Tag Archives: God

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

better than expresso

What’s better than coffee? Getting someone saved.

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

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

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

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

Peace in Jesus

Animated_Waterfall_1

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you,all whose thoughts are fixed on you! — Isa 26:3 NLT.

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 14:27 NIV.

My transformation into Barabbas

Santa Monica churchHere’s the finished product. I’m standing with Jesus and Malchus, who lost his ear to Peter’s quick sword (but Jesus healed him immediately).

It started with a beard and some mascara to darken the eyebrows.

makeup transformation acting

Somebody said I looked like Abraham Lincoln. Our “makeup room” is actually a classroom of the Lighthouse Church School in Santa Monica.

Lighthouse Church School | Church play

I love acting in church plays! When I was a missionary-pastor in Guatemala, I got all the starring (villain) roles. So when I returned to my church in the States, I thought I’d be a sensation.

But when I gave my first rehearsal performance, the faces of the directors said otherwise. I managed to survive the production and was never asked again. I realized I wasn’t a great actor after all.

Then, the asked me to be Barabbas. The way I see it, they were sitting around asking: “Who’s big and ugly to play Barabbas?” They thought of me.

Good FRiday drama

Then they darkened up my face.

Do you like my mean look?

Barabbas

Wig, robe, hair covering completes!

The sunken eyes help.

Caiphas, Malchus, Jesus, Barrabas

This one includes Caiphas.

When I was little, I didn’t understand what was good about “Good Friday” when basically they brutalized Jesus. Now I understand.

Maybe they’ll give me more acting roles in the future. I told the director that I do deranged villains best. I wonder why those roles come easy for me.

Because you can

helping others

This man was caught in a photography giving away his sandals. Why did he do it? Because he could. He saw the need. Pic from Random Acts of Kindness on Pinterest.

Why say no?

We have too much rugged individualism in America, too much self-made man myth. When we see someone in need, we divert our eyes. We pretend to talk on the cell phone. We don’t have the time.

I always try to help whoever I find in need. Because people are more important than money. Because people are supreme. Because serving people is serving God. Because love is worth more. Because reciprocity and karma are real.

A former student asked me to help her learn to drive. An elderly Japanese lady, whom I never knew, asked for a ride. I know some people that groceries come in handy for. A friend is on hard times and needs a couch to crash on while she gets back on her feet.

Yes, yes, yes, yes. I can. I have the time. It’s more important than what I’m doing or what I’m trying to achieve.

Many times, the reasons we say “no” when someone asks for help are unjustifiable. It’s just not a part of our culture to help.

from VeryBestQuotes.com

from VeryBestQuotes.com

A big irony for my life came when I went to Guatemala. When my car stalled, and I needed a push to get it started, guys pulled over and jumped out of their car to sweat for me. They never knew me. They didn’t have to know me. They just saw a guy in need, and they could. So they did.

The irony is: Supposedly I went to TEACH the Guatemalans about Christ. But I discovered that I went to LEARN about Christ too.

You know what would happen is you simply helped out your fellow human? No, it wouldn’t drive you into poverty. And maybe you could stand to lose a bit of your “precious time.”

He denied God because of lack of evidence. Then he came across evidence.

atheist turns to ChristAs he left behind childhood Vacation Bible School and studied for a degree in electrical engineering, Clay Lein lost his faith in God.

“I had a very rational mind. It had to be logical. I needed proof. There had to be evidence. And if there wasn’t proof then it was just something people made up,” Lein told KHOU Channel 11 News in Houston. “Part of the training for engineers is to be skeptical, to demand data, to want to see evidence.”

He married, got an MBA and launched a successful career at Intel. All his achievements and the world that surrounded him seemed very concrete and observable. There was no need to believe in something intangible that required you to suspend your scientific mind, he reasoned.

Why would I need God? I mean, if he even existed why would I have any need for him, he thought.

But his wife pleaded with him to attend church, and he acquiesced because he thought “church was a place nice people go.” All the while he tactfully but firmly let people know he was an atheist.

Then he volunteered at a youth camp and that’s when his skepticism got shattered. Read the rest of the article.

The cup makes the coffee

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

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

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

God is a fireman, not a policeman

God firemanHis rules are for self-protection. He’s not prowling looking for somebody to bust.

God’s principle job is rescue.

We are a sinners, incapable of saving ourselves. God did that for us. Don’t conjure an image of a finger-pointing deity who is hankering to haul the sinner off to jail. That’s contrary to the message: God is love.

If you violate the fire codes, don’t be surprised if you get burned. You may not agree with the fire codes. You may use academic language like “morality is subjective.” But the fire codes — His Bible — is there to help you, not to hurt you.

Regardless, if you violate the fire code, God will rescue you when you call 911 — when you pray to Him.

Ben Franklin’s failure is the Spirit’s success

tongues of fireUltimately Ben Franklin’s attempts to reign in his flesh failed because making lists and checking off behavior charts smacks of religion. Only the Holy Spirit can truly change a person.

We just read in our literature class fragments of Franklin’s autobiography, and Franklin discusses a sort of perpetual New Year’s Resolution scheme he had. He charts his successes and expresses frustration over his failures. While laudable, human power trying to dominate human impulse is doomed.

Instead of a list of “don’ts,” your relationship with Jesus Christ is better seen as love. I didn’t adhere to a list of prohibitions when I fell in love with Dianna. I simply WANTED to be with her and to please her.

This is what the Holy Spirit does, those tongues of fire that descended on the disciples on the Day of Pentecost. Peter, the despicable coward who denied Christ to a child, didn’t need to psyche himself up to eloquence, despite the danger of testifying publicly to the Sanhedrin. Once the Spirit came on him in power, he just flowed.

Don’t strive for less of world but for more of God.

*original image from smashingapps,com by Jayan. You’re awesome. I don’t own the rights to it, and I’m not making any money on it. Thank you.

Relatable Christian post #1: Temptation

relatable Christian post | temptationDang, why is temptation all around?

Lead me not into temptation, Lord. — the Lord’s prayer.

I can resist everything except temptation — Oscar Wilde. Yeah, I know, he’s not a Christian quotable, but maybe we can relate because we’re all human.

Thank God for His grace, forgiveness and restoration. We can start tomorrow with a pristine desire to not dig into the carrots.

Original picture source: Google+. Kudos and thanks to whoever worked this. I don’t own its rights, and I’m not making any money on it.

Outlasting stress and strain

stress and strainStress is the force exerted on the jet wing. Strain is bending to the elasticity limit; if it bends beyond that, it breaks.

My dad was the test engineer who discovered, with a torque rod, that the outside two wing cylinders would break on the F-104. But his superior thought faulty testing side load was to blame. So Lockheed skipped the redesign.

f-104When the prototype flew, the same cylinders were compressed. The redesign, so late in the game, was much costlier.

We all have our breaking points, when too much stress is straining our hearts more than we can bear. Just like different materials and different designs have different load capacities, so too all of us have different limits. There’s no point in making fun of me if my capacity to enduring stress is lesser than yours.

I want to spring back into the original shape. I don’t want to be distorted by the strain of bitterness, disillusion, betrayal. God increase my elasticity!

Embrace change

murmuringwithout murmuring. The Israelites complained so much at almost every step of the way out of slavery. They didn’t like the food. They were thirsty. They were afraid. God was too strict.

Then they said it. We were better off in slavery!

Can you imagine someone wanting to go back to slavery?

Ultimately, their bad attitude kept them from entering the Promised Land. The first generation died wandering in the desert. Their children possessed the good land.

If you’re in great upheaval right now, praise God for the trial. Try not to complain. I know it’s hard.

Image source: Beautiful pictures on Google+. I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it.

Let your wife choose

Sweet Lady JaneI really don’t care too much for Sweet Lady Jane’s pastries. But if I let my wife choose where we go out, her eyes go sparkly. She becomes Sweet Lady Dianna.

If the husband insists on making every decision, he will sour his marriage, frustrating needlessly his wife. If you insist on making EVERY decision, you ultimately harm your own leadership. You show your self-centeredness, which diminishes your love.

Go where you don’t like. Go out on a date where she likes.

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

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

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

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

Check out the rest of the article.

With God’s help, he survived this crash

miraculous accidentEvery side of his pickup truck was completely smashed and compacted after Kaleb Whitby struck a semi from behind and was then hit by another semi in a highway pileup caused by morning fog and black ice.

Whitby literally walked away unscathed – with just two Band-Aids – after his Chevy Silverado was banged, spun, and ultimately came to rest in the vice-grip of parallel semi trucks. By God’s protective hand, he narrowly escaped death.

“I do believe in God. I do believe He protected me,” Kaleb told GodReports.com. “I don’t know if it was an army of angels that held those trucks apart, but I know it wasn’t my strength. I have faith that somebody was there to protect me.” Read more here: Christian news.

Odysseus’ pride brought his demise

Keeping his wits, Odysseus got the cyclops drunk, blinded him and escaped with his Ithacans from the cave where Polyphemus kept them to eat them. As he sailed away, he had only to rejoice after his brush with death.

With only a short journey home ahead, Odysseus then makes the biggest mistake of his life. He shouts at the Polyphemus and boasts: “It is I, Odysseus, who have blinded you.” For indulging his pride, he paid dearly.

OdysseusPolyphemus’ dad was Poseidon, god of the seas. As long as Polyphemus didn’t know who blinded him, he had no one of asking his dad to exact revenge. But once he learned Odysseus’ name, Polyphemus could act. (This is the limitation of Greek gods.)

If you’re a sailor, you don’t want to get Poseidon mad. The god whipped up winds and storms. He drove Odysseus into one death trap after another. Ten years later, with all his men dead and all his ships lost, only Odysseus washes up on the shores of Ithaca.

It’s interesting that even pagan cultures echo the Bible: Pride goes before a fall. And yet, we Americans fail miserably to guard our tongue and heart from the dangers of pride. Strive for the virtue of humility.

Photo source: Actually I wasn’t swimming in the Adriatic Sea. I found this stunning picture somewhere on the Internet. I don’t own its rights, and I’m not making any $ on it. But if someone would pay for my ticket to go visit the Mediterranean, I’ll be more than happy to get my own picture of a beautiful boat. In the meantime, profound thanks to whoever took this one. You rock!

Missing Dad?

missing dadsI admire exuberantly Moms who’ve also had to be Dad. But I don’t think we can glibly replace him. I would rather exhort dads to fill their God-ordained roles. My fear is that if we say Dads are NOT important, then they won’t feel important and will choose a life of sin instead of role-modeling and loving kids.

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

Perfect peace

Isaiah 26:3

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. — Isaiah 26:3 NKJV.

The devil assails our minds with worry. Trusting in Jesus means having peace.

Photo source: Pinterest. I’m not making any money on it. I don’t own the rights to it.

Love, serve and sacrifice

love, service, sacrifice

With the kids of my disciples.

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe better called ‘the Ten Blessings’

ten commandments

As with so many things in life, everything depends on your perspective.

“Commandments” illicits such negative reactions these days. Nobody wants anybody else telling them what to do. Well, on second thought, we DO want police and law to keep us safe from criminals and terrorists. But we don’t want God to exercise any such protection. We can handle morality on our own, we think.

So now it is time to rename the “Ten Commandments.” After all, we understand that if you misuse your new electronic device or car, you can suffer consequences. But on the other hand, if you use it correctly, it will be useful, work right and keep you happy.

So if you want a life that works right and keeps ya’ happy, follow the guidelines of the Manufacturer, which were formerly called the “Ten Commandments.” The blessings of obedience are within reach.

The difference is mercy

cute babyOne girl sputtered out of the church. Her pastor/uncle treated her gruffly when she got pregnant out of wedlock. Twenty years later, she’s still out of the church.

Another girl, in her down and out moment, got friendship, love, acceptance, encouragement. Today she’s serving in the church, a huge blessing.

It’s good to uphold a high standard for the church. But we must never lose sight of mercy. Sometimes striking a balance is tough. If we err, let’s err on the side of mercy. That’s what God does.

Soccer saves souls

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

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

Soccer saves souls.

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

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

The man of 1,000 jobs had to leave…

Relaxing with a leader on my recent visit.

Relaxing with a leader on my recent visit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hard lesson: to cast your burdens on Jesus

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta | Guatemala

So when will I ever learn?

I’ve been a Christian for so many years that I have to pull out a calculator. And I still can’t grasp the fundamentals. I’m a worrier, and my greatest fear (now) is that the church I left in Guatemala will collapse (because I am no longer there). This is ridiculous. It’s Christ’s church, not mine. He’s got this.

Any time some “bad” news gets to the U.S., the worrying kicks into high gear. Imagination goes to worst case scenarios. Just recently, the school I left behind had a “deficit.”

It turned out to be more of cash flow problem that one panicky leader reported to me — and so I guess I’m panicky too. But when I went to Guatemala, everything I saw and every person I talked to had only good things to report. That doesn’t mean there weren’t trials. It just means that my fears were unfounded.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you — 1 Pe. 5:7 NIV.

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

A visit made all the difference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To whom can you show mercy today?

Restoration of marriages

Hernan and Hilda have been married for 59 years.

Hernan and Hilda have been married for 59 years.

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

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

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

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

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

Hospitality, not hostility

hospitality | Guatemala

With my wife and the pastor in Guatemala.

They eat beans and tortillas six days a week, and on Sunday — their only day of chicken — they would give me the best piece. I felt as guilty as a convict but knew that I couldn’t refuse their hospitality.

I learned hospitality in Guatemala. In the United States, I learned self-sufficiency, every man for himself, get ahead of the other, only invite to eat if they invite you back.

When you’re in a house with dirt floor and sheet metal roof, it’s time to learn something new when people so poor give so richly. In the Bible, it is a great honor to receive strangers/guests into your house and provide them protection. The guests get treated even better than children.

When was the last time you invited someone to eat who stands no chance of paying you back? When have you given love to the unloveable? When have given to the point of forgoing once-weekly chicken yourself?

I am in Guatemala, delighting in its incomparable hospitality with the brethren of the church I founded.

Get your life back on track

getting life back on track

With my spiritual son, Sam.

It’s no fun spiraling out of control. But it’s an understandable reaction after getting slammed in life.

At some point, you have to analyze and decide to get your life/family/career/ministry back on track.

Samuel was the greatest soul-saver we had. Better than me, and I was his pastor. Incredibly energetic, he worked tirelessly to build a church in zone 5. Then his wife left him for the keyboardist. And his life went down the drain for four years.

Now, Sam is getting back on track. He formalized by marrying the lady he was with. And we will be excited to see what God has for him ahead.

It’s inspiring me to get back on track with what God wants for my life.

This year, get your life back on track. Do what you REALLY want to do.

Friends, fun and revival

futbol guatemala

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

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

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

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

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

Surviving the slam

surviving the slam

Sam, as the devil, in a drama in the early days of the church in Guatemala. I am the guy with the sword and the shield. We used diesel to spit fire.

Sam was a pastor when his wife left him. The joy of serving Christ just died for him at the moment he found out. He very nearly threw himself off a bridge that night.

Four years later, he’s gathering the pieces of his life and trying to get back to serving God.

At some point in your life, you’re going to get slammed. Maybe more than once.

Not growing bitter against God (family, church, life, others) is the challenge. Living with joy, also. Not growing cynical.

At some point, you have to survey the damage of your life and decide you want light-heartedness. You have to want to do good again. You have to want to not pass into the washouts.

Those who recovered from slams in the Bible: Joseph, Job, Moses. And don’t forget Jesus. One of his best friends betrayed him to death. They all recovered from the slam.

Seek recovery in 2015!

Old friends, new works

Guatemala churchFor years, these guys were among my closest associates in the pioneer church of Guatemala. They preached in the streets, did dramas, tithed, attended services and became pastors.

Sometimes life slams us. Can we survive?

I’m in Guatemala again seeing the church my wife and I started 20 years ago. At its height, it had a K-12 school and oversaw four start-up churches. Then gunmen convinced me my time was over in Guatemala, and I returned to the States. We’ve passed some difficult trials. Will we grow bitter or inactive?

Or will we rise from the ashes to do fresh works for God?

Show your true colors

show off your colorsI don’t know why I have to be different than I am. People want me to be a tough guy. I am not a tough guy. I have never been a tough guy. God made me a sensitive type. If you don’t like it, too bad. I’m not changing for you.

Sometimes churches can try to make you fit their mold. We would lose our diversity if everybody liked football. God made us all different for a reason. If we were all football fans, how would the soccer fans get saved.

When God gave you unique fingerprints, unique DNA and a unique personality, it was to bless His church. Be yourself!

The four answers to prayer

answers to prayer

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

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

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

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

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

An inside view of the IS (more of my reporting on God Reports)

jurgen todenhoeferAfter visiting Islamic State-occupied territory at great risk, a German journalist called the extremist organization a “movement with the power of a nuclear bomb” after returning home last week.

Jurgen Todenhoefer, a 74-year-old German journalist, was given unprecedented access to the Islamic State and returned to Munich after spending 10 days with the terrorist group in the areas the group control in Iraq and Syria.

They are “the most brutal and most dangerous enemy I have ever seen in my life,” Todenhoefer said, as part of a series of interviews broadcast on the BBC and CNN.

Born out of the Syrian rebel movement, IS catapulted into international attention, seizing major cities in Iraq last June and beheading James Foley and other westerners whose governments refuse to negotiate a ransom. The group consists mostly of Sunni Muslims, many of whom aided Saddam Hussein’s cruel regime, and is growing daily by Muslims drawn to radicalism from all parts of the world.

IS fighters were surprisingly confident, Todenhoefer said.

“We will conquer Europe one day,” one fighter told him. “It is not a question of IF we will conquer Europe, just a matter of when that will happen. But it is certain. For us, there is no such thing as borders. There are only front lines. Our expansion will be perpetual. And the Europeans need to know that when we come, it will not be in a nice way. It will be with our weapons. And those who do not convert to Islam or pay the Islamic tax will be killed.” To read the rest of the article, click here: Christian world news.

Upsizing trials

downsizing

When the ice cream comes slightly smaller at the same price, we might not even notice. But if we do, we’re up in arms. It’s a way to turn a profit — slow-churn a profit.

With trials, there’s no downsizing. They just harder and bigger every time. Earth is a classroom, and we can’t stay in 3rd grade forever.

I remember one time I found out about a trial my pastor was going through. Whoa, I said to myself, I hope I never have to go through something like that.

Then I went through worse things. I was victim of extortion. I got held up at gunpoint. Then I got rejected by the ones I loved.

Of course you have to beat the temptation to call it quits. But never is a trial easy. The promise of the Word is NOT a life free of trials but trials that we can handle. (I keep thinking I can’t handle it anymore.)

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted (tried) more than you can bear. With the trial, He will provide a way of escape so that you can endure. — 1 Cor. 10:13.

We get breaks from trials but never graduate from them (until we graduate to Heaven).

This post is just sobering. I hope it can fill you with courage to face the day.

Pic: Mouseprint,org

We get in the way (of God’s blessings)

when you block God's blessing

We let our sinful desires run rampant, and then we wonder why God hasn’t blessed us.

It’s like the person who blames water for shocking him when he uses electronics in the tub. Why refuse to accept the physical laws spiritual laws that govern the world?

We accept that rules govern a happy relationship. We accept laws for civil society. We understand that geometry has its logic. But we want to tell God that He’s wrong when tells what will and will not work.

It’s not that you need to be perfect. God forgives. But when we flout the law of God, then why do we blame Him when things don’t work?

I make mistakes

grace for mistakesTherefore, I like grace.

Forgiveness is a wonderful thing.

You can try to live without it. But why?

Christmas: a burst of love

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

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

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

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

Tim Howard: soccer star for God

tim howardAfter Tim Howard stopped a record 16 shots during the World Cup game against Belgium, an overly exuberant American edited Wikipedia’s listing of the U.S. Secretary of Defense and inserted the goalie’s name.

It was quickly changed back to Chuck Hagel, who actually called to congratulate Howard for the respectable USA soccer showing in the July 1st match. Team USA lost 1-2.

Howard’s moment of earthly glory proved fleeting – which is fine with him because he likes to direct his praise elsewhere. “Some people bask in that glory,” Howard, 35, told Campus Crusade for Christ. “For me, it is a burden.”

“I am blessed to be living a dream. And yet, if it all went away tomorrow, I know I would still have peace. That probably sounds crazy to most people, but that’s the kind of peace Christ gives. It is rooted in His love, and it surpasses all understanding,” he told the Huffington Post in a separate interview. The rest of the article here: Tim Howard.

Photo: nypost. I don’t own rights to it, and I’m not making any money on it.

God gave me the gift of writing

Michael Ashcraft | Lighthouse Church School

I teach and coach at Lighthouse Schools in Santa Monica, another unpaid position that I love.

I wanted to write as a child but didn’t know how. I think my teachers gave me C- on writing assignments out of pity. It was so clumsy.

I got my feet wet as an undergrad at the UCLA Daily Bruin. I did internships for UPI, Whittle Communications, the LA Herald Examiner, the LA Times in Orange County, the Riverside Press Enterprise and the Santa Monica Dispatch. I was a stringer for the New York Times. My first professional job was at the Gilroy Dispatch.

By getting edited thousands of times, I learned how to write.

Then for 16 years as a missionary in Guatemala, I didn’t write. I was too busy. From time to time, I would ask God to restore this gift in my life. He brought me back to the States four years ago, and I started this blog.

Today is Christmas. I’m thinking about this gift God gave me. It’s a wonderful gift. I wouldn’t exchange it for anything. From the comments, I can see lives have been changed. I’ve used my gift to promote my church and school, the Lighthouse of Santa Monica. Recently, I’ve started writing for GodReports.com. The opportunities to fill the web with Christian content amaze me. The Internet opened doors that were previously closed by the few outlets who decided what got publicized and what didn’t. It seems like Christians are always the last to harness new technologies and trends for the promotion of Jesus.

Lives have been touched. I can tell from the comments. But while writing is an incredible gift, it doesn’t get remunerated like say, engineering or a mind for business. As texting takes over the art of writing, fewer and fewer people are really able to write. As the talent pool diminishes, it would be logical that the pay would rise. But alas, the opposite is true. In print media’s heyday, you could get paid up to $1,000 an article. Not anymore. With the explosion of media online, articles get paid $20 or $30, hardly something you can make a living on.

I’m asking you, my followers who have enjoyed the pictures I’ve posted, the heart-warming stories, the nuggets of wisdom, pictures of pathos, to pray for me this year to find sponsors for my writing. Thanks!

Merry Christmas! I’m looking forward to passing another year together, encouraging and being encouraged.

Here’s a few of my recent articles on http://Godreports.com

I let my writing be governed by the principals:

  • be optimistic
  • reach out to unbelievers in a non-confrontational, non-condemning way
  • maintain openness to all branches of Christianity without insisting on the correctness of my doctrine on non-essential points

Loneliness at Christmas

loneliness Christmas

Even surrounded by family, you can feel incredibly lonely.

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

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

Those were beautiful moments.

Wrong ways to heal hurts

cutting

I have healed my hurts in Jesus. Please don’t try something else.

I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it. I DO hope to help people with it.

Narrow escapes

narrow escape

I’ve been in dangers. I’ve brushed with death. The greatest danger is hellfire. I thank God He pulled me out of lostness and into salvation. What would have happened to me, had it not been for God?

They make a great mistaken when they say we think we’re better than anyone else. No, Christians are not better. They are just better off. We are better off because:

  • we recognize our sinful condition.
  • we ask for and receive God’s forgiveness.
  • we throw ourselves into the loving arms of the Eternal Father.
  • we are blessed on Earth on our journey to Heaven.

Don’t fall prey to the enemy of your soul.

Original picture from Beautiful Pictures on Google Circles. I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it.

Dream. Pray. Live.

dream pray live

Don’t give up on dreaming. Don’t give up on praying. Don’t give up on living.

For when you have done any of those three, your life has become a mechanical nothingness.

Original image: Beautiful Pictures on Google Circles. I don’t own the rights to this picture, and I’m not making any money with it.

Just drop your work and play soccer

photo (7)I had things to do, but my oldest son suggested we play soccer. He’s almost 17, almost off to college where I won’t be seeing him.

When we were missionaries in Guatemala, I was almost always too busy to spend much time with him. The tyranny of the urgent destroys what’s truly important.

Sons and daughters need dad more than money. God wants me to win my family to Christ before winning others. If I am so busy winning others to Christ, if I am something of an absentee father, I will have failed in my mission in life.

So I closed my laptop and changed for a quick-moving game of futsal. In soccer there are piano players — those who have delicate touch and quickness — and piano movers — hulking player who bust through defenses. Rob’s both.

The teams are always my younger son and I against Rob. Even though we are two against one, Rob always wins.

Then a friend, Lisa, came along. Since we were losing, she came on our team. Still Rob was winning. But we kept fighting. My recent trips to the gym have helped me develop more leg muscles and I can keep up with Rob’s starts and stops, his spins, the jukes. Just stay goalside and block the shot. Don’t try to take the ball from him.

Hosea and I are playing better than usual. We are actually passing and combining nicely with Lisa. Oddly, we conjure some decent finishing. It is tied 8-8. It is growing dark.

Finally, another quick one-two pass and the ball slides through the chair legs (our goal). We are winning 9-8.

“It’s too dark to keep playing, Rob,” I say. “Let’s get dinner.”

Ha! This is how I win! I call the game off right when we are in the rare moment of being up one point! I take a shower and get ready for Spanish service. I am exuberant. I can’t remember the last time Hosea and I beat Rob.

Sons need a dad. Drop your work.

The best and the worst

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

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

Original image from Beautiful Pictures on Google Circles.

And is there no God?

girlWell I guess some of us evolved. That’s how we behave pursuing instinctual, animalistic desires with no restraint.

I realize that many personify animals to believe they think like humans, but I don’t think they are capable of admiring beauty, of feeling such deep love, of identifying nobility.

When I look at this picture, a rush of admiration floods my heart: the innocence, the poetic grace, the delight of children playing. Animals are not capable of this because God created man different — with an intellectual and emotional level far superior to animals, levels that make no sense coming out of biological evolution, the crass survival of the fittest that we see in dangerous nature.

But, you become what you believe.

Picture source: The original comes from pinterest. I’m not making any money on it. I don’t own rights to it.

The thrill of defeat

Lighthouse Church School My middle school soccer team got spanked 0-7 yesterday. It was so incredibly satisfying.

Why? Because forming soccer players disciples of Christ makes my heart hum. Because challenges make you grow. Because you have to lose in order to learn how to win.

The Lighthouse Church School players hemorrhaged goals because they were out of position over and over again. With a gaggle of beginners, with little guys, what else can you expect? I told them where to be and what to do, but did they get it?

They got it yesterday — by losing.

So now, we are expecting better results.

Hopefully more kids will be “in the zone” too. Some of the kids appeared to spend parts of the game thinking about the snack at the end. Other kids looked like roots were growing out of the soles of their feet and into the ground. They were stationary.

And if we can find at least one player who can handle our goal kicks (and not pass it directly to the opponents at 15 yards from goal), that would be most helpful.

As for the Brentwood School’s B team, they positioned themselves well enough and passed the ball proficiently. Thankfully, the “B” team’s finishing was “B” in quality. Otherwise the score might have been 14-0.

I love it.

Be grateful

be gratefulAs a wordsmith, I’ve always envied the simple and compelling power of pictures. This one, of a gaunt, starved African child’s hand, speaks volumes to Westerners about the blessings we take for granted. No matter how poor you are, compared to other nations, you are rich, simply because you live in the First World. We ought to be grateful for the blessings GOD has bestowed on us.

Don’t give up on yourself

God never gives up onIf God has ever intersected with your life in the remotest way, He will never give up on you. So don’t give up on yourself.

His mercy is ever-lasting. Be confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus — Phil. 1:6 NIV (syntax modified).

Picture credit: shannon van valin morgan on pinterest. I don’t own the rights to the original, and I’m not making any money on it.

Missionaries in the Philippines battle gunman with prayer

Jaquith-Daniel-and-Colleen

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

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

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

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

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

The missionaries website: http://btti.org