Tag Archives: life

Not everything is a blessing

discernmentMany things are said to be blessings, but not all comes from God. If you swallow the wrong stuff, it will be bitter. I guess that’s why Rom. 12:2 says we should pray for discernment. The fact that the majority says something is good does not mean that it is in fact good. As human beings, we want to receive true good from God, not a something that looks like it.

Comic source: pinterest

Thank you, vet

vetI lived under fear. When criminals got our checkbook, I was afraid they would kidnap. So I hid at a friend’s house with my family until new passports could be issued. When I got on the plane in Guatemala, the burden of fear left. I was heading to a safe place. America.

I didn’t fight to keep America free and safe. I just enjoyed the benefits. Thank you, veteran, for fighting for us all.

But God wants you to go to Heaven

heaven or hell

It’s your choice, Heaven or Hell.

The beauty of children

kristinapimenovaTruly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven — Matt 18:3 NIV.

Children have joy. They make friends. They forgive. The love life. They’re trusting. They’re not cynical. They don’t know pride. They are innocent.

Have we become so sophisticated that we are out of touch with God?

When you stop hating

Cristiano Ronaldo LA Galaxy

Ronaldo at right

I’m gonna have to stop hating Cristiano Ronaldo. He had everything for me to hate. He played for my team’s greatest rival, Real Madrid. He was so vain; he would always watch the replay. He bragged about how people were always envious of him because he’s so good.

But then he started to change. He donated money to help a kid with a surgery. He grew humbles, stopped watching himself on the replay in the stadium.

Then he announced he’s coming to the L.A. Galaxy, my city, when he retires from Spanish soccer. I’m gonna have to like him now.

Clubhouse burger McDonald'sI’ve found something I really like at McDonald’s. Ronald McDonald and crew always got my harshest rants against unhealthy food. But my dad took me there, so I couldn’t complain. And — surprise! — I liked the clubhouse hamburger. Uh-oh. No more bashing on the golden arches. They’re improving.

A lot of my friends hate God. It hurts my heart. But they really don’t hate God. They assume He doesn’t exist. What they hate are the mistakes of Christians. In many cases, what they hate is misrepresented stories and untruths about Christendom’s path. One friend went so far as to say that Christianity was a bloody religion. My, my, my. If only she knew the truth. True Christianity has eradicated bloodshed around the world. But there are many university professors who have nothing better to do than to misconstrue history.

Are you running from God, in pain from failure everywhere but insistent that the gospel is NOT the answer? With Cristiano Ronaldo, with McDonald’s, I’ve had to do an about face and like what I hated. You might be surprised about how wonderful God’s love truly is.

More exhilarating was worship


Part of coming off 16 years of the mission field means I have been able to dedicate more time to my kids. My youngest son, made three goals in one-fourth of a park soccer game. He was unstoppable. Opponents didn’t know how to defend against him. He never failed a shot.

For some reason, coach has put him on defense in previous games. In the meantime, Hosea has been training with a club team, on which he just was accepted. He’s getting fitter and sharper. Coach missed Sunday’s game, so an assistant tried him up front, and he was quickly deadly.

This was a huge thrill for me. To be able to see my kids play and succeed, to be a dad, is exhilarating.

Still, worship at the evening service was even more exhilarating.

How God looks down on us

God's heart

gif from dominique

To improve the father-son relationship

father-son relationship

The father-son relationship is a wonder: you wonder how to make it better.

I’ve been a lousy son. I’ve justified staying away from Dad because he stayed away from me when I was kid. Dad never went to a single ball game of mine when I was a kid. He never played with me. So when I grew up, I never visited him more than the perfunctory. I’m not avoiding him; I’m just busy.

That’s why I praise God he was put in the hospital. The health scare kicked-started a new dynamic for me: duty. I needed to visit him if for nothing more than to check up on him.

This has been good because a new communication is sprouting. Previously, my dad would talk only about what he liked and shut down any conversation on another topic. But now, he seems so grateful to have my company (my only brother is in Idaho and can’t visit him), that communication is becoming two way.

He seems to be moving beyond the same old discussions about TV shows: pro golf, tennis, Dancing with the Stars and Bachelor. He finally shared some of his experiences in Korea with the post WWII occupation troops and his experiences as a skunk works engineer at Lockheed. I’ve been able to mention a few things about God.

I have this picture posted on the wall in my kitchen where I write. He’s smiling because I cracked some forgotten joke just before I snapped it. Usually he has a curmudgeon face. I like this one better.

I’m trying to improve the father-son relationship. Maybe I’m not the only one it’s hard for. It’s worth it to try to improve. Don’t wait for a health scare to spend more time with your parents. They’re lonely. They need you.

Saved from the mara salvatrucha

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta

Mario, second from left, with the youth he now ministers to.

His fellow gang member thrust a pistol into his hand. Go ahead and kill the kid, he was instructed.

Wedged between the dangerous Mara Salvatrucha and the Dieciocho gangs in a neighborhood where even police feared to go, Mario Ajcip’s gang had successfully fended off rivals to keep their turf in one of the most violent neighborhoods in Guatemala City.

When a rival dared to make incursion into Mario’s neighborhood, there was only one gang-inflicted punishment — death. This time it was Mario´s turn to execute the cornered kid on the dark dirt alley.

Never shy to physically beat up a rival, Mario balked at murder. A leader himself among the 100 gang members, he began talking about teaching the guy a lesson and letting him go. Read the rest of the story.

The value of “useless” people

When he beat two Real Madrid defenders.

When he beat two Real Madrid defenders.

My friend and I argue about Barcelona soccer. Namely, Alan says Luis Suarez was a costly and “useless” addition to the star-studded squad. While I have been critical of Suarez’s tendency to bite opponents previously, I endorsed his arrival at the Blaugrana. He brought a wickedly powerful kick, a weapon missing from Barca’s touch-sensitive arsenal. He also brought muscle.

His debut in the first clasico (against eternal rival Real Madrid) was, understandably, not an outright success. He whipped in some pin-perfect crosses but was otherwise somewhat sedate. It usually takes a while for a player to adapt to a new team, but of high-priced acquisitions, fans want immediate results. So Alan grew increasingly critical as games passed without too many goals from Suarez.

I kept believing in him even though the results weren’t terribly positive. Our banter reached a head in late March for the second derby of the season against the Merengues. Before the game started, Alan unbottled fresh venom for Suarez; I defended him. As it turns out, Suarez struck the goal of the victory — exquisitely controlling a long overhead pass with one touch, holding off two defenders with his speed and physicality, and a shooting low to far post to frustrate the goalie. For those who know soccer, it was sheer sublime grace.

This gave me ammo to unload on Alan. We were both overjoyed by the Barca victory, but I shot up my friend: I thought you said he was “useless?”

Suarez "nutmegs" one of the world's best defenders, David Luis, of PSG. (He puts the ball through his legs, a humiliating move).

Suarez “nutmegs” one of the world’s best defenders, David Luis, of PSG. (He puts the ball through his legs, a humiliating move).

On Wednesday, Suarez again won the game, this time to help Barca move forward in quarter finals of the UEFA’s Champion’s League against new powerhouse Paris Saint Germain. For one of the goals, Suarez threaded through three defenders single-handedly (or rather, single-footedly) to confound the opposition and the goalie. They don’t play soccer any better in Heaven.

So tonight I fired a fresh volley at my friend. “Useless” players like that, I’ll take any day.

Do you believe in the people on your team? It’s surprising (upsetting) to see church members criticize their fellows. They compete against each other (instead of competing against the devil). Maybe the person you view as “useless” will score the victory shot against the devil

Everybody is valuable in the Kingdom of God.

Africa Medical Missions: ‘An Intense and beautiful experience’

Africa Medical Missions

Myer with her boyfriend.

Tears streamed as Salome recounted how the C-section didn’t save the baby. Katelyn Myer became painfully aware of the gaggle of kids screaming and laughing and tumbling around the clinic as she listened to the Tanzania women share her sorrows.

Lighthouse Medical Missions Lighthouse Medical Mission’s 2015 clinic to Mwanza “made me think and know and feel that we are all God’s children,” she said. “The medicine and the science had overtaken my point of view. They’re not just bodies that are sick but people who have hurts and feelings.”

An actress in Hollywood, Myer only recently became a Christian. She joined the Santa Monica-based charity LMM this month to give of herself. “It was a really intense and beautiful and incredible experience,” she said.

medicine AfricaIn all, LMM attended to 1,800 patients for five days and held evening church services. “It really pushed home that the theme of the Bible is love,” Myer said.

Medically, the doctors couldn’t do much to help Salome. Her pain was in her heart from the stillborn child. So Myer gave her emotional support.

Africa Medical Missions

As they left the clinic Friday to tour a bit, the patients were cheering and singing songs of praise.

Then she remembered a prophetic word her boyfriend had received before coming to Africa. Someone had told him, “You need to say the word ‘Life’ to somebody over there.” It was time to say the word.

We don’t know yet if Salome is pregnant again.

Africa Medical Mission: ‘I really wanted to be like Jesus’

Arti Cedillo | Africa Medical Missions

Arti made friends with his guitar.

Yes, he called himself “a Satanist” when he was a punk kid rebellious towards his parents’ Christianity. Yes, he beat up kids and got kicked out of schools. Yes, he played hard rock with — um — not the best lyrics.

But when he faced a truly demon-possessed person, it was different. Arti, who turned his life over the Lord years ago and was now serving in Tanzania on the Lighthouse Medical Missions, freaked out when the lady he prayed for started behaving erratically.

Africa Medical Missions

The crowd waiting a turn to see a doctor.

After the first day of assisting doctors at the clinic in Mwanza, Arti requested permission to set up a prayer station and pray for all the patients after doctor visits. “I really wanted to be like Jesus and lay hands on the sick and see them recover,” he said.

That done, he was engaged in praying for a lady with back and leg pain. When he asked her to forgive all who had harmed her, she grew eerily silent. Then she started getting aggressive.

Tanzania Medical Missions | AfricaArti knew what he had to do (expel the demon in Jesus’ name), but he got scared. “I’ve never performed an exorcism before,” he said.

When it was done, he led her to get her pills. But he watched his back, lest she become aggressive again. His buddy, Johnny Huerta, didn’t seem to have the same fears. He went over to her and gave her a hug.

“I was more afraid she would jump on me, and he was more concerned to let her know that she was loved,” Arti reflected.

Lighthouse Medical Missions

Santa Monica pediatrician, Dr. Bob Hamilton, who founded and leads Lighthouse Medical Missions, in Tanzania in Spring 2015.

Arti turned his life over to the Lord in the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica, which is part of the same church that indirectly oversees Lighthouse Medical Missions.

The lady showed up at church that night. She raised her hand at the altar call to receive Jesus. She testified that the pain in her back and legs was gone.

“She came possessed and oppressed with pain,” Arti marveled. “She got delivered and saved. Then she had no pain. God is so good.”

Arti saw the supernatural on the “natural mission” of dispensing medicine. He also saw how to become more like Jesus and minister compassion.

Breaking point

breaking pointEve broke when she saw the fruit.

David broke when he saw Bath Sheba.

Peter broke when he very nearly was arrested along with Jesus.

Moses broken when the Israelites complained one too many times.

Noah broken when he planted a vineyard.

Lot broke when he saw Sodom destroyed.

Abraham broke when he feared for his life over the matter of his wife.

Jonah broke when he got an unwanted assignment.

Jacob broke when an army of 400 came after him.

Paul broke when Barnabus dared to question his leadership over the question of taking Mark along with them.

Mark broke when things got rough.

Solomon broke when he loved many women.

Rehoboam broke when he listened to his friends instead of wise counselors.

Esther broke when the pressure was too great.

(Image source: Originally from Stock Photos).

My transformation into Barabbas

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

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

makeup transformation acting

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

Lighthouse Church School | Church play

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

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

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

Good FRiday drama

Then they darkened up my face.

Do you like my mean look?

Barabbas

Wig, robe, hair covering completes!

The sunken eyes help.

Caiphas, Malchus, Jesus, Barrabas

This one includes Caiphas.

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

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

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 Moya Romero 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.

He evangelized nude

Christian Fellowship MinistriesHow was he supposed to know that you shouldn’t witness about Jesus while you’re naked?

But there he was on a nude beach in Australia, newly saved after reading theLate Great Planet Earth, and he hadn’t learned all the norms of Christianity yet. Yes, God showed abundant grace, mercy, and patience with Bruce Callahan in his early steps of faith.

bruce callahan

Before Christ, the beach was his passion. Now Jesus is.

Raised in Boston, Callahan fell into drugs before his friends. He smoked marijuana and abused psychedelic drugs like LSD. When he was 18, his girlfriend became pregnant.

“I was on the cutting edge of sin,” Callahan says. “Back then nobody got their girlfriend pregnant, but I did. Religion didn’t work for me. My religion was the streets.” Read more about this Christian Fellowship Ministries pastor.

100 pastors barred from attending Chinese Christian conference

zhang and liuAbout 100 Chinese pastors were barred by police from attending a Christian conference in Hong Kong in early March, China Aid reports.

Another 2,000 pastors were granted the entrance/exit pass needed to visit Hong Kong, which retains some of its freedoms since the British colony was turned over to China in 1997. Some of the attendees were from Taiwan, which is not under Chinese dominion.

The conference – sponsored by China Aid, China Ministries and Evangelistic Ministries Intl. – featured well-known pastors, lawyers, professors, authors and scholars. It focused on evangelism, “kingdomization,” and aligning the Chinese church with Christian values, China Aid reports.

China Aid spokesperson Rachel Ritchie was reluctant to speculate as to why some invitees were barred from the conference. But a pastor who has traveled to and ministered in China says persecution comes in waves and is sporadic.

The barring is being seen as part of an intensifying of persecution under the new Communist Party regime – with a new president and new prime minister assuming offices in March 2013. The leaders are looking to consolidate their power and thwart any potential adversaries, real or imaginary. Since the Christian church is growing astronomically, it is viewed as a negative, Western influence and a potential mobilizer of the masses.

In Wenzhou – called “China’s Jerusalem” for its high concentration of Christians, the Central Government ordered the demolition of churches and the removal of crosses, some of which had won permits with local authorities in early 2014. Continue reading.

THAT was NOT a foul! Lighthouse’s basketball tournament ends in controversy. Yeah, I lost. That’s the controversy.

Los Angeles Christian schoolLighthouse Christian Academy’s annual basketball tournament ended Friday, and I’m mad. They called a foul on my son.

I was seated on the benches right in front of the defensive action. I had, by far, the clearest view of it, and I can assure you in no uncertain terms that it was not a foul.

It was a mugging.

Rob Ashcraft powered-up aggressive play to come close to winning the teacher-students 3-on-3 mixup coinciding with March Madness. In the end, the weeklong competition was won again by Pastor Zach Scribner, a former quarterback for UCLA football (ok, he was sixth string, but he WAS on the team). Not even muscle-bound Rob could out-muscle him at our Christian school in Santa Monica.

Rob, a junior who’s really more of a soccer player, shut down Shane Berry, arguably LCA’s best basketball player. Over-active defense limited his baskets.

“Shane didn’t want to defend,” Rob said, explaining how he beat him. Read the rest of the article.

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.

Mexican food unites with pediatrics in Santa Monica to help Africa | LA Marathon

Gilbert's Restaurant | Santa MonicaBetween the two of them, mother and son have run 16 full marathons, but never before did they run one for Africa.

On Sunday, Estela and Johnny Huerta, part owners and operators of Gilbert’s El Indio Mexican Restaurant in Santa Monica, are running the L.A. Marathon to raise funds forAfrica medical missions. Johnny has seen people in abject poverty before.

“Seeing their appreciation for things we would consider small exposes the privileges we take for granted here,” said Johnny, 25. “We feel entitled, but really these things are a blessing and privilege. I’ve run other marathons, but running for Africa makes it more special.”

At last count, $2,838 was pledged for the 10 friends who are running with local pediatrician Bob Hamilton for Lighthouse Medical Missions, which twice yearly sends medical teams to some of the remotest spots on the globe.

Only 10 days later, Johnny will board a plane to fly to Mwanza, Tanzania, along with 24 others on this year’s Spring team outreach.

“I’m excited,” Johnny said. “I don’t know what to expect. I’m a little bit nervous. I think I’m going to come back with a whole new perspective as to what’s important in life. I want my heart to break for what breaks God’s heart. I want to feel what He feels.” Read the rest.

Guilt is not so easy

scarlet-letterJust because Hester Prynne unclasps her scarlet letter and flings it away doesn’t mean disposing of guilt is so easy.

As a symbol of the difficulty of working through guilt, Pearl the brat demands her mother put the fabric “A” back on her dress. On one level, the infant simply can’t accept a disruption in her mother’s appearance. But on another level, for Pearl, the letter is like a wedding ring, and casting it off is tantamount to breaking worse her already broken family.

If all you come away with in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book is stones to throw at repressive religion, I respectfully suggest you’re not delving past a superficial reading of The Scarlet Letter. That is only one of the themes. Hawthorne’s genius explores the intricacies and complexities of the human psyche, and you’re settling for gold dust and missing the mother load.

scarlet-letter-hester-pearlTo be sure, Hawthorne rains his pen down on failed religion. Arthur Dimmesdale flogs himself and performs excessive good works yet cannot find peace. His understanding of Jesus is deficient. A Christian is neither saved by piety nor charity; he is saved simply by Christ’s forgiveness, which Dimmesdale is blind to.

The book is full of ironies because Dimmesdale’s brokenness makes him the town’s favorite minister. This is eminently keen insight. If you have never suffered, you can’t have compassion on your fellows when ministering the word.

Hester Prynne herself, after her one sin of passion, likewise constrains herself to a rigorous life of charity. She dresses the drabbest colors and constricts her luxurious mane of hair to the insides of a bonnet.

After seven years of suffering, the pair meet in the forest and scheme to run away together back to England. Suddenly, sunshine pours in on them and the feel the exhilarating release of nearly a decade of pressure, scrutiny and condemnation.

It’s a good plan — except that they see themselves a sinners for doing it. Pearl is only the first to ruin it. She insists with a temper tantrum that her mother restore the letter to its rightful place. Then Roger Chillingworth, the evil avenger, completes the fatal stroke by booking passage on the same ship.

In traditional Greek fashion, the story must end as a tragedy. Hawthorne is sounding the dark regions of the human conscious, not writing a treatise on salvation. Nevertheless, the message emerges that only grace, only forgiveness in Jesus, can heal the heart. Religion never works — only relationship with Jesus.

The traditional spin on this book is that society is to blame for oppressing these free spirits. If you want to read the book that way, go ahead. But I can’t help but see deeper. You can’t just throw away guilt so easily. You and I need to come to Christ and be healed of our sin. Restoration works, not repression.

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?

McAllen pastor started life as a fighter and an addict

san antonio crime | changed by ChristWhen his father died of a heroin overdose, an embittered Roman Gutierrez vowed to do the same.

“I’m gonna stick a needle in my arm, God,” he uttered, as quoted in the biography Twice Dead. “The same way You killed my father, You can kill me.”

At age 11, he fulfilled the vow and jabbed his arm.

Roman grew up on San Antonio’s west side, where drugs and violence were pervasive, the child of a broken home. He was sexually abused at age seven. He became a fighter and a partier who lived recklessly because he hated life.

The rage following his dad’s death was only compounded by the fact that he received the news when his dad was supposed to pick him up for some father-son time. His was a life void of love.

His first arrest came when he and friends broke into a local convenience store late at night to steal alcohol. Since they heard no alarm, they carted off case after case. Eventually, a patrol car pulled up and nabbed the youngsters.

While in juvenile hall, he busted a kid’s nose for mocking his father’s death and seven months were added to the original six-month sentence.

Read the rest of the story and his conversion here.

Not one stone left stacked

stones stacked

In Jesus’ day, the people were impressed with the big buildings in Jerusalem. They were like skyscrapers to the country bumpkins from Galilee. They ooooo-ed and aaaaah-ed.

Then Jesus bummed them out: Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down — Mark 13:12 NIV. Directly, the prophecy was fulfilled when Roman General Titus decimated the temple in 80 A.D. But indirectly, the prophecy speaks to us about NOT oooohing and aaaaahing this world too much, but it’s all gonna end dust.

What lasts forever is your soul. Do you work on your soul as much as your retirement plan?

*Picture from stand and face the sun. I’m not making any money on it. Excuse the pun: You rock.

When you criticize others, you criticize God

criticizing othersBecause He made them.

*Oh yeah. The image is not mine. I’m not making any profit on it. Thanks to the genius who shot it.

Ostracism and bullying

ostracismThe whole town turned against Hester Prynne. She got caught — by the out-of-wedlock pregnancy.

The Puritans forced her to wear a scarlet A on her dress always as a continual stigma of shame. She was violently flung from human friendship and affection. The hardened ladies looked at her with eyes of condemnation. Preachers wanting to exhort congregations or crowds about the dangers of sins pointed out Hester. Newcomers to the town gazed curiously at the letter, wondering what it meant. Kids, unaware of the concept of sin, treated her as an outcast following behind at a distance and making fun of her.

No one should be subjected to ostracism and bullying — no matter what the cause.

Such mistreatment can make a person turn into a sociopath.

Scarlet Letter teaches loveHolding up under psychological pressure for years and years, Hester doesn’t become a monster. The hero of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter becomes a saint, giving to the poor and helping the sick. But she is the exception.

Maybe, just maybe, one of the reasons we see so many massacres, so much mental illness, is because of the way we reject people. And the absolute last place where rejection should be pervasive is Christ’s church.

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.

The cup makes the coffee

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

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

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

He was just a tyke at Lighthouse when I taught there. Now he’s a hero.

saving Iraqi refugeesAs a scout for the U.S. Marines 4th Light Armored Battalion, Tyler Smith is no stranger to weapons. But now in Iraq on a dangerous mission near the Islamic State war, the Santa Monica resident is completely unarmed.

Tyler, who studied and worked in Santa Monica, is currently deployed in Iraq with Operation Soul Shepherd helping refugees. He and seven other men as part of an advance team are setting up a safehouse for women and girls who have been raped by ISIS jihadists.

“I couldn’t let myself sit at home doing nothing while people here were suffering so immensely,” said Tyler. “I CAN help, so there’s no reason not to. I’m just a man trying to do the right thing. I’m not a hero.”

Not everyone agrees with his self-effacing.

“Every one of these guys are heroes,” said Paul Neier, founder of Mississippi-based non-profit that fights human-trafficking. “They made made a choice to go into harm’s way. The craziest thing about this is they are in the belly of the beast. They have no weapons to defend themselves.”

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.

Deflategate Christians

under inflatedUnder inflated Christians are easier to grip (for the devil).

So make sure to fully inflate with the infilling of the pneuma, the Holy Spirit, the rushing wind, the breath of God.

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.

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.

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!

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!

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.

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.

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.

Pregnant from rape, Jennifer decides to have the baby

should I abort?

She was accosted in January 2014 while staying at a small hotel in a college town. There on business, Jennifer never realized she was being followed until she turned around to close the door to her hotel room.

“It was so snowy and windy that I wouldn’t have heard his footsteps even if he had been stomping,” writes Jennifer Christie in a first-person account of her ordeal in Lifesite News. “It happened so fast. I got the door open, turned around to close it, and he was there – a huge man.”

Her first reaction was confusion. She never had time to process the danger and feel fear. The monster punched her in the face. Apparently he dragged her into her room and raped her. Mercifully, she doesn’t remember that part.

Later she was found in the stairwell. “I don’t know why I was there – maybe I was trying to go for help,” she notes.

In the post-rape treatment, she tested negative for HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphillis, herpes and other STDs. But they didn’t check for pregnancy.

A month later she was scheduled to work on a cruise ship. Two days into the trip she came down with dysentery. After antibiotics did nothing to cure it, she checked in at the local hospital while docked at Cartagena, Colombia. An ultrasound revealed she was expecting a baby.

Back on the ship, doctors and health care workers tried to reassure her. It would be easy enough to fix and resume her normal life, they said – if she aborted her baby.

“I spent the next week listening to a team of very well-meaning doctors and nurses console me with how “easy” it would be to “take care of it” — to kill the child.”

But Jennifer is a Christian who holds a firm conviction that the baby forming in her womb is a human life. One doctor in particular, though well-meaning, was “more vehement” than the others in pushing abortion, she recalls. Read the rest of the article.