circumstances.

“Their claim is that the property of a non-Christian is halal, meaning it can be seized,” said Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sacco to the Arab daily Al Hayat.

RTR41ZBU.jpgWhen they lose their properties, the Iraqi Christians are forced to flee and resettle elsewhere. There are Assyrian, Chaldean and Syrian minorities being affected by the seizures in Baghdad and Erbil, the Foreign Desk reported. Militia have forced entry into homes and businesses in upscale parts of Baghdad using falsified documents.

“We are begging, once again, appealing to the conscience of government officials and authorities from Sunni and Shiite states in order to do something meaningful to safeguard the life and dignity and property of all Iraqis, because they are human,” Sacco said.

Tom Harb, co-chairman of the Middle East Christian Committee, said Middle East Christian NGOs have long been reporting that the Iranian-backed militias are conducting their raids in regions outside of the domain of ISIS and are displacing Christians.

Dr. Walid Phares, an adviser to the U.S. Congress, told The Foreign Desk that the Obama administration has partnered with the Iranian regime and indirectly helped these militia to attack Christians.

Until the ISIS forced them to abandon their homes, Iraq’s minority Christians boasted being one of the oldest Christian communities in the world with communities in Baghdad, Basra, Erbil and Kirkuk. The Assyrians lived in towns and regions around the Nineveh Plains in the north until ISIS displaced them. Read the rest of the story.

Gold on and off the field, Kaka belongs to God

real-madrid-v-ajax-kaka-_2870368After Kaka impossibly threaded the ball through three Manchester United defenders and slotted for goal in the 2007 Champions League semi-final, he ripped off his jersey to show the world his T-shirt emblazoned: “I belong to Jesus.”

When his team, AC Milan, claimed the title — second in prestige to the World Cup, it was anti-climatic compared to Kaka’s sensational solo performance in the semi-final. He was just too quick and precise, always a nano-second ahead of defenders. In fact, when a stalwart defender came crashing in to shut down the attack with physicality, he wound up smashing his own teammate instead.

It was his most glorious moment in world-class soccer — and yet it was completely devoid of glory.

article-0-0071E53F000004B0-697_634x429That’s because for the Brazilian crack, glory is a thing belonging to God. Currently he plays for Orland City SC in the U.S.’s Major League Soccer. When his ball-kicking days are over, he plans to study theology and become a pastor. That’s when the real glory will start.

Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite became good at soccer because he was skinny and had to work harder than everybody else to excel. In 2001, he was catapulted to international fame when he scored two goals to win the Brazilian championship for his native Sao Paolo FC, which had never won a championship.

His little brother in childhood couldn’t properly pronounce his name and simply settled on “Kaka.” Graciously for the rest of us (who similarly can’t pronounce his name), the moniker stuck.

God and goals always went together for Kaka. Born into a devout Christian family, he experienced Christ in a profound way when he was baptized at age 12.

“Something supernatural happened to me. I cannot explain it, but after that experience I grew closer to God and began to know Him in a more in-depth way,” Kaka said. “My life changed and was never the same again.”

He won the respect of his teammates and fans by being a young man of integrity while witnessing boldly for Christ. He was involved in a Bible study and Athletes for Christ. Unlike many other stars who waver in the spotlight, Kaka has always held strong convictions. He married his childhood sweetheart, Caroline Celico, in 2005. Both had maintained their virginity until their wedding.

From Brazil, Kaka moved to Italy in 2003 to play for AC Milan for a transfer fee of €8.5 million. Within a month, he was a starter for the team. Read the rest of the story.

Editor’s Note: This story was written by my high school student, Adrian Brizuela, at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica. Of course, I edited and helped polish it. I’m proud of him. I hope he realizes that he is not only good at soccer.

Drug-dealing Jew got saved reading Old Testament prophecies about Yeshua

Dr-Mitch-Glaser-2015It took the cold steel of a sawed-off shotgun against his neck to bring Mitch Glaser to the Christ he always associated with Hitler.

Raised in New York in a traditional Jewish home, he was “bar mitzvahed” at 13. At his grandparents’ home, he saw pictures of countless relatives exterminated in the Nazi Holocaust. “They had died at the hands of Hitler, and in the Jewish mindset, they had died at the hands of Christians,” Mitch said.

“I felt like Jesus and Christianity were my enemies,” said Glaser, who has worked with Chosen People Ministries for 40 years. “I’m an unlikely person to believe in Jesus.”

He dropped out of college and fell into selling marijuana with three Jewish friends in San Francisco. He was a no-nonsense hustler who built up a reputation for a square deal, but on one of his sales, his clients really had no intention of buying the illicit drug. They wanted to steal it – and kill him.

“One of the guys was yelling, ‘Just kill him now.’ The other one said, ‘No, we gotta get the rest of the drugs. Just torch the place,’” said Glaser, who was tied up while his attackers held shotguns and handguns.

“My whole life played before my eyes. I’m sitting there with my hands tied feeling this shotgun against my neck, and I’m saying to myself, ‘I can’t believe that I was willing to die for just a few hundred dollars,’” he said.

Mitch managed to escaped unscathed from the drug deal. It was a wake-up call and a warning that the houseboat he and his partners had built with drug money was not worth the danger involved in what they were doing. It was also the beginning of his call to Christianity.

Read the rest of the story.

 

Anticipated decline in faith among scientists fails to materialize in 80 years

people_larsonA full 40 percent of scientists believe in a personal God and afterlife, according to a 1997 study.

“Although the suggestion 80 years ago that four in 10 scientists did not believe in God or an afterlife was astounding to contemporaries, the fact that so many scientists believe in God today is equally surprising,” said study organizers Edward Larson and Larry Witham, of the University of Georgia, in the journal Nature.

The duo replicated a study from 80 years prior conducted by James Leuba that shocked America at a time when faith enjoyed wide acceptance. He found that four of 10 scientist didn’t believe in God.

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Stephen Hawking opted to not believe.

Leuba “predicted that more and more scientists would give up their belief in God, as scientific knowledge replaced what he considered to be superstition,” writes the National Center for Science Education in an article “Do Scientists Really Reject God?”

Leuba would be disappointed. The 1997 iteration of his poll found the percentage of faith-holding scientists remained constant through 80 years of scientific and technological advance. Science has not dislodged belief in God, and the number of theistic scientists is “impressively high,” according to the New York Times.

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Francis Collins does believe.

“The results also indicate that, while science and religion often are depicted as irreconcilable antagonists, each a claimant to the throne of truth, many scientists see no contradiction between a quest to understand the laws of nature, and a belief in a higher deity,” the New York Times wrote.

What’s more, the narrowly-phrased questions designed by Leuba — and repeated by Larson and Witham — may have overstated disbelief, according to Rodney Stark, a professor of sociology and comparative religion at the University of Washington in Seattle, as quoted in the New York Times. Stark’s research indicates that scientists pretty much reflect the general American public when it comes to believing in God.

“To the extent that both surveys are accurate readings, traditional Western theism has not lost its place among U.S. scientists, despite their intellectual preoccupation with material reality,” Larson and Witham wrote in their study. Read the rest of the article.

Their daring 185-mile walk to freedom

syrian-refugeesThey tried living under ISIS rule in their Euphrates River-hugging city of Raqqa, but once what was paradise for them became a hell that forced them to instead flee the country, walking 185 miles and eluding military check points in danger of death.

Ibrahim, 48, and wife Turkiye, 45, arrived Feb. 9 at a refugee camp in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, with 10 children safely, according to an interview conducted by IBTimes UK.

Fear, death and carnage came on all sides in their native land. If they weren’t suffering under the oppressive ISIS militants who crucify critics, they were running from constant and indiscriminate bombardments conducted by Russians, Syrians and sometimes even the U.S., they said.

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Raqqa today

ISIS maintains a tight grip on the citizenry of Raqqa, where they have set up the capital of their “caliphate,” a supposed utopia of strict Islamic law in which women must be covered from head to toe and men cannot smoke on the streets.

To pay for its war, the ISIS exacts sky-rocketing taxes of the city’s residents. And they seize children to make them into soldiers.

“They would take children like this”, said a cousin Mohammed, pointing at his 13-year-old nephew, “to teach them their religion, to brainwash them according to their beliefs. If I’d had a son and had refused to send him, they would whip me.”

The price of bread has shot up to 1,200 Syrian pounds from 40 pounds previously, Ibrahim said. Men now must grow beards, and women cannot stand next to men in the streets, even if he is a family member. Smoking is punishable by severing the index and middle finger, he added.

Taxes on fertilizer and irrigation bankrupted the family’s farming business next to the Euphrates, Ibrahim said.

Air raids designed to destroy ISIS are taking a heavy toll on the civilian population, Mohammed said.

“Daesh (another name of ISIS) would come and hide among us when the regime planes would come and bomb,” he said. “There is no proper targeting. To kill one ISIS person, they will kill 30 civilians. What the Daesh would do is they would go and hide with the mothers and the children to use them as a human shield. Hundreds would die for the sake of one or two. They were all children and all elderly. They were in their 70s and 80s or younger than 10. Daesh would take over the second floor of a building while civilians hid on the first and third floors.” Read the rest of the story.

Note: I wrote this article for God Reports, so I showcase my writing here.

Happy Valentine’s Day

valentine's day.jpgAs you enjoy the flavors made by God, feel His love this Valentine’s.

With no exposure to Christ, she cried out and Jesus responded to Sister Mei of China

sister meiMaybe it was a rip tide, but Sister Mei felt – and saw in an apparent vision – that it was a hand pulling her out to sea.

As she was enjoying the beach in Southern China for the first time in her life, she was daydreaming worriedly about her hardships and prospect-less future. She was divorced, abandoned by the father of her daughter. And she was on vacation at Sanya beach with her boyfriend, who was a married man.

“I had never seen the ocean before,” said Mei, whose videoed testimony from 2013 at the U.S. Center for World Mission in Pasadena, CA, is on YouTube. “For some reason, I felt that if I could see the ocean, a lot of my questions could be answered.”

sanya beach china today

Sanya Beach today

As she was in the water, Mei, whose other name was not given, began to forget about her romantic liaison and began to ponder the meaning of life when the hand grabbed her ankle. Having grown up in a village on the Yangtze River, she was able swimmer, but she was not prepared for rip tides – or the hand, whatever it was.

“My husband left me after I gave birth. On the third day, he came to the hospital for the last time. He just disappeared. It really hurt me,” she said. “That’s how I started to take my life in the wrong direction.”

With “no future, no job, no money, no dignity and no identity,” she hooked up with a married man and agreed to go to the beach with him. She left her daughter at home with her parents. As she brooded over her “totally, totally hopeless” situation in the water, she lost track of the shore and was drifting out to the deep.

yangtze river

Yangtze River

“From the bottom of my heart, my mind, my soul, I cried out, Who can help me?,’” she said.

Then she began to be hauled seaward.

“There was a hand holding my ankle dragging me down into the water. I was frightened,” Mei said. “I did everything I could to swim to the shore, but I couldn’t.”

She tried calling for help. That’s when she felt the hand around her throat choking back the words. A man on her right turned his back to her, oblivious to her peril. Another on the left also turned his back to her.

“I could not make any noise.,” Mei said. “My mouth was moving. I was asking for help, but no noise came out from my mouth. The hand was holding me tighter and tighter.”

Now in deeper water, her body began swirling in the torrent. A wave formed over her head. At the top of the wave in the vision was a horrible face.

“The minute I saw that face, I knew it was the devil. I never was taught about the devil, but I knew it was the devil,” she said. “It was huge. It was coming on the top of the wave. It came to me and it said, ‘I’m going to kill you today.’ When I saw that, I knew I was finished. There was no hope. I was dying.”

When the wave crashed on her face, she choked salty water. She was tossed by waves and kicked and paddled trying in vain to reach the shore. She thought of her parents and daughter, Weiwei.

“Mom, Dad, Weiwei, I’m sorry,” she said, beginning to resign herself to death. “They didn’t even know where I was. I never told them where I was, so if I died that day, they would be very disappointed.”

But if the devil had ahold of her, God was on the move also because she had cried out for help.

“Two words came out of my mouth. I had no understanding of what I was saying,” she recalled. “I said: ‘My God.’”

Immediately, the heavens opened and a large dove descended. With no prior knowledge of such things, what came to her mind was that this was the Holy Spirit.

Next, she beheld a vision of a tall man in a robe with an aura of light. He motioned with one hand, through which a ray of light penetrated, drawing a semi circle. With the motion, her entire life was played before her eyes like a video, and the words “deadly sin” appeared when she committed a sin.

“I could not believe I was such a filthy sinful person,” she remembered. Her immediate reaction was she deserved death by drowning, but then she heard of voice of compassion.

“My child you have come back at last,” the voice said. “I have been waiting for you so long.”

In her vision, she was now on dry land, and now out of the man’s heart poured water and blood. She understood this was for her sin.

“I had broken His heart. All the sins had hurt him and had been hurting Him always,” Mei said. “My depravity, debauchery, immorality, my ignorance, stubbornness, rebellion, stubbornness Never for a moment had I stopped. Every sin I had committed was like a sharp knife that injured Him deeply.

“Then I saw the pure love from his eyes just pouring out in my direction,” she said. “Is that for me? The words came to me, ‘Yes, it is for you. I love you and never expect anything back from you.’ I had never experienced such an unconditional love. I burst into tears. Why do you love me? I’m lonely and in pain.  Love kept coming to me like waves.”

It was just a vision. She was still in the water in danger of drowning. Then she heard a voice from Heaven again: “Go, help her!” And a man appeared out of no where and dragger her to shore. Once on solid ground, she was trembling and exhausted. She lay down on the sand and slept, asking herself: Who was the man of the vision? How did he know her whole life? How did she get pulled ashore? What was the light?

“That night I met the God I never knew,” she said.

Though she had encountered God, still she didn’t know concretely anything about Him. When she returned to her village, she found and church and asked for a Bible. At the time in China, Bibles were scarce, and so she had to wait some months.

When she finally got a Bible, she read it avidly, beginning in Genesis. Everything seemed foreign, and she didn’t understand. She began attending an English class taught by “Doug,” who included messages of the gospel in his teaching. The genealogy of Jesus and the Trinity were particularly difficult to understand.

After a year, the Bible resonated with her when she finally got to the part of the Gospel of John where Jesus told Thomas to stick his thumb in his nail hole. She remembered the ray of light that shot through  hand of the robed man in the vision at the beach.

She finally received Jesus into her heart.

Seven years later, Mei had the opportunity to come to the United States. She currently resides in Los and and works in a missions organization for Africa. She married, and her husband works for the government, she said. Based on the information provided in the video, she is approximately 40 years old.

This article first appeared on God Reports.