Tag Archives: Faith

Sinners helping sinners

sinners helping sinnersIt’s the great irony of ministry: I’m far from perfect, and yet I attempt — and sometimes succeed! — in helping other imperfect people.

As ministers of God’s grace, we should never lose sight of the fact that we, ourselves, are sinners. We are NOT the inerrant voice of God. Stay humble.

The world hurls “hypocrite!” I don’t snarl in return. Because basically it’s true. Who can say it’s not? Who is without sin to throw stones?

God’s grace is such that He reaches people with His grace THROUGH imperfect people.

Photo source.

Winning British Open, Zach Johnson glorifies God

2015-british-open-st-andrewsWith scriptures running through his head, Zach Johnson became only one of six golfers to win the Masters at Augusta and the British Open at St. Andrew’s when he beat two others in playoffs for the coveted Claret Jug on July 20.

“I was patient,” said the 39-year-old from Cedars Rapids, Iowa. “I had some Scripture going in my head. I thank the Lord. I thank my friends. I thank my family. I’m just in awe right now. I feel like God gave me the ability to play a game. I’m just a guy from Iowa who’s been blessed with a talent, and this game provided great opportunity.”

Among PGA players, Johnson is not known for killing the ball; he drives 280 yards per stroke. Nor is he the pinpoint putter. But he prepares diligently. When rain postponed a whole day of play, he was practicing wedge shots with his caddie, gauging differing wind conditions.

And he kept calm, remembering Psalm 27:14 throughout his play on the legendary Old Course: “Wait on the Lord: Be of good courage, and He will strengthen your heart.”

To finish the article click here.

Change is necessary

change is necessaryYou’ve been fighting it for years. You’re in denial. You don’t need to change; it’s your spouse. You don’t need to change your diet. You don’t need to seek God.

But the wrong-doing — even when you insist you’re doing nothing wrong — catches up with all of us. And we have to make a change.

I rejoice at seeing chubby people at the gym. They got a bit out of hand, but they are taking control of their lives. I recently met a man who gave up sugar and goes to the gym. He’s off the myriad daily pills his doctor gave him before. And he looks a lot younger than he is.

It’s time to turn to God. Don’t fear the changes in your life. They will bring good results to your life.

*I don’t own the image, and I’m not making any money on it.

Change is easy

change is easy

Friday night was temptation for me when I was in college. So I started attending my church’s Spanish service. I practiced my linguistic abilities, made friends and kept my distance from sin.

Sometimes the changes we need in our lives are not as hard as we imagine. All you need is a good attitude and make a simple change.

The television was a source of temptation for us. We got rid of it. Now we have more time to serve Jesus, and that makes us happy.

Don’t suffer. Sometimes all you need to do is tweek your routine ever so slightly to make a big difference in the results. Change can be easy.

Change is possible

change

This is what makes us human. We can analyze. We can improve. We can alter habits, thought patterns and outcomes. If we are doing poorly, we can’t get in the lane headed towards success.

This is what makes us Christians. We embrace change, change brought from above, supernatural change. Hopelessness is discarded. Joy replaces it. Love fills the heart, peace, the mind.

Don’t keep suffering. Don’t stay the same. Jesus wants to help you change.

*I don’t own the rights to the original pic, and I’m not making any money on it.

A street kid off the streets, only through the power of Christ

Iglesia Cristiana La Puerta Zona 1 Ciudad Guatemala

Daniel poses with me a few days ago.

He slept on the streets with only cardboard boxes for a cushion — and he slept well “as if it were the best hotel in the world,” Daniel Paz says.

This was the life. Rebellious, he had left home when he was 14, and now the 20 or so street kids who inhabited the Plaza Mariachi in Guatemala City were his comrades of the wild, “happy” life of no rules, no one to tell him what to do, or what not to do.

The phenomenon of street children is widespread in Latin America, and governmental agencies have been largely ineffective in their efforts to rescue and re-incorporate into society the millions of minors who make their beds on cement. A large-scale effort in Brazil that institutionalized half a million street kids in 1985 failed, according to Wikipedia.

The key for Daniel, who spent 15 years on the streets, was Christ, and his story speaks to the church’s need to be the answer.

While his friends inhaled wood alcohol and shoe glue, Daniel kept the party life low key – mostly drinking beer and smoking. This was God moving in his life because the  cheaper drugs they consumed burned brain cells.

Daniel had accepted Christ once when he saw Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” in a church in his neighborhood when he was 12.

“Before that, I had never heard anything about Christ,” he says. “I knew nothing about the devil, about sin, about the world. I knew nothing about salvation.”

Unfortunately, Daniel didn’t keep attending services beyond two months. Rebelliousness won out – for a while.

After turning his back on his emerging faith, Daniel made his home in the streets. Most of the time, he made money selling plastic roses to romantic couples in restaurants and bars. A lot of his clients were the guys who fell for bar girls, who moonlighted as prostitutes.

Daniel was affable and flirted with these girls. They liked Daniel and would turn their charms on patrons: “Aw! Buy me a roooose” they would whine romantically. If the patron liked the girl, he would pay for it and give it to her.

For a brief period, Daniel fell into robbery. He and four street kids would strike at night surrounding any person who was walking home alone. They never used a weapon but would intimidate and demand the victim hand over wallet and cell phone. Read the rest of the article.

I’m still in Guatemala

Mike Ashcraft

With the 4th grade in the school my wife and I founded almost 20 years ago.

Pushing paperwork is slow and tedious in the Third World, so I really had no idea how long it would take and rather arbitrarily bought a round-trip return flight for July 23. Now, I’m going to have to miss that flight, and there is no end in sight.

Because of government requirements for the school in Guatemala, I have to get the national identity card called DPI. To get this, I need to update my permanent residency. That is half done. But they just told me the other half will take at least a week. I’m not crying, though I do miss my wife and kids. I’m taking advantage to preach in the church and encourage the brethren.

All this means costs are rising of this trip. You can contribute by hitting my gofund.me/MikeToGuatemala.

What a difference God’s love makes!

nurturing loveI have found love in God! You can too!

Or you can try to get by without it. Good luck.

*I don’t own the rights to this pic. It’s by crazy-frankenstein. I am not making any money on it. Kudos to the artist who did this. It’s really cool. I just added words to it.

Identify yourself as closely as possible with your target audience

Guatemala ministries

All the kids gather for a photo with birthday hats on.

That’s what Jesus did. He didn’t stay aloof but descended from Heaven and took the form of man to earn us salvation.

When you reach out to people, you should become one of them (there are exceptions).

In the photo, I’m with the kids, whom I love, from the church and school in Guatemala that my wife and I started (although really God started it) 20 years ago.

You gain nothing by making yourself superior to others, standoffish, untouchable. People want a tangible and real person to follow, not an image from afar.

Christ brings color to your life

color to your lifeTired of drab? Jesus will take your black-and-white life of money or sin and paint something beautiful out of it. He made me a person who helps other out of self-destruction. First I was a missionary in Guatemala. Now I work in a Christian school. You can have a purpose in your life!

*Photo Credit: James M. Berry, photographer extraordinaire, and a great friend.

Narrow places

narrow path ChristianityThe Narrows enjoys status as maximum attraction in Zion National Park. Indeed, the charming stream has carved through the rock canyon some of the eeriest and most beautiful geological sights in the world.

Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only  a few find it. — Matthew 7:14 NIV. Lots of youth abandon the church because they long for freedom — freedom to sin. The chafe against the strictures of the Word of God. They want to drink or fornicate.

But beauty is in the narrow way of Jesus. There is love, friendship, successful family, peace, joy, blessing.

Zion National Park | NarrowsWhile you are leaving the church happy to be “free,” notice first those who are coming into the church wanting to be free from drugs, alcohol, and the myriad of traps the devil tends with sophisticated arguments from the universities of America.

You can come back. We welcome and love you. As for me, I want to stay in the Narrows.

Goodbye, for now. Hello soon. (True friendship)

She left our school this year to move to the East Coast with her family. Goodbye.

She left our school this year to move to the East Coast with her family. Goodbye.

You never really say goodbye in Christianity.

One of the hardest things about ministry is when people leave because you love them.

But I’ve hung around long enough to see that Christian friends are true friends. I would venture to say that only Christian friends can be true friends. Because they offer a friendship that doesn’t die out through separation or adversity.

And yes, some friends we won’t see until Heaven.

Guatemala mission

With my longtime friends, Aparicio and Max, at the church we founded 20 years ago. Only in Christ does friendship last.

But on my trip to Guatemala, I’ve been reunited with friends, guys who helped form the church 20 years ago when I was a missionary here. We were great friends, comrades in the war for souls. And we still are great friends.

Former Sandinista now part of God’s army

Alex Delgado | Guatemalan church La PuertaThe Contras slipped in during the wee hours of the morning and slit the throats of sleeping Sandinistas, sometimes 30, sometimes 50, sometimes the whole battalion of 350 before they disappeared undetected into the forbidding jungle.

Not so with Alex Delgado’s battalion. His lieutenant had received training from the strictest military specialists in communist bloc East Germany, and Tito Castillo never let a guard fall asleep.

Alex didn’t join the Sandinistas, the former Marxist government of Nicaragua that the Contras sought to topple, because of ideology. As a matter of fact, Alex really had no idea about the meaning of communism and capitalism.

He was just an 18-year-old, the seventh child in his family, ignored among the many mouths to feed. With no one pushing him to study, with no future in sight, Alex got swept up in the euphoria at the beginnings of the Sandinista government with hopes of eradicating the corruption of the former regime.

But the decision to join what seemed like a winning cause turned into two years of sheer misery. He trudged 10 hours a day, in danger of ambush, in danger of trip wires, gathering energy from inadequate food (they once made soup with roots and tree limbs).

His commander voiced vivid dreams of finding the enemy and decimating them in combat. Inside, Alex prayed to a God he didn’t yet know to never find the enemy – and God granted his wish. The only deaths in his battalion were from an ambush on a supply pickup and a friend while fording a river.

Body bags from other battalions flooded homes; sometimes they were left on the doorstep to be found by parents after soldiers rang the doorbell and fled at midnight.  For the rest of the article, click here.

Life is like an airplane trip

life is an airplane tripAtheists deny the final destination. They affirm only what they can see and perceive immediately in front of them.

Hedonists try to enjoy the ride as much as possible because they’re not sure if there’s anything afterward.

But the airplane trip is just an airplane trip. Compared to eternity, life is short, uncomfortable and unpleasant. You can pay for more amenities. But the final destination is where the enjoyment really begins.

Don’t make the trip your everything.

Here are the rewards (People are the best reward)

Liceo bilingue La Puerta | GuatemalaYou give your life. You help people instead of helping yourself. You wonder is it worth it?

Here are the results. She became a dentist. He is becoming an architect. The other sister is in charge of a call center. The English I taught them helped them all. They attended our Christian school in Guatemala.

It has been many years since I have seen them. To see them achieving success in Guatemala makes me satisfied. My wife and I did all we could to help. God and their parents did the rest.

A big shout out

And the kudos are for you too! There are those who gave to my fundraising campaign and those who will give you. But the Bible says you share in the fruits. We put the ticket for me to come down her on the credit card, and we still have not raised up full support. So thank you for pitching in! Here’s the link to contribute gofund.me/MikeToGuatemala

Iglesia Cristiana La Puerta | GuatemalaJohn Mira preached and I translated. He already returned to the United States, and I’m staying here to move paperwork with the government for the school. I’m preaching the regular services. God moved powerfully last night.

People are the best reward.

The beauty of children

colegio cristiano guatemala

The smiling faces at the Christian school El Liceo Bilingue La Puerta in Guatemala City

One of the strong points of the ministry in Guatemala is the school and its children. If you save a 40-year-old, he will serve Christ for 40 years (supposing he lives to 80). But if you save a 12-year-old, he will serve Christ 68 years.

Of course, it’s good to get the old guy saved; he needs it as much as the young guy. But there are certain advantages to working with youth. You also help them avoid so many sins and destruction if they learn to live wisely from a young age. Well, that has been our philosophy behind the Christian school, El Liceo Bilingue La Puerta. We’ve seen some great testimonies through the years.

John Mira, man of God

John Mira, man of God, with the pastor in Guatemala.

There’s great joy in seeing the smiling faces: so many kids needing and receiving love. My friend, John Mira, is here with me. He’ll be preaching, and I’m translating. He preached to the junior highers in Bible class. It gives them the chance to accept Christ and point their lives in a positive direction.

A bit nervy… Need to keep trusting Jesus

John Mira | Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica

Mike Ashcraft and John Mira, members of the Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica.

I’m writing this from LAX. We put the ticket on the credit card, and so I’m off to Guatemala. My fundraising campaign has been a bit hair-raising. Hahaha. JK. What I mean to say is that you can still donate because I haven’t raised all the funds yet. Gofundme is convenient gofund.me/MikeToGuatemala

Taking this trip is moving by faith. I’m praying and believing that God will bring in all the finances. It’s easier for me to just stay in America and not risk, but there are critical needs now in the church I founded 16 years ago — paperwork that only I can do as the owner of the school, el Liceo Bilingue La Puerta.

Pastor John Mira is going with me. He was born in the Philippines and got saved in the United States. He became a lawyer, works with stocks, but his real vocation is preaching the gospel. He’s passionate about it.

He was one of my first friends when I returned to the States five years ago from the mission field. His son was in my class, and I reached out to him. And he always encouraged me. This is the first time I’m tag-teaming up with him for some spiritual warfare abroad.

I ask you to pray for us! Thank you!

Christian soccer star brings home women’s World Cup

holiday's goalLauren Holiday’s stunning volley against Japan was the third of a tsunami of goals that gave the U.S. Women’s National Team the Women’s World Cup on July 5.

Though winning that competition and two Olympic gold medals for women’s soccer has been gratifying for Holiday, it pales in comparison with her love for Christ.

“Success is being the best soccer player I can be,” the midfielder says. “The wonderful, wonderful thing about loving Jesus is, it’s not about me. And the spotlight isn’t on me. So when I do step out on the field, I get to play with freedom because I don’t have to worry about if I score or what happens if we lose or if I make a bad pass, because success isn’t determined on that with Christ.”

Holiday, 27, retired from international soccer immediately after winning the cup. She is part of a cadre of Christians on the national squad that also includes Tobin Heath, Amy Rodriguez, Heather O’Reilly and Jillian Loyden.

Holiday was raised in a Lutheran Church but embraced a vibrant faith when she went into junior high school.

“I went to some youth camps and that’s where I started to discover the presence of God,” she told BeliefNet. “I was able to experience God through the singing and by talking to other girls that had similar experiences. That opened my eyes but I still had to seek out that relationship.” Read the rest of the article.

He once caroused the streets of Scotland. Now he preaches in them.

Scotland Christianity revivalFor his 40th birthday he planned a 3-day drinking binge at a hotel in Edinburgh for him and five buddies, but his Dad called. His mother was deathly sick.

At the hospital, the surgeon said his mom, who had suffered a massive heart attack, had two days to live. Stephen Christie let his born-again sister stay with her that night, and he would come in the morning.

“When I went in the very next day, I didn’t know what to expect,” Steve says. “What was I going to see? Am I going to see sadness or depression? Am I going to see tears nonstop? I walked into the hospital room, and there my mom was lying in her bed, knowing she’s going to die, but with a huge grin on her face.

“I asked my sister Jacqi, ‘What’s happened? Has he got the wrong diagnosis?’ She said, ‘No, Steve, it’s better. Mom is saved.’

“I went, ‘Saved? Saved from what?’”

Four years ago, the baffling grin of a dying mom was the first “link of the chain” leading Steve, now 44, to salvation and to outreach in the streets. Today, the Scotsman from Aberdeen chides himself for shelving the Bibles, tracts and CDs his sister left in an effort to see him come to Christ.

His conversion and subsequent involvement in ministry is heartening for a nation that helped found the Protestant Reformation through John Knox but now languishes in spiritual apathy that many observers call “post Christian” times. Read the rest of the article.

The Gates of Hell or the Gates of Righteousness

heaven hell gatesIt all depends on your perspective, from where you come and where you want to go.

If you want to bolt from Christianity, the gateway bears the title: “The Gates to Hell.” But if you are already in the life of hellishness and you want to escape to Christianity, the headpost declares: “The Gates of Righteousness.” But it is the same doorway.

Either you exit godliness or you exit godlessness. Either you enter the world and the wide path that leads to destruction, or you enter salvation by grace and continuing a walk with Christ that leads to blessing and Heaven. But it is the same doorway by which some enter and others leave.

The fire re-ignited all by itself

campfireA light drizzle snuffed out our camp fire.

Then it ceased. Soon the wood burst back into flame.

I had never seen anything like it before. My brother, who in addition to being an experience camper is an engineer with a scientific understanding of a lot of things, explained that there wasn’t enough rain to cool the logs. When the remaining heat within in the logs evaporated all the water out of the logs, since there was still a burning heat, the flames returned.

To me it just looked like magic.

Maybe you’ve lost your fire for Christ. God will bring it back. God is at work where we cannot see, in ways we cannot understand.

Get out of the campsite (and other life lessons from Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park)

lessons for life | Angel's Landing

If you never try in life, you will miss all the breath-taking views and the thrill of achievement.

1. Get out of the campsite. It represents playing it safe. No risk means no reward. Angel’s Landing hike info came with ample warnings: strenuous, dangerous, arduous. Plus, who knew if was even interesting. Had we hearkened to worry, we would have missed one of the best views in the world. A challenge beckons. Take a challenge.

Angel's Landing hike | Zion National Park

The trail is chiseled into the sandstone up the cliff wall. Impressive and fun!

2. You never know how far you can go until you try. The hike in Zion National Park was too long. I told my family that when we get tired, we turn back. But we kept going, tantalized by the possibility of another spectacular view. And we made it to the very end. It’s called Angel’s landing because the narrow ledge is so high up and so remote, that it was said that only angels could alight there.

Angel's Landing | Zion National Park

The trail follows the ridge to the left of Rob’s shoulder. It looks daunting but actually is not difficult if you just take one step at a time.

3. Keep your momentum going. Don’t get overwhelmed by the distance nor the elevation ahead. Just put one foot ahead of another. If you’re trying to get free from drugs or trying to establish a business, just do your best progress today. When you are working well, don’t slow. I breezed through the heart-breaking 21 switchbacks because I felt a second wind, and I just kept going.

Angel's Landing | Zion National Park4. Stick with you group. At some point, I left my wife behind because I thought she didn’t want to go the whole way. Oops! What a jerk I was. Because I left her behind, she got upset at me. Stay with those who have always stayed with you. Let your individual triumphs be group triumphs.

5. The spectacular is ahead. The view from Angel’s Landing was almost the best I’ve ever seen in the world (Yosemite tops it). Had I never tried, I would have never known. Too often we don’t even try something because we think it involves more effort than its worth.

The ultimate road trip (to Heaven)

Yellowstone River

Yellowstone River

My family and I are on a road trip through Yellowstone, Arches and Zion. We’re doing half camping, half glamping (“glamorous camping” = visiting national parks but staying at hotels).

Waterfalls, rivers, trees, geological wonders and animals have highlighted this trip. The driving has been a bit of a killer. I can’t wait to get to Heaven where you can just travel by thought.

photo(115)Yellowstone is so vast that if you drive every road and hike every trail, you only see 2% of the park. That statistic astonished me.

Here’s a park that showcases the artwork of God. And God hid so many surprises for us to enjoy. What will Heaven be like?

The ultimate road trip is the one to Heaven. We’ve had breakdowns. We got rained on. We got sun-burned. We ran out of water. We ran out of chips. But we keep going until we reach the destination.

Name on Coke can? Not as big a deal as your name in the Book of Life

name on CokeWith slacking sales, Coke is churning out gimmicks to get people to buy their chemical and sugar poison. Their latest: put names on the can. It’s an old strategy: Flatter your customer. There’s some kind of thrill of sense of immortality to see your name right along with the most American of soft drinks.

But it isn’t anything. What’s truly worthwhile is to have your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. THAT gets you in to Heaven.

Coke just gets you there quicker.

I got a selfie with a bison

bison | Yellowstone National Park

Actually, this is my son in Yellowstone National Park

So you got a selfie with a celebrity?

Chances are that I don’t even know who the guy/girl is.

Why are we so fascinated obsessed with stars who aren’t stars before the eyes of God?

I’m fascinated with God’s creation, not media gods.

That sun felt like hell

photo(114)I’m sun-whipped. We went to Arches National Park to see some other-worldly geology. It was really incredible, but when the sun came out, I just wanted to hide.

Actually, I panicked. We were doing the 1-and-a-half mile walk to Delicate Arch. I never made it. In fact, I think I very nearly suffered heat stroke. Fortunately, I knew exactly what to do. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough water.

So I begged hikers for some. And my heart beat slowed. The dizziness left. Some people who don’t even know me saved my life — or at least saved me from being sent to a hospital.

Anyhow, I had some thoughts about the sun. I don’t think we’ll ever have an energy crisis. We just need to learn how to harness solar energy better. Also, I reminded myself just how much I really don’t want to go to Hell. If I can’t bear the searing sun, how much more ought I avoid Hell?

Also, I had some thoughts about water. It was foolhardiness to flout the trailhead warning: two liters of water for every hiker. We had one liter for a family of five. It was cloudy when we started, and I wasn’t going to be denied the sight of this exquisite arch. Or so I thought.

Not only was a I denied the sight, but I very nearly had to be air-lifted to a hospital. Scary stuff.

And the antidote was simple: Bring enough water.

Jesus says He’s the Water of Eternal Life. Lots of people are flouting the warning at the trailhead to bring water. Don’t do it. It’s bad.

Souls are crying

Gautemala mission

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

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

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

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

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

constanly improve

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

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

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

kelly o hara goal against germany

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

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

The semi final victory sends the USWNT closer to championship.

The semi final victory sends the USWNT closer to championship.

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

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

Gather in the light

the gathering darkness

Gather in the souls. Each soul is a light to burn brightly for Christ, the Chief and Source of Light. Fret not about the thickening darkness. No matter how tiny your light, no matter how overwhelming the darkness appears to grow, your light will be seen. Don’t run away from the world and hide like hermits. To the contrary, get out more and more into the world and let your light shine.

The easier it gets to get into sin, the more desperate people will become. The more desperate they become, the more they will want Christ. We Christians will be there to rescue them.

Driven to your knees

driven to your kneesPerfect. Then you are ready to pray.

Internet evangelism of youth

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

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

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

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

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

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

As the world grows darker, rejoice

this gathering darknessSin is flaunted, parading, justified on every side, but we don’t circle the wagons. Because the darker it gets, the brighter the light shines. Be of good cheer, my brothers and sisters, and shine on for Jesus!

Keep calm and keep shining.

I wanted to help my friend Zeke.

IMG_3531It’s been two long years that I have wanted to visit my friend, Ezekiel. I met him playing soccer just before the accident. I wanted to pray for him and embrace him. He lived far away, in Salt Lake City.

I wanted to somehow bless him. Instead, he blessed me.

I got a vision of him preaching. I saw him functioning as a powerful man of God. I could totally visualize him being used by God. I saw no obstacles for him.

This was convicting to me. Because I see all kinds of limitations and disqualifiers for myself. While I had no doubt that God wanted to use Zeke, I am plagued by doubts about myself.

Starbucks is doomed. How can they survive this?

25 cents cup of coffee

A 25 cent cup of coffee in Gardiner. Once this spreads like wildfire, how will Starbucks survive the cutthroat competition?

Who will pay $5 a coffee when they’re offering the cup at 25 cents? LOL.

My car broke down in Yellowstone, so we are stranded in a little town I had never heard of: Gardiner. We’ll be here for a while, so our vacation destination has changed from the glorious, transcendent Mt. Rushmore to the quaint and picturesque Gardiner.

And look what I’ve already discovered! Coffee at 25 cents a cup. Beat that, Santa Monica!

I don’t know yet just how good the java is, but considering I’ve been drinking hotel coffee and instant coffee at our campsite, maybe it won’t be bad. (Actually I’m not the keenest coffee connoisseur. I recently bought a water filter to improve my home brew and could discern no difference from the the chlorine saturated version.)

Having owned my shortcomings, I wish to observe that we (Americans) squander great gobs of money on dubious needs. Meanwhile the call of the gospel languishes under-financed.

I love waterfalls


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

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

Water is life, beauty, tranquility.

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

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

Your best chance for peace in the world: earbuds and loneliness

peace | earbuds and loneliness


Good luck — if you wish to find peace in the world.

True peace can be found in God.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. — John 14:24.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 4:7

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. — Isaiah 26:3

This would be easier if it were Minecraft

… and other words of wisdom from my 13-year-old son.

pulling out the trunk

The trunk on the curbside.

We were helping my brother pull out a stump from his garden. It was an eyesore that annoyed the neighbors in Idaho Falls. While Don is recovering from a ski accident and his wife, Barbra, gets back pains struggling with weight, their son young son Mark was day by day trying to dig it out. He worked hard, but he didn’t have any help. And he was little.

So I showed up with my 17-year-old and my 13-year-old son. We made pretty short work of it. We dug under it. We axed the roots. Then we pried it out and rolled it to the curb. Next we helped Barbra plant some flowers, shoveled in the dirt and watered.

The team did the job. Hosea, my younger son, was impressed by the amount of work involved.

the flower patch

The finished product, the flower patch.

“This would be easier if it were Minecraft,” he observed. This is prepubescent wisdom at its finest.

It seems strange to me that Minecraft is popular because it is a throwback, a low definition graphics game. In any case, kids either build things or strike out on adventures. I’m not sure why it’s so popular. But yeah, pulling out a trunk on Minecraft is pretty much easier than in real life.

As a matter of fact, pretty much everything on video games is easier than in real life. Take marriage for example. Making it work is no easy thing. Personally, I pray and work at it. People seem to think they shouldn’t have to work at it, that it should work all by itself.

Removing rooted sins from your life is also a bunch of work. Pulling out that tree trunk made me think about how difficult it can be get a bad habit out (like smoking, or maybe anger).

Yeah, Minecraft’s definitely easier. But life is real. And I don’t want to live in a fantasy world. I want to live and find happiness and success in the real world. So I do hard work.

Fund me, please

Mike Ashcraft | Guatemala

I’m visiting my brother in Idaho Falls

Hey hey! to all my loyal followers. This blog has been a spot for inspiration, for gently challenging atheists, for encouraging Christians. I’ve brought you tales from all over the globe. I’ve incorporated my reporting for GodReports.com

As much cool stuff as I’ve done, I don’t get paid to blog. I also don’t get paid as a high school teacher at a small private Christian school. So I’m asking for a little bit of help to get to Guatemala, to the church my wife and I founded starting 20 years ago. I haven’t checked airfares yet, but it’ll probably be $750.

I’m asking you to support me http://www.gofundme.com/MikeToGuatemala. I totally understand if you don’t have any spare cash to help out (that’s the way I am! :D). But maybe some of you guys can help. I really appreciate it!

Too hurried, too worried

Carli Loyd bests a Columbian player

Carli Loyd bests a Columbian playe

The U.S. Women’s National Team doesn’t look like a winning team. To be sure, they’ve got good defense, a good goalie, good passing. But once they get the ball up top, they invariably strike as quickly as possible. It looks as if they are trying to shoot because they’re afraid they’ll lose possession.

This straight-to-goal strategy can catch opponents off guard. But a good offense varies its methods. The quality of the players is such that they should be able to maintain possession in their opponents’ half, probing patiently and waiting for a slip-up to exploit.

Sometimes, I’m too hurried and worried. Sometimes I lose my self-possession. The best strategy in life is to remain calm, not get upset, to manifest the peace of Jesus that comes in the Spirit.

womens team

Celebrating a goal

I wouldn’t be surprised if the U.S. women lose this World Cup. I hope they manage to win regardless of flawed strategy.

The nice thing about Christianity is that one day you can blow it, and the next you can recover and keep on serving Jesus. Not so much is at stake. One day’s mistake can be rectified. Jesus is teaching us to mature every day. Don’t live life too hurried, too worried. :D

*I don’t own the rights to these photos, and I’m not making any money on them.

Pray, don’t panic

dont panic just pray

I don’t subscribe to the myth that I have everything under control. There are people who actually believe that they have so much money, talent, good looks, whatever, that they always will win in life.

Sometimes things appear to spin out of control. In those moments, I need to stay calm and remember who I am trusting. Don’t panic; just pray.

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

Taiwan | study in America | high school

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He stole cars. Then Jesus stole his heart.

Pastor Chayo Perez

With his wife and two of his four children at the Tucson Door Church Bible conference.

By age 14, Rosario “Chayo” Perez was stealing pickup trucks from Tucson and bringing them across the border, where mafiosos paid him $1,000 each.

“When you’re 14, and you’re making $1,000 a week, that’s good money,” he says. He dropped out of school after finishing the 6th grade. “I figured, ‘Why would I need school?’”

When Chayo was 16, his best friend was murdered at his house on Christmas day. The killer was looking for Chayo to avenge some wrong. “But my friend took the hit and got killed,” he remarks grimly.

“Life was such a haze,” he recalls. “You’re high so much, drunk so much, that the reality of death doesn’t hit you.”

radical conversion Christ

In his days of running the streets

Once a group of fellow hoodlums, seeking revenge, left a man bloodied and nearly dead.

“I reached a point where I was sick and tired,” Chayo said. “I was living like an animal – just partying, drinking, using drugs and fighting.”

Then his older brother, Alex, got saved at a church that street-preached and evangelized earnestly.

“He would come witness to me while I was partying with my buddies,” Chayo said. “I started to get sick of him. I kept telling him to leave me alone.”

Then one time, Alex found Chayo drinking beer with his buddies. It was embarrassing for Chayo. The other guys started to make fun of Chayo for his brother. Chayo threatened him and told him to leave him alone.

“He said, ‘Ok,’” Chayo recalls. “’But let me pray for you and if nothing happens, I’ll leave you alone.’ I put my beer down. He prayed for me, and the Holy Ghost came down. I started weeping. My friends were freaking out because I was weeping. It was something supernatural. Even to this day, I can’t explain it.” Read the rest of the article.

Giving to the poor is overrated

Christian loveIf you give to the poor BECAUSE of love, that is a very good thing. But Paul seems to indicate that a human could give to the poor without having love. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and have not love, it profits me nothing. — 1 Cor. 13:3.

Maybe people give to the poor to appease their conscience or to compensate their evil actions with good ones. What’s surprising is that we can DO loving things without love.

Of course, I think love is an action (like giving to the poor). Yeah, no smug love that I just wish upon the world without doing anything to alleviate the world’s sufferings. Indeed, Prov. 19:17 says: Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.

Love’s the answer. What was the question?

Love's the answerThis one is not my wisdom. It comes from http://justmebeingcurious.com/ So thanks for him for allowing me to share it here.

It certainly appears to me that another prominent religion is based on hate, but Christianity, whose adherents get killed around the world and then forgive, is based on love.

This is how you know that white supremacists are NOT Christian. They are in hate, not love. They reflect those who crucified Christ.

How do we reach a generation that gets further away from God by the day? Love. How do we Christians — not our secular government — respond to nations who send terrorists to wreak carnage? We send missionaries. We send love.

How do we face bitter accusing people in the church? Do we descend to their wickedness? No, we must respond with love.

Love is the answer. It is so much the totality of the answer that we can even forget the question.

Faith is overrated

faith is overrated

This is a tough one because Jesus spent most of his time upbraiding his disciples for not having enough faith. So faith was very nearly the characteristic he most cultivated.

So to dismiss faith’s importance borders on heresy. Faith is not unimportant! It is just lesser important than love.

Paul is resetting Corinthian theology, which was heavy on the sizzle and bang of show-off spiritual gifts. He forms a chaismus with chapter 12 and 14 talking about spiritual gifts. Then he says: But I will show you a better way. In the middle, he talks about love.

The ancients didn’t have all caps or highlight to draw attention to their writing. They didn’t have exclamation marks. So they made up the chiasmus, a rhetorical device that repeats a them twice, with the highlighted material in the middle. (It’s kind of like a hamburger. It’s not the two breads on top and bottom. The tasty important part is in between the breads.)

In the middle, then, Paul says, Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. — 1 Cor. 13:2.

In Christianity, love is the pinnacle of perfection. Holiness is not so much resisting temptation as it is having compassion on those who have fallen into temptation.

Spiritual gifts are overrated

supernatural gifts

It’s impressive when somebody asks you how you knew. You gave words, disclosed by the Holy Spirit, to encourage a person in a very specific way. Or you prayed for a person and he got healed. Using the fireworks can be a thrill — and it can make you feel like a spiritual hotshot.

But just lighting off fireworks doesn’t make you a Christian. Nor does it mean you have a blackbelt in spirituality.

No the blackbelt comes when you love someone who is hating you violently.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy… and have not love, I am nothing. — 1 Cor. 13:1-2

Curry’s Christianity

lebron curryStephen Curry, who picked the lock to Cleveland’s defense to win the NBA championship, likes to point people to “the Man who died for our sins on the cross.”

Curry was named the NBA 2015 most valuable player and led the Golden State Warriors to the championship, but he said worldly prizes don’t compare with Heavenly ones.

“I know I have a place in Heaven waiting for me because of Him, and that’s something no earthly prize or trophy could ever top,” Curry told Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

LeBron James seemed to be willing his way to the championship for the Cleveland Cavaliers, without two of his supporting stars who were injured. Curry was floundering with low points as the finals initially favored the Cavaliers 2-1. Read the rest of the article.

Martyrdom is overrated

martyrdom

Though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. — 1 Cor. 13:3

Raymond Lull sought to be stoned, so he went to an Islamic country and street-preached. Goal attained.

Why did he actively pursue martyrdom? Because Medieval Christians promulgated the myth that martyrs have the surest entrance into Heaven. The idea was so widely embraced that people born into Christendom would live for the devil all their lives and then seek martyrdom at the end, thinking they would thus be assured Heaven.

Martyrdom is overrated. It’s not the apex of Christianity. The quintessence of Christianity was shown yesterday by family members of the nine South Carolina victims of race-hater killer Dylann Roof when they addressed him in court and forgave him.

Love is Christianity’s highest virtue, its greatest sign of maturity, its most vaunted ideal. Raymond Lull would have done better to keep living and serving Jesus.

These are the truest Christians I’ve ever heard

How can the victims’ families forgive the confessed killer of nine blacks in an AME church in South Carolina. He tried to start a race war. It looks like he started a revival.

May all those filled with the sin of racism let the love of Jesus into their hearts. We whites have done hundreds of years of gravest crimes against blacks. It is our time to repent.

Martin Luther King Jr. knew that the love of Christ would prevail. I can only pray to God to have the sincere faith of these brothers and sisters in Christ who, in the moment of fresh pain, unreservedly forgive the killer of their loved ones and invite him to Christ.

(Originally, I tried unsuccessfully to a shorter embed video from the New York Times. Then I found it on YouTube. This video is a must-see for anyone curious about true Christianity.)

I wish gas were like salvation

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

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

I wish gas were like salvation: free.