Tag Archives: Christianity

Souls are crying

Gautemala mission

My Korean missionary friend at left, my Egyptian Christian friend at right.

I hear their cry, their agony. People need Christ. I’m heading back to Guatemala on a 3-week mission trip to restore and work in the church and school I planted there five years ago (I was there 15 years).

You can help in this project. You can donate by clicking http://www.gofundme.com/MikeToGuatemala. A lot of my blogger friends already have, but I’m still not halfway to the goal. When you give, when you pray for me, you participate in this mission, and you share in the Heavenly rewards.

I’ll be writing soon from Guatemala about all the adventures, challenges and victories. Thank you for supporting me!

Then all of a sudden, they look like a winning team

constanly improve

A stand-up-and-take-notice-goal. Kelly O’Hara beats her defender to the inside and karate kicks a cross into the net. Wow!

The US Women’s National Team has slogged through its world cup, scraping out scrappy victories. Their play was lackluster. They looked toothless particularly on attack.

Then whamo! Out of nowhere, they send Germany home with a command performance. Yesterday the women of red, white and blue picked their opponents’ pockets. Yes there were two bad ref calls that favored the U.S., but they were by far the superior team.

kelly o hara goal against germany

The Star from Stanford. Kelly O’Hara celebrates the goal that iced the victory.

Pundits credit a formation change-up from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3. But also each player was nearly perfect. Gone were the individual blunders of prior games.

The semi final victory sends the USWNT closer to championship.

The semi final victory sends the USWNT closer to championship.

They had been improving game after game. And when they needed it most against their toughest opponent, they conjured mastery of the game. They won 2-0.

This is a key to life: Keep improving. Keep working to do better. Keep eliminating errors.

Internet evangelism of youth

internet evangelismBehind the facade of success, “Taylor” languished in fear because of his parents’ constant fighting. Like so many teenagers, he reached out over the Internet for an understanding person. Thankfully, he didn’t fall into the hands of a predator.

Taylor stumbled upon a Christian chat through the organization JesusCares.com and someone online led him to Christ. Soon, he found out a lacrosse teammate was Christian and decided to go with him to church. Eventually, his family joined him at church.

“My home feels different now,” Taylor says. “It will take time, but my parents say they want our house to be `full of Jesus’ from now on.”

Every day, JesusCares chatters engage 180 young people, and as many as a dozen on any given day may be suicidal, says Sean Dunn, founder of JesusCares and its parent organization Groundwire.net. The round-the-clock volunteer counselors are born-again Christians with a passion to reach the lost.

With great listening skills, compassion and patience, they encourage young people who struggle with their self-image, along with loneliness, hopelessness and fear of failure.

“Young adults do not have the stability of healthy families, strong spiritual lives, and distinct purpose that used to be more common,” Dunn says. “They are struggling to find themselves, find purpose, and find hope. To quote scripture, this generation is ‘harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ When Jesus recognized these conditions in Matthew 9:35-38, he came to a conclusion: ‘The harvest is plentiful.’” Read more about this innovative internet evangelism.

The adventures continue

Mike Ashcraft to Guatemala

My brother at left is an engineer. He likes to smirk.

Pathos is my passion. Wherever there are humans involved in a titanic struggle to alleviate the evils of our world, that’s where I’m helping and writing. God has given me a gift for communication.

Now, I’m going to Guatemala, my old stomping ground. I raised up a school to help the poor in the Capital City. They pay only a fraction of costs. Recently, the government has cited an audit, and I need to hurry down to  take care of paperwork.

Of course, while I’m there, I’ll be bringing to this blog some of the great stories of struggle and triumph, of the humans spirit almost breaking under pressure, like I’ve always done.

Why am I telling you this beforehand? I need a little bit of help. Fund my trip to Guatemala. Whatever you can pitch in is greatly appreciated. I’m “scheduling” this post ahead of time because I don’t think I’ll have internet access. So far Carmen Lezeth Suarez has very graciously donated. I want to encourage you too to pitch in. Click the link to go directly to my campaign. Thank you! http://www.gofundme.com/MikeToGuatemala

I love waterfalls


I’m from parched California. We can’t take showers any longer.

So you can imagine how strange I felt driving over river after river in Idaho to visit my brother in Idaho Falls. Then we visited Lower and Upper Mesa Falls in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. If I could live near waterfalls, I would.

Water is life, beauty, tranquility.

Jesus is the water of eternal life. My waterfall is my church.

People who say they don’t need church are spiritually drought-stricken.

How a Taiwanese student came to our Santa Monica Christian high school

Taiwan | study in America | high school

At left, eating pizza with a new friend in America.

Elvin Chen drank coffee like water, staying up to 3:00 a.m. every night, as he studied intensively for his national high school entrance exams in Taiwan to get into the best schools.

He did everything he was told, practiced constantly, went to school 14 hours a day. Even on holidays, he gave no time to relaxing but kept poring over his books.

But no matter how hard he tried, he scored low. Like many countries, Taiwan’s national exams are restricting; if you don’t do well, you are eliminated from the better colleges and careers. One slip-up, and you’re sunk.

So much was riding on the test that nerves sunk him.

“I started crying, ‘Why God? It’s unfair,’” he recalled. “I worked really hard, and I didn’t achieve my goal.”

Then Chen’s father spoke to him. “You did a great job, even if you didn’t achieve your goal. Don’t feel bad about this. You already learn the best lesson of your life.”

What was that lesson? That “failure” is the door to success. That hard work is the key to success, regardless of setbacks.

His father opted to send him to America. For the 2014-25 year, Elvin (not his Chinese name) studied at the Lighthouse Christian Academy.

Read the rest of the article about how a Taiwanese high school student came to America.

I wish gas were like salvation

gas pricesWhen I spotted this, I pulled over rashly, recklessly. Finally, gas I can afford!

Unfortunately, the gas station was closed, fenced in with a chain-link fence and a for-sale sign out. :(

I wish gas were like salvation: free.

Make Jesus your star

Jesus Star

Frankly, I don’t get the allure of Hollywood — and I don’t get the stars on the sidewalk. I host foreign students who learn English. They ALL want to see Hollywood. Little do they know that Hollywood is ghetto, with abundance of drugs and grimy streets.

But those foreign students, invariably, like to get a selfie with the star of their favorite performer.

Why anyone would want people to walk all over their name, I’ll never know. It seems like a dishonor, not an honor. But Hollywood is full of such contradictions that go totally unnoticed by people infatuated with this world.

This I know: the darker this world gets — and it IS growing darker — the brighter the light of Jesus. The more that sin becomes “acceptable,” the more people are going to suffer its ravages. They will need a Savior more and more desperately.

Hey, I’m tempted, and I sin, but the attraction of God is greater. I always come back. I keep following God. Because there’s nothing better, nothing like Him. His love is amazing. Freedom is incredible.

Make Jesus your star.

Love letter written in blood

Jesus whip wounds

To show their love, some give flowers, chocolates or a diamond ring. This is what Jesus gave.

Everybody else is playing slo-mo: Messi the dangerous

Here’s some more Messi hyperbole: He’s a superhero. Worldclass players just aren’t as fast as him. He sees his way out of traps faster. He sees and sends through-balls faster. He cuts surgically faster. He curls in shots faster.

Lionel Messi led FC Barcelona to its second championship this season with two goals. The first was a solo goal that befuddles four (even six) defenders. That’s half the Atletic de Bilbao team. In the end, Barca dizzied their opponents to secure the King’s Cup, after clinching the league the previous week. Now the only thing keeping them from a triple-crown with the European Champion’s League next Saturday is the mighty Juventus from Italy.


Seriously, Messi makes top professionals look like clumsy kids.

What they say about a soccer player of his caliber is that he is always “dangerous.” That is, he is creating danger for the opposition (opportunities to score goals). He does things that no one else can. (Well, he hasn’t walked on water yet.)

When you pray, you’re being dangerous to the devil.

But God wants you to go to Heaven

heaven or hell

It’s your choice, Heaven or Hell.

Extraordinary staff at Christian school Santa Monica

mrs cheeryAs she lay on her recovery bed at home, Lisa Clancy, a cancer survivor, realized she could help high schoolers.

“I heard the kids at the house talking about the troubles in high school,” she said. “I felt like God was telling me that this is where I could help. High school can be a tumultuous time for teenagers.”

Mrs. Clancy is a volunteer extraordinaire at Lighthouse Christian Academy. She does everything from answering phones to counseling kids. And the extraordinary thing is that kids actually confide in her. She’s a high standard for loving staff among Santa Monica Christian schools.

“She is always there for me when I need advice or a little cheering up,” said Lizzie Hofer, a junior. “I can talk to her about anything and not feel weird that she is my friend’s mom.”

Mrs. Clancy is mother to two Lighthouse students and one graduate. A native of Chicago, Mrs. Clancy and her husband moved to Santa Monica four years ago with their four boys.

Now she is teaching an elective that helps students to discover their strengths and plan a future career. It’s called Passion Present Purpose and with nine students meets twice a week for an hour and a half. To teenagers, the future can be daunting, but Mrs. Clancy helps break it down. Continuing reading.

Worth more than $5 million

He's worth more than $5 million.

He’s worth more than $5 million.

I’ve been overly anguished of late because my church, in dire arrears, is selling the property we purchased years ago for our high school, the Lighthouse Christian Academy. The property comprises three buildings and a yard; it has a double-story hall used by the high school, a church and a parsonage. The goal has been to keep the church a church in Santa Monica.

I’m appealing to all my blogging buddies to pray. This comes to a congregational vote May 20. I think we are behind in payments tens of thousands of dollars. We purchased the property for $2 million (something like that), and the sale price is $5 million.

The buyer won’t keep the church. One less church for Santa Monica. And, it seems to me, we are scaling back our commitment to Christian education. The high school will continue by packing the high school kids back in with the grade school and middle school kids at the main church building. We are past the eleventh hour.

She's worth more than $5 million

She’s worth more than $5 million

What disturbs me also is that the secular buyer has a backer with $5 million cash to pay for it. Why do the Christians NOT have someone who can splash the cash to get us caught up with the bank loan and keep this property for God’s use?

I’m breaking my genre here and appealing for prayer and funds. If you know anyone who could donate $1 million (sorry, I don’t know the real numbers because I’m not on the Church Council)  to keeping Christianity moving forward in Santa Monica, please contact me. Should I set up a gofundme account?

If you can give a $1 million, I can introduce you the reasons why you should give that money. There are almost 50 kids at Lighthouse Christian Academy, each of them a miracle of the power of God to transform lives, to rescue lives before they become totally destroyed. We have seen Lighthouse students become pastors and lawyers. We have seen lives be rescued out of gangs and other sins. To this ministry, I have dedicated my life. I teach here for free. My kids attend school here. I believe in this.

I can’t rule out the possibility that God would have something bigger for us in the future. But I also can’t get out of my mind that we’re not supposed to sell this property.

I wish I could give you the backstory behind these photos and tell you why these kids are worth more than $5 million each, but obviously I’m not at liberty to do so. They are stories of heartbreak and hope. You can find out more about Lighthouse Christian Academy by clicking here.

‘I knew him’ Phoenix pastor witnessed to Garland attacker at work and at mosque

Elton Simpson

Elton Simpson, who attacked a baiting free speech rally in Dallas.

Before the Islamist gunman stormed a free speech rally armed with an assault rifle, Phoenix Pastor John-Mark “Vocab Malone” Rieser witnessed to him regularly at the package delivery service where both worked.

“When I heard about the attack, I wasn’t surprised,” said Rieser, a teacher-pastor at Roosevelt Community Church. “He’d expressed admiration for jihad before. He had told me Osama Bin Ladin was a hero. I’m just saddened he did it. It’s sobering to think he’s facing God’s judgment right now. Was there anything I could have said or done differently that could have saved him?”

Elton Simpson and an accomplice were shot dead by a cop with a handgun in Dallas on Sunday as they attempted to attack a Mohammad cartoon-drawing convention, a deliberate provocation to Muslims who feel offended by artistic renditions of their prophet.

Vocab Malone

Pastor Vocab Malone

Rieser considered him a friend.

“Elton was not insane. Elton was not mean. Elton was not rude. Elton was not wild-eyed. Elton was not constantly angry. Elton never threatened me,” Rieser wrote on his blog, streetapologist.com. “Elton was calm, level-headed, smart, and studious. He was generally kind and well-mannered. Bright and articulate, he spoke smooth and easy. Elton was not a poor unwanted outcast; a down-and-outer he was not. Neither the simplistic narratives of the right or left work for him.”

While the two were friends, they both tried to convert each other.

“We had interactions about who Jesus was, what the Bible is, who Mohammad was, what the Koran is,” Rieser said. “I cared about his salvation, and I believe that in his mind he was concerned for me.” Read the rest of the article.

To improve the father-son relationship

father-son relationship

The father-son relationship is a wonder: you wonder how to make it better.

I’ve been a lousy son. I’ve justified staying away from Dad because he stayed away from me when I was kid. Dad never went to a single ball game of mine when I was a kid. He never played with me. So when I grew up, I never visited him more than the perfunctory. I’m not avoiding him; I’m just busy.

That’s why I praise God he was put in the hospital. The health scare kicked-started a new dynamic for me: duty. I needed to visit him if for nothing more than to check up on him.

This has been good because a new communication is sprouting. Previously, my dad would talk only about what he liked and shut down any conversation on another topic. But now, he seems so grateful to have my company (my only brother is in Idaho and can’t visit him), that communication is becoming two way.

He seems to be moving beyond the same old discussions about TV shows: pro golf, tennis, Dancing with the Stars and Bachelor. He finally shared some of his experiences in Korea with the post WWII occupation troops and his experiences as a skunk works engineer at Lockheed. I’ve been able to mention a few things about God.

I have this picture posted on the wall in my kitchen where I write. He’s smiling because I cracked some forgotten joke just before I snapped it. Usually he has a curmudgeon face. I like this one better.

I’m trying to improve the father-son relationship. Maybe I’m not the only one it’s hard for. It’s worth it to try to improve. Don’t wait for a health scare to spend more time with your parents. They’re lonely. They need you.

ISIS releases 200 women from sexual slavery, including a 9-year-old whose pregnant from her captors

Yazidi women (not necessarily related to the story)

Yazidi women (not necessarily related to the story)

A raped and pregnant 9-year-old girl is among 200 Yazidi captives released by Islamic State fighters in an attempt to demoralize their enemies in northwestern Iraq, the Star world news reported.

Since last summer when the Islamic State rampaged onto the world scene, its jihadists massacred the men and subjected women to rape, forced marriage, torture and enslavement. After eight months suffering barbarism, the women and girls have wandered back to their relatives. They are traumatized and humiliated.

The 9-year-old is the youngest victim, according to international workers at refugee camps.

“This girl is so young she could die if she delivers a baby,” aid worker Yousif Daoud told the Star. “Even a caesarian section is dangerous. The abuse she has suffered left her mentally and physically traumatized.”

[Editor’s Note: Please forgive the horrific content, but I include it because I wrote it for God Report’s and because awareness is part of the solution. To read the rest of the story, click here.

Saved from the mara salvatrucha

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta

Mario, second from left, with the youth he now ministers to.

His fellow gang member thrust a pistol into his hand. Go ahead and kill the kid, he was instructed.

Wedged between the dangerous Mara Salvatrucha and the Dieciocho gangs in a neighborhood where even police feared to go, Mario Ajcip’s gang had successfully fended off rivals to keep their turf in one of the most violent neighborhoods in Guatemala City.

When a rival dared to make incursion into Mario’s neighborhood, there was only one gang-inflicted punishment — death. This time it was Mario´s turn to execute the cornered kid on the dark dirt alley.

Never shy to physically beat up a rival, Mario balked at murder. A leader himself among the 100 gang members, he began talking about teaching the guy a lesson and letting him go. Read the rest of the story.

The deaf heard: Africa Medical Missions

Africa Medical Missions

Felipe Rodriguez (at right). Whether he’s in Santa Monica or Tanzania, he says where he goes: “The party is here.”

When the doctor peered into the patients right, “deaf” ear, he saw larvae, living and dead. With a few scrapes with Q-tip, he extracted the critters, and the deaf man could hear again!

This is what happens in the rest of world, where medical access is limited either by availability or cost. This is what happens when Lighthouse Medical Missions comes to town. Their recent clinic in Mwanza, Tanzania, attended to 1,200 — HIV patients, malaria sufferers and insect-invaded ears.

Lighthouse Medical Missions

Felipe, in the middle, with fellow volunteers.

“It’s crazy stuff,” said Felipe Rodriguez, who pitched in on the trip.

Not only are the locals dramatically impacted, the American volunteers are too. Fun-loving Felipe hit it off the kids. “Every where you go, the kids grab your hands and want to go with you,” he said.

Africa medical missions

Now that they have seen conditions in Tanzania, they no longer live in a bubble.

When the group visited wildlife on a nearby island on Lake Victoria, Felipe joined some students on a field trip to take selfies with them. They acted like rock star fans.

“Your smile will heal all their sicknesses and wounds,” Felipe said.

Africa medical missions

In Tanzania.

‘Really hard’ saying ‘Goodbye’ on Africa Medical Mission

Africa Medical Missions

Carla, with one of the children she fell in love with.

Carla Cedillo got spooked as soon as she set foot in Africa.

“Africa is a different world,” she said. “I felt like we were in  a movie. I felt like we were an infomercial that says, ‘For  $1.00 a day, you can help save a life.’ I remember my mom saying there are poor people in Africa, but it never hit home until we we went to Africa.”

Lighthouse Medical Missions

In the pharmacy

On the Lighthouse Medical Missions trip to Tanzania in 2015, Carla, who works at the Lighthouse Christian Preschool, fell in love with all the children. “I wanted to hold them all,” she said. “They were all so adorable.”

When a little child came through the clinic with her tongue attached to the bottom of her mouth, Dr. Bob Hamilton offered to cut it loose immediately. “I thought blood was going to gush everywhere,” she said.

African Medical Missions

With her brother, Arti, and some Tanzanians

During most of the 5-day clinic, Carla manned the pharmacy and gained a great appreciation for pharmacists. “It wasn’t easy,” she said. “Now I know why pharmacists are always in a bad mood.”

When the clinic was over and it was time to head to the airport, it hard to say “Goodbye.”

Dr. Bob Hamilton | Medical Missions“They kept telling us, ‘We’ll see you in Heaven.’ That true but it was really hard,” Carla said. “I think about them everyday. I’m sure they’ll think about us everyday for the rest of the lives.”

Africa Medical Missions: ‘An Intense and beautiful experience’

Africa Medical Missions

Myer with her boyfriend.

Tears streamed as Salome recounted how the C-section didn’t save the baby. Katelyn Myer became painfully aware of the gaggle of kids screaming and laughing and tumbling around the clinic as she listened to the Tanzania women share her sorrows.

Lighthouse Medical Missions Lighthouse Medical Mission’s 2015 clinic to Mwanza “made me think and know and feel that we are all God’s children,” she said. “The medicine and the science had overtaken my point of view. They’re not just bodies that are sick but people who have hurts and feelings.”

An actress in Hollywood, Myer only recently became a Christian. She joined the Santa Monica-based charity LMM this month to give of herself. “It was a really intense and beautiful and incredible experience,” she said.

medicine AfricaIn all, LMM attended to 1,800 patients for five days and held evening church services. “It really pushed home that the theme of the Bible is love,” Myer said.

Medically, the doctors couldn’t do much to help Salome. Her pain was in her heart from the stillborn child. So Myer gave her emotional support.

Africa Medical Missions

As they left the clinic Friday to tour a bit, the patients were cheering and singing songs of praise.

Then she remembered a prophetic word her boyfriend had received before coming to Africa. Someone had told him, “You need to say the word ‘Life’ to somebody over there.” It was time to say the word.

We don’t know yet if Salome is pregnant again.

Africa Medical Mission: ‘I really wanted to be like Jesus’

Arti Cedillo | Africa Medical Missions

Arti made friends with his guitar.

Yes, he called himself “a Satanist” when he was a punk kid rebellious towards his parents’ Christianity. Yes, he beat up kids and got kicked out of schools. Yes, he played hard rock with — um — not the best lyrics.

But when he faced a truly demon-possessed person, it was different. Arti, who turned his life over the Lord years ago and was now serving in Tanzania on the Lighthouse Medical Missions, freaked out when the lady he prayed for started behaving erratically.

Africa Medical Missions

The crowd waiting a turn to see a doctor.

After the first day of assisting doctors at the clinic in Mwanza, Arti requested permission to set up a prayer station and pray for all the patients after doctor visits. “I really wanted to be like Jesus and lay hands on the sick and see them recover,” he said.

That done, he was engaged in praying for a lady with back and leg pain. When he asked her to forgive all who had harmed her, she grew eerily silent. Then she started getting aggressive.

Tanzania Medical Missions | AfricaArti knew what he had to do (expel the demon in Jesus’ name), but he got scared. “I’ve never performed an exorcism before,” he said.

When it was done, he led her to get her pills. But he watched his back, lest she become aggressive again. His buddy, Johnny Huerta, didn’t seem to have the same fears. He went over to her and gave her a hug.

“I was more afraid she would jump on me, and he was more concerned to let her know that she was loved,” Arti reflected.

Lighthouse Medical Missions

Santa Monica pediatrician, Dr. Bob Hamilton, who founded and leads Lighthouse Medical Missions, in Tanzania in Spring 2015.

Arti turned his life over to the Lord in the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica, which is part of the same church that indirectly oversees Lighthouse Medical Missions.

The lady showed up at church that night. She raised her hand at the altar call to receive Jesus. She testified that the pain in her back and legs was gone.

“She came possessed and oppressed with pain,” Arti marveled. “She got delivered and saved. Then she had no pain. God is so good.”

Arti saw the supernatural on the “natural mission” of dispensing medicine. He also saw how to become more like Jesus and minister compassion.

Prominent scientist came to faith when he examined the data

Francis CollinsThe current head of the National Institutes of Health, Francis S. Collins, came to faith after he set out to disprove God.

“I had always assumed that faith was based on purely emotional and irrational arguments and was astounded to discover that one could build a very strong case for the plausibility of God,” he noted on CNN. “My earlier atheist’s assertion that ‘I know there is no God’ emerged as the least defensible.”

A geneticist, Collins was appointed director of the $3 billion international Genome Project in 1993, which completed sequencing the 3.3 billion pairs of nucleotides by 2004. The resulting gene map offers hope to cure genetic disorders.

It also gave Collins a spectacular view into the magnificence, order, and finely-tune perfection of the DNA molecule, God’s software for every living thing. Directorship of the Genome Project was touted as the most prestigious job in science at the time.

“At the most fundamental level, it’s a miracle that there’s a universe at all,” he told National Geographic. “It’s a miracle that allows the possibility of complexity and laws that follow precise mathematical formulas. Contemplating this, an open-minded observer is almost forced to conclude that there must be a ‘must’ behind all this. To me, that qualifies as a miracle, a profound truth that lies outside of scientific explanation.” Read the rest of the articles: scientists who believe in Jesus.

He was a runaway, gay, drug addict until Jesus changed him. Now, he’s a pastor.

Paul GualtieriMolested a few times when he was a child, Paul Gualtieri dabbled with homosexuality as a largely unsupervised 13-year-old in Palm Springs.

It wasn’t long before he found himself in his bedroom proclaiming his destiny: “I’m gay. I’m a homosexual,” he said out loud with no one around. It was a pivotal moment of his life. “There’s power in confessing both good and bad things. When I declared I was gay, I gave a right to a spiritual force in my life.”

When he was 13, he ran away to Hollywood and threw himself headlong into the partying and gay lifestyle. “I just got sucked right into it,” he recalls. “I thought it was great.”

He was too young to be admitted to the gay bars but prostituted himself to support a lifestyle that included drugs like Quaaludes, coke and meth.

“I just ran rampant,” he says. “I had different boyfriends. We would panhandle every day to buy drugs and pay our hotel.”

He slept at anybody’s house who’d have him, in Plummer Park and in the “Hotel Hell,” once posh lodgings for movie luminaries that became decrepit and abandoned on Hollywood Boulevard. Read the rest of the story.

100 pastors barred from attending Chinese Christian conference

zhang and liuAbout 100 Chinese pastors were barred by police from attending a Christian conference in Hong Kong in early March, China Aid reports.

Another 2,000 pastors were granted the entrance/exit pass needed to visit Hong Kong, which retains some of its freedoms since the British colony was turned over to China in 1997. Some of the attendees were from Taiwan, which is not under Chinese dominion.

The conference – sponsored by China Aid, China Ministries and Evangelistic Ministries Intl. – featured well-known pastors, lawyers, professors, authors and scholars. It focused on evangelism, “kingdomization,” and aligning the Chinese church with Christian values, China Aid reports.

China Aid spokesperson Rachel Ritchie was reluctant to speculate as to why some invitees were barred from the conference. But a pastor who has traveled to and ministered in China says persecution comes in waves and is sporadic.

The barring is being seen as part of an intensifying of persecution under the new Communist Party regime – with a new president and new prime minister assuming offices in March 2013. The leaders are looking to consolidate their power and thwart any potential adversaries, real or imaginary. Since the Christian church is growing astronomically, it is viewed as a negative, Western influence and a potential mobilizer of the masses.

In Wenzhou – called “China’s Jerusalem” for its high concentration of Christians, the Central Government ordered the demolition of churches and the removal of crosses, some of which had won permits with local authorities in early 2014. Continue reading.

I’m not playing basketball. I’m break-dancing.

basketball klutz

At this point in the game, I decided to do something very random: practice break-dancing. I have never done break-dancing in my life. And fortunately, I didn’t break anything. Ruby, my opponents, asks, “What are you doing on the ground again for?”

At Lighthouse Christian Academy’s opening of our annual student-teacher mixup 3-on-3 basketball tournament, I spent more time on the ground than on my feet.

Despite the inordinate clumsiness, we still won. One of my teammates, Raymond, a Chinese student who LOVES bball, did just about everything. He scored, defended, hustled, passed, pressured, ran. dribbled, shot.

I fell.

Don't laugh. I'm playing basketball.

Don’t laugh. I’m grimacing to intimidate opponents.

This all fun in the Son. This is what having a small Christian school is all about: good friends, lots of fun, lots of learning.

I’ve been teaching at LCA since I got back from missionary work in Guatemala, where in addition to a church, I planted a church, during almost 16 years. While I was there, I learned soccer.

What am I doing playing basketball?

He shoots and -- he falls.

He shoots and — he falls.

My height — at 6’3″ — should be an asset. My weight too. (Well, I guess my height isn’t going to help much since I pass most of the time on lying on the ground.)

Last year, I was on the winning team. But that was due mostly to Pastor Zach Scribner, who took me. Pastor Zach snuffed his competition in another game today. He looks like the team to beat.

I know, I know. I’m not supposed to ask for prayer to win basketball games. The next one is Wednesday for me. Basketball is game played by talented people.

McAllen pastor started life as a fighter and an addict

san antonio crime | changed by ChristWhen his father died of a heroin overdose, an embittered Roman Gutierrez vowed to do the same.

“I’m gonna stick a needle in my arm, God,” he uttered, as quoted in the biography Twice Dead. “The same way You killed my father, You can kill me.”

At age 11, he fulfilled the vow and jabbed his arm.

Roman grew up on San Antonio’s west side, where drugs and violence were pervasive, the child of a broken home. He was sexually abused at age seven. He became a fighter and a partier who lived recklessly because he hated life.

The rage following his dad’s death was only compounded by the fact that he received the news when his dad was supposed to pick him up for some father-son time. His was a life void of love.

His first arrest came when he and friends broke into a local convenience store late at night to steal alcohol. Since they heard no alarm, they carted off case after case. Eventually, a patrol car pulled up and nabbed the youngsters.

While in juvenile hall, he busted a kid’s nose for mocking his father’s death and seven months were added to the original six-month sentence.

Read the rest of the story and his conversion here.

#33 in Lighthouse Christian Academy football

Christian school Los AngelesNumber 33 was Pastor Rob Scribner’s number when he played for the L.A. Rams, four years in the NFL.

Then, his brainchild, Lighthouse Christian Academy, started a football program. Since it was a small school, they played 8-man CIF league.

Of course, among the new jerseys was #33. And one of the best players picked that number. He would continue the tradition of legends. Twice, the lowly Lighthouse, with a fraction of the enrollment of its competitors, nearly snatched championship from the entire Southern Section.

Lighthouse Christian Academy | Santa MonicaThe #33 was honorably bequeathed to another great player – and then another.

All the while its aura of greatness grew. Opposing teams could have figured out who to double-guard on offense, who to avoid on defense. Who would blast past them with a 90 yard sprint into the End Zone? Who would tackle them so hard that they would see stars from the sidelines – for the rest of the game?

Yup. Number 33 was not to be messed with — ever.

Then, the mighty number — which spoke volumes of history — was handed out to 107-pounder Chinese student who had never played football before.

When Henry Sihao Yu, our not-too-formidable tight-end, donned the prophetic mantle, was he our best player? Read the rest of the article.

A church for Muslims: Compassion not suspicion

Adrian-churchPastor Adrian Rodriguez has been preaching the gospel, translated by his wife, to about 30 people every Sunday in a church on the outskirts of Hartford, Connecticut, and not one of the congregants is Christian.

All of them are Muslim.

“We’re dealing with very hardcore Muslims,” he says of the immigrant refugees from the Middle East who are drawn to his church. “They’re very indoctrinated. But God is speaking to their hearts.”

Pastor Adrian’s response to America’s burgeoning Muslim enclaves is perhaps Christianity’s best model: View them with eyes of compassion, not with eyes of suspicion.

With 375 Muslims per 100,000 residents, Connecticut is the 14th most Muslim state in the nation, according to a Huffington Post article in 2012. The number of mosques has doubled to more than 2,100 nationwide since the year 2000, according to a survey.

While most Americans are not hostile towards Islam according to reports, there has been concern about radicalized youths. The Homeland Security Department estimates 100 U.S. citizens have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS.

Read the rest of the article.

He was just a tyke at Lighthouse when I taught there. Now he’s a hero.

saving Iraqi refugeesAs a scout for the U.S. Marines 4th Light Armored Battalion, Tyler Smith is no stranger to weapons. But now in Iraq on a dangerous mission near the Islamic State war, the Santa Monica resident is completely unarmed.

Tyler, who studied and worked in Santa Monica, is currently deployed in Iraq with Operation Soul Shepherd helping refugees. He and seven other men as part of an advance team are setting up a safehouse for women and girls who have been raped by ISIS jihadists.

“I couldn’t let myself sit at home doing nothing while people here were suffering so immensely,” said Tyler. “I CAN help, so there’s no reason not to. I’m just a man trying to do the right thing. I’m not a hero.”

Not everyone agrees with his self-effacing.

“Every one of these guys are heroes,” said Paul Neier, founder of Mississippi-based non-profit that fights human-trafficking. “They made made a choice to go into harm’s way. The craziest thing about this is they are in the belly of the beast. They have no weapons to defend themselves.”

Read the rest of the article.

ISIS stealing, selling body parts

[Editor’s note: Forgive me for posting such disturbing news. This blog has generally been a place for uplifting devotionals. I post this because it is my reporting on GodReports.com and because I believe exposing evil and raising awareness is part of the solution.]

Pic: Daily Mail

Pic: Daily Mail

As a means to finance their murderous “caliphate,” the Islamic State is harvesting organs to sell on the black market in Turkey and Saudi Arabia, according to the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations.

Mohamed Alhakim said his country has found dozens of bodies with surgical incisions and missing body parts in shallow mass graves in recent weeks outside Mosul, where ISIS remains in power, the UK Daily Mail reports.

“We have bodies. Come and examine them,” says Alhakim, who made the allegations before the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday. “It is clear they are missing certain parts.”

Furthermore, dozens of doctors in Mosul have been executed in Mosul for refusing to perform organ harvesting, he says.

Read the rest of the article: click here.

Christian vets join the fight on the ground against Islamic State


The latest foreign fighters to flock into the war zone in Iraq and Syria are Christians who want to do more than their western governments allow.

U.S. vet Jordan Matson engages in firefights regularly with ISIS soldiers alongside pro-Western Syrian Kurds, according to an interview with Fox News.

“I decided that if our government wasn’t going to do anything about it, I would,” says Matson, who’s fought ISIS since September 2014. “We’re getting shot at on pretty much a daily basis. It’s more of a World War II or Vietnam style fight. We don’t have the technology that the United States military has to push our enemies away.”

Read rest of the article here.

Revival at our Christian high school

high school revivalOur students are experiencing revival. After frolicking on slopes of Utah snow, they savored a sermon by Pastor Zach Scribner and then Five Guys burgers. Since there was a community board, they posted “Jesus loves you” notes.

And even them I’m stuck here in Santa Monica writing articles about the Islamic State and not enjoying the fun, I rejoice. While other religious schools have trouble with church kids bolting their faith, at our Christian high school in Santa Monica kids are embracing Christ wildly.

Chinese students in Los Angeles high schoolThis is what I pray for, what I work for, what I live for. To see the fruits brings indescribable satisfaction.

I pretty much got kicked off Reddit, a mecca for sarcastic atheists. Have you seen American Sniper? You could call Reddit “American Snippier.” In any case, post after post mocks Christian warnings against sin.

Chinese students learn to ski | California high schoolOnce I read about a former Christian school kid forming a “support group” for those who were subjected to the horrors of being forbidden alcohol. I remarked on that message board that it was ironic that some ran from alcohol to Jesus and that others from Jesus to alcohol. I never heard from him. Nor do I know if she could appreciate the irony.

Excuse me for being so curmudgeonly on this post, but I’ve seen so many suffer and even die for flouting God’s ways. It is a joy to see kids embracing God’s ways. Some of them have been bullied in public schools. Some were lost in cutting. Now they are living happy serving Jesus. Why would you make fun of that?

Take her shopping

shopping is sufferingI can handily find 1.75 million other needful things to do rather than go shopping. When forced to shop by myself, I’m a laser: straight to what I need — and out. Fast.

But here’s a key to a happy marriage: don’t make it “me” time. It is “her” time. Don’t impose on your wife what you like to do. (You can do what you like some other time — say, with your buddies, for example.)

When Dianna and I shop together, time goes into slow motion. Words get slurred, shoppers drudge about, my eyes cake up with glaze. I lose my ability to see color — everything runs grey (more than 50 miserable shades). There wasn’t even a Starbucks for me to take refuge at the concentration camp premium outlet. (No, it wasn’t a concentration camp. I couldn’t concentrate on anything.) It was surreal. (This is not hyperbole. This really happens.)

Why did I subject myself to such woe-begone suffering? Why did I willingly (yes, willingly) do what no man in his right mind would normally do? No, I’m not in torture training with plans to report journalistically  from the Islamic State with risk of being kidnapped.

No. I did it to make my beautiful wife happy. (Her beauty was the only glimmer in the T.S. Elliot-styled wasteland outlet.)

You see, if you manage to make your wife happy, she’ll make you happy.

If you always expect her to make you happy (because you’re the fist-pumping, Bible-thumping leader of the household), then maybe you have failed to notice that the Bible says you’re a leader only as Jesus was a leader (remember He laid his life down in sacrifice for the beloved church?).

Sacrifice yourself a little to be happy a lot.

I’m proud of the kids

Lighthouse Church School

There was no one faster in the league than our midfielder and defender, Caleb.

We were down 0-2 at halftime, and the kids walked off the field dejected.

Hey! We’re only down two goals. It’s not over! Let’s go out there and win this! I gave specific instructions to the kids. We needed more longer balls, through balls that our forwards could run on and beat defenders.

When the whistle blew, my son Hosea and his partner, Garrett Lahood, zipped through the midfielders and defenders straight to goal with three crisp passes. Garrett smashed it home. Woohoo! Now let’s get some more!

Santa Monica Christian school

Garrett’s quickness and ball-handling skills made coach move him from defender to forward.

But we didn’t win. Our inexperience began to show more. Errors were made, and our opponents, Westside Neighborhood School, beat Lighthouse Church School 7-1.

I’m not upset. Winning would have been almost impossible. For our small school with a co-ed team, to have made it to round 2 of playoffs was already an impossible dream. I’m proud of the kids.

It was a fun season. Kids learned about soccer, teamwork, effort. These are lessons they must apply to life.

Latest martyr of ISIS, Japanese journalist was a Christian

kenji gotoJapanese journalist Kenji Goto, beheaded by ISIS in a newly released gruesome video, also happened to be a devout Christian.

A reporter seasoned in war zones, Goto traveled to Syria hoping that Japan’s pacifist stance would grant him relative safety, unlike other journalists from nations leading airstrikes against ISIS.

He failed to take into account this new brand of terrorists are breaking all previous norms, with no apparent limits to their depravity.

“You, like your foolish allies in the Satanic coalition, have yet to understand that we, by Allah’s grace, are an Islamic caliphate with authority and power, an entire army thirsty for you blood,” a masked militant says in the video while holding a knife to Goto’s neck. To read the rest of the article, click here.

‘It was nuts’ How revival is sweeping Los Angeles high schools

God public high schoolOvercome by the darkness, this young Grant High School student decided she would end her life at the end of the school day. But instead, she went to an on-campus Christian club and heard Brian Barcelona share with about 150 other students.

After a stirring message, “she came running up to the front. She was weeping. She asked Brian to pray for her. She was going to commit suicide that day, but instead she found God,” says Allan Giglio, a coordinator for One Voice, which is seeing extraordinary revival in Los Angeles and Orange County high schools.

About 2,500 students at 15 high schools hear the gospel each week through campus Christian clubs, which invite One Voice representatives to speak, Giglio says. Kids have been saved from drugs, violence, sexual sin, and hopelessness.

Check out the rest of the article.

You have to lose in order to win

Christian school Santa MonicaOur first game was against a C-team. We won 2-0. Our kids didn’t learn anything from the win.

But when we started playing B- and A-teams, we lost 0-8. Then the kids realized they didn’t know squat about soccer and would need to really learn. We have lost every league game (the win was a scrimmage) — except yesterday.

In the last game of the regular season, we tied 2-2. Now the kids are learning how to play.

Losses are valuable. You tend to learn more from a loss — if you don’t cast yourself in the pit of self-pity. A lot of people learn nothing from a win — in the self-congratulation there is no self-study, no refining, no fixing.

If you are currently losing, rejoice. Study, work and improve. The win is ahead. You can’t get to win except by losses.

I’m proud of the progress of my co-ed team (playing against all boys teams) at Lighthouse Church School in Santa Monica.

A happier coach

soccer girls | Santa MonicaI ran into two soccer coach friends at Wednesday’s game. They command winning teams and winning salaries. They were winning players.

I have a winninger attitude. I’m the happier coach. I coach for free, and I’m seeing the fruits of my labor, most importantly kids drawn to Christ at a Westside Christian school.

So far we have lost every league game of Middle School soccer in CIF Pacific League Basin. Monday will see if we finally win one.

Despite the dismal outlook, I’m enjoying the positives:

  • Our goalie, an adapted basketball player, won the opposing coach’s praise with “five first-rate saves.” “We thought we weren’t going to be able to score on you,” he said.
  • We limited an A-team to four goals.
  • My son scored a goal.
  • My son juked four defenders to get to goal and almost scored an individual effort.

More important than game highlights are kid highlights:

  • Kids are really enjoying soccer.
  • One kid told me he used to not like soccer; now he really likes it.
  • Beginners are scoring (at practice), and that’s  a thrill for them.
  • There’s such a good feeling of Christian good attitude and fun.

So I wouldn’t take the paid coaching position. The unpaid is better because the rewards outweigh financial compensation.

Teachers who inspire

inspiring friendsIn 2007, Marcelino de Leon saw kids in the his neighborhood who didn’t sign up for first grade. Illiteracy is high in Guatemala, where people struggle to survive and have a hard time supporting their kids in education.

So Marcelino decided to teach them himself. Every Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 he taught nine kids first grade materials. When the next year came around four of those kids tested into second grade.

Nobody paid him for this. No one applauded. Marcelino didn’t get any awards. A professional teacher, Marcelino just wanted to help where he could. He lost track of those kids when he moved, but we expect them to find him one day and report on their success at college.

Marcelino helped us at the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta. As always, it was voluntary, since we were/are strapped for money. We charge most students a minimal fee, and it doesn’t cover expenses.

I was so impressed by his willingness to pitch that I offered to teach him English. Extraordinarily, after I left Guatemala, he continued helping our school.

It’s people like Marcelino who inspire me.  Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds — Heb. 10:24. He came to visit me today. I’m wanting to do more for God.

Restoration of marriages

Hernan and Hilda have been married for 59 years.

Hernan and Hilda have been married for 59 years.

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

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

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

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

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

Friends, fun and revival

futbol guatemala

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

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

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

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

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

The four answers to prayer

answers to prayer

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas: a burst of love

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus gave all

Loneliness at Christmas

loneliness Christmas

Even surrounded by family, you can feel incredibly lonely.

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

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

Those were beautiful moments.

He comes in the most unexpected ways

Jesus donkey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What gift do you give when you have unlimited resources?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original photo from Tumblr.

Joy is the opposite of fear

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

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

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

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

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

Will be joyful or fearful this Christmas?

Watch and pray!

watch and pray

Gif from Beautiful Pictures of Google Circles.

Could you not but pray for an hour?

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

They fell asleep.

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

Santa is alive and well

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

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

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

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