Tag Archives: love

When I lose peace

IMG_9445I was in Guatemala. The call didn’t come through but the voice message did. They were discharging my dad from the skilled nursing facility because the insurance didn’t want to pay any more time there.

All I could do was worry. I couldn’t hardly sleep. When I finally did sleep, I was awakened a by a dramatic dream. A pastor friend of mine went to pray for my dad, and my dad got healed! I felt like it was a mild rebuke from God. I was letting worry, not faith, run my mind.

I’ve been back from Guatemala for almost a week now. And things are working out fine. Why did I lose the peace God promised? God will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is stayed on Him. — Isaiah 26:3.

If there is something that can be worried about, I do.

Make a stab at redemption

IMG_9804One problem of “falling out” of the moral code of the church is that you feel you don’t belong to the cadre of brethren. Churches do great wrong in continually passing judgement on its fallen members because they get discouraged and think they can never return (2 Cor. 2:6-11). The devil plays in their minds: Once a failure, always a failure. The church should make the path back to salvation easy — as easy as the original path to salvation.

Without going into details, this is what Fanny did. She formalized her marriage yesterday. She had been a goody-goody as a student in our school and church. But when she left the safe harbor of the school and the church, she found the wide, wide world was full of temptations. Discouragement coupled with temptation can be overpowering.

IMG_9809She wasn’t attending church not because anyone kicked her out. It was the devil that was condemning her (Rom. 8:1). By showing her love, we shed light on the way back. Forgiveness is for sinners, not saints — and we are all sinners.

I’m so proud of her and happy for her. And you who read this, please say a pray for her.

If you have fallen out of the moral code of your church, make a stab at redemption. You might be surprised how easy it is to climb back into fellowship and blessing.

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.

Comfort after an extended period of difficulties

comfort my people

I got stuck at Isaiah 40 and following. The prophet shifts gears and focuses on the future when Israel is exiled and comes back to the promised land. They have punished for more than 70 years of captivity for idolatry and rebellion. The consequences of sin is enough to drive them to despair. They are ready to obey God now. And God speaks tenderly to them.

He offers them comfort.

In verse 4 God says barriers are going to be removed: Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill shall be made low.

The nations, which have served as God’s instrument of discipline over Israel, are no longer to be feared. The nations are as a drop of a bucket, as the small dust of the balance. (verse 15).

The grande finale comes at the end of the chapter — verses that just about every Christian has memorized: He gives power to the faint, and to them that have no might, He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and grow weary. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall rise up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not grow weary; they shall walk and not faint. (verses 29-31)

Part of the good news? The disappointing time may be God testing you like Job or may be the result of your own sin. But when you get to the end, He brings refreshing, so hang in there.

I was arrested, meditating on what I had stumbled upon.

Back to what God has for me

IMG_9644

Then I said, I won’t talk about God anymore. But His word was in my heart burning like a fire in my bones, and I couldn’t bear it. — Jeremiah 20:9

I don’t know how people get out of ministry and manage to forget it. They move on to making money. They compromise their morals. I got a good look at this sort of thing when I rested from being a pastor for six years. I left the mission field and haven’t started a new church. Hopefully I will soon. It has been a more or less miserable time.

Right now I’m ministering in my old haunts. I had been a missionary/pastor/founder of a Christian school for 16 years. I’m visiting once again. My three kids were born here, but only Hosea, my youngest, is with me, seeing his childhood buddies. It is a blessing to see everyone again. There is no greater life to live than to speak God’s word and help people come to Him.

Try for yourself

cookie pileGod is good.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man that trusts in Him. –Psalm 34:8

Resurrection faked?

Jesus facebook status resurrected

If you say the resurrection was fabricated, then you must prove:

  1. The disciples had a motive. Usually people make elaborate lies for fame or money — or to cover wrong-doing. But the disciples got persecution and poverty. They lived on the run.
  2. The disciples were incredibly clever to devise the story. The Bible record states the contrary: They (the Jewish leaders) perceived Peter and John were unlearned and ignorant men — Acts. 4:13. Outside of the Bible, Josephus mentions Paul and his academic background. The omission of mention of the disciples is telling. They were fishermen.

If you say the resurrection was fabricated, you are confronted with the fact that the disciples all died for the lie. This would be very strange. You must look at these facts:

  • The Roman Empire (not all died at Roman hands) always gave people the chance to recant and walk free. But the disciples refused to walk free — because they had seen the resurrected Lord and knew they would be resurrected too!
  • Each of the disciples was martyred alone. There was no one there to cheer them on and encourage them to persist in the “lie.”
  • Paul turned from a persecutor of the church to its greatest promoter. Why? Because he personally saw the risen Savior.
  • Christianity prospered despite persecution of death, loss of belongings, imprisonments and beatings. Christians held meetings in unpleasant places (catacombs) and persisted in believing despite huge risk. They did this because either they had seen the resurrected Lord or knew someone who had.

Jesus chocolate eggs

If you say the disciples suffered a collective psychosis, you are confronted the story of Thomas, who wasn’t present when Jesus first appeared to the disciples. So he doubted vigorously. He seemed to want to show himself rational and reasonable; he distances himself from the other disciples. Maybe he regards them as naive or under the influence of extreme emotions. Thomas says, “Unless I put my thumb in his nail wound and my hand into his side wound, I won’t believe.” The next time Jesus showed up, Thomas was there, and he said: “My God and my Lord.”

Actually, the resurrection is the hardest miracle to dismiss in the Bible. It is also one of the biggest reasons to believe in the Bible. The cold, hard evidence inclines in favor of the resurrection being real.

Barabbas wasn’t a bad guy

IMG_9491

Chilling with my bud, Jesus.

No, Barabbas didn’t have snot dripping from his nose. For two years now, I’ve played Barabbas in the Easter play, and the directors tell me to act like a psychopath. Apparently, this comes naturally to me. Yeah, Miko the Psycho.

But I can’t find this reading in my Bible. Barabbas was an insurrectionist (one Gospel calls him a murderer, but the other explains the context more precisely)  in the scattered uprising against he hated Roman Empire. As such, he would have been something of local hero, much like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson.

So when the multitudes chose Barabbas over Jesus, it wasn’t an irrational act. Both were wildly popular with the people, so Pilate shrugged.

Barabbas was, however, a polar opposite of Jesus — not the demon-possessed against the Spirit-possessed. Rather, the earthly Savior vs. the heavenly Messiah.

IMG_9478

Barabbas is always taking on the Roman Empire. Do you like the realistic background? It’s the Lighthouse Church School. We used a classroom as a dressing room.

At the end of the day, Barabbas’ utopia was only going to be on earth. It was only going to be temporal. After the Romans, another empire would come and smash Palestine. Such was inevitable because Palestine was a crossroads connecting three continents, a bridge where the newest conquerors had to pass.

So Barabbas was more like Obama, trying to bring a better world. This is a good thing. I’m not deriding it. But some people are so busying focusing on making this life wonderful that they forget there’s another, eternal life to work for.

Enjoy the ride — even the tough parts

puppy dogI was wondering why life is so difficult (finances, health, other issues), and then I was re-reading Genesis 3. And I said, Oh! That’s why life is a pain in the neck.”

As part of the curse of choosing sin, God cursed the ground and foretold that man would toil with hard labor for all the days of his life. So, that’s why there so much difficulties.

This gave me peace because I realized I was in the norm. This helps me to relax and enjoy life, even with troubles. Reading the Bible brings great wisdom and consolation.

Ken Ham’s full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark

ark encounterA mind-blowing full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark is nearing completion in Williamstown, KY, displaying the remarkable grandiosity of the all-wood colossus.

While Noah and his family spent 100 years toiling on the ark, Ken Ham and his construction team — including dozens of Amish carpenters — will have taken five years by the time they are finished in July and it opens to the public.

“We want to reach millions more about the truth in the Gospel, the words of God,” said Ham, who is also the founder of the Creation Museum located 40 miles from the Ark. “I believe that the Ark of Noah is the greatest reminder we have for salvation.”

At 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high, the replica is so big it actually shatters previous records — becoming the biggest all-timber structure in the world, according to Ham.

ken ham

To mount the massive construction, Ham employed several dozen Amish carpenters to apply their traditional carpentry skills to meet the Genesis specs. The interior of the ark will have three stories and 130 exhibits, including animal specimen and statues of Noah.

The Ark Encounter website hopes the project will dispel the aura of childhood fantasy that is associated with the Ark story. “We consider the fairy-tale ark that appears in the drawings, kids’ books and toys, looking like a bathtub with the giraffes’ heads sticking out and modern animals on board, to be dangerous. The biblical account of the Ark and the Flood is not a fun story about an old man and lots of cute animals. It’s about God judging an exceedingly wicked world while sparing a righteous man, his family, and representatives of the land animals from destruction.” Read the rest.

Editor’s Note: Chad Dou, my journalism student, wrote this for God Reports.

When good guys fight each other, something is very wrong

batman-vs-superman

I admit: I’m not schooled in the intricacies of superheroes fighting among themselves, but the core of my being finds this repulsive Good guys are not supposed to fight good guys

So too, when the church fights among themselves, it’s a tragedy.

Some Christians fight over ministry. Others let personality conflicts prevail. These are wrong-headed approaches to church. First, God describes the church as a physical body without redundancy. Every part of the body has its valuable function They eye cannot say to the nose that it is superior.

Secondly, you can always go out and CREATE new ministry. As long as there are unsaved souls on the planet, there cannot be a limited number of ministerial positions.

Thirdly, Christ told us the greatest among us should be the servant of all. Usually, there are ministries in the church that need workers. I myself have taken up the cleaning ministry.

Fourth, church members who believe they have the gift of criticism are more Pharisees that Christians. Stop finding fault with what your brother is doing, and do something yourself to build up the church or add members.

I’m sure someone somewhere can explain to me the plot of Superman fighting Batman and how this makes sense. But can anyone anywhere explain why Christians fight in the church?

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.

#Hero

IMG_9350David Wainwright was the gentlest human being. He oozed the love of Christ.

He was a member of Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica long before me, so I always looked up to him. It was he who got me into coffee on a long, overnight drive to Prescott, Arizona, to pick up a van our church had purchased from the Potter’s House Church. He taught me how to outreach, how to care for people, how to clean the church. He showed me Jesus was first in everything.

David got set free from every addiction except cigarettes, which remained his nemesis for 10 years after getting saved. Then, he called on the children of the church to pray for him, and, finally, he was free. He never smoked again.

I went off to Guatemala to pastor a church. He stayed behind and worked in the J. Paul Getty Museum in the hills above Brentwood. Later he moved to Hesperia, CA, where he helped successive pastors lead the pioneer work there. Whenever I came back from Guatemala, I would seek him out to share a coffee. It was our particular fellowship.

Then six year agos, I came back from the mission field for good, and the coffees were more frequently. He was a big bear, a teddy bear, who would give you hugs that communicated the love of God.

The last time, he saw me first, came over and gave me a hug. I didn’t even see it coming. Who would have know that would be my last David Wainwright hug? He died Sunday. He graduated with high honors to Heaven.

The irony? He passed away while visiting people — up to the last breath of his life, he was living for others, encouraging others.

That’s what I call a hero. That’s what I want to be.

David, I won’t miss you because I have you inside of me. I will strive to be like you — gentle, humble, servant-hearted. It is no easy role model to follow, but I have imbibed of your spirit, and I know what I need to do.

How to score a signed Messi jersey if you live in Afghanistan

Aghan boy Messi jersey

Be exceptionally cute. And poor. Living in a dangerous part of the world. Murtaza Ahmadi’s brother took this picture of him and posted it on the internet. While death via the Taliban has hit most families around them, it still has not struck them directly, the brother says.

messi jersey

He was just a 5-year-old who loves soccer. The family, which subsists on farming, watches soccer as a distraction from the horrors that surround them. And Murtaza decided his favorite player was the Argentinian star who plays for Barcelona. So he wanted a jersey. He even cried.

But those jersey are too expensive for the poor (heck, they’re even too expensive for me). So his brother hooked him up with a plastic bag hand painted with colored sharpies. The kid was content. The kid was cute. His brother took the picture and posted it.

The internet went crazy, reposting and proliferating. People were asking: Who is this kid? Even Messi saw it and wanted to give the kid a real one. As a spokesman for Unicef, Messi through the charitable organization tracked him down and handed over the jersey (not personally).

Now my heart is warmed. I love Messi all the more for his kind gesture. I love this kid. The only bummer is that I still don’t have a Messi jersey myself.

Happy Valentine’s Day

valentine's day.jpgAs you enjoy the flavors made by God, feel His love this Valentine’s.

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.

God reminded me why

coaching soccerIt had been a frustrating day — criticisms of my efforts to get people saved and discipled. (It seems like the church is full of people who don’t save or disciple others, but they are experts to let others know what they’re doing wrong.)

As I prayed, God reminded me that I’m not working for the critics. I’m working for the kids.

I teach at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica and I coach for the middle school soccer team. We took some bruising losses this week, but I love the kids, and they seem to appreciate me. We have fun — all in Jesus’ name.

These are the powerful Saints! We have won only one game. But their enthusiasm, their joy, their love of Jesus, their positive energy makes them powerful in my book (quite a few players missed practice this day)!

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.

The lonely

loneliness

My son plays Javier foosball

Inviting the lonely over is my joy. For Thanksgiving and Christmas, we hosted people from the church who had no where to go. My heart goes out to the hurting. All throughout junior high and high school, I was lonely.

Now it is richly rewarding to ease others’ pain. Human beings need contact, friendship, acceptance, affirmation. This is the way the church works and builds.

When rejection takes the place of acceptance, the church becomes dysfunctional. Jesus dined with the hated and the outcasts — with prostitutes and tax-collectors. He touched the untouchables — the lepers. He condemned the Pharisees, who condemned everybody but themselves. We should take a note from the Bible and not become like the Pharisees.

At Christmas they gave me a mini-foosball. (To me!? A 48-year-old man, they gave a toy??) And you know what? It’s pretty fun. Who’s up for a match? Come on over. You are welcome here.

Prayer is a journey from pain

tree tunnelIf we didn’t feel pain, I don’t suppose we would pray. Not until we hit anguish do we remember our limitations and God’s limitlessness. So prayer, then, is a journey from pain to pleasure, from bruises to blessings, from hits to happiness.

If pain is the starting point, however, the journey doesn’t have to be painful. After all, we leave pain behind.

We need to see prayer less like instant answers and more of a pathway. Some hikes are short and easy, others long, still others strenuous. I don’t know about you, but I like hikes of all sizes and shapes. In fact, I haven’t met a hike I didn’t like yet.

Regardless, it is the destination that makes you forget about the process of getting there. Once you reach happiness, all previous pain is pretty much forgotten. Part of knowing how do I pray is staying on the path towards happiness.

Prayer brings down Heaven

prayerPrayer transports you to other worlds, and it brings other worlds to you. It takes you to God’s throne and brings down God’s power to Earth.

My wife is stronger than yours

strong womanShe doesn’t like being called a “gym rat.” I keep telling her it is a compliment according to modern lexicography. She doesn’t know about the Urban Dictionary. I’m her biggest fan.

Dianna typifies the “Proverbs 31 woman,” a scriptural ideal. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. — Prov. 31:17 says. More important than her physical strength is her spiritual and emotional strength. For almost 16 years, she endured the hardships of being a missionary’s wife in Guatemala; to manage shortage and navigate delinquents was her daily bread.

She inspires me to be better, to serve God, to live sacrificially.

Oh, and she also got me into the gym. Yup, I used to be something of a wimp and a nerd. Because of her concern for need to exercise, I started playing soccer and lifting weights.

I have been very fortunate.

Don’t worry about the foundation

All foundations are equal, they say. Don’t worry about what the Bible says, they say. Morals are relative, they say.

Jesus says: Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock — Matt. 7:24 NLT.

In 2016, I’m still sticking with the Bible. I’m not joining the downgrade crowd, those who want to “move on” from the Bible to “better things.” Because when your life gets swallowed up by the uncertain foundation, it’s too late to change.

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.

Don’t ditch it

marriageMarriage is worth the work, the heartache, the pain.

We study thousands of hours for our careers. But we don’t want to spend any time preparing or repairing our marriage — and yet a good marriage is by far a better source of happiness than a career!

Some are so impatient they are floating alternative models: shacking up, equality marriages. The message is always the same: it’s just as good.

It is not.

One has the solid foundation of the Bible. The other has no foundation. It is a hastily-erected hut on dirt. It will stand and look pretty but won’t withstand an earthquake.

Love is worth it.

Many of my blogging friends have faced divorce. In order to succeed, marriage requires 100% of both — and yours collapsed because only you were giving 100%.

Remarry. Give happiness another shot. Give your 100% to another person.

The first “institution” was not the church. Nor was it government. God instituted marriage from the very creation.

Don’t ditch it.

Image from Pinterest.

She forgave would-be killer

immigration attorney los angelesWhen the gang-banger was on trial for nearly killing her brother, Cynthia Santiago wrote a letter to the court asking for leniency.

“We are Christians. We believe in forgiveness,” said Santiago, 31, now an immigration lawyer based in El Segundo. “We prayed for him (the shooter). We prayed God transform his life. I’m not the person to pass that kind of judgment on another human being.”

Santiago said her brother got involved in a race-based altercation at 20th St. and Delaware in Santa Monica in the early 2000s, and he was shot with a 22-caliber gun from close range. One bullet shattered his jaw and another pierced his heart and lung, she said.

He was rushed to St. John’s where he lay unconscious for nearly three weeks. When he woke up, he asked about his kids. After months of physical therapy, he returned to normal life.

Santiago’s extraordinary plea for clemency is part of the troubled past of a Santa Monica once beset by gang violence. Part of the reason she chose law is because she saw her own parents, as working class residents, struggle to get sound legal advice for her troubled brother. Read the rest of the article.

Editor’s Note: Cynthia Santiago was the flower girl in my wedding 25 years ago. My wife and I lost track of her when we spent 16 years in Guatemala as missionaries. When I found her on Facebook 24 years later, I’m surprised to see her all grown up and a lawyer! I praise God she, coming from a family without college students, had the wherewithal to study and achieve a dream. It seems to me that her choice to forgive is extreme and compelling. Her choice to help the neediest who need help only makes me admire her more.

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.

Shaming as revenge

joseph, husband to mary

Joseph the jilted decided to NOT humiliate Mary after she obviously cheated — she was pregnant, and he knew it wasn’t him.

Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily — Matt 1:9.

BEFORE an angel had told him to go ahead and marry Mary, EVEN BEFORE a miraculous vision assured him this was an act of God and not his fiance fooling around, BEFORE ANY OF THESE ASSURANCES Joseph, BEING A JUST MAN, opted to not shame her.

The revenge people do through social media these days makes me cringe. Nothing good comes of it.

He taught me to return shopping carts

my friend channingAfter 35 years of not seeing my old friend, Channing and I got together. He found me on the internet. He’s face has changed, but his have-fun life philosophy remains the same. My face is the same and so is my faith.

Channing taught me to do a good deed every day. That lesson has stayed with me all these years.

We were two 12-year-olds heading off to Thrifty’s for ice-cream or candy. It was about a mile walk. Channing grabbed a straggler shopping car to push it home.

“Come on, Channing, leave it,” I said. “It’s gonna slow us down. It’s not your problem.”

His simple reply stuck with me all these years.

Sure, why not. I have time and energy. I can do a good deed. There is reward inherent in doing things not for a reward.

Now everybody leaves their shopping cars right where they parked their cars (here in Los Angeles). It used to be that people returned them to the corral for the supermarket guy to take in to the store, but people are more self-centered than decades ago. I always try to grab one or two and roll it up to the front of the store. I can do this. It doesn’t require much time or effort. Do a good deed just because.

After years of doing this thankless good deed, someone finally thanked me.

I have Channing to thank for the lesson.

The reason we give gifts at Christmas

christmas-christmas-tree-colorful-gifts-ornaments-Favim.com-248327

Jesus was God’s gift to mankind. When we give each other gifts, we celebrate that Jesus was a gift and that salvation (forgiveness of sins) is a free gift to any who would receive.

I suspect there are many people giving and receiving gifts, celebrating Christmas, without knowing anything more than it is a family tradition. Little do they realize they are honoring Christ and proclaiming salvation.

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.

Dr. Viral

Dr Bob skateboardSupposedly, doctors halt viruses, but local pediatrician Robert Hamilton just went viral.

His charming video on how to get a 1-month-old to stop crying hit 14.5 million views in little more than a week. It got picked up by Inside Edition, Mashable and True Feed. From there, the Huffington Post featured it. It moved to Buzzfeed and USA Today and was topping Reddit. Now, Dr. Bob — as locals affectionately call him — will talk on the Dr. Oz Show.

Dr. Bob, originally from Eureka, has struck gold.

Widely known and loved in Santa Monica, Dr. Bob has attended for 30 years to children of celebrities and soccer stars. He’s administered injections, checked newborns and calmed jittery parents.

“This is where God has put my wife and me and where we were meant to labor,” Dr. Bob said. “We have seen good times and challenging times. We have seen triumphs and heartbreaks.”

Dr. Bob has also led medical missions for over 20 years to Africa, Kyrgyzstan and Central America. Lighthouse Medical Missions have brought doctors and free medicine to some of the remotest parts of the planet on about 25 separate occasions through the decades.

Early on, Dr. Bob was especially impacted by what he saw in Sierra Leone, once the world’s second poorest country according to United Nations rankings. In post civil war time, there was appalling need unmatched by the nation’s scarcity of doctors and medical infrastructure.

“I am haunted by the image of a woman beating on our car’s window as we departed our compound en route to the airport,” said the owner of Pacific Ocean Pediatrics. “The mother was pointing to her son with a huge abscess on his leg. I thought, We need to get this kid antibiotics. But we were late and we couldn’t stop.”

He broke down in tears. Did the child live? He felt compelled to return to Africa.

Africa1

Dr. Robert Hamilton in Africa on medical mission for Lighthouse Medical Missions.

To help where need is great bestows its own rewards. It has added to an already enriched life. He is happily married to Leslie Hamilton. They both have six kids and six grandchildren.

His daughter Noel also studied to be a pediatrician and now works alongside her dad in his business on Santa Monica Blvd across from St. John’s Health Center.

Lighthouse Medical Missions (LMM) has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for its medical missions. They take all their own medicine and equipment. They have built four schools/ churches in Sierra Leone – in Lungi, in Lunsar, in Jui, and in Kenema. Two full-scale water projects have been funded.

Dr. Bob, a born-again Christian since age 13, attends the vibrant and historic Lighthouse Church, from which he borrowed the name for his medical mission. LMM is open to just about anyone going and donating, even if they don’t share the Christian values of Dr. Bob.

Dr. Bob studied his undergraduate at U.C. Davis, where at age 20 he also married his childhood sweetheart. Then it was off to UCLA Medical School.

Regarding his fund-raising, Dr. Bob clarifies that money has flowed. “I’m pretty ambitious. But I’m NOT that ambitious about Africa. God has brought the money in. I’m not breaking people’s knuckles to give to Africa. It’s amazing what God has done.”

His latest venture – into the online world – started as a rather unambitious attempt to help parents calm fussy babies. He recruited talented film-makers from the Lighthouse Church and posted it on Sunday. Several church members shared it on their social media.

Dr. Bob – whose wildest dream was for 10,000 views – was disappointed with only 80 the day after posting.

But somebody of influence spotted it and re-posted it. It exploded like a nuclear bomb: by Tuesday it had 570,000 views. The next morning, 1.5 million. At last check last night, it hit 8.7 million.

“This is just phenomenal,” said a surprised Dr. Bob.

Meanwhile in his clinic, he’s prescribing to stop viruses.

*Picture: Rarely does Dr. Bob skateboard outside his office. Note: Since I wrote this article for the Santa Monica Patch, I am including it here on my blog. I hope you enjoy.

Anonymous ministers

anonymousWhen I was head pastor, I romanticized being an anonymous servant. I even prayed to be one.

Then I became pretty much an anonymous member of the church. No more high-flying ministry. Honestly, I didn’t like it too much.

God had to remind that I had prayed to become anonymous. If you’re not on the kudos list here on Earth, don’t despair. Just praise Jesus because you’ll be getting your reward in Heaven.

For such a time

queen estherMaybe Esther thought she was privileged, chosen to be queen just to enjoy luxury herself. But when a crisis requires her intervention, she worries about personal jeopardy. Her uncle reminds her that God brought her into power “for such a time as this.”

No matter who you are, no matter where you are, no matter what you have suffered, God has brought you to the perfect station to intervene and impact souls for Christ. Don’t be discouraged or discount your potential. God has you where He wants you with a plan to use you greatly.

I love you, Jesus Christ

facebookPeople all over the world need Christ. He is the solution and salvation from sin.

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.”

Why does God always get the blame?

act of God?They call it “Act of God” insurance, and it covers unforeseeable natural disaster. But I wonder why they blame God for bad and give no credit for the good. Why are 1,000 beautiful things in nature considered accidents of evolution?

In fact, God doesn’t exist for the atheist until he needs someone to blame for wars, massacres and disasters. Then He exists and gets blamed. But He gets no credit for the blessings of life, for love, for beauty, for bounty.

They turn God on like a light switch when evil happens. Then they turn Him off during years of wonderful things.

A world without racism

a world without racismThis is the world I inhabit, a place free from hatred, from discrimination. Hearts could be judged, not skin color. People would join hands in a universal recognition of Jesus. Differences — rich, poor, educated, uneducated — would matter squat.

It is with much anguish that I see our world convulsed by racists. It is upsetting to receive messages from whites who justify their hatred. I unfriend them on Facebook. I am fighting for equality, fair treatment, for love.

About this painting: I got it off Facebook and could not determine the original source for this credit. If you know who it is, please let me know. Furthermore, I would be very much interested in using more of his/her paintings. His/her genius inspires me.

A quixotic effort to deny God

Don QuijoteDon Quixote got his head full of medieval adventures. So enamored was he of the books he read, that eventually he crossed the line from reality to fantasy and decided to embark on a quest to live the knight’s life.

He got a pathetic horse and a pudgey “page” and went forth searching for wrongs to right. At one point he battles with his sword a windmill, hallucinating that it’s an evil giant. Naturally, he lost badly.

I can’t help but think that the quest to prove there’s no God is equally quixotic. To assume that everything come from nothing without anything working upon is the quintessence of absurdity. Science can only track what is measurable, but what is unmeasurable lies outside of science’s ken. To deny the existence of something outside your experience is the height of arrogance.

To think the universe exists without a Creator is like saying a building built itself without an architect or construction worker.

But was it smart to bring her special needs girl on medical mission?

Medical Missions | Lighthouse | Central AmericaNow Dal Basile knows for sure that it wasn’t foolhardiness to bring her special needs daughter on a medical mission to Guatemala.

Originally she worried that Michelle Villasenor, whose academic level is second grade, might could get lost in a crowd and never be found again. Dal has performed as a nurse on almost 30 medical missions, mostly to Africa, and taking Michelle was never even contemplated.

But Lighthouse Medical Missions leader Dr. Bob Hamilton prodded Dal to bring Michelle on this trip, fairly near, to Guatemala. Not too quickly, Dal acquiesced. Would the Santa Monica mom regret the decision forever?

On Tuesday any vestige of doubt about the wisdom of bringing Michelle was quashed.

That’s because Abigail Esteban appeared with heart palpitations provoked by anxiety over her own special needs daughter, a case of developmental delay fairly similar to Michelle’s.

“She broke down crying,” Dal said. “I told her I know what it’s like to have a special needs daughter, and I know that God can work in your daughter’s life. I told her, ‘God chose you because you’re a gifted person.’ I went and brought Michelle. And Michelle prayed for the woman. Michelle perked up. She relates to special needs people. She bonds.” Continue reading.

Medical Mission Impossible

Dr. Bob Hamilton on the medical mission in Guatemala of Sept. 2015.

Dr. Bob Hamilton on the medical mission in Guatemala of Sept. 2015.

Forget about Tom Cruise. The new star of Mission Impossible is Ludving Navarro.

The pastor coaxed a medicine shipment through Guatemalan Customs – a week-long process of frustrating and tedious paperwork that led to a heart-attack arrival at the church at 8:00 p.m. Sunday – literally just in time Monday morning clinic.

“We always have a challenge getting our medications out of Customs,” said team leader Dr. Bob Hamilton, a Santa Monica pediatrician who founded Lighthouse Medical Missions. “We literally got the medications the night before our clinic. We thank God for His perfect timing. It was last minute.”

Read the rest of the article about medical missions.

I caught myself being cynical

cynicismWhoa! Where did THAT come from?

I’ve always wanted to be an example of optimism. But recently, I showed cynicism instead.

Old people tend to be grumpy because they have hit so many bumps in the road. Simply by the sum of years, they’ve had more opportunities to scrape up with imperfect people. (I was trying to be friendly with the sample server at Costco, but the cantankerous oldster retorted rudely and shoved my hand away when I went for a sample.)

I don’t want to grow bitter, despite the accumulation of hurts suffered in my life. In spite of the disillusions, the disappointments, the betrayals.

There’s a lady in our church in Utah who’s husband cheated on her and left her. She’s as joyful as can be. I want to be like here.

God, restore youthfulness to be heart. Give me faith in others. Help me splurge forgiveness everywhere I go. Rid me of cynicism!

Forgiveness: it’s beautiful

forgiveIf it is hard to forgive, if it is necessary, we must also understand that it is beautiful.

It is a release of pain, thus a relief from pain. In theory, it is strange that we would retain pain. In theory, we want immediate relief, whether it’s a headache or a heartache. But such is the human condition that we hold onto the grudge, we remember the wrong suffered — even more, we sickly savor the memory.

I’m not pointing fingers. I myself struggle.

Think of that moment when you were speeding and a cop car lights up and blows its sirens behind you. Instantly, you sweat and start to pull over. But no, the cop goes on and pulls over somebody else. You feel joyful relief.

Forgiveness is even better than that.

Christianity is portrayed as condemning (sometimes we are to blame for this). In fact, we ought to be portrayed as forgivers, albeit imperfect forgivers.

Image source: google

On the importance of family

Aunt Fanny far left. Dianna at right.

Dianna at right with her cousins

As a kid, I picked up an every-man-for-himself outlook on life. So when I met Dianna’s relatives, it was to learn some new lessons.

Aunt Fanny showed us that Dianna and I were important. She let us crash at her place and took us around San Francisco. She was both funny and fun. This was different for me: I was only a workhorse.

This weekend we went to her 85th birthday. The workhorse in me drove up five hours and back all in one day. But it was the fun that drew me.

Her daughters are very dear to us. Julie sort of adopted us when Dianna and I were newly-weds living in the San Francisco Bay Area. We rejoiced when at one point she came to Christ. There isn’t a thing we wouldn’t do for them. They are family, and it’s every man for every man.

#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?

I quit, and we lost

Colegio cristiano guatemala

Hanging out with the guys in Guatemala. (If you notice, only my feet are on the ground.)

The two things are absolutely related. It’s hard to beat Banner, even though his older brother Mario is almost as good at soccer. I was on Mario’s team, and we pretty much trailed Banner’s team by one goal the whole game.

But after two-and-a-half hours playing in the sun, having fasted breakfast, I suddenly found myself, somewhere between heat stroke and exhaustion, on the bench in the shade. I needed water, and there was none. I was breathing quickly.

“Pastor, come and play. This is probably the last time you’ll play in Guatemala.” Ordinarily these words would shot energy into me. But this time this 48-year-old body wouldn’t budge. I didn’t care any more. I was really dog-tired.

As poorly as I played (about 20 turnovers), still my presence on the field counted for something. I made it a little bit harder for them to score, a little bit harder for them to defend. My absence proved our demise by simple math: one less player favored them.

When you quit the church, you cause the team to lose. Keep playing.

Hygiene is costly

hygieneIn America, we take hygiene for granted. Why do Third World countries not get it? One reason is lack of money. Soaps and hygienic food is expensive. If you don’t have the money, you don’t buy it. You make do without.

People get sick. I’m in Guatemala right now, and I got diarrhea. We all got the runs. Lack of funds is to blame. They were trying to stretch a shoe-string budget to host a quince años — like a Sweet Sixteen but at age 15.

It’s a reminder of the blessings in America.

Spiritual hygiene will cost you too! Prayer, church attendance, Bible reading.

Personally, I think it ironic that people who are fastidious for external hygiene give no thought to internal hygiene. As Jesus said to the Pharisees: they are like whitened tombs, beautiful on the outside but full of death and decay inside.

A lot of Guatemalans don’t see the need for external hygiene. They think it’s all annoying and useless habits of gringos. But you can get sick if you’re not clean — physically and spiritually.

*Image Google search.

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.

Please pray for Ricardo

Richard in GuatemalaHe’s my dear brother, who, because he slipped up with drugs, believes there’s no hope. He won’t even come to church.

Ricardo is the nicest guy. God transformed him once, and he was attending service. But he gave into temptation at some point and has been bottom-dwelling for about five years now. I know God has great things for him.

On this blog, I’ve asked for finances on my gofundme account. But today, I don’t need your money. I need your prayers — for my dear son in the Lord.