Tag Archives: Bible

Wut? Floyd Mayweather a Christian?

floyd mayweather v pacquiaoFloyd Mayweather is better known for dogged defense, precision punches, trash talking and unconscionable greed. He’s less known for his relationship with Jesus Christ.

But in fact, the provocative pugilist – who will face Conor McGregor in the boxing ring Aug. 26th – is born-again. It’s not something he hides – or pedals.

“God is first in my life,” he declared unequivocally.

640_2015_05_03_13_19_50Mayweather was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with seven siblings sardined into one room. Both his mother and father struggled with drugs. His dad was a dealer and spent time in jail. There were heroine needles in his front yard and an aunt died of AIDS, infected by a dirty needle.

Dad was also a boxer and took Junior to the gym all the time. He didn’t take him anywhere else – not ice cream, the park or movies. Mayweather felt pretty much on his own, though his dad disputes this claim.

170714-teeman-mcgregor-mayweather-tease_onqkfb“I basically raised myself,” he said, according to Wikipedia. “My grandmother did what she could. When she got mad at me, I’d go to my mom’s house. My life was ups and downs.”

Boxing became Mayweather’s safe haven, a place where he could forget the sadness of his life and release his frustrations with aggression. He developed uncommon speed and a sixth sense of ring awareness that accelerated his rise in the boxing ranks.

He dropped out of high school and won 84 out of 88 amateur matches. Since going pro following a bronze medal in the 1996 Olympics, he hasn’t lost a fight and has surpassed the likes of Mohammad Ali and Mike Tyson as a five-division world champion.

mayweather-1His nickname as an amateur was “pretty boy.” He was so good defensively that opponents had trouble landing punches, leaving him scar less. But Mayweather dropped this moniker in favor of “money.” He posts videos of himself counting rolls of money and boasts unabashedly about his money.

“I got a 14-passenger jet. Got to give them another reason to hate, but I will motivate the people that are ambitious and want to be winners in life,” he wrote. “I’m materialistic, and I’m motivated by money. But God is first in my life.”

God was in his heart, but he reveled in the roll of the villain. He taunted opponents and glowered at them. He was convicted of beating his girlfriend. He strutted around with the pride of a peacock.

“Floyd Mayweather represents everything that’s wrong with sport and celebrity,” The Telegraph trumpeted in an article that lambasted him for 16 paragraphs, landing jab after jab. He “worshiped money and himself.” He’s misogynistic. He’s a boring fighter, spending more time avoiding than landing blows. His nickname “Money” sucks, and Australia wisely denied him a visa to visit the country, the article claimed.

His fight against Manny Pacquiao was “evil versus good.” Pacman (a much cooler nickname, the article asserted) was mom-loving and God-fearing, a rags-to-riches kid… Read the rest of the article Floyd Mayweather Christian.

Christian band Bread of Stone nearly broke up, but a trip to Indonesia changed their hearts

Bread of StoneA funny thing with the indie band Bread of Stone: When brothers Ben and Bill Kristijanto felt called to start a music ministry, neither of them could play a single lick of music.

Today, they have opened for the likes of the Newsboys, Petra, Crowder, Sanctus Real and Building 429, among others. After recording two albums, they released their third, The Real Life, with DREAM Records in 2013.

“We were stones before being called into music ministry (useless and incapable) and only because of Jesus are we made into bread to feed the hungry in this world and share his love with others,” Ben told Cross Rhythms.

bread of stone brothers indonesiaAnother fun fact about the Sioux City band is that they live double lives: one in America and another in Indonesia, where they were born and where they support ministry to the poorest of the poor, chiefly Muslims who scavenge through trash to subsist. They are constantly flying to Indonesia and supporting projects to raise money for society’s outcasts and standing up for the persecuted church.

“We are not out doing this to make a name for ourselves,” said Bill. “We have never set out to make a statement of ourselves as artist. We are able to do so only through God’s grace.”

‘Service before self-ambition,’ their website proclaims.

Ben is the lead vocalist while Bill plays guitar. The are joined by Tim Barnes on bass and Jason Ferris on drums. All four band members grew up in Christian homes.

bread of stone handcraft itemsThe “calling” to start Bread of Stone in 2004 didn’t come to the brothers but their dad, Nehemia Kristijanto. Born in 1951, he is the eldest son of his family living in Jatibarang, a small town in West Java Province, Indonesia, according to New Covenant People on Blogspot.

In 1970 he studied engineering in West Germany and returned to Indonesia in 1979 with his degree. But he felt led to stay with his parents and not seek employment as an engineer. Instead, he started a powerful ministry. He moved back and forth between America and Indonesia until 1992, at which time he settled definitively in America. Today he supports his sons’ music ministry.

“We didn’t come from a musical family and had never played any instruments, but once we heard the call from the Lord, we started taking music lessons,” Bill said.

In 2015, Bread of Stones gained attention with their hit single “Porcelain.”

As the group began to gain significant recognition in 2011, they went through a crisis, teetering on the brink of dissolution. The once inseparable brothers began arguing about everything, Bill admitted on a YouTube video. Read the rest and find out how Bread of Stone saved their band.

Infertile? Ha! You don’t know my God

identical-twinsEverybody thought I was dead.

When a truck plowed into my car that fateful night, it pushed my crushed car all the way into the gas station. It finally came to rest just shy of hitting the gas pump.

By the grace of God, I survived. But, according to the doctor, I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant. The steering shaft had been driven into my abdomen and pierced my ovaries. The doctor explained that I should be grateful just to be alive. (This story is written by a mother at our Christian school in Santa Monica.)

a-match-made-in-heavenFor some reason, I had it stuck in my mind to have three children through two pregnancies. Of course that I meant twins.

As the doctor was explaining the cold hard facts with kind words, I didn’t pay too much attention. My faith was placed in Jesus, not on medical science.

barren-to-blessed“Don’t worry about that, doctor,” I told him. “I will have two pregnancies and three babies because I asked Jesus for them, and I know that he will give me my children.”

I was released from the hospital a week after the accident. At the time, I lived in Florida. An immigrant from Guatemala, I came to America already a Christian. I got involved in a church where they taught you to pray with faith. And I never stopped praying.

At age 30, I married a godly man named Mauro Ivan Arango in December 1993. In September the next year, Jafet, my firstborn, made his entrance into the world. He was truly a miracle baby. My doctor couldn’t believe it. Read the rest of the incredible infertility story.

Conduct science in Grand Canyon? Not if you’re a creationist, Park Service says but gets forced to reverse itself.

Grand Canyon controversyDr. Andrew Snelling, a geologist with a PhD from Sydney University, wanted to extract and examine some 60 fist-sized rocks from the Grand Canyon to research the possibility they were formed through a world-wide flood, not through millions of years of sediment layering, as evolutionists say.

His 2013 formal request to conduct scientific research was summarily denied by the Park Service last year. Dr. Peter Huntoon of the University of Wyoming said Snelling’s proposal was “inappropriate,” describing it as “dead end creationist material,” the Christian News Network reported.

grand canyon evolution or creationWhat are the Park Service administrators afraid he might discover? The arbitrary obstruction of a scientist because of his worldview seemed discriminatory.

Snelling sued in May and won a reversal this month, thanks in part to President Trump’s executive order expanding religious freedom.

“It’s one thing to debate the science, but to deny access to the data not based on the quality of a proposal or the nature of the inquiry, but on what you might do with it is an abuse of government power,” said Gary McCaleb, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative Christian legal defense group that represented Dr. Snelling, according to the New York Times.

grand canyon christian scientist tours

Snelling is an Australian who received his geology doctorate in 1982 from Sydney University in his native city. Initially, he worked with Koongarra uranium deposit in Australia’s Northern Territory and contracted for mining industries that allowed him time to travel and study different geological strata.

In 1998, Snelling joined the Creation Science Foundation. Since 2007, he has worked for Kentucky-based Answers in Genesis, a group of scientists who adhere to the literal biblical account of creation instead of the evolutionary model, according to Science, the publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Snelling is the current director of research for Answers in Genesis.

Snelling has led people on more than 30 river trips in the Grand Canyon and was known to park personnel for undermining their narrative of the geological formation of the park. For years, geologists stated the Grand Canyon was 20 million years old, only to recently revise its age to 5 million. Snelling and other young earth scientists believe Earth’s age to be around 20,000 years, and the Grand Canyon, around 10,000 years.

Dr Gilles Brocard, a fellow Sydney University geologist argues that nuclear analysis dates some rocks from the Grand Canyon to 2 billion years old. He said the Earth is shown by studies to date at 4.5 billion, according to the Guardian.

Snelling is sticking to his guns. Read more about discrimination against Christians in science.

Soft tissue found in dinosaur bones undercuts evolutionary timetable

soft-tissue-dinosaurWhen Mary Schweitzer found soft tissue in dinosaur bone in 2005, her boss got mad.

“Dammit, Mary, the creationists are going to love you,” Jack Horner snapped, according to what she wrote for Biologos.

Indeed, Schweitzer discovery threatened to upset the evolutionary biologists’ timeline for the world because soft tissue decays relatively quickly. If she found soft tissue in bones from a Tyrannosaurus rex perhaps it wasn’t 58 million years old, as the geologists argued. Maybe it was just a few thousand years old – trapped by sediment in a catastrophic worldwide flood and fossilized.

jack horner mary schweitzer

Mary Schweitzer with Jack Horner at a dig site

Smithsonian called her discovery a “shocker;” LiveScience, “contorversial;” and Discovery magazine, “dangerous.” News show 60 Minutes said it “posed a radical challenge to the existing rules of science.”

Young earth creationists, who argue that earth’s history reaches about 10,000 years, cackled with satisfaction.

“I invite the reader to step back and contemplate the obvious,” wrote Carl Wieland on the Answers in Genesis website. “This discovery gives immensely powerful support to the proposition that dinosaur fossils are not millions of years old at all, but were mostly fossilized under catastrophic conditions a few thousand years ago at most.”

soft-tissue-header

What are blood cells doing in dino bones?

For its part, Creation praised Schweitzer’s research as “powerful testimony against the whole idea of dinosaurs living millions of years ago. It speaks volumes for the Bible’s account of a recent creation.

Since her initial discovery, Schweitzer, a molecular paleontologist at North Carolina State University, has found red blood cells, blood vessels, bone cells and even hemoglobin and collagen. A supposedly 80-million-year-old duck-billed dinosaur bone has also yielded soft tissue.

CRS-iDino-digging-5The Christian Science Monitor reported this January that scientists found collagen, a protein basic to animal tissue, in an allegedly 195-million-year-old fossil of a Lufengosaurus dinosaur in China.

Proteins are complex molecules which break down quickly and can’t survive for a millennia.
.
But Schweitzer, a conservative evangelical Christian who adheres to evolutionary theory, floated the theory in 2013 that iron may have preserved the soft tissue much like formaldehyde. If shown to be true, her theory would take wind out of the sails of the young earth Christians.

Schweitzer got her start in paleontology after studying molecular biology. She audited a course with famed paleontologist Jack Horner, the scientist who is trying to create dinosaurs in modern times from chicken DNA. Horner consulted for the movie Jurassic Park.

Schweitzer was thrilled with the course, worked her way through her doctoral degree and began lab work under Horner.

Through three summers of digging , Horner unearthed a T. Rex skeleton from an escarpment in northeastern Montana known as Hell’s Creek. Because of the remoteness and rugged terrain, the bones had to be helicoptered out but were too heavy, so the team reluctantly broke one of the leg bones into two pieces.

Horner handed some of the resulting fragments to Schweitzer to analyze. The first thing she realized was the dinosaur had been a pregnant mother because of the presence of medullary bone, which is a calcium overproduction to supply the eggs. (Originally, the fossil had been nicknamed “Bob.”)

But the real astonishment came when Schweitzer’s team dissolved some fragments in weak acid, a practice that was never done before because it dissolves bone matter. The lab assistant had only tried to eliminate the outer crust on the bone but wound up disintegrating all the hardened minerals.

When Schweitzer looked at the only remaining chunk under the microscope, she couldn’t believe its elasticity. It took her quite some time to realize that it was soft tissue, which had never before been seen by a scientist. Read the rest of the story about soft tissue dinosaur bones.

Converted rapper Ja Rule, tripped up at Fyre Festival, seems to have gone prodigal

ja-ruleWhat has happened to Ja Rule?

The early 2000s hip-hop sensation famously became saved after a stint in prison for tax evasion and illegal possession of a firearm. Specifically, he accepted Christ at New York’s Hillsong church after filming the Christian movie, I’m in Love with a Christian Girl.

But now Ja Rule has become embroiled in the Fyre Festival fiasco. After promoting a bacchanal hedondom to well-heeled millennials, he’s being sued for failing to deliver the lavish hotel, food, rock stars and hotties. Partiers found themselves stranded in refugee camp tents with cheese sandwiches on the Bahamas Island. The stunning models were noticeably absent.

Has the New York rapper become a prodigal?

Famous for “Always on Time” and “Mesmerize,” Ja Rule — born Jeffrey Atkins – had songs ranked in the Top 20 from 1999 to 2005. He received Grammy nominations, notoriety and tons of money, but police busted him for tax evasion. Released from prison in 2013, he picked up a role in the movie I’m In Love with a Church Girl. As he promoted the movie in churches, God began to draw his heart.

Luxury accommodations at Fyre Festival?

His prior involvement in Jehovah’s Witnesses marred his understanding of God. His mother left the group in his pre-teens, and the rest of the family completely ostracized her.

“The family wasn’t speaking to my mother, and I saw how much it hurt her, I didn’t want to have anything to do with the religion,” he said.

But his aversion towards God changed due to his involvement in the movie.

“I kind of reconnected with God by doing the movie,” Ja Rule told a radio station. “I reconnected with God in a different way. I was going to all these different churches, and they were great, but I didn’t feel like they were talking to me until I went to Hillsong right here in the city.”

Hillsong projected a non-traditional image that he found appealing.

“You walk into this church and it’s dark in there and the disco ball is still in there and you see the lights and you’re like, well this is different, and then you get in there and you start to look at everybody around you, and they look just like you,” he said. “It really gave me the feeling that when they say come as you are, they mean the skater kids in the back with the skateboards, like they just came off the street coming to church. It was a different type of crowd.”

In response to one of the sermons, he and his wife, Aisha, were both saved.

His first steps in the Lord were tentative, but he didn’t shy away from discussing them.

“I want to make sure I’m doing the right thing. I don’t want people to misconstrue what I’m doing here,” Ja Rule said. “I’m taking baby steps, and I want to get closer to God. I feel it’s something you should do in life.”

But then he was quiet about his faith for a number of years.

Earlier this year, Ja Rule joined brash entrepreneur Billy McFarland in hyping an elitist rock competition on beautiful beaches that was supposed to rival or surpass Coachella.

Ja Rule promised purchasers of $1,200 event ticket they would be “living like movie stars, partying like rock stars, and f—–g like porn stars.”

Hmmm. That doesn’t sound very Christian. Read the rest of Ja Rule Christian.

Mike Pence, a solid Christian influence in the White House

pence trumpWhile at Phi Gamma Delta in college, Mike Pence was intrigued by a fraternity brother’s gold cross — and even more intrigued by what he said about the necklace pendant.

“Remember, Mike, you have got to wear it in your heart before you wear it around your neck,” his “big brother” told him, according to the New York Times.

karen and mike pencePence, 58, was born into an Irish immigrant family with five other siblings on a farm in the small town of Columbus, Indiana. Along with his three brothers, Pence served as an altar boy at the St. Columba parish church and attended as many as seven days a week. They grew up in Catholic school.

When he went off to Hanover College, a small liberal arts college in Indiana, he began to feel drawn to a more intimate, less ritualistic, approach to God.

Christian-vice-president“I began to meet young men and women who talked about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” he told CBN. “That had not been a part of my experience.”

At a Christian music festival in the spring of 1978 in Kentucky, he accepted Jesus as his personal Savior and Lord and was born again.

Still, his heartstrings remained firmly entrenched with his Catholic upbringing. He called himself an “evangelical Catholic” and even considered the priesthood as a career path.

“He was part of a movement of people, I’ll call it, who had grown up Catholic and still loved many things about the Catholic Church, but also really loved the concept of having a very personal relationship with Christ,” said Patricia Bailey, who, along with her husband Mark, worked at the Pence law firm in the 1980s in Indianapolis. Pence and Mark started every day with prayer at the firm.

In law school at Indiana University, Pence met Karen, who became his wife. As their relationship turned serious, she bought a gold cross with the word “Yes” engraved on it and carried it around in her purse to be ready for the inevitable proposition. Pence calls her “his prayer warrior.” The couple has three children.

In the political arena, Pence was a Democrat. His heroes were fellow Irish American John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. But as the Democratic Party fully embraced abortion, the man who grew up a staunch Catholic found himself feeling betrayed.

After voting for Jimmy Carter in 1980, he became attracted to the politics of Ronald Reagan. He never looked back.

After two failed campaigns for Congress, Pence won election in 2000 and served in the House of Representatives until 2011. He proved himself a man of convictions, not a political opportunist, and threw his support behind the Tea Party Movement. He declared he was willing to shut down the federal government in the fight to defund Planned Parenthood, the IndyStar reported. Read the rest of Mike Pence Christian.

A missionary with Muscular Dystrophy

IMG_4500As the #2 executive at the biggest waste hauler west of the Mississippi, Chris Banducci was the envy of his friends. He lounged in a nice house, drove a hot sports car and wallowed in money. “Work hard,” his neighbors told their kids, “and you’ll be a success like him.”

Then, at 29 years old, Chris was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, and his world fell apart.

“I was angry. I was lonely. I was miserable and full of self-hatred. I just wanted to die. My drinking got worse; I drank myself to sleep every night,” Chris recalled. “I couldn’t imagine that any woman could love this ‘cripple.’”

taiwan-missionary-in-wheelchairToday, Chris Banducci, 61, is a Christian missionary in Taiwan. With God’s help, he overcame many obstacles and took on increasing challenges as his body began to fail him.

Looking back at his early years, it would be hard to imagine Chris answering a call to the mission field. After he graduated from high school, he drove a trash truck.

“This was the best job I ever had,” he said. “I learned how to operate every bit of equipment at that place, to prepare for a supervisory role. Then I began to learn from my leaders how to manage people and make good business decisions.”

He felt some early physical symptoms of his disease, but shrugged it off.

As a supervisor, he was hated and feared.

cfm-pics-chris-banducci“I mistreated people,” he said. “I stepped on people, lied, cheated and eliminated competition. I was not an easy person to be around. My reputation with women was such that they avoided me.”

Through raw ambition, Chris worked his way up to the director of recycling and resource recovery, second only to the owner and CEO. He reached the pinnacle of success.

“My neighbors would tell their teenage and college-age sons, ‘Look at him. If you work hard and apply yourself, you can be like that!’”

It was heady stuff. But while he relished the admiration, Chris knew on the inside he was a mess. His family lived up north, so he was lonely. He was good at intimidating people but not at making friends. He was drinking heavily.

Then he walked into the doctor’s office one day and received the jolting news. Read the rest of Muscular Dystrophy Missionary.

Geeking on a wave at a Santa Monica private school

surfing-elective-santa-monica-high-schoolBy Kayla Armstrong, LCA sophomore –

Can you imagine getting up at 6:00 am in the cold dark morning?! Especially if you have trouble waking up and feeling like a mummy walking around and putting on swimwear to get in the cold ocean! Well, at the Lighthouse Christian Academy, Pastor Josh Scribner teaches a surfing elective us Christian high school students! It’s nice to have a school right next to the beach of Santa Monica.

His surfing class is a very fun experience for me.

You won’t like the fact of getting up in the morning, but when you get to the beach and just looking at the gigantic waves you get very geeked and excited and it’s lots of fun.

surfing-class-lighthouse-christian-academy

Some heart-beating moments is when you are getting ready to catch the wave and sometimes the wave is so big that when your laying down riding on the wave you can see the sand that is at the bottom of the water and it’s a heart beating moment cause you are so high up that it feels like you are going to fall right into the sand and it the floor but you don’t because as soon as you stand up your weight pushes the surfboard down a little bit to where you are able to ride it and you feel accomplished.

Some funny moments is when looking at one of your classmates, and they don’t see a big wave coming and they get wiped out (the wave knocks them down) and it is very funny because you can’t do anything about it but watch the wave wipe them out. Some people don’t like getting wiped out because sometimes if the wave is really big or another one comes after it you constantly are underwater but as long as you are not scared and know you are going to come back up then you are fine! Because you are able to stand back up.

Surfing class is not for everyone Read the rest of surfing elective at a Santa Monica private school.

A water roller coaster

no-bullies-christian-high-schoolMost people think of camping as something they would never want to experience: Sleeping on the dank ground, eating only unsavory camp food, days without showering and nothing to do. But going on a trip at Lighthouse Christian Academy will change that.

I came to the Lighthouse when I was in seventh grade. They also offer the rafting trip to the students who attend our gradeschool counterpart the Lighthouse Church School, but it wasn’t until my freshman year that I decided to go on the rafting trip. What shocked me was the lack of people that wanted to go. With the urging of Mrs. Lisa Clancy, I decided to go and had a great time.

rafting-tripNow during my sophomore year, the trip rolled around and no one seemed like they wanted to go. Granted some people had other engagements but the group of people that went was small.

Even though the group was small, it was a fun time. The drive to the campsite seemed short because you bonded with the people in the car — or slept. When we arrived at the campsite, all of us from the Santa Monica Christian school were all taken aback by the breathtaking nature around us.

The campsite that the school goes to every year was better than any campsite I had been to before. There was indoor plumbing, a pool, and a small shop if you wanted to buy snacks. This made the camping part of the trip so much easier.

The rafting part of the trip was both frightening and entertaining. We rafted one of the more harder rivers, and though some people had a better time than others, the scared feeling before you rafted is worth it. There is an adrenaline rush you feel when you’re riding a literal water roller coaster. Read the rest of the rafting trip story.

Joy of teaching

Christian-school-Los-Angeles

The greatest joy of teaching is NOT seeing heads full of knowledge but hearts full of Jesus. Of course, we do (try to) cram in a lot of studies into these youthful brains. We do (try to) prepare them for 4-year institutions. But sending them off to make millions and lose their soul is NOT what we are about.

Lighthouse Christian Academy has been my plowing terrain for six years, and another school year has concluded. Since I got off the mission field, it has been my mission field in America. We give the kids Bible and love. It turns out a lot of studies need love, and a lot of students want the Bible.

I taught U.S. Literature and A.P. Spanish this semester (and journalism). The kids learned about unforgiveness through The Scarlet Letter, Moby Dick and A Cask of Amontillado. They learned about transcendentalism, realism, modernism and post-modernism. They really got the chance to see if they want hopelessness to be their life compass.

What can I say about Spanish? Resulta que nunca nadie se esfuerza tanto como yo quisiera. Es difícil porque tratamos de reducir tres cursos de un año a tres semestres y ni modo los resultados no alcanzan mi esperanza. Pero todavía espero que ganen el examen de A.P.

And journalism? That’s always a favorite for me, though I think I put more effort into it than the students. Oh well.

A toast to all my fellow teachers out there.

 

God’s team: how Christianity helped the Warriors win the NBA

andre-iguodalaNice guys finish last, right?

Wrong! The Golden State Warriors just buzz-sawed their way through the 2017 NBA finals winning four out of five games.

Pundits are busily babbling about the sheer talent bursting from the team. But there is another critical factor that helped make LeBron and crew look like school children. A majority of the players, and especially their leaders, are strong Christians who attend chapel regularly. The Gospel Herald called them “God’s team,” and World Religion News, “the NBA’s men of God.”

Does God favor one team over another? No. Do prayers help win games? No. Does God care about basketball? No, He cares about souls.

cavaliers-warriorsSo what the heaven does Christianity have to do with their resounding win? Well for one, Christianity tends to make players humble, and humility limits ego clashes and ratchets-up team dynamics. It bonds players as brothers.

So when juggernaut Kevin Durant, a devout Christian, snatched the spotlight from 3-pointer ace Steph Curry, also a firm believer, no feud erupted. Instead, the court erupted with a volcanic version of vying for the title.

“That’s just something that we all have, a spiritual connection,” Durant told the San Jose Mercury News last year. “Seeing all the guys that they have in chapel, you can tell that they really love Jesus.” Get the rest of the scoop: God’s team, the Warriors.

Their military marriage, a long distance relationship brushed with divorce

long-distance-relationshipHe was trying to fix her, and she was trying to fix him, until they got to the point of signing divorce papers.

Gage Jalbert – of French lineage –met Rikki on payday outside a Walmart in Oklahoma. She was a pretty blonde recently divorced from the father of her child, and they struck up a conversation.

He was due to leave for Japan with the Marines within a week, so they hurriedly got married in 2006. Rikki’s ex-husband would not allow their 3 year old daughter to go overseas so the newlyweds decided on a long-range relationship.

divorce---marriageGage had attended church as a young person but had drifted far away from God, drinking and watching porn. For her part, Rikki was smoking pot daily and committing “indiscretions.”

After the first year of marriage, Gage found out about his wife’s failings. Remembering the God of his youth, he told her she needed to go to church. He himself occasionally went to chapel but wasn’t stirred much by the service. Rikki didn’t appreciate his judgmental attitude. She knew that Gage was slipping up too.

“We were not saved,” Gage says. “We had all this sin in our lives. It was an unhealthy relationship.”

Gage began to pray for God to rescue his marriage.

The couple talked on the phone, mostly arguing and threatening divorce.

By October 2007, they decided to end the marriage. Gage’s superior had a father who was a lawyer who agreed to handle the legal details. In the meantime, Gage was offered a six-figure job with air traffic control, his specialty in the Armed Forces, in Denver. Simultaneously he struck up a romantic friendship with a model whom he had known in school.

Because he was praying, and because everything seemed to be lining up, Gage decided this was God’s will.

Two months later, he gave his wife one last shot to see if they could revive their marriage before resorting to the backup plan. But Rikki didn’t want anything to do with him. They argued: “Yes, I did this. But you did that. What you did was worse.”

In a heart-breaking moment, her child, Hannah, only 4 years old, told her step-dad: “You’re not my dad. You made my mom cry. You need to leave.”

long-distance-military-marriage-saved

In one argument, God broke through and spoke to Gage: “Look at the situation you’re in. Look at what you’re going through. You’ve been praying for six months for things to change. Why haven’t I changed things?”

Gage didn’t know the answer. Inside his head, he prayed and asked God why.

“I haven’t changed anything because you have refused to surrender.”

A Marine never surrenders. Surrendering means you give yourself up completely to your enemy.

These words pierced Gage’s heart. He fully understood the implication.

“I realized I was an enemy of God.”

By continuing to drink and watch porn, he was no better than his wife who smoked pot and was unfaithful.

Gage left the apartment and went home to his dad’s to pray. With just a few days until the divorce would be finalized, he decided he would pray, read his Bible, read Christian books and worked at fully surrendering to God. He would contend for his marriage.

On divorce day, he went to pick up his wife. He asked her one last time if she would try to work it out. She was adamant.

They went to the attorney. While the lawyer lectured Gage about trying by all means to avoid divorce, Rikki stayed in the car. She didn’t want any lectures. All she wanted was to sign divorce papers.

Gage figured he’d done everything he could to save his marriage. He was now free to pursue the career and the girl in Denver. In the meantime, he had to report back for duty in Japan, and he would work on fully surrendering to God.

A couple days after signing the papers, Rikki needed to see her husband about some issues and went over to her father-in-law’s.

That’s when she spied Gage praying in his room. She nearly cried.

While Gage had been trying to seek God in Japan, Rikki was working on her own relationship with the Lord. She secretly yearned to be married to a man of God. But all she knew about was a husband who drank and viewed porn. When she saw her husband praying, her heart broke. Maybe he was sincere about trying to work things out.

“I remember feeling like I was going to cry,” Rikki said.

Was it too late to undo the damage of signed divorce papers?

While Gage flew back to Japan, Rikki went to see her pastor, confessed her sins and fully and deeply repented.

She went down the courthouse and, saying she had power of attorney for her husband, asked for their recent divorce filing. It was probably a breach of protocol, but the official gave her the paper, and she ripped it up right there.

She called her husband and gave him the shocking news: “I tore up those divorce papers!”

Gage was flabbergasted. It came completely unexpected. In fact, he had given up and figured that God had the other girl for him. His response was far from warm.

“I told her not to call me, not to text me, not to email me,” Gage said.

Find out the romantic finale of their near divorce.

6 albums, tours, pastoring, a family — and Trip Lee sleeps 18 hours a day due to chronic fatigue syndrome?

triplee_rise1In the middle of his sophomore year at college, Trip Lee got hit by overwhelming exhaustion that caused him to sleep 18 hours a day. He started failing his entire academic course load.

After seeing many doctors they discovered he was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, a mysterious debilitating disorder that afflicts a million Americans. Ultimately, he dropped out of college.

Trip-Lee-95% preacherIn spite of the ups and downs of his condition, Trip Lee has managed to grind out six rap albums, pastor a church in Atlanta, write books, tour and still have time for his wife and two kids.

The fatigue “is the hardest part of every area of my life,” he told Parle magazine. “It’s the hardest part of my marriage, it’s the hardest part about my music, hardest part about pastoring, everything.”

Born William Lee Barefield III, Trip grew up in a well-to-do family in a part of Dallas where everybody said they were Christian. He asked Jesus into his heart as a tyke but didn’t understand it until at 14, under the preaching of his youth pastor, he comprehended the concepts of sin, judgment and atonement.

trip leeHe confirmed his earlier decision to be a Christian and began to voraciously read the Bible to understand how it would apply to his life.

He had a knack for whipping out rhymes and gradually felt he should dedicate his hiphop talent in service of the Lord. In 2004, when he was in high school, he met Lecrae at a concert, and the godfather of Christian rap took him under his wings and mentored him. He signed with Reach Records and released his debut album, “If They Only Knew,” a few days after his high school graduation in 2006. He became a founding member of the 116 clique, a Texas group of rappers who took their name from Romans 1:16 in which Paul boasts he’s not ashamed of the gospel. “Unashamed” became a song name and a motif through their music.

67c5678c890f09e9f3461d63422a7e89

With his wife and kids.

He enrolled in Philadelphia Biblical University, now Cairn University, where he enjoyed studying. “I’m a little nerdy,” he said.

But he was still afflicted by Chronic Fatigue. Sometimes his body would shut down and he was forced to lie prostrate in bed for long periods of time. His health challenges severely impacted his Biblical studies major. He wants to be more active, but his body rebels.

“At times, it’s been a disaster,” he told the Washington Times. “My body’s wrecked. My family’s strained. Church life is strained. People don’t see me for weeks when my body crashes.”

trip-lee-press-2012-2There have been times when he’s gathered his favorite talent to help him in the creation of a new album — and he has to put them all on hold. When he’s sleeping 16 hours some days, how does he get anything done?

“He was a trooper,” Gawvi said in Rapzilla. “He really worked so hard where, there were moments when everyone in the studio would tell him, ‘Trip, you need to go take a nap. You need to go rest your body.’ … I haven’t seen a man work so hard on an album.”

While he didn’t pick up a degree in college, he did pick up a wife. Jessica took some of the same classes and walked in the same circles. They saw each other at church. He admired her passion for Jesus. He was passionate too — so much so that she was a bit taken aback by his commitment to purity and the steps he took to guard his heart. The couple married in 2009. They now have a daughter, Selah, and a son, Q.

Trip’s songs regularly rank in the top Billboard 200. He was nominated for two Dove Awards and won the Stellar Award for Best Hip Hop Album in 2011, according to Wikipedia. His penultimate album Rise chugged through iTunes sales at 3rd.

Christian rap slaps you across the face with a refreshing candor. Rappers hit head-on the issues facing their communities; they confront sin without apology. And Trip is no exception. Read the rest of the article about Trip Lee Christian.

The cure, not the curse

the-curePeople today reject morality imposed by others. That’s fine.

If you don’t want to follow the Bible, that’s your choice. But you might want the heads up. There are consequences to sin. There is slavery and addiction. Your decisions lead you somewhere. If you flout the manual of the factory, then don’t get mad if things break.

We live a fallen world under a curse. To the extent we escape sin and live in God’s forgiveness, we live in God’s blessing.

Donnie McClurkin’s struggles and triumphs

Donnie-McClurkinGospel music legend Donnie McClurkin struggled with homosexuality, following a childhood marred by molestation and rejection.

Born in Amityville, South Carolina, Donnie was one of 10 kids growing up in poverty. His “living hell” started at age 8, when his 2-year-old brother got run over and killed by a car.

Mom blamed Donnie. The tyke chased Donnie into the street in front of their house. Donnie watched in horror as a car barreled into his brother, who bounced off the bumper and disappeared beneath the vehicle.

mcclurkinfamily“You killed my baby!” his mom shrieked after the funeral.

From that moment in his life, Donnie began to suffer depression and his family fell apart. While staying at an uncle’s house, he was raped at age 8.

“It was a thing that made my life a living hell,” he recalls. “An 8-year-old can’t handle it, and it sparks something in an 8-year-old that’s not supposed to spark until puberty. Things start popping in an 8-year-old mind that doesn’t happen in normal 8-year-old minds, because the Pandora’s Box was opened, and you can’t close it after that.”

He was raped a second time at age 13, this time by a cousin.

His experience in school was difficult as well. He had webbed hands and feet that made him clumsy for sports. He couldn’t dribble, hit or catch a ball.

But he liked singing, sang often in church, and learned to play the piano.

donnie mcclurkin nicole mullenAt home, domestic violence was a regular occurrence. The police visited his family on several occasions. His older siblings started using drugs and arguing with mom. He acquired effeminate habits, which he blamed on being surrounded by a “sea of women.”

Today, Donnie has declared himself “ex-gay,” which he credits to a powerful deliverance from God.  He is engaged to be married to fellow musician Nicole Mullen, according to numerous reports.

Famous for his songs “Stand” and “We Fall Down,” Donnie has won three Grammy Awards, ten Stellar Awards, two BET Awards, two Soul Train Awards, one Dove Award and one NAACP Image Awards. He is one of the top selling Gospel music artists, with more than 10 million albums sold worldwide. He is currently the senior pastor of the Perfecting Faith Church in Freeport, New York.

Homosexuals were disappointed when Donnie refused to be acknowledged as one of their own. In 2001, Donnie wrote about his homosexual attraction in a blog post.

“I was not born with these sexual tendencies. It wasn’t chromosomal and had nothing to do with my DNA,” he wrote, according to the Daily Mail. “These tendencies surfaced because a broken man thrust an 8-year-old boy into this whirlwind. Thus my first sexual relationship was with a man. Before I could ever know the purpose or pleasure of a woman, have my first date or even my first kiss, the wound was inflicted, and the seed was planted.” Read the rest about Donnie McClurkin’s struggles.

Resurrect your potential, not your problems

resurrection

Too often, I “resurrect” my problem. I mull them, overthink them. I need to learn to stop, to “take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

A much more productive thinking mode would be “resurrect” your potential. Expel the negative thinking from the mind and fill it full of positive thinking. Fill it with prayer and praise, not rehearsings of conversations gone awry.

As sure as negative thoughts lead to negative actions, so do positive thoughts.

Friends

funnyI can’t comprehend why we’re not all friends at church, but some people are more concerned about clambering up — what in their mind — the dogpile. They think they have to step on others.

Not me. I just want to enjoy friendship. And I wish everybody were a friend.

This side of eternity, friendship is the greatest thing. It is one of the loves (marital and family is another). Friendship occurs when you appreciate each other and share meaningful moments (they can be goofiness or enjoying watching a sport together or working together in a common cause).

The king of the dogpile is the ultimate loser for me. He thinks he’s got everybody’s respect. Maybe what he has is everybody’s fear. I’m afraid of him. Perfect love casts out all fear. I’m far from perfect yet.

A ‘journey’ to Jesus for Jonathan Cain

Jonathan-Cain-350x233His “Don’t Stop Believing” became an anthem for a generation, and now it looks like Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain has put it into practice because he has revived his childhood passion for Jesus.

Cain felt like early love for God got snuffed out when he prayed fruitlessly for the Almighty to spare the lives of 92 kids trapped upstairs by a fire at a Catholic school in Chicago where he was a third grader. Three nuns also died in the 1958 blaze.

“I was praying to Jesus hard that afternoon, ‘Please, let these children out,’ you know, and it wasn’t to be and they got trapped upstairs and 100 of them perished.’” Cain told The Blaze. “So I was a little disillusioned. How could Jesus let that happen?”

Cain’s dad tried to help his son overcome the grief and despair by encouraging him towards his natural gifting for music. Cain abandoned his original desire to become a priest and began to pursue the dream of becoming a musician.

Journey_publicity_photo_2013-350x399He learned the accordion, guitar, bass and harmonica. He moved to Nashville and then to Los Angeles. He was part of The Babies in 1979 but skyrocketed to stardom the next year when he became the keyboardist for Journey. His composition for “Don’t Stop Believing” wowed fans and critics everywhere. Allmusic called it “one of the best opening keyboard riffs in rock.” He went to pen the classic ballad “Faithfully.”

He played for Bad English, released 11 solo albums and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame April 7th of this year for his work with Journey.
Married to Evangelist Paula White in April 2015.

But while accolades and money flooded in, he was empty on the inside.

Cain remembers accepting Jesus as a teen at a Baptist church in Chicago. “I had a breakthrough when a pastor laid hands on me on an altar call,” he told the Christian Post. “I wept that evening and realized how numb I had become with God and how He was calling to me for restoration.”

He raised his three kids going to a Lutheran Church where he lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, but his commitment to Christ was irregular: “I felt my faith was on again off again.”

ghanaOne day, Journey lead singer Steve Perry brought a Bible into the studio in 1996 as they worked on the album “Trial by Fire.” It piqued Cain’s curiosity and stirred him to explore renewing his relationship with Jesus.

But it wasn’t until he met televangelist Paula White on a Southwest Airlines flight that Cain worked up the gumption to go “all-in” for God. By then he had divorced twice.

“I wanted to become a true follower of Christ — not just a part-time Christian,” Cain recalled.

As he sat across the aisle from her, Cain opened up to White — who had already mentored other celebrities in the things of God.

“And I said, ‘Is it possible that that little boy could find the Jesus that he knew. Is it possible that I can feel that?’” he said. “And she said, ‘The Lord has something for you.’” Read the rest about Jonathan Cain Christian.

Sherri Shepherd, The View host, left Jehovah’s Witnesses to find Jesus

sherriCelebrated actress and comedian Sherri Shepherd found herself trapped in Jehovah’s Witnesses, but overcame her fears, fled the aberrant group, and discovered a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Because I had been a Jehovah’s Witness so long, that was all I knew,” she told BeliefNet. “And as a Jehovah’s Witness I learned that all the other religions were false and that they were from Satan. So when I left the Jehovah’s Witnesses I really thought I was going to die and that I was going to go to hell.”

Ssherri shepherd on magazinehe did indeed “go through hell,” but she was willing to face poverty and hardship to break with the group after their leaders prohibited her from talking with her father.

“Now my dad at that time was working three jobs because we had moved to the suburbs because he wanted a better life for us,” she said. “So it was very expensive where we lived and he was working three jobs to support us. I was like you’ve got to be kidding me, tell my daddy I can’t talk to him and he is working at Denny’s?

sherri shepherd the view

“As the oldest I was a daddy’s girl and loved him with all my heart. My daddy had holes in his shoes so that he could pay for my photography classes. I just kept thinking you can’t be serious and all I could think of was the Scripture that references love (1 Corinthians 13:13) and says the greatest of these is love. I was like where is the love in that?”

Before Shepherd became a notable actress, she passed through a series of misfortunes. In 1993 her mom was dying. Shepherd was evicted on several occasions. Her car was repossessed. Her boyfriend began stalking her and later went to jail. Shepherd herself went to jail for a week due to unpaid traffic violations. Even though she won plaudits for her stand-up comedy, she couldn’t pay her bills.

“I felt like I was going to die. All this stuff was happening to me because I didn’t have God,” said the vivacious star. “I wasn’t going to church. I just felt like it was so evil from my upbringing. Why am I going to go to a church that was from the devil?”

42nd Annual GMA Dove Awards - ShowHer life changed one day when she went to West Angeles Church of God in Christ, one of the largest mega churches in Los Angeles. “I used to pass it all the time on the bus. So on that day, I was feeling so miserable. I really felt like I had no other place to turn so I was like let me just try it,” she said. “When I stepped into that church and that was an immediate sense of peace came over me.”

The peace helped her quickly overcome years of ingrained fear that everything outside of Jehovah’s Witness was of the devil. But as she became a regular attender, Bishop Blake, who preaches at the church, helped her make steps toward Christ.

“One day he said, ‘Would you like to come up and accept Christ?'” she remembered. Read the rest of the story about Sherri Shepherd Christian.

Sultry Selena is Christian

selenaSelena Gomez surprised more than a few when she took the stage of a Hillsong Young & Free concert to sing praise and worship Feb. 25th last year.

It seems the baby-faced pop star has revitalized her relationship with Jesus Christ.

“I’m a Christian,” the 24-year-old said unabashedly in a YouTube interview.

selena prayer circleSelena, whose Instagram account has 117 million followers, has prepared for concerts by listening to Hillsong and by gathering with her team for prayer, as a recent Entertainment Tonight video revealed. She has voiced admiration for Brooke Fraser.

Selena was born to teenage parents in Texas and suffered emotionally as a child. She blamed her mom for her parents’ separation when she was a five-years-old. Without dad, the family struggled financially. They scrounged up quarters to put gas in the car and frequently fed on spaghetti from the Dollar Store.

selena gomez christian“I was frustrated that my parents weren’t together, and never saw the light at the end of the tunnel where my mom was working hard to provide a better life for me,” she said, according to Wikipedia. “My mom was really strong around me. Having me at 16 had to have been a big responsibility. She gave up everything for me, had three jobs, supported me, sacrificed her life for me.”

She got her start in acting with a childhood role as Gianna on Barney and Friends. Later, she landed the starring role of Alex Russo on the Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place from 2007-12. She was following in the footsteps of fellow Disney stars Miley Cyrus, Nick Jonas and Demi Lovato, who kept squeaky clean images as Disney teens only to rampage with drugs and sex when they branched out of their own.

selena and justinSelena seemed to be falling into the post-Disney depravity. She cultivated a sultry songstress image and ran with the Hollywood A-listers, including BFF Taylor Swift. Song after song topped charts, and she became the girlfriend of drug-troubled Justin Bieber for a year, only to stumble through another year of on-and-off-again rumors.

But then she started suffering from lupus, with depression and anxiety compounding her malaise, and she canceled the rest of her Revival Tour in 2016 to enroll in a rehab program. She wasn’t fighting drugs, she maintained. She said she just needed help to get a grip on her emotions. Selena eschewed the typical Hollywood luxury rehabs and instead chose a Christian-run facility. Read the rest of the article about Selena Gomez Christian.

Son of Atheist Apostle Madalyn Murray O’Hair became Christian after suffering under her parental treatment

MMURRAYOHAIR

The way the secular media reported it, Madalyn Murray O’Hair – the famous atheist who got Bible reading kicked out of public schools – was a national hero after the Supreme Court ruled in her favor in 1963.

A year earlier, the Supreme Court prohibited government-sponsored prayer in schools. After O’Hair won her case, a 1964 Life magazine profile referred to her as “the most hated woman in America.”

But secularists went so far as to say the historic ruling placed the U.S. on the vanguard of a new morality with the “triumph of rationalism over superstition.”

madalyn-murray-ohair

Because she spouted a liberal agenda, reporters were willing to overlook murmurings about psychological abuse towards her children and her employees at the American Atheists organization.

When rumors surfaced of her skimming tens of thousands of dollars from her non-profit, investigative journalists turned their attention elsewhere. The latest gloss on the Madalyn mystique was applied last month in a Netflix movie which portrayed her as a doting mother and dedicated civil rights activist, her eldest son said.

William Murray III knew the real Madalyn, the churl who bullied her children and bragged to them when they were very young about watching X-rated movies. She was an ardent feminist who resented men, Bill says.

images“One of her favorite stories — I’ve heard her repeat it many times — is that when I was born and the doctor told her, ‘It’s a boy,’ she asked him if there wasn’t some way he could put it back,” Bill told People magazine.

She bit him, smashed his model airplane to pieces in a fit of rage, and ridiculed his attempts to play baseball. She kept a liquor closet full and the refrigerator stocked with fattening, unhealthy foods. She extolled the virtues of sexual liberty and wrote for Hustler magazine. She even tried to defect to the Soviet Union with her entire family and supported communist causes, Bill says.

As a middle school child in Baltimore, Bill became an unwitting pawn in her 1963 Supreme Court battle against school prayer. Madalyn sued the school district and rode a movement to strike down prayer and Bible reading.

indexWith a petulant eloquence, she tirelessly voiced the acrimonious atheism, and the media lapped up pretty much everything she served. “We find the Bible to be nauseating, historically inaccurate and replete with the ravings of madmen,” she said. “We find God to be sadistic, brutal and a representation of hatred.”

Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin and Phil Donahue all hosted her on their evening TV programs. Madalyn reveled in the attention. Every misfit in the country wrote her letters of praise that included generous checks of her non-profit, American Atheists, Bill says.

“My mother was an evil person, not for removing prayer from America’s schools, no, she was just evil,” Bill wrote online in 2011. “She stole huge amounts of money. She misused the trust of people. She cheated children out of their parents’ inheritance. She cheated on her taxes and even stole from her own organizations.”

While Madalyn busied herself with “rhetoric, newsletters, fund-raising and publicity,” Bill grew increasingly disaffected. He eloped and divorced, was drafted in the military and worked for an airline. He left his daughter Robin under the care of his mother. His second marriage was unraveling and he had run-ins with the police.

william-j-murray1_0While he drifted through struggles and failures, he began to harbor doubts about the atheist manifesto. Why was his mother spending the non-profit’s money on a new Cadillac and mobile home? Why would she sue to keep NASA from airing Astronaut Buzz Aldrin taking communion on the moon? Why not instead spend on new X-ray machine for a hospital? If atheism was the savior of modernity, why did it focus mostly on the antagonistic roll of shutting down others? Why not do something in favor of humanity?

“I started to think it was because my mother was basically negative and destructive,” he said.

Bill turned increasingly to alcohol to quash his anxieties and misgivings.

Once when police arrived after he had a dispute with his wife, he accidentally fired a rifle through the door. Bill was charged with aggravated assault and sentenced to five years probation.

It was, perhaps, the nadir of his life.

The incident served as wake up call. Read the rest about Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s Christian son.

Frank Sontag, LA rock legend, goes from New Age guru to born-again Christian

It wasn’t the car that slammed into his motorcycle at 100 mph. It was a round of golf that brought L.A. rock legend Frank Sontag to Christ.

After he was sent spinning across the highway, Sontag holed himself up in a Tahoe cabin and lived primitively off rudimentary supplies while he poured over Eastern mystic texts in search of the meaning of life. It took years to physically recover from the accident. But he emerged a New Age guru.

“I read the Koran, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita,” he said in an interview with Greg Laurie. “I never would open a Bible.”

For two decades, Sontag interviewed the “royalty of rock” on classic rock station KLOS. He broadcast music and announced sports events. He was part of #1-rated Mark & Brian show, which would mix Aerosmith with humorist rants and raucous call-ins.

On his own highly-rated, thought-provoking program called Impact, Sontag peddled a self-styled “spirituality” that encouraged people to get in touch with their inner selves, discover their purpose in the universe and feel good about themselves. No repentance needed.

“When somebody would call up and try to share the gospel, I couldn’t hang up on them fast enough,” he said. He would shout down and shut down Christians.
Once #1 in LA, Mark and Brian.

Then one of his closest New Age buds got saved. Three years later, the friend and his pastor brother invited Sontag to golf. Sontag was taking his fairway shot when the pastor fired at him: “Frank, is Jesus Christ the Son of God?”

“We’re not going there,” Frank retorted and knocked the ball towards the green.

A few holes later, Sontag was putting when the pastor asked another pointed question: “Frank, who’s God?”

Miffed, Sontag brushed the question off with, “I’m spiritual.”

After nine holes, the threesome decided to have lunch, and that pastor swung a final shot: “If you were to die today, would you be with God?”

Sontag snorted in disgust.

But something inside told him he should consider the question more. Challenged by the pastor, he sat in his car afterwards and asked God to prove Himself. Immediately, he felt strangely hot.

Then a voice said: “Are you ready to submit to Me?”

“It was unmistakable. Call it ‘because He created me I knew His voice.’ I knew Who He was. I felt no coercion,” he said. “And I freely said, ‘yes.’”

Later the voice said: “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

Sontag had never read the Bible. He didn’t have any way to recognize Scripture.

It wasn’t until nine months later that he stumbled across the same phrase – this time in the Bible. Right there, he prostrated himself before God and prayed: “Lord, I’m yours forever.” It was 2009.

Fleeing a death squad

immigrants-family-Christian-school-los-angeles

Ivan Arango never liked the party because, as he repeated, they always ended with fights, hatred and vows of revenge. But his close friend, Antonio, prevailed on him to go to his high school graduation’s celebration in Guatemala – in the cantina.

Sure enough, a fight broke out over some stolen beers, and Ivan and Antonio found themselves fleeing a death squad in the City of Quetzaltenango in the Western side of Guatemala.

Formed to efficiently kill dangerous targets outside of the proper channels of justice during Guatemala’s dirty civil war, clandestine death squads were paramilitary groups that devolved into despotic gangs answerable to no one.

death squads honduras

A death squad in Honduras

A death squad member had stolen Antonio’s beer, and he had punched him, not knowing he was a paramilitary.

Out of his devotion to his best friend, Ivan had planned to accompany the graduation festivities in the cantina for only 30 minutes. In the next moment, he was fleeing for his life.

“Are they going to kill us?” he worried.

Ivan and his friend hid in a room in the back of the cantina, and a friendly lady locked it with a padlock on the outside. Sure enough, the death squad came to to that room, pounded and kicked the door and fired bullets.

Terrified, Ivan remembered his brother, Diego, who was first of the family to become a born-again Christian.

In his heart, he cried out to God. “Lord, forgive me. If you can get me out of this trial, save me. Don’t let these men kill me here.”

The paramilitaries busted down the door. They shoved a .44-Magnum in Ivan’s mouth, but it jammed.

“I couldn’t say anything,” he said. “I didn’t argue. He insulted me like a demon.”
death squads honduras

This picture from a Google search is believed to show a Honduran death squad in action.

Responding to disturbances in the neighborhood, the military police showed up. The paramilitaries stood down and left.

The streets were silent like a cemetery. Ivan asked the cantina owner if he should go home.

“They’re waiting for you to come out to torture and kill you,” he said. Read the rest of the story refugee students.

This is the story of how a Guatemala survived the ravages of war in Guatemala and immigrated to the United States where he married and enrolled his daughters in our Christian school in Los Angeles.

Some journeys require patience

C7eJ4sGVUAUU9Od.jpg largeThe Bible says we’re pilgrims, sojourners on this Earth. In our times of jet planes and email (as opposed to “snail mail”), we have little understanding of long journeys. But when Nehemiah traveled back and forth between the capital of the Persian Empire and Jerusalem, it took days or weeks.

Impatience is the enemy of the Christian. When bad situations don’t turn around fast enough, too many give up and return to the world. There is need of stick-to-it-iveness, of perseverance.

I’m sure Moses would have liked to make the journey to the Promised Land in an appropriate amount of time — not 40 years! God is patient with us, and we should be patient with Him.

George Foreman found God when he was dying

Foreman-MoorerHis powerful punch and menacing demeanor in the ring led George Foreman to Olympic Gold and heavyweight championships, but when Jimmy Young brutalized him in a humiliating defeat in 1977, the street bully from Houston felt he was dying.

“In the dressing room, I was walking back and forth to cool off,” he told The Houston Chronicle. “Then in a split second, I was fighting for my life.”

He lay on a locker room table. While friends and staff attended to his physical body, the battered brute battled with the God he learned little about as a kid.  He admitted later he only went to church for the free lunches.

george-bible“I kept thinking, ‘You believe in God. Why are you afraid to die?” Foreman told The New York Times. “But I really didn’t believe.”

Foreman began bargaining with his Creator. If God saved him, he would give his prize money to charity.

“I don’t want your money,” a voice responded. “I want you.”

Foreman was bewildered and confused. He had never met anybody who didn’t want money.

Foreman485“It was the saddest, most horrible place I had ever seen,” he said. “Tears fell. I was scared. I’d never heard anyone turn down money. There I was fighting for my life with something that you couldn’t deal with. That changed my life forever.”

Then as his life ebbed away, too late to repent, Foreman felt a “giant hand” thrust him back into consciousness. He saw his friends. At the same time, he felt strangely filled with the presence of a dying Christ. He felt his forehead bleed and he imagined it pierced by Christ’s crown of thorns. He sensed his wrists punctured as if by the nails of the cross.

“I knew that Jesus Christ was coming alive in me,” Foreman told The Times. “I ran into the shower and turned on the water and — hallelujah! — I was born again. I kissed everybody in the dressing room and told them I loved them. That happened in March 1977, and I never have been the same again.”

A passion began to stir in his heart. “I started reciting the Bible, talking from the pit of my stomach in that dressing room. I was talking about how Jesus was God’s son and that he was alive. So when I came out of that, I asked a friend to go get me a Bible. And he said, ‘What kind?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know, one like your mother has.’ So, he went out and bought me a King James version of the Bible. And that’s how I got into religion.”

The turnaround in Foreman was immediate and dramatic. Today, he preaches punchy sermons as pastor at the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in Houston.

Transformed from a rage-filled street punk into a humble and sweet Christian, Foreman found he couldn’t muster the will to fight anymore, so he dropped boxing for 10 years. Read the rest of the George Foreman story.

Amazing grace for Valley Boy Pastor

IMG_4649

My two sons performing in the drama.

God’s goodness and unmerited favor is not only for salvation. I’ve been seeing it in the formation of the startup church in Van Nuys, California. The San Fernando Valley Lighthouse Church is running on eight cylinders.

We recently did a drama to bless another, well-established church in Palmdale, about an hour away from L.A.

The church continues to meet at Lake Balboa, when it’s not too cold or rainy. Attendance doubled in December.

I am floored that God would bless me. It’s His amazing grace, usually applied to salvation, but applicable to any and every area of our lives.

What you need in life is God’s favor, which you can’t earn. Jesus earned it for you. The best thing we can do is be grateful.

Grandma Krav Maga beat up bad guy. New version of Good Samaritan

baton-rouge-cop-saved-by-good-samaritanA Baton Rouge grandmother is being called a Good Samaritan after she plunged into the middle of a life-or-death struggle between a cop and bad guy, saving the officer’s life.

Vickie Williams-Tillman, 56, didn’t think twice when she pounced on the back of a hulking Thomas Bennett after a routine drug arrest escalated suddenly into a dangerous fight for control of the officer’s weapon.

“I could see in his eyes he needed help,” said Williams-Tillman, who stopped her car, called 911, and lunged into the fray on Feb. 19. “You don’t have time to think about it. I did what God needed me to do.”

vickie-williams-tillmanThe grandmother pulled on Bennett’s arm as cop and suspect wrangled for the officer’s gun. All three fell to the ground.

Quickly, a backup unit pulled up and another officer stun-gunned the suspect, who was arrested on charges of battery on a police officer, resisting an officer with violence, possession of cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Baton Rouge Mayor President Sharon Weston Broome lauded the lady for fearlessly joining the brawl.

“Vickie Williams-Tillman epitomizes the true Good Samaritan,” the mayor said, as reported in The Blaze. She reached out and offered a courageous and unconditional response to the officer. Ms. Williams-Tillman is a hero and demonstrates the true meaning of loving God and loving your neighbor.”

Cpl. Billy Aime was handcuffing the suspect after spotting incriminating evidence when Bennett suddenly resisted arrest. The cop struggled without success to subdue the suspect. Read the rest of the article.

Kevin Hart Christian?

kevin-hartKevin Hart’s mother was going to help him with rent to kick-start his comedy career, but when the due date passed he called his mom, and all she could say was: “Have you been reading your Bible?”

A week later it was the same thing: “When you read your bible, then we’ll talk about your rent.”

Annoyed at his “over-religious” mom but desperate about an eviction note on his door, Kevin grudgingly sat down and opened the Good Book.

eniko-parrish-8-141“I go home and say, ‘Man let me open this Bible up,’” Hart explained to Oprah Winfrey. “Open the Bible up, six rent checks fell out. She put all my rent checks in the Bible.”

Score one for mom and the Lord!

Hart, the self-spoofing star of Real Husbands of Hollywood, doesn’t need Mom’s rent money anymore. He’s enjoyed a steady stream of movie roles starting with Paper Soldiers (2002), Scary Movie 3 the next year, Soul Plane (2004), In the Mix (2005) and Little Fockers (2010). He ranked as the highest paid comedian by Forbes, valued at $87.5 million.

In his latest gig, a quixotic Hart fails hilariously in his constant attempts to climb Hollywood’s social ladder.

And while he’s not overly vocal about his Christianity, Hart is believed to hold the values of his mother, even if he pokes fun at her zeal in comedy routines.

kevin-hart-heaven-and-hendrix“His whole family was dedicated to Christianity, and Hart uses his family’s faith as a frequent topic in his stand-up. He doesn’t make fun of Christianity itself, but he does make fun of how people can be hypocritical with religion (like his drug addict Jesus-loving cousin),” according to Hollowverse.

On that same day when the checks tumbled out of his Bible, Jesus tumbled out too.

Hart was born in Philadelphia in 1979 to a cocaine-addicted father who was in jail more than he was in Hart’s life.

As a teen growing up in a harsh reality, Hart resorted to humor as a coping mechanism. His love for slapstick eventually won several amateur comedy competitions on the East Coast until landed recurring role on the TV series Undeclared. Jump to the rest of the story.

Jesus for the San Fernando Valley

jesus-for-the-san-fernando-valleyI have been in a flurry of reporting and editing student reporters. I enjoy this. But I haven’t updated y’all on the progress of my start-up church. We have revival, despite myself. The church has doubled with the addition of another family, with lots of kids. They are kind people and have a heart for evangelism.

Do you want to evangelize the world? Go to Super King supermarkets in Los Angeles. It caters to immigrants with all kinds of exotic foods. We evangelized Arabs, Persians, Armenians, Greeks, Latins, Jews, Egyptians all in one night of evangelism recently.

img_4853It’s been too cold to meet at Lake Balboa, so we have been meeting in my apartment. Fortunately, it’s an old one, which means it’s spacious. The newer apartments are really small. We cram 20 people into that front room. Keep praying because it’s working!

Flyleaf’s Lacey Sturm found Christ when suicidal

lacey-sturm

Prophetic word from pastor and parishioner brought suicidal rocker to Christ

Co-founder and former lead vocalist of the rock band Flyleaf, Lacey Sturm, was contemplating suicide when she had an encounter with God that saved her life.

“When I was ten-years-old, my cousin, who was about three at the time, was beaten to death by his stepfather,” Sturm said. “My mother always talked to me about God, but at the time I just remember thinking I couldn’t reconcile how God could allow something like that to happen. I decided that if God was big and good, why wouldn’t he protect my cousin who was so tiny and so awesome?”

flyleaf

The girl from Arlington, Texas, couldn’t countenance evil in the world. “I never wanted to have kids,” she said. “It would just be bringing another person into the world to suffer.”

She cried herself to sleep every night, became an atheist and turned to drugs and alcohol. She dabbled with pornography and even got a girlfriend.

“I couldn’t get away from my own depression. So I started to study a lot of other religions. There was a lot of nice ideas but there wasn’t any tangible healing.

lacey“I remember thinking, I’m tired of feeling the pain. I’m tired of going to bed that way. I’m tired of being a burden. I’m just tired of not knowing why I’m alive. I remember the night I was laying in bed, and I knew I was going to commit suicide the next day. I knew I was not going to live past tomorrow.”

But on the fateful day when she came home from school, Grandma was there — an unusual occurrence.

“She looked at me and said, ‘There’s something wrong with you. You’re going to go to church.'”

“There’s no way I’m going to go to church,” she said defiantly.

Her grandmother raised her voice and the two began to argue vehemently. Finally Sturm relented and went to church, but planned to follow through with her suicide afterwards.

She slumped down in a back-row pew, hating everyone and everything around her.  “The pastor started speaking, and I hated him more than anyone.”

The pastor spoke: “There’s a suicidal spirit in the room. So of course all the hair on the back of my neck stood up. And I thought, ‘Well, this is really weird.'”

She got up to go out, but was intercepted by white-haired man who gently and kindly addressed her: “The Lord wants me to speak to you. He wants you to know that even though you’ve never known an earthly father, God will be a better Father to you than any earthly father could ever be. God knows the pain in your heart. He’s seen you cry yourself to sleep at nights.”

Sturm was stunned and touched. How could he know about the deep things of her heart?

“The idea was so overwhelming to me,” she said. “He’s like, ‘Do you want me to pray for you so that Jesus can take the pain out of your heart?’ He put his hand on my shoulder and started to pray. It was as if the God of the universe showed up right in front of me. The first thing I noticed was that He was holy and good. The second thing I noticed is that I was not holy and not good. But at the same time, I felt Him inviting me to an embrace of grace and love unconditional. God was saying, ‘I love you. I know you’re tired of the way you’re living. I will make you new if you will let me.’

“My heart just said, ‘Yes. I need that. I want that,'” Sturm remembers. “I woke up the next day I felt such a peace and a joy that I’d never felt before. Jesus saved my life. The almost overwhelming thing to think is that Jesus became sin, and it was my sin. It was thing that I’ve done that held Him on the cross. He hung naked on a cross bleeding in a shameful way so that I would never have to be ashamed for the things that I’ve done.” Read the rest of the article written by my Lighthouse Christian Academy student here.

Roof access

img_4316As apartment manager, I can get on the roof — no one else.

Maintenance duties oblige me to inspect. As a result, I’ve delighted by some of the most glorious views of sunsets and skies. I’ve witnessed beauty that can be observed at street level, at the level of the tenants.

You have access to the roof as a Christian. You have access into the things of God, a higher life, a life of beauty. The direction of the Christian is upward.

Enjoy.

A bag of cheetos defeated our soccer team

soccer-los-angeles-high-schoolLighthouse’s potentially playoff-deciding loss to Newbury can be blamed on a bag of flaming hot cheetos.

That’s all one player ate all day before the game.

The Saints matchup on Feb. 7 promised to be high stakes challenge. Newbury Park was last year’s league champs that LCA managed to upset this season 2-1 with energy and sheer force of will in the first matchup. The Gators would be seeking revenge for the “humiliation.”

So how did the Saints prepare?

Some players didn’t eat enough, and so they ran out of gas in the second half, allowing a 3-3 tie turn into a 3-5 loss. One player showed up with football cleats, a disqualifying violation.

The mind-boggling frustration behind Santa Monica’s Christian school soccer loss is actually a teaching moment. Lighthouse Christian Academy drills not just cognitive skills (how to ace college entrance exams or learn calculus). With a view to successful life, LCA teaches non-cognitive skills: how to show up on time every day, how to be responsible.

In other words, LCA gets the knuckleheadedness out.

“In the first half I did good,” the cheeto-eater said. “But in the second half, my stomach started to hurt.”

The pros on a wide pitch run 5 miles in a 90 minute game. Of course, high schoolers in 80 minutes of play on smaller fields don’t manage quite as much. But still, you burn a lot of calories. Even if you haven’t taken the requisite health class, intuitively you know to eat carb rich food (not fatty, greasy or sugary) before the game.

One bag of cheetos simply is not filling up the fuel tank.

In some ways, LCA’s rematch against Newbury was everything it promised to be, a back-and-forth thriller between similarly skilled teams battling for second place and the coveted playoff berth.

The Saints were first to score at 15 minutes. Erhan Meric sent a through ball to the left corner that junior Abraham Morales sprinted to. He juked a defender to get in the box, and as the keeper came out for the onoe-on-one, Abraham chipped wide of him to the far post.

Newbury fought back to net two goals.

In the second half, Abraham threw in a ball looking for a Saints player, but a Newbury defender, instead of clearing it, headered it in to the goal. The game was tied 2-2.

Newbury again scored making it 3-2.

Then Hosea was blind-sided by a double body check from opposing sides causing him to spin in the air just inside the box. Taking the penalty kick, Erhan sent the goalie left and shot right.

The game was tied 3-3.

That’s when LCA started running out of gas. Read the rest of the story.

Now landing goals, not punches

from-south-central-los-angeles-to-a-christian-school-in-santa-monica

His shots went high and wide.

Junior Abraham Morales, who showed plenty of speed and skill, couldn’t put the ball into the net to save his life.

Then in the second half of the season, things suddenly came into focus for old blurry-shooter. He nailed a shot against Westmark from the left flank.

And on Tuesday, in the highest tension game of the 2017 season, when his team needed him most, Abraham proved in top form. He sunk two torpedoes to unnerve the reigning league champs, Newbury Park, in a game that ultimately Lighthouse Christian Academy lost 3-5.

“As a little kid I would just pass the ball around with my family members. I was a pretty short kid. I used to tell them, ‘One day I’ll make it big in soccer,’” Abraham said.

He’s big in our eyes, now one of the top scorers for the season and officially listed in the Lighthouse ledger of soccer history.

Because of soccer, Abraham transferred to Lighthouse. His middle school teammates jeered and bullied him for his flubs on the soccer field, a habitual provocation that drove him to yelling and even fist fights. The nastiness continued into his freshman year of high school in the public school system in South Central Los Angeles, where he lives.

“I told my mom, ‘Can I go to another school because I don’t feel right here?” Mrs. Morales found Lighthouse online.

Even though he was raised in a Christian home, Abraham thought he wouldn’t fit in at a Christian high school.

“I thought it was going to be super strict and all that,” he admitted. “I knew there was going to be some sort of dress code. I didn’t want to wear a uniform.” Read the rest of the story.

God’s gangster: former yakuza is now pastor

yakuzaAs a teenager, he was lured into a Japanese crime syndicate known as yakuza, and after surviving several violent episodes and prison experiences, God began to get his attention.

“I admired the yakuza for what was visible only on the surface,” Tatsuya Shindo told CNN. “They have lots of money, spend their money lavishly, and play glamorously. The bad guys looked so cool in my eyes. I was a child. I didn’t think too deeply.”

Many of the estimated 50,000 yakuza fall into a life of crime because they come from broken families. The yakuza cultivate a sense of family, of belonging and of loyalty.

But if there were issues that seduced him to the mob life, the harsh realities began to pummel him.

“People were killed in power struggles,” he recounted. “People’s legs were shot. A guy who was doing drugs with me died of intoxication. Suicides happened. Sudden deaths. I’ve seen many deaths,” said Shindo, 45. “I saw my henchmen get stabbed to death.”

He got addicted to crystal meth. He crashed his boss’s car while driving under the influence. As a result, his pinkie finger was cut off with a chisel, which is a form of penance in the syndicate. For a first offense, the wrongdoer must cut off the tip of his left little finger and give the severed portion to his boss.

160222022016-japan-life-after-yakuza-ripley-pkg-00001721-exlarge-169Shindo’s body is covered by tattoos, which make him an outcast in Japan. Many yakuza have full-body tattoos, which are still “hand-poked”, with homemade tools using needles made of bamboo or steel. The painful process can take years to finish.

Crime members cover their tattoos in public, but when they play cards with each other they often remove their shirts to show off their creative designs.

Beginning at age 22, Shindo was arrested seven times and imprisoned three times, according to CNN.

He saw his mob boss killed and friends die of overdoses. After his third prison sentence, he began to question the “lavish life of the yakuza” he once imagined. He finally decided it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

During his final 10-year prison sentence, Shindo began reading a Bible in solitary confinement.Read the rest of the article written by a Chinese student at our Santa Monica school.

Exquisite soccer: selflessness

erhanThere are piano movers and piano players on the soccer field.

There are beefy guys who marshal girth at speed to jostle opponents off the ball and keep possession. And there are slight figures who ghost around and with exquisite touches on the ball to perform the magic that gets posted on YouTube.

Erhan Meric was performing a symphony of soccer delight in yesterday’s 7-1 victory over Westmark School in Encino. The Lighthouse Christian Academy Saints are now 5-1 in league play.

Erhan, who learned the music of soccer in Turkey before moving to America and enrolling in our Santa Monica Christian school, knows as much as an orchestra director. He’ll streak past defenders dribbling as if the ball were attached to his feet. He changes up pace suddenly. He doesn’t shy away from the one-on-one, in which he’ll thread the ball through the eye of the needle. He can strike from distance with power and precision.

He’s a bonafide virtuoso.

Against Westmark, Erhand notched two early goals to put LCA on towards a comfortable win.

And then after making two goals, Erhan did something extraordinary. He stopped scoring.

Other high school players would have capitalized on a weak opponent to set a personal record. Not Erhan. He desisted.

Instead, he dedicated his skill to setting up his lesser-skilled teammates for goals.

“I’ve scored a lot of goals,” the soft-spoken junior said. “I wanted my friends to score.”

An Erhan strike, not against Westmark.

And they flubbed. They tripped. They shot wide or high. It was a great opportunity for them to learn in a real life game.

There’s a word for a star who wants others to shine. It’s a word that can’t be used much in the world of sports.

Here it is: selfless.

Sports is thronged by bluster and brag, by trashtalk and mindgame. It is dominated by a deafening drivel of ME. And when the megalomania hits the field, the opponent becomes more than just the other team. It becomes the teammate who’s competing. Yup, when teammates compete among themselves to see who’s the best, usually the other team wins.

Soccer, like basketball, is only beautiful when there is passing. When one player jukes four players and single-handedly taps the ball into the net, that is gloating and unsportsmanlike. While a Messi or Neymar individual performance is sensational, high schoolers go selfish and try to be the all-star, almost never do they make the final goal. Their selfishness undoes whatever prior work they put in to building up to the finale. The last touch of a scintillating run must be a pass because you pull too many defenders to you.

Save

Save

LCA relinquish romantic role of underdog in win against Pilgrim School

alex-cervantes-santa-monica-christian-school-soccerLighthouse returned to its winning ways Tuesday with a 4-0 shutout of Pilgrim School.

There is something romantic, something poetic about slugging it out in a losing battle — if you don’t succumb to cynicism. Parents cheer on their players, who bravely mount a futile fight. Coaches teach the sport to beginners. You are playing competitive league, learning about teamwork, effort and excellence. It’s a game, so even if you lose, it’s better than doing homework. The odds are just overwhelmingly against you.

It is a poetry that Lighthouse Christian Academy, with historically low enrollments, knows well — on the football field, on the volleyball court and on the soccer field.

But on Tuesday, the romance of being the underdog didn’t belong Lighthouse. It belonged to Pilgrim, which staged an epic fight and skirmished rousingly but ultimately buckled before bigger guns.

The Saints saw themselves, for once, in the dominant role.

With the fleet-footed Turkish star, junior Erhan Meric, and with the big basketball star sophomore Justin Berry in goal swatting down shots like flies, with soccer machine junior Alex Cervantes and with danger-creating freshman Hosea Ashcraft serving up through-balls likes pancakes, LCA’s 2017 iteration is actually a menacing squad.

The Santa Monica Christian school’s team was powerful enough to compete against last year’s league champions, Newbury Park. On Jan. 19, they Saints shocked the big kids on the block, upending their hegemony with a quite unexpected 2-1 from tireless toiling, vision and belief.

Then with the rush of the mouse that roared, the Saints played against Einstein Academy Friday and saw their dynamism, their teamwork and their unbeaten record evaporate. It’s not far from the truth to say that Einstein crushed the overconfident Saints.

Tuesday was a chance to turnaround. To finish the article, click here.

High-flying (and prideful) LCA soccer loses to Einstein Academy in a reminder they will need to work to compensate for their lack of technical and tactical ability

lighthouse-christian-academy

With three consecutive wins, Lighthouse soccer was flying high — perhaps too high — when Einstein Academy knocked them down back into the Earth’s atmosphere with a stinging 0-6 loss on Jan. 27.

The players for the Lighthouse Christian Academy were ebullient as they entered their fourth league game undefeated. They were joking. They were confident cocky. They weren’t listening to coach. They weren’t concentrating.

After cooly beating last year’s high school soccer champs 2-1, what could possibly stand in their way?

Albert Einstein Academy for Arts, Letters and Sciences of Valencia had read the game record on MaxPreps and prepared for a formidable foe. “We thought we were going to have to give everything we had to beat you,” admitted the Einstein coach.

Instead, Einstein’s 10 club players and other assorted players faced a disorganized Saints team that hemorrhaged goals with a succession of mistakes. In the first half, Lighthouse held a deep defensive line on two free kicks, allowing Einstein players with powerful kicks to get within goal range with long airborn passes. The 50-50 ball needed only to be turned into the net.

Lighthouse managed the improbable win against Newbury, the reigning league champs, by working some slick passing. But on Friday, Saints players were selfish, attempting impossible penetration through a thicket of players with individual dribbling. At best, they would get past three and get caught by the fourth while an open teammate called for the ball.

Other mistakes were made by the Christian school in Santa Monica.

After a winning run that Coach Junior Cervantes qualified as “miraculous,” it was a crushing loss but not an undeserved loss. The pre-game glut of confidence was inappropriate.

As the Bible says, pride comes before a fall.

With only one club and one former club player… Finish reading the article.

How hyperactivity turned to a Lighthouse Christian Academy soccer win

santa-monica-soccer-private-high-schoolOften, Brandon Montes overflows fidgety energy in the classroom. He’s drumming on the desk, snapping fingers, sneering at classmates across the room, clowning around. Believe it or not, through it all he’s paying attention too.

On Jan. 19, 2017, of an extraordinary week of soccer, Brandon was paying attention and put his gush of energy to good use. At left defense he was alert to a ball opponents were clearing on a corner kick. It was headered wide, out of the danger zone. It was coasting safely towards the line.

But solid defensive tactic fell apart because of Brandon’s energy boost and attentiveness. The sophomore ran up and smashed a low shot through a muddle of players that apparently blocked the goalkeeper’s view of action. By the time he jumped, it was too late. The ball went into the net.

“Whenever I see a ball that close to the goal, my main idea is to shoot it,” Brandon said. “I saw the ball was going over. I ran up on it. I heard Junior say ‘chip it in the middle,’ but I wasn’t taking into account what he said because my first instinct was to shoot it.”

Brandon’s effort was richly rewarding. His first goal of the season (and that from a defensive position!) was the winner. The Lighthouse Christian Academy beat the Newbury Park Gators 2-1. Brandon’s goal capped off an equalizer from freshman Levi Photenhauer in the second half to give the Saints the unexpected victory.

“I tried to do what I was learning in practice: keep my head over the ball, to kick a ball with power low and on the ground instead of having it blast into outer space,” Brandon said.

Brandon has played some untiring and intelligent soccer this season. He fights for ever ball and doesn’t concede anything. He runs hard and fast.

“Whenever I see a ball coming towards me, I have to get it,” Brandon said. “If a ball gets passed me, I get extremely angry. I attack it by any means necessary.”

It was Brandon’s long switch from defensive position that set up Levi’s goal.

On Tuesday in a game against Westmark that our private high school also won, it was Brandon at center mid that sunk a billiards shot into the path of Marcus Scribner to notch up one assist.

“I look for whoever is open and try to make the pass,” he said. LCA won 7-2 on Tuesday.

On Wednesday in school, students fell into braggadocio, boasting about their heroics and jeering teammates who remained so far goalless. Brandon searched for the words to defend his play, which had sparkled more than that of some of the goal-scorers. He decided to not answer their boasts. He had played well. His actions spoke for him. He would answer them in Thursday’s match. Finish reading the article.

Her dad was killed evangelizing N. Korea. Now she wants to go there.

kung-yu-sungHer father was, in all likelihood, executed for evangelizing in North Korea, and yet Kung Yu Sung wants to go to that closed communist nation to be a missionary herself.

“God has placed in my heart a great love for North Korea,” the 18-year-old said in a YouTube video. “My father was used there for God’s kingdom. I want to bring the love of Jesus to North Korea.”

Today, Yu Sung is in high school in South Korea, where she was granted asylum. Her father had been a high-ranking government official until he fell out of favor with the totalitarian dictator and had to flee to China with his wife and then-six-year-old daughter.

closed-society-north-korea

North Korea is among the most closed nations of the world.

It was in China that he accepted Christ at a Bible study he attended with relatives, Yu Sung said. He was growing in the Lord and the love of God’s work when he was reported to Chinese authorities and arrested for being in China illegally. Then he was deported to North Korea, an ally of China, where he served a prison sentence of three years for leaving his native land illegally.

Meanwhile, Yu Sung’s mother died of leukemia while pregnant with what was to be her second child, and little Yu Sung was left alone in the world. She was adopted by a pastor’s family in China.

“They showed me great love and care,” she said. “Through them, God protected me.”

After her father finished his prison sentence in North Korea, he fled to China. “The time in jail only made my father’s faith stronger,” she said.

After a time of continued study in the Bible, he decided to return to North Korea as a missionary. He was fully aware of the risks, but he wanted “to share Christ’s message of life among the hopeless of his homeland.” He chose not to go to South Korea where he could have enjoyed religious freedom and lived more comfortably.

Instead, he went to North Korea to share the love of God in a dangerous land,” Yu Sung recounted.

“It breaks my heart to tell you that in 2006 he was discovered by the North Korean government and he was again imprisoned,” she said. “I have heard no words from my father ever since. In all probability he has been shot to death in public on charges of treason and espionage.” To read the rest of the story, click here.

Hip Hop artist Andy Mineo won’t be pigeon-holed

andymineoAt 12, Syracuse native Andy Mineo accepted Jesus at a Bible camp and experienced a love in his heart for people he previously hated. But without male role models and a Christian support network, he drifted away from God in high school and joined a secular rap group known as Fat Camp.

In his freshman year at City College of New York, Mineo met Grammy-award-winning music producer Alex Medina in a music class. Medina introduced him to hip hop artists who were Christians, and the idea that he could combine his talent for lyrics with love for God excited him.

andy-mineoMineo renewed his relationship with Jesus, got involved with Intervarsity campus ministries, and gave up secular recording.

“I remember walking in one Saturday to the rehearsals they would have and seeing a whole bunch of people my age, urban, inner city, loved hip-hop, loved the arts, and loved Jesus,” Mineo said. “And I thought, ‘This is unreal!’”

Mineo released his first mixtape, Sin is Wack, in 2009. He drew a lot of attention when he sang hook vocals on “Background” for Lecrae’s Rehab album. In 2011, he signed for Christian label Reach Records and joined the Christian hip hop collective 116 Clique (as in Rom. 1:16), famous for being “unashamed of the Gospel.”

He released Heroes for Sale in 2013 and in 2015 Uncomfortable, which cracked Billboard’s top 10.

andy-mineo-and-fianc-christina

“With a mix of thought-provoking lyrics combined with encouragement and a range of beats, Uncomfortable is an ambitious and bold entry into Christian rap and hip hop that convicts, inspires, and encourages,” noted Chris Major of The Christian Beat.

Aside from his musical creativity, the pull of Mineo’s music is his “reflective lyricism, that connects with his fans through shared struggles, self-discovery and raw emotion,” according to Narratively. His sincerity about his own struggles with temptation comes out clearly in his rap “Tug of War.”

“It’s essentially me just sharing my life, sharing my failures, my struggles, my successes, my joy that I have in God,” Mineo told BillyGraham.org. “I hope what I can do through the music I’m making now is point people to this hope that I found.”

Mineo doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed as a “Christian rapper” because he’ll lose appeal among the secular audiences he’s trying to win to Christ.

“Excellence is the best marketing tool, and I know my music is excellent,” Mineo said. “So if people listen to it and just objectively they can enjoy it and say, ‘Wow, I like this. This is good,’ then they’ll have the opportunity to soak in the content and say, ‘Oh, he has a different perspective.’” Finish the story, which was written by my student at the Lighthouse Christian Academy.

‘Make sure he fails at everything that is not of You,’ Grandma prayed over Chance the Rapper

chance-the-rapper-jesusBy his own account, Chance the Rapper had turned into a Xan-zombie when his grandmother marched him in and prayed a prayer that left him wondering if it was a blessing or a curse.

Chance’s popularity was spiking as a young hip hop artist, but grandma was not impressed.

She looked at him intently and said, “I don’t like what’s going on. I can see it in your eyes. I don’t like this. We’re gonna pray,” she declared.

“And she prayed for me all the time,” he told GQ magazine. “Like, very positive things. But this time, she said, ‘Lord, I pray that all things that are not like You, You take away from Chance. Make sure that he fails at everything that is not like You. Take it away. Turn it into dust.’”

chance-rapper-grandma

With

The prodigal son was thunderstruck. “I’m thinking, like, damn, I don’t even know if God likes rap! You know what I’m saying? Is she praying that I fail at everything I’m trying to do?”

But as he mulled over the prayer, and after he learned his in-utero daughter was diagnosed with atrial flutters, Chance decided to accept the prayer as a blessing and start to make his way back to God.

The baby’s health concerns caused him to “pray a whole lot, you know, and need a lot of angels and just see s— in a very, like, direct way. And…you know, God bless everything, it worked out well.”

God answered his prayers and daughter Kinsley Bennett was born without health complications in 2015.

chance-the-rapper-baby

With the baby girl who helped him seek God.

The following May, Chance the Rapper dropped his third mixtape, Coloring Book, which streamed 57.3 million times in its first week exclusively over Apple Music. Featuring Kanye West and an array of non-Christian rappers, the album also includes some overtly Christian musings along with candid acknowledgement of sins like lust, addiction and pride.

In “Blessings,” he unashamedly sings, “I’m going to praise Him, praise Him ‘til I’m gone, good God!” and “When the praises go up, the blessings come down.”

Chancelor Johnathan Bennet was born and bred on Chicago’s rough streets. His father, Ken Williams-Bennet, is currently the deputy chief of staff to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and once worked for then-Senator Barack Obama.

When Chance got suspended for 10 days in 2011 for possessing marijuana in high school, he recorded his first full-length project, a mixtape titled 10 Days. After its broader public release, he won critical acclaim and made connections with artists and producers.

In 2013, his album Acid Rap was listed on many 50 best albums of 2013 lists, including 26th for Rolling Stone, 12th on Pitchfork’s list, and ranked 4th by Complex. It was also listed as one of NPR Music’s 50 Favorite Albums Of 2013, according to Wikipedia.

Then he moved to Los Angeles and began to spiral out of control. “I was just f—ing tweaking. I was a Xan-zombie, f—ing not doing anything productive and just going through relationship after relationship after relationship.”

He went back to stay with his grandmother in Chicago and get right with the Lord. In February 2016, he tweeted, “Today’s the last day of my old life, last day smoking cigs. Headed to church for help. All things are possible thru Christ who strengthens me.”

With its jazzy brass influences, men’s choir and Kirk Franklin-gospel overtones, his third mixtape, Coloring Book, sounds as vibrant and joyful as its lyrics. It’s a secular recording from a Christian man who’s unafraid to be sincere about his struggles, reflecting his growth as an artist and a follower of Jesus Christ. Finish the article.

Mute the past

samuel-pisarSamuel Pisar became a Harvard-educated lawyer and statesman out of the horrendous beginnings of a Nazi concentration camp. He eluded death sentences twice while watching hundreds of fellow Jews die in gas chambers. He escaped on a death march. A hardened and cruel boy, Samuel survived post-war Poland selling cigarettes and stolen coffee grounds. A French aunt from rescued him from the streets, and he began a new and completely different life.

In doing so, he provides a model for Christians trying to slam the door on the past: “I had to wipe out the first 17 years of my life,” he said. “I muted the past” and “turned to the future with a vengeance.”

When God made us a “new creation” and “born again,” it was to “wipe out” how ever many years were previously lived in sin.

 

How to recover from a breakup, Rachel Ashley explains

rachel-ashleyIt seemed like an ideal relationship to Rachel Ashley because her boyfriend attended church, but after 2-and-a-half rocky years, he dumped her. “He told me he didn’t love me anymore.”

The Filipina American Youtuber with 5.5 million views confesses she lashed out at God for the heart-rending breakup.

“It totally broke me and I ended up blaming God,” she said in a video. “I got really angry, and I started questioning Him, like, ‘Why would you bring someone into my life if you knew I would get so attached to him? Why would you let this hurt happen to me?’ I started pushing myself even farther away from God.”

She was in the 11th grade and processing the tumultuous shattering of her heart was no easy matter. But as she reflected about the experience, she realized the guy didn’t draw her closer to God, even though he professed Christianity. In fact, for some time going to church for her was only about going to see him.

She started hanging out with the wrong crowd and maintained a facade.

“I would just to go to church to be there, because my family was there,” she said. “It wasn’t necessarily for me. It wasn’t helping me in anything. I didn’t want anything to do with it at that moment. I was just too stuck in my sorrows to even be myself.”

But after three months of moping, she received something of an epiphany.

“All of a sudden I got like this revelation,” she said. “Wait wait wait a minute. I think God did this for a reason. Maybe He knew that if my boyfriend and I stayed together down the road we would be in some kind of crazy situation. God just sent a peace over me.”

Then God gave inner promptings to her spirit: “The reason I took that guy out of your life is because… Read the rest of the article.

Somebody has to die

rogue-one-deaths

I was shocked and pleased when Disney killed Hans Solo. I would’ve thought they lacked the guts to kill off such a beloved hero. But it made the plot 100 times more credible and compelling.

Now in Rogue One, Disney (spoiler alert) decimated all the good guys. They all had to sacrifice their lives to get the plans out of the Death Star to expose its structural weakness that could be exploited to destroy it. This is the backstory to the first Star Wars film.

landscape-1470743574-rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-donnie-yen-600x400Such willingness to script stars out of the franchise reflects reality and distances Disney from its sanitized fable fodder (and everyone lived happily ever after). Without sacrifice, nothing of good is accomplished.

Jesus sacrificed Himself. I’m sure He really didn’t want to go to the cross, but He did — and thank God for it. I would never find salvation under the impossible Old Testament system of animal sacrifice for every sin. Yup, me, hell-bound.

rogue-one-crew-posterSo this sacrifice stuff is inspirational, if not tidy. It might your tyke cry. But it teaches a valuable lesson. When I went down to Guatemala, I endured innumerable dangers and hardships — all to get the gospel to a needy people. Today’s Christians are too self-focused, too self-serving, too self-pleasing. Oh, they’ll throw a prayer and an offering (out of their excess cash) at world missions. But most of the time, they’re looking to minimalize personal discomfort.

In Rogue One, a lot of the characters excused themselves from the battle. They wimped out. That’s why the heroes called themselves “rogues.” They went against the council’s command to retreat in fear.

Princess Leia worth $50 million

carrie-fisherYou are worth more.

$50 million is the sum Disney could collect on the insurance policy they took out on their Star Wars hero. It’s a handy profit on the heart attack. Disney will cast about for a look-alike, and it shouldn’t be too much of problem.

Did she realize that she was worth more than that? God took out a policy on her life — on my life, on your life — that cost the life of His Only Son on the cross. That’s way more than what Disney fetched for Princess Leia.

Don’t marvel over the money machinations of the mega corporations. Marvel over value in God.

Save

Merry Christmas from Van Nuys

fullsizerender22

I was surprised. These church members, instead of taking time off because of Christmas, came out to service. Christmas is a big family time. But the Van Nuys ch

urch members didn’t miss service.

Who would ever have thought that I could fit 25 seats into our apartment? A space efficiency engineer couldn’t have done better. It worked like a jigsaw puzzle.

All these people have been the best Christmas gift to me. One family had been praying for a Christian Fellowship Ministries church to open in the San Fernando Valley for years. Most of the members of our startup church play an instrument or two. Virtually all of them come to serve, not to be served.

This was the blessing of 2016 for me. I’m looking forward to what God will do in 2017.

God brought this blessing after six lean years of almost no ministry in my parent church. I thank God that the lean years are over and now I can function on all 8 pistons.

When Jesus gives, it is the best gift.

Homeless pill popper delivered by Jesus

marijuana-to-jesusFor six months, Yvette Castillo was homeless, popping pills and drinking alcohol. She was pregnant and found refuge in abandoned house with crack addicts where she was raped.

“I was trusting the drugs instead of trusted God to make me happy,” Yvette said in a YouTube testimony. “I thought it was an easier solution, but it wasn’t.”

Yvette now lives in Houston with her husband and kids and goes to church. She’s come a long way from the beginning of her downfall at three-years-old, when she was first molested.

yvette-castilloRaised by an alcoholic father and a mother who also disappointed her, Yvette became a troubled teen. With hate raging within from deep hurts, she actually invoked the powers of darkness one day while alone in her bedroom.

“I said, ‘Give me the power to hurt everyone, to stop people from messing with me.’” she said. “I didn’t know that I was making a pact with the devil. I knew who I was talking to, but I didn’t know how serious it was.”

She fought everyone at school who looked at her funny and disrespected her teachers. She was cutting and using drugs. Not youth camp, not juvenile hall, not counselors could help her change course.

She gave birth to a child at 14 years old.

“Not even my child stopped me from doing bad things,” she said. “It was a force that had taken over me, and nobody could stop me.”

Kicked out of school and her house, Yvette fell into the clutches of an abusive boyfriend.

“He hit me. He mistreated me. And I felt like I deserved every bit of it.”

In the midst of her ordeal, she had two abortions.

Leaving that boyfriend is how she became homeless. Pregnant and alone, she tried to mask the inner pain with pills and alcohol, which she paid for by stealing.

“I no longer had a heart,” she said. “I couldn’t love my kids. I couldn’t love myself. I was so drained.”

Her next boyfriend got saved and pulled her into church. She was on fire and serving God for a time, but then… Read the rest of the story.

Gutter cleaning

img_3913

It rarely ever rains in LA, but when it did, I discovered all kinds of flaws in the gutters of the apartment complex I manage. My handyman and I realized they hadn’t been cleaned in approximately 36 jillion years. The dirt was caked into the gutter and blocking drainoff.

Today I got my hands and knees and crawled around the roof. I scraped and vacuumed with the shop vac. Not all of it was dry since there was a low point not draining that was mud. It was a dirty job, and I’m a klutz, so that’s how I splashed water and mud all over me and the stairwell. Now I have more work to clean up the stairwell.

img_3917

I don’t mind being on the edge of the roof right next to a 60-foot drop. I lost my fear of heights when I rock-climbed as a college student. Specifically, it was rapelling that defeated the fear of heights (you have to lean out backwards over the abyss with only a harness).

Gutters help direct runoff water to where you want it hit the ground. But if they get clogged with leaves and buildup dirt, they sprout leaks and become defective. You need to clean your gutters from time to time just like you need to clean your heart. Keep runoff flowing.

In your heart, forgiveness needs to flow. If it doesn’t, the hurt builds up and makes you into a mean and nasty person. Jesus said we should be like kids. Yeah, kids forgive and forget easily.

I’m dreaming of an enchilada Christmas

img_3847

With apologies to traditionalists, but I so would swap enchiladas for turkey or ham for Christmas. Hot sauce for gravy and ponche for sparkling apple cider. No offense intended but those are my taste buds.

Christmas is about family first, food second, so I really don’t mind breaking the routine. We had family last night, our new church family, and it makes tears want to come to my eyes to think that I am so lucky to be surrounded by people who appreciate each other.

img_3855

Jesus changes lives and puts the lonely in family. The church should be a place of acceptance, not rejection. Christ’s coming, which we celebrate on Dec. 25, was because God wanted to accept us, so we need to accept others.

The growth in my church in Van Nuys continues to astound me. I wasn’t looking for growth or numbers. I was just looking for people to love. In return, I got a big group of happy people who love Jesus.

img_38581

Leslie and her sister, Stacey

And I got enchiladas.

After worship and word, after potluck, we exchanged gifts. I gave Leslie an 80s-style blouse, and I got my favorite coffee. Even though I grew up in the 80s, I had no idea what that meant. So I got my daughter, who grew up in 2000s (in Guatemala, mind you), got the blouse for her. I hope she likes it.

img_3864

Gleeful me, the Valley Boy Pastor.

If you’re not part of a local church family, you’re missing out. Even if you have the best turkey.