Tag Archives: Bible

Don’t be frightened by ‘repentance’

repentance

Myriads fear “repentance.” Their eyes are on what they have to leave behind. This is a huge error. Repentance is more turning to God than turning away from sin.

You are wrong to think you have to leave sin to come to God. First come to God, and He will help you to leave sin. In fact, without His help, you are helpless to ever escape the chains of bondage.

Repentance is as easy as falling in love.  I don’t know to many cases where labored hard to fall in love. When I fell in love, it wasn’t a question of trying to find time for Dianna. I automatically neglected other things because I just wanted to be with her. So too with God.

As you get to know Him, you won’t have to strain to leave the things that seem so important to you now.

Well, that was easy #ValleyBoyPastor gets first people in his Bible study

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After three Bible studies with 0 in attendance, 5 people came today. I was blessed to host my neighbors, a family. It was wonderful to help them find Mark. I hope they soon find Jesus.

This venture into Van Nuys is taking me out of luxurious Santa Monica. My family likes the beachside city with cool breezes in the summer, but my eyes are caulking with glaze after I sit in church and hear sermon after sermon. God has called me to be on the playing field, not in the bleachers. So when my pastor spoke to me about the possibility of apartment-managing in Van Nuys, I considered it in prayer and meditation for about a nano second and begged and pleaded on my knees volunteered for the job.

I suppose the previous manager did me a huge favor. She was, um, a tad grumpy. So by contrast, I come off as a saint. Maybe I’m in the honeymoon stage of the job, but I can see palpably the distinct advantage of starting a church by apartment managing. Instead of trying to build relationship with people who have their guard up, the position gives me instant rapport: I’m not after something. I have a job to do — serve them. If I serve them the way Jesus would want me to, they might be happy. In turn, this has the potential to predispose them to an openness of coming to a Bible study.

The Bible study message: repentance, it’s not as bad as it seems.

I want to thank all of you for prayer. Your prayers are working miracles in the hearts of men.

 

But there are giants in the land #ValleyBoyPastor

IMG_0367(1)Anytime you want to do something GOOD, major opposition looms.

If, however, you want to do something BAD, the path forward is a glittery and easy speedway.

What scared the Israelites and sent them back into the desert for 40 years, what kept them from their destiny, were giants. These guys were 9-feet tall — and there was no NBA back then. The whining spies said they felt like cockroaches compared to them.

It can be intimidating to do ministry. But God can knock those giants down. The taller they are, the harder the fall, as David found.

I’ve moved to Van Nuys to open a Bible study and possibly parlay it into a church. I’ve found the giant already. I’ve learned you have to stare down giants.

Apartment managing fail #8 #ValleyBoyPastor

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If you hear screams late at night coming from my room, don’t call the cops. Everything is OK. I’m just having a nightmare about dishwashers.

101’s dishwasher was spraying water on the floor. It had been doing so — whenever the tenant infrequently used it — for eight months. The previous manager apparently couldn’t find the problem.

But replacing it was no slam dunk. The Home Depot guys returned because the voltage was 220. The electrician scolded me because the shut-off valve was corroded and sprayed him. The tenant feels like her apartment has turned into a museum as I, the handyman and an assortment of workers traipse through day after day.

Ugh.

I’m the Valley Boy Pastor, and I’m new at apartment managing. And I’m loving it. It offers me the chance to make friends and win souls on the basis of the rapport of being the manager. I guess you could say the job is a little bit “complex.” Sorry, can’t resist a pun regardless of the quality.

Thanks for your prayers for this church plant. So far, no one has come to the Thursday Bible study.

There was opposition going forward

the fat of the land

“The fat of the land” was the King James version translation of the prosperity and blessing promised to the Israelites once they took possession of their God-destined territory. But there were significant obstacles — giants and stuff and heavily fortified cities.

When the Israelites finally mustered their courage, God blasted the walls in a way that puts modern demolition crews to shame. And the giants weren’t such a problem. Boys with slingshots took them out. Why did the first generation succumb to fear, doubt God and die in the desert? Yeah, in THAT place, they lived on the “lean of the land.”

Not everybody sees “fat” as bad around the world. In Nicaragua, they call a chubby guy “hermoso” — beautiful. That’s because in places where malnutrition is a chronic health issue, chubbiness is seen as healthy and blessed. Here in America, we’re blessed, but our forefathers had to act with great courage to win those blessings for us.

I encourage you to courage. Don’t stay in your comfort zone. Take up the greatest challenge God is stirring you to because that’s where His blessing is for you.

It’s a new day

let God brighten your day

Start with a new hope. Bring a new faith in God. Begin with a positive outlook. Confess good over life, and not bad. Trust in God, for He loves you.

Gummy bears work as rocket fuel. What does that mean to your belly?


Eventually the myth busters got it right. They had to devise a conical nozzle, and they had to grind the gummy bears into fine powder. But the caloric quantity represented enough stored energy to lift the rocket off its pad and launch it into the air. That’s a lot of stored energy.

Gummy bears are not a healthy snack. They are a quick trip to chubby. And they look so cute and harmless.

If you only knew the stored energy in one of those cute little prayers. Prayer packs a wallop. Just because you don’t see (immediately) the answer from God doesn’t mean nothing is happening. Slowly, surely, you’re building something for God’s kingdom.

Lose yourself for the gospel

lose yourself for gospel

When it comes time to teaching my high school students what “paradox” means, I turn to the gospels because Jesus relished using them. How can you lose yourself and thus find yourself? It doesn’t make immediate sense, and the carnal mind will never comprehend.

God doesn’t work by contract. He doesn’t tell us what all the perks are. He expects us to live by faith. Your boss, on the other hand, is probably not going to give you a dime more than what’s in the contract. When you serve God, He simply asks you to lose yourself for the gospel.

Then He blesses you more than you can imagine. Of course, if you scoff at this and don’t try it out, you will never see the spiritual law activated when you give to God.

Valley Boy Pastor

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

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

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

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

Pursuit of ‘happiness’ got you burned out?

burned out

More.

If only you had more money, more vacation, more fun.

So you work hard in the unmeditated pursuit of happiness. But it’s got you burned out. If only you knew the way to peace.

The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace. — Isaiah 60:17.

Does it seem odd that the Bible, unceasingly maligned by the world, should possess the secret to unceasing peace? And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.– Isaiah 32:17.

What brings peace? Righteousness. And they told you that the pleasure was fun and brought happiness. Well, yes. God made pleasure, but sinful pleasures bring torment to the soul and rob us of peace. There is no happiness outside of God.

Meet Camila, born to parents who couldn’t have kids

IMG_9784Prayer brought her into the world, and from the looks of it she is now learning how to pray.

Her parents, Gunter and Yara, were among the best disciples in the church. Medically speaking, they couldn’t have kids. Evangelist after evangelist prayed for them. Then my friend, Isaias Campos, came to preach for me. Ironically, he himself couldn’t have natural children. But God told him he would pray for somebody to have kids. That did the trick.

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My son, Hosea, among the kids of the Door Christian Church in Guatemala City.

I left Guatemala six years ago under duress. I am currently visiting, and I’m blown away by the revival I’m seeing. It’s been packed, and people are hungry for God.

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

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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.

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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.

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“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.

Resurrection faked?

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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.

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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.

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.

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.”

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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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

Get into the ship

ship
Fellowship
Worship
Discipleship

Don’t miss the ship.

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.

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.

Kids love candy, but…

sees-shrimp-005I was one of the boys who said I could live on candy. The chocolate, caramel, gnache created a sensation in my tongue like ecstasy.

But when I went to a birthday party and got a piece of cake that was more frosting than cake, I hit something unfamiliar. It was a dragon cake, and I looked greedily at the slice handed to me. I was lucky because everyone knows that cake is just an excuse to get frosting, right?

To my astonishment, I couldn’t finish it. To my incomprehension, it stopped being delightful. Maybe I was 8 at that party, and I didn’t know about being sugared-out, about overload. I didn’t know you could get too much of a good thing.

dragon cakeCandy is really good when you eat a little. Too much sweet is unbearable.

This generation wants all frosting. Only when we are glutted, unhappy, undelighted, burnt out do we think to put things in their proper proportions.

This is a generation that wants to throw off restrictions (like the Bible) and declare a brave new world with self-formulated morality-lessness.

David Bowie came back to the God he spent most of his life defying. While it sold records, he bragged that he met his first wife while have sex with the same guy. It’s not surprising to me he lost that marriage. As he got older, he changed. He treated his second wife much better, and she stayed with him to the end. All his life he toyed with being an atheist but could never bring himself to fully commit. His intellectual honesty wouldn’t allow him to become a full-blown atheist. Somewhere in the passing of years and onset of cancer he observed grimly: “There are no atheists on the battlefield.”

You can eat all the frosting you want. But it won’t make you happy. Whether you mock dieticians or Christians, your fight is against reality.

Through the years, I’m enjoying more and more healthy eating, salads and the like. Hopefully you can get there.

Uncle wrestles shark to shore, retrieves arm

Go get it back. Fight for it.

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Vance Flosenzier dashed into the water after a shark bit off his nephew’s arm in 2001 at a beach near Pensacola, Florida. He grabbed the 7-foot bull shark by its tail and hauled the wrangling monster to shore. There, a ranger shot the shark in the head and paramedics extracted the arm from its gullet.

Jessie Arbogast passed into coma because of loss of blood, but surgeons were able to re-attach his arm, and when he woke up, it worked. Recovery has been long and slow. But he has his arm, thanks to the guts and courage of an angry uncle.

There are times when the devil rips you off. He steals your joy, your purity, your marriage. Whatever. Don’t cry and wring your hands by the shore. Go and fight, get it back!

A Florida missionary among 30 killed in Burkina Faso terror attack

mike ridderingA Florida man who went to Burkina Faso as a missionary to dig wells and care for orphans was killed with 29 others on Jan. 15 when heavily armed terrorists from an Al-Qaeda affiliate attacked two hotels and a cafe.

Mike Riddering, 45, described as an amazing father and pillar of faith, found himself ambushed at the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou where he was to rendezvous with a group of short-term missionaries on their way to an orphanage 70 miles from the capital.

splendid hotel

The Splendid Hotel charred by car bomb explosions

“Heaven has gained a warrior!” wrote his wife Amy Boyle-Riddering on Facebook. “I know God has a purpose in all things but sometimes it is a complete mystery to me. My best friend, partner in crime and love of my life. The best husband ever. An amazing father to his children and a papa to everyone. My heart is so heavy and I am having trouble believing he is gone. Mike was an example in the way he lived and loved. God be glorified! Mike Riddering I will love you always! You left quite a legacy here. I can only imagine the adventures you are having now.”

A boat-builder from Hollywood, Florida, Riddering felt called to move to the deserts of Africa along with his wife, with whom he had four children: Haley, 23; Delaney, 19; Biba, 15 and Moise, 4.

french forces also attacked the attackers

French forces participated in the counter attack.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb sent the young attackers to kill and take hostage as many tourists and foreign aid workers as possible, in “revenge against France and the disbelieving West… the enemies of the religion,” a statement issued by the local Al-Qaeda branch said.

Some of the attackers infiltrated the luxury hotel at night while others wearing turbans arrived later in four-wheel drive vehicles. They exploded car bombs outside the hotel and stormed the site killing and taking hostages. Burkina Faso forces helped by French soldiers counter-attacked the next day in order to free the hostages and killed four extremists after an intense gunfight.

Mike’s brother Jeff told 7News, “He really felt that he’d heard the Lord say, ‘Go dig wells in Africa.’ He said, ‘Well, Lord, I might not be good enough to do anything else, but I can dig wells.’ When he got there, not only did he dig wells; he did everything else. Besides the orphanage, he adopted two children and started a women’s crisis center.”

The short-term missionaries scheduled to meet Mike were not at the hotel at the time of the attack and were spirited away to Niger to return to the United States.

“I’ve never met anybody who didn’t like Mike Riddering,” said Pastor Brian Burkholder of the Hollywood Community Church. “We’ve lost a hero. Mike lost his life doing the work of Jesus, doing what he thought God had called him to do. We will greatly miss him.”

Editor’s note: This article, published originally on God Reports here, was written by my journalism student, Anthony Gutierrez, at the Lighthouse Christian Academy.

This Iraqi kid loves Messi

messi bag jerseyToo poor to buy the real thing, this Iraqi boy turned a plastic bag into the jersey of his favorite soccer player, Leo Messi from FC Barcelona. How do you show your love for God?

Thanks to the internet, Messi saw it and is going to send him a real jersey. This will probably thrill him for 110 years.

The Bible says that Jesus was so impressed by the Roman centurion’s faith that He granted the miracle. Lesson: You can impress God (though we should distinguish: you can’t “earn” his favor — ok, it’s confusing, but the two truths work together in tension much like a guitar string is tightened across two frets). How do you show your love for God?

David Bowie became a Christian?

david bowieIn the months before he succumbed to cancer, David Bowie, the moré-smashing hedonist who resonated with a generation of young people, reconsidered the God he flouted most of his life as a rocker iconoclast.

As his life ebbed away quietly in the grips of end-stage liver cancer, there were signs the 69-year-old titan of rock and rebellion found peace with the Creator.

“He reassessed everything when he was terminally ill a year ago,” a family friend told the Sun UK. “He concluded there was something greater than all of us, and that may be some version of what others might call God. This was probably quite comforting. He certainly wasn’t scared of death.”

david bowie christianWhile he mostly abused drugs and lived like a libertine, Bowie searched through Buddhism, Satanism and Nietzsche’s existential philosophy for the balm to the raging angst in his soul. At one point he quipped that he had even tried to make a religion out of pottery and finally settled on singing as his faith of choice.

Still the London-born glam rock pioneer was searching. In an interview in 2003, he recognized he could never utterly reject faith. “I’m not quite an atheist,” he said. “I’m almost an atheist. (But) all the clichés are true. The years really do speed by. Life really is short as they tell you it is. And there really is a God.” Found out if it’s true: David Bowie Christian?

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern need to live

rosencrantz-and-guildenstern-are-dead-In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are unwittingly betraying their childhood friend, Hamlet, and playing into the hands of the usurper Claudius, who by killing Hamlet’s father and marrying Hamlet’s mother seized the throne of Denmark. Hamlet appeals to them to remain loyal to him, but since they’re sycophants, they fawn over the king and don’t perceive his treachery.

So Hamlet kills them summarily.

They were — unknowingly — escorting Hamlet to his death in England. Hamlet opens the letter sealing his fate while his friends sleep on the boat from Denmark. Needless to say, Hamlet doesn’t appreciate them being his conduit to death (the letter orders England, a vassal state in the play, to execute Hamlet). So Hamlet rewrites and reseals the letter changing the object of execution to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet himself changes ship and boards a pirates’ vessel and heads back to Denmark while his comrades continue onward to their death in England.

Was Hamlet wrong to kill his buddies? Shakespeare leaves his audience with the sense that they got what they deserved.

But where Shakespeare leaves his audience happy with their death, Tom Stoppard in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead picks up their cause. Because they acted unknowingly, they deserved life.

Of course Stoppard is describing his existential cosmovision, a bleak view that life is meaningless, death inevitable and destiny cruel. I don’t share his vacuum view of leadership, but I heartily applaud his taking up the cause of the anonymous, the defenseless, the voiceless.

Every life is valuable. None should be disposed of because of convenience. One person cannot assign importance — or lack thereof — to another human being. God has instilled incalculable value to every human being.

Keep praying

keep prayingIt’s been more than a decade that Eddy visited us in Guatemala. Since then, my wife, kids and I were forced to return to the States and have been serving in the local church. His sister and mom remained faithful; Eddy was off doing something else.

Who popped up recently?

Yeah, it’s another motivation to keep praying for those people even when years are grinding on, even when you don’t see any tangible hope. The Spirit moves in invisible realms.

It doesn’t matter where you are but where you’re going

pathChristianity is a journey towards better. We pray, hear sermons and do works, not to earn our salvation but to align ourselves with the blessings God wants to pour out on us. By pleasing God, we discover happiness.

I’ve been a Christian for 36 years. I’m still not perfect. Sometimes it gets discouraged when sin raises its horrible self in my heart. I find the flesh a persistent adversary.

What I have learned to start over 50 kabillion times, to get back on the path to right, to persist in trying and to keep doing good things.

Maybe you’re at a low point in life. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and set yourself once again (for the millionth time!) on the path towards God. Keep striving to be and stay in God.

Prayer is a journey from pain

tree tunnelIf we didn’t feel pain, I don’t suppose we would pray. Not until we hit anguish do we remember our limitations and God’s limitlessness. So prayer, then, is a journey from pain to pleasure, from bruises to blessings, from hits to happiness.

If pain is the starting point, however, the journey doesn’t have to be painful. After all, we leave pain behind.

We need to see prayer less like instant answers and more of a pathway. Some hikes are short and easy, others long, still others strenuous. I don’t know about you, but I like hikes of all sizes and shapes. In fact, I haven’t met a hike I didn’t like yet.

Regardless, it is the destination that makes you forget about the process of getting there. Once you reach happiness, all previous pain is pretty much forgotten. Part of knowing how do I pray is staying on the path towards happiness.

Don’t miss Jesus

road-to-emmaus-2Circumstances can get you down to the point where you miss Jesus altogether.

Consider the case of the two disciples walking with Jesus on the Road to Emmaus. They are so bummed out by the crucifixion, they’re blinded by the crushing of their hopes for a Messiah to throw off the hated Roman Empire and restore Israel’s glory. Jesus walks with them but the depression blurs their vision so badly that they don’t recognize Him.

Now maybe other factors played a part. Maybe Jesus’ resurrected body was different (See 1 Cor. 15:44 at foot of this blog). Maybe he was shrouded by a turban (just because the Bible doesn’t say anything about it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen). But these factors seem to come up short.

What is sure is that these disciples were kicking themselves for not recognizing Jesus quicker. Discouragement played huge in missing Jesus.

As you go through trials, re-calibrate your vision to discern Jesus. He has not failed you or forsaken you.

1 Cor. 15:44 My paraphrase: The earthly body is sown a natural; the resurrected body is spiritual.

They carved a road through the rock walls

guoliang roadWhen Chinese government demurred on the multi-million dollar road construction, 13 men from the isolated Guoliang village took matters into their own hands.

Guoliang Tunnel 19They sold their livestock to buy hammers and chisels. Without civil engineering, they took five years to chip their way through almost a mile of solid rock. The resulting road — 15 feet high and 12 feet wide — opened the remote and inaccessible village to tourism and saved the town, but one of the original 13 lost his life in the construction.

guoliangRoadIt was a good thing they didn’t realize that what they wished to do was “impossible” for villagers lacking power tools and proper training. By having faith in their dreams, they defied the naysayers and gambled everything on their future. The wager — and the work — paid off.

The progress of the gospel in Japan

a-japanWith less than 1% of the nation Christian, Japan has been called the “missionaries’ graveyard.” In Africa missionaries died from exotic diseases, but in Japan Christian workers often face burn-out and leave with very few conversions after major commitments of time and money.

And yet, one missionary has hopes that recent events bode well for revival.

“The Japanese are not antagonistic toward the gospel at all,” said Gary Case, pastor of the Potter’s House Church in Tokyo. “If anything, they seem mildly avoidant and politely skittish.”

jack garrot baptism

Jack Garrott baptizes a believer

For months, Case met with Mr. N., an atheist retiree who attended his church to learn about being a better person. The two studied the Bible together over coffee, discussing God, Jesus and salvation until Mr. N. finally accepted Jesus as his personal Savior and Lord.

Japan is one the most secularized nations in the world, according to a World Values Survey. Because loyalty is one of their core values, Japanese see leaving their traditional Buddhism and Shintoism as a family betrayal. The average church has only 30 members. A brief revival after World War II netted significant converts, but many of those are graying, and some of the churches left behind are dwindling.

The Japanese wear crosses as a fashion statement but have no idea what the cross signifies. They celebrate Christmas with Santa Claus and gift giving but ignore completely the story of Christ’s birth.

Jack Garrot's churchAmid the bad news, many see cause of hope. Japanese Christian leaders point to the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear plant meltdown of 2011 as a time that began to soften the self-reliant Japanese character and open the Japanese to the need for the gospel.

“There’s a sense of hopelessness for the future. You can see it in their faces,” said Stephen Matsumura, pastor of the Mizuba Community Church, in a Billy Graham Evangelistic Crusade video. “There’s a high suicide rate here in Japan – issues of loneliness and isolation – which is a huge indicator of a bigger need.”

If natural disaster brought greater openness, so too is gospel music. The 1992 movie Sister Act starring Whoopi Goldberg popularized the musical genre. Since then, there have been workshops and gospel choirs formed, attracting non-Christians. In 2011, CBN reported that some 50 churches had formed gospel choirs.

“It opened the church to the community,” said Pastor Masahiro Okita. “And it’s a very unique ministry because the target of the outreach are the choir members themselves.”

In the 15th Century, Portuguese traders brought priests, based in the port of Nagasaki. These Catholic Christians won converts but eventually were expelled by the ruling class who reverted to isolationism. Many converts became “hidden Christians” and worship Christ in their hearts while at the Buddhist temples. They passed their faith on to their children, a UCAnews video on YouTube reveals.

Japan Tsunami Relief and Rebuild

Some 40,000 Christians who failed to hide their faith were boiled to death in many of the nation’s scalding thermal mudpots, the video says.

Jack Garrott’s dad was part of the missionary movement in 1930s and 40s, landing in Fukuoka, Japan. In 1981, he returned to Japan as a missionary himself in Omura, Nagasaki.

“I am told that the number of committed Christians is growing, but that appears to be in metropolitan centers, where people are perhaps more loosened from their traditional roots,” Garrott said. “There are growing, vibrant churches in major metropolitan areas like Tokyo and Osaka, but they are virtually nonexistent in the ‘boonies,’ which could be described as the ‘soul’ of Japan.”

Editor’s Note: This article, originally published in God Reports, is special to me because two of the men interviewed, Gary Case and Jack Garrott, are friends. I follow Jack’s blog. Please pray for their churches and for revival in Japan.

If you want a new beginning, go to the Source

new beginningsLong before New Year’s resolutions became the trend, God already had the market cornered. Twelve step programs, starting over and clean slates all are copies of the original version. And like most software, the original is the best.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland — Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV.

This marvelous piece of poetry is doubly wonderful because it’s not empty words — it’s empowered by the Spirit of God. In fact, God has committed Himself to this line of action, and He cannot go back on His promise. If you want true change in your life, cry out to God because He is the originator of change.

As a matter of fact, I don’t believe you can get true change without Him.

Artists reflect God

artists reflect GodWhen the Bible says humans are made in the image of God, it does NOT mean God has a body (with armpits, boogers, ingrown toenails, etc.) It means we have the potential to imitate His superior attributes.

Today I want to praise artists and challenge everybody to create. Among His qualities, God is Creator. Whether it be music, photography, painting, sculpting, dancing or (my favorite) writing, be like God and use your imagination. Delight, tantalize, surprise.

At the same time, I want to say there is no artist as good as God. Whether it be a sunset or a canyon, human beauty or animals, God is the artistic winner.

Image: something that inspired me from pinterest.

Humanism worships us

humanismHumanism cuts God out of the equation: We don’t need the supernatural any more. We can engineer our own solutions. We have done good, not God. Humanism points to humanity.

Amid the constant carpet-bombing of the humanist message, I point to God. We Christians are not opposed to science or using the wisdom and talents God gave us to achieve. But we recognize our limitations and mortality. Science may continue to advance but ultimately will come up short.

Don’t look inward, look upward. There is a God who loves you and beckons you into relationship with Him. This is not superstition. This is common sense recognition that we, as much as we can create, ultimately cannot create creation. God made the raw materials which we use to make things.

Image: Pinterest.

Don’t ditch it

marriageMarriage is worth the work, the heartache, the pain.

We study thousands of hours for our careers. But we don’t want to spend any time preparing or repairing our marriage — and yet a good marriage is by far a better source of happiness than a career!

Some are so impatient they are floating alternative models: shacking up, equality marriages. The message is always the same: it’s just as good.

It is not.

One has the solid foundation of the Bible. The other has no foundation. It is a hastily-erected hut on dirt. It will stand and look pretty but won’t withstand an earthquake.

Love is worth it.

Many of my blogging friends have faced divorce. In order to succeed, marriage requires 100% of both — and yours collapsed because only you were giving 100%.

Remarry. Give happiness another shot. Give your 100% to another person.

The first “institution” was not the church. Nor was it government. God instituted marriage from the very creation.

Don’t ditch it.

Image from Pinterest.

Speak life

speak life

It only takes a few words to destroy a fellow human being. And some are actually proud of blandishing their words like a caveman his club. Meanwhile, the sensitive among are committing suicide — some only to their self-belief, their self-worth, their dreams. You will be held accountable by God for the words you uttered, and there will be no justification.

Why not speak life to those around you instead? As much as words can hurt, they can build up, encourage, spark genius, give the impulse to carry out success. You can make a person smile. You can make a person beautiful just by your words. You can save a life.

Use your words wisely. Here is a great secret of wisdom: not everything that occurs to your head needs to occur on your tongue.

Original image: Huffington Post via pinterest.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions

resolutions

They only last three weeks. Then the gym empties out, the fridge fills up, and the checking account empties out. It’s sad.

I believe in church service. At the end of each service, we have the chance to go forward to the altar and “repent.” For the unchurched, that means, we make resolutions. No, were not a bunch of hypocrites. We’re just human. And humans need to constantly redirect their paths for the good.

We receive exhortation to forgive, to avoid pratfalls, to put our family first, to not waste our money, etc. I go to church at least three times a week. I make resolutions to be a better man at least three times a week.

This actually helps me to be a better human being. The constant forming of resolutions works better than the once-a-year grandiose life-changers, at least in my opinion.

Have you ever succeeded at at New Year’s resolution? Maybe I’m wrong. Share in the comments your experience.

I’ve cut down on sarcasm

sarcasm“Sarcasm” comes from “sarx” in the Greek, which means flesh. It is cutting someone up.

It’s telling someone he’s stupid and you’re superior, more intelligent. You resort to sarcasm to show how obvious something is (but wasn’t to the first person who made the statement or asked the question — hence he’s dumb.) It is a humiliation.

Of course, sarcasm has plenty of attractiveness. It makes people laugh. It makes you look witty. People like to hang out with winners. You’re the winner if you use it quickest and cuttingest. It’s a pride thing.

I’ve cut down on sarcasm because I’ve been cut up by sarcasm. I’ve decided that I don’t need it to attract friends. I’ve realized that true friends are what I want, and they won’t be coming around for my barbs and witticisms. They’ll love me if I love them. The only love the sarcasm knows is self-love.

Don’t place a halo on my head yet. Sarcasm comes out more frequently than I’d like to admit. I’m not totally sincere and humble. I’ve still got my flesh.

Sarcasm is delusional. You begin to believe you are superior to others just because of quick tongue.

Thank you for friendship

AshcraftsTo all my followers who have been with me through the ups and downs, exchanging encouragement and exhortations, thank you. Some of you are dear friends. Others of you I would like to get to know more.

Being highly favored

mary angelHail, Mary, highly favored of God! That’s how the angel greeted Mary in Luke 1:26.

Though she was favored to carry in her womb the Son of God, she was also in for some bad trials — like the loss of her “normal” life and dreams for a perfect marriage with Joseph. Her son would be crucified in front of her eyes. Yeah, a lot of trials.

But what I want to say here is that we are all favored of God. He loves us all. We all have a unique destiny. God has good things for us.

For Christmas, just realize how special you are to God. You are a gift to Him!

Every child wants to have an adorable monster friend

adorable monster friendQuite accidently, I’ve discovered the formula for Disney. As a joke, I got pictures of me, made up as the Ghost of Christmas Future, with the happy little kids in the play with fearful faces.

It seemed the kids were drawn to me, playing high-five-down-low-too-slow and what not. Every kid wants to have a friendly monster as a friend. I was the monster.

IMG_8702But here’s the flipside. If kids like it, so do monsters. The beast gets turned into a prince. The bad guy becomes good. Innocent love executes a transformation.

Who wouldn’t want to restore to the pristine innocence and untainted joy his monster soul? That’s why Jesus was was “without sin.” His love is pure, uncontaminated, simple childlike glee. Jesus says we must come to Him like children. We can shed the burdensome cynicism of being an adult. We can leave behind sin like a snake its skin. This Christmas, accept the best gift you could ever receive, the Giver of gifts.

Of course, our church Christmas play was very much along the Scoorgian lines. While I was waiting my role backstage, my mind was running through a completely different plot.

You’re saying your pregnant and you haven’t had sex?

mary.jpg

Yeah, right.

What about Joseph’s faith? He had to have A LOT of faith to marry Mary, to believe that she hadn’t fooled around and been unfaithful. When Mary got pregnant, he knew that he was not the father. One tends to assume the worst, the obvious, faced with such circumstances.

Even with the angel telling him, Joseph would doubt. Was the vision a nightmare, a hallucination? What would his friends think?

Joseph needed tons of faith too.

People tend to look at the Christmas story as an aw!-moment. But there was real angst. It wasn’t easy to bring the Savior to the world. Not for Joseph.

If you’re going through a crisis during Christmas, Joseph did. Be encouraged and keep faith.

Note: Apologies to the actress whose picture I use. No slander against her. I searched for “Mary,” and this image came up.

For Christmas, give forgiveness

forgiveness

The greatest gift you can receive comes from the Father in Heaven: It is forgiveness. The greatest gift you can give on Earth is forgiveness.

You may not be able to wrap it up in red paper with a bow. It doesn’t go under the Christmas tree. It goes into the heart.

Forgiveness restores love. When things “don’t work out,” people think that “moving on” is the solution. They find “true love.” Only too late do they realize they trade one set of problems for another; no one is free from baggage. Instead of dumping love, give forgiveness a try. As much as our society has “advanced beyond the antiquated norms of the Bible,” we still have need of eternal wisdom.