Tag Archives: God

Well, that was easy #ValleyBoyPastor gets first people in his Bible study

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After three Bible studies with 0 in attendance, 5 people came today. I was blessed to host my neighbors, a family. It was wonderful to help them find Mark. I hope they soon find Jesus.

This venture into Van Nuys is taking me out of luxurious Santa Monica. My family likes the beachside city with cool breezes in the summer, but my eyes are caulking with glaze after I sit in church and hear sermon after sermon. God has called me to be on the playing field, not in the bleachers. So when my pastor spoke to me about the possibility of apartment-managing in Van Nuys, I considered it in prayer and meditation for about a nano second and begged and pleaded on my knees volunteered for the job.

I suppose the previous manager did me a huge favor. She was, um, a tad grumpy. So by contrast, I come off as a saint. Maybe I’m in the honeymoon stage of the job, but I can see palpably the distinct advantage of starting a church by apartment managing. Instead of trying to build relationship with people who have their guard up, the position gives me instant rapport: I’m not after something. I have a job to do — serve them. If I serve them the way Jesus would want me to, they might be happy. In turn, this has the potential to predispose them to an openness of coming to a Bible study.

The Bible study message: repentance, it’s not as bad as it seems.

I want to thank all of you for prayer. Your prayers are working miracles in the hearts of men.

 

But there are giants in the land #ValleyBoyPastor

IMG_0367(1)Anytime you want to do something GOOD, major opposition looms.

If, however, you want to do something BAD, the path forward is a glittery and easy speedway.

What scared the Israelites and sent them back into the desert for 40 years, what kept them from their destiny, were giants. These guys were 9-feet tall — and there was no NBA back then. The whining spies said they felt like cockroaches compared to them.

It can be intimidating to do ministry. But God can knock those giants down. The taller they are, the harder the fall, as David found.

I’ve moved to Van Nuys to open a Bible study and possibly parlay it into a church. I’ve found the giant already. I’ve learned you have to stare down giants.

Apartment managing fail #8 #ValleyBoyPastor

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If you hear screams late at night coming from my room, don’t call the cops. Everything is OK. I’m just having a nightmare about dishwashers.

101’s dishwasher was spraying water on the floor. It had been doing so — whenever the tenant infrequently used it — for eight months. The previous manager apparently couldn’t find the problem.

But replacing it was no slam dunk. The Home Depot guys returned because the voltage was 220. The electrician scolded me because the shut-off valve was corroded and sprayed him. The tenant feels like her apartment has turned into a museum as I, the handyman and an assortment of workers traipse through day after day.

Ugh.

I’m the Valley Boy Pastor, and I’m new at apartment managing. And I’m loving it. It offers me the chance to make friends and win souls on the basis of the rapport of being the manager. I guess you could say the job is a little bit “complex.” Sorry, can’t resist a pun regardless of the quality.

Thanks for your prayers for this church plant. So far, no one has come to the Thursday Bible study.

Loneliness, a great fear

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In Ender’s Game, Col Graeff isolates the child military prodigy: He must never think others will come to help him. He must find within himself the resources to solve his problems and triumph. In the end, the traumatizing “training” pays high dividends. Ender brilliantly defeats the buggers, who twice threatened to wipe out humanity. But the dividends come at a high cost: Ender can have no friends.

I loathe loneliness. I long for friendship, love, acceptance. Why must I face rejection in the place I expect to find love? Does God want me to learn to depend only on Him?

God made us to be social creatures. We thrive on affirmation. Without it, we can spiral. Social interaction can either help us serve Jesus or — depending on our friends — pull us away from Jesus. This is my basic ministerial tenet: give friendship to people and show them the way to Christ. Truth is critically important, but most people are not Socratic. They’re looking for friends, not truth.

Jesus associated himself with the despised: the prostitute, the tax collector, the leper. He touched a leper. That was forbidden by the law. He broke the law of God to grace an affection-starved human being. In medical terms, he risked getting sick to show love.

The church should not have outcasts, pariahs or blacklists. If it does, it approximates more the religious order of the Pharisees than of the disciples.

The answer is not percocet

Jesus bridges the gap

We know pain — all of us. But we don’t know the answer. No, it is not to lose yourself in falling in love or the emotional highs of rock concert. It’s not travel, fashion or achievements.

The answer is Jesus. The root cause of our inner hurt is the inborn separation from God due to sin. The path to joy, peace, love, fulfillment is Jesus.

Gummy bears work as rocket fuel. What does that mean to your belly?


Eventually the myth busters got it right. They had to devise a conical nozzle, and they had to grind the gummy bears into fine powder. But the caloric quantity represented enough stored energy to lift the rocket off its pad and launch it into the air. That’s a lot of stored energy.

Gummy bears are not a healthy snack. They are a quick trip to chubby. And they look so cute and harmless.

If you only knew the stored energy in one of those cute little prayers. Prayer packs a wallop. Just because you don’t see (immediately) the answer from God doesn’t mean nothing is happening. Slowly, surely, you’re building something for God’s kingdom.

The worst of sinners make the best of saints

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John Newton was a wicked man, a slave trader. But a severe storm off the coast of Ireland brought him to his knees and conversion. Years later, the wretch showed his gift. He penned the words to the most-loved Christian hymn, Amazing Grace. Behind the evil, there was a calling, a destiny and talent.

Paul persecuted the church. Aside from Satan, he was probably the early church’s #1 enemy. Then he met Jesus on the road to Damascas. He became the gospel chief propagandist and most avid evangelizer. He wrote the greatest defense and explication of the doctrine of salvation by grace alone in the book of Romans.

Are you rotten today? Salvation is a circuit breaker. We are broken by sin, but with the simplest of prayers, the light comes on in our lives. Then all the good we were destined to bring to this world begins to flow out.

Expecting God

IMG_0241Gideon seriously doubted that God could use him:

  • He questioned why the angel addressed him as “mighty man of God.”
  • He questioned his pedigree and his capability.
  • He asked for a sign twice, in opposite ways from one day to the next.
  • He needed to hear the enemy prophecy his victory.

Despite his doubts, God moved through him greatly. With 300 men, he defeated the Midianites.

As I venture out for a second time in my life to start a church, I have more confidence that God will move. He is blessing each step.

Today, he gave me a free dinner. Some Egyptians in the apartment complex I manage gave me food. Since my wife and kids are still in Santa Monica (until the end of the school year), this is tremendous blessing because I can pretty much cook only scrambled eggs for myself.

If you look for problems on every side, you will find them. If you look for God’s blessing at every point, you will find them. If you expect God to move, He will be happy with your faith. If you doubt His backing, He may move anyhow.

Lose yourself for the gospel

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When it comes time to teaching my high school students what “paradox” means, I turn to the gospels because Jesus relished using them. How can you lose yourself and thus find yourself? It doesn’t make immediate sense, and the carnal mind will never comprehend.

God doesn’t work by contract. He doesn’t tell us what all the perks are. He expects us to live by faith. Your boss, on the other hand, is probably not going to give you a dime more than what’s in the contract. When you serve God, He simply asks you to lose yourself for the gospel.

Then He blesses you more than you can imagine. Of course, if you scoff at this and don’t try it out, you will never see the spiritual law activated when you give to God.

Imperfect prayers. Perfect hearts.

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We probably shouldn’t use prayer manuals with pre-written jargon that we can mindlessly recite. Not even the Lord’s prayer should be considered a magical formula that works even though we pronounce it while the mind wanders elsewhere.

If anything, the Lord’s prayer — or other prayers that we may admire for their theology, their poetry and their balance — should be an inspiration or a teaching. It should not be considered a mathematical formula that if re-employed with exactitude will wrest from Heaven miracles. What matters is your sincerity. And maybe focus.

I don’t think I’ve ever prayed a “perfect” prayer. And I have prayed many prayers. My ever-tenacious sin always bleeds in.

God is merciful. He has answered more prayers than I deserve. He has seen through my vile carnality to some glimmer of anguish, some desperate plea for Him to do what I cannot do, and He has responded.

Don’t look for perfect prayers. Try to have a perfect heart.

Valley Boy Pastor

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I never imagined I would return to the San Fernando Valley. My childhood memories there were mostly not pleasant. I went to college at UCLA, to church in Santa Monica and then to my mission in Guatemala. I only visited the Valley to see my dad.

Now, I’m apartment-managing in Van Nuys, with hopes to starting a church. The welcome in the complex has been heartening. There’s an Egyptian family that’s hooked me up with falafel. Mmmmmm.

The community belongs to the immigrants. Everybody has at least two jobs. These are hard-working, decent people, and it is my joy to share Christ with those who don’t know Him. I’ve been there for a week and half. Your prayers are appreciated for this project.

In our group of churches (Christian Fellowship Ministries), we call this sort of venture “pioneering.” It’s an apt description for a start-up church because you start with no resources other than your own hard work and prayer. You toil long hours to raise up an established church. I saw God do it once for me in Guatemala. This would be the second venture.

Loneliness and suicide

marriageNew York Times says Julie Phillips, a professor of sociology at Rutgers who has studied suicide among middle-aged Americans, said social changes could be raising the risks. Marriage rates have declined, particularly among less educated Americans, while divorce rates have risen, leading to increased social isolation, she said. She calculated that in 2005, unmarried middle-aged men were 3.5 times more likely than married men to die from suicide, and their female counterparts were as much as 2.8 times more likely to kill themselves. The divorce rate has doubled for middle-aged and older adults since the 1990s, she said.

So much for “increasing acceptance of co-habitation.”

Marriage is still the best option, just like God said in his word. Please don’t hang yourself just because you flouted the Bible and then the results of your life turned out bad. The manufacturer’s manual is THE guide for optimal results.

I realize that marriage fails for many. I don’t mean to make light of what has turned painful for you. I don’t mean to sound snotty, but this causes me great sadness. Someone has to tell the world the truth. I’m aiming only at those who would downgrade marriage as an institution and a goal. The downgrade is destroying us, and the evidence is in.

He fled North Korea and found Jesus in China

060515josephkim04awStarving North Korean teenager escaped, found Jesus in China

After his father died his mother abandoned him to go to China in search of food. So Joseph Kim, at 12 years old, became homeless, left to fend for himself in the throes of the great famine of North Korea, which started four years after the USSR collapsed and withdrew its financial support for the communist state.

With no one to turn to, Kim joined other streets urchins begging in the marketplace: “May I have your last spoonful of soup?” he asked with a plaintive cry.

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A kkotjebi in North Korea (not Joseph Kim)

But his stomach was never filled from the handouts of a few gracious diners in his native town.

“They called us kkotjebi, ‘wandering sparrows,’ because of the way we would bend over and look for grains of rice or kernels of corn on the ground,” he said.

Next he resorted to stealing. He wouldn’t pilfer manhole covers because if he got caught he would face execution (since the manhole covers belong to the state and any crime against the state was severely punished). He fell in with a band of thieves who believed they were re-distributing wealth. His comrades eventually were arrested, but mercifully, he was absent when the police raided.

“The famine had thinned out the village, as many of our friends lost grandmothers, aunts, sons and cousins,” Kim wrote in his 2015 book Under the Same Sky: From Starvation in North Korea to Salvation in America. “The graves climbed up the mountainside as if it were infected with a virus.”

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The border between North Korea and China

The young Kim tried the exhausting and dangerous work of coal mining. With no safety equipment and hand-powered ventilation, Kim eked out an existence for three months. But mining only lasted until you died, and with no safety standards, death was usually inevitable.

His relatives entertained him for a time, but some of them were desperately struggling themselves, and another mouth to feed at the table was the last thing they wanted. A few relatives were simply greedy and lazy.

Without an immediate family, “either you lived with rich relatives or you stole – or you died,” Kim observes grimly. “Really, those were your only options.”

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When he was guarding his uncle’s vegetable crops (from thieves like himself), he met an ex-convict who imparted a wonderful secret: If he managed to elude authorities and defect to China, the Christian churches there would give him money.

What was a Christian church? Kim wondered. Raised in the closed and atheistic totalitarian regime, he had been taught to revere the country’s leader and distrust outsiders – especially Americans and Japanese, who had no greater pleasure than to drive bayonets through North Koreans.

“Why do Christians give money to strangers?” Kim asked the ex-convict.

reddit joseph kim“It’s just what Christians do,” he replied. “They give things away. They’re not like normal people.”

One day, almost on a whim, with no previous planning or preparation, he decided to cross the frozen Tumen River bordering China on foot in plain daylight. His audacity contributed to his success. No one ever dared defect during the day. At night, those who got caught were either shot or tortured in prison.

When North Korean soldiers finally caught sight of him on the far side of the river, their shouts were more of astonishment than outrage. Not a shot was fired. He was only 14-years-old.

Once in China, Kim decided he would try to find his long-lost sister, Bong Sook, who had been sold off by their mother – either to be wedded or to sex exploitation, he didn’t know which. But before he could find her, he had to avoid capture by Chinese soldiers who would send him back to North Korea, where he would be imprisoned.

When he knocked on doors in the countryside asking for food, some Chinese were gruff and told him to go away. He had heard about the limitless riches of China and couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t share. A few gave him food. He slept in an abandoned house or under the stars.

Eventually, Kim made his way to the city of Yanji, where he looked for churches. He asked for money, and some of them gave. One kindly pastor’s wife took him in, even though, he learned later, she didn’t have money to fix her husband’s teeth at the dentist.

After a few weeks, someone in the church hired Kim for household help. He called the elderly Christian lady “Grandma,” and she taught him many things about the Bible.

Except for the longing to find his sister and see his mother (who was in prison in North Korea for defecting to China), he was happy. He was eating his fill, dressing his version of cool and reading the Bible, which he slowly began to understand.

Once when he sang a hymn with Grandma, he was deeply moved by the lyrics: “Father, I stretch my hands to Thee, No other help I know; If Thou withdraw Thyself from me, Ah! Whither shall I go?”

The Holy Spirit touched his heart and imparted saving faith. “I felt something pierce my heart,” Kim recalls. “I understood this. This was my life. That night alone in my room, I began to cry.

He attempted to talk to God for the first time. “I don’t know who you are,” he said. “I don’t understand the Scripture. But I’m surrendering myself to you.”

At that pivotal moment of submission to Jesus as his Lord and Savior, Kim was born again.

Not long afterward, a missionary visited Kim and explained to him the option to go to the U.S. as a political refugee. At first he didn’t like the idea because he remembered the North Korean indoctrination that Americans are evil.

But after praying, he agreed to go to a shelter partially funded by Liberty in North Korea, an activist group dedicated to resettling North Koreans in America. That’s where he met “Adrian,” who agreed to take him to freedom.

So as to not arouse suspicion of patrolling Chinese immigration officials, Adrian taught Kim and two other North Korean refugees to act like rowdy Korean-American tourists. Once in the market, Kim grabbed his fellow North Korean in a headlock that drew stares and mutterings from the local Chinese about the poor behavior of Americans.

Adrian bought them American clothes, and Kim was transformed into a “skater type – baseball cap turned to the side, bright graphic T-shirt and narrow pants.” Decked out as new personas, they rode the train to Shenyang.

There, they were taken to the U.S. consulate. But when the guard subjected Kim to a black wand metal detector search, Kim panicked. He thought he was being arrested.

Seeing the terror in his face, Adrian realized he should have explained the drill beforehand. “You’re safe now!” he shouted to Kim.

After months of paperwork, Kim was flown to the U.S. and moved in with host families. He attended high school and became a speaker on behalf of human rights organizations. He currently attends Bard College on full-ride scholarship in New York.

He is serving Jesus, happy and free. His only remorse is for his mother and his sister, Bong Sook, whom he still longs to see. Once while giving a speech in Scotland, he opted to sleep in the airport under a glass roof that allowed him see the stars. He meditated that somewhere in China was his cherished sister.

“I wonder what you are doing tonight,” he whispered. “Are you warm and safe like me? I will not forget you. Right now, we only share the stars. I can look up at night and see that you are under the same sky.”

That is how he came up with the title of his autobiography, Under the Same Sky. While he doesn’t know what’s happened to his mother, Kim believes one day he will be reunited with his beloved, long-sought sister.

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on God Reports. I wrote it, so I feature it here too.

Motivation

IMG_0120People give more of themselves if they are given realistic goals over the short and long terms. Leadership does a great disservice by classifying some church members as untouchables. Or whatever, maybe they just don’t fit in the leadership clique.

I observe former bad boys straighten up their lives because there’s a Christian girl in the picture. He wants to be worthy to marry her (short term). He also wants to go to Heaven (long term).

But for others, the goals seem simply impossible. Why study and do boring and hard homework if I’m not going to go to college anyway (short term)? Better to live for short term pleasures than strive so hard for nothing. If he doesn’t buy into the dream, he’s not going to be motivated. The key is that it must be realistic — for him.

I’m not unaffected by this basic psychological need. So it is with great rejoicing that I am moving out of seaside Santa Monica into the sweltering San Fernando Valley with the opportunity to start a Bible study. Van Nuys has all the allure of the Promised Land because what thrills my heart most is ministry. Thank God my pastor is giving me the chance.

I’ve been a Christian for 36 years. I think that it’s easy to get bored. At some point, you know the scriptures, you know the songs, you know the sermons. What has kept me excited has been doing, not sitting and listening. It has been bringing others to that initial knowledge of Christ. Are you bored with Christianity? You are in danger of backsliding. Get involved in expanding the kingdom, getting souls saved and establishing them in His truth.

You’ll never be bored again. Getting involved in ministry will motivate your heart to give your utmost for Him.

The promise of multiplication

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Kids today from the school I started 20 years ago, the Liceo Bilingüe La Puerta in Guatemala.

You don’t need talent, money, beauty, charisma. You just need God.

A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the Lord will hasten it in his time. — Isaiah 60:22.

buen ingles colegio guatemala

I created a stir on Facebook when I announced I was a grandpa. But I was only Joe’s spiritual dad.

While oodles don’t believe in you, God does believe in you. All you need to do is believe in God.

When I went to Guatemala 20 years ago, I was riding on euphoria. But I was filled with all kinds of uncertainty. Despite this, God brought multiplication to the little guy, me.

 

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Teachers and kids at the Liceo Bilingüe La Puerta. God has brought the multiplication.

Jesus multiplied breads and fish. In fact, God likes multiplication more than addition. Expect the impossible.

When I lose peace

IMG_9445I was in Guatemala. The call didn’t come through but the voice message did. They were discharging my dad from the skilled nursing facility because the insurance didn’t want to pay any more time there.

All I could do was worry. I couldn’t hardly sleep. When I finally did sleep, I was awakened a by a dramatic dream. A pastor friend of mine went to pray for my dad, and my dad got healed! I felt like it was a mild rebuke from God. I was letting worry, not faith, run my mind.

I’ve been back from Guatemala for almost a week now. And things are working out fine. Why did I lose the peace God promised? God will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is stayed on Him. — Isaiah 26:3.

If there is something that can be worried about, I do.

The High and Mighty dwells with the lowly of heart

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After going 16 chapters of pure encouragement (40-55), Isaiah retakes the issue of Israel’s sin: His watchmen are blind… they are greedy dogs… Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine. (verses 10-12). In the previous chapters, Isaiah has lifted his prophetic vision beyond the immediate future to a time of a return from exile. But now it seems he looks even further into the future, into the time when Jesus is born and the Jewish leadership is corrupt.

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Then comes what is arguably the greatest gem of the entire book: Thus says the High and Lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and with him of contrite and humble spirit to revive him. — Isaiah 57:15. This verse is more than just a passing comment. It seems a crowning moment for a book that has been fascinated with up and down from Isaiah 6 onward (in which the prophet sees God high and lifted up in His heavenly temple). The paradox of dwelling on high and on low at the same time works the power of the sonnet’s concluding couplet.

All this is to say that humility is crucial in Christianity. You must be humble to even receive salvation, to believe in Jesus. And we must remain humble ever afterward. If we go prideful, we go without God. Stay humble, and He stays with us.

The little guy

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I was the little guy who couldn’t do anything significant for God. Twenty years later, there’s a church and a Christian private school in Guatemala.

I like the word “hewn.” Look at the rock from which you were HEWN, and the to the quarry your cut out of… Abraham your father… I called him when he was alone and blessed him and increased him. — Isaiah 51:1

The present tense of hewn is “hew.” I’d never heard that before. “Hewn” means to be cut out of.

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This is Ibis and his wife. He was so shy and quiet. Now he is making big decisions for Christ.

God encourages the Israelites (who see Abraham as HUGE) to regard Abraham as SMALL in his beginnings. Indeed, Abraham didn’t have any children until he was 100 years old (and his wife was 90). Yet God had promised to make a nation out of him. Talk about feeling small. And not up for the task.

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With some “little guys” at the Liceo Bilingüe La Puerta.

Despite such an inauspicious beginning, Israel did become a great nation. It still is with Jews scattered over the world.

God is encouraging the Israelites — at a time when they are rebuilding their nation and are small and insignificant — that they will be able to do the impossible, to re-start their nation.

In God, small things lead to big. And you should never flag in faith because you are looking at your circumstances. Look at Abraham.

Sometimes the hardest thing is to believe

believeWe pride ourselves on being rational beings, well adjusted to reality. We are scientifically minded, and therefore what is impossible get ruled out. Miracles are a moonshot best avoided.

But miracles prove God, and God is interested in proving Himself to humanity to show humanity His love. So he drops us in impossible quandaries and waits for us to turn to him.

If you can believe, all things are possible for him that believes. — Mark 9:23. Jesus spent more time developing faith, but we Christians spend more time developing personal perfection. Jesus sought faith while we seek programs. Jesus encouraged Peter to walk on water, and the church is busy building boats.

Maybe you’re in financial trouble — believe to tithe. Maybe you have an incurable disease or disorder — believe for healing. Perhaps you don’t dare take on a ministry — believe and do it. Perhaps a long time has passed without any sign of hope — keep believing.

Burned out or bored out (of your mind)

IMG_9853It seemed like I teetered on burn out for many years in Guatemala. I always asked God to take me home before I burned out. I think that’s what happened.

But now that I have been serving in the mother church for six years, I’m bored to tears. I’m aching to get out on the field and play (and not sit on the bench). Maybe you can relate:

Then I said, I will not make mention of Him nor speak any more in His name. But His word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not hold my tongue. — Jeremiah 20:9

IMG_9875He who is called can’t escape the call. Any other life will only reap frustration and misery. Are you tired of ministry? Consider the alternative. Are you running from your calling? You’ll only be miserable.

My recent trip to Guatemala only confirms the urging in my heart.

If it tastes bitter, spit it out, don’t swallow.

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We must master the art of moving on. Humans hurt each other because of selfishness and self-promotion. Don’t let yourself be pushed down by others forever. They may push you down, but it is up to you to pick yourself up.

Fun, fellowship and discipleship at a Christian school in Guatemala

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Hosea with Teacher Banner.

Whenever Pastor Michael Ashcraft visits Guatemala, he wants to play soccer with the private school, and this time he won with Teacher Banner Ajcip’s team 10-8 over Teacher Mario Ajcip’s.

The sporting event included the visit of Pastor Mike’s son, Hosea, who was born in Guatemala and studied at the private school until third grade. Hosea, who had an innate skill for goals as a kid, hit the inside of the net three times. Father and son played together on the team of Teacher Banner.

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta zona 1 ciudad guatemalaPastor Mike realized two assists before moving to the defense to stop the attack of superstar opponent, Carlos Marroquin, a 9th grader. With 200 pounds weight and 6’3″ height, Pastor Mike presented a formidable defense. Nevertheless, the youth broke his ankles various times. Even so, Pastor Mike limited his goals and contributed to the victory.

While the guys played soccer, the girls preferred basketball and indoor soccer adjacent to the soccer field.

soccer guatemala christian school capital city

After two hours of straight playing, most of the boys got tired and left. These are the survivors.

“I can learn a lot from Guatemala,” said Hosea. “I want to return to the United States much better than everybody because I played here in Guatemala.”

The field trip and sports event is important because it allows the students to make friends and inter-relate. Everything the Door Bilingual School does is focused on an integral formation of youth: mind, body, emotions and spirit. The Guatemalan Christian school has maintained this focus in Guatemala City since its beginnings when Pastor Mike started with only three students in the Colon neighborhood.

Now, the Door Bilingual School is located on 6th Avenue 2-34 Zone 1 in front of the San Sebastian Park in the City of Guatemala. The original story appeared in Spanish here.

Comfort after an extended period of difficulties

comfort my people

I got stuck at Isaiah 40 and following. The prophet shifts gears and focuses on the future when Israel is exiled and comes back to the promised land. They have punished for more than 70 years of captivity for idolatry and rebellion. The consequences of sin is enough to drive them to despair. They are ready to obey God now. And God speaks tenderly to them.

He offers them comfort.

In verse 4 God says barriers are going to be removed: Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill shall be made low.

The nations, which have served as God’s instrument of discipline over Israel, are no longer to be feared. The nations are as a drop of a bucket, as the small dust of the balance. (verse 15).

The grande finale comes at the end of the chapter — verses that just about every Christian has memorized: He gives power to the faint, and to them that have no might, He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and grow weary. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall rise up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not grow weary; they shall walk and not faint. (verses 29-31)

Part of the good news? The disappointing time may be God testing you like Job or may be the result of your own sin. But when you get to the end, He brings refreshing, so hang in there.

I was arrested, meditating on what I had stumbled upon.

Back to what God has for me

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Then I said, I won’t talk about God anymore. But His word was in my heart burning like a fire in my bones, and I couldn’t bear it. — Jeremiah 20:9

I don’t know how people get out of ministry and manage to forget it. They move on to making money. They compromise their morals. I got a good look at this sort of thing when I rested from being a pastor for six years. I left the mission field and haven’t started a new church. Hopefully I will soon. It has been a more or less miserable time.

Right now I’m ministering in my old haunts. I had been a missionary/pastor/founder of a Christian school for 16 years. I’m visiting once again. My three kids were born here, but only Hosea, my youngest, is with me, seeing his childhood buddies. It is a blessing to see everyone again. There is no greater life to live than to speak God’s word and help people come to Him.

Back in Guatemala

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Six year ago, we quit Guatemala after 16 years of ministry. It looks like God is opening doors for me to start a new church in the U.S. (more to come later). But for now, I’m in Guatemala visiting, preaching, reinvigorating, helping. And I have my son, Hosea, with me. So I guess this post, I’ll just be asking for prayers. Thanks! It’s great to see everyone again!

Reinvest in a bad investment


way of GodYou wouldn’t? Jesus did. You and I were bad investments. But He believed in us — again. He forgave us — again. He gave us another chance we were demonstrated repeatedly that we weren’t worth it. This is what Christianity is.

Would you recognize him?


Nobody pays any attention to this bum, despite having pretty good soccer skills — at least not until he pulls off his beard, mustache and wig. Then, everybody wants to pay attention to Cristiano Ronaldo, star for Portugal.

Would you recognize Jesus if He passed you on the street? When you treat kindly one of the least of my brethren, you treat Me kindly. — Jesus said.

Try for yourself

cookie pileGod is good.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man that trusts in Him. –Psalm 34:8

They’re not really “stressed out.” Twenty One Pilots is reaching out to lost youth

twenty-one-pilots-stressed-outTop Ten Christian band Twenty One Pilots declared its musical manifesto three years ago in the song “Car Radio,” “I will try with every rhyme to come across like I am dying to let you know you need to try to think.”

Twenty One Pilots’ hit “Stressed Out” is currently played on secular radio stations across the country and in Europe, and the duo is selling out concerts at every venue. Even though they are open about their faith, the band continues to sneak like a hacker through the world’s default gospel-rejection mechanism.

While the dialectic voice confuses secular reporters, the message of salvation carries through to their listeners.

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Tyler Joseph SAYS the black makeup on his hands symbolizes oppressive stress. But it’s likely more a symbol of sin for his adopted touring persona “Blurryface,” who is a representation of the Romans 7 alter ego.

“When I first listened to their music I was like, I’m not alone. I thought I was the only one,” wrote Mattie on a fan site in August 2015. “Twenty one pilots really did save my life in more ways than one.”

Twenty One Pilots is a genre-melding duo composed of vocalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun, both 27-year-olds from Ohio. They attended Five 14 Church (as in Matthew 5:14 — “You are the light of the world”) in New Albany, just outside Columbus. Josh now lives in Los Angeles.

The band was formed when Tyler ditched basketball in the eleventh grade to become a musician. He tore through learning piano to bass and ukulele.

twenty one pilots concert energy
“I had identity issues. I didn’t like being the guy who played sports,” he says in a YouTube interview. “So I set up a microphone and a little studio. My mom’s trying to do the dishes and she hears her son screaming his head off down in the basement trying to record vocals, and she’s gotta be thinking, ‘What the heck is going on with him?’ So they were really confused.”

Tyler’s crazy dream is today paying big dividends, not just in terms of downloads and crowds, but also in terms of souls. Their angst-riddled lyrics are resonating with Gen-Y’ers and Gen-Z’ers, showing them a way to hope and faith.

While “Stressed Out” is an innocuous ditty about young adults yearning for the carefree days of childhood, other songs on their two albums – Vessel and Blurryface – pack plenty of gospel punch.

The duo signed with a secular label (Fueled by Ramen) and gets played mostly on non-Christian radio. But make no mistake. Though subtle at times, they are unequivocally Christian. Read the rest of the article.

Barabbas wasn’t a bad guy

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Chilling with my bud, Jesus.

No, Barabbas didn’t have snot dripping from his nose. For two years now, I’ve played Barabbas in the Easter play, and the directors tell me to act like a psychopath. Apparently, this comes naturally to me. Yeah, Miko the Psycho.

But I can’t find this reading in my Bible. Barabbas was an insurrectionist (one Gospel calls him a murderer, but the other explains the context more precisely)  in the scattered uprising against he hated Roman Empire. As such, he would have been something of local hero, much like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson.

So when the multitudes chose Barabbas over Jesus, it wasn’t an irrational act. Both were wildly popular with the people, so Pilate shrugged.

Barabbas was, however, a polar opposite of Jesus — not the demon-possessed against the Spirit-possessed. Rather, the earthly Savior vs. the heavenly Messiah.

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Barabbas is always taking on the Roman Empire. Do you like the realistic background? It’s the Lighthouse Church School. We used a classroom as a dressing room.

At the end of the day, Barabbas’ utopia was only going to be on earth. It was only going to be temporal. After the Romans, another empire would come and smash Palestine. Such was inevitable because Palestine was a crossroads connecting three continents, a bridge where the newest conquerors had to pass.

So Barabbas was more like Obama, trying to bring a better world. This is a good thing. I’m not deriding it. But some people are so busying focusing on making this life wonderful that they forget there’s another, eternal life to work for.

Hubble telescope corroborates Genesis account of creation, scientist says

Cedric-Johnson

Cedric Johnson, who worked on the Hubble Telescope, discusses how it has corroborated the Genesis account.

A former CEO of the firm which built a critical Hubble telescope electronic subsystem believes the latest in cosmology and quantum physics substantially confirms the Genesis account of creation.

“It is not at all surprising to read the works of modern cosmologists and to discover that the book of Genesis provided such comprehensive insights thousands of years ago,” W. Cedric Johnson said. “Those first 27 verses in Genesis 1 [that talk about creation] are far, far more likely given contemporary scientific research and findings, than unlikely.”

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Hubble has produced stunning images of far away space, like this one. It has also listened into the cosmic noise of the universe, which has helped scientists peer at the origins of the universe.

Johnson, 64, an applied scientist, (mathematician) who is currently advancing the field of cryptography, has long been on the cutting edge of computer- and network-facilitated technology, having worked for Rockwell International as a high school student, a firm he joined full-time after completing undergraduate studies.

In addition to the Hubble work, Johnson’s firm oversaw design and development of critical electronics for the Space Shuttle, worked on Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, as well as the Global Positioning Satellite system, and worldwide communications systems engineering for the Air Force Communications Command.

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Johnson worked on electronics in the Space Shuttle.

Johnson grew up in a Bible-believing home and never doubted Jesus, he said. But at age 29 he says, “I came to the Lord by simply changing my mind. I said, ‘God, I believe that completeness resides only in a life in You. I believe that purpose and truth comes from You.’ From that moment forward, I renounced any competition.”

He says the Hubble Telescope reveals the universe has a tempo evidenced by the cosmic background noise of the universe. Carried to its rational and scientific conclusion, this lends tremendous credibility to the presumed discrepancy between Genesis’ six-day creation account and the apparently contradicting geological and anthropological conclusions, he said.

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Cosmologist Stephen Hawking has famously doubted the existence of God. Johnson wonders what Hawking’s missing.

Much like a song can be played at a faster or slower tempo (not recorded and sped up or slowed down) but still corresponds 100% to the relationships of harmony and rhythm, so too the first “day” of creation was not confined to the reference of a 24-hour period tied to the rotation of the planet. “This was given for man’s perspective, as God, who is eternal, had no such use,” Johnson said.

The tempo of the first “day” indicates it was actually millions of 24-hour periods, the second “day,” 87 million 24-hour periods and so on. Even now, the cosmic background noise of the universes indicates “ongoingness,” he said.

“Many previous inconsistencies with other scientific timelines have found scientific bases for reconciliation,” Johnson said. “The loss of obvious aberrations between trying to make six 24-hour reference periods fit geological and the palentological timelines, is no longer so certain; they fit!”

With regard to the Big Bang as the origin of the universe, cosmologists substantially agree: The universe is the progeny of an intelligent beginner; the universe came into being from a first cause event, and everything came from great nothingness.

Even though these conclusions corroborate Genesis, many cosmologists do not agree that the intelligent beginner is or was transcendental, nor remains connected with the universe, a long answer for “we can’t confirm a God,” he said.

Cosmologists are not the only ones being forced to revisit the God question, Johnson said. “Quantum theorists are facing a new line of questions and potentialities,” he said.

He spoke of the phenomena of “entanglement.” Were two entangled photons entrapped separately and moved as far apart as New York is from Los Angeles, modifications in their states would be mirrored instantaneously, with no explanation and theoretically faster than the speed of light, he said.

“This is an awesome field of study, yet nevertheless startling stuff. For many, entanglement has ‘Oh my goodness moments,’” Johnson said. Some quantum physicists are quietly saying, “You know that book that says, ‘Let there be light?’ I think we need to look at that book again.” Read the rest of the article.

Effortlessness

SLCD-Bg-Hotel-Exterior(1)I’ve worked hard. I continue to work hard.

But the greatest things that have happened in my ministry have come without virtually any effort. They came when God moved sovereignly. They came as a result of prayer. Definitely, God can do more than any human minister.

When the Door Bilingual School got a band, it came together with no effort of my own. When we acquired a building, it came together with basically no effort of my own.

I still work hard, but I’m willing to wait on God to do His work. I’m going to pray.

Do less. Pray more.

Enjoy the ride — even the tough parts

puppy dogI was wondering why life is so difficult (finances, health, other issues), and then I was re-reading Genesis 3. And I said, Oh! That’s why life is a pain in the neck.”

As part of the curse of choosing sin, God cursed the ground and foretold that man would toil with hard labor for all the days of his life. So, that’s why there so much difficulties.

This gave me peace because I realized I was in the norm. This helps me to relax and enjoy life, even with troubles. Reading the Bible brings great wisdom and consolation.

I killed myself at the gym today, so…

killing yourself at the gym…I wasn’t surprised when the homicide detectives showed up at my door later.

Ok, this picture is not me. I’m more of a (bad) punster than a muscle man. Actually, I’m the pencil-necked kind of guy with spindly arms and legs.

But I enjoy going to the gym. I have lofty, unattainable goals. In the striving, at least I’m staying healthy. And a healthy body is will be useful for the Lord’s service longer than a sick or frail one. I like the gym almost as much as the church; both are focused on goodness, healthiness and improvement.

Granada Hills methane leak and people who are not good at math

Porter-Ranch-Gas-Leak-Image-Location-1-MapSouthern California Edison decided in 1979 it would be CHEAPER to remove instead of replace a safety valve at the bottom of a well in a methane storage facility just north of Granada Hills of Los Angeles because it wasn’t close to homes, according to LA Weekly. After an estimated 97,000 tons of pressured gas (stored in preparation for winter) escaped into the atmosphere, Edison is facing cleanups and lawsuits — not to mention the loss of their product — that will total into the millions of dollars.

The site, the second largest such storage facility in the U.S., is a huge underground cavern that was left over after oil was pumped out by J.Paul Getty. It has about 115 wells, once used for oil, that can pump in and out methane for distribution to 21 million customers and 14 power plants. As a public utility, Edison must argue rate increases in order to pay for refurbishment. Sometimes, it’s just easier to scrimp.

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Or so Edison officials thought. The aging wells leak regularly, but when well SS-25 was found leaking on Oct. 23, 2015, they couldn’t stop the gas from barreling out — until February  when a parallel well was drilled and they intercepted it at the point of leakage and stopped it up. Meanwhile, neighbors moved out as the poisonous benzene in the methane wafted through the community provoking bloody noses, nausea and pet deaths. Edison was forced to pay hotels for 100s of people and now is paying clean up of the homes (a toxic film was left on everything inside and out of the houses). The lawsuits will be, doubtless, awarding millions of dollars to the plaintiffs.

So much for finding the easier, cheaper way of doing things.

This disaster, which is near where I grew up in Chatsworth, reminds of others who are bad at math: namely, people who can’t calculate eternity, people who think they have cast enough doubt on the afterlife to justify the gamble of living for self and sin in this short existence on earth.

Actually, Edison’s fiasco will be absurdly insignificant compared to your miscalculation if you don’t make Heaven.

Ken Ham’s full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark

ark encounterA mind-blowing full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark is nearing completion in Williamstown, KY, displaying the remarkable grandiosity of the all-wood colossus.

While Noah and his family spent 100 years toiling on the ark, Ken Ham and his construction team — including dozens of Amish carpenters — will have taken five years by the time they are finished in July and it opens to the public.

“We want to reach millions more about the truth in the Gospel, the words of God,” said Ham, who is also the founder of the Creation Museum located 40 miles from the Ark. “I believe that the Ark of Noah is the greatest reminder we have for salvation.”

At 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high, the replica is so big it actually shatters previous records — becoming the biggest all-timber structure in the world, according to Ham.

ken ham

To mount the massive construction, Ham employed several dozen Amish carpenters to apply their traditional carpentry skills to meet the Genesis specs. The interior of the ark will have three stories and 130 exhibits, including animal specimen and statues of Noah.

The Ark Encounter website hopes the project will dispel the aura of childhood fantasy that is associated with the Ark story. “We consider the fairy-tale ark that appears in the drawings, kids’ books and toys, looking like a bathtub with the giraffes’ heads sticking out and modern animals on board, to be dangerous. The biblical account of the Ark and the Flood is not a fun story about an old man and lots of cute animals. It’s about God judging an exceedingly wicked world while sparing a righteous man, his family, and representatives of the land animals from destruction.” Read the rest.

Editor’s Note: Chad Dou, my journalism student, wrote this for God Reports.

#Hero

IMG_9350David Wainwright was the gentlest human being. He oozed the love of Christ.

He was a member of Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica long before me, so I always looked up to him. It was he who got me into coffee on a long, overnight drive to Prescott, Arizona, to pick up a van our church had purchased from the Potter’s House Church. He taught me how to outreach, how to care for people, how to clean the church. He showed me Jesus was first in everything.

David got set free from every addiction except cigarettes, which remained his nemesis for 10 years after getting saved. Then, he called on the children of the church to pray for him, and, finally, he was free. He never smoked again.

I went off to Guatemala to pastor a church. He stayed behind and worked in the J. Paul Getty Museum in the hills above Brentwood. Later he moved to Hesperia, CA, where he helped successive pastors lead the pioneer work there. Whenever I came back from Guatemala, I would seek him out to share a coffee. It was our particular fellowship.

Then six year agos, I came back from the mission field for good, and the coffees were more frequently. He was a big bear, a teddy bear, who would give you hugs that communicated the love of God.

The last time, he saw me first, came over and gave me a hug. I didn’t even see it coming. Who would have know that would be my last David Wainwright hug? He died Sunday. He graduated with high honors to Heaven.

The irony? He passed away while visiting people — up to the last breath of his life, he was living for others, encouraging others.

That’s what I call a hero. That’s what I want to be.

David, I won’t miss you because I have you inside of me. I will strive to be like you — gentle, humble, servant-hearted. It is no easy role model to follow, but I have imbibed of your spirit, and I know what I need to do.

The genius of pioneering

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The band is called California Aftermath, and the guy on the drums is my son.

In our group of churches, all new church plants are called pioneers. And there’s genius in it. For one, the onus on the pastor to get new people saved in tremendous. Usually, these are net gains for the kingdom of God and not church transfers.

Secondly, it forces the pioneer pastor to go out to the harvest field. There’s no time to talk about it. You have to do it.

Christians should spend less time in the safety of the church and more time outside sharing the good news with those who do not know it.

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Pastor Jacob Salas at left. Jenna, at right, did all the driving.

This past weekend, my son and I went to Bakersfield, CA, to knock on doors and invite people. He performed in the concert in the park in the evening. Then we drove two hours home, exhausted by happy. Through the efforts of various area churches converging on Bakersfield, 20 people said the sinner’s prayer.

I know of no more satisfying work, no greater joy, than to wrest souls from Satan. I believe that fighting political battles is valuable, but less valuable than simply getting people saved.

Want more

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We are the “want more” generation. There are those fighting the uphill battle of the simplified life counter culture movement.

And we think we are simply entitled to whatever luxuries and blessings free of charge because we are Americans — or whatever the basis is.

Meanwhile, the free gift of salvation is despised and ignored. We don’t want Heavenly riches; we want earthly ones! We can’t be happy without them, and we have someone to blame if we don’t get them — because the whole society was “set up to benefit” only the richest. Or so they say.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not Trump supporter.

*Picture from Pinterest.

Get into the ship

ship
Fellowship
Worship
Discipleship

Don’t miss the ship.

Don’t put too much “I” in Sunday

sunday.jpgDon’t put too much “I” in Sunday — else it become SInday. Keep the “U” in Sunday.

Afterall, Sunday is about others. Put God and others first on Sunday.

China poised to become most Christian nation

revival in chinaWithin 15 years, China should become the country with the most Christians in the world, according to a study.

Fenggang Yang, of Purdue University, predicts that China will reach 224 million Christians by the year 2030, as quoted in the UK Financial Times.

“By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon,” said Yang, an expert in sociology and author of Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule, in the UK Telegraph. “It is going to be less than a generation. Not many people are prepared for this dramatic change.”

The explosion of Christianity in China will upend the traditional Christian powerhouses of the world. In 2010, the U.S. had around 159 million Protestants, and many observers say congregations are in decline.

china-balcome-churchAs part of a possible passing of the baton, China is now sending missionaries – especially to North Korea

“The number of Christians is extremely underestimated (in China) intentionally because the increase of religion would reflect negatively on government officials.” said Yang.

Currently, there are about 100 million Christians in the world’s most populous nation, which eclipses the 86.7 million-strong membership of the ruling Communist party, according to the Financial Times.

Jin Hongxin, 40, is not interested in the political or missiological implications of Chinese growth. She’s just proud to attend the mega church Liushi in Wenzhou, the city many outside observers call China’s Jerusalem due to its flourishing Christian churches.

“It is a wonderful thing to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It gives us great confidence,” she said at an Easter service, as reported by the Telegraph. “If everyone in China believed in Jesus then we would have no more need for police stations. There would be no more bad people and therefore no more crime.”

China’s churches started experiencing astronomical growth after the conclusion of the Cultural Revolution in 1976. A successor to Chairman Mao, Deng Xiaoping, reformed politics, liberalized the economy, and opened China to foreign countries. Read the rest of the story.

Editor’s Note: Chad Dou wrote this as a journalism assignment in my elective class at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.

Don’t let them destroy your dream

dreamsPeople are nasty. You have a dream, and they want to destroy it. You must guard your heart against evil people. Don’t let them assassinate your vision, your self belief. Hold on to your dream and pursue. Believe in yourself and in God. He will make a way.

Original image from Pinterest.

Gold on and off the field, Kaka belongs to God

real-madrid-v-ajax-kaka-_2870368After Kaka impossibly threaded the ball through three Manchester United defenders and slotted for goal in the 2007 Champions League semi-final, he ripped off his jersey to show the world his T-shirt emblazoned: “I belong to Jesus.”

When his team, AC Milan, claimed the title — second in prestige to the World Cup, it was anti-climatic compared to Kaka’s sensational solo performance in the semi-final. He was just too quick and precise, always a nano-second ahead of defenders. In fact, when a stalwart defender came crashing in to shut down the attack with physicality, he wound up smashing his own teammate instead.

It was his most glorious moment in world-class soccer — and yet it was completely devoid of glory.

article-0-0071E53F000004B0-697_634x429That’s because for the Brazilian crack, glory is a thing belonging to God. Currently he plays for Orland City SC in the U.S.’s Major League Soccer. When his ball-kicking days are over, he plans to study theology and become a pastor. That’s when the real glory will start.

Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite became good at soccer because he was skinny and had to work harder than everybody else to excel. In 2001, he was catapulted to international fame when he scored two goals to win the Brazilian championship for his native Sao Paolo FC, which had never won a championship.

His little brother in childhood couldn’t properly pronounce his name and simply settled on “Kaka.” Graciously for the rest of us (who similarly can’t pronounce his name), the moniker stuck.

God and goals always went together for Kaka. Born into a devout Christian family, he experienced Christ in a profound way when he was baptized at age 12.

“Something supernatural happened to me. I cannot explain it, but after that experience I grew closer to God and began to know Him in a more in-depth way,” Kaka said. “My life changed and was never the same again.”

He won the respect of his teammates and fans by being a young man of integrity while witnessing boldly for Christ. He was involved in a Bible study and Athletes for Christ. Unlike many other stars who waver in the spotlight, Kaka has always held strong convictions. He married his childhood sweetheart, Caroline Celico, in 2005. Both had maintained their virginity until their wedding.

From Brazil, Kaka moved to Italy in 2003 to play for AC Milan for a transfer fee of €8.5 million. Within a month, he was a starter for the team. Read the rest of the story.

Editor’s Note: This story was written by my high school student, Adrian Brizuela, at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica. Of course, I edited and helped polish it. I’m proud of him. I hope he realizes that he is not only good at soccer.

Drug-dealing Jew got saved reading Old Testament prophecies about Yeshua

Dr-Mitch-Glaser-2015It took the cold steel of a sawed-off shotgun against his neck to bring Mitch Glaser to the Christ he always associated with Hitler.

Raised in New York in a traditional Jewish home, he was “bar mitzvahed” at 13. At his grandparents’ home, he saw pictures of countless relatives exterminated in the Nazi Holocaust. “They had died at the hands of Hitler, and in the Jewish mindset, they had died at the hands of Christians,” Mitch said.

“I felt like Jesus and Christianity were my enemies,” said Glaser, who has worked with Chosen People Ministries for 40 years. “I’m an unlikely person to believe in Jesus.”

He dropped out of college and fell into selling marijuana with three Jewish friends in San Francisco. He was a no-nonsense hustler who built up a reputation for a square deal, but on one of his sales, his clients really had no intention of buying the illicit drug. They wanted to steal it – and kill him.

“One of the guys was yelling, ‘Just kill him now.’ The other one said, ‘No, we gotta get the rest of the drugs. Just torch the place,’” said Glaser, who was tied up while his attackers held shotguns and handguns.

“My whole life played before my eyes. I’m sitting there with my hands tied feeling this shotgun against my neck, and I’m saying to myself, ‘I can’t believe that I was willing to die for just a few hundred dollars,’” he said.

Mitch managed to escaped unscathed from the drug deal. It was a wake-up call and a warning that the houseboat he and his partners had built with drug money was not worth the danger involved in what they were doing. It was also the beginning of his call to Christianity.

Read the rest of the story.

 

Anticipated decline in faith among scientists fails to materialize in 80 years

people_larsonA full 40 percent of scientists believe in a personal God and afterlife, according to a 1997 study.

“Although the suggestion 80 years ago that four in 10 scientists did not believe in God or an afterlife was astounding to contemporaries, the fact that so many scientists believe in God today is equally surprising,” said study organizers Edward Larson and Larry Witham, of the University of Georgia, in the journal Nature.

The duo replicated a study from 80 years prior conducted by James Leuba that shocked America at a time when faith enjoyed wide acceptance. He found that four of 10 scientist didn’t believe in God.

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Stephen Hawking opted to not believe.

Leuba “predicted that more and more scientists would give up their belief in God, as scientific knowledge replaced what he considered to be superstition,” writes the National Center for Science Education in an article “Do Scientists Really Reject God?”

Leuba would be disappointed. The 1997 iteration of his poll found the percentage of faith-holding scientists remained constant through 80 years of scientific and technological advance. Science has not dislodged belief in God, and the number of theistic scientists is “impressively high,” according to the New York Times.

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Francis Collins does believe.

“The results also indicate that, while science and religion often are depicted as irreconcilable antagonists, each a claimant to the throne of truth, many scientists see no contradiction between a quest to understand the laws of nature, and a belief in a higher deity,” the New York Times wrote.

What’s more, the narrowly-phrased questions designed by Leuba — and repeated by Larson and Witham — may have overstated disbelief, according to Rodney Stark, a professor of sociology and comparative religion at the University of Washington in Seattle, as quoted in the New York Times. Stark’s research indicates that scientists pretty much reflect the general American public when it comes to believing in God.

“To the extent that both surveys are accurate readings, traditional Western theism has not lost its place among U.S. scientists, despite their intellectual preoccupation with material reality,” Larson and Witham wrote in their study. Read the rest of the article.

Happy Valentine’s Day

valentine's day.jpgAs you enjoy the flavors made by God, feel His love this Valentine’s.

With no exposure to Christ, she cried out and Jesus responded to Sister Mei of China

sister meiMaybe it was a rip tide, but Sister Mei felt – and saw in an apparent vision – that it was a hand pulling her out to sea.

As she was enjoying the beach in Southern China for the first time in her life, she was daydreaming worriedly about her hardships and prospect-less future. She was divorced, abandoned by the father of her daughter. And she was on vacation at Sanya beach with her boyfriend, who was a married man.

“I had never seen the ocean before,” said Mei, whose videoed testimony from 2013 at the U.S. Center for World Mission in Pasadena, CA, is on YouTube. “For some reason, I felt that if I could see the ocean, a lot of my questions could be answered.”

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Sanya Beach today

As she was in the water, Mei, whose other name was not given, began to forget about her romantic liaison and began to ponder the meaning of life when the hand grabbed her ankle. Having grown up in a village on the Yangtze River, she was able swimmer, but she was not prepared for rip tides – or the hand, whatever it was.

“My husband left me after I gave birth. On the third day, he came to the hospital for the last time. He just disappeared. It really hurt me,” she said. “That’s how I started to take my life in the wrong direction.”

With “no future, no job, no money, no dignity and no identity,” she hooked up with a married man and agreed to go to the beach with him. She left her daughter at home with her parents. As she brooded over her “totally, totally hopeless” situation in the water, she lost track of the shore and was drifting out to the deep.

yangtze river

Yangtze River

“From the bottom of my heart, my mind, my soul, I cried out, Who can help me?,’” she said.

Then she began to be hauled seaward.

“There was a hand holding my ankle dragging me down into the water. I was frightened,” Mei said. “I did everything I could to swim to the shore, but I couldn’t.”

She tried calling for help. That’s when she felt the hand around her throat choking back the words. A man on her right turned his back to her, oblivious to her peril. Another on the left also turned his back to her.

“I could not make any noise.,” Mei said. “My mouth was moving. I was asking for help, but no noise came out from my mouth. The hand was holding me tighter and tighter.”

Now in deeper water, her body began swirling in the torrent. A wave formed over her head. At the top of the wave in the vision was a horrible face.

“The minute I saw that face, I knew it was the devil. I never was taught about the devil, but I knew it was the devil,” she said. “It was huge. It was coming on the top of the wave. It came to me and it said, ‘I’m going to kill you today.’ When I saw that, I knew I was finished. There was no hope. I was dying.”

When the wave crashed on her face, she choked salty water. She was tossed by waves and kicked and paddled trying in vain to reach the shore. She thought of her parents and daughter, Weiwei.

“Mom, Dad, Weiwei, I’m sorry,” she said, beginning to resign herself to death. “They didn’t even know where I was. I never told them where I was, so if I died that day, they would be very disappointed.”

But if the devil had ahold of her, God was on the move also because she had cried out for help.

“Two words came out of my mouth. I had no understanding of what I was saying,” she recalled. “I said: ‘My God.’”

Immediately, the heavens opened and a large dove descended. With no prior knowledge of such things, what came to her mind was that this was the Holy Spirit.

Next, she beheld a vision of a tall man in a robe with an aura of light. He motioned with one hand, through which a ray of light penetrated, drawing a semi circle. With the motion, her entire life was played before her eyes like a video, and the words “deadly sin” appeared when she committed a sin.

“I could not believe I was such a filthy sinful person,” she remembered. Her immediate reaction was she deserved death by drowning, but then she heard of voice of compassion.

“My child you have come back at last,” the voice said. “I have been waiting for you so long.”

In her vision, she was now on dry land, and now out of the man’s heart poured water and blood. She understood this was for her sin.

“I had broken His heart. All the sins had hurt him and had been hurting Him always,” Mei said. “My depravity, debauchery, immorality, my ignorance, stubbornness, rebellion, stubbornness Never for a moment had I stopped. Every sin I had committed was like a sharp knife that injured Him deeply.

“Then I saw the pure love from his eyes just pouring out in my direction,” she said. “Is that for me? The words came to me, ‘Yes, it is for you. I love you and never expect anything back from you.’ I had never experienced such an unconditional love. I burst into tears. Why do you love me? I’m lonely and in pain.  Love kept coming to me like waves.”

It was just a vision. She was still in the water in danger of drowning. Then she heard a voice from Heaven again: “Go, help her!” And a man appeared out of no where and dragger her to shore. Once on solid ground, she was trembling and exhausted. She lay down on the sand and slept, asking herself: Who was the man of the vision? How did he know her whole life? How did she get pulled ashore? What was the light?

“That night I met the God I never knew,” she said.

Though she had encountered God, still she didn’t know concretely anything about Him. When she returned to her village, she found and church and asked for a Bible. At the time in China, Bibles were scarce, and so she had to wait some months.

When she finally got a Bible, she read it avidly, beginning in Genesis. Everything seemed foreign, and she didn’t understand. She began attending an English class taught by “Doug,” who included messages of the gospel in his teaching. The genealogy of Jesus and the Trinity were particularly difficult to understand.

After a year, the Bible resonated with her when she finally got to the part of the Gospel of John where Jesus told Thomas to stick his thumb in his nail hole. She remembered the ray of light that shot through  hand of the robed man in the vision at the beach.

She finally received Jesus into her heart.

Seven years later, Mei had the opportunity to come to the United States. She currently resides in Los and and works in a missions organization for Africa. She married, and her husband works for the government, she said. Based on the information provided in the video, she is approximately 40 years old.

This article first appeared on God Reports.

Kids love candy, but…

sees-shrimp-005I was one of the boys who said I could live on candy. The chocolate, caramel, gnache created a sensation in my tongue like ecstasy.

But when I went to a birthday party and got a piece of cake that was more frosting than cake, I hit something unfamiliar. It was a dragon cake, and I looked greedily at the slice handed to me. I was lucky because everyone knows that cake is just an excuse to get frosting, right?

To my astonishment, I couldn’t finish it. To my incomprehension, it stopped being delightful. Maybe I was 8 at that party, and I didn’t know about being sugared-out, about overload. I didn’t know you could get too much of a good thing.

dragon cakeCandy is really good when you eat a little. Too much sweet is unbearable.

This generation wants all frosting. Only when we are glutted, unhappy, undelighted, burnt out do we think to put things in their proper proportions.

This is a generation that wants to throw off restrictions (like the Bible) and declare a brave new world with self-formulated morality-lessness.

David Bowie came back to the God he spent most of his life defying. While it sold records, he bragged that he met his first wife while have sex with the same guy. It’s not surprising to me he lost that marriage. As he got older, he changed. He treated his second wife much better, and she stayed with him to the end. All his life he toyed with being an atheist but could never bring himself to fully commit. His intellectual honesty wouldn’t allow him to become a full-blown atheist. Somewhere in the passing of years and onset of cancer he observed grimly: “There are no atheists on the battlefield.”

You can eat all the frosting you want. But it won’t make you happy. Whether you mock dieticians or Christians, your fight is against reality.

Through the years, I’m enjoying more and more healthy eating, salads and the like. Hopefully you can get there.

ISIS brainwashes boy captives to be suicide bombers

cubs-of-the-caliphateEleven-year-old Nouri refused to train to become a suicide bomber with the other boys at an ISIS-controlled camp in northern Iraq, and due to his insubordination, the terrorists broke his legs in three places.

Ironically, the inhumane treatment saved his life. Unable to walk or run normally, he was deemed “useless” by the team of brainwashers turning kidnapped Yazidi and Kurdish kids into suicide bombers.

Because of his pronounced limp he was freed, taken home by his grandmother, and now resides in a refugee camp. His 5-year-old brother, Saman, was released with him. Repeated beatings traumatized him so badly that he asked CNN reporters if they were there to beat him. He often wakes up screaming from nightmares.

cubs-4The parents of both boys remain in captivity.

“They asked us to come with them for the training,” Nouri said. “At first we refused to go because we were afraid. They asked me to go to the mountain and I refused again, then they broke my leg. That saved me. The other children were taken by force.”

The use of captive children to perform suicide missions is not only the latest evidence of ISIS savagery. It is also the most terrifying.

That’s because when the boys are sent into the No Man’s Land between ISIS soldiers and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, the Peshmerga never know if the children are truly escaping or if they will detonate a bomb.

“Many times when we are facing ISIS, we see the children at the front line and they’re wearing explosive vests. They are brainwashed,” said Aziz Abdullah Hadur, a Peshmerga commander. “When they make it through our lines they kill our fighters. It’s an unbelievably hard decision. You don’t know what to do because if you don’t kill them they’ll kill you.” Read the rest of the story: crimes of ISIS.

This article was written by Cindy Gutierrez. I was her editor and teacher at the Lighthouse Christian Academy journalism class. It is a Santa Monica Christian high school. Cindy is a senior. The fall semester, in which she took the class, just ended.