Tag Archives: inspiration

He fought cancer while building a business

When Adelso Lemus was expanding his business and felt pressured to cover ballooning expenses with sales, he was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer.

“The doctor was gently telling us that they were going to see what they could do,” Adelso told God Reports. “I didn’t want to do chemo because the last time I had cancer it jacked me up.”

From his hospital bed, he watched his family huddle.

They weren’t weeping; they were strategizing. Who would do what to cover Dad’s extensive responsibilities in the business? Adelso and his family sought what they always wanted in times of trial: a turnaround, for good to come out of the bad.

“I wasn’t thinking I was going to die,” he says. “I just needed to work this through and get back to the business.”

Adelso miraculously survived the cancer. His 10-year-old business of specialty tres leches cakes now grosses $1 million in revenue.

He shares his life philosophy on a radio podcast “The Flipside” which encourages listeners to not despair but to find how “all things work together for the good,” as the Bible says.

Adelso, 54, lives in San Antonio, Texas. He got saved as a youth in Albuquerque when he saw a formerly “fried” pothead” all cleaned up and alive.” It was an unexpected surprise, and the young man invited Adelso to church. He didn’t want to go, but his friend hounded him and he broke down. Of course, Adelso ended up receiving Jesus and transformation.

He grew zealous for the things of God and even prepared himself to enter ministry. He was part of the church-planting mission that emphasized evangelism and discipleship and not Bible school degrees.

He and new-convert Veronica got married “Jesus people style,” the way the hippies did in the Jesus Movement of the 70s, without expensive ballroom-like details and during the Sunday morning service. They were in love with each other and considered the fact that Jesus didn’t have any money.

Adelso and Veronica marched off to Panama, where they were missionaries for nine years. It was a wild time of scrambling to make ends meet. Adelso became very resourceful as he adeptly negotiated equipment and building rentals without having enough money to do so. Navigating financial hardship with resourcefulness became a skill he carried forward in life and it became the hallmark of his business.

“It hardened my hide to be able to go through what I’ve gone through in the business,” he says.

When his 25th wedding anniversary approached, he was on staff at John Hagee’s Cornerstone Church. He decided to save as much money he could every week to honor his wife with a big bash to renew their wedding vows. He wanted to make up for the skimpy beginnings of married life.

How would he cobble together the money for the event? His sister gave him a secret recipe, a tres leches cake with a non-traditional flourish, pineapple. It was off the radar, but when he took samples to some local restaurants they were curious.

“Tres leches with pineapple?” one proprietor said. “That’s weird.”

He tasted it.

“The way they responded in the restaurant was really positive,” Adelso explains. “I wanted them to taste it to see if it had any potential. They really liked it. I just chased the dream because of the reaction that I got. It was a genuine surprised reaction. I thought, Wow, they really liked it. It made me realize that this was something I could possibly do on the side.”

He started at home, but you can’t cook at home for commercial ventures for long.

The preparation for a wedding renewal turned into a full-time business. He needed to rent space at a bakery. At a cooking conference where he impressed with free samples, an acquaintance tipped him off to a 2,000-square-foot San Antonio bakery that could rent him space in the evenings.

The only problem was that she wanted $800 a month and all he could offer was $350. Read the rest: Adelso Lemus fought cancer while running a growing business

I am Cinderella

His family thought he was crazy, but he was fighting demonic oppression

Never mind that driving him towards suicide were demonic voices, schizophrenic episodes, and the opposition of his family. What bothered Adrien Lamont in the Bible conference – where he had gone seeking deliverance – was that there was only one other black person.

Fortunately, she came straight over to Adrien with a prophetic word: “God sees what you’ve been doing and how you’ve been chasing after him, and he’s so proud of you and he loves you and all the people that have done you wrong and called you crazy are gonna see what God is doing in your life in the direction that he’s taking you and they’re all gonna apologize.”

Adrien stayed and received intensive prayer. The deliverance was decisive. Today Adrien is a rising star in Christian Hip Hop, though his music is oriented more to the street than the pew, a rough-edged message of salvation, not cleared for Sunday School.

Adrien Lamont’s father abused heroin and died when he was young, so Mom did her best to raise him. Grandma was the driving force behind church attendance, but Adrien never developed a personal relationship with Jesus.

He was drawn to music and wanted to make it big. As he searched for his identity, he began drinking, smoking weed and using other drugs. He also liked to wear a brand of clothing with occult symbols. Today he says those symbols opened him up to demonic interference.

“I was really involved in satanic imagery and satanic clothing,” he says on Testimony Stories, a YouTube channel that focuses on Christian rappers. “It got to a point where all these things I was surrounding myself, started to affect my spirit. I realize now in hindsight that a lot of those garments and things I was wearing actually had demonic forces on them.”

He had a ring that every time he took it off and put it back on, he felt like a different person.

Connected with the producer, he began his path to stardom in secular rap.

“I remember just getting very high and drunk one day and I remember him telling me about all these satanic rituals and blood sacrifice and sacrificing his daughter,” Adrien says. “Under the laptop we were recording on, there was a Ouija board. I felt like I was demon possessed and that demons were speaking out of me into the microphone.”

On that day, he says he felt Satan’s presence. Words were impressed into his mind.

“He asked me if I wanted to sell my soul to Satan,” Adrien relates.

“Yes, okay,” he spoke out.

The rest of the night, he felt a darkness he had never experienced.

Hours later, he was listening to his recording when his computer “glitched.” Up popped another musician who shared his testimony about how demons came out of him and how he ran to his mother, who had a shotgun in her hand. He was saved from evil.

Adriend couldn’t explain the sudden, mysterious site change on his screen. He knew he needed to leave Hollywood immediately and return to his mom, who was living in Long Beach. Early next morning, he wandered around Hollywood asking for a phone to call Mom. Eventually, he got an Uber home.

Immediately… Read the rest: Adrien Lamont Christian rap.

Military ‘brat’ ran from home after mom jailed for DUIs

By the time Alyssa Gordon went to high school, her mom had been thrown in jail for too many DUIs.

“My family was pretty dysfunctional,” she says on her Wonderful Acts YouTube channel. She was a military brat born and raised in Italy. Her mom was an alcoholic. She ran away from home from time to time and grew up seeking in guys the love she felt was missing in her family.

She played the part of the social butterfly party girl with a smile facade but internally she was frustrated that guy after guy just took advantage of her and never wanted a true and lasting relationship.

“I began to get in this cycle of me really desiring love, to have someone genuinely care about me,” she says. “I would give myself to these men physically looking for that true love that I never got. I got really dark, it got really depressing and the cycle just kept continuing. The last guy who I thought genuinely cared about me cut me off…would act like I didn’t exist.”

The last guy broke her heart badly and she took it out on God.

“I’m cursing at God, I’m throwing things,” she relates. “I was yelling and screaming, ‘God if you’re real, I need you to show me…right now!’”

She had attended church, but, with her mom’s example speaking louder than her words, Alyssa didn’t respond to God’s offer of grace and love.

As a sophomore in college, she luckily had a friend who encouraged her.

“I don’t know if God is real anymore, because if he’s real where is he?” she asked him.

“Alyssa, God has you in the fire right now and… Read the rest: Suicidal military brat gets Jesus, happy and married.

Mack Calvin Christian basketball player, saved from terrors of his drunk dad

When his family left Texas, little 9-year-old Mack Calvin saw poverty and physical and verbal abuse under the drunken terrors of his father. His family was evicted many times, so Mack moved from school to school and his learning suffered. In college, he read at a 7th grade level.

So when the 100 colleges offering him basketball scholarships saw his 1.9 GPA on his transcript, they shut the doors to him. “This boy’s dumb,” Mack imagined they said of him.

“My father was always drunk. It was kind of embarrassing when he came to my baseball or basketball games drunk,” Mack told God Reports. “God said to me, ‘You’re not going to ever drink. I didn’t want to be like my dad. I detested the anger he displayed towards my mother when he was intoxicated.

Ultimately, Jesus had big things for Mack, who eventually became a Hall of Famer in basketball. In August, he’s running free youth basketball camps in Long Beach, aiming to help impart values to underprivileged kids and teach them about Jesus.

Born on a farm in Ft Worth, Texas, Mack’s family was middle class and never lacked food. But his dad was an irascible, foul-mouthed drunk who decided to move the family to Los Angeles. His continuous gambling impoverished the family, and they went from eviction to eviction until they arrived at the Imperial Courts Housing Project in Watts.

Right next door, there was a gym where Mack played and practiced continuously until age 15, before the family moved to Long Beach.

“I knew in my heart that I didn’t want to be like my father,” he says. “I wanted to be great. I wanted to be special. I worked hard.”

Parks & Recreation coaches took the raw material in Mack and formed a high-caliber player. At Long Beach Polytechnic High, Mack led his team to back-to-back CIF championships both years he was on the varsity team. He was all-CIF, the state sports organization for high schools.

Colleges wanted him. But his schools had put him into wood shop class, metal shop and special education; he fell victim to the instability of his home. So off to Long Beach City College he went. Mack led his team to championships.

Coaches Chuck Kane and Bill Barnes turned his academics around. Starting him in easier academic classes and connecting him with tutoring, the coaches transformed the academic underachiever into a Dean’s List student.

After two years in the community college, Mack accepted a scholarship offer at USC, where he broke UCLA’s 41-game winning streak with his tenacious play. What the 6’0” point guard lacked in stature, he made up with sheer grit and determination.

Out of college, Mack played seven stellar seasons for the American Basketball Associating until it merged with the NBA in 1976. He was an ABA all-star five times and was named to the ABA all-time team

“You’re talking to a miracle,” Mack admits. “It was by the grace of God. God has always been at the center of everything in my life, no matter what I accomplished, no matter what accolades, no matter what money I made.”

Joining the NBA, he played for the Lakers, Spurs, Nuggets, Jazz and Cavaliers before retiring after the 1981 season. He did some stints as a coach, including for the Lakers and for the Virginia Squires.

For 44 years, he’s sponsored a basketball camp to give back to the communities where he’s lived. “I want to always aspire to make a difference,” he says. He’s mindful of the hardships of his own upbringing.

He’s always attended church. In college he participated in college sports faith groups. On the road, he’s attended whenever it was Sunday, as long as there wasn’t a game. Today, he attends Bishop Charles Blake’s West Angeles Church of God in Christ.

“I loved the spirit that came from the church,” Mack says. “I’ve always had the… Read the rest: Mack Calvin Christian

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A man of God, Torben Sondergaard, in jail for arms smuggling?

Friends are expressing dismay that a Danish man who works tirelessly spreading the gospel around the world has been arrested in America over charges of smuggling arms from Mexico into America.

“Today Torben (Søndergaard) is sitting in jail because somebody made a false accusation against him, something that is not true,” says Jón Bjarnastein on a Facebook post on The Last Reformation page. “It’s because he’s preaching the gospel. This is nothing new under the sun. The Bible says that everyone who wants to live a godly life will experience persecution.”

Torben Søndergaard fled Denmark in 2019 after repeated attacks by the government to discredit his street ministry, which riled secularists by casting out demons in public places. If you don’t believe in the supernatural, much less demons, then one might think Torben is a manipulative charlatan. He applied for asylum in America and now is being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.


“I was invited to a meeting with Homeland Security who wanted to talk about my asylum case – a case where I, in Denmark three years ago, was accused of doing many things I had not done, and where I ended up fleeing to America seeking asylum,” he wrote on Facebook. “But then, they suddenly said that the real reason I was there was because they had been notified that I was smuggling weapons from Mexico to America.

“I was in shock.”

The accusation of arms running is strange because the illegal flow of weapons is generally southward, from America to Mexico. America is a manufacturer of arms, not an importer. What America imports illegally from Mexico is drugs, not weapons. CBN says the Department of Homeland Security had no comment on the case.

Doing ministry in Denmark for 18 years, Søndergaard, 45, founded the Last Reformation street evangelism movement with the purpose of restoring Book of Acts-style ministry. His Jesus Center trained disciples from 30 nations to spread the gospel worldwide, CBN reports.

But authorities in secularist Denmark didn’t like him and, starting in 2016, launched investigations from six separate Danish ministries into everything from food safety to unpaid taxes. They found nothing wrong, CBN reports.

The persecution continued when Søndergaard decided to homeschool his daughter. Seeking an abatement from the persecution, Sondergaard re-enrolled her in public school. But the attacks continued… Read the rest: Torben Sondergaard Danish evangelist.

Stuck in a loser’s mentality? The Israelites teach us the dangers…

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Shintoist finds God

Shinichi Tanaka believed vaguely that an all-powerful god who created the universe was out there somewhere. But it was not until a near death experience that he found his way to God.

From a young age, Shinichi had a great respect for nature and the “gods” of the Shinto religion. However, when visiting the shrines to pray, he felt that something was missing.

“I went there to feel a sense of purification, also to pray and give thanks,” Shinichi says on a Japan Kingdom Church video. “But it was like praying to a vague God, like the air.”

It was at 40 years old that Shinchi began to take on a different perspective on God. In a moment of introspection, he began to see God not as a group, but as an omnipotent Creator.

“I realized the existence of God, which had immeasurable power,” he continues. “Since then, I would close my eyes and meditate that the universe would send energy like bright and dazzling lights. That was my God.”

Shinichi did not know God yet. This would change when, at 49 years old, he experienced a heart attack that left him hospitalized.

“My life hung in a fifty-fifty balance,” Shinichi says. “But I kept a strong will to survive.”

At one point during his hospitalization, Shinichi underwent a near-death experience that led him closer to finding God.

“One night, while sleeping on the bed in the hospital, a beautiful world spread out before me, and I was drawn outside my body,” Shinichi recounts. “It was actually the entrance to death.”

“Then, suddenly, a voice shouted ‘No! Don’t go!’” Shinichi continues. “When I regained consciousness, I suffered from strong pain, and tried to get out of it.”

Shinichi believed that an invisible being saved him from entering death’s… Read the rest: Shintoist finds God.

Does money bring happiness?

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Hope for children of divorce

As a result of her parent’s divorce, Savannah Hernandez felt shame, had insecurities, depression, and had given up on believing in God.

“I hated God at this point of my life,” says Savannah on YouTube, “I just felt like, man, there is no way that God is real. I’m going through so much stuff. How is God real? How did he make this earth?”

Many fall away from God and don’t come back, but Savannah is proof that restoration of faith is possible.

Savannah’s parents got divorced when she was 11 years old. From there, she swirled downward emotionally.

“It was really hard on me just to face as a child and trying to figure out what was going on and just how to really just grow up to be a woman,” she says.

Savannah had a strong dad who never left her or made her feel alone, but she still felt an emptiness inside. She looked for masculine approval, which caused her to feel worse about herself and develop more insecurities.

“I did feel like I was alone at some point in my house, and I did run to guys and just love to try to find some type of love and temporary fix in those areas that I was hurting,” Savannah says. “It just caused me to hurt, and it caused me just shame and feeling like I wasn’t worthy and that was really hard for any girl to face.”

After she graduated, Savannah tried smoking and became stubborn and prideful.

“I was just doing all these things behind my dad’s back,” she recounts. “I’m not doing anything to pursue any of my goals, I’m not doing anything, I don’t believe in a God.

Then her sister got saved.

“I saw… Read the rest for free: Children of divorce have hope

Aerospace engineer finds the Creator of space

His vaunted career in aerospace engineering led him to being featured in National Geographic for his research with NASA.

But the PhD from a German university couldn’t save Dr. Dragos Bratasanu from personal heartbreak when his startup flopped, and he went back to his parents apartment depressed, in wretched pain and envying the dead in the local cemetery.

“The pain was so intense, I took my pillow and cried out to God from the bottom of my heart,” he recalls on a CBN video. “God, if you’re real, I need you.”

Growing up in Romania, Dragos was turned off by religion because it involved “bowing down to bones,” burning candles and the belief that you can only get to Heaven through your local priest.

Instead of seeking religious truth, he sought scientific truth. Excelling in his studies, he got the chance to study in Germany, where earned his PhD in space science. He worked with the Romanian Space Agency, got a chance to work with NASA and was commended in a National Geographic article.

At the top of his scientific career, he fell to the depths of inner despair. His business failing, he was humbled to the point of not being able to pay his bills and moved back with his parents. He cursed his fate.

When he considered embarking on a spiritual quest, Christianity was his last option. He studied Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and other major religions. He even traveled to the Himalayas to study under the most renowned Buddhist monks. All seemed to offer good tenets, but didn’t resonate with his soul.

While he was on a sabbatical in Hawaii, a non-believing friend recommended he read Katheryn Kuhlman… Read the rest: Dr. Dragos Bratasanu Christian.

M.I.A. is now Christian, says her new music will reflect her new worldview

M.I.A. – the UK rapper who was banned for a time from the United States because she was thought to have ties to terrorism – has become a born-again Christian after a supernatural encounter with the Messiah.

“I had a vision and I saw the vision of Jesus Christ,” she told Apple Music’s Zane Lowe in an interview.

Born to a Sri Lankan Tamil family in the United Kingdom, Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam reached overnight success with her multiple platinum song “Paper Planes,” which pokes fun at discrimination against immigrants from war-torn countries.

After being denied a visa into the U.S. in 2006, M.I.A. blamed “them thinking I might fly a plane into the World Trade Center.” Her hit was born.

M.I.A. is an outspoken critic of the Sri Lankan repression of Tamil peoples. She has also spoken up for Palestinians on Israel’s West Bank.

Turning to Christ, she says, has caused her worldview to shift – a makeover that jeopardizes her standing with her mostly progressive fanbase.

“Basically, all of my fans might turn against me because they are all progressives who hate people that believe in Jesus Christ in this country,” says the singer.

M.I.A. was born in London. When she was six months old, the family moved to Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka, where her father founded the Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students, after a succession of pogroms against Tamils in the island nation off the coast of India.

For a time, M.I.A.’s family went into hiding, as the government hunted them down. Though born Hindu, M.I.A. studied at Catholic convent schools. The Sri Lankan army reputedly shot bullets randomly into the school on a regular basis to terrorize the locals. Along with all the other students, M.I.A. would dive under the desks and tables to avoid getting shot, a regular occurrence she described as “fun.”

At age 11, M.I.A. was brought as a refugee to England where she grew up in the “incredibly racist” Phipps Bridge Estate, a slum. There, she mastered English, and her mom worked as a seamstress for British royalty. Immersed in political activism, M.I.A.’s father was absent from the family, leaving a hole in her heart. Her mom became Christian.

M.I.A. loved art and pursued film but got sidetracked by hip hop and dancehall music, which she was introduced to by eavesdropping on the beats blaring from neighbor flats after her own radio was stolen. Her stage name came from the time she lived in Acton and was looking for her cousin who was “Missing in Acton.”

Once on vacation in the Bequia in the Caribbean, M.I.A. was dancing in the street at a “chicken shed with a sound system,” and some Christians… Read the rest: M.I.A. Christian

Christian golfer Scottie Scheffler won Master’s because of wife’s calming advice

With $2.7 million on the line to win or lose the most legendary golf tournament in the world, the fabled Masters of Augusta, Georgia, 25-year-old Scottie Scheffler, who had won his first PGA Tour title only weeks earlier, broke into tears of nervousness on the morning of the final day.

“I cried like a baby this morning, I was so stressed out,” he admitted later.

His wife, Meredith, a strong Christian, told him: “Who are you to say that you’re not ready? Who are you to say that you know what’s best for your life?”

“If you win this golf tournament today, if you lose this golf tournament by 10 shots, if you never win another golf tournament again, I’m still going to love you,” she said. “You are still going to be the same person, Jesus loves you, and nothing changes.”

Scheffler was grateful for her wisdom, “What we talked about is that God is in control and the Lord is leading me and if today’s my time, then it’s my time…if I shot 82 today then somehow I was going to use it for His glory.”

His wife’s advice and the Lord’s presence helped calm his nerves, and Scottie coolly chipped his way to the championship. As he donned the storied green jacket given to Master’s tournament winners, Scottie spoke about his Christian faith.

“All I’m trying to do is glorify God,” he said. “That’s why I’m here and that’s why I’m in this position and so for me it’s not about a golf score. I need a Savior and that’s probably one of the coolest things about our faith is recognizing your need for a Savior.”

Scheffler was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey, but moved with his family to Dallas, Texas when he was six. Throughout grade school Scheffler, filled with a fascination for professional golf, would wear golf attire to school, even though his peers made fun of him.

He attended Highland Park High School, where he played both golf and basketball, and then the University of Texas, where it was strictly golf. He helped the team win multiple championships.

It was in college that Scheffler “truly felt alone and didn’t know what to do.” He then started attending church and began to give his heart to God, piece by piece. “Gradually with time he just started taking over my heart,” he recalls.

“When I was growing up I always thought God was this far away thing that… Read the rest: Scottie Scheffler Christian golfer

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Padina found God in Islamic Iran when her mom had MS

converts from islam iranGrowing up in Iran, Padina memorized the Quran before she started school. She faithfully recited her prayers every day.

“I hated Christians and I became very happy when I found out that they were being persecuted. They always told us that if they killed a Christian, we had a one way ticket to heaven,” she told Hormoz Shariat, president of Iran Alive Ministries.

She was fastidious about applying the Quran to her life. If she forgot the ceremonial washing before prayer, she would stop mid-prayer, go back and wash correctly and start all over again.

Christianity in Iran

“I was a very strong Islamic believer,” she affirmed.

But all her religious piety was in vain. She grew depressed to the point of wanting to commit suicide.

“I felt so distant from Allah,” she confided to Hormoz.

Meanwhile, her mother, afflicted by multiple sclerosis, grew deathly ill.

Padina confided to her mother about her suicidal tendencies. Instead of discouraging her, she shocked Padina by asking her to kill her also — a double suicide!

“I will do this for you, and we will both die,” she told her.

But then one day, mom in her deathbed tuned in to the satellite broadcast of Hormoz Shariat, who has been called the “Billy Graham of Iran.”

Hormoz Shariat“If you are hopeless, if you are oppressed, if you are planning to commit suicide, the Lord says, ‘Stop.’ He has a hope and a future for you,” Hormoz said on the broadcast. “If you’re planning to kill yourself, stop and call me right now.”

Padina’s mother was so desperate that she didn’t care that Islam punishes with death those who convert to Christianity. She didn’t care that the Koran dooms all “apostates” to hell. She didn’t care, so she dialed.

After conversing for half an hour with Hormoz, she repented of her sins and received Jesus into her heart with the prayer of faith.

Meanwhile, her daughter was watching from the kitchen with alarm. Read the rest of how Christianity revival in Iran.

Skater Christian Hosoi blew fame and fortune on drugs, then he found Jesus

ChristianHosoi-350x186Christian Hosoi had one dream in life: he wanted to be the best vertical skateboarder in the world — and he got it. But he still felt empty.

Born of a Hawaiian Japanese father and Caucasian mother, Hosoi grew up in Southern California, where his dad worked at a skate park in Marina Del Rey. Skating became his daily bread; he even dropped out of school at age 13 for it.

He became a professional skateboarder in 1982 when he was only 14-years-old.

christ-air

The “Christ air” trick he invented before he knew Christ.

He became famous for his flair and graceful style. He was winning competitions, and eventually he would have to take on the big name of skating, Tony Hawk, a technical and daring trickster. Hosoi surprised many spectators by winning their first faceoff. The next time, Hawk won.

It was a rivalry that fed the growing following in this spectator sport. Hosoi was making money and had a huge following. Hosoi invented the “Christ Air” and the “Rocket Air,” and he was renowned for pulling huge aerials — even holding the world record at one point.

In 1984 he formed his own company, Hosoi Skates, first distributed through Skull Skates, then through NHS-INC, and his took off in popularity. When street skating began to emerge in the mid-to-late 80s, Hosoi proved a threat there as well, winning both the vert and street contests at the Lotte Cup contest in Japan in 1989. At one point he earned $350,000 a year, according to the Orange County Register.

christian-hosoi-and-son-350x200But fame and finances weren’t enough, so he turned to drugs and partying.

The recession of the 1990s hit his business bad, and his drug addiction grew. He skipped a court date in 1995 and, to avoid arrest , declined an invitation to the first X-games, which had been billed as the long-awaited rematch of Hosoi and Hawk.

He was running from the law.

christian-hosoi-drugsThe authorities caught up with him in January 2000 at the Honolulu airport. He carried 1.5 pounds of crystal methamphetamine from Los Angeles to Honolulu. Charged with drug trafficking, Hosoi was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

That’s when his then-girlfriend, Jennifer Lee, stopped doing drugs and got into Jesus. She encouraged Hosoi to trust God with his court appearances.

“God? I don’t need God; I need a lawyer!” he retorted. Read how Christian Hosoi became Christian

Is that you, Messi?

santa-monica-christian-school-soccerThe singular sensation of watching Erhan Meric, who led Lighthouse Christian Academy to a 6-3 victory over Pilgrim Lutheran yesterday, is that one is witnessing the sublime soccer of a type of Messi.

He has Messi’s slight frame, his shyness and unselfishness. Erhan’s never boisterous, not given to braggadocio.

But when the ball falls to his feet, expect to hear an exquisite symphony.

Erhan, a senior at Lighthouse, is unobtrusive on the field. He lurks in open spaces and projects the image of the most unthreatening player.

But when he carried the ball up the right and single-handedly threaded his way through three defenders to slot on goal in the early minutes of the game, he put on notification the other team — indeed, the whole league — that he is not a man to be underestimated.

Erhan scored three and set up one. His header off a Beckham-perfect free kick brought the fourth goal in the second half in the Glendale Sports Complex.

And the good thing about this years Saints varsity team is that Erhan is not the only star. Actually a lot of technically skilled players combined yesterday to overwhelm Pilgrim Lutheran.

“We had good passing and good pressure,” said Coach Jack Mefford. “It was an exciting start to a promising season. We have a lot of new additions who know how to play soccer from the Bowens who grew up in Africa playing soccer to Shun (Fukushige) and Aki (Akihiro Oku) who played in Japan.”

Marcus Scribner, a sophomore, proved a bunker buster on offense, putting his football physique to good use against defenders. He scored two goals.

“Marcus’s two goals show how much he has matured because he struggled to finish last year,” Mefford said.

Aki, a junior, scored one, and Shun launched the goal-scoring free kick – a work of art – that connected with Meric’s head and past the hapless goalie. Read the rest: Saints soccer Santa Monica.

A missionary with Muscular Dystrophy

IMG_4500As the #2 executive at the biggest waste hauler west of the Mississippi, Chris Banducci was the envy of his friends. He lounged in a nice house, drove a hot sports car and wallowed in money. “Work hard,” his neighbors told their kids, “and you’ll be a success like him.”

Then, at 29 years old, Chris was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, and his world fell apart.

“I was angry. I was lonely. I was miserable and full of self-hatred. I just wanted to die. My drinking got worse; I drank myself to sleep every night,” Chris recalled. “I couldn’t imagine that any woman could love this ‘cripple.’”

taiwan-missionary-in-wheelchairToday, Chris Banducci, 61, is a Christian missionary in Taiwan. With God’s help, he overcame many obstacles and took on increasing challenges as his body began to fail him.

Looking back at his early years, it would be hard to imagine Chris answering a call to the mission field. After he graduated from high school, he drove a trash truck.

“This was the best job I ever had,” he said. “I learned how to operate every bit of equipment at that place, to prepare for a supervisory role. Then I began to learn from my leaders how to manage people and make good business decisions.”

He felt some early physical symptoms of his disease, but shrugged it off.

As a supervisor, he was hated and feared.

cfm-pics-chris-banducci“I mistreated people,” he said. “I stepped on people, lied, cheated and eliminated competition. I was not an easy person to be around. My reputation with women was such that they avoided me.”

Through raw ambition, Chris worked his way up to the director of recycling and resource recovery, second only to the owner and CEO. He reached the pinnacle of success.

“My neighbors would tell their teenage and college-age sons, ‘Look at him. If you work hard and apply yourself, you can be like that!’”

It was heady stuff. But while he relished the admiration, Chris knew on the inside he was a mess. His family lived up north, so he was lonely. He was good at intimidating people but not at making friends. He was drinking heavily.

Then he walked into the doctor’s office one day and received the jolting news. Read the rest of Muscular Dystrophy Missionary.

Geeking on a wave at a Santa Monica private school

surfing-elective-santa-monica-high-schoolBy Kayla Armstrong, LCA sophomore –

Can you imagine getting up at 6:00 am in the cold dark morning?! Especially if you have trouble waking up and feeling like a mummy walking around and putting on swimwear to get in the cold ocean! Well, at the Lighthouse Christian Academy, Pastor Josh Scribner teaches a surfing elective us Christian high school students! It’s nice to have a school right next to the beach of Santa Monica.

His surfing class is a very fun experience for me.

You won’t like the fact of getting up in the morning, but when you get to the beach and just looking at the gigantic waves you get very geeked and excited and it’s lots of fun.

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Some heart-beating moments is when you are getting ready to catch the wave and sometimes the wave is so big that when your laying down riding on the wave you can see the sand that is at the bottom of the water and it’s a heart beating moment cause you are so high up that it feels like you are going to fall right into the sand and it the floor but you don’t because as soon as you stand up your weight pushes the surfboard down a little bit to where you are able to ride it and you feel accomplished.

Some funny moments is when looking at one of your classmates, and they don’t see a big wave coming and they get wiped out (the wave knocks them down) and it is very funny because you can’t do anything about it but watch the wave wipe them out. Some people don’t like getting wiped out because sometimes if the wave is really big or another one comes after it you constantly are underwater but as long as you are not scared and know you are going to come back up then you are fine! Because you are able to stand back up.

Surfing class is not for everyone Read the rest of surfing elective at a Santa Monica private school.

The cure, not the curse

the-curePeople today reject morality imposed by others. That’s fine.

If you don’t want to follow the Bible, that’s your choice. But you might want the heads up. There are consequences to sin. There is slavery and addiction. Your decisions lead you somewhere. If you flout the manual of the factory, then don’t get mad if things break.

We live a fallen world under a curse. To the extent we escape sin and live in God’s forgiveness, we live in God’s blessing.

Resurrect your potential, not your problems

resurrection

Too often, I “resurrect” my problem. I mull them, overthink them. I need to learn to stop, to “take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

A much more productive thinking mode would be “resurrect” your potential. Expel the negative thinking from the mind and fill it full of positive thinking. Fill it with prayer and praise, not rehearsings of conversations gone awry.

As sure as negative thoughts lead to negative actions, so do positive thoughts.

From Russia to love: Another KGB agent turns into Christ’s agent

Jack, seine Frau Shawna und seine Tochter Trinity zuhausFinally, the FBI caught up with Jack Barsky – and so did God.

For 19 years, Barsky spied on America for the Soviet Union during the Cold War and for Russia after. His job was to infiltrate U.S. society and get close to security officials and pry information from them. And the “sleeper agent” went undetected until May 1997 when the FBI at long last pulled him over.

His marriage to an American was unraveling. Years later, when he married Shawna, a devout Christian from Jamaica, God caught up with him too.

“I came to terms with (the fact that) I did a lot of bad things – never mind breaking laws,” Barsky told Glenn Beck. “I hurt people. I did bad things. I served a bad cause. And I realized goodness doesn’t come from inside. I always thought of myself as a good person. (But I learned) there is no morality with God.”

at age 22 when he was DittrichBarsky was born Albrecht Dittrich in East Germany in 1949. In college studying chemistry, he proved he had a brilliant mind and a matching hauteur. When the KGB approached him to work as a spy in America, it conjured an inner ubermensche. “I could see the world and I didn’t have to go by the usual rules — I would be above the law,” he told Der Spiegel.

In East Germany, Dittrich learned secret handwriting, Morse code and how to lose a tail. In Moscow, he devoured English mastering 100s of words daily.

He was shipped off to America in 1978 with $6,000 in his bags and instructions to assume the position of a businessman and get cozy with politicians and other influential people in Washington. Specifically, he was told to make contact with then-National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.

An employee at the Soviet Embassy scored him the birth certificate that would give him the basis to get a passport. He had spotted a tombstone of 10-year-old Jack Barsky who had died in 1955 and procured the birth document.

Under his new name, Barsky first worked as a bicycle messenger in New York, a job that provided him with plenty of opportunity to get to know the city, observe people and learn the intricacies of the city’s commerce.

Jack-Barsky in new york

“The messenger job was actually really good for me to become Americanized because I was interacting with people who didn’t care much where I came from, what my history was, where I was going,” he told the BBC. “I was able to observe and listen and become more familiar with American customs. So for the first two, three years I had very few questions that I had to answer.”

Later, he studied computer science and worked as a programmer for Met Life insurance. If anyone ever asked about his slight accent, he responded that his mother was German.

Christian soviet spyDuring the day, he was good neighbor and upstanding citizen. At night, he prepared profiles for the Soviets of potential agents and wrote assessments of developing political and military situations, which he stuffed in small steal containers to be left at dead drops outside the city or in parks. He received instructions from Moscow via a shortwave radio.

He never managed to sidle up to national security advisors, but he stole computer code that helped the Soviet Union economically.

With his America persona in full swing, he vacationed yearly to East Germany for debriefings. He married his college sweetheart, Gerlinde, and started a family. It was an awkward situation because his wife was never full aware of what he was doing in America.

deep-under-cover-christianIn America, he was taking his double life to another level. He married a girl named Penelope, a native of Guyana, in 1985 and with her had two children, Chelsea and Jessie.

“I did a good job of separating the two” lives, he said. “Barsky had nothing to do with Dittrich and Dittrich wasn’t responsible for Barsky.”

But the facade had to crumble.

The collapse started in 1988 when Moscow ordered his immediate return. The KGB had information that Barsky was about to be arrested and wanted him to escape.

After 10 years of American lifestyle, he balked at the idea. He had discovered that Americans weren’t evil, as he had been told, and he had fallen for the American Dream. He stalled for a week.

When he got the ultimatum, Barsky concocted an elaborate excuse. He knew the Soviets feared AIDS and chalked the epidemic in America up to its moral inferiority. So he told his handlers that he had contracted the HIV virus. He assured the Russians he wouldn’t defect or surrender any secrets.

Of the Soviet fears, nothing materialized. The FBI was still clueless. He eased in middle-class life in America in a comfy home in upstate New York.

Then in 1992, his cover was blown. A KGB archivist, Vasili Nikitich Mitrokhin defected and named a slew of agents to British authorities.

The FBI finally started watching Barsky to see if was an active agent.

The FBI bugged his home. They purchased the house next door, and an FBI agent, Joe Reilly, posing as an ornithologist, kept him under surveillance with binoculars.

In the end, Barsky blurted the evidence that the FBI needed. In the middle of a heated argument with his wife, Barsky tried to show her how much he’d given up for her.

“I was trying to repair a marriage that was slowly falling apart,” he said. “I was trying to tell my wife the ‘sacrifice’ I had made to stay with Chelsea and her. So in the kitchen I told her, ‘By the way, this is what I did. I am a German. I used to work for the KGB and they told me to come home and I stayed here with you and it was quite dangerous for me. This is what I sacrificed.’”

Instead, she grew angrier. He had a secret life? He was in danger of being arrested?

Just days later, Barsky was driving home from work. When he drove out of toll station, and a Pennsylvania state trooper pulled him over. Dressed in plain clothes, Reilly asked to talk to him.

“I knew the gig was up,” he said.

Still, Barsky met the arrest with bluster: “What took you so long?”

He had gone undetected for almost 20 years – a massive embarrassment for the FBI.

For a weekend, Reilly interrogated Barsky in a motel. Bargaining for clemency, Barsky came clean with everything. Ultimately, the FBI validated his entire story and decided to let him go free.

It would take more years for God to “catch” him. Find out how God “caught” Jack Barsky Christian KGB agent.

Sherri Shepherd, The View host, left Jehovah’s Witnesses to find Jesus

sherriCelebrated actress and comedian Sherri Shepherd found herself trapped in Jehovah’s Witnesses, but overcame her fears, fled the aberrant group, and discovered a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Because I had been a Jehovah’s Witness so long, that was all I knew,” she told BeliefNet. “And as a Jehovah’s Witness I learned that all the other religions were false and that they were from Satan. So when I left the Jehovah’s Witnesses I really thought I was going to die and that I was going to go to hell.”

Ssherri shepherd on magazinehe did indeed “go through hell,” but she was willing to face poverty and hardship to break with the group after their leaders prohibited her from talking with her father.

“Now my dad at that time was working three jobs because we had moved to the suburbs because he wanted a better life for us,” she said. “So it was very expensive where we lived and he was working three jobs to support us. I was like you’ve got to be kidding me, tell my daddy I can’t talk to him and he is working at Denny’s?

sherri shepherd the view

“As the oldest I was a daddy’s girl and loved him with all my heart. My daddy had holes in his shoes so that he could pay for my photography classes. I just kept thinking you can’t be serious and all I could think of was the Scripture that references love (1 Corinthians 13:13) and says the greatest of these is love. I was like where is the love in that?”

Before Shepherd became a notable actress, she passed through a series of misfortunes. In 1993 her mom was dying. Shepherd was evicted on several occasions. Her car was repossessed. Her boyfriend began stalking her and later went to jail. Shepherd herself went to jail for a week due to unpaid traffic violations. Even though she won plaudits for her stand-up comedy, she couldn’t pay her bills.

“I felt like I was going to die. All this stuff was happening to me because I didn’t have God,” said the vivacious star. “I wasn’t going to church. I just felt like it was so evil from my upbringing. Why am I going to go to a church that was from the devil?”

42nd Annual GMA Dove Awards - ShowHer life changed one day when she went to West Angeles Church of God in Christ, one of the largest mega churches in Los Angeles. “I used to pass it all the time on the bus. So on that day, I was feeling so miserable. I really felt like I had no other place to turn so I was like let me just try it,” she said. “When I stepped into that church and that was an immediate sense of peace came over me.”

The peace helped her quickly overcome years of ingrained fear that everything outside of Jehovah’s Witness was of the devil. But as she became a regular attender, Bishop Blake, who preaches at the church, helped her make steps toward Christ.

“One day he said, ‘Would you like to come up and accept Christ?'” she remembered. Read the rest of the story about Sherri Shepherd Christian.

‘Full House’ star Candace Cameron-Bure found Jesus

candace cameronBy Hasset Anteneh

Taking the role of D.J. Tanner on the mega hit Full House TV series in 1987 set the stage for a successful acting and writing career for Candace Cameron-Bure.

She’s not shy to talk about her faith, just like her brother, Kirk Cameron, who went from child star to evangelist.

“My faith is my basis of who I am. Not only does it affect the choices I make career-wise, but it also affects the things that I want to do,” Bure told The Blaze. She is married to former Russian NHL hockey player Valeri Bore with whom she’s had three children.

candace cameron and husbandBure said her family had never discussed religion, until they were invited to church by a friend, and started actively attending church when she was 12.

“When I was growing up, my family wasn’t Christian,” she said on her website. “We didn’t talk about God and I didn’t know anything about him. When I was 12 years old, my parents told us we were going to church; a friend had invited us. It was strange to me, and I giggled at the thought of God. But as we continued to go every Sunday, my heart felt warm, and I saw how happy my mom, brother and sister were. I decided that I wanted to feel the same way. It was Jesus Christ that was producing this change in them, so one Sunday morning, I asked Jesus into my heart as my personal Lord and Savior. I was baptized along with some of my family at a later service. I was extremely excited about what I thought was my new Christian life.”

full house candace cameronHowever, it wasn’t until her 20s that the word of God began to truly resonate with her. Her brother, Growing Pains actor Kirk, gave her a book, Ray Comfort’s The Way of the Master, and it was then, she said, that Christianity truly began to make sense.

“After reading a book my brother gave to me, now called The Way of the Master it changed my walk with God forever! It talked about the 10 commandments, and showed me my sin in it’s true light. You see, when I prayed the ‘sinner’s prayer’ that day in church when I was 12, I asked God to forgive my sins. But I didn’t even know what my sin was. But, the law showed me my sin.

candace cameron jesus saves“As I went through every commandment, I saw that I’d broken all of them. Then I learned that God was going to judge me by this standard, not the world’s standard. So, while I thought I was a good person compared to other people, I saw that I was a horribly bad person by God’s standard. It was then that I truly recognized and understood my sin and what Jesus did for me. I broke the Law, and Jesus paid my fine,” the actress said.

To read the rest about Candace Cameron Christian click here.

Hasset Anteneh is my student at the Lighthouse Christian Academy on the westside of Los Angeles.

A bag of cheetos defeated our soccer team

soccer-los-angeles-high-schoolLighthouse’s potentially playoff-deciding loss to Newbury can be blamed on a bag of flaming hot cheetos.

That’s all one player ate all day before the game.

The Saints matchup on Feb. 7 promised to be high stakes challenge. Newbury Park was last year’s league champs that LCA managed to upset this season 2-1 with energy and sheer force of will in the first matchup. The Gators would be seeking revenge for the “humiliation.”

So how did the Saints prepare?

Some players didn’t eat enough, and so they ran out of gas in the second half, allowing a 3-3 tie turn into a 3-5 loss. One player showed up with football cleats, a disqualifying violation.

The mind-boggling frustration behind Santa Monica’s Christian school soccer loss is actually a teaching moment. Lighthouse Christian Academy drills not just cognitive skills (how to ace college entrance exams or learn calculus). With a view to successful life, LCA teaches non-cognitive skills: how to show up on time every day, how to be responsible.

In other words, LCA gets the knuckleheadedness out.

“In the first half I did good,” the cheeto-eater said. “But in the second half, my stomach started to hurt.”

The pros on a wide pitch run 5 miles in a 90 minute game. Of course, high schoolers in 80 minutes of play on smaller fields don’t manage quite as much. But still, you burn a lot of calories. Even if you haven’t taken the requisite health class, intuitively you know to eat carb rich food (not fatty, greasy or sugary) before the game.

One bag of cheetos simply is not filling up the fuel tank.

In some ways, LCA’s rematch against Newbury was everything it promised to be, a back-and-forth thriller between similarly skilled teams battling for second place and the coveted playoff berth.

The Saints were first to score at 15 minutes. Erhan Meric sent a through ball to the left corner that junior Abraham Morales sprinted to. He juked a defender to get in the box, and as the keeper came out for the onoe-on-one, Abraham chipped wide of him to the far post.

Newbury fought back to net two goals.

In the second half, Abraham threw in a ball looking for a Saints player, but a Newbury defender, instead of clearing it, headered it in to the goal. The game was tied 2-2.

Newbury again scored making it 3-2.

Then Hosea was blind-sided by a double body check from opposing sides causing him to spin in the air just inside the box. Taking the penalty kick, Erhan sent the goalie left and shot right.

The game was tied 3-3.

That’s when LCA started running out of gas. Read the rest of the story.

‘Make sure he fails at everything that is not of You,’ Grandma prayed over Chance the Rapper

chance-the-rapper-jesusBy his own account, Chance the Rapper had turned into a Xan-zombie when his grandmother marched him in and prayed a prayer that left him wondering if it was a blessing or a curse.

Chance’s popularity was spiking as a young hip hop artist, but grandma was not impressed.

She looked at him intently and said, “I don’t like what’s going on. I can see it in your eyes. I don’t like this. We’re gonna pray,” she declared.

“And she prayed for me all the time,” he told GQ magazine. “Like, very positive things. But this time, she said, ‘Lord, I pray that all things that are not like You, You take away from Chance. Make sure that he fails at everything that is not like You. Take it away. Turn it into dust.’”

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With

The prodigal son was thunderstruck. “I’m thinking, like, damn, I don’t even know if God likes rap! You know what I’m saying? Is she praying that I fail at everything I’m trying to do?”

But as he mulled over the prayer, and after he learned his in-utero daughter was diagnosed with atrial flutters, Chance decided to accept the prayer as a blessing and start to make his way back to God.

The baby’s health concerns caused him to “pray a whole lot, you know, and need a lot of angels and just see s— in a very, like, direct way. And…you know, God bless everything, it worked out well.”

God answered his prayers and daughter Kinsley Bennett was born without health complications in 2015.

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With the baby girl who helped him seek God.

The following May, Chance the Rapper dropped his third mixtape, Coloring Book, which streamed 57.3 million times in its first week exclusively over Apple Music. Featuring Kanye West and an array of non-Christian rappers, the album also includes some overtly Christian musings along with candid acknowledgement of sins like lust, addiction and pride.

In “Blessings,” he unashamedly sings, “I’m going to praise Him, praise Him ‘til I’m gone, good God!” and “When the praises go up, the blessings come down.”

Chancelor Johnathan Bennet was born and bred on Chicago’s rough streets. His father, Ken Williams-Bennet, is currently the deputy chief of staff to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and once worked for then-Senator Barack Obama.

When Chance got suspended for 10 days in 2011 for possessing marijuana in high school, he recorded his first full-length project, a mixtape titled 10 Days. After its broader public release, he won critical acclaim and made connections with artists and producers.

In 2013, his album Acid Rap was listed on many 50 best albums of 2013 lists, including 26th for Rolling Stone, 12th on Pitchfork’s list, and ranked 4th by Complex. It was also listed as one of NPR Music’s 50 Favorite Albums Of 2013, according to Wikipedia.

Then he moved to Los Angeles and began to spiral out of control. “I was just f—ing tweaking. I was a Xan-zombie, f—ing not doing anything productive and just going through relationship after relationship after relationship.”

He went back to stay with his grandmother in Chicago and get right with the Lord. In February 2016, he tweeted, “Today’s the last day of my old life, last day smoking cigs. Headed to church for help. All things are possible thru Christ who strengthens me.”

With its jazzy brass influences, men’s choir and Kirk Franklin-gospel overtones, his third mixtape, Coloring Book, sounds as vibrant and joyful as its lyrics. It’s a secular recording from a Christian man who’s unafraid to be sincere about his struggles, reflecting his growth as an artist and a follower of Jesus Christ. Finish the article.

Bone regeneration in lab is breakthrough for Israeli scientist

shai-meretzkiIsraeli scientists successfully inject bone grafts created from fat tissue

A bone graft is usually invasive, costly and risky, but now an Israeli biotech firm has invented a lab-grown bone injection that could make the procedure cheaper and more successful.

Bonus Bio Group announced in December that bone tissue cultivated in their labs was successfully injected into the jaws of 11 patients in preliminary studies. Further studies are being launched as $14 million has been raised for the start-up, Jewish News Service reported.

“For the first time worldwide, reconstruction of deficient or damaged bone tissue is achievable by growing viable human bone graft in a laboratory, and transplanting it back to the patient in a minimally invasive surgery via injection,” said Bonus Biogroup CEO Shai Meretzki.

bonus-biogroupBonus BioGroup harvested tissue from patients’ fat cells, cultivated it in the laboratory and re-injected the semi-liquid bone graft back into the jaws of the patients. The substance successfully hardened and merged with existing bone to repair damage during the early stage of clinical trials, Bonus Biogroup reported.

If further studies are similarly successful, the procedure could replace existing methods to repair bone damage. One method harvests the patient’s pelvic crest and is painful and expensive. Another method uses synthetic substances or cells from bone banks, which risk a rejection from the patient’s body.

“I was looking for a way to do it cheaper and easier for the patient and the medical system,” Meretzki said. “We are growing bone through small samples of fat tissue and isolating the different kinds of cells that we need to create the bone.”

Finish reading the article, which was written by one of my students at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.

Just days before daddy-daughter dance, her dad died

kirby-minnick

Ten-year-old Kirby Minnick’s divorced dad was coming to visit her in America in only four days – but he never made it. Kirby found out after school her dad succumbed to a heart attack in London.

“I remember thinking, ‘I’m never going to see him again. He’s never going to walk me down the aisle. He’s never going to be there for my wedding,’” Kirby said in a YouTube video. “I ran upstairs and locked the door. I remember feeling so much pain and agony. I remember asking God, ‘Why? How could You do this to me? You’re a monster, God. Why do You hate me? What did I do wrong? This isn’t fair.’ I hated God.”

The bitterness of his untimely passing was compounded by flyers at school just days afterward inviting all girls to attend the daddy-daughter dance. As she looked at the flyer on her school desk, she burst into tears. Her friends asked her what was wrong.

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“My dad just died four days ago,” she cried.

“Eventually, I became like, ‘Ok God, let’s just forget this happened, like whatever, and move on,’” she said. “I began building up walls. I was so mad at God. My depression came back. I was so hopeless. I wouldn’t let people into my life. Eventually I kind of shoved everything into a corner in my mind.”

She fixated on suicide every night. But during the school day in Dallas, Texas, she pretended everything was okay.

“Whenever I went to school I was like the happiest kid,” Kirby said. “I was pretending to be that way. It was a mask that everything was okay and nothing was wrong. I let no one know.”

She traipsed in and out of therapy, blocking entire months and years of her childhood. At first the counseling was to help her overcome her parent’s divorce. Then it was for her dad’s death.

In eighth grade, a classmate began bullying her with passive aggressive behavior, eliciting in her a flood of insecurities.

“I thought I wasn’t pretty enough, I wasn’t smart enough, nobody loved me. I wanted to kill myself,” Kirby said. “I had this journal, and I would write in it every night, ‘I wish I could kill myself. I just want to die.’ Suicidal thoughts took over my life.”

But every time she resolved to carry out her plan, a voice in her head held her back: Just one more day, the voice intoned.

At a Christian summer camp before high school, she was going through the motions, singing the songs she sang every year at the camp. Her mom had heard about the camp and sent her hoping it would help.

“I was like singing, ‘Lord Jesus, blah blah blah,’” she said. Suddenly, God really showed up. Click here to read the rest of the story.

Somebody has to die

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I was shocked and pleased when Disney killed Hans Solo. I would’ve thought they lacked the guts to kill off such a beloved hero. But it made the plot 100 times more credible and compelling.

Now in Rogue One, Disney (spoiler alert) decimated all the good guys. They all had to sacrifice their lives to get the plans out of the Death Star to expose its structural weakness that could be exploited to destroy it. This is the backstory to the first Star Wars film.

landscape-1470743574-rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-donnie-yen-600x400Such willingness to script stars out of the franchise reflects reality and distances Disney from its sanitized fable fodder (and everyone lived happily ever after). Without sacrifice, nothing of good is accomplished.

Jesus sacrificed Himself. I’m sure He really didn’t want to go to the cross, but He did — and thank God for it. I would never find salvation under the impossible Old Testament system of animal sacrifice for every sin. Yup, me, hell-bound.

rogue-one-crew-posterSo this sacrifice stuff is inspirational, if not tidy. It might your tyke cry. But it teaches a valuable lesson. When I went down to Guatemala, I endured innumerable dangers and hardships — all to get the gospel to a needy people. Today’s Christians are too self-focused, too self-serving, too self-pleasing. Oh, they’ll throw a prayer and an offering (out of their excess cash) at world missions. But most of the time, they’re looking to minimalize personal discomfort.

In Rogue One, a lot of the characters excused themselves from the battle. They wimped out. That’s why the heroes called themselves “rogues.” They went against the council’s command to retreat in fear.

God in Gotham: Finally revival comes

statue-of-liberty-new-york-cityNew York City – never considered the spiritual heartbeat of America — is now experiencing revival, especially among millennials flocking to upbeat services with vibrant faith communities.

“A lot of people told us, ‘this is the graveyard of churches. Don’t go there. All the hipsters won’t want to come to church.’ We felt that’s the best place to be, where no one wants to go to church,” said Josh Kelsey, senior pastor of C3 Brooklyn Church.

In 1989, less than 1% of city residents attended church, according to CBN. But now about 5% goes to church, and there are hundreds of churches, big and small, scattered throughout the city.

c3-brooklyn

The C3 Church in Brooklyn

“New York has reached the tipping point,” CBN concluded. If current trends continue, it could become a majority Christian city by the year 2026, according to CBN.

It turns out that Batman is not going to save Gotham City. Jesus is.

The formula for success has been to revive the unchanging elements like prayer and Bible study while changing the liturgy and relational dynamics to fit the multi-cultural, educated population of the city, pastors say.

“Church for me was a place where I always felt I had to be perfect,” said one church-goer. “C3 allows me to embrace my imperfections and know that God still loves me regardless. So it’s changed my perspective because I know I can still be a human and still beloved by God, which is not an idea I had before.”

josh-kelsey

Pastor Josh Kelsey

A 2013 Barna survey found 32% of residents of the Big Apple considered themselves born-again, up from 20% in the 1990s, Religion News Service reported

“New York City is not known as a particularly religious place,” the RNS article stated. “But it is more spiritually active today than even 2001 in the wake of 9/11.”

The Presbyterians and the Dutch Reformed Churches were strong in New York City in the early 1800s but began to misfire as the city grew and changed its ethnic makeup, according to Pastor Tim Keller, a prominent minister in NYC.

When Catholic immigrants flooded Lower Manhattan in the 1880s, churches found themselves with fewer and fewer members. Restaurants, stores and theaters burgeoned, supplanting churches as a social gathering place. Many churches moved out of the ethnic downtown, and others built houses of worships in a fruitless effort to attract congregations, Keller said.

With numbers dwindling, churches grasped for fixes. Charles Briggs of Union Theological Seminary tried modernizing the message, teaching that much of scripture contains error. This gave rise to liberal Chrstianity, and instead of attracting followers with a more “intellectually reasonable” message, it finished off local churches, Keller said. Read the rest of the article.

Savior’s Creed

saviors-creed

Christ came to overthrow the control of the devil. He came to die. Death was necessary to obtain the ever elusive forgiveness necessary to save mankind. The original script was written by God and can be found in the Bible. It is doubtful that Jesus’ birth was actually on Dec. 25, but since we don’t know and since tradition has held it for centuries, it is just as good as a day as any to remember His coming. Merry Christmas.

Metamorphosis by Kafka

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When I heard the end of Metamorphosis on audio books, I was sure I was missing a CD. The ending left me hanging. Did the man never get turned back into a man? Did his family rightly move on and past him, forgetting him, burning the bridges?

I got the book. And the ending was the ending.

It disturbed me. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. The brother’s metamorphosis — never explained — into a bug brought about a positive transformation in his father, mother and sister. He died, and it brought them back to life. Just like the metamorphosis of a bug. The worm must die for the butterfly to come alive.

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Only when her brother dies can the sister start her own grown-up life.

The novela, filled with angst of rejection, ultimately explores the need of sacrifice for others to succeed. It is not a Christian parable, but there are elements of Christian narrative in it. Christ had to die to bring out the best in all of us.

Beyond cell phones

z4nmu09gzrlrlmcqzbotThey entertain us. We can tailor them to our every like and desire. They greet us when we wake up and send us off to bed. They keep us in contact. We can share with other people our triumphs and failures. They give us news, shows us directions, find us the best prices.

But there is more to life than this marvelous device that makes our life easier and not boring. If all you have is your phone, your emotionally bankrupt. Beyond the cell phone, there is a God who satisfies much greater needs.

Our Lord said that life didn’t consist of what we eat and drink. In our day, we’d have to add: Life does not consist of your cell phone.

Repaint your life

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During his retirement, my dad took up repainting. He’s no Michelangelo, but he has fun.

One cool thing about painting is if you get it wrong, it’s no problem; you just paint over. You can literally cover your prior mistakes with a fresh coat. You can start anew as many times as you want. Keep correcting until you get it right.

God is painter. And he covers over our mistakes (sins) with a fresh layer. He cleans up our blotches and smirches. He’s making our ugly flailings into beautiful art.

The rent is great

img_3366We’re meeting in a park next to a lake (of reclaimed water) called Lake Balboa. I feel like Jesus preaching next to the lake. We are called Lighthouse Church, but I have taken to calling us Church on the Lake, a spinoff of the nearby mega Church on the Way.

The colors are beautiful. We get visitors from all the passers-by. The shade is good, as is the weather in Los Angeles. If you get bored of my sermon, you can enjoy the view. So why do some church members want a “building?”

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The rent is cheaper here (we pay $O, though others paid with blood the price of freedom in America). We just grab an available picnic table in the shade, set up some chairs, play an acoustic guitar, use the music stand for a pulpit, pass the toilet paper basket for offering and — presto! — free church.

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People can sit discreetly at he benches a ways back and hear the sermon.

It was my goal, on being sent out to “pioneer” a new work, to charge nothing to the parent church, which was burdened heavily with the Guatemalan ministry. I wanted to show that with faith and prayer it was possible for other pastors to plant churches at no cost to the mother church. Today we had 16 people.

Eventually, we will outgrow the park and need a building. Until then, I’m enjoying the view and the ride. It’s a blast for me, the #ValleyBoyPastor.

Delegate

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Not sure why we are obsessed with mega-church pastors. Not even Jesus did that.

No, Jesus prepared for revival after His departure. He sent out 12 with full power, then again 70. He was training and equipping followers for when He would no longer be with them.

I must confess I fell into the nobody-can-do-it-as-good-as-me trap once. God slapped me across the face for my selfish pride. I would do everything: teach, preach, sing, evangelize. Then He allowed my voice to get damaged. I had to relinquish singing.

Others could rise up and get ready for ministry. They could practice with live experience and do start-ups with confidence. Why had I been so blind?

A key to revival? Don’t be a ball hog.

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More than see

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Both the priest and the Levite could see the man wallowing in his own blood. But they were too important or too busy to be bothered. No doubt, they were doing work for the Holy One. So they didn’t have time to do the work the Holy One dropped in front of them.

The good guys were bad and the bad guy was good. Along came a halfbreed Samaritan. No respectable Jew would associate with the Samaritans, whose blood was contaminated irremediably with gentile DNA. They weren’t children of God, the chosen people.

But the Samaritan did what God wanted. He administered first aid and brought the wounded man to the Inn, where he paid for his care during recovery.

Jesus asks: Who loved him like God does?

It is not enough to see the need around the world. To complain about godlessness, paganism and hedonism does nothing. You must act, showing the love of Jesus in real – not imaginary – ways.

Blessed to visit Guatemala again

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This is how we did Photoshop before there was Photoshop.

Supposedly we were going to visit this waterfall on the way to Coban to do a medical clinic with our church, but it was too far and we didn’t have enough time. Maybe a fake photo will suffice?

img_2669It had been 18 years since I visited the lush rainforest city of Coban. I was a relatively new missionary at the time with a 2-year-old. I was watching Rebekah assiduously while she played in the park. But after following her bent over for some time, I straightened up to give my back a rest. It was at that moment she bolted in front of the trajectory of a metal swing with a kid on it. The iron swing smacked her forehead. Rebekah is still marked today by that hit, but thank God nothing worse happened.

img_2571We attended 2,100 people in four and a half days. I translated and helped logistics. Since I had been in Coban so many years aga, our church-planting mission, the Christian Fellowship Ministry, had started a church there, so we are praying that souls will be added to Pastor Jorge Cucul’s church. The Nazarene Bible Institute opened its doors to us to stage the clinic.

img_2751For the first time, I got to see a coffee plantation. Since I’m a fanatic, this was very interesting. They had a discussion about what varieties taste the best but are vulnerable to plagues. And I did zip line there.

img_2423I finished off preaching today in the City of Guatemala, in the church I started so many years ago. As always, I will miss you, Guatemala.

Redemptive narrative for medical mission

fullsizerender17Dr. Bill Wright wasn’t impressed by the numbers.

After setting a one-day record for patients seen, Lighthouse Medical Missions almost equaled it on Thursday with 720 in Coban, Guatemala. At a celebratory dinner, the state hospital director thanked the team for helping offset the crushing load of 100,000 patients yearly they see.

But the only number that mattered to Dr. Wright was the number one. One life changed.

At a time when all volunteers were in a flurry to alleviate daily sicknesses, post top numbers and take care of line that stretched down the block outside the Bible institute where the clinic was staged, the team leader waxed eloquent about slowing down, taking time to pray with each patient and fixing lifelong ailments.

That’s because Dr. Wright was not always the shining light of altruism that he is today. There was a time when he was a heavy drinker, who punctuated his successful family practice with liquor and drug use.

“I was at a point where I really didn’t care about my life. I’d go to work and I’d go home and I’d drink or use drugs or whatever,” Dr. Wright said. “I had hoped that the different things I’d done would satisfy my life, they would satisfy this thing inside. But nothing ever worked.”

The change came, he said, through a conversion to Christianity 35 years ago.

“Jesus lifted this burden off of my heart,” he said. “That’s when I got saved. God came into my life and really changed me.” Read the rest about our Christian medical mission.

Having fun teaching

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I’m posing with my colleague Kathy Payton.

Why not enjoy teaching? Once a year, the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica holds Spirit Week, every day a new costume theme. Actually, I have all the creativity of a spore, so I usually opt out and wear my normal clothes.

I enjoy bringing motivated kids to the aha! moment. I teach English (literature, syntax and writing) and Spanish. I’m a believer in making things accessible, of focusing on the simplest understanding first and then taking complications that broaden understanding.

Literature is not just art. It is also psychology and helps students empathize with their fellow human, as well as learn not to make the mistakes of engaging protagonists.

Down with the grammarians! They have made it too difficult for too long! We need simple explanations for students. Students can learn syntax!

When it comes to writing, I believe thinking comes first, structure second. I challenge students to take controversial opinions and defend it with passion. You get a low grade with me in you’re Captain Obvious.

Well, then Spanish. I love to explain the why-the-heck of all idiosyncrasies of morphology and grammar. Languages are fascinating, funny and bizarre.

And we do all this in a Christian environment. What could be more fun?

 

3 jobs, 2 happy, 1 tired guy

img_2306Finally, I’m pastoring again. The doors opened — after six years off — through an apartment managing job in Van Nuys. As a gimmick, I called myself the #ValleyBoyPastor, and God brought souls in immediately (cosa rara). So I’m happy.

I’m still teaching at the Lighthouse Christian Academy. That’s always a thrill because I’m constantly either bringing people to Christ or reinforcing the faith of youth at a critical juncture in their lives. I appreciate everybody’s prayers and attribute to y’all the blessings God has poured out starting in June. I definitely need to pace myself to not run ragged. I just need to remember that God is in charge and He never expects me to do more than what is possible. After all, it was God who prioritized rest right into the Ten Commandments.

Even though they lose, they are the golden generation

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This was the class that reduced teachers to tears.

But something happened in the intervening years to our current crop of freshmen. The former devil-may-care rascals stopped creating classroom chaos, stopped ditching homework assignments and stopped terrorizing teachers. They started speaking respectfully to adults, started improving their academics and started serving at church.

Never mind their latest defeat against Crossroads Christian of Corona 6-58 on Friday. As freshmen, they’re developing into a fearsome strike force of future Lighthouse football.

What brought about the transformation?

img_0329In a word: Zach Scribner.

Zach Scribner is not only football coach. He’s  also youth pastor and the Lighthouse Church School janitor. By some means, Zach inspired the bad boys of current 9th grade to shape up. If they didn’t behave with their moms at home, he would punish them by NOT letting them clean the church and school at 6:00 a.m.

“Zach and Justin (Kayne, co-coach) have really turned me and Garrett (Lahood) and some of other players around,” Levi said. “He’s helped us realize it’s cool to be good. They lead by example. When we were younger, they were the cool guys that we looked up. Seeing them set a good example made us want to follow.”

So just forget that Lighthouse Christian Academy continues to hemorrhage on defense. (“We got find a way to make stops,” moaned Coach Justin Kayne. “We gotta find a way to stop the big play on 3rd and 4th down. Otherwise, it’s just a blowout.”)

This Los Angeles crew of Christian school players will get to winning. It just may not be this year.

In fact, they already won –  when they got character squared away. Read more about the triumphs and losses of our football team.

The tiniest guy on the football field just became the target (Yes, that’s my son)

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He’s been called Mighty Mouse, a bulldog, a pinball and a Rubik’s Cube (he’s about as tall as he’s wide). Teachers and students have mistaken him for a sixth grader.

Lighthouse Christian Academy‘s freshman center, Hosea Ashcraft, became its predominant running back Friday against Cornerstone Christian of Wildomar. He had 20 carries for about 70 yards and one touchdown in the 12-58 loss to the Crusaders.

LCA’s fearsome football program has been reduced to this: its core is four freshman, its quarterback is a scrawny sophomore, its lone senior is an artist who really doesn’t want to play but goes to games just to help the guys field an 8-man football team with nine players.

Successive lean enrollments in recent years have shrunk the quarry from which they cut their tough stuff. So they resorted to the 5’1″ pre-pubescent fresh meat, Hosea.

img_1958“Defensively, we were terrible,” said Coach Zach Scribner. “We’re not doing what we told the kids to do in terms of making their reads. Everybody’s looking around trying to figure out where the ball is instead of making the read and reacting off the read.”

Indeed, the Crusaders overran LCA’s defense like Fort Apache. By the second quarter, they had racked up 38 points. They may have even stepped off the gas pedal in anticipation of an easy shutout when the Santa Monica Saints surprised them.

LCA players made some key blocks — something coaches are working intensely to improve with the team of football neophytes. The Saints drove upfield, and Hosea crashed through to the end zone to give the electrons on the visitor’s side of the scoreboard some work.

“Hosea keeps his feet running. He has a low center of balance,” observed Lighthouse Pastor Josh Scribner, himself an accomplished football player. Read the rest of the article about Santa Monica Christian school football.

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Lecrae escaped gangs and drugs through Jesus

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Lecrae backstage at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015. (Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

As little Lecrae sat on his uncles’ laps, guns and alcohol were passed around. He never met his father, so he followed his uncles into gangs, drugs, sex and hip-hop.

But after he turned his life over to Jesus, Lecrae Devaughn Moore became one on the biggest Christian hip hop rap artists worldwide.

“I grew up wrestling with significance,” Lecrae said in a video. “I didn’t feel like I was gonna get it from being this manicured, good all-around person. My uncles were young and wrapped up in the streets, gangs and drugs and just promiscuous. I idolized that life and wanted to be just like my uncle. I chased power, pleasure, possessions – just something satisfying.”

lecrae-concert-768x512.jpgAs a little tyke in southern Houston, Lecrae listened to his uncles’ braggadocio, a steady stream of tales of shootings, stabbings and partying. This, he surmised, must be the essence of manhood. He decided his family members were heroes worthy of emulation.

His grandmother took him to church, but he quickly inferred that church services were for old people.

His mother, a single mom who had to work and couldn’t watch him, urged him to read the Bible. He defied her good wishes.

“I remember ripping the pages out of the Bible and throwing them on the floor, saying, ‘I don’t want this Bible,’” he recalled.

Still, Lecrae kept the Bible in his car as a good-luck charm. When a cop arrested him for trespassing, the police officer happened to see the Bible on the passenger’s seat and decided to let Lecrae out of the cuffs.

“I’m going to let you go,” the cop told him. “And I hope you discover the meaning of the words in that Bible.”

At the University of North Texas, a friend invited him to a Christian conference. In all honesty, he went for the girls and the good times, but he was taken aback by the Christian hip-hop and testimonies of ex-gangsters. He wound up giving his life to Christ.

“Someone got up and told me the story of Jesus on Golgotha, Him carrying the cross, Him bearing all of my sin on His back, and I thought, ‘Wow. Somebody thinks I’m significant enough to die for me.’”

Finally, he had found the Father figure missing in his life.

“God just loved me unconditionally even when I felt like I didn’t deserve to be loved,” Lecrae said. “I feel very fortunate to have a huge family that is beyond race, creed, culture – and have a Father who shepherds us all.”

But Lecrae didn’t immediately walk in God’s grace very well. He was living a double life of partying and church – and he knew he needed to cut out the sin.

He cried out to God, “Get me out of this anyway. You need to. Just don’t kill me.”

When he failed to negotiate a turn, his car went over an embankment and rolled several times. The car was totaled, with mangled metal and glass shards sprayed everywhere. Even his glasses got “molded” into the car frame. But Lecrae walked away unscathed. Read the rest of the story.

Don’t forget the pigs

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Today is an investment for tomorrow. If you goof off, you lose out. America is saturated with the financial future message, but what about the spiritual message?

The first pig lived carefree. He didn’t want to invest time into a costly and time-consuming construction. Preferring the party, he built a house of hay.

The second pig was middle of the road. He wasn’t as reckless as the first pig nor as much as a bore as the third pig. He built a better house, one of sticks.

The third pig invested time, effort and money to safeguard against tomorrow. Sure enough, it paid off. The first pigs were eaten by the wold (in Grimm’s version), and the third survived the onslaught.

three-little-pig-houses-at-pig-crash-sceneIt’s funny that people who take pains to assure their financial future are so careless with their eternal future. You would think that they would understand based on the same principle. Even more, since eternity makes this life pale in comparison, you would think they would work harder to build their heavenly mansion.

The wolf is coming. He will blow your construction down, if he can, and eat you up.

This applies to marriage as well. How much are you investing in your spouse? Are you still wooing her like you did when you were dating? A lot of people these days are saying that a marriage of sticks or hay (not bothering to formalize their live-together union) is just as good. Pay attention to the pigs.

The spirit of Lighthouse Christian Academy in their first football game for 2016

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Jelove is #99

Nobody embodies the spirit of the Santa Monica Lighthouse better than Jelove Mira: He hates football.

But when his undermanned school needed another guy to just barely have enough players for its 8-man football team, Jelove put others ahead of his own desires. He’s an artist, not a jock. But he donned a football uniform and stoutly blocked on the line of scrimmage Saturday against Calvary Christian of Downey.

And when the 2016 iteration of the Saints stopped the Badger runs not once but twice in the second half, Jelove was endangering those artistic fingers for the good of the team.

levi photenhauer Christian football santa monica“Even though I really don’t like football,” Jelove said at half time, “I’m creating memories for myself.”

The Lighthouse Christian Academy made one touchdown against the superior fire power of Calvary Christian. It’s a team composed almost entirely of freshmen and inexperienced players.

After a powerful run by freshman Marcus Scribner, fellow freshman Garrett Lahood caught a pass to set up sophomore Justin Berry for the touchdown pass that he greedily grabbed out his opponents’ hands. Ha! You thought you got a pass interception. Ha!

Read the rest of the story.

We are transforming the world

IMG_1647Small can have a BIG impact.

We are a Santa Monica Christian school of 50, laughable for the world.

But all you need is one person to strike fire. One person can start a worldwide revolution (Karl Marx). One person can set a world record and draw the attention of the planet (Usain Bolt). One person can inspire thousands to serve God (John Wesley).

To all my colleagues around the nation, fellow Christian educators: Don’t just do your job. Do it with vision. Don’t let the ridicule of the world affect your heart. What you’re doing is incredibly important.

We started classes yesterday at the Lighthouse Christian Academy. We are conquering the world.

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Conquering fears

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The mountain goat feels perfectly at home on the precipice. He knows not fear. The heights are his friend, his defense against predators. There’s no need to fear heights.

Abandon the lowlands, and dare to scale the heights. Don’t fear the plan and destiny God has for you. Leave behind your “security.” Since predators prowl there, it’s not so secure after all. Your securest future is in God’s plan for you, so don’t “play it safe.”

Recently, my family and I stepped out of the boat and accepted the challenge to plant a new church in Van Nuys. We purposely left the “safe harbor” of our parent church, where the worship is quality and workers abound so much that I didn’t really have to do anything.

Learn to tell your fears that they are lies. Phobias are very real, but not everybody has the same ones, which shows them to be irrational and, consequently, conquerable. Take it from the Valley Boy Pastor: Embrace the future God has for you.

Because this is not about me

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Martha and Alex’s softball team, the Aftershock, won by a one point in the last inning.

This is about others. I’m the Valley Boy Pastor, but the church is about the members, and helping them to get into right relationship about God. They are Christ-followers, and He is the center of attention. My talents or lack thereof are immaterial. I dedicate myself to God’s people, not them to me.

So why do I show up at member’s softball game? Because this is about them. They are important (not me). They are the center of attention.

2 Cor. 10:8 says that pastors are supposed to “build up,” not tear down, their congregants. So I strive to show them how special they are to Christ. And in 1 Chron 14:2, David understands that God raised him up for the good of the people, not for the good of David.

Pastor, get off your pride trip. You are just a facilitator to help men get to God. You are tool the toolbox of the Master Fixer, Jesus. When does the tool brag about the fix the Master does. God is moving in the Lighthouse Church in Van Nuys, part of the Christian Fellowship Ministries.