Tag Archives: life

God hasn’t given up on you

IMG_1180(1)Pablo was a great youth in our Guatemalan church. He was working on telephone lines with his cousin. Above on the ladder was his cousin, below, Paul held the ladder steady.

Then the cousin dropped a hammer (pictured), and it fell on Pablo’s head.

Ouch!

God in His mercy spared Pablo’s life. God is not done with you yet, hijo. He has many things for you to do still in the Iglesia Cristiana La Puerta.

Don’t think that God has given up on you, that He is finished with you. He still is working in your life, and He still wants to use you.

#ValleyBoyPastor answers the call

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Van Nuys

There were reasons to NOT come to Van Nuys and start a church. It was far from Santa Monica. It was hot. The commute was bad. The list went on.

The first thing I noticed when I drove here to take up residence in my apartment were the palm trees. For some reason, I immediately associated them with the Promised Land. God was sending me to a Land Flowing with Milk and Honey. I would start a new church. His call and blessing would supersede all the negatives.

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Palm trees line Sherman Way in Van Nuys where I’m starting a Bible study.

And so it has been. No one back in Santa Monica can believe that after only a few weeks, we already have one or more quality disciples. I can’t believe it either. We just believed God, and He is going to build His church.

Don’t follow the money. Follow the call.

They call it freedom

freewayHere in LA, freeways aren’t often “free.” They’re clogged and miserable.

Here on Earth, the free ways of sin aren’t either. Being “free” from God’s law makes you a slave to sin. You may persuade yourself you’re free and happy — but that doesn’t, can’t, won’t last. True freedom, joy and peace can be found only in Jesus.

The intelligentsia has done a wonderful job of publicity. They have barraged the public with a continual onslaught so that people believe that Greenland is actually green. Ha!

If you’re tired of the lies, come to Christ and enjoy true freedom.

‘Sheriff of Skid Row’ ministers while he arrests

sheriff of skid row

For 20 years, he’s patrolled the most dangerous, smelliest, grungiest disease-saturated section of Los Angeles, a one-square-mile on the edge of downtown called Skid Row where 2,000 sleep on the streets each night.

And Deon Joseph loves it because he gets to share Jesus. He’s never used his gun and has made more friends than arrests. He’s started mentoring and self-defense programs and even become a sort of spokesman to city officials about the need to address mental health issues.

“We need to be lights in dark places,” Joseph told Liberty University students. “If ever the world needed us to be a light, it’s right now.”

It’s only a 15-minute jaunt from the hipster-dominated financial district of downtown. But for some, the journey to Skid Row is a life of bad decisions that lead to the last way station before death.

sleeping on streets

“When I was 5 years old, I wanted to be a famous R&B singer,” Joseph said. “I did not realize my steps were ordered by God to be on Skid Row. I never thought I would be dealing with crack addicts, drug dealers, loan sharks, pimps and prostitutes.”

Joseph was born to Christian parents who, through the years, welcomed 41 foster kids into their household. His dad got saved when he mugged a preacher. He married his mom, dug ditches, collected cans, fed the homeless and started a construction business to give work to people like him, who had grown up in the Jim Crow South.

When Joseph finished his LAPD training phase, he volunteered for Central Division, not realizing it would lead him into the heart of darkness.

Skid Row is now being called the “homeless capital of America.” It’s the product of anti-police policies and NIMBYs (the acronym Not In My BackYard is for homeowners who wish to corral all the trouble-makers into one bad area of LA), Joseph said.

“I came from Venice where you have beautiful women, lattes and fine eateries,” Joseph remembered of his first day in Central. “And when I worked in Skid Row, it was as if I tripped and fell into Dante’s Inferno or Mad Max’s Thunderdome.

saving our inner cities“There were rows and rows of people destroying themselves with crack and heroin, beer, having sex on the sidewalk, defecating on the sidewalk with a porta potty right next to them because the gangsters wouldn’t let them use the toilet,” he said. “The smell was a combination of blood, feet and fish. It grabbed you by the nose hairs and shook you.”

Despite the dehumanizing exploitation and the desensitizing constant crime, Joseph fell in love with the beat.

“Why am I in this place that could easily be compared to hades, and I’m comfortable?” he asked his mom. “My mom said, ‘Son, if ever you feel comfortable in chaos, it’s probably where God called you to be.’ On Skid Row I realized I was home.”

It was never easy though. On his first two months, he worked the front desk where he saw firsthand the mayhem.

“Every five minutes somebody was coming in with their arm broken backwards at 45 degrees, lacerated cheeks, swollen eyes,” he said. “One guy came in and his intestines were hanging out. And they didn’t want a police report because they were that scared of their attacker. All they wanted was an ambulance to whiz them away to the hospital.”

He formed friendships with mentally ill people – only to see them die tragically months later.

One such was “Hurricane Linda,” who knocked over desks at the station, ripped out phones and spat on officers. Joseph was nervous the day she came in like the Tazmanian Devil. Spotting him, she directed a laser gaze on him that made him even more nervous. Read the rest of the story.

Admiring stars

stars world stars Bible

Don’t tell my son, but I threw out his collections book for the just-ended America Cup soccer tournament. The house is pell-mell with my recent Valley Boy Pastor move to Van Nuys, and I need less stuff to put away. He hadn’t purchased any of the stickers, which are expensive, and it’s not as fun after it’s over than when it’s about to begin.

Soccer star collections are fun because you can reminisce about past exploits and wonder who will overcome. People collect memorabilia about movie stars, famous war heroes and Anime characters.

There’s one star collection I will never throw out: It’s the Bible. The other collections are temporal. People debate who is the greatest soccer player of all time (Maradona or Pele) and speculate if anyone will ever do better. Most get forgotten. Time tends to do that.

Not the stars in the Bible. They continue to shine brightly as an example to us today, not only for their superheroic acts but also for the failings. By reading the Bible, we can deduce some mistakes to NOT make, we can emulate some good qualities.

After all, what is life really about? I think the soccer is only an entertainment.

But I’m only worried about the toe nail clipper

IMG_0866There are boxes and piles around my apartment as I just completed my move to the San Fernando Valley to start a church. There 1,749 things that need to be sorted out and put away. But I’m not worried about any of them.

I’m worried about finding just one thing: the toe nail clipper. These are the misadventures of the Valley Boy Pastor.

The ridiculously mundane can crowd out Jesus. So easily I get stressed out or bummed out. Out of what? Out of the joy of daily relationship with Jesus.

There’s a lot to do and detractors prowling. It’s easy to forget Priority #1 among so many priorities. This is an appeal — to myself primarily — to keep focused on Jesus always as I plant a church in Van Nuys with the Christian Fellowship Ministries.

Let God’s light break in on your darkness

God's light

My daughter likes the dark. I’m always turning on lights, and she goes around turning them off.

Some people persuade themselves that they like the dark. But after the fake fun wears off, then there’s the Word of God ready to enthrall your heart.

I’m glad God broke into my darkness. Inexpressible joy and peace displaced the depression and loneliness in my heart.

Oh, I’m not immune to depression and loneliness, but there’s a difference between a superficial, temporal bout and a chronic, acute case.

The greatest irony of Christianity is that people are absolutely convinced that they don’t want, like, need what they really want, like, need.

Imperfect prayers. Perfect hearts.

imperfect prayers

We probably shouldn’t use prayer manuals with pre-written jargon that we can mindlessly recite. Not even the Lord’s prayer should be considered a magical formula that works even though we pronounce it while the mind wanders elsewhere.

If anything, the Lord’s prayer — or other prayers that we may admire for their theology, their poetry and their balance — should be an inspiration or a teaching. It should not be considered a mathematical formula that if re-employed with exactitude will wrest from Heaven miracles. What matters is your sincerity. And maybe focus.

I don’t think I’ve ever prayed a “perfect” prayer. And I have prayed many prayers. My ever-tenacious sin always bleeds in.

God is merciful. He has answered more prayers than I deserve. He has seen through my vile carnality to some glimmer of anguish, some desperate plea for Him to do what I cannot do, and He has responded.

Don’t look for perfect prayers. Try to have a perfect heart.

The road to utopia

utopiaIn case you didn’t know, they are setting up the ideal society, one based on justice and harmony. As long as what they say goes.

Human history is rutted with human attempts to establish utopias. The reason why these fail and fuel massacres is that humans can’t agree on what set of rules. This band thinks radical Islam. That band says communism.

So long as sin remains in the heart of man, there will be no ideal society. On this earth, the best we can do is give rights and freedoms to everyone. In Heaven, there will be an ideal society in which we give to each other (and not take from each other), in which one no longer imposes on another and musters his own leadership by killing all opponents. Until that day, my job is to get people there.

Fear and loathing in Los Angeles (and Guatemala)

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I conquered fear for 16 years. As a result, there’s a church and Christian school in Guatemala.

It was a contest of scary stories, but these were real — about assaults. The people one-upping each other were pastors in Guatemala. As the only gringo in the group, I begged them to stop since they worked worse in my mind. The Guatemalans gave accounts of the times they were held up at gunpoint or at knifepoint sometimes out of humor. I never got the joke.

Eventually the terror of the reigning insecurity in Guatemala got the best of me, and I high-tailed it to the U.S. Guatemala is nation dominated by drug-traffickers. Government officials are too busy stealing from the country. Police officers join the fray. You never know who to fear more, the crooks or the police officers.

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By the time I succumbed to fear, God had raised up leaders to take over and keep the work going.

I held out in faith for 16 years, but when I got held up by pros, after exchanging money at the bank, I was afraid for my kids. They would rapt them and demand ransom.

Please don’t be glib. You can spout scripture (“perfect love casts out all fear” comes to mind) from here in the United States where you face virtually no threat. But I’ll listen to a person who has been through worse things than me.

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The smiles are worth whatever fears I had. People have come to Christ.

Not all fear is bad. As David Bowie observed grimly: There are no atheists on the battlefield. Those who face death daily don’t have the luxury to flout their intellectual pride and declare themselves free-thinkers. Those who face fear hold to faith. I believe David Bowie, after promoting so much sin during his musical career, came to God at the end. Selling records and making money was cool, but it was useless to solve the death problem. Only God can do that.

Have you conquered all fears? Maybe you just haven’t had a big enough trial yet. You don’t fear God? Some go into eternity sticking to their pridefulness and insisting they don’t believe in God.

 

If it tastes bitter, spit it out, don’t swallow.

forgiveness

We must master the art of moving on. Humans hurt each other because of selfishness and self-promotion. Don’t let yourself be pushed down by others forever. They may push you down, but it is up to you to pick yourself up.

God’s tattoo

God TattooThe trouble with tattoos is you can’t erase them (easily). Most people spend the rest of the lives entrenching themselves in the defense of the tattoo they got when younger. It’s easier than to own up to an error.

Did you know God’s got a tattoo? Yeah, I didn’t believe it either. But check this out:

Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands. — Isaiah 49:16

This means you are God’s permanent possessions, His love. He’s not going back on you.

A friend of mine got married. I don’t know if they got wedding rings, but I see he got his wife’s name tattooed on his arm. This is a younger generation. I love Dianna, but I don’t think I’ll get a tattoo.

But God is so over the top in love with us that He has our name “engraved” — read, “tattooed” — on his palms, right where He’ll see it constantly (although if you want to get technical, this is an anthropomorphism, but the principal is there).

Did Spaniards cheat the Taíno of Cuba trading brass for gold?

tainos gold for brass

A Taíno museum village in Cuba today.

Value is arbitrary.

Each person assigns the value he wants to whatever item. Of course, there is an international value assigned to gold and brass, and so you could argue the Spaniards took advantage of the naivete of the Taínos. But since brass was the scarce and beautiful metal for the Taínos, they were willing to trade gold for it.

Today, some people value brandname clothes. Others value attending their favorite band’s concert. Others treasure their pets and deprive them of no extravagance. And dumping boatloads of money on it is well worth it.

Some people value their family. Some people value cheating. Some people value faith in God.

Are you trading brass for gold?

Cross the bridge of Christianity

chengduChristianity is not prohibitions. It gets you where you want to go. To bliss and peace. To stability and security. To acceptance. To eternal life.

So cross the bridge.

Hoarders of bad memories

hoarders

Some people hoard newspapers and trash. They just can’t decide what to throw out so they don’t throw out anything. Their house becomes a trash dump.

Others hoard hurtful memories. These endanger us of turning bitter, grudging, inward, suspicious or anti-social. Everyone needs a sewage system connected to the heart to flush out the wrongs suffered, else we lose the joy of each day.

This is why Jesus urges his followers to forgive. From the cross, in excruciating pain, Jesus forgave his crucifiers. It is the model for us.

This Iraqi kid loves Messi

messi bag jerseyToo poor to buy the real thing, this Iraqi boy turned a plastic bag into the jersey of his favorite soccer player, Leo Messi from FC Barcelona. How do you show your love for God?

Thanks to the internet, Messi saw it and is going to send him a real jersey. This will probably thrill him for 110 years.

The Bible says that Jesus was so impressed by the Roman centurion’s faith that He granted the miracle. Lesson: You can impress God (though we should distinguish: you can’t “earn” his favor — ok, it’s confusing, but the two truths work together in tension much like a guitar string is tightened across two frets). How do you show your love for God?

David Bowie became a Christian?

david bowieIn the months before he succumbed to cancer, David Bowie, the moré-smashing hedonist who resonated with a generation of young people, reconsidered the God he flouted most of his life as a rocker iconoclast.

As his life ebbed away quietly in the grips of end-stage liver cancer, there were signs the 69-year-old titan of rock and rebellion found peace with the Creator.

“He reassessed everything when he was terminally ill a year ago,” a family friend told the Sun UK. “He concluded there was something greater than all of us, and that may be some version of what others might call God. This was probably quite comforting. He certainly wasn’t scared of death.”

david bowie christianWhile he mostly abused drugs and lived like a libertine, Bowie searched through Buddhism, Satanism and Nietzsche’s existential philosophy for the balm to the raging angst in his soul. At one point he quipped that he had even tried to make a religion out of pottery and finally settled on singing as his faith of choice.

Still the London-born glam rock pioneer was searching. In an interview in 2003, he recognized he could never utterly reject faith. “I’m not quite an atheist,” he said. “I’m almost an atheist. (But) all the clichés are true. The years really do speed by. Life really is short as they tell you it is. And there really is a God.” Found out if it’s true: David Bowie Christian?

Keep praying

keep prayingIt’s been more than a decade that Eddy visited us in Guatemala. Since then, my wife, kids and I were forced to return to the States and have been serving in the local church. His sister and mom remained faithful; Eddy was off doing something else.

Who popped up recently?

Yeah, it’s another motivation to keep praying for those people even when years are grinding on, even when you don’t see any tangible hope. The Spirit moves in invisible realms.

It doesn’t matter where you are but where you’re going

pathChristianity is a journey towards better. We pray, hear sermons and do works, not to earn our salvation but to align ourselves with the blessings God wants to pour out on us. By pleasing God, we discover happiness.

I’ve been a Christian for 36 years. I’m still not perfect. Sometimes it gets discouraged when sin raises its horrible self in my heart. I find the flesh a persistent adversary.

What I have learned to start over 50 kabillion times, to get back on the path to right, to persist in trying and to keep doing good things.

Maybe you’re at a low point in life. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and set yourself once again (for the millionth time!) on the path towards God. Keep striving to be and stay in God.

Smiling at death

Stjepan_Stevo_FilipovićWith a noose around his neck on the scaffold, resistance fighter Stjepan Filipovic defied his Nazi captors. “Death to facism! Freedom to people!” the Yugoslav jeered.

There is a cause that is worth more than conserving your life: it is fighting evil. There are men who are unafraid to pay the ultimate price for the highest good, whether they be our armed forces or missionaries in remote villages. They are unafraid because they realize if they don’t live for something valuable, they don’t live.

They carved a road through the rock walls

guoliang roadWhen Chinese government demurred on the multi-million dollar road construction, 13 men from the isolated Guoliang village took matters into their own hands.

Guoliang Tunnel 19They sold their livestock to buy hammers and chisels. Without civil engineering, they took five years to chip their way through almost a mile of solid rock. The resulting road — 15 feet high and 12 feet wide — opened the remote and inaccessible village to tourism and saved the town, but one of the original 13 lost his life in the construction.

guoliangRoadIt was a good thing they didn’t realize that what they wished to do was “impossible” for villagers lacking power tools and proper training. By having faith in their dreams, they defied the naysayers and gambled everything on their future. The wager — and the work — paid off.

New Year comes regardless if you want it. New you, only if you want it

Michael-Bernhardt-1-810x508The New Year grinds forward. You may long for it or try to hold it off. You may think it augurs a new beginning, or you may be fretting for 36 things still to do in 2015. It’s forward progress is unstoppable.

But a new you doesn’t proceed forward in the same manner. A new you comes only if you change existing habits. If you set new goals — or maybe just goals, then you can pursue. A new you requires effort.

This is why I am a Christian. I want a better version of myself. I want to resolve not just once a year but daily for it and strive for it. Christianity is all about looking forward, embracing change. Christianity is about idealism and yet it is practical.

I encourage you to seek the new you — and, yes, I highly recommend you find it where I think it can only be found, in God.

Image: Michael Buehner on Pinterest.

I’ve cut down on sarcasm

sarcasm“Sarcasm” comes from “sarx” in the Greek, which means flesh. It is cutting someone up.

It’s telling someone he’s stupid and you’re superior, more intelligent. You resort to sarcasm to show how obvious something is (but wasn’t to the first person who made the statement or asked the question — hence he’s dumb.) It is a humiliation.

Of course, sarcasm has plenty of attractiveness. It makes people laugh. It makes you look witty. People like to hang out with winners. You’re the winner if you use it quickest and cuttingest. It’s a pride thing.

I’ve cut down on sarcasm because I’ve been cut up by sarcasm. I’ve decided that I don’t need it to attract friends. I’ve realized that true friends are what I want, and they won’t be coming around for my barbs and witticisms. They’ll love me if I love them. The only love the sarcasm knows is self-love.

Don’t place a halo on my head yet. Sarcasm comes out more frequently than I’d like to admit. I’m not totally sincere and humble. I’ve still got my flesh.

Sarcasm is delusional. You begin to believe you are superior to others just because of quick tongue.

Thank you for friendship

AshcraftsTo all my followers who have been with me through the ups and downs, exchanging encouragement and exhortations, thank you. Some of you are dear friends. Others of you I would like to get to know more.

Shame’s power

young-pip

Pip

From the moment Estella despised his coarse hands and thick boots, a shroud of shame hung over Pip’s life, in Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations.

And that’s how Pip came to despise his dad, Joe Gargery, and his life’s destiny as a country blacksmith. Pip strives to become a “gentleman” but instead becomes a snob and a spendthrift. When his sham of a life implodes, it is the humble blacksmith, Joe, who pays off his bills.

Estella great expectations

Estella

Shame is dynamite to blow up family, loyalty and values. When we live for others, we lose ourselves.

Shame entered the world with the first sin and continues to rage, a byproduct of sin. Paul exhorts us to never be ashamed of Christ (Rom 1:16). Only worry about receiving praise from Him.

My life in parallel in the Christmas Carol

Christmas Future

She plays one of the family girls in the play. I’m a Matrix-like creep.

In the sixth grade, I played Bob Cratchet, and it proved prophetic for my life, because I have never gotten rich and always worked like a dog.

Not at age 48, I’m Christmas Future in the Palisades Theatre (Pacific Palisades, CA). I warn that greed will lead to eternal torments. This has been part of my life as a preacher.

Is it possible that a life can be summed up in a simple play? How did Charles Dickens cast my personality?

The Bible says there is nothing inherently evil with money. It is the love of money that rusts the human heart. As a missionary in poor Guatemala, I saw that not only the opulent love money. The poor can easily do this too.

Love God more than money.

Those who figure that this life on Planet Earth is all there is…. well, we’re all going to find out sooner or later.

Forgiveness is sweet

revenge is sweetNo longer does her riches matter. At the end of her life, Miss Havisham has lost the adopted daughter she treasured. In Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations, Miss Havisham steeled Estella against the inconstant love of men. She only wished to spare Estella from her own heartbreak; she had been jilted on her wedding day. But in trying to protect Estella against the dangers of love, she made her incapable of love.

She also made her an instrument of revenge upon all men.

A tease, Estella was drilled on how to break hearts. She would wreak her Miss Havisham’s vengeance.

Stunned when Estella turns against her, Miss Havisham moans alone on her vast estate in the wee hours of morning. Nothing is left, nothing matters.

So she tries to do good. To Pip whom she trapped with Estella’s beauty, she now asks for forgiveness. No longer the haughty rich woman, she falls to her knees and begs desperately to have played with Pip’s emotions such that he was tortured by unrequited love for almost 20 years. He willingly and readily forgives her.

The dramatic scene from the book highlights a hugely underrated satisfaction in life, that of being forgiven.

As you move along in life, you accrue wrongs to yourself. You offend and sin against people dear to you. You become burdened with guilt and regret. The antidote is not more sin, drugs, alcohol or therapy. It is forgiveness.

First and foremost, mankind has need of forgiveness from God. Second from his fellow man. Third, he has need to forgive others. This is true bliss.

Revenge is not sweet; it is bitter. Forgiveness is sweet.

God doesn’t help those who help themselves

ben franklinDon’t misunderstand. I’m not advocating abdicating responsibilities. But I am hacking away at a mentality that flaunts self-sufficiency and human arrogance. Because Christianity at its most basic level recognizes how helpless humans are to please God. Hence, the need for forgiveness. Christ did for us what we could never do to gain for us what we could never gain for ourselves.

I thank God I’m a Christian. This doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I’m means I humbly and repeatedly ask for God’s forgiveness, intervention and favor. Join us. It’s a beautiful life.

This happened by chance, of course

forgiveness at 9/11

From the New York Times.

Of all the pages in the Bible, the one on forgiveness was “fossilized” in steel at World Trade Center Towers at 9/11. No, there’s no God, and He wasn’t giving a message to America, an erstwhile Christian nation. Missionaries should not take up the call to bring love and forgiveness to the languishing lost in Islam. It is all a coincidence, according to non-believers.

I have copied the article from the New York Times without altering a word, which if you were so inclined you can find here:

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

So many chapters. So many verses. But these were the words — from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, in the Gospel of Matthew — found permanently exposed at Ground Zero after the Sept. 11 attacks. The pages of the Bible in which they were printed had fused to a chunk of steel as the World Trade Center collapsed, to be found only months later.

The artifact is to be shown to Pope Francis when he visits the National September 11 Memorial Museum. It was given to the museum by the photographer Joel Meyerowitz, whose book “Aftermath: World Trade Center Archive” is the definitive pictorial chronicle of the months following the attack.

A firefighter found the fragment in March 2002, under the Tully Road, a temporary truck route that covered the last remnants of the south tower. He called out to the photographer, who happened to be nearby.

“This shredded, burned and rubble-covered Bible came to me from the loving hands of a fireman who knew that I was the record keeper of ground zero,” Mr. Meyerowitz said Thursday in an e-mail from Italy, where he now lives.

“My astonishment at seeing the page that the Bible was open to made me realize that the Bible’s message survives throughout time,” he said, “and in every era we interpret its teachings freshly, as the occasion demands.”

Helen Shapiro, star from yesteryear, comes to Christ out of Judaism

Shapiro-and-dressOnce more popular than the Beatles, Jewish-born singer Helen Shapiro believed all Christians were anti-Semitic after a boy at school accused her of crucifying Christ.

Shapiro got an early start in music fame as a teen and stormed through England’s top rankings in the 1960s. In 1961, the 14-year-old released her first hit “Don’t Treat Me like a Child,” which peaked at number three on British charts, according to an ASSIST News story by Charles Gardner.

In 1963, the Beatles were actually an opening act for her when they played together on tour. The Beatles’ first big hit “Please, Please Me” hit number one on that tour.

Shapiro-today-300x213Shapiro also rose to the top of the charts with “Walking Back to Happiness.” Though she sang it, she didn’t really find true happiness for another 28 years.

As she rose to fame, she felt empty and cast around for something to believe in. Dabbling in New Age philosophy, she visited clairvoyants and spiritists.

By her late teens, her career as a pop singer began to decline. As beat music rose in popularity, along with newer female singers such as Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black, and Lulu, Shapiro seemed old-fashioned and characteristic of the bee-hived, pre-Beatles, 50s era.

In the 70s and early 80s she performed in stage musicals and jazz concerts. She played the role of Nancy in the musical, Oliver! in London’s West End and made appearances on British television.

By age 40, Shapiro stopped believing New Age notions and doubted the existence of God.

Then someone gave her the book Betrayed by Stan Telchin. As a leader of a Jewish community, Telchin was aghast when his daughter became a Christian. Feeling “betrayed” by her, Telchin embarked on a mission to demonstrate Jesus was a fraud by using the Old Testament.

Instead, he proved to himself beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus was the genuine Jewish Messiah. The prophecies in the Jewish Scripture, he discovered, pointed invariably to Yeshua-Jesus.

“Isaiah 53 was about how He took our sin. I was gobsmacked,” Shapiro told Assist News. “And Daniel prophesied that the Messiah had to die before the temple was destroyed. It all seemed to point to Jesus.”

Read the rest of the story.

Holdout helper | Why she didn’t go on medical missions for so long, and why she’ll be on more

medical missions | Africa and elsewhere

Andrea at far left, took to the clinic like a duck to water

For 22 times, her boss and mom pressed Andrea Campos to go on a Lighthouse Medical Mission – and she always declined.

“I just didn’t have a passion for Africa,” the Santa Monica native said.

After almost two decades of them wheedling her, Andrea, 37, finally relented. She is now in Guatemala, translating and writing prescriptions on 10-hour shifts with no breaks and only a half hour lunch.

But, if she was the holdout in a family of big LMM volunteers, this week she has plunged into the labor-intensive clinic with a vengeance.

Some volunteers are awkward, squeamish around blood, befuddled by Latin jargon, duty-dodgers who wanted the applause, not real work. Not Andrea. She’s totally in her element, holding her own like a pro.

“This is definitely NOT my last mission,” Andrea said. “You just see the hope in their eyes of getting better. I’m seeing people with their eyes fill up with tears.”

On its third day of clinic in Guatemala, Lighthouse Medical Missions attended to 125 patients in Villa Nueva, a small municipality on the outskirts of Guatemala City. Today is expected to be the busiest day.

Andrea has worked as a receptionist on and off since 1998 for Dr. Bob Hamilton, a Santa Monica pediatrician who will pleasantly pester patients and friends to help the medical missions he founded and leads.

Not only has Andrea put her medical familiarity to good use in Guatemala, she’s also taken over much of the administration. She’s re-organizing hotel and food for the volunteers with her keen business acumen. From age six, she’s been money-shrewd when she lived in Puerto Vallarta and charged school mates to use her eraser because it was “from America.” Read more about participating in Christian medical missions.

Want vs. need

wants needsOne good thing about God is that He gives us what we need, not what we want. As human beings, we are destruction-bent. It’s part of our sinful condition that humanists vehemently denied but is being shown more and more in the news (look at the proliferation of massacres in our secular society).

Our generation is one that can’t distinguish want from need. Want is a right. Want is good, justified, unassailable. How dare you question my desires?

As Christians, we sometimes miss God’s best because we interpose our desires. It’s such our pursuit of wants that we miss needs. We pursue blessing more than the Blessor, the creation over the Creator. We miss destiny for dinero.

God just smiles. We pepper him with petitions, and He gently, patiently demurs. Thank God that He does. We would kill ourselves.

Original image source: Google.

When the world is in crisis, God is about to move.

world crisis | prayWhen the upheavals are great, when wars abound, when plague multiply, when evil is rampant, when good is called bad and bad is called good, don’t run off with your guns to hide in the wilderness.

Pray.

The greatest revivals have been born out of the most trying times.

Getting to winning

Autobahn BU14

Fueling between games at the OC Kickoff Classic tournamente in Orange County.

Hosea’s club team has lost some games pretty badly. As a matter of fact, they hadn’t even scored since Hosea joined.

That all changed Sunday. The 13-year-olds from Autobahn Soccer Club in Santa Monica came from behind to win 2-1. It was a thrill and a confidence booster for the kids.

But how did they get from losing to winning? Competent coaching plays a large role. Winning soccer games consists of fitness, technical and tactical knowledge, pure talent and the right attitude. The coaches, Herve Roussel and Pierce Maher, have been patient teachers. They don’t yell at the kids and apparently don’t get frustrated.

Coaches aren’t everything. Parents play a role. They encourage the kids to believe in themselves. I’ve seen discouraged kids slog out onto the field. Before the game starts, they believe they’re going to lose. And they do.

soccer club in Santa Monica

Coach Pierce goes over some of the positives of a loss the day before their Sunday victory.

Kids play a role. They are improving practice after practice. They need to believe in themselves. They will perform at a higher level if they play with confidence and passion.

The funny thing is that this team’s “best players” left the team looking for a winning team. A hemorrhage of talent can discourage anyone, and yet the coaches, parents and kids have remained encouraged.  I guess the “stars” didn’t believe in the newcomers, among which was my son Hosea, who hasn’t been playing with confidence previously. As the older stars leave, the new stars have to rise up.

This has everything to do with your and my life. We have to get to winning. We can be on a long losing streak. But if daily, we work to improve one of these areas:

  • fitness (think emotionally or spiritually)
  • technical and tactical ability (grow intellectually daily)
  • pure talent (there isn’t a person on the planet that God hasn’t given some special gifting)
  • believe in yourself (the psychological battle is perhaps the toughest).

Keep believing in your dreams — and get to winning!

Neophytes learn how to fight in Santa Monica Christian school football

Christian school Santa Monica | football

Tex Hagoski, with Coach Justin Kayne

One jittery kid forgot to put in his mouth guard. Another contracted a last-minute mysterious disease that incapacitated him. A bunch of kids missed tackles.

And that’s how the newbies got the heebie-jeebies at the Saints 2015 opener of 8-man football on Aug. 28 in a 20-34 loss to better-financed Crossroads Christian School of Corona.

“I’m always nervous before a game,” admitted LCA senior Tex Hagoski. “But then I either hit someone or get hit by someone and I remember that it’s not so bad.”

Hagoski gave and took plenty of hits. He ramrodded through the defensive line on punishing run after bruising run. Plenty of pain was dished out for everyone. A Crossroads player broke a leg. The Saints walked off the field battered but proud — they had given all.

“It hurt,” said Abraham Morales, a sophomore. “I was afraid when that kid messed his leg up. But I had to keep going because their team was going to come back stronger.”

It was Abraham’s first game, along with about half the squad. He’s been hard-working and faithful in practice. And on Friday night, he proved a critical element in the chemistry for Saints football.

Fellow sophomore Alex Cervantes felt much more at ease this, his second year. He came up with a touchdown-scoring reception on a long pass that surprised the Crossroads Cougars. They left him completely unguarded as they mistook the play for a run and all players swooped in for the kill. Read the rest of the story: education and sports.

Superman gets charged by the Sun. Christians get charged by the Son.

superman sus Christians SonSo I guess I’ve been in a humorous mood of late. I’ve been posting some funnies. But I always try to include a small message. This one is worth a chuckle.

I think you’d do well to be charged by the Son.

Ha ha ha! Shakespeare modernized. Modernity Shakespearized.

hamlet shakespeare

Ok, so where can I find the whole play in Piraro comics? I love Hamlet and teach it to my students every year! I can’t wait to figure out if Hamlet will ever figure out what to do (his fatal flaw is paralysis by analysis).

It seems to me that modernity has thrown (tried to throw) so much doubt upon the Bible and Christianity as to induce indecision among the masses. Why accept Christ and life my life up with the Bible, if God doesn’t exist? if the Bible isn’t more than just literature? Etc?

Don’t be caught, like Hammy, undecided before it’s too late.

Jesus cleans

jesus cleans

Funny how everything needs cleaning — according to this generation — except the heart.

#GiveMarriageAChance

photo(154)Dianna and I are going on 25 years of marriage this October.

It makes me wonder, Why would anybody get divorced? Things just get better — if you’re willing to work on them. Why would anybody do anything else?

English nerd here

I’m gearing up for my literature class, so excuse the grammar joke.

Take action based on your dreams, not your fears

take action based on your dreams, not your fears Dream big. Fear small. Based your decisions on your vision for a better future, not on the fears of a bad future.

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.