Tag Archives: inspiration

I need this dog to find my stuff

This is perfect. By the smell on the object, the dog brings left items back to their owners while their still in the airport. Can I get one of these dogs to help me find my glasses, my keys, my agenda, my cell phone, my book, my jacket — my everything I lose.

I was sitting on top of the world when I was pastor in Guatemala. At home, my wife found everything I lost. At the church school, my secretary found everything. Even my daughter got in on the act. I was absolutely baffled how, as soon as she started, she’d follow a sixth sense and go straight to where the item lay — usually where I had already searched six times meticulously myself without finding it.

But now, my wife does engineering and doesn’t have time. I don’t have a secretary anymore. And my daughter is in college and is too sophisticated to deign to something so simple (for her) as finding stuff for doddering Dad.

Good thing my head is attached to my shoulders, or surely I would lose it. Good thing Jesus is attached to my heart, or a similar fate would be my demise.

Can you lose God? Actually this is huge controversy among denominations. Without resolving the conflict, I would like to point out that the prodigal son didn’t stop being a son. And, once you’re born again, the Bible mentions nothing about being un-born again.

I guess I’m a believer more in the unfailing love of God than in the failure-prone love of man. Man is fickle; God is faithful. If we are unfaithful, He cannot be so.

I have not intention of making a theological treatise or siding with one point of view entirely. I only wish to conjure much love, admiration and praise to God who loves us much more than we could ever imagine.

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.”

Achieve the sublime

achieve the sublimeFor me, the most inspiring thing about this photo is the dancer is a friend of mine. The leap is dumbfounding and graceful. That it’s a regular guy only makes it more extraordinary for me.

Javier dances with the Los Angeles Ballet and, for a season, attended Lighthouse Church where I go. He even invited me to see him perform La Sylphide last year. I’m not even an initiate for ballet. I went just to show him support. I had to read online about the plot. The only way I realized a particularly spectacular dance move was done was by the applause of the rest of the audience. So I applauded with them.

Out this came an appreciation for a dance form that heretofore was esoteric for me. Ballet is the pinnacle of dance. And it’s amazing what the human body can do with vigorous training, dedication and hard work. It’s downright inspiring.

When Javier flies, so does my imagination. It’s inspiring for us to all strive to attain the heights of beauty and perfection in whatever talent God has given us to bless mankind.

The best surprise

God's surpriseTo the “Christian” of blunted intelligence, faithfulness is boring.

It is, however, the key to breakthrough. The best surprises are the ones God gives. You’re going along, attending church faithfully, tithing faithfully, struggling but trying to stay consistent. At some times, it seems even mechanical, dead. You don’t feel it anymore.

The temptation is to give up. It seems that all is for naught. You think you’re just wasting your time. Then, boom!, God drops a huge blessing into your life, and the romance with God is fresh again!

One of the most overlooked characteristics of God is His love for surprise. I’ve never seen it an a theology book, but it’s in Genesis 2:9. He warned Adam and Eve against the tree of sin. But He said nothing about the tree of life, which also was in the Garden of Eden. It was going to be a surprise. Regrettably, our father and our mother never discovered this pleasant surprise because they wanted more by their own devices. They ate the forbidden fruit, believing it contained blessing. They wanted more; they got less.

Hang in there for God’s surprises.

Endless energy for marathons and medical missions

Dr. Bob Hamilton | Lighthouse Medical Missions

Dr. Bob pauses from the L.A. Marathon at mile 23 to take a picture in front of his banner. It is rare to get him to take a pause.

If the U.S. needs an alternative source of energy, it might try connecting a power line to Dr. Bob Hamilton’s house. They could tap into his brain – or his heart – and siphon off his excess personal energy during the night to supplement the local power grid.

On Saturday night, Hamilton, a board member for Santa Monica Symphony, was relishing Vijay Gupta’s masterful violin interpretation of Beethoven’s toughest concerto in the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Korea Town.

On Sunday morning, he was running the L.A. Marathon to raise funds for another pet project, African medical missions.

I was stationed at mile 23 to snap his picture and interview him. He wasn’t talking about pain. He wasn’t groaning about crawling to the bitter end. He was jogging at a good pace, and he was planning his work immediately after the race.

“I’m going to Africa in a week and a half, and I’m thinking that I have a lot to do before I go,” he said as I jogged alongside him.

What, no rest – even after a marathon?

At all times, Dr. Bob is a tornado of activity. And thanks to a mythical work rate, he’s established Pacific Ocean Pediatrics in Santa Monica, served on half a dozen community boards and headed 22 medical missions to Africa and elsewhere. Read the rest of the story.

I’m not playing basketball. I’m break-dancing.

basketball klutz

At this point in the game, I decided to do something very random: practice break-dancing. I have never done break-dancing in my life. And fortunately, I didn’t break anything. Ruby, my opponents, asks, “What are you doing on the ground again for?”

At Lighthouse Christian Academy’s opening of our annual student-teacher mixup 3-on-3 basketball tournament, I spent more time on the ground than on my feet.

Despite the inordinate clumsiness, we still won. One of my teammates, Raymond, a Chinese student who LOVES bball, did just about everything. He scored, defended, hustled, passed, pressured, ran. dribbled, shot.

I fell.

Don't laugh. I'm playing basketball.

Don’t laugh. I’m grimacing to intimidate opponents.

This all fun in the Son. This is what having a small Christian school is all about: good friends, lots of fun, lots of learning.

I’ve been teaching at LCA since I got back from missionary work in Guatemala, where in addition to a church, I planted a church, during almost 16 years. While I was there, I learned soccer.

What am I doing playing basketball?

He shoots and -- he falls.

He shoots and — he falls.

My height — at 6’3″ — should be an asset. My weight too. (Well, I guess my height isn’t going to help much since I pass most of the time on lying on the ground.)

Last year, I was on the winning team. But that was due mostly to Pastor Zach Scribner, who took me. Pastor Zach snuffed his competition in another game today. He looks like the team to beat.

I know, I know. I’m not supposed to ask for prayer to win basketball games. The next one is Wednesday for me. Basketball is game played by talented people.

Nine years ago today, my mother died

legacy | missionary

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

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

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

fam14revised

With my family last Fall.

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

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

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

I love coffee.

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

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

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

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

Appalling people who won’t help kid in T-shirt in freezing New York

What is wrong with our country if after two hours of NO ONE responds to an obvious need of a child freezing in New York.

Well, there is a heart-warming end to this video project (which was acted and is not a real runaway), but the last person you’d you expect reaches out. Where is America’s heart?

We all need motivation to do and be good

Hester prynne

Mistress Hibbins invites Hester Prynne to witchery in the forest. She refuses but admits that she very nearly would have gone.

Why? First the Puritans forced Hester to wear a red letter A on her dress always as a testimony that she was an adulteress. This public shaming she withstood. But when the somber town fathers threatened to take away her baby, she would have nothing left to live for. Barely was she allowed to keep her child.

Scarlet Flames

Mistress  Hibbins then gives her the satanic invitation. “If they would have taken my child away, I would have not only joined you but I would have signed my name in blood in Satan’s book,” she responded.

The power of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is its knack for portraying poignant psychological realities. If we are deprived of all motivation to do and be good, we will be bad.

Heaven in us

heaven in usJesus didn’t die just to get us into Heaven. He died to get Heaven into us.

We should walk about with Heaven excitement in us always.

A church for Muslims: Compassion not suspicion

Adrian-churchPastor Adrian Rodriguez has been preaching the gospel, translated by his wife, to about 30 people every Sunday in a church on the outskirts of Hartford, Connecticut, and not one of the congregants is Christian.

All of them are Muslim.

“We’re dealing with very hardcore Muslims,” he says of the immigrant refugees from the Middle East who are drawn to his church. “They’re very indoctrinated. But God is speaking to their hearts.”

Pastor Adrian’s response to America’s burgeoning Muslim enclaves is perhaps Christianity’s best model: View them with eyes of compassion, not with eyes of suspicion.

With 375 Muslims per 100,000 residents, Connecticut is the 14th most Muslim state in the nation, according to a Huffington Post article in 2012. The number of mosques has doubled to more than 2,100 nationwide since the year 2000, according to a survey.

While most Americans are not hostile towards Islam according to reports, there has been concern about radicalized youths. The Homeland Security Department estimates 100 U.S. citizens have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS.

Read the rest of the article.

I thought it was the year of the ram

year of ram?But my gym told me it was the year of me.

:(

Again? Selfishness prevails always.

Well, I went to Chinatown for the Chinese New Year’s parade and cheered on the marching bands. The exploding confetti bursts were exciting. My wife is Chinese American, so it’s cool to learn about culture. They say it’s the year of the ram, whatever that means.

photo(4)So you can imagine how completely disillusioned I was this morning at the gym to see that it’s not going to be the year of the ram. It’s the year of you.

I’M TIRED OF LIFE ALWAYS BEING SO SELF-CENTERED! Can’t we think of others? When is the year of others?

Revival in Southeast Asia

[Editor’s note: Mark Ellis is my editor at GodReports.com. He is currently in Southeast Asia reporting on God’s moves there. The following is one of his articles.]

Revival in Southeast Asia

By Mark Ellis

Raised in a strict Buddhist family in Chanthaburi, about three hours east of Bangkok, her parents didn’t understand when she became a born again Christian.

“My parents brought me to the temple, but I never felt connected to those things,” says Blue Erika Ployamporn. “They prayed in a language I didn’t understand.”

An unusual thing happened to her as a young teen. “When I was 13 brushing my teeth God called me,” Blue recalls. Her mother had been ill, and she told Blue she would have to take care of her brother and sister if she died.

She began to weep because she realized she didn’t know where her mother would go after she died. “I didn’t know how to see her again,” she says. “They said there is the next life, but you can’t choose where you go. I felt so hopeless.” Read the rest of the article here: Revival in Southeast Asia.

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.

Take her shopping

shopping is sufferingI can handily find 1.75 million other needful things to do rather than go shopping. When forced to shop by myself, I’m a laser: straight to what I need — and out. Fast.

But here’s a key to a happy marriage: don’t make it “me” time. It is “her” time. Don’t impose on your wife what you like to do. (You can do what you like some other time — say, with your buddies, for example.)

When Dianna and I shop together, time goes into slow motion. Words get slurred, shoppers drudge about, my eyes cake up with glaze. I lose my ability to see color — everything runs grey (more than 50 miserable shades). There wasn’t even a Starbucks for me to take refuge at the concentration camp premium outlet. (No, it wasn’t a concentration camp. I couldn’t concentrate on anything.) It was surreal. (This is not hyperbole. This really happens.)

Why did I subject myself to such woe-begone suffering? Why did I willingly (yes, willingly) do what no man in his right mind would normally do? No, I’m not in torture training with plans to report journalistically  from the Islamic State with risk of being kidnapped.

No. I did it to make my beautiful wife happy. (Her beauty was the only glimmer in the T.S. Elliot-styled wasteland outlet.)

You see, if you manage to make your wife happy, she’ll make you happy.

If you always expect her to make you happy (because you’re the fist-pumping, Bible-thumping leader of the household), then maybe you have failed to notice that the Bible says you’re a leader only as Jesus was a leader (remember He laid his life down in sacrifice for the beloved church?).

Sacrifice yourself a little to be happy a lot.

Lust or sacrifice

valentines

For love, some only understand lust. If we are merely evolutionary beasts, then we can satiate whatever kinky idea that occurs to us. The “Sexual Revolution” is a misnomer; it is a “Sexual Devolution.”

These don’t know about the sublime love of Jesus. Lust procures to get for itself. Jesus’ love came to give. He sweated drops of blood, such was His agony in the buildup to his arrest and crucifixion. But he endured it all because He loved you and me. Jesus’ love is so unlike ours. It’s from another dimension. Can we even grasp?

The broken-hearted, the girl who’s cutting her wrist, the guy who’s contemplating suicide — needs to grasp it. The divorcee whose pain gushes where love once flowed. The celebrity who flashes smiles before cameras but drowns out his sorrows when alone. Christ is for losers — and in this cruel world, we’re all losers.

As the Good Book says, we’ve all fallen short of what God intended us for. We need something more gratifying than the excitement of sex. We need forgiveness. Are you lonely? Christ is inviting you to be His valentine.

Original image: Google. Thank you for your genius and creativity. I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it.

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.

Same tragedy, different outcomes

blind beggar

Two men became blind in the same factory explosion — one doomed to pathetic beggaring, the other a successful insurance salesman.

Fourteen years after the accident, they meet up and the blind one corners the rich one for a handout, which he obliges. But as he presses for extra money, he rehearses the story. The guy behind me, knocked me down and trampled me to get out, he moans. The story is meant to heighten sympathy and squeeze out an extra dollar or two.

But the rich one confronts the beggar. No, he says, it was you who pulled me down and trampled me. The beggar had not recognized the rich one. In the re-telling, he lied to make himself a greater victim.

mackinlay-kantor

MacKinlay Kantor

In this genius story, Man Who Had No Eyes, by MacKinlay Kantor, one man succumbs to tragedy, another overcomes adversity. Which one will you be? Which will I? Will our painful circumstances reduce us to a shell of the former, outgoing, optimistic selves.

To get a better idea, read the super-short story yourself.

The importance of schmoozing

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

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

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

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

socializing

from google images

Learn the importance of social activities.

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

I’m proud of the kids

Lighthouse Church School

There was no one faster in the league than our midfielder and defender, Caleb.

We were down 0-2 at halftime, and the kids walked off the field dejected.

Hey! We’re only down two goals. It’s not over! Let’s go out there and win this! I gave specific instructions to the kids. We needed more longer balls, through balls that our forwards could run on and beat defenders.

When the whistle blew, my son Hosea and his partner, Garrett Lahood, zipped through the midfielders and defenders straight to goal with three crisp passes. Garrett smashed it home. Woohoo! Now let’s get some more!

Santa Monica Christian school

Garrett’s quickness and ball-handling skills made coach move him from defender to forward.

But we didn’t win. Our inexperience began to show more. Errors were made, and our opponents, Westside Neighborhood School, beat Lighthouse Church School 7-1.

I’m not upset. Winning would have been almost impossible. For our small school with a co-ed team, to have made it to round 2 of playoffs was already an impossible dream. I’m proud of the kids.

It was a fun season. Kids learned about soccer, teamwork, effort. These are lessons they must apply to life.

Saints win 5-0 in middle school soccer

LCS Middle School SoccerMAR VISTA PARK – Lighthouse co-ed’s team resoundingly defeated Windward 5-0 to advance in middle school playoffs to round 2 on Monday.

They gelled when it counted most. Here was a team that during the league season would lose 8-0 and 7-0. The story of their turnaround is one of not growing frustrated, of learning from mistakes and of combining slow kids with fast kids, talented kids with not-so-talented kids into optimal formation.

Many middle schools have an A-team, a B-team and even a C-team. With less than 50 students, Lighthouse Church School in Santa Monica has only one team, combined with all sorts of players. To say all candidates make the cut is an understatement. Sometimes, the school begs kids to play.

With teams like that, the wrong thing to do is to let that one star do everything. Just give him the ball and get out of his way. Instead, the Saints focused on building a team around the stars.

A critical moment came when the Saints showed poor sportsmanship. In a pre-league scrimmage against Westside Neighborhood School, the Saints behaved very… um,unsaintly. After losing 4-1, some of the kids spat into their hands at the end-of-the-game high five, smearing it on their unwitting opponents’ hands.

Ugh! How despicable can you get?

While the opposing kids may not have realized they were the victims of an ugly prank, the opposing parents had seen it all.

Understandably incensed, the WNS coach spoke to Lighthouse coach. He couldn’t believe his ears (he had been herding stragglers to form part of the line when the offenders committed their crime).

LCS coach scrambled a quick investigation, which more or less confirmed the worse. A photographer produced incriminating photos. Kids broke down under interrogation and confessed.

It is sad to see top clubs and national teams defend their players – no matter how repugnant their behavior. Whether it is racial epithets uttered on the field or biting incidents, it’s shameful to see teams try to confuse the facts just so their players won’t be suspended.

LCS, a Christian ministry of the Lighthouse Church, decidedly reacted against self-defense. The athletics director and the coach immediately sent profuse apologies to the league organizers and offended school. They requested to NOT be excused; they asked for a sanction from the league.

Ultimately, league officials opted against punishment, acting on WNS’s gracious forgiveness. But Lighthouse benched for one game each of the offenders anyway. It was a matter of character – what Lighthouse most is trying to teach.

More important than winning league games was winning the souls of men. Since at least three players fessed up, three players sat out – and the team suffered on the field.

Read the rest of the story.

So are you ready?

Zachary Scott's workWe prepare for the SAT, final exams, a career, an interview, a game, a wedding, a speech and retirement. When do we prepare for death?

They say there’s no need since there’s nothing beyond death. You simply cease to exist, they say.

Are you so sure? The Bible, the world’s most read book, attests to a Heaven and a Hell. Even the heart of many longs for eternity. That feeling was placed in man by God.

To deny the existence of the afterlife is to deny the Creator of all of creation, which when looking at an architectural wonder is ludicrous to deny the architect behind it. (Go ahead, barrage me with Latin names for logical fallacies. Regardless, the point remains true!)

We are barely out of the womb and then we enter the grave. Compared to eternity, this life is b-r-i-e-f!

Photo credit: Zachary Scott’s series explores the issues of elderly. By dressing up toddlers as grandparents, he is suggesting that age is an issue of mentality. I like his reflection and add to it the thought of eternity.

You have to lose in order to win

Christian school Santa MonicaOur first game was against a C-team. We won 2-0. Our kids didn’t learn anything from the win.

But when we started playing B- and A-teams, we lost 0-8. Then the kids realized they didn’t know squat about soccer and would need to really learn. We have lost every league game (the win was a scrimmage) — except yesterday.

In the last game of the regular season, we tied 2-2. Now the kids are learning how to play.

Losses are valuable. You tend to learn more from a loss — if you don’t cast yourself in the pit of self-pity. A lot of people learn nothing from a win — in the self-congratulation there is no self-study, no refining, no fixing.

If you are currently losing, rejoice. Study, work and improve. The win is ahead. You can’t get to win except by losses.

I’m proud of the progress of my co-ed team (playing against all boys teams) at Lighthouse Church School in Santa Monica.

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.

On-line missionary faces ALS with hope in Christ

ALS bloggerHis blog is called “Unshakable Hope” – a striking contrast to what one might expect from an ALS patient of 18 years.

By far, Bill Sweeney, 54, has already outlived expectations for a normal patient afflicted with what’s otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a degenerative neural disorder that progresses until patients can’t breathe – usually within 3-5 years of diagnosis.

And though his paralysis keeps him cooped up at home, he never complains on his blog. To the contrary, he chides gently those who do rant – and his buoyant optimism would make anyone ashamed about sniveling over trivial inconveniences.


“One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from this long trial is that hope – and the joy, peace and faith that always accompany Christ-centered hope, only comes through a conscious, determined effort,” he writes on his blog through a painstakingly slow process that employs eye-tracking software to detect letter by letter what he wants to write on his computer.

“I’ve had my hope challenged many times, and I’ve become pretty good at conquering these challenges.” Read the rest of this Christian news article.

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.

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.

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

Teachers who inspire

inspiring friendsIn 2007, Marcelino de Leon saw kids in the his neighborhood who didn’t sign up for first grade. Illiteracy is high in Guatemala, where people struggle to survive and have a hard time supporting their kids in education.

So Marcelino decided to teach them himself. Every Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 he taught nine kids first grade materials. When the next year came around four of those kids tested into second grade.

Nobody paid him for this. No one applauded. Marcelino didn’t get any awards. A professional teacher, Marcelino just wanted to help where he could. He lost track of those kids when he moved, but we expect them to find him one day and report on their success at college.

Marcelino helped us at the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta. As always, it was voluntary, since we were/are strapped for money. We charge most students a minimal fee, and it doesn’t cover expenses.

I was so impressed by his willingness to pitch that I offered to teach him English. Extraordinarily, after I left Guatemala, he continued helping our school.

It’s people like Marcelino who inspire me.  Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds — Heb. 10:24. He came to visit me today. I’m wanting to do more for God.

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.

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!

Life’s a beach, so enjoy

life's a beachChristianity is not a list of rules. It’s a wonderful relationship with your Savior. It’s freedom from sin. The Holy Spirit fills you with peace and joy. If you don’t know the good life, this year you should get to know the Good Savior.

I got this picture from Facebook or Google+. I’m not making any money on it. I don’t own the rights to it.

Tim Tebow does more than just take a knee: he opens a hospital in Philippines

tim tebow glory to GodPhilippines-born Tim Tebow, famous for taking a knee and praying mid-game as an NFL quarterback, has now made a touchdown pass off the gridiron: a pediatric hospital under his tutelage opened for business this Christmas.

“I have always had a great love and passion for the Filipino people,” Tebow said in a statement. “It is so exciting to be able to provide healing and care for these incredibly deserving children halfway around the world.”

Read the rest of the article: Christian news. I wrote this article for God Reports. That’s why I feature it here.

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

Morning prayer is like breakfast

morning prayerdelicious and it fills you full of energy for the day.

Going without it is unhealthy.

Original image from pinterest.

Make New Year’s resolutions everyday

new years resolution | gymGyms make their money because New Year’s resolutions tend to flame out quickly. The business model of the gym is to contract for more people than could possibly fit in the building because most of those people won’t continue after February.

I’m not terribly much into New Year’s resolutions because I’m trying to do them everyday. My gym buddy kidded me that I had gotten a jump on the gym resolution. I have renewed workouts for almost the whole year. New Year’s will come and go without too much of a notice from me — plus, I don’t drink so that’s not a draw either.

Christianity may have starts and stops, but it should not have false illusions set on an arbitrary date (Jan. 1). Don’t wait for the beginning to begin!

Marriage, worth fighting for

marriagePeggy in our church is 94 years old. A Christian, she married under the illusion of naivete. Once in wedlock, her husband, a drinker, threatened her not to go to church. She felt the Holy Spirit nudge her to obey. For 20 years, she skipped church but never left God.

After that period, the rough-living husband accepted Jesus on his deathbed, and Peggy went back to church. In fact, she’s something of a heroine, a pillar at the Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica, the longest-attending member and practically the historian.

Today the story is stirring, but back then there was plenty of pain. What Peggy did, few would, especially today when marriage is esteemed about as much as disposable diapers. People chuck it when it gets poopy.

My generation has much to learn from Peggy. We can learn of her stick-to-itiveness, her fight-through-it attitude. We Christians win in the end, if we can just hang in there till the end.

Marriage is worth fighting for. He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD — Pr. 18:22 NIV. It seems like our current culture is doing everything to waylay marriage. It gets mocked on the sitcoms, degraded by the affair-touters, and now redefined. Hmmmm.

I haven’t been a cakewalk for Dianna, but maybe she’d say it’s been worth it. I know it’s been beautiful to build together for 24 years instead of tear asunder under the deception that someone somewhere is a “soulmate.” You trade in one set of problems for another. Nor do I think loneliness is a good answer. When God saw Adam alone, He made Eve for him. It was the first thing in the perfect creation that was imperfect.

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?

Lazarus: If Jesus hadn’t specified…

lazarusThe reason why Jesus specified “Lazarus” before giving the command to resurrect is otherwise the whole cemetery would have risen from the dead.

That would have been impressive! But no all the resurrected would have had relatives to cut off their grave clothes and feed them. It was best to keep things simple.

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

Manning: a man of faith

peyton manning Christian quarterbackThe most important moment in quarterback Peyton Manning’s life was NOT when he surpassed the NFL record of 509 touchdown passes. It wasn’t any of his league-record five MVPs. It wasn’t his Superbowl championship. And it wasn’t being named player of the decade of the 2000s by Fox News and Sports Illustrated.

The most emotional and dramatic moment of his life came when the Denver Broncos quarterback accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord.

“My faith has been number one since I was 13 years old and heard from the pulpit on a Sunday morning in New Orleans a simple question: ‘If you died today, are you one hundred percent sure you’d go to heaven?’” Manning writes in his book “Manning.”

“My heart was pounding,” he writes. “The minister invited those who would like that assurance through Jesus Christ to raise their hands, and I did. Then he invited us to come forward, to take a stand, and my heart really started pounding. And from where we sat, it looked like a mile to the front.

“But I got up and did it. I committed my life to Christ, and that faith has been the most important to me ever since.”

To keep reading click here: Christian news

What gift do you give when you have unlimited resources?

greatest giftGod has “undiminishable” riches. No matter how much you take away from them, it’s like a drop in the oceans.

So when He paid our ransom, it was a light thing. He could afford whatever price the devil set.

His only limited resource was His son. He had only one.

I’ve known parents to suffer prolonged acute grief over the loss of a son. That pain is assuaged many times by the presence of other children. God had no other children. He couldn’t preserve His favorite son and send the brat to die for humanity.

Even though Christ resurrected and triumphed over death, I believe God’s grief was unbearable.

Really, no one told God that it had to be His Son. God makes the rules, so He could have sent an angel to die on the cross for us. He could have sent all of His angels.

But to show how great His love is, He sent His one and only Son. He didn’t send money, which He possesses in limitless supply. He sent the one thing that most touched His heart.

I’m not so rich that I can give gifts without experiencing any personal loss. Such was God. The greatest gift is Jesus. Merry CHRISTmas!

Original photo from Tumblr.

Joy is the opposite of fear

joy at ChristmasSurprisingly, courage is NOT the opposite of fear. Rather, fear is the journey towards courage.

When we read the Christmas story, the opposite of fear proves to be joy. Angels visit Zachariah, Mary and Joseph. Each time they say: Do not fear. They explain their news, and then they say that it is cause for great joy.

So you can either be joyful or fearful, but not both.

Why is Christmas so joyful? It’s more than just a feel-good, help-the-less-fortunate time of year. It’s the time that Christ lifted off our shoulders an impossible burden. Christ paid an unpayable price. The separation from God that initiated in the Garden of Eden was finally ended. Humanity can now enjoy relationship with the Heavenly Father.

In the gif, Tim Cocker gives what he calls “terrible” Christmas gifts to his kids in 2011: a banana and an onion (she thinks it’s a tiny pumpkin). But the kids are joyful.

Will be joyful or fearful this Christmas?

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.

Keep praying

Just because you don't see anything happening, doesn't mean nothing is happening.

Just because you don’t see anything happening doesn’t mean nothing is happening.

Jesus described the Spirit like a wind, which, in his day, no one knew where it came from or where it was going. So too, we can never know the answers to prayer that are occurring in ways we never imagined, in places we never imagined, to people we never imagined.

If we just keep praying.

Original picture: Beautiful Pictures on Google Circles.

Santa is alive and well

santa claus is alive and wellNicholas gave his money away to help people. The legend is that he anonymously helped young ladies pay their dowry by throwing the money in the window. It fell into socks hanging on the hearth. His good deeds became known, and he was named bishop of Myra in what is now Turkey.

Then he died and went to Heaven, where he is alive and well. Don’t look for him at the South Pole. You’ll only find penguins.

The real gift-giver is Jesus. He’s not bringing a sack of toys. He offers far greater presents: the unpayable ransom of your soul, forgiveness, restoration, blessing, acceptance. Sorry Toys-R-Us, Jesus gives priceless stuff.

The wise men came bringing gifts to Jesus, but Jesus IS the gift to humanity.

No good comes from shaming

shaming

This generation believes — oddly — that humiliation brings reformation.

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

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

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

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