Tag Archives: Bible

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.

Even psychopaths and creeps

IMG_8654

Don’t be scared. It’s just me submitted to a trial run on stage makeup.

After longing to be in our church’s plays for years, I got cast in one role — and I nailed it! Now I am included in every production. Yippee!

What was the role I nailed? Barabbas, the psychopath. I guess that comes naturally to me (LOL!), and I thought would be typecast.

Now our church, the Lighthouse in Santa Monica, is producing a revamp of the Scrooge. My role is a surprise, but I’m something like the federal agent from The Matrix. I’m a creepy guy.

This is a lot of fun, but it’s also unnerving that I should so easily fall into roles of evil people. I guess we are all saved — those of us who choose to receive Jesus — by grace and not by works. Even psychopaths and creeps can get forgiveness.

The Land of Milk and Honey

ice-creamIf you mix milk with honey (and freeze it), you get ice cream.

What the in the Old Testament is promised to God’s people (to possess the Land of Milk and Honey) is in the New Testament promised as “abundant life.” Jesus says: I have come that you may have life — life abundantly. (John 10:10).

The idea is that serving Jesus not asceticism. It is joy. When Jesus was born, “peace” and “great joy” was promised to Earth. Salvation would be lavished upon humanity with blessings, both here and in Heaven.

I love ice cream. It is a good symbol for the Christian life. I hope you can learn to enjoy a relationship with Jesus Christ (not empty rigorous religion with rules and hopelessness).

The reason we give gifts at Christmas

christmas-christmas-tree-colorful-gifts-ornaments-Favim.com-248327

Jesus was God’s gift to mankind. When we give each other gifts, we celebrate that Jesus was a gift and that salvation (forgiveness of sins) is a free gift to any who would receive.

I suspect there are many people giving and receiving gifts, celebrating Christmas, without knowing anything more than it is a family tradition. Little do they realize they are honoring Christ and proclaiming salvation.

Priceless

christmas-crossSalvation is priceless because you and I don’t have to pay.

Salvation is priceless because no payment could ever be enough.

Christ is the most exquisite gift you could receive a Christmastime.

It matters what map you use

I live in LA, where we describe time-to-get-there in two categories: with traffic or without traffic. This amuses my friend who has never seen “without traffic” since moving here from Chicago.

A good smart phone map app can help you scoot around traffic. But I’ve discovered that not all map apps are equal. To be blunt, Apple’s map comes up short. Sometimes it sends you to the wrong place. It doesn’t detect construction. It doesn’t list new roads built. It can be woefully frustrating.

frustration apple mapsIf you want to get to where you’re going without any hassles, use Google maps, which is far superior.

It matters what map you use in life too. Contrary to the incessant barrage from the left-leaning intelligentsia, not all maps are equal. If you want to get to Heaven, have a happy marriage, raise well-adjusted kids, use the Bible. Not all all moral yardsticks do the job.

Bible mapOh they may work for easy jobs, but for a sticky situation, only the Bible will deliver the goods. I apologize to Apple for having to expose its flaws. But remember that time you made me an hour late after an 18-hour trip? Yeah, I was not happy with your shortcomings.

Forgiveness is sweet

revenge is sweetNo longer does her riches matter. At the end of her life, Miss Havisham has lost the adopted daughter she treasured. In Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations, Miss Havisham steeled Estella against the inconstant love of men. She only wished to spare Estella from her own heartbreak; she had been jilted on her wedding day. But in trying to protect Estella against the dangers of love, she made her incapable of love.

She also made her an instrument of revenge upon all men.

A tease, Estella was drilled on how to break hearts. She would wreak her Miss Havisham’s vengeance.

Stunned when Estella turns against her, Miss Havisham moans alone on her vast estate in the wee hours of morning. Nothing is left, nothing matters.

So she tries to do good. To Pip whom she trapped with Estella’s beauty, she now asks for forgiveness. No longer the haughty rich woman, she falls to her knees and begs desperately to have played with Pip’s emotions such that he was tortured by unrequited love for almost 20 years. He willingly and readily forgives her.

The dramatic scene from the book highlights a hugely underrated satisfaction in life, that of being forgiven.

As you move along in life, you accrue wrongs to yourself. You offend and sin against people dear to you. You become burdened with guilt and regret. The antidote is not more sin, drugs, alcohol or therapy. It is forgiveness.

First and foremost, mankind has need of forgiveness from God. Second from his fellow man. Third, he has need to forgive others. This is true bliss.

Revenge is not sweet; it is bitter. Forgiveness is sweet.

One soul worth more than 15 million views

IMG_7379My friend, Dr. Bob, is now officially famous, with 15 million views of his video “The Hold” and appearances on Good Morning America and Dr. Oz. But I don’t think his heart will change. He’s a vibrant Christian.

As an SEO, I helped promote his video so that it caught the attention of some influencer, who reposted it and it caught the attention of massive online media. He’s being called the “Baby Whisperer” for his intuitive way to calm fussy tykes.

I don’t think I want to be famous myself. I’ve found a greater joy, the happiness of saving souls. I work at a Christian high school in Santa Monica. The smiling faces you in the photo are some of the people who have exited the misery of bullying at school and entered the joy of Jesus.

One soul is worth more than 15 million views.

On the video of Christians condemning the Koran only to find out the passage read was Bible

michael ashcraft

Just me.

Almost always, the end of the book concludes the story. There is character and theme development that only makes complete sense when you get to the final chapter.

This is acutely important with the Bible: Jesus is the conclusion of the matter. He is the “new covenant” prophesied by Jeremiah. With Him, significant portions of the Old Testament hit their expiration. Hence, Christians no longer offer animal sacrifice nor observe dietary prohibitions.

And they don’t massacre. In fact, Christ told his followers to turn their cheek when struck, to pray for their enemies, to not resist their enemies. Inaugurating the new covenant, Christ’s followers suffered endless persecution at the hands of the Romans. They were mauled by animals in stadiums and held worship services in the catacombs. If Christ was a revolutionary, his was not an uprising with arms.

It seems a lot of observers are giddy with the trick video making the rounds in which Christians are first told their being read a passage from the Koran. They condemn “oppressive” religion. Then the trickster shows his hand: Sorry, the passage was from the Old Testament. I guess they think this is proof that all religions are equally evil.

I’m not surprised that a lot of Christians don’t know their Bible well enough to recognize the cited passages. They don’t have to. We are saved by faith, not by holding a degree in Bible knowledge. If these Christian sound outraged by the passage, it is because it resonates with the horrors of the news perpetrated by Islamic extremists.

It doesn’t resonate with the practices of Christianity. We get people out of alcoholism all around the world. We build hospitals, care for the untouchables, staff schools for inner city kids. We don’t wage wars; Ephesians specifically proclaims: We don’t have struggle against flesh and blood. The crusaders were motivated by money, always the true cause of war. If they did have some vestige of Christianity, it wasn’t authentic to the Master who sent his disciples out two by two to preach, heal and free people from demonic oppression.

The trouble with this video is it’s complete lack of sincerity. I’m sure its producers are not so ignorant of the simple truth the end of just about any book is the dramatic conclusion. It would be completely senseless to cut off the end of Hamlet, Farewell to Arms or Moby Dick. The story would be meaningless. So why are they filming Christians who know the end but mess up middle details? Surely, the videos producers cannot be so stupid.

I’m afraid it’s just another shameless attempt to shame Christians, to degrade our faith, to try to make all religions equal. If you want to expose the evil of a religion, don’t ask the guy on the street. Ask the experts. And don’t pull pranks on unsuspecting people that you wouldn’t want pulled on you.

The saint with the wicked kick

holly holmHolly Holm, whose lightning left kick shocked the world when it felled the UFC’s undefeated Ronda Rousey, is a Christian who recently got married, sews, cooks and brings her Bible to Starbucks.

After surmounting 20-1 odds to outfight the aggressive Rousey, the Albuquerque native, known in the ring as “The Preacher’s Daughter,” is now the reigning bantam weight champion in mixed martial arts.

the deadly kick“At first they wanted to call her Holly Hottie or Holly Hollywood or something like that. She said, ‘I don’t want to be known for that part of it,’” her dad Roger Holm told KOAT channel 7 news in New Mexico. “I said, ‘Well, you’re a preacher’s daughter.’ And she said, ‘That’s it! Call me the preacher’s daughter.’”

Holm, now 34, was raised in the church. She accompanied her dad on hospital visits, participated in potlucks and baby-sat countless times for church members.

holly dad preacher

Holly Holm’s dad, Roger Holm

“I went to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night,” she told the Albuquerque Journal. “We grew up living in a house owned by the church. I always had to be on time for services and held out with the nursery. I couldn’t be a selfish kid.”

Holm loves thrift shopping, quilting, baking from scratch, watching “Family Feud,” caring for her two cats and getting her waist-length blond hair highlighted and fingernails and toenails manicured and pedicured.

“But I must prefer, if I have the time, to go to church,” she said. “I feel really not focused and detached if I don’t go to church. I feel like I feel better about myself and life and my relationship with God if I go. I feel more connected. I try to go every Sunday morning. If I can’t, I get a little irritated with myself because I’m like, ‘Really Holly? God sacrifices and has you in mind all day, every day.’ How can I not want to give back one day, one hour even?” Read the rest of the story.

God’s greatest work comes

hand drowningat a time of your greatest adversity.

The darker it gets, the more we need to look up and believe.

Fear or faith?

unexpected-guestsPerfect love casts out fear — 1 John 4:18.

Running away from evangelism is what has made things run amok in the world. We Christians have abdicated our responsibility for too long. We can blame ourselves, not the politicians, for the problems of the world. Now we should not run to them looking for solutions that only we can provide.

Love is a choice. Fear is a knee-jerk reaction. We must choose to follow the Spirit lest we follow the flesh. The first Christians risked being thrown into the arena to be eaten by starved savage animals. We cannot expect a riskless Christianity. There is no drone Christianity where we direct evangelism from afar without putting boots on the ground. We haven’t wanted to go to the souls; now we don’t want the souls to come to us.

The days of isolationism are over, like it or not.

Unselfishness wins

barca

Unity won the day for Barca.

Barcelona left eternal rivals Real Madrid in shreds Saturday 4-0 in a game that showed that individual prowess doesn’t win games.

The Catalans have not one but three superstars. And those three — Neymar, Messi and Luis Suarez — share the goals unselfishly.

Usually teams are built around and for one superstar who won’t stand for competition on his own team. (Kobe Bryant infamously ran Shaquille O’Neal off the Lakers years ago.)

suarez

Luis Suarez scored two and made assists.

Barca works because it works like a team.

Not Real Madrid. Marcello took a shot when his best option was to pass. The ball went wide, and his teammates got mad. He sought individual glory but brought collective disgrace.

By contrast, Brazillian magician Neymar shared as many balls as he fired. And Suarez, who pretty much defines goal-making precision, foots off as many or more killer assists. Messi, recovering from injury, came on as a late substitute and set up the fourth goal with a pass that would have made a brain surgeon taken note for its precision.

lionell messi and iniesta

No rivalry between players. Messi left and midfielder Andres Iniesta

The Bible says: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you want passes to you, then follow the Golden Rule. That’s what Barca did, and today the followers of the Golden Rule are the Golden Boys of soccer.

Note: I don’t own the rights to these images, and I’m not making any money on them.

God doesn’t help those who help themselves

ben franklinDon’t misunderstand. I’m not advocating abdicating responsibilities. But I am hacking away at a mentality that flaunts self-sufficiency and human arrogance. Because Christianity at its most basic level recognizes how helpless humans are to please God. Hence, the need for forgiveness. Christ did for us what we could never do to gain for us what we could never gain for ourselves.

I thank God I’m a Christian. This doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I’m means I humbly and repeatedly ask for God’s forgiveness, intervention and favor. Join us. It’s a beautiful life.

Pirates’ manager came back to Christ

Pirates at Orioles June 14, 2012

Pirates at Orioles June 14, 2012

On the outside, Clint Hurdle was a huge success: 10 years as a Major League Baseball player, he had his image splashed on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was only 20. As a pro baseball manager two decades later his team was in the playoffs. But on the inside he knew something was wrong: his two marriages had ended in divorce and he struggled with alcoholism.

Then he met Karla. After eight years of dating her, Clint Hurdle mustered the courage to ask her hand in marriage – and what she said brought him back to Christ.

“I found my way back like the prodigal son,” Hurdle told What Christians Want To Know. “It was the best decision I ever made in my life, and it also led to my recovery with alcohol. Christ has given me the strength, endurance, and courage to live a sober life for the last 16 years. It has been the way it is supposed to be, serving Him. Through my weaknesses, His (Christ) strength is glorified.”

Not only did accepting Christ help Hurdle overcome weaknesses, it also benefits him in his professional life. In 2013, he was named National League Manager of the Year.

Baseball was not the only sport in Hurdle’s blood as a kid. In fact, he played all three of America’s top sports. He was offered the quarterback position for the University of Miami when the Kansas City Royals drafted him in 1975 for the outfield, but he chose baseball over football and basketball.

Raised in a small family with humble roots, he played for the Royals, the Cincinnati Reds, the New York Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals.

After retiring, he became manager for the Colorado Rockies for eight years, leading them to their first National League pennant. He was then hired by the Pirates in 2010 and coached them to a playoff in 2013, the first such appearance for the club in over 20 years.

He was a huge success in the world’s eyes. But his private life had careened out of control. He had drifted away from the Jesus he accepted at age 17. Hurdle went after his own dreams, pursued his own pleasure and got himself into trouble with sin.

He married and divorced twice. Nightclubs figured prominently in his life.

“I went through 23 years of wandering, similar to the Israelites in the desert,” Hurdle said. “I used Jesus as an ATM card. I would not relinquish me. I would continue to find times where I would try to take over or take control.”

Floundering, he met Karla, whom he dated for eight years. When he finally summoned the guts to pop the question, Karla, who was always sweet, counter-offered. Read the rest of the article.

Editor’s Note: This article was original posted on GodReports.com. My journalism student, Anthony Gutierrez, wrote it.

Truth, not trends

truth not trendsAssail it all they can, the Bible stands as God’s unaltered message to humanity. Science advances, societies evolve, morals change, fashions come and go. But the Bible remains unchanged.

Its message: We are sinners, but God loved us so much that He punished His Son in our place. We must come to Him in repentance and gratitude.

God’s code of conduct doesn’t evolve. We can’t improve upon it. The very thing people hate about the Bible is its strength, its eternal nature.

Original image by Tom.

I love you, Jesus Christ

facebookPeople all over the world need Christ. He is the solution and salvation from sin.

Tom Curren, surfing legend, came to Jesus

Tom CurrenHe patiently watches the wave come closer and closer, then turns his board, jumps to his feet and rides the wave back home, cutting alternately graceful elliptical lines and quick power turns that send a water wall spraying.

This is Tom Curren, surfing legend and decisive Christian.

“The ocean is a sign of God’s power,” he told 40,000 people at a Christian rally in Anaheim Stadium. “It’s really good to live for Jesus Christ.”

But the three-time world champion wasn’t always stoked for Jesus.

Tom-Curren-3In the sixth grade he was already drinking cocktails, and in the seventh grade, getting high on drugs, according to the online Encyclopedia of Surfing. His surfer dad left his born-again mom when he was 17.

At the height of his career, Tom fell out of all competitions because of alcoholism. Photos in surfing magazines contrasted the winners with Tom boozed up and lying inert on a beach in Mexico.

“He became the laughing stock of the surfing tour,” said Pastor Jimmy Papik, a surfer from Venice, California.

But he was not to be counted out. Tom got straight with Jesus and returned to competitions to cement his legacy.

“To be honest there were a few years there where I really wasn’t doing much of anything. I was pretty lost I guess,” he confides to Surfer Magazine. “For me, it’s just Jesus is there and He’s free, and He’s all I need. It’s something where I know I’m not the only one to struggle with alcohol. I’m doing really well at the moment.”

Tom_CurrenTom, now 52, began surfing when he was two years old in Santa Barbara, where he perfected his records-smashing technique on the long ride of idyllic waves at Rincon.
His father, Pat Curren, pioneered big-wave surfing in Hawaii. He made boards and wetsuits for his son. He loved skateboarding, but after age 13 the waves drew him away from the wheels.

In 1978 he won the Boys’ U14s Western Surfing Association title, and the following year he became the Boy’s National Champion. He was gifted, it would seem, by God to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and walk on water.

In 1980, he snatched the World Amateur Junior Championship, and in 1982, he pocketed the Men’s title.

Then he went pro.

At the time, three Australians were dominating everything – Mark Occhilupo, Gary Elkerton and Tom Carroll. And South African Martin Potter was dazzling the world with the sport’s first aerials.

But in his first professional competition, Tom Curren won – the 1982 Marui World Surfing Pro in Japan. What the ballet dancer does on the stage, Tom did with mesmerizing, pulsating brilliance on water. His inexorable victory sweep culled consecutive world titles in 1985 and 1986.

His reputation was etched with the other surfing legends, Duke Kahanamoku and Kelly Slater — according to some sources.

“He has a surfing style that combines smooth, rhythmic, seamlessly-linked maneuvers with blinding speed, raw power, and unique check turns and body English,” says his entry in Wikipedia.

Then just as suddenly he exploded on the surfing scene, he slipped out of view. The surfing lifestyle often goes hand in hand with the party lifestyle, and the drinking and drug habits he started as a teen were beginning to sink him.

It was his devout Christian mother, Jeanine, who rescued her prodigal son. A surfer herself, she took him to ride boards. She preached at him, loved on him and prayed for him. Everyone had basically written off the phenom who got stung by addiction, but Tom was slowly grinding out a recovery. The rest of the story here.

Don’t be mad

grumblingDon’t be mad for what you don’t have. Be glad you don’t get what you deserve.

We deserve Hell. But we get salvation. Why be upset over insignificant things.

Note: Original image not mine. Not making any money on it.

Paul, William Blake, evolutionary morality and you

good and evil | William BlakeFor Paul, good and evil are at war in his heart. He longs to please God with his entire being, but fleshly temptations assail him and make it impossible. Only because of grace, only because of Christ’s sacrifice, is he saved. And freed from this war, he rejoices that Christ has done what he could not do. He rejoices to be in right relationship with God and thanks God for unilaterally removing the barrier that separated him from God.

William Blake doesn’t put evil and good at war. They are both poles of the same reality. In his “Songs of Innocence and of Experience,” he even changes the name of evil into “experience.” When we are innocent children, life is wonderful. But when we grow up, we become aware of temptations and begin to sample them and “experience” life. Ultimately, it was God who made us to grow up in puberty and “wake up” to other realities, according to his view. Blake seemed to revel in the role of an iconoclast, asserting heresy for shock value, much like Edgar Allen Poe did when he forged the horror genre.

What’s your conception of evil and good? A popular theory from evolution dismisses entirely the idea. And since the notion of a completely amoral society is untenable (not to mention denying the obvious inborn conscience we all have), lately theorists have forwarded the notion that we “evolved” morals as “communal” animals. It will be interesting to see what sort of evidence scientists assemble to support this theory. It will be even more interesting to see if they can agree on what sort of behavior is morally acceptable or condemned. In the meantime, it seems that this notion is a frantic attempt to shore up evolution, which fails entirely to account for the intellectual and emotional complexity of humans, which corroborates better the Biblical version than man is separate from the animals, not evolved.

Image from New York Times

Image from New York Times

But while intellectual concepts are floated into public discussion and enjoy moments of popularity and then die out, be careful what concepts you choose for your own life. Because you will be held accountable for your choices. If you reject God because His system conflicts with your personal pleasures, you could wind up in hot water.

Don’t be a Lilliputian

lilliputiansWe can be so small. Jonathan Swift satirizes the politicians of his day by making parallels called Lilliputians, six-inch high mini humans, who benefiting from Gulliver’s help in a war, order Gulliver to annihilate their enemies. Gulliver demurs, and the Lilliputian king orders his eyes out for treason.

Even though he’s only six inches tall, his ego is gargantuan.

Not forgiving is being small. Being full of yourself is being small. Narcissists are small. Don’t be small (I’m talking to myself).

25 years of marriage today

25th anniversary | marriageMaybe I DO have a perfect marriage.

They say: the perfect marriage is two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.

Well, I know that I am certainly imperfect, and thank God that Dianna hasn’t given up on me.

Divorce was never an option that we entertained. Some people use the D-word as a threat, a manipulation, an escalation of words that one stupidly hopes will make the other side back down.

We’ve had our bouts, our rough edges, our clash of personalities. Incompatible? Who is compatible? You work at it because it’s worth it.

At the end of the day, the guys who stick it out are happier than the guys who figure they’ve suffered too much and are unwilling to keep trying (on the other hand, there are cases of intransigence and abuse that sometimes necessitate divorce, so I’m not trying to make a blanket statement),

No, no, no, I’m not bragging about how I’ve been better than anyone else. No, I’m stating here that I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have been blessed with such a wonderful woman. And I want to be a better man.

I can only thank God for 25 years and pray for 25 more (at least).

A world without racism

a world without racismThis is the world I inhabit, a place free from hatred, from discrimination. Hearts could be judged, not skin color. People would join hands in a universal recognition of Jesus. Differences — rich, poor, educated, uneducated — would matter squat.

It is with much anguish that I see our world convulsed by racists. It is upsetting to receive messages from whites who justify their hatred. I unfriend them on Facebook. I am fighting for equality, fair treatment, for love.

About this painting: I got it off Facebook and could not determine the original source for this credit. If you know who it is, please let me know. Furthermore, I would be very much interested in using more of his/her paintings. His/her genius inspires me.

The half-truth is not the problem

witches macbethIt’s the half lie that hurts.

MacBeth is tantalized by the possibility of becoming king. Already the witches’ oracle that he would become the Thane of Cawdor is fulfilled, and that was an impossibility.

So now, the next oracle is bound to happen!

MacBeth, egged on by his power-hungry wife, takes matters into his own hands. He kills the existing king and frames the guards. As MacBeth is the most outstanding Scottish warlord and hero, he is named king.

But then everything begins to spiral downward. He hires some wicked assassins to kill would-be rivals. He hallucinates the ghosts of those he has killed with treachery. His wife goes insane and then dies. The more enemies — real or perceived — he kills, the more they multiply. Does he enjoy even one moment of the power he lusted for?

The witches followed the pattern of the serpent in Eden: You won’t die, Eve. You’ll become like God knowing good and evil. It was a half-truth, and it brought temptation to fruition (sorry, couldn’t resist that pun) and the ultimate demise of humanity.

Modern society is now based on half-truths as the Bible has been discarded and new ideals and new moralities are spreading.

Can’t clean trash with trash

trashThis may sound silly, but people try to clean up their mind, heart, anxiety, conflicts with — trash! What the world gives you is trash, through its sin and temptation. Inevitably, this brings problems to your life. Then going to the worldly therapist, or blocking out the world with worldly music, or drowning your sorrows in liquor, or self-medicating… you get the idea.

Only Jesus can clean your trash — and my trash. Let us return to the Bible, for therein we will find true answers and solutions.

Want vs. need

wants needsOne good thing about God is that He gives us what we need, not what we want. As human beings, we are destruction-bent. It’s part of our sinful condition that humanists vehemently denied but is being shown more and more in the news (look at the proliferation of massacres in our secular society).

Our generation is one that can’t distinguish want from need. Want is a right. Want is good, justified, unassailable. How dare you question my desires?

As Christians, we sometimes miss God’s best because we interpose our desires. It’s such our pursuit of wants that we miss needs. We pursue blessing more than the Blessor, the creation over the Creator. We miss destiny for dinero.

God just smiles. We pepper him with petitions, and He gently, patiently demurs. Thank God that He does. We would kill ourselves.

Original image source: Google.

Victory: the difference between non-Christians and Christians

usain-bolt-celebrating-victory_1600x1200_552-desktopNon-Christians: Victory is mine!

Christians: Victory is His!

Choose the straight and narrow path

straight and narrow

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. — Matt. 7:13-14 NIV.

By “wide” we might understand “permissive of everything.” God exhorts us to a narrow path, not that I or any Christian is perfect. Far from it, we recognize our sin and ask Jesus for forgiveness. But we don’t stop calling sin sin.

Why should we choose the straight and narrow path? Because it and only it leads to Heaven.

Photo source: Original from Pinterest.