Tag Archives: church

More exhilarating was worship


Part of coming off 16 years of the mission field means I have been able to dedicate more time to my kids. My youngest son, made three goals in one-fourth of a park soccer game. He was unstoppable. Opponents didn’t know how to defend against him. He never failed a shot.

For some reason, coach has put him on defense in previous games. In the meantime, Hosea has been training with a club team, on which he just was accepted. He’s getting fitter and sharper. Coach missed Sunday’s game, so an assistant tried him up front, and he was quickly deadly.

This was a huge thrill for me. To be able to see my kids play and succeed, to be a dad, is exhilarating.

Still, worship at the evening service was even more exhilarating.

Seeing potential

photo(5)Hosea and I are extremely happy. After being without a team for 1 1/2 years, he’s been accepted on to Autobahn Soccer Club based in Santa Monica. Club soccer is the highest level for kids. You’ll get the best training available.

In my unbiased opinion (keep in mind that I’m the dad), Hosea is something of a soccer genius. With ball in front of goal, his spontaneous tricks befuddle goalies. He’s got a baby face, but he plays like a tank.

But 1 1/2 years ago, another club wouldn’t have him. He made a few poor decisions. He lack fitness. He was heartbroken. So was I.

At the end of his tryout, Coach Herve saw some spark that he liked. He saw potential.

If you are in leadership in the church, do you dismiss the players God sends you. Do you dwell on their defects, their inferiority. If you are going to build a winning team, you’ll have to see what Jesus sees: potential. (Everybody has potential.) Develop it in your followers.

The value of “useless” people

When he beat two Real Madrid defenders.

When he beat two Real Madrid defenders.

My friend and I argue about Barcelona soccer. Namely, Alan says Luis Suarez was a costly and “useless” addition to the star-studded squad. While I have been critical of Suarez’s tendency to bite opponents previously, I endorsed his arrival at the Blaugrana. He brought a wickedly powerful kick, a weapon missing from Barca’s touch-sensitive arsenal. He also brought muscle.

His debut in the first clasico (against eternal rival Real Madrid) was, understandably, not an outright success. He whipped in some pin-perfect crosses but was otherwise somewhat sedate. It usually takes a while for a player to adapt to a new team, but of high-priced acquisitions, fans want immediate results. So Alan grew increasingly critical as games passed without too many goals from Suarez.

I kept believing in him even though the results weren’t terribly positive. Our banter reached a head in late March for the second derby of the season against the Merengues. Before the game started, Alan unbottled fresh venom for Suarez; I defended him. As it turns out, Suarez struck the goal of the victory — exquisitely controlling a long overhead pass with one touch, holding off two defenders with his speed and physicality, and a shooting low to far post to frustrate the goalie. For those who know soccer, it was sheer sublime grace.

This gave me ammo to unload on Alan. We were both overjoyed by the Barca victory, but I shot up my friend: I thought you said he was “useless?”

Suarez "nutmegs" one of the world's best defenders, David Luis, of PSG. (He puts the ball through his legs, a humiliating move).

Suarez “nutmegs” one of the world’s best defenders, David Luis, of PSG. (He puts the ball through his legs, a humiliating move).

On Wednesday, Suarez again won the game, this time to help Barca move forward in quarter finals of the UEFA’s Champion’s League against new powerhouse Paris Saint Germain. For one of the goals, Suarez threaded through three defenders single-handedly (or rather, single-footedly) to confound the opposition and the goalie. They don’t play soccer any better in Heaven.

So tonight I fired a fresh volley at my friend. “Useless” players like that, I’ll take any day.

Do you believe in the people on your team? It’s surprising (upsetting) to see church members criticize their fellows. They compete against each other (instead of competing against the devil). Maybe the person you view as “useless” will score the victory shot against the devil

Everybody is valuable in the Kingdom of God.

The most exciting day in a long time: an emo for dinner

better than expresso

What’s better than coffee? Getting someone saved.

The highlight of the week has been reached. We had our neighborhood emo for dinner.

An emo is a latest iteration on the goth/punk subculture, which revels in depression and dresses dark with bright colored hair. Why would I want my daughter hanging out with her? Because we’re going to get her saved.

Behind the despair, there’s a heart that needs Jesus. Behind the self-harm (if she does it), there’s a dire need for love. We Christians are not on Planet Earth for any other reason than to lavish love on the unloveable.

There is nothing more thrilling or meaningful than to see people come to Christ.

Down with age discrimination in the church: Trumpter shows he can still blow at 80

Age DiscriminationFrom the time inside the womb, he attended the Santa Monica Foursquare Church – now called the Lighthouse – 80 years ago.

After a long absence from his native congregation where he grew up in love with the brass band, Duane Howard, 80, returned to see IF the church of his infancy was razed and converted into condos. It wasn’t.

He found a thriving congregation that received him with great enthusiasm as he played his trumpet, injecting an intoxicating jazz and blues undertone to worship service.

“I was absolutely convinced that the church wasn’t there anymore,” Howard said. “I’ve come full circle.”

In eight decades, a lot of life has brought upheavals, travels, ambitions, scares, heartbreaks. He did ministry, had three kids, lost two marriages, ran businesses and built a dream ranch house. In 2000, he underwent a quadruple bypass heart surgery in Chico, California. Read the rest of the article.

Nine years ago today, my mother died

legacy | missionary

Guess which one is me. I “stand out” a bit from the teachers who now lead the Christian school in Guatemala in my absence.

It was a glorious conclusion to a life lived for God. In her later years, she had served as a chaplain in the Sylmar juvenile hall facility to counsel wayward youngsters back to the the Lord’s path. She oversaw the preparation of turkey dinner with all the trimmings for incarcerated youth and solicited toiletry packs for the kids.

“You are so lucky to have Chaplain Beth as your mom.” The hoodlum’s words hit me hard. I had accompanied her to a Bible study one day. The thug’s admiration for my mom exceeded my own. To be honest, at the time I was annoyed in typical teen rebellion by some of her irksome attributes (all humans have them). It took a delinquent to set my thinking right.

fam14revised

With my family last Fall.

Years after, I set my life-course onto the mission field and served with my wife in Guatemala for almost 16 years. When my mother died, I could affirm at her funeral that she was alive — in me. I had no regrets because I figured I had caught all the good lessons to learn from her. I’m still serving Jesus today. I teach at a Christian high school in Santa Monica for no other reason to help kids get into the right path. My mom helped kids inside jail, I help kids outside.

My pastor sometimes says he feels as if his dad were with him, encouraging to glorify Jesus. I don’t feel my mom with me. I feel she is me. I live what she lived. Everything she stood for, I stand for.

I can’t hardly remember the things that irked me about her (stuff like nagging). Now what stands out is her legacy.

I love coffee.

I love Jesus, my wife, my family, my ministry and coffee — in that order.

There are rich and famous people who are widely admired by the world, but when they die, they become forgotten. They leave nothing to the world. Give me the simple soul who plants his imprint on a fellow human being. You can change the world one soul at a time.

I wonder if I’ll ever meet that kid from juvenile hall again. If I do, I’ll thank him.

Am I supposed to say I miss Mom? Am I supposed to brood and fret over no longer being physically present in my life? Sorry. I feel like her death was a glorious graduation.

Step on you class

step on meSome people take Step Class. Others Step On Others Class.

They adhere to the idea, that to get to the top, they must climb upon others. To feel good about themselves, they must make others feel bad about themselves. This pernicious poison is more pervasive than you might think.

You ought to take a class in loving others. This is what was so revolutionary about Jesus: He practiced love, especially toward the sinner. But the person who held himself in self-proclaimed piety got His wrath.

*This pic comes from a gym in Santa Cruz, and I adapted it. Sorry if you are offended by it. Please know that I’m not making any money on it. I give you kudos for a great pic.

The cup makes the coffee

real ChristiansIf I drink my home-percolated Costco coffee in a Starbucks cup, that makes it Starbucks coffee, I’ve decided.

It’s a good decision. I’ll enjoy it much more now, and it’ll certainly be a lot cheaper than going to Starbucks.

He is a Jew who is inwardly, Paul says in Rom. 2:29. By extension, a Christian is one is inwardly, not one who “dresses” the part, though it be a lot cheaper.

Pastors are like trashmen

I was watching Ethan for my boss, while he taught class. The 2-year-old loves watching videos of trash trucks! What a funny thing.

garbage-truckAs I meditated on why (I suppose he like the big machines with hydraulics), I realized that pastors are trashmen. They are constantly helping people to get the trash (sin) out of their lives.

Trash is a part of life (we are all sinners, the Bible says). But you don’t want to wallow in it; you want to get it out of your home because it poisons. Sermons expose the trash lurking in our hearts. (We thought it was having fun! What a shock to find out that our “fun” was wallowing in trash like the pig loves mud!)

Don’t be offended the inglorious comparison. I’m a pastor too.

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.

Fatigue failure

fatigue failure

I was surprised that planes crack more from pressurization than from turbulence. That’s why 747s that do long flights have been around fro 30 years while small planes doing several flights a day hit the scrap heap quickly.

It turns out that we can only stand so much. Depending on the elasticity of the material, the on-and-off loading wears it out and it eventually breaks.

God promises NOT to give us more than we can bear, but sometimes it seems like it is more than we can bear. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it — 1 Cor. 10:13 NKJV.

I’ve wondered why older Christians struggle with bitterness. There’s some truth to burn-out. Pray for renewed in your strength, rejuvenated in your spirit and to run like the youth.

But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
— Isa. 40:31 NIV.

The importance of schmoozing

fellowship Being the American that I am, I believed fervently in work-aholism. If you want to get things done, work 17 hours a day.

The lackluster church growth prompted heart searching and method revision. I discovered the power of not working (and praying). I also discovered the incomparable value of socializing. The latter upended my idea that useless chatter was a waste of time.

imagesIt turns out that socializing inspires people. If you want people to do things for you, then show them how important they are by talking to them. Here’s how it works: two or three people can always get more done than one. So if I’m the leader, I multiply my impact by delegating to followers. And I motivate followers to work by just taking the time out of my busy schedule to talk to them.

It wasn’t a sermon full of conviction that brought Zacheus to repentance. It was sharing a meal. Jesus took time out of his busy schedule to schmooze. That human connection made friends into followers, socialites into servants — for entire lifetimes.

socializing

from google images

Learn the importance of social activities.

*All the images are from Google. I don’t own the rights to any of them, and I’m not making any money on them. I applaud the photographers’ genius.

The team star can’t shine without the support of the team

Virtually a one-man team, O.J. Simpson always praised his blockers.

A leader is measured not by his individual talent but by his ability to “rub off” on others. There’s no use bragging about how good you are if you don’t make others good around you.

Even Jesus “rubbed off” on his followers. In Christianity, this is called “discipleship,” and due to an excellent process of discipleship, Jesus could leave the entire ship in capable hands when he resurrected and handed off responsibility to his disciples.

Will we learn this in high school soccer?

Love, serve and sacrifice

love, service, sacrifice

With the kids of my disciples.

From across the street, he called me. On the bus, she almost threw herself on top of me to give me a hug. A couple grew teary-eyed in the market when they saw me.

People everywhere were greeting me and thanking me. Four years ago, I ended abruptly a 16-year mission stint in Guatemala. On my New Year’s trip to Guatemala, old friends were popping up everywhere.

I’m no celebrity. But I did one thing: I served people tirelessly. I walked 10 miles to do Bible studies in their house. I handed out scholarships left and right for our school. I visited people in the hospital, in jail. I gave time and again.

Then the wonderful mission life came to an end. I returned to the States, where I serve in my mother church. I teach in the school, and I write this blog. Every once in a while, I get the chance to visit Guatemala again.

I can see that all the love, service and sacrifice were worth it. People have been impacted for Christ.

Soccer saves souls

soccer | soulsWhen Mario and Banner first met these guys, the noticed how much their buddies acted like gang-bangers: trash talking, threatening, being disrespectful and boasting about alcohol and drug abuse.

Then Mario and Banner, skilled streetballers from the church, played soccer with them and shared their testimonies. Today these guys no longer hang with the downwardly-spiraling crowd. They haven’t exactly come to Jesus yet, but they ask questions, and their choices in pastimes are positive, not negative.

Soccer saves souls.

Actually one these guys never hung out with a rowdy group. He was shy, quiet, and mostly watched T.V. He didn’t even know how to play soccer. After Mario and Banner with done with, he became an expert.

I had the chance to play. We won, and we are winning.

The man of 1,000 jobs had to leave…

Relaxing with a leader on my recent visit.

Relaxing with a leader on my recent visit.

… in order for 1,000 workers to rise up and do those jobs.

When I was the pioneer pastor of a church and school in Guatemala, I did everything.

I was intense. If I didn’t know how to direct worship, or something, I learned and did it competently. As members trickled it, it was hard to delegate. I was unwilling to relinquish ministry.

First God allowed my voice to unravel (somewhat) and forced me to seek a substitute (even if he sang out of tune).

Then He got rid of me altogether. Threat of kidnappers forced me to return to the States, and then EVERYTHING was handed off to others.

Jesus handed off ministry after 3 1/2 years. I took almost 16.

This is God’s pattern. The only way to raise up a future generation of leaders is by letting them lead.

A visit made all the difference

Kata, left, with her sister-in-law, Karina.

Kata, left, with her sister-in-law, Karina.

Kata was the spiritual pillar of her household. The eldest of eight siblings, she came to Christ first. She prayed for each one to come to Christ. She counseled tirelessly. And then after encouraging so many others, she grew discouraged herself.

She was getting older and felt like she was losing her chances to get married. Lonely and dejected, she made a mistake.

Pregnant out of wedlock, she was basically shunned by her church and run off (not my church).

This all broke my heart. We all make mistakes. So I visited Kata. Her reception was wary. I spoke of her leadership in her family, of her past successes. I made no mention of her mistakes.

Today, Kata is back at serving Jesus. Compassion, not condemnation, is what she needed.  All I had to do was take some time out of my schedule to show her she was important to Jesus. She was valuable.

Today, it’s Kata who keeps our church and school cleaner than the National Palace. Everyone praises her. I am overjoyed.

To whom can you show mercy today?

Si le quedó grande el traje, pues ni modo

photo (24)Translation: If the suit was too big for him, well, of course. = If the shoes were too big for him, well, of course.

Four years ago, I handed off ministry abruptly to Pastor Ludving: a main church, a couple of church plants and the huge task of administering a financially-struggling Christian school. Previously, Pastor Ludving had only pastored a small pioneer work.

Suddenly, he found himself thrust into a situation where he was promoted among colleagues who inevitably questioned and compared his every decision to what I would have done (I was their pastor for 16 years). Sometimes, he didn’t get a fair shot because people sometimes didn’t give him a chance for a learning curve.

Yet, there he is still. Four years later he has won over most everybody. He has refined his dealings with people. And he has managed to succeed in areas that I never did: The accounting is up to date, and the building is immaculately clean!

He’s “grown into the suit,” despite being much shorter than me.

My trip to Guatemala came to an end yesterday with a huge sense of gratitude to God for what He does. You may find joy in some other achievements in life, but I love serving God.

(Sorry about the Spanish title. I don’t mean to put anyone off. I used it because nothing in English corresponds precisely and because I thought it was a nifty pun, given the stature differential. I hope you can overlook it. :D )

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 best and the worst

Beautiful Pictures on G+The best and the worst can be found in the people of God. When Christians love, there is nothing better. When they reflect Christ’s love poorly, it hurts badly.

If you are a Christian, this is my appeal for you to love. If you are not a Christian and you have been hurt by one, this is my appeal to you to forgive us and to keep trying to find love from Christians.

Original image from Beautiful Pictures on Google Circles.

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?

Pass the ball

Lighthouse Church School

Some of my beginning players at Lighthouse Church School

My star soccer player lost the ball eight times in Lighthouse Church School‘s middle school loss against Crossroads B. His repeated futile attempts to penetrate towards goal with individual juking runs had me rolling my eyes. If something’s not work, try something else. There were other players open, ready for a pass.

Maybe he didn’t trust the other players. Since he’s the best, his instinct is to keep trying what has worked before. Unconsciously, he’s afraid if he passes, they’ll lose the ball. But Crossroads’ stout defense stopped him every time.

I’m not a demure coach. I yelled for him to pass. And he did pass finally — straight to the opposing goalie. No one was near to make a run on it. I don’t like sarcastic soccer.

Previously, we lost 0-7, but I was happy because everybody tried their best. Yesterday, we lost 0-4, and I was livid because we self-destructed — namely, the best player played the worst.

There is lesson here for the church. You must trust others, depend on others. I don’t care if you are the star player. The church doesn’t work without delegation. If the person fails, keep trusting and passing them the ball. They will learn eventually, and the team will convert into a winning team.

If you’re not going to ever pass me the ball, I’ll stop making runs.

If you’re facing criticism

facing criticismdon’t despair. You’re probably doing something right.

Consider Joseph. For having a call of God on his life, he was reviled by his brothers and rebuked by his parents. Eventually the brothers sold him into slavery, after very nearly killing him.

And in the end, God raised up Joseph to great leadership in Egypt. He was the catalyst for enlarging Israel in the incubator of Egypt. He was the man for the plan, but the plan was unrecognizably from God. How did Joseph not spiral in depression from such rejection from his loved ones?

Don’t ya just love infighting?

infightingThe toughest trial for Job is when his friends turned on him. They accused him of some unconfessed sin, based alone on the evidence of the “curse of God” falling on him. He defends his integrity. It is the only thing he has left. But eventually, they drive him over the edge. He challenges God. When God shows up, it’s not pretty for Job. But it’s not any prettier for Job’s friends.

Too often the church looks like Job’s friends. Instead of encouraging they guy who’s down, the kick dirt on him.

Instead of joining forces to fight a common enemy (the devil), we fight each other.

Friendship is the bomb!

friendsThis side of eternity, the greatest thing is having friends.

Strawberry yogurt, chocolate and the Sabbath

Sunday sundaeI had forgotten how good strawberry with chocolate was. Fortunately, I poured dark chocolate chips, Snickers bits, and chocolate syrup over my yogurt last night. A treat like this is for once a week.

The sabbath principle is that human beings need rest. They also need a bit of fun. God gave us one day a week for that, and to seek His face. Sometimes Americans want to have fun every day of the week — hence our obesity.

frozen yogurt and God

My sweet wife eating sweets.

Sundays and sundaes

Personally, I’m a workhorse, a workaholic. Left to myself, I feel guilty if I’m not rendering some service to the Lord. Fortunately, my pastor exhorts me to take a break. Maybe you need a break? When was the last time you took a break from secular concerns to seek God’s face in a Sunday sermon?

Giving is good for you

give bloodI always knew that giving blood was good — for others. Frankly, I’m surprised to learn of the health benefits of giving a pint of your 10-11 pints once every two months or so:

  • It reduces risk for heart disease by keep iron levels in check.
  • It lowers cancer risk (again, the iron content).
  • It burns 650 Kcal.
  • You get a free check-up!
  • Do-gooder feeling does a body good.

In eight weeks, your red blood cell count is automatically replenished! Why dont’ more people give?

The truth about giving blood also applies to donating, whether to a charitable organization or a church. Whether you want to save abandoned dogs or abandoned souls (my choice!), giving is good for you.

Being liked

being likedCall me insecure, but I’m the type who wants to be liked by everybody. The reality is: not everybody is going to like me.

In fact, sometimes lots of people are disgusted with me. After all, I’m just a human being.

Jesus asks us to love those who hate us. Sometimes the people who are supposed to love us, pour rejection out. This is hard to handle. It requires maturity — more than I have. But it’s something I can shoot for. Christianity is not about being perfect but aiming for improvement.

I’d rather live a sermon than hear one

The End of The Day

Pic from http://www.michaelandersongallery.com I don’t own the rights to this photo, nor am I making any money on it.

There are Christians who love to hear sermon after sermon after sermon. Is this Christian entertainment? Do they ever have the chance to put into practice what they hear?

The purpose is the sermon is to affect actions; church is about change. There are things we should DO and things we should NOT DO. Christians must ACT in this world. Faith without works is dead. — James 2:20. If never translated into action, what good is it? It’s like the super obese. Food is good, but it’s purpose is to give us energy to DO. Too much food is unhealthy.

Your best life now starts with Jesus

your best life now

With broken stones, broken hearts

broken stones altarGod asked the ancients to build Him an altar with broken stones.

To us, He asks us to build one with broken hearts.

Are you the dog or the cat?

When it comes to viewing God, some people are like the dog and others like the cat. The dog loves his master, waits patiently for him, serves him gladly. The cat thinks he is the master, that all the care and food that his owner lavishes on him means he is god.

Sadly, too much of American Christianity is self-serving. Now it’s true that God wants to bless his children. But sometimes He gives them trials. And ultimately, we are to serve Him, even sacrifice ourselves to get the gospel out.

Rejection chain

rejection1Jepthah was run off by his brothers. He was an illegitimate son. When he became a man, he carried out great exploits, vanquishing Israel. But he never healed his hurting heart, and in consequence rejected his daughter. His lack of family love led him to a wrong-headed idea of an unloving God. He made a stupid vow (to sacrifice whatever came first out of his house to greet him when he returned victorious from battle) and instead of repenting and recanting his vow, he stupidly carried it out. He killed his daughter.

The greatest danger of rejection is NOT how lousy we feel. It is that we will do the same to others. As the saying goes, hurting people hurt people.

Supposedly, the church is a refuge for hurting people. Instead, it turns into a lair of cruel critics. I don’t leave the church because there is no where better to go. After all, Christ left His church. Nothing else.

I wish to be different: loving, accepting, patient, comprehending, optimistic with people, seeing the positive and not the negative.

Don’t think I’m touchy-feeling. The naked truth is I have rejected too many people in my time. God, forgive!

I am determined to change. I am determined to praise my children instead of criticizing them. I am decided to see good in everybody, to be patient with problems, to love the unlovable. It is not easy. I must pray every day before the day begins because, if not, bile flows from this wicked mouth of mine.

True change is not a glib meme or a mantra. It takes work and, I believe, divine assistance.

Do you fit in in church?

dropping out of church

Photo credit: http://authordebbieyoung.com/2014/01/22/why-doing-a-jigsaw-puzzle-is-a-bit-like-writing-a-book/ (I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it.)

A jigsaw puzzle piece decided he didn’t want to hang out with his brothers. He wanted to go off and discover his destiny elsewhere. Things were too rigid in the jigsaw puzzle. He wanted freedom. He knew that in the world he would make a huge splash and he didn’t need his fellow pieces.

And so, the beautiful picture had a glaring omission. Fellowship was broken, and God’s anointing, which flows where there is unity, was blocked. And the puzzle piece never was beautiful anywhere else.

God designed you for a purpose. You may have other dreams that can draw you away. You are most beautiful where God has placed you. Don’t drop out of church.

Can we just stop hurting people who come to church to heal their hurts?

I don't own the rights to this image. I got it from http://mafietta.com. I'm not making money on it.

I don’t own the rights to this image. I got it from http://mafietta.com. I’m not making money on it.

All over the blogosphere, and talking to people outside of church, I find people who have been hurt in the very place where they should’ve been helped.

Yikes!

Honestly, we look more like the Pharisees than Jesus, who ate with tax-collectors and stopped stone-throwing at prostitutes. Of course, the Bible points to a moral standard that must be upheld by the church, but many times it’s simply a pastor’s ego, a leader’s power trip, that offends.

If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea — Matt. 18:6 NIV.

I haven’t left the church. I wish and pray to see the church changed.

Yeah right! Maternity leave is ‘freer time,’ so volunteer as volleyball coach

Lindsey Christian | LCA volleyballLindsey Christian gave birth three months ago, so – naturally – she volunteered to coach LCA’s girls’ volleyball team.

“I loved volleyball,” said the 2002 LCA graduate. “I felt like it was time to give back.”

Time to give back? Right after having her first baby?

“I saw my mom (AD Pam Sommer) looking everywhere for a coach. I was on maternity leave, so I had the most free time I’ve ever had. I realized I could do it,” Lindsey said. “Okay, so maybe I’m a little bit crazy.”

Read the rest of the article.

Old guys rock with God

old manFirst, an post-menopausal woman gets pregnant, even though her old husband doubts angel Gabriel’s announcement. Then an old prophet comes up to see the baby Jesus. Another elderly lady, a prayer warrior constantly in the temple, also coos over Jesus in Luke’s gospel.

The old guys ushered in the Age of Aquarius — I mean, of the marvelous Age of Grace. The old guys heralded it, waited for it, saw its dawning. God used the old guys.

They weren’t dumped in a retirement home. They weren’t mocked for old people habits. Maybe they talked incessantly of the “good old days.” Maybe the complained about new-fangled devices. Maybe they had their senior moments.

Regardless, God used them. And He wants to use you.

It’s fabulous that new generation of leaders rise in the church. But let’s not marginalize the older generation.

Oh, I forgot (!). In the interest of self-disclosure, I’m 47. And I don’t want to be excluded from whatever God is doing.

In case you don’t know…

nothing can separate us from the love of GodAbsolutely nothing can/will/shall separate us from the love of God.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,fn neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Rom. 8:28-29 NIV.

Prayer as begging

God's healing

Cristal weeps when she feels God’s power healing her.

Why twice?

In every thing by prayer and supplication … let your requests be made known unto God. — Phil 4:6 The synonym for prayer, translated here “supplication” and elsewhere “petition,” is strange for its redundancy.

In Greek it is δέησις (deēsis), which means a need so urgent you turn to begging. You have no other hope. It evokes the utter powerlessness of being prostrated before a potentate who holds your life in his hands. Pleading, nothing more.

Pastor Charlie Forman

Pastor Charlie Forman with Pastor Ludving.

So many times, my prayers cover things I can also cover. These are things I need to get done, I can done. I just want God to help me do them efficiently.

Then there are needs about which I am exasperatingly powerless. About those needs, I tend to get frustrated, get mad, sulk. In fact, if I’m brutally honest about myself, I complain more than I pray.

That seems to me to be what Paul is addressing. Yes, pray, but also plead (supplicate, make petition) to a God who alone can help you. You can trust God for the needs that are completely out of your control.

 

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Your bad attitude is NOT cute

bad attitude

Racism is sin: the NBA, soccer and the church

No room for racism in church

Clippers owner Donald Sterling (tarnished sterling). Ironically, his girlfriend is part black. Apparently, it was she who recorded his racial comments and leaked it to news agencies.

Hooray for the NBA. Commissioner Adam Silver fined Clipper owner Donald Sterling $2.5 million and banned him from the NBA for life after the real estate mogul was recorded making racist remarks against blacks to his girlfriend.

Dani Alves fights back against racism

Dani Alves shows Villareal fans that he won’t be thrown off his game by racial taunts. Barcelona came from behind to win 3-2.

Hooray for Dani Alves. The left defender from FC Barcelona mocked racial taunts. When a fan from the other team attempted to provoke the Brazilian by throwing a banana at him during a game (message: you are a monkey), he picked up the banana, took a bite and kept playing. Footballers in support took pictures of themselves eating bananas and posted them on Instagram. The fan has been banned for life from attending soccer stadiums.

no racism in church

NO racism in church!

Church, take heed! I have been mortified by brothers who, thinking they talk in confidence with me because I’m as wait as a freshly bleached sheet, share their evil racism with me. There is no room for racism in the church. It is a sin. For too many years, “apologists” accommodated and justified slavery with a wicked twisting of the scriptures.

I’ve got news for you. In Heaven, all the races live together in harmony. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. — Rev. 5:9.

no racism in Heaven

There’s no racism in Heaven

If you secretly harbor thoughts of the superiority of one race, repent of your sin before God and convert in a truly loving Christian.

God forbid that the NBA and a Spanish soccer club be more loving towards rejected people than the church.

Sterling may fight back. He can dicker over due process. He can prosecute whoever illegally recorded his conversation (presumably his girlfriend). But his doom has been decreed. He’s not going to make much headway.

Gracious welcoming back

Red Badge5His acute fear was being confronted for having run the first day he saw battle. But Henry Fleming in The Red Badge of Courage was warmly welcomed. There was no mocking derision for his cowardice. His poor lies were accepted easy enough. Why?

Because any body was valuable. So what if he ran the first day? He would be valuable the second day, so his comrades didn’t bother with his inconsistent excuses. In fact, on the second day, Henry led the charge. He proved his courage, his manhood.

RED_BADGE2That’s the way people should be received back into the church. It matters not under what howling circumstances they left. They may have disgraced grace itself, but we shouldn’t scowl. Open arms is what is needed. Why?

Because any body is valuable in the war against Satan.

And because it takes courage to go back to the place of your failure.

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Forgive

forgiveness

Comparisons are the worst: Part 2 on self-esteem

Discov ering self esteem

Unperceived by parents, teachers, friends, aptitude tests, my giftings were perfect for what God designed me for. I’m posing with kids in the Guatemala Christian school, Liceo Bilingue La Puerta.

My gifting was not appreciated by anyone in high school. I wasn’t that smart, wasn’t athletic, wasn’t socially adept. What was I? I was overly sensitive. In high school being overly sensitive is not a good thing because you’re no good at the interchange of crass teasing that especially goes on among boys.

I actually thought I lacked a special trait.

Then I discovered my call: to pastor, to be a missionary. And being very sensitive (to God and to others) was a premium. But when I was a kid and took aptitude tests designed to surface giftings, nothing registered.

colegio GuatemalaComparisons are the worst because God made you absolutely unique. This uniqueness is reflected in your fingerprints, in your DNA, in your emotional makeup, in your interests and passions. It flouts comparison. To compare yourself to others is to ignore your God-given talents.

There is only one you on te planet. God made you special to do something nobody else will do. Only you can get the job done. It’s pointless to desire somebody else’s job. ?God didn’t design you for that.

It’s an insult to God to wish to be someone different, to have their beauty, their intellect or their wit. If you are young, take it easy on yourself. Don’t criticize yourself harshly. Wait and see what comes of your life. Strive to do well in everything but don’t panic if others do better in you in many areas. Because in one area, you’re going to blow them away. That’s where you’re a winner.

The lost one

saved

Not one of the lost ones in the church in Guatemala.

At 11 years of age, a former student told his little brother and sister to not move while he hung himself in front of them. The tykes obeyed.

What angst or demon would a boy to such unthinkable horrors as rival the Holocaust? I cannot comprehend. It tears me up inside. What could we have done to avoid this?

We don’t win every battle. We lose some badly. Amid the exultings of success stories lurk the blackest stains of those who chose not to listen to the word of God, who opted for worldliness instead of godliness.

Guatemalan kid

The Iglesia Cristiana La Puerta works to save kids from the lostness of the world. Happiness results. This is what moves me.

I’m sorry, but I can’t get excited about a celeb’s fashion faux paux. When you have lived ravages, it’s impossible to dwell on the frivolous.

It galls to hear atheists revile Christians as a great evil. I assure you: It was not a Christian that drove that kid to twisted thoughts, emotions and actions. It was something sinister. It was something we Christians fight against.

Christian Fellowship Ministries

Resting after a soccer game, these youth are part of the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta Christian school in Guatemala.

Can you be moved to act? Christianity needs Christians who are not side-tracked by selfish desires, who take up the weight of prayer, who take the Good News of hope to the streets.

We lost one. Near you, there’s one who’s on the verge of being lost. Only you are within reach to help, if you will let yourself be moved.

Be a storm chaser

brave the stormWhen it comes to God’s kingdom, we shouldn’t shirk from the adventure. No fear should makes us cower. We should be “bold as lions” and thirst for the things we are most afraid of.

Is it tithing? evangelism? discipleship? church planting? ministry? Take it on, and ride the storm. Don’t seek the comfy life of never challenging the devil. I’d rather die on the warfront than in a retirement home bed.

Dare for more in your Christian walk. Risk for Christ.

Who you are

who you are when you are aloneWhen you are alone, you are weak, vulnerable, defenseless. Contrary to popular Christianity, this does not “reveal” the real you. It may reveal what the devil wants to grind you into.

Who you truly are is your most heroic moment in life. You wouldn’t have achieved that great moment if you had not the character inside. That’s who Jesus wants you to become more and more. He wants you to repeat the command performance.

triumphHow many times have grown distraught because we have believed we “are” who we are when alone? The trouble with this idea, perpetuated in Christian books, firstly is that it’s not in the Bible. The Bible teaches we are weak and should keep ourselves surrounded by people who are going to encourage and nurture the better self inside. What army leaves a soldier alone and abandoned and then blames him if he loses the war?

Too much condemnation has been piled on by authors who think they’re clever by quoting this cliché. Please stop now.

Be freed into joy and realize that your best moment in life is who you are. Your high point augurs good things for your future. Believe in God because He believes in you.

My heart goes out to them…

Cannabalism

Though my heart goes out to the multitudes who have been hurt by “toxic” churches, I am not among those abandoning the church. If Christ instituted, going AWOL cannot be part of the solution, regardless of damage done. You may need to change church, not leave it entirely.

I belong to the group seeking reform for the church. When I see reform, I wish to reform myself. I, a sinner, need to change. I am part of the church. As I change and become truly more Christ-like, the church will better reflect His love.

So many of my posts challenge unbelievers in their unbelief that I am even fearful to publish this challenge to the church to self-examination, self-surgery, self-healing. (I didn’t hardly even dare to make visible the stinging criticism in the picture. Only if you look closely can you make it out.)

Jesus said: As you judge, you will be judged. Let us therefore use mercy one with another. Love those who are hard to love in the church. Don’t come down to their insecurity. If they rattle off criticisms, don’t you do it.

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We can all get along

getting along

I asked you to pray for me…

Pray for meWould that the church would follow 1 John’s admonition to love more closely than it follows America’s spirit of competition…