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.

Restoration of marriages

Hernan and Hilda have been married for 59 years.

Hernan and Hilda have been married for 59 years.

To go back and admit you were wrong is one of the hardest things to do. But to save your marriage, it’s worth it! Anything to save a marriage!

But if it can’t be saved, then don’t remain single and sad. It is not good that the man should be alone, God said of Adam and created Eve. If you have coursed the awful pain of a divorce, do things better next time.

But if you CAN restore your marriage, by all means do it.

God sent me to Guatemala on the mission of restoration. Only now do I realize it. I’m teaching on marriage. Not that I am such an expert. But my pastor, Rob Scribner of the Santa Monica Lighthouse Church, has taught me a lot of great tools to make marriage happy.

It’s funny: we work at our jobs, our studies, but we think that love should just be easy and require no work.

Restoration

restoration

Little Ismael, one of Carlos’ kids.

a time to gather stones together — Eccelesiastes 3:5

The pieces of our lives get scattered. Either things explode by themselves, or we make poor choices and squander the good gifts God gave us.

When we are angry at God, He waits patiently for us. Sometimes, we have to be broken to come to God humbly. Then He begins to pick up the pieces of our lives.

God sent me to Guatemala on a mission that I didn’t originally know what for. But it was for restoration.

Carlos opted out of the church. He was hit with the double whammy of church rules and bubbling hormones. The hardness has melted now. His mother died a month ago. Elisa was a powerful force for years to help build the church. Carlos has finally taken over his dad’s bread bakery and is trying to be the responsible father of two kids and husband of one wife.

Carlos with Veronica and his children.

My heart melted as I hugged Carlos. He was one of my first converts. A boisterous 7-year-old, he brought his parents to our church and enrolled in our blossoming school. He’s been on a long journey away from God, and it’s so good to see him coming back.

It hurts my heart to see so many people, embittered by offenses, away from God. The joy is to see them come back.

In 2015, let God do a work of restoration in your life.

Hospitality, not hostility

hospitality | Guatemala

With my wife and the pastor in Guatemala.

They eat beans and tortillas six days a week, and on Sunday — their only day of chicken — they would give me the best piece. I felt as guilty as a convict but knew that I couldn’t refuse their hospitality.

I learned hospitality in Guatemala. In the United States, I learned self-sufficiency, every man for himself, get ahead of the other, only invite to eat if they invite you back.

When you’re in a house with dirt floor and sheet metal roof, it’s time to learn something new when people so poor give so richly. In the Bible, it is a great honor to receive strangers/guests into your house and provide them protection. The guests get treated even better than children.

When was the last time you invited someone to eat who stands no chance of paying you back? When have you given love to the unloveable? When have given to the point of forgoing once-weekly chicken yourself?

I am in Guatemala, delighting in its incomparable hospitality with the brethren of the church I founded.

Get your life back on track

getting life back on track

With my spiritual son, Sam.

It’s no fun spiraling out of control. But it’s an understandable reaction after getting slammed in life.

At some point, you have to analyze and decide to get your life/family/career/ministry back on track.

Samuel was the greatest soul-saver we had. Better than me, and I was his pastor. Incredibly energetic, he worked tirelessly to build a church in zone 5. Then his wife left him for the keyboardist. And his life went down the drain for four years.

Now, Sam is getting back on track. He formalized by marrying the lady he was with. And we will be excited to see what God has for him ahead.

It’s inspiring me to get back on track with what God wants for my life.

This year, get your life back on track. Do what you REALLY want to do.

Friends, fun and revival

futbol guatemala

I got one assist. That’s kinda amazing because I’m 47 playing against teens.

I learned soccer while being a missionary when I was 35 years old, a late breakout into the sport. It’s not easy to outrun those kids but a lot of fun.

I’m visiting the church my wife and I founded in Guatemala. By playing soccer with the kids, I realize we have the seeds of revival. Even though not all these kids attend church, they come for soccer. They have a strong mental association with their school, a ministry of the church. When they get to a moment of desperation, they’ll know where to go to find God. They have a strong reference point of God.

colegio cristiano guatemalaSome of the kids come to church, which is extraordinary because kids don’t want to have anything to do with God, typically.

After playing for a couple of hours, I gave them all my testimony: raised in the suburbs of the San Fernando Valley in relative comfort but lonely and empty. Only Jesus filled my heart.

Surviving the slam

surviving the slam

Sam, as the devil, in a drama in the early days of the church in Guatemala. I am the guy with the sword and the shield. We used diesel to spit fire.

Sam was a pastor when his wife left him. The joy of serving Christ just died for him at the moment he found out. He very nearly threw himself off a bridge that night.

Four years later, he’s gathering the pieces of his life and trying to get back to serving God.

At some point in your life, you’re going to get slammed. Maybe more than once.

Not growing bitter against God (family, church, life, others) is the challenge. Living with joy, also. Not growing cynical.

At some point, you have to survey the damage of your life and decide you want light-heartedness. You have to want to do good again. You have to want to not pass into the washouts.

Those who recovered from slams in the Bible: Joseph, Job, Moses. And don’t forget Jesus. One of his best friends betrayed him to death. They all recovered from the slam.

Seek recovery in 2015!

Old friends, new works

Guatemala churchFor years, these guys were among my closest associates in the pioneer church of Guatemala. They preached in the streets, did dramas, tithed, attended services and became pastors.

Sometimes life slams us. Can we survive?

I’m in Guatemala again seeing the church my wife and I started 20 years ago. At its height, it had a K-12 school and oversaw four start-up churches. Then gunmen convinced me my time was over in Guatemala, and I returned to the States. We’ve passed some difficult trials. Will we grow bitter or inactive?

Or will we rise from the ashes to do fresh works for God?

Life’s a beach, so enjoy

life's a beachChristianity is not a list of rules. It’s a wonderful relationship with your Savior. It’s freedom from sin. The Holy Spirit fills you with peace and joy. If you don’t know the good life, this year you should get to know the Good Savior.

I got this picture from Facebook or Google+. I’m not making any money on it. I don’t own the rights to it.

Show your true colors

show off your colorsI don’t know why I have to be different than I am. People want me to be a tough guy. I am not a tough guy. I have never been a tough guy. God made me a sensitive type. If you don’t like it, too bad. I’m not changing for you.

Sometimes churches can try to make you fit their mold. We would lose our diversity if everybody liked football. God made us all different for a reason. If we were all football fans, how would the soccer fans get saved.

When God gave you unique fingerprints, unique DNA and a unique personality, it was to bless His church. Be yourself!

Tim Tebow does more than just take a knee: he opens a hospital in Philippines

tim tebow glory to GodPhilippines-born Tim Tebow, famous for taking a knee and praying mid-game as an NFL quarterback, has now made a touchdown pass off the gridiron: a pediatric hospital under his tutelage opened for business this Christmas.

“I have always had a great love and passion for the Filipino people,” Tebow said in a statement. “It is so exciting to be able to provide healing and care for these incredibly deserving children halfway around the world.”

Read the rest of the article: Christian news. I wrote this article for God Reports. That’s why I feature it here.

The four answers to prayer

answers to prayer

1. Slow. Confused for a “no,” but God is working on something first before giving the answer.

2. Go. The answer is yes. Do all your part now.

3. No. You don’t want to twist God’s arm into granting you something that you want but He knows is not truly good for you.

4. Grow. Also confused for a “no,” but God first must mature you for the blessing. You wouldn’t be able to sustain the blessing yet.

Praying is like giving birth to something in our lives. But we ought to recognize that prayer, more often than not, is NOT instantaneous. We need to develop maturity to recognize these four answers to prayer.

An inside view of the IS (more of my reporting on God Reports)

jurgen todenhoeferAfter visiting Islamic State-occupied territory at great risk, a German journalist called the extremist organization a “movement with the power of a nuclear bomb” after returning home last week.

Jurgen Todenhoefer, a 74-year-old German journalist, was given unprecedented access to the Islamic State and returned to Munich after spending 10 days with the terrorist group in the areas the group control in Iraq and Syria.

They are “the most brutal and most dangerous enemy I have ever seen in my life,” Todenhoefer said, as part of a series of interviews broadcast on the BBC and CNN.

Born out of the Syrian rebel movement, IS catapulted into international attention, seizing major cities in Iraq last June and beheading James Foley and other westerners whose governments refuse to negotiate a ransom. The group consists mostly of Sunni Muslims, many of whom aided Saddam Hussein’s cruel regime, and is growing daily by Muslims drawn to radicalism from all parts of the world.

IS fighters were surprisingly confident, Todenhoefer said.

“We will conquer Europe one day,” one fighter told him. “It is not a question of IF we will conquer Europe, just a matter of when that will happen. But it is certain. For us, there is no such thing as borders. There are only front lines. Our expansion will be perpetual. And the Europeans need to know that when we come, it will not be in a nice way. It will be with our weapons. And those who do not convert to Islam or pay the Islamic tax will be killed.” To read the rest of the article, click here: Christian world news.

Upsizing trials

downsizing

When the ice cream comes slightly smaller at the same price, we might not even notice. But if we do, we’re up in arms. It’s a way to turn a profit — slow-churn a profit.

With trials, there’s no downsizing. They just harder and bigger every time. Earth is a classroom, and we can’t stay in 3rd grade forever.

I remember one time I found out about a trial my pastor was going through. Whoa, I said to myself, I hope I never have to go through something like that.

Then I went through worse things. I was victim of extortion. I got held up at gunpoint. Then I got rejected by the ones I loved.

Of course you have to beat the temptation to call it quits. But never is a trial easy. The promise of the Word is NOT a life free of trials but trials that we can handle. (I keep thinking I can’t handle it anymore.)

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted (tried) more than you can bear. With the trial, He will provide a way of escape so that you can endure. – 1 Cor. 10:13.

We get breaks from trials but never graduate from them (until we graduate to Heaven).

This post is just sobering. I hope it can fill you with courage to face the day.

Pic: Mouseprint,org

Morning prayer is like breakfast

morning prayerdelicious and it fills you full of energy for the day.

Going without it is unhealthy.

Original image from pinterest.

Make New Year’s resolutions everyday

new years resolution | gymGyms make their money because New Year’s resolutions tend to flame out quickly. The business model of the gym is to contract for more people than could possibly fit in the building because most of those people won’t continue after February.

I’m not terribly much into New Year’s resolutions because I’m trying to do them everyday. My gym buddy kidded me that I had gotten a jump on the gym resolution. I have renewed workouts for almost the whole year. New Year’s will come and go without too much of a notice from me — plus, I don’t drink so that’s not a draw either.

Christianity may have starts and stops, but it should not have false illusions set on an arbitrary date (Jan. 1). Don’t wait for the beginning to begin!

Happiness comes from fidelity to a worthy purpose

happiness | service | self gratification

Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose. — Hellen Keller

Marriage, worth fighting for

marriagePeggy in our church is 94 years old. A Christian, she married under the illusion of naivete. Once in wedlock, her husband, a drinker, threatened her not to go to church. She felt the Holy Spirit nudge her to obey. For 20 years, she skipped church but never left God.

After that period, the rough-living husband accepted Jesus on his deathbed, and Peggy went back to church. In fact, she’s something of a heroine, a pillar at the Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica, the longest-attending member and practically the historian.

Today the story is stirring, but back then there was plenty of pain. What Peggy did, few would, especially today when marriage is esteemed about as much as disposable diapers. People chuck it when it gets poopy.

My generation has much to learn from Peggy. We can learn of her stick-to-itiveness, her fight-through-it attitude. We Christians win in the end, if we can just hang in there till the end.

Marriage is worth fighting for. He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD — Pr. 18:22 NIV. It seems like our current culture is doing everything to waylay marriage. It gets mocked on the sitcoms, degraded by the affair-touters, and now redefined. Hmmmm.

I haven’t been a cakewalk for Dianna, but maybe she’d say it’s been worth it. I know it’s been beautiful to build together for 24 years instead of tear asunder under the deception that someone somewhere is a “soulmate.” You trade in one set of problems for another. Nor do I think loneliness is a good answer. When God saw Adam alone, He made Eve for him. It was the first thing in the perfect creation that was imperfect.

Do not let your hearts be troubled

eternal lifeMy Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. — John 14:13-3 NIV.

No matter how hard you try, things don’t come out perfect in this world. It’s a fallen world, a place of imperfection, a training ground where hardship can help us for the next world.

Image. I can’t remember where I got this from some time ago. I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it. Whoever did it was extremely clever. Kudos.

Don’t stress. Just chill.

don't stress

Most stress has to do with materialism. Or things that are out of our control anyhow. So worry does nothing to improve situations or avoid disaster.

Of course, an impending deadline helps me to focus my work and intensify my energies. I’m not talking about that.

Even Jesus recognized how anxiety enters the human heart:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? – Matt. 6:25 NIV.

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? – Matt. 6:27 NIV.

Pic from Beautiful Pictures on Google+

We get in the way (of God’s blessings)

when you block God's blessing

We let our sinful desires run rampant, and then we wonder why God hasn’t blessed us.

It’s like the person who blames water for shocking him when he uses electronics in the tub. Why refuse to accept the physical laws spiritual laws that govern the world?

We accept that rules govern a happy relationship. We accept laws for civil society. We understand that geometry has its logic. But we want to tell God that He’s wrong when tells what will and will not work.

It’s not that you need to be perfect. God forgives. But when we flout the law of God, then why do we blame Him when things don’t work?

I make mistakes

grace for mistakesTherefore, I like grace.

Forgiveness is a wonderful thing.

You can try to live without it. But why?

Make a new friend this new year

friendshipFriendship enriches much more than riches. Friendship brings health where money can’t buy it. There are people with riches who have many “friends.” Parasites, I’d call them.

If you have a friend, realize fully the blessing in your life. If you don’t, don’t give up in the search for friendship.

Original image from Beautiful pictures on Google+

Lazarus: If Jesus hadn’t specified…

lazarusThe reason why Jesus specified “Lazarus” before giving the command to resurrect is otherwise the whole cemetery would have risen from the dead.

That would have been impressive! But no all the resurrected would have had relatives to cut off their grave clothes and feed them. It was best to keep things simple.

Consumerism, not the path to happiness

materialism consumerism

New stuff allures, promising happiness.

No I don’t want the new iPhone. I don’t care if it’s faster, cooler, has better features. I don’t care if people will “ooooooh” and “aaaaah” because I’m the hippest hipster. Material possessions don’t make the man.

To buy, to acquire — the hope for happiness falls flat just a few days later. Are you bored already with your Christmas gift? That’s the way it works.

Only Jesus satisfies the soul.

Christmas: a burst of love

meaning ChristmasLove exploded upon humanity when the Son of God was born in human form.

No longer was it impossible to please a completely holy God, who demanded an animal sacrifice for every sin. That’s A LOT!

Jesus was the last sacrifice to end all sacrifice. He was the price paid in ransom for us; we sold ourselves to sin, death and Hell.

If you experience the love of a family during Christmas, that’s a mere taste of the full flavor of love from God. If you didn’t experience human love during Christmas, you are missing a drop of the ocean of love God has for you.

Tim Howard: soccer star for God

tim howardAfter Tim Howard stopped a record 16 shots during the World Cup game against Belgium, an overly exuberant American edited Wikipedia’s listing of the U.S. Secretary of Defense and inserted the goalie’s name.

It was quickly changed back to Chuck Hagel, who actually called to congratulate Howard for the respectable USA soccer showing in the July 1st match. Team USA lost 1-2.

Howard’s moment of earthly glory proved fleeting – which is fine with him because he likes to direct his praise elsewhere. “Some people bask in that glory,” Howard, 35, told Campus Crusade for Christ. “For me, it is a burden.”

“I am blessed to be living a dream. And yet, if it all went away tomorrow, I know I would still have peace. That probably sounds crazy to most people, but that’s the kind of peace Christ gives. It is rooted in His love, and it surpasses all understanding,” he told the Huffington Post in a separate interview. The rest of the article here: Tim Howard.

Photo: nypost. I don’t own rights to it, and I’m not making any money on it.

For Christmas, Jesus gave you his very life as a gift

Jesus gave all

God gave me the gift of writing

Michael Ashcraft | Lighthouse Church School

I teach and coach at Lighthouse Schools in Santa Monica, another unpaid position that I love.

I wanted to write as a child but didn’t know how. I think my teachers gave me C- on writing assignments out of pity. It was so clumsy.

I got my feet wet as an undergrad at the UCLA Daily Bruin. I did internships for UPI, Whittle Communications, the LA Herald Examiner, the LA Times in Orange County, the Riverside Press Enterprise and the Santa Monica Dispatch. I was a stringer for the New York Times. My first professional job was at the Gilroy Dispatch.

By getting edited thousands of times, I learned how to write.

Then for 16 years as a missionary in Guatemala, I didn’t write. I was too busy. From time to time, I would ask God to restore this gift in my life. He brought me back to the States four years ago, and I started this blog.

Today is Christmas. I’m thinking about this gift God gave me. It’s a wonderful gift. I wouldn’t exchange it for anything. From the comments, I can see lives have been changed. I’ve used my gift to promote my church and school, the Lighthouse of Santa Monica. Recently, I’ve started writing for GodReports.com. The opportunities to fill the web with Christian content amaze me. The Internet opened doors that were previously closed by the few outlets who decided what got publicized and what didn’t. It seems like Christians are always the last to harness new technologies and trends for the promotion of Jesus.

Lives have been touched. I can tell from the comments. But while writing is an incredible gift, it doesn’t get remunerated like say, engineering or a mind for business. As texting takes over the art of writing, fewer and fewer people are really able to write. As the talent pool diminishes, it would be logical that the pay would rise. But alas, the opposite is true. In print media’s heyday, you could get paid up to $1,000 an article. Not anymore. With the explosion of media online, articles get paid $20 or $30, hardly something you can make a living on.

I’m asking you, my followers who have enjoyed the pictures I’ve posted, the heart-warming stories, the nuggets of wisdom, pictures of pathos, to pray for me this year to find sponsors for my writing. Thanks!

Merry Christmas! I’m looking forward to passing another year together, encouraging and being encouraged.

Here’s a few of my recent articles on http://Godreports.com

I let my writing be governed by the principals:

  • be optimistic
  • reach out to unbelievers in a non-confrontational, non-condemning way
  • maintain openness to all branches of Christianity without insisting on the correctness of my doctrine on non-essential points

Loneliness at Christmas

loneliness Christmas

Even surrounded by family, you can feel incredibly lonely.

Jesus’ parents lacked a friend’s house to crash on the couch. In a filthy stable, Joseph provided for Mary to give birth to their first son. Jesus was born in loneliness.

He’s with you now in a very special way. The times I’ve been loneliest have also been times that I’ve had the sweetest communion with God. With tears in my eyes, I lifted my heart to the Lord.

Those were beautiful moments.

Broken at Christmas?

broken-christmasChristmas has a way of heightening pain. Why am I so lonely?

If you are broken, know this: Jesus came for the broken. Christmas was the day of His birth (probably not the actual day, but on this day we remember His birth). Are you suffering alone? Jesus came for YOU!

All the people engorging, all the material consumer crazed — well, Jesus came for them too. BUT first and foremost, He came for the hurting heart. If that’s you, this Christmas can be a very special time. You may have nothing, but you can get EVERYTHING if you open your heart to the Savior.

Merry Christmas!

Manning: a man of faith

peyton manning Christian quarterbackThe most important moment in quarterback Peyton Manning’s life was NOT when he surpassed the NFL record of 509 touchdown passes. It wasn’t any of his league-record five MVPs. It wasn’t his Superbowl championship. And it wasn’t being named player of the decade of the 2000s by Fox News and Sports Illustrated.

The most emotional and dramatic moment of his life came when the Denver Broncos quarterback accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord.

“My faith has been number one since I was 13 years old and heard from the pulpit on a Sunday morning in New Orleans a simple question: ‘If you died today, are you one hundred percent sure you’d go to heaven?’” Manning writes in his book “Manning.”

“My heart was pounding,” he writes. “The minister invited those who would like that assurance through Jesus Christ to raise their hands, and I did. Then he invited us to come forward, to take a stand, and my heart really started pounding. And from where we sat, it looked like a mile to the front.

“But I got up and did it. I committed my life to Christ, and that faith has been the most important to me ever since.”

To keep reading click here: Christian news

He comes in the most unexpected ways

Jesus donkey

Nobody every expected Jesus to be born in a manger. Nor was riding on a donkey worth calling a triumphal royal entry into Jerusalem.

The leading interpreters were completely blindsided by the appearance of the Messiah — partly because their envy blinded them, but also because they interpreted erroneously.

Try to resist making God fit your theology. He’s a boundary buster. He’ll surprise with unconventional means: Muslims who see Jesus in a dream and serve the Savior without leaving the mesquite, for example.

  • If this man were of God, He wouldn’t heal on the Sabbath.
  • Does anything good come out of Nazareth?
  • He eats with tax collectors and prostitutes.

Their exclusionary clauses eventually excluded themselves from the things of God.

This Christmas, don’t wait for Santa to come down your chimney. Ask Jesus to come into your heart. Don’t limit God.

Photo credit: Beautiful pictures on google+. I’m not making any $ on this picture, and I don’t own the rights to it.

What gift do you give when you have unlimited resources?

greatest giftGod has “undiminishable” riches. No matter how much you take away from them, it’s like a drop in the oceans.

So when He paid our ransom, it was a light thing. He could afford whatever price the devil set.

His only limited resource was His son. He had only one.

I’ve known parents to suffer prolonged acute grief over the loss of a son. That pain is assuaged many times by the presence of other children. God had no other children. He couldn’t preserve His favorite son and send the brat to die for humanity.

Even though Christ resurrected and triumphed over death, I believe God’s grief was unbearable.

Really, no one told God that it had to be His Son. God makes the rules, so He could have sent an angel to die on the cross for us. He could have sent all of His angels.

But to show how great His love is, He sent His one and only Son. He didn’t send money, which He possesses in limitless supply. He sent the one thing that most touched His heart.

I’m not so rich that I can give gifts without experiencing any personal loss. Such was God. The greatest gift is Jesus. Merry CHRISTmas!

Original photo from Tumblr.

He was born to suffer

sufferingSo Jesus can relate to suffering and pain.

In fact, his essential purpose in leaving his kingship in Heaven and condescending to take mortal form was to suffer. And it started with his birth in a filthy stable.

During his life, He alleviated pain everywhere He found it. Blind eyes were opened. Condemned prostitutes were forgiven. Tax collectors escaped a life of being despised by others. The demon-oppressed were freed.

Then he died excruciatingly.

If Christmas conjures magical feelings of family and beauty, let us never forget its underpinnings are the Son of God coming to help the helpless, the defend the defenseless, to redeemed the scum of society, to sanctify the sinner and prick the self-righteous to reflection.

He feels your pain. He came to take the pain away.

Photo from soulation org

Wrong ways to heal hurts

cutting

I have healed my hurts in Jesus. Please don’t try something else.

I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it. I DO hope to help people with it.

Joy is the opposite of fear

joy at ChristmasSurprisingly, courage is NOT the opposite of fear. Rather, fear is the journey towards courage.

When we read the Christmas story, the opposite of fear proves to be joy. Angels visit Zachariah, Mary and Joseph. Each time they say: Do not fear. They explain their news, and then they say that it is cause for great joy.

So you can either be joyful or fearful, but not both.

Why is Christmas so joyful? It’s more than just a feel-good, help-the-less-fortunate time of year. It’s the time that Christ lifted off our shoulders an impossible burden. Christ paid an unpayable price. The separation from God that initiated in the Garden of Eden was finally ended. Humanity can now enjoy relationship with the Heavenly Father.

In the gif, Tim Cocker gives what he calls “terrible” Christmas gifts to his kids in 2011: a banana and an onion (she thinks it’s a tiny pumpkin). But the kids are joyful.

Will be joyful or fearful this Christmas?

Narrow escapes

narrow escape

I’ve been in dangers. I’ve brushed with death. The greatest danger is hellfire. I thank God He pulled me out of lostness and into salvation. What would have happened to me, had it not been for God?

They make a great mistaken when they say we think we’re better than anyone else. No, Christians are not better. They are just better off. We are better off because:

  • we recognize our sinful condition.
  • we ask for and receive God’s forgiveness.
  • we throw ourselves into the loving arms of the Eternal Father.
  • we are blessed on Earth on our journey to Heaven.

Don’t fall prey to the enemy of your soul.

Original picture from Beautiful Pictures on Google Circles. I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it.

Dream. Pray. Live.

dream pray live

Don’t give up on dreaming. Don’t give up on praying. Don’t give up on living.

For when you have done any of those three, your life has become a mechanical nothingness.

Original image: Beautiful Pictures on Google Circles. I don’t own the rights to this picture, and I’m not making any money with it.

Just drop your work and play soccer

photo (7)I had things to do, but my oldest son suggested we play soccer. He’s almost 17, almost off to college where I won’t be seeing him.

When we were missionaries in Guatemala, I was almost always too busy to spend much time with him. The tyranny of the urgent destroys what’s truly important.

Sons and daughters need dad more than money. God wants me to win my family to Christ before winning others. If I am so busy winning others to Christ, if I am something of an absentee father, I will have failed in my mission in life.

So I closed my laptop and changed for a quick-moving game of futsal. In soccer there are piano players — those who have delicate touch and quickness — and piano movers — hulking player who bust through defenses. Rob’s both.

The teams are always my younger son and I against Rob. Even though we are two against one, Rob always wins.

Then a friend, Lisa, came along. Since we were losing, she came on our team. Still Rob was winning. But we kept fighting. My recent trips to the gym have helped me develop more leg muscles and I can keep up with Rob’s starts and stops, his spins, the jukes. Just stay goalside and block the shot. Don’t try to take the ball from him.

Hosea and I are playing better than usual. We are actually passing and combining nicely with Lisa. Oddly, we conjure some decent finishing. It is tied 8-8. It is growing dark.

Finally, another quick one-two pass and the ball slides through the chair legs (our goal). We are winning 9-8.

“It’s too dark to keep playing, Rob,” I say. “Let’s get dinner.”

Ha! This is how I win! I call the game off right when we are in the rare moment of being up one point! I take a shower and get ready for Spanish service. I am exuberant. I can’t remember the last time Hosea and I beat Rob.

Sons need a dad. Drop your work.

Keep praying

Just because you don't see anything happening, doesn't mean nothing is happening.

Just because you don’t see anything happening doesn’t mean nothing is happening.

Jesus described the Spirit like a wind, which, in his day, no one knew where it came from or where it was going. So too, we can never know the answers to prayer that are occurring in ways we never imagined, in places we never imagined, to people we never imagined.

If we just keep praying.

Original picture: Beautiful Pictures on Google Circles.

The best and the worst

Beautiful Pictures on G+The best and the worst can be found in the people of God. When Christians love, there is nothing better. When they reflect Christ’s love poorly, it hurts badly.

If you are a Christian, this is my appeal for you to love. If you are not a Christian and you have been hurt by one, this is my appeal to you to forgive us and to keep trying to find love from Christians.

Original image from Beautiful Pictures on Google Circles.

Watch and pray!

watch and pray

Gif from Beautiful Pictures of Google Circles.

Could you not but pray for an hour?

In his hour of desperation, Jesus couldn’t count on his disciples to pray. He was in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew they were going to arrest him within minutes. He was so stressed out, he sweated blood drops. He prayed, and he asked his disciples to pray.

They fell asleep.

Do we likewise fall asleep when it is time to pray?

Santa is alive and well

santa claus is alive and wellNicholas gave his money away to help people. The legend is that he anonymously helped young ladies pay their dowry by throwing the money in the window. It fell into socks hanging on the hearth. His good deeds became known, and he was named bishop of Myra in what is now Turkey.

Then he died and went to Heaven, where he is alive and well. Don’t look for him at the South Pole. You’ll only find penguins.

The real gift-giver is Jesus. He’s not bringing a sack of toys. He offers far greater presents: the unpayable ransom of your soul, forgiveness, restoration, blessing, acceptance. Sorry Toys-R-Us, Jesus gives priceless stuff.

The wise men came bringing gifts to Jesus, but Jesus IS the gift to humanity.

No good comes from shaming

shaming

This generation believes — oddly — that humiliation brings reformation.

But Joseph refused to open his — apparently unfaithful — fiance to public scandal. She was found to be pregnant before the wedding, and Joseph knew he wasn’t the father.

Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily -- Matt. 1: 19 KJV. Justice — righteousness — was being considerate and tender with her.

Shaming can be traumatic, emotionally damaging. It is antithetical to God’s plan: He forgives and forgets. His lovingkindness (not severity) is what leads to repentance (Ro. 2:4). We despise the Puritans, and then we practice their worst.

This Christmas give the ultimate gift: forgiveness with forgetfulness. If restoration is your aim, drop the Nazi tactic of shaming.

Pregnant from rape, Jennifer decides to have the baby

should I abort?

She was accosted in January 2014 while staying at a small hotel in a college town. There on business, Jennifer never realized she was being followed until she turned around to close the door to her hotel room.

“It was so snowy and windy that I wouldn’t have heard his footsteps even if he had been stomping,” writes Jennifer Christie in a first-person account of her ordeal in Lifesite News. “It happened so fast. I got the door open, turned around to close it, and he was there – a huge man.”

Her first reaction was confusion. She never had time to process the danger and feel fear. The monster punched her in the face. Apparently he dragged her into her room and raped her. Mercifully, she doesn’t remember that part.

Later she was found in the stairwell. “I don’t know why I was there – maybe I was trying to go for help,” she notes.

In the post-rape treatment, she tested negative for HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphillis, herpes and other STDs. But they didn’t check for pregnancy.

A month later she was scheduled to work on a cruise ship. Two days into the trip she came down with dysentery. After antibiotics did nothing to cure it, she checked in at the local hospital while docked at Cartagena, Colombia. An ultrasound revealed she was expecting a baby.

Back on the ship, doctors and health care workers tried to reassure her. It would be easy enough to fix and resume her normal life, they said – if she aborted her baby.

“I spent the next week listening to a team of very well-meaning doctors and nurses console me with how “easy” it would be to “take care of it” — to kill the child.”

But Jennifer is a Christian who holds a firm conviction that the baby forming in her womb is a human life. One doctor in particular, though well-meaning, was “more vehement” than the others in pushing abortion, she recalls. Read the rest of the article.

Pass the ball

Lighthouse Church School

Some of my beginning players at Lighthouse Church School

My star soccer player lost the ball eight times in Lighthouse Church School‘s middle school loss against Crossroads B. His repeated futile attempts to penetrate towards goal with individual juking runs had me rolling my eyes. If something’s not work, try something else. There were other players open, ready for a pass.

Maybe he didn’t trust the other players. Since he’s the best, his instinct is to keep trying what has worked before. Unconsciously, he’s afraid if he passes, they’ll lose the ball. But Crossroads’ stout defense stopped him every time.

I’m not a demure coach. I yelled for him to pass. And he did pass finally — straight to the opposing goalie. No one was near to make a run on it. I don’t like sarcastic soccer.

Previously, we lost 0-7, but I was happy because everybody tried their best. Yesterday, we lost 0-4, and I was livid because we self-destructed — namely, the best player played the worst.

There is lesson here for the church. You must trust others, depend on others. I don’t care if you are the star player. The church doesn’t work without delegation. If the person fails, keep trusting and passing them the ball. They will learn eventually, and the team will convert into a winning team.

If you’re not going to ever pass me the ball, I’ll stop making runs.

Gold, frankincense and more

Gold Frankincense and MoreAfter being a Christian for more than 35 years, I can’t really remember anyone ever say this: I need to give more.

No, through more than three decades of rubbing elbows with Christians, most often I hear people brag about how much they have already given. Usually, they compare themselves to others and point out how superior their giving us.

When someone gives quietly (without blowing the trumpet in announcement of his gift, as Jesus said), it inspires me to give.

When someone brags (and usually there’s an undertone of bitterness, as in: they wasted my gift), it’s completely uninspiring.

This Christmas, give without bragging and bitterness. Give God gold, frankincense and more.