Tag Archives: Christianity

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.

No good comes from shaming

shaming

This generation believes — oddly — that humiliation brings reformation.

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

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

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

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

Gold, frankincense and more

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

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

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

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

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

Do not be afraid

afraidEvery Christmas narrative in the Bible contains the command: Do not be afraid. The angel says it to Joseph, to Mary, to Zachariah.

To you.

Don’t be afraid of God. He is loving. The commands of the Old Testament are satisfied in the New Testament through Jesus. Christmas is, in the words of the angel, “good news of great joy” because God is forgiving the sins of all who ask. The gap separating man from God is bridged by the cross. Reconciliation is possible. Perfect love drives out all fear — 1 John 4:18 NIV.

God loves you with a perfect love. All you need to do, as with a Christmas present, is open it.

Stop the war (in your marriage)

marriage war

Bring back the lightheartedness, the laughter, the rush of romance, the sensation of feeling in love.

If you have banned that from your marriage, if you evolved through a business-like partnership into dwelling on faults, you are in danger. It is hard for any marriage to survive where love has turned to bitterness and anger.

Without the delicacy and delight, with difficulty a marriage may survive. But where love is renewed and refreshed with romance, it may grow through the years.

Make love, not war.

Missionaries in the Philippines battle gunman with prayer

Jaquith-Daniel-and-Colleen

They were awakened abruptly by the sound of two explosions as a masked gunman burst into Daniel and Colleen Jaquith’s missionary complex in the Philippines and demanded money.

The gunman shot a Filipino pastor in the foot, pointed a handgun at his head, and demanded to be taken to the Americans, according to a report by Christian News Northwest.

The Jaquiths shared about the March 4, 2014 incident on a home visit to Newberg, Oregon recently.

Awakened by the explosions, the Jaquiths were then startled to see the gunman appear in their doorway with the pastor as hostage. “Give me the money, or I will kill you!” he shouted.

In response, the Jaquiths dropped to their knees and began to pray. “Colleen and I were desperate and defenseless there on our bed,” Dan said. “In our desperation we both began to unitedly cry out to the Lord with very loud and intense prayers. I prayerfully went to my knees.” Read the rest of the story.

The missionaries website: http://btti.org

Love never fails

Love never failsHumans have the capacity to love — and the capacity to turn off the love valve. It is a horrifying reality: to stop loving what naturally we love. To be so caught up in drugs and alcohol that a parent neglects a child. To be so embittered by moral failures that a spouse chooses hate.

“The greatest fury comes from the wound where love once issued forth,” said Pat Conroy, author who conducted minute forensics on his own divorce. “I find it hard to believe that this number of people voluntarily or involuntarily submit to such extraordinary pain.”

If love is the most ennobling emotion of all humanity, shutting off the valve the most diabolical. By turning off the valve, you think you are asserting control over your life and destiny. In reality, you become a mini-Hitler annihilating your own race.

Don’t give up on love. God made humans different than animals! The tragic consequence of belief in evolution is that notion we are basically no different than animals, so we can/should behave like animals do. But the human heart shrieks against this wrong-headedness. We are different! We need to receive and give love. To deny it is to lower our image-of-God imprint into the sewer.

God’s love will NEVER fail you. 1 Cor. 13:8 says: Love never fails.

If your spouse has failed you, don’t give up on love. If you parents have failed you miserably, don’t become an unbeliever in love. Bitterness is a deforming solace.

If you have received nothing but despising, you should:

  • Throw yourself on the love of Christ.
  • Give love to other needy people.
  • Keep believing in love.

Love is eternal. Many things will end when we enter Heaven. We won’t take our Taylor Swift songs with us. No Teslas in Heaven. But love, which starts like a spark here on Earth, carries on into a Heaven a powerful conflagration.

I believe in God because I believe in love.

Here’s every element of the series:

1 Cor. 13:4

1 Cor. 13:5

1 Cor. 13:6

1 Cor. 13:7

1 Cor. 13:8

Love always trusts

love always trusts

At some point, too much treachery will kill a marriage. But about a zillion marriages have survived some amount of unfaithfulness. And the offended spouse eventually comes to trust the untrustworthy partner. Infidelity is never acceptable, but it’s always worth it to try to save a marriage — for the children, and for the partners themselves.

Jealousy can tear apart a marriage. Often jealousy breaks out without any reasonable justification. Jealousy is a sin. True love trusts and learns to trust again.

1 Cor. 13:6 says: Love always trusts.

Here’s every element of the series:

Love does not delight in evil

Love does not delight in evil

A sinister side of the human heart secretly rejoices when bad happens to another — and worst case is when it happens to your spouse.

The is the opposite of envy, which angers over another’s blessing. It must rank up there with Hitler’s concentrated evil. The Bible says that married couples are one flesh, and you are mistaken to think that means only the physical union. It’s also emotional and spiritual.

So when good happens to your spouse, it happens to you. When bad happens, bad happens to you too. You are one flesh. Expel such rejoicing from your evil heart.

1 Cor. 13:6 says: Love does not delight in evil.

Here’s every element of the series:

Love is not easily angered

love is not easily angered

Pic from Google Circles. I don’t own the rights to this photo, nor am I making any money on it.

Insignificant habits irritate us supremely in marriage. The she talks, the way he eats. She forgets your favorite spice, he forgets to tuck his shirt in.

1 Cor. 13:5 says: Love is not easily angered.

Dianna and I took a personality test before marriage at the behest of her church. I was angered that I had to take the test. Were they going to tell us we were incompatible and shouldn’t marry?

When the results came in, we were both surprised: You both have above average levels of anger. Honestly, neither Dianna nor I were aware. But as our marriage progressed, we crossed swords often. We had to learn to calm down, to defer anger, to analyze outside of ourselves, to negotiate, to accept each other and stop trying to change each other.

We’ve made it to 24 years, and we’re still devising strategies to get along We’re still working on being less angry.

Here’s every element of the series:

Love is not self-seeking

love is not self-seeking

We have heat-seeking missiles, but a love that is self-seeking hones in on its own destruction. Love gives.

They say it is give-and-take, but if it is to survive, it must give more than it takes. Stop trying to get out of your spouse more. Start trying to give more.

1 Cor. 13:5 says: Love is not self-seeking.

Here’s every element of the series:

Love is not rude/ does not dishonor others

Love is not rude.

pic from Google Circles. I don’t own its rights, and I’m not making any money on it.

The Greek word in 1 Cor. 13:5 that most versions translate “is not rude,” gets translated in the NIV “does not dishonor others.” The ASV spills it “doth not behave itself unseemly.” It is some sort of offensive behavior.

What’s clear is that love is being on your best behavior around those you love. How many times have we hurt with “rude, dishonoring, unseemly” words? Forget about putting your napkin on your lap, words are the things that kill marriages.

If we had truly evolved from animals, words would not have the power the do — for good or for bad.

Today to your family, praise the good and forget about the bad. Don’t let it even enter your conversation. Speak gently, not roughly. Be considerate, not selfish.

Here’s every element of the series:

Mi café favorito es el color de sus ojos

cafe Because this is untranslatable it goes out in Spanish (sorry, I realize that only a few of my followers speak Spanish). I wish to encourage all the marriages to work on restoring romance. Don’t wait for your anniversary or Feb. 14. The devil wants to destroy marriages; that is how he is quartering American society.

Coach again

Lighthouse Church School soccer team

Umm, no. cupcakes are not part of the training regimen. It was somebody’s birthday, and they passed these out before I could say “no.”

I don’t know which is bigger — my passion for publishing the Word or my passion for people. So I’m undertaking the Lighthouse Church School middle school soccer team again this year. Being around people makes my heart tick, especially these delightful youngsters who are all smiles and want to learn.

I don’t think we’ll win trophies because, despite all the enthusiasm, the team is thin on experience. But no matter, human contact can bring divine contact. And that’s what courses through my veins: bringing people to Jesus, helping them make right decisions. Soccer is much more than just kicking a ball around a 100-yard-by-60-yard patch of grass. Through soccer, youngsters can learn life lessons.

Pray for us!

Jesus on blogging

Jesus on bloggingGive love. WordPress only has a “like” button. Blogging is not about you. It is about others. Give like love to others and leave comments.

Keep it short. Much has been written about Jesus, but He Himself? To the point. The sayings of Jesus would fill only a small pamphlet. The gospels about Him are brief and beautiful. On the blogosphere, you’re not writing a college monography that considers every angle.

Use pictures. Jesus spoke word pictures (called parables) that livened up his teaching. Take a lesson from Him.

Multiply. Jesus multiplied loves and fishes. You need to multiply your blog on other social media.

Be patient. Some want to go viral overnight. Jesus worked painstakingly with 12 disciples. Even then, Peter disowned Him at a critical moment. Only after Jesus restored Peter post-resurrection did the investment of time pay out.

Share. I’m troubled by Christians who worry more that their ideas don’t get plagiarized than about the gospel getting spread. Whose message is it anyway? The internet is the place for sharing. If somebody steals your idea, take it as a compliment and work on the next stroke of genius.

Serve your followers. Jesus had 12 disciples to whom He dedicated special attention. Don’t get so big-headed that you forget the people who helped your blog grow and become popular.

Love your enemies. Blogging is not about being a Pharisee, about condemning others and claiming to have the only truth. It’s about sharing ideas and treating others with respect. If your ideas are good, they’ll stand by themselves. You don’t need to be like James and John who wanted to call down fire from Heaven to burn the Samaritans.

John Donne: from rake to Christian

john donne

from wikipedia

My Norton Anthology can’t comprehend a true conversion, so it tends to explain John Donne’s experience with Christ in purely economic terms. He was born Catholic and as such was ill-favored in the new, Protestant England. In order for him to land some well-paying jobs, he needed to convert.

There is probably some truth to this. But on the main, it duffs the most dramatic shift in literature. Donne goes from erotic seduction poetry to striking poems about a passionate love for Christ. The dramatic turn-around in subject matter cannot simply be explained by the ludicrous fishing-for-better-employment theory. An insincere poet could not write so feelingly.

This is what the world does. Because they don’t understand a religious experience, they spin it off as some other sort of phenomenon.

Teaching poetry in Christian schools

I teach English at a Christian high school, but I loathe the Christian books because they cudgel the poor kids over the head with boorish didactic works which make kids’ eyes glaze over. But with the Norton Anthology, I had to encourage students to employ their analyzing capabilities and to “read between the lines.”

Do you understand conversion?

Those people who are dying from Ebola… We know them.

aid to Ebola region

Cheryl Tormey (behind) and Dal Basile, Lighthouse Medical Missions volunteers, with food to be shipped out to Sierra Leone.

With Ebola on the one hand and beheadings on the other, Santa Monica-based Lighthouse Medical Missions cancelled its Fall trip and instead is sending a container of food and medical supplies to West Africa this week.

Dr. Robert Hamilton – a Santa Monica pediatrician who’s braved dangers since 1998 to provide care to some of the neediest people on the planet – was originally eying a trip to Lebanon to care for Syrian refugees. But then jihadists began killing Westerners in retaliation for the U.S.-led air war against the Islamic State.

On the other hand, the usual Fall trip to West Africa was also ruled out because of rampaging Ebola infections.

So Dr. Bob, as locals affectionately call him, figured he could do the most good by simply sending supplies to Sierra Leone, where he has contact with 100s of pastors and church members who virtually work as permanent Lighthouse staff to help local needs 365 days a year. Lighthouse Medical Missions has realized 20 clinics, almost all in Africa, at a total cost of $1.5 million, Dr. Bob said.

Read the rest of the article and find out how to pitch in:  Help with Ebola.

Strong finishers

strong finishers

Luis Suarez is one of the strongest finishers in soccer.

Useless is the team that defends well, keeps possession, gets to goal, but then can’t put the ball in the net. Every team has the need for a strong finisher, someone who consistently strikes on target, someone who bamboozles the goalie.

The finisher may not dribble well, may not pass well, may not have great stamina. That’s not his job. His is to finish all the work up to the goal.

As Christians, we need to be strong finishers. It’s useless to a meteoric rise, a glorious carrying forth, only to die out at the end. God help me to be a strong finisher.

Chinese on the football team

Chinese study in US

Henry with Coach and Coach’s wife after the win.

When Henry got saved, he announced his intention to play football next year. I know football runs deep in our church and school since our head pastor was an NFL player, but is football part of conversion?

Not only did the 100-pound kid follow through, he also convinced three other Chinese students in our Santa Monica Christian school, the Lighthouse, to also play. At first these inexperienced players weren’t much help. They stood around and wondered what to do. Their limited English impeded their learning the game. Game after game, the Saints got overrun.

No more. In fact, it was the Chinese to tilted Saturday’s game. Raymond, a student I host, snagged not one but two late interceptions that helped the Saints overcome the deficit and win. Woohoo! This is the way to evangelize!

Read the full story here.

Our band in the newspaper

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta

The copy of Nuestro Diario Sept. 16 page 4 featuring the band of the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta.

The Guatemalan school my family and I started got into the newspaper today for its courage marching through drenching rain. Their courage, sacrifice and service to Christ is an example to us First World Christians who find all the reasons to NOT soldier through. And they make me proud. I see that 16 years of labor on the mission field was not in vain but left hardcore disciples.

The Liceo Bilingue La Puerta‘s marching band competed and won a spot in the national Independence Day parade (Sept. 15 for Guatemala). And they marched on despite rain that got them wet to the bones.

This was my life | Adorable kids sing Guatemala’s national anthem


Four years ago, I was sent home from the mission field when criminals assaulted my family. Since kidnapping was likely subsequent to the assault, I realized God was sending me home. Today, I am supporting my mother church, the Lighthouse in Santa Monica.

From time to time, I visit the Guatemalan church and school. These are kids I labored 16 years for as a missionary. I hope their song warms your heart like it does mine.

They call him Messiah

sad messiLionel Messi doesn’t talk trash, boast, swag in front of media. He won the most prestigious FIFA Ballon d’Or four consecutive years (2009-12) — the only player to ever do so. He is consistently called the best on the planet.

When the Argentine takes to the field, it is assumed he will make the difference. He will win break the deadlock, befuddle defenders with bursts of speed and magic from his feet. Among those who idolize football, he is called Messiah, a pun on his last name.

But Messi found out he is NOT the Messiah at the World Cup final. Unlike Maradona and Pele, he was unable to carry his team to victory over the German squad. (They aren’t messiahs either, but Maradona thinks he is.)

messi fail

With the German keeper, who won best goalie.

It was evident that Messi found no flavor in winning the Golden Ball for best player. It was said that the only trophy missing from his cabinet was the World Cup, and he returned home without it. When he had chances to score, he struck wide (uncharacteristically).

In a classy display of good sportsmanship, German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger tried to encourage Messi, who looked rigid and uncomfortable listening to him. Maybe he was trying to keep from crying.

messi schweisteiger

Messi and Schweinsteiger

It is a good moment when we humans realize we are NOT God. There is a God who loves you and wants to bless you, but the whole universe doesn’t center around you. We are the creation of God, not the other way around. We need to praise Him, and not receive the praise of man. If you don’t believe in God, then naturally, you are your own god. Enjoy the destiny you bring yourself. You are cheating yourself of the destiny God wants to give you (Heaven, for example).

I feel bad for Messi because he’s generally such a humble (and talented) guy. I also want to pray for him to get to know the true Messiah.

Being chosen

chosenBastian Schweinsteiger had no lack of confidence going into the World Cup Final. Sewn onto his boots, he the words “the chosen one.”

No one can complain. He ran an extraordinary 15 kilometers into 120 minutes of play to stymie Argentina’s dominant midfield. Argentina fouled him repeatedly and seriously in an attempt to slow him down by roughing him up. At the end, his sacrifice contributed to Germany’s 1-0 win to lift the cup.

Previously, only Coach Jose Mourinho had dared to call himself “the special one.” A tactical genius and a relentless braggart, Mourinho drew more titters than respect for being full of himself.

bastion is a bastionI’m not hurling stones today. Instead, I want to remind us Christians that we are both “chosen” and “special.” These soccer stars don’t crack under pressure. They perform because of a seamless confidence.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. — 1 Peter 2:9 NIV.

bastianGod wants us to out-perform the competition, to win (souls). For Germany, Bastian was a bastion. May we likewise brings victories to Christianity.