Tag Archives: life

Change is beautiful

change is beautiful

Don’t resist change. When you come to Christ, He will make all things beautiful in your life.

I, like all humans, am drawn to sin, tripped up by temptation. But I — and not everybody knows this! — know where to turn in repentance. I know that God is most beautiful, His way radiant and peaceful.

If you need to change your diet for health reasons, don’t despise the vegetables. Learn to enjoy them. The gym is not a hellhole to be endured. It is a healthhole to be enjoyed.

Change is beautiful.

*I don’t own the image, nor am I making any $ on it.

Change is possible

change

This is what makes us human. We can analyze. We can improve. We can alter habits, thought patterns and outcomes. If we are doing poorly, we can’t get in the lane headed towards success.

This is what makes us Christians. We embrace change, change brought from above, supernatural change. Hopelessness is discarded. Joy replaces it. Love fills the heart, peace, the mind.

Don’t keep suffering. Don’t stay the same. Jesus wants to help you change.

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

Identify yourself as closely as possible with your target audience

Guatemala ministries

All the kids gather for a photo with birthday hats on.

That’s what Jesus did. He didn’t stay aloof but descended from Heaven and took the form of man to earn us salvation.

When you reach out to people, you should become one of them (there are exceptions).

In the photo, I’m with the kids, whom I love, from the church and school in Guatemala that my wife and I started (although really God started it) 20 years ago.

You gain nothing by making yourself superior to others, standoffish, untouchable. People want a tangible and real person to follow, not an image from afar.

Christ brings color to your life

color to your lifeTired of drab? Jesus will take your black-and-white life of money or sin and paint something beautiful out of it. He made me a person who helps other out of self-destruction. First I was a missionary in Guatemala. Now I work in a Christian school. You can have a purpose in your life!

*Photo Credit: James M. Berry, photographer extraordinaire, and a great friend.

He sold stakes in a gold mine with no gold. Now he preaches the gospel.

Iglesia Cristiana la Puerta | Guatemala

John Mira, preaching in Guatemala. He’s pictured with Pastor Ludving and his family.

Ever since he started working for the owner of a gold mine in Las Vegas, John Mira lived a lavish lifestyle with limousines, mansions, women, and illicit drugs.

His part was to sell foreign investors a stake in the mine. John would drive Japanese clients there, walk them past the armed guards at the gate, show them the chemists studying soil samples, let them inspect the smelters. He even slipped $30,000 to the reps of investment companies to curry their favor. In his sales role he brought in millions of dollars for his boss.

Incredibly, Mira never realized he was at the center of a scam. After investors viewed the mine supposedly valued at $2 billion, his boss sent all the “actors” home. Wanting to show off one day to his girlfriend, he drove her out to the mine – and nobody was there.

Suddenly, he realized he was an unwitting participant in fraud!

He was deluded into thinking he was a huge success. While he wallowed in riches, he was also addicted to drugs. He made fun of a Christian friend who sold him jackets from a beaten-up Volvo.

One day, John found himself pinned to his bed. He felt a claw in the back of his head. He was hallucinating and believed he was dying. Drug-induced paranoia kept him from calling his parents for help.

Desperate for help, he called the coat salesman who always invited him to church.

“Lock yourself in your room and cry out to God,” his friend told him.

John followed the man’s instructions. Then God impressed this on his heart: In your left hand is your death and your family’s death. In your right hand is your life and your family’s life. Choose. Read the rest of the article.

Christian soccer star brings home women’s World Cup

holiday's goalLauren Holiday’s stunning volley against Japan was the third of a tsunami of goals that gave the U.S. Women’s National Team the Women’s World Cup on July 5.

Though winning that competition and two Olympic gold medals for women’s soccer has been gratifying for Holiday, it pales in comparison with her love for Christ.

“Success is being the best soccer player I can be,” the midfielder says. “The wonderful, wonderful thing about loving Jesus is, it’s not about me. And the spotlight isn’t on me. So when I do step out on the field, I get to play with freedom because I don’t have to worry about if I score or what happens if we lose or if I make a bad pass, because success isn’t determined on that with Christ.”

Holiday, 27, retired from international soccer immediately after winning the cup. She is part of a cadre of Christians on the national squad that also includes Tobin Heath, Amy Rodriguez, Heather O’Reilly and Jillian Loyden.

Holiday was raised in a Lutheran Church but embraced a vibrant faith when she went into junior high school.

“I went to some youth camps and that’s where I started to discover the presence of God,” she told BeliefNet. “I was able to experience God through the singing and by talking to other girls that had similar experiences. That opened my eyes but I still had to seek out that relationship.” Read the rest of the article.

The Gates of Hell or the Gates of Righteousness

heaven hell gatesIt all depends on your perspective, from where you come and where you want to go.

If you want to bolt from Christianity, the gateway bears the title: “The Gates to Hell.” But if you are already in the life of hellishness and you want to escape to Christianity, the headpost declares: “The Gates of Righteousness.” But it is the same doorway.

Either you exit godliness or you exit godlessness. Either you enter the world and the wide path that leads to destruction, or you enter salvation by grace and continuing a walk with Christ that leads to blessing and Heaven. But it is the same doorway by which some enter and others leave.

Walls are NOT for good people

walls are for bad people, not goodWalls are for bad people. They either KEEP OUT wrongdoers (such as thieves from your house) or they KEEP IN wrongdoers (such as prison convicts). But the good person is free to go in or out as he pleases.

When we look at God’s law as walls, we need to keep this in mind. God’s walls are not restrictions on our fun, to keep us pinned in to His boring Kingdom, as some see it. They are protections against all the harm the devil wants to bring on us.

Ask the hopeless drug addict if he could have done it all over would he never touch drugs. Ask the alcoholic if it would have been preferable to never taste liquor. Ask a million and one people destroyed by sin if God’s walls were arbitrary morals imposed upon them by cruel religious people who had no right to tell others what to do. Go ahead, ask them.

Ask the people in Hell.

Don’t chaff at Christianity’s “limitations,” viewing them as a horrible prison to suppress your freedoms. No, you are free to go. You are a good person. Walls are NOT for the good person. They are for the bad person.

Gather in the light

the gathering darkness

Gather in the souls. Each soul is a light to burn brightly for Christ, the Chief and Source of Light. Fret not about the thickening darkness. No matter how tiny your light, no matter how overwhelming the darkness appears to grow, your light will be seen. Don’t run away from the world and hide like hermits. To the contrary, get out more and more into the world and let your light shine.

The easier it gets to get into sin, the more desperate people will become. The more desperate they become, the more they will want Christ. We Christians will be there to rescue them.

Driven to your knees

driven to your kneesPerfect. Then you are ready to pray.

Internet evangelism of youth

internet evangelismBehind the facade of success, “Taylor” languished in fear because of his parents’ constant fighting. Like so many teenagers, he reached out over the Internet for an understanding person. Thankfully, he didn’t fall into the hands of a predator.

Taylor stumbled upon a Christian chat through the organization JesusCares.com and someone online led him to Christ. Soon, he found out a lacrosse teammate was Christian and decided to go with him to church. Eventually, his family joined him at church.

“My home feels different now,” Taylor says. “It will take time, but my parents say they want our house to be `full of Jesus’ from now on.”

Every day, JesusCares chatters engage 180 young people, and as many as a dozen on any given day may be suicidal, says Sean Dunn, founder of JesusCares and its parent organization Groundwire.net. The round-the-clock volunteer counselors are born-again Christians with a passion to reach the lost.

With great listening skills, compassion and patience, they encourage young people who struggle with their self-image, along with loneliness, hopelessness and fear of failure.

“Young adults do not have the stability of healthy families, strong spiritual lives, and distinct purpose that used to be more common,” Dunn says. “They are struggling to find themselves, find purpose, and find hope. To quote scripture, this generation is ‘harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ When Jesus recognized these conditions in Matthew 9:35-38, he came to a conclusion: ‘The harvest is plentiful.’” Read more about this innovative internet evangelism.

I love waterfalls


I’m from parched California. We can’t take showers any longer.

So you can imagine how strange I felt driving over river after river in Idaho to visit my brother in Idaho Falls. Then we visited Lower and Upper Mesa Falls in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. If I could live near waterfalls, I would.

Water is life, beauty, tranquility.

Jesus is the water of eternal life. My waterfall is my church.

People who say they don’t need church are spiritually drought-stricken.

Your best chance for peace in the world: earbuds and loneliness

peace | earbuds and loneliness


Good luck — if you wish to find peace in the world.

True peace can be found in God.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. — John 14:24.

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

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. — Isaiah 26:3

Fund me, please

Mike Ashcraft | Guatemala

I’m visiting my brother in Idaho Falls

Hey hey! to all my loyal followers. This blog has been a spot for inspiration, for gently challenging atheists, for encouraging Christians. I’ve brought you tales from all over the globe. I’ve incorporated my reporting for GodReports.com

As much cool stuff as I’ve done, I don’t get paid to blog. I also don’t get paid as a high school teacher at a small private Christian school. So I’m asking for a little bit of help to get to Guatemala, to the church my wife and I founded starting 20 years ago. I haven’t checked airfares yet, but it’ll probably be $750.

I’m asking you to support me http://www.gofundme.com/MikeToGuatemala. I totally understand if you don’t have any spare cash to help out (that’s the way I am! :D). But maybe some of you guys can help. I really appreciate it!

Pray, don’t panic

dont panic just pray

I don’t subscribe to the myth that I have everything under control. There are people who actually believe that they have so much money, talent, good looks, whatever, that they always will win in life.

Sometimes things appear to spin out of control. In those moments, I need to stay calm and remember who I am trusting. Don’t panic; just pray.

He stole cars. Then Jesus stole his heart.

Pastor Chayo Perez

With his wife and two of his four children at the Tucson Door Church Bible conference.

By age 14, Rosario “Chayo” Perez was stealing pickup trucks from Tucson and bringing them across the border, where mafiosos paid him $1,000 each.

“When you’re 14, and you’re making $1,000 a week, that’s good money,” he says. He dropped out of school after finishing the 6th grade. “I figured, ‘Why would I need school?’”

When Chayo was 16, his best friend was murdered at his house on Christmas day. The killer was looking for Chayo to avenge some wrong. “But my friend took the hit and got killed,” he remarks grimly.

“Life was such a haze,” he recalls. “You’re high so much, drunk so much, that the reality of death doesn’t hit you.”

radical conversion Christ

In his days of running the streets

Once a group of fellow hoodlums, seeking revenge, left a man bloodied and nearly dead.

“I reached a point where I was sick and tired,” Chayo said. “I was living like an animal – just partying, drinking, using drugs and fighting.”

Then his older brother, Alex, got saved at a church that street-preached and evangelized earnestly.

“He would come witness to me while I was partying with my buddies,” Chayo said. “I started to get sick of him. I kept telling him to leave me alone.”

Then one time, Alex found Chayo drinking beer with his buddies. It was embarrassing for Chayo. The other guys started to make fun of Chayo for his brother. Chayo threatened him and told him to leave him alone.

“He said, ‘Ok,’” Chayo recalls. “’But let me pray for you and if nothing happens, I’ll leave you alone.’ I put my beer down. He prayed for me, and the Holy Ghost came down. I started weeping. My friends were freaking out because I was weeping. It was something supernatural. Even to this day, I can’t explain it.” Read the rest of the article.

Giving to the poor is overrated

Christian loveIf you give to the poor BECAUSE of love, that is a very good thing. But Paul seems to indicate that a human could give to the poor without having love. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and have not love, it profits me nothing. — 1 Cor. 13:3.

Maybe people give to the poor to appease their conscience or to compensate their evil actions with good ones. What’s surprising is that we can DO loving things without love.

Of course, I think love is an action (like giving to the poor). Yeah, no smug love that I just wish upon the world without doing anything to alleviate the world’s sufferings. Indeed, Prov. 19:17 says: Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.

Faith is overrated

faith is overrated

This is a tough one because Jesus spent most of his time upbraiding his disciples for not having enough faith. So faith was very nearly the characteristic he most cultivated.

So to dismiss faith’s importance borders on heresy. Faith is not unimportant! It is just lesser important than love.

Paul is resetting Corinthian theology, which was heavy on the sizzle and bang of show-off spiritual gifts. He forms a chaismus with chapter 12 and 14 talking about spiritual gifts. Then he says: But I will show you a better way. In the middle, he talks about love.

The ancients didn’t have all caps or highlight to draw attention to their writing. They didn’t have exclamation marks. So they made up the chiasmus, a rhetorical device that repeats a them twice, with the highlighted material in the middle. (It’s kind of like a hamburger. It’s not the two breads on top and bottom. The tasty important part is in between the breads.)

In the middle, then, Paul says, Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. — 1 Cor. 13:2.

In Christianity, love is the pinnacle of perfection. Holiness is not so much resisting temptation as it is having compassion on those who have fallen into temptation.

Martyrdom is overrated

martyrdom

Though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. — 1 Cor. 13:3

Raymond Lull sought to be stoned, so he went to an Islamic country and street-preached. Goal attained.

Why did he actively pursue martyrdom? Because Medieval Christians promulgated the myth that martyrs have the surest entrance into Heaven. The idea was so widely embraced that people born into Christendom would live for the devil all their lives and then seek martyrdom at the end, thinking they would thus be assured Heaven.

Martyrdom is overrated. It’s not the apex of Christianity. The quintessence of Christianity was shown yesterday by family members of the nine South Carolina victims of race-hater killer Dylann Roof when they addressed him in court and forgave him.

Love is Christianity’s highest virtue, its greatest sign of maturity, its most vaunted ideal. Raymond Lull would have done better to keep living and serving Jesus.

I wish gas were like salvation

gas pricesWhen I spotted this, I pulled over rashly, recklessly. Finally, gas I can afford!

Unfortunately, the gas station was closed, fenced in with a chain-link fence and a for-sale sign out. :(

I wish gas were like salvation: free.

Stop making excuses

abby wambachMy son tore his ACL playing on turf, so I totally understand Abby Wambach’s complaint about having to play on turf at the Women’s World Cup.

But when she blames lack of goals, her lack of commitment, on the turf, then I’m ready to fire her.

Good thing she “committed” in the only goal the US scored against Nigeria yesterday.

Soccer was designed to play on grass, but turf is much easier to keep. I can understand why Canada, with snow and rain, would opt for turn.

abby wambach 2Turf doesn’t “give way.” So my son’s cleat got stuck, causing my son’s ACL tear. And when you tackle or fall (from doing a header), it’s much harder. Wambach had said: I don’t lay out and commit to those headers and that’s why they glance off my head rather than me contacting them. For me, I definitely think that the U.S. has more goals if we’re playing on grass.

But of all the women playing on turf, only Wambach whined. Someone even said that, if they had to play on concrete or dirt, they would give their all. This is for country. The Women’s World Cup is only once every four years. You have been selected to represent your country out of tens of thousands of female soccer players. You had better give your all.

Could you imagine what would happen if our soldiers took the same attitude? Aw sarge, I don’t want to charge. It’s dirty out and the rocks hurt. There’s too much dust. I can hardly see.

abby wambachOf course, we would all love perfect conditions. But if — as they say in Guatemala — you’re going to put on a pretty pink bow and demand your entitlements and not perform at full capacity, then it’s time to replace that player.

On Wednesday against Nigeria, Wambach calmed pundits who were up in arms. She scored a stunning goal on a cross. It was enough to win.

If we don’t allow excuses when you play for country, how much more so when you “play” for God? Maybe not all is well, but you can give your all to God.

Make Jesus your star

Jesus Star

Frankly, I don’t get the allure of Hollywood — and I don’t get the stars on the sidewalk. I host foreign students who learn English. They ALL want to see Hollywood. Little do they know that Hollywood is ghetto, with abundance of drugs and grimy streets.

But those foreign students, invariably, like to get a selfie with the star of their favorite performer.

Why anyone would want people to walk all over their name, I’ll never know. It seems like a dishonor, not an honor. But Hollywood is full of such contradictions that go totally unnoticed by people infatuated with this world.

This I know: the darker this world gets — and it IS growing darker — the brighter the light of Jesus. The more that sin becomes “acceptable,” the more people are going to suffer its ravages. They will need a Savior more and more desperately.

Hey, I’m tempted, and I sin, but the attraction of God is greater. I always come back. I keep following God. Because there’s nothing better, nothing like Him. His love is amazing. Freedom is incredible.

Make Jesus your star.

God rescued Jess from suicidal thoughts

suicidal

with her younger sister

She was beautiful, had talent, played soccer. She was a Christian.

But she was suicidal.

Even now Jess Trussell, 18, can’t fully explain the incongruence of possessing the joy of salvation but despairing over spiraling circumstances.

jess1At the time, Jess was a sophomore in high school. Her family had just changed churches and she lost the support network of friends who were like family. Her parents had hit some rough patches in their marriage. She would come home after soccer practice to try to finish homework. Her grades were slipping. And her eyesight was growing worse.

“Everything that was important to me in my life was falling through my hands,” she says on her blog. It was a time of months of discouragement that seemed to drain into endless hopelessness.

The way out came at a Christian concert where God spoke to here. To pass into eternity and be with Jesus, to leave behind the problems, would be wonderful, but people needed her here on Earth, was the gist. She felt God’s love.

suicide“I felt an overwhelming sense of peace, of comfort,” she said. “An enormous weight was lifted off my shoulders.”

Her focus had been on herself. She needed to focus on others. Today she is a college sophomore at California Baptist University in Riverside, California.

Christians are not immune from the attacks of the devil, but they have the Resource, Jesus, to escape Satan’s clutches. Christians are not perfect. They get tempted just like anyone else. They sin. They are forgiven, not superior. They are forgiven only because they ask God for His forgiveness.

Being a Christian doesn’t negate our humanness. It just gives us a future eternalness.

I rejoice with Jess’ decision to share her story because I know that there are thousands of other Christian Jesses who the devil is tormenting, exploiting the secretiveness induced by shame. Jesus gives you the way out.

Bend Jesus any way you want

bendable Jesus

Perfect for our time! Now we can bend Jesus any way we want.

If you don’t like certain scriptures, put a nice spin on them.

Don’t give up today

don't give upIf you give up today, you give up everyday for the rest of your 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?