All posts by Dominic

Goodbye Billy Graham and God Bless You

“There is a great identity crisis among students today. Who am I? What is the purpose of life? Where did I come from? Where am I going? The Bible has a direct answer to these questions.”

– Billy Graham

Guys,

In October 2017 I published my first book on Kindle Direct Publishing. That book was a short biography on Billy Graham. I have written nine other books since then, but that first book was very special because it was about Billy Graham. Billy Graham had a profound impact on my life. That’s why I love writing about him.

I have read Mr. Graham’s autobiography countless times. I listen to the audiobook whenever I drive and I’ve read the huge printed copy half a dozen times. I love his simple writing style and his humble and profound message about God.

I felt privileged and honored to write about Billy Graham. His life and message inspired me to give my life to Jesus Christ. I have no doubt that Billy Graham is in heaven enjoying the fruits of his long labor for the Lord. God bless you all and God bless Billy Graham. May he rest in peace.

Introduction

Billy Graham was America’s most famous Evangelist. He preached a positive, personal relationship with God. His message transcended all class and ethnic divisions.

Graham grew up with an All- American dream to play baseball. Instead, he became the most celebrated religious figure of the 20th century. Confident to presidents and prime ministers, and friends with royalty and Hollywood stars. A voice of truth to millions who heard and received his message. A comforting voice to a nation in its most painful hours. A man who accredited others with his achievements and God with his successes. He will likely have no equal in our lifetime. He was Billy Graham.

Graham’s mission was a simple message of profound spirituality and social compassion He was free of the dark scandals, financial or sexual, that cast a shadow on the reputation of so many other preachers. His sincerity was transparent and convincing, and cannot be denied. Graham was an icon essential to a country that was founded on faith.

Spiritual Crisis

On the eve of the 1949 Los Angeles Crusade, an old friend who had become an atheist influenced Graham. Billy found himself assailed by doubt about the Bible’s trustworthiness. Billy knew in his heart that these doubts would destroy his effectiveness to be able to preach the Gospel.

His spiritual crisis was finally resolved at a conference center east of Los Angeles.

“I began to study the subject intensively,” he said later. “I also thought of Christ’s own attitude toward the Scriptures, and how he never once imitated they might be false. Then one night I got my Bible, and I went out in the moonlight and put it on a stump and knelt down. I said, ‘Oh God, I cannot prove everything. I cannot answer all the questions. But by faith, I accept this Book as the Word of God.’ From that moment on I have never doubted God’s Word. When I quote the Bible, I believe I am quoting the very Word of God, and there is an extra power in it. One month later, we began the Los Angeles Crusade.” said Billy Graham.

The same message he had preached to the cypress stumps as a Bible student in Florida he would take to the nations of the world. Graham’s growing influence and prestige brought him to the attention of the famous and influential, from Hollywood celebrities, to corporate moguls, and significantly, to those who occupied the house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Over the years Graham’s friendship with eleven American presidents earned him the title of “Pastor to the Presidents.” From Truman to Bush II, Graham was the spiritual guide to the most powerful men in the world.

What I Will Miss the Most

It is Billy Graham’s voice that I miss the most. The beguiling yet commanding North Carolina drawl, along with his stab of a finger, itself as sure as Billy’s faith in God. “The Bible says …” Graham would announce, pointing to the book that seemed permanently attached to his other hand. And then he would tell us what it said and why it meant what it said and why we must give our lives over to it. . Unlike many traditional evangelists, he abandoned narrow fundamentalism to engage broader society. His speeches let us all know “The Word,” as Christians understand it, is eternal. Its Graham’s voice, which for decades seemed just as enduring, is suddenly gone.

Billy Graham’s Impact

Billy Graham at the apex of his international stature faced the closing years of the century. His sense of calling remained the same. His sense of where that calling was taking him was new. In the late 1980’s, Responding to fledging opportunities to hold meetings in Eastern Europe, and later in the Soviet Union, Billy Graham withstood criticism from many, who accused him of compromising his faith for political expediency.

Those first meetings may have only been a crack in the wall holding back freedom behind the Iron Curtain. But it would allow the first gleams of light to energize the efforts of others. Within a decade, the Soviet wall would collapse.

Over the years, Graham has certainly had his critics. Yet, the consistency of his character and integrity of his life have turned more than one enemy into a lifelong friend. Graham has participated in every Presidential inauguration since Lyndon B. Johnson became President. He’s been a counselor and friend to eleven Presidents, including special relationships with Presidents Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

Graham has preached his message of the good news of faith in Jesus Christ to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history- over 210 million people in more than 185 countries and territories have heard him face-to-face. His pioneering use of television and radio helped him to spread the Gospel around the world. Over six decades Graham preached and as late as 2005 was attracting crowds of over 242,000.

Millions more have been touched by his voice on radio and television motion pictures. He had authored 23 books, many of them best sellers. The list of his honors and awards is endless. Arguably Billy Graham was one of the most influential men of the 20th century. I have no doubt he is happy and in heaven. God bless you, Mr. Graham, you will be missed.

 

Being Jack’s Grandfather

“There are fathers who do not love their children; there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson.”

– Victor Hugo

I love learning. My greatest lessons haven’t been in a classroom, but from grandson Jack. Let me tell you about being Jack’s grandfather and what he’s taught me.

Intro

Two years ago I became a grandparent. My wife Muna is the love of my life, but my grandson Jack is the joy of my life. Jack is love, pure and simple.

Family

Family life is deeply felt through births and the departures of loved ones. The adding and subtraction of loved ones makes a family close. A death is grief and loss. The death of a beloved family member is an amputation. A birth in a family is an addition and celebration. The birth of a grandchild makes you feel immortal. It is a second chance to love again.

Meeting Jack

Meeting Jack for the first time did something to me. I’ve heard people talk about religious experiences, but I’ve never had one until I met Jack. The first time I met Jack something in me changed. I was hit with an intense and unexpected joy. I looked at him, and I knew that I could never love anything in my life as much I loved Jack.

Jack made me succumb to love beyond reason. Being Jack’s grandfather is what I put on this earth to do. If I had known how wonderful it was to have a grandson, I would have done it first.

Being a Grandfather

I don’t have kids. My wife shares her two wonderful kids with me. Both of them are grown and in their early twenties. Muna had Rebecca young. Rebecca had Jack young. This explains why we are grandparents in our 40’s.

Being Jack’s grandfather is the most vivid and transforming experience of my life. Jack made me an extraordinary witness to life. Being a grandfather is a great feast of life. It allows you devour the things you love about being alive.

Jack is a reminder of the unending love of God. Being Jack’s grandfather has strengthened my faith. I feel God’s love every time I see him smile. He makes my heart sing when he laughs. Jack is a glimpse into the greatness of life. My time with him has been precious. My memories with him are the happiest of my life.

Knowing Jack

Jack has light brown hair and blue eyes. Jack is chunky and always smiling. Jack is a great toddler. He never cries unless he is really upset. Jack watches everything. He never gets bored. Everything seems to make Jack laugh.

Jack has given me an understanding of love I never knew before. Being a grandfather is a wider and greater love than I’ve ever known. Becoming a grandfather altered my identity and changed my place in the world.

Your forties are a strange place. You are not old, but you are not young. I do not feel old enough to be a grandparent. I have friends my age who are just having kids. My father was my age when I was born.

Jack taught me time couldn’t be measured by a clock. Time approaches in waves, unexpected and sudden. Being a grandparent moved me up a notch in the life cycle. The change in our lives as grandparents was big and unexpected. Jack was a great addition to our lives. He is a constant source of love and inspiration to us both.

My own experience as a grandchild is limited. My father’s dad died before I was born. His mother died when I was young. My mom’s parents were good people, but I hardly knew them. They lived far away.

I’ve never had kids. With Jack, I got to skip all the hard work and jump to the joy of being a grandparent. DNA has nothing to do with commitment or love. I will always love Jack. He is my grandson, case closed.

Lessons from Jack

Spending time with Jack is a joy. Jack is an indiscriminate, nonjudgmental lover of everything. His joy is contagious. Jack’s response to anything loud, soft or spongy is ecstatic. Jack laughs and giggles at everything.

Jack always lives in the moment. His entire world is the here and now. I have to be in the here and now to keep up with him. I tickle and play with him while keeping him from eating dog food (his favorite thing). I am not in-charge of Jack. His parents set the rules.

I treasure my time with him because it’s limited. We watch him once or twice a week. I always look forward to seeing him. Jack always makes my day better and lighter. Jack is always happy to see him, and I am always overjoyed when it’s our turn to babysit him.

There is a golden rule for being a grandparent: “Keep Thy Opinions to Thyself.” My dad once said, “Only give advice if asked or in a life-threatening situation.”

Jack’s parents are young, but they are great parents. What advice could I give? I’ve never had kids. Jack is the first time I’ve ever changed diapers, an experience I’ll always remember. There is a reason young people have babies. They have the energy for it.

Jack’s Gifts

Jack is his own person. As Jack’s grandpa, I have few expectations or agendas. I want him to have a happy, healthy life, that’s it. Jack is a free pass to act like an imbecile. Playing with Jack and making him laugh is my all-time favorite thing to do. Jack has given me a “pure and nearly perfect love.”

My Mission

I want to add something of enduring value to Jack. I want to help guide him through the mystery and wonder of life. I will always let him know he is loved and cherished. I will be there for him. I will try to answer all the questions he asks. I will try to harvest the lessons of my own life to give him wisdom, love, and understanding.

My own pledge to Jack is that I will always do my best to have a heart full of love for him, arms that will always hug him, ears that will truly listen and an understanding that is never-ending. Being Jack’s grandfather is the greatest joy of my life so far.

I gotta go, “Little Einsteins” is on…nothing beats Little Einsteins according to Jack, lol!

Dom’s Plan to Earn Cash and Make Money

“You can be ‘a victim’ or ‘a volunteer’, it’s all about how hard you want to work.”
– Thomas E. Arenberg, Senior Executive (retired), Accenture

Too often I’ve seen dumb, lazy people making more money than me. How do they do this? What is it I am not doing?

Passive income is the Holy Grail way of earning cash and making money.

According to Wikipedia, “Passive income is income resulting from cash flow received on a regular basis, requiring minimal to no effort by the recipient to maintain it.”
Passive income: How do I make it?

I am going to do four new things to make money.

1. Become an Amazon Bestselling Author

I wrote my first ebook four months ago, and I’ve made $500 in that time. I don’t make a lot of money at what I do, but I do get to do what I love- that’s priceless! I will tell you about a lot of other authors who have made a lot more. The main thing was just getting brave enough to put my ebooks out there. I know dozens of other great writers who were still wondering if they should publish too.

2. Dropshipping

Another idea for passive income is dropshipping.
What is dropshipping?

Dropshipping is a retail method where products are shipped to customers directly from the supplier instead of to you.

Here is a basic overview of how it works: 1. Customers place an order on your website.
2. Next, you place the order with your Supplier.
3. The Supplier ships your Customer the Product.

Bottomline: You keep the profit, minus the price you paid your Supplier and other fees.

Why do dropshipping?

1. You don’t carry any inventory.
2. You purchase products only after a Customer has placed an order and paid for the Product.
3. Your Supplier handles the warehousing, and shipping of the products.

Bottomline: Dropshipping saves you a great deal of time and money. You act as the middleman in the exchange.

What I like about that is you can make on Dropshipping, is by learning how to find products that have a pretty good profit margin, and listing them by following a simple system.

Imagine you had five products that each sold ONLY for a profit of $100 each month. Maybe the spread on some of them is only a meager $20 profit margin. You would need to sell five of those over 30 days to reach $100 a month. Dropshipping is solely a part-time income.

3. Make YouTube Videos

Making money with a simple YouTube channel is easy for anyone with access to the internet. I am learning how to use AdSense, to being an affiliate, and to selling products on my YouTube. I am learning there are numerous ways to make a passive income from a small YouTube Channel.

4. Become a Udemy Instructor

Udemy is an online learning platform. I want to teach courses in the military history category focusing on World War I and World War II. Udemy has no classes on the World Wars.

The World Wars are my jam and a subject I feel very comfortable with. There is a big demand for World War I because the 100th Anniversary of the conclusion of the war is in November 2018. That’s my deadline to become a recognized “expert” on World War I.

How to think about Cash Flow and Passive Income

My goal when I first published on Amazon was a monthly passive income that increases monthly in $100 increments. My first month by first two books made $100 and then the second month it $200, you get the idea.

I want to change the way I think about money (and in particular expenses) in a fresh way. This ties into what I was talking with about earlier. I trying to think of the simplest things somebody can do is to make an extra block of money each month.
I asked myself these questions:

1. What would an extra $500 a month mean to my family and me?
2. Would I be willing to learn NEW skills to accomplish this in 2018?
3. How would I like set a Facebook Business Page group where people could ask me any question about anything dealing with World War I or World War II?
4. Can I see myself changing my life and my finances $100 per month at a time?
5. Can I challenge myself to make AT LEAST $100 in passive monthly income within the next 30 days?
6. Would do I need to learn to enact this system and change my life forever?

My Goal– Tying It All Together

I want to create and sell my courses by April 2018. I want to completely replace and surpass my income as a full-time writer, instructor, and part-time dropshipper.

With the Udemy Course, I will write a book about World War I. I will do a podcast, YouTube Channel, and audiobook from my course material. All of those will generate cash flow and passive income.

None of these paths is easy. All of them take me way out of my comfort zone. I have to learn new skills and do things I am not comfortable with or necessarily want to learn. But I think the rewards will be worth it. Looking back through my life, it’s time this like that I remember that I am my best self because I have to strive and work hard. I’ll keep you posted.

Brave Soldier: The Bruno de Solenni Story- Introduction

“War is the province of danger, and therefore courage above all things is the first quality of a warrior.”

– General Karl Von Clausewitz

This is the introduction of my new book about my friend Bruno de Solenni. He died in Afghanistan in 2008.

Brave Soldier: The Bruno de Solenni Story

By Dominic Oto

Dedication

To

Captain Bruno G. de Solenni

Killed in Action near Maiwand District, Kandahar Afghanistan

September 20, 2008

And

Hanif and Ramin, our two intrepid interrupters, with us since the beginning.

Killed in Action near Maiwand District, Kandahar Afghanistan

September 20, 2008

If there is any glory in war, let it rest with brave men like these.

Foreword

On September 20, 2008, Captain Bruno de Solenni, a brave American soldier who was loved and admired, and with everything to live for was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

How did this happen?

Why?

I was a close friend of Bruno’s. We spent almost a year together in training at Fort Riley, Kansas and in Afghanistan. I was talking to him right up until the moment he died. In that time I got to know about his life: his adventures, his dreams for the future, the triumphs and defeats of the generous, intense, fun-loving man who was Bruno de Solenni.

We were in the same gun truck when we hit a 500-pound roadside bomb. I was driving, and Bruno was the gunner. Bruno and two other brave men died that day. I lived, and he died. I can’t tell you why he died and I lived. No one can.

We were unlikely friends. We were two very different men. Bruno was physical and brave. I am bookish and afraid. We came from different parts of the country, with different backgrounds, different religious beliefs, and different political opinions-and yet we put all those differences aside and became buddies. But I can tell you about his life, but I must also tell you of his death and the events which preceded it. I have thought long, and hard about that- whether to go into it all or to keep parts of it suppressed, the feelings of anger, regret and sorrow over Bruno’s death have been bottled-up for almost a decade. In the end, I was guided by what Bruno told me when I wondered about whether I should be frank and open as he was about our mission to train an infantry battalion of Afghan soldiers. Bruno pointed to a quote in his notebook from Ernest Hemingway, “Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.” I love that quote. I have been reading and re-reading Hemingway ever since.

Bruno was always open and blunt, and for him, there was only one way to account for things- to tell the whole truth about them, holding nothing back. I know he would want me to tell his story the same way. I attempt to tell the reader Bruno’s story truly, the way it happened. There are ecstasy and sorrow, fear and bravery, and with some luck, the reader will get to know about the brave soldier, his friends called, “the heart and soul of our team.”

This is the story of how Bruno and I came to know each other and help each other. We were both soldiers fighting in a foreign land far from home who became friends and developed an enduring friendship until tragedy struck.

This is what I tried to do in telling Bruno’s story, holding nothing back. This is as close as I could get to the “Why” Bruno died in Afghanistan on September 30, 2008.

The cover of Bruno’s book

Bruno de Solenni died at the age of thirty-two. He left behind a loving family and a great many loving friends. And with this book, I hope that when they think of him, it’s not how he died that they remember, but, rather, how this brave man lived. Bruno is deeply missed and never forgotten.

 

The Life and Legend of Bruno de Solenni– A Brave Soldier

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

Matthew 5:9 KJB

Introduction

I am almost finished writing a book about my friend Bruno. Trying to remember and capture Bruno is why I started writing.

Bruno was a fearless warrior, a loving brother, and uncle. Bruno led the life of an American hero. His renowned compassion and courage made him a legend to anyone that knew him.

I wanted to write a candid, essential portrait of this celebrated warrior – a man whose death only added to the legend of Bruno. But first I had to set the scene. I hope you like it.

SAINT JOSEPH CATHOLIC CEMETERY, CRESCENT CITY, CALIFORNIA- January 1, 2013-

I park my truck at the bottom of the small hill of the cemetery.  I slowly walk up the hill to the gnarled old tree that is beside the grave. I am stopped as soon as I see his tombstone.

I feel like I have hit an invisible brick wall. My breathing quickens, I feel like someone punched the air out of my lungs, my legs grow weak, and I fall to my knees in front of his grave. I began to shake, and my throat constricts. My eyes are riveted to his grave marker with his name:

BRUNO GIANCARLO DE SOLENNI, CPT, U.S. Army, Afghanistan

Bruno’s Grave in Crescent City, CA, his hometown.

I see his grave, but my mind is reeling, and I dissolve into the day he died.

MAIWAND DISTRICT, KANDAHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN- September 20, 2008

We were on a convoy from our base in Helmand to Kandahar. I am driving the truck, and Bruno is the gunner. The steering wheel jerks in my hands as if it suddenly alive. The truck cab turns night into day as if the Sun suddenly appeared with a colossal roar and a mighty rush of wind from an explosion. Outside the world streaked by. I can see the hood of the truck folding into and crashing into the window.

“This can’t be happening!” my mind protests, despite the fact that I see impossible things. The blinding brightness slowly fades into crushing metal and then fire and smoke. I am spinning like I am in a washing machine, black and red, black and red, and suddenly the steering wheel is ripped free from my hands, and I am screaming…

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, AFGHANISTAN- September 22, 2008

Bruno’s memorial service was not a funeral. His body was not here. It was a memorial service to say goodbye to a friend. The team gathered to honor their fallen comrade. We knelt in front of the helmet, boots, weapon, and picture of Bruno. We all openly wept.

The team was more than just a team of combat advisors, and we were a fighting unit. Over the last eight months, we had become a tightly knit family, best friends, and brothers. We would and did lay down our lives for one another.

Bruno was the “heart and soul” of the team, and now he was gone. We gathered to give a solemn salute and final goodbye to our brother-in-arms as he was returned home. The memorial service was held just before the body was to be flown back to the U.S.

Bruno’s coffin was draped in the American flag. It was carried the final few feet onto an Air Force plane bound home to America. The Chaplain said, “Today we remember our friend, comrade and a fellow American. We the sacrifice he made for us, our country, and our freedom.” In the end, heartbroken service members hugged, cried and comforted each other.

Spotting the rest of my teammates among the mourners was easy. We were struck with grief. The physical, mental and emotional loss of Bruno had taken a heavy toll. We were hunched over, fidgeting and crying.  Our physical bodies were in the chapel, but our minds were still on the desert floor 60 kilometers away, where Bruno had died. It was a place none of us would ever truly ever leave.

The remains our fallen hero were flown from Kandahar in Afghanistan to New Castle Air National Guard Base in Delaware. In Delaware, Bruno’s family was waiting to escort him home.

CRESCENT CITY, CA- October 4, 2008

Bruno’s funeral was like an extraordinary class reunion of all the people that loved him. Here were all the figures that he talked about in Afghanistan gathered in this chapel to say goodbye to him.

As a timber faller, Bruno labored through the spring and summer in groves of giant redwoods, cedar, and fir. As a soldier, he died in Afghanistan. The tree trunks he sawed and milled became his coffin built by his friends and brothers who were his pallbearers. They dug his grave at the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church Cemetery in Crescent City and laid him to rest.

The Man, The Legend

Bruno was a man whose life could come out of a novel. He had an exceptional mind and an incredible talent to relate to other human beings, whoever they were and no matter they come from. He was a compassionate man who could engage anyone on so many levels. Bruno could sense human issues and feelings about a subject. On another level and at the same time he could deal with hard facts like statistics. Usually, those two qualities seem to cancel each other out in an individual, but they came together in Bruno.

In 2008, when we went to Afghanistan, the war changed. We went as soldiers but also as peacemakers acting as combat advisors to an Afghan Infantry Battalion (600 men). Combat advisors on the ground advising the Afghan National Army could tell we were losing the war. The generals in Kabul maintained that we were winning the war. The Advisors were caught between the two. It was an adversarial relationship. Bruno always helped me to understand the war and what we, the Americans, were doing there.

I think a lot of this comes from Bruno being fearless. He could work at the tactical level, take what he saw down there, and apply at the strategic level. Bruno gave the entire team the perspective of how we were helping the Afghans. His daily talks shaped my view of the war. Bruno helped me to come to grips with the war in a way that I would not have been able to without him.

Something to remember is that America was at the High Noon of its power in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We thought that whatever we were doing in Afghanistan was right and good simply because we were Americans. We succeed in this noble undertaking because we were Americans. Bruno embodied that idealism.

We wanted to win the war for the Afghans and for ourselves. Bruno felt the best way to do this was, to tell the truth. Bruno had a keen sense of honor as a soldier. Bruno was enraged by the way people back home saw the war.

Bruno was my friend and this how I remembered him.

SAINT JOSEPH CATHOLIC CEMETERY, CRESCENT CITY, CALIFORNIA- January 1, 2013

Tears are streaming down my face. I am back at the grave marker trying to compose myself.

I say to his tombstone, “I did my best Bruno, to remember you, to honor you.”

The tears are coming stronger. An intense swirl of emotions is stirring inside of me. Feelings of regret, sorrow, anger, and gratitude overwhelm me.

“I’ve tried never to forget you. I don’t know why you died and I lived. I have done my best to be worthy of the gift you gave me and what you gave me. I will never forget you. Until I see you again, old friend.”

I knew I had to get on with my life, and it was Bruno would have wanted.

Now I can write Bruno’s book.

My Story of Salvation

“I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

– Matthew 28:20, NIV

I am not an academic, a Biblical scholar, or even a very good Christian. I am a Christian who recently renewed my commitment to Christ. I am new to the Bible. I am trying to grasp some fundamental truths about Jesus Christ and the salvation He gave me.

My Need for Salvation

I take the Bible as the true and inspired Word of God. I believe that I need to be saved by the redemption and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NIV). I know I am a sinner and will one day be judged by God. I believe that the Fall of Man (Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden) is a historical event.

The consequence of that sin is an eternal separation from God, who is perfect and holy. The Fall of Man is the root of all sin in the world. God is the source of life. Separation from God means eternal death. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23, NIV).

The Joy of Jesus

The Promise of Salvation

By accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I was set free from sin and eternal death. Since making this decision to become a Christian, I have experienced a steadfast love and peace I have never known.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV).

It is overwhelming to me that God did this for me. But it makes me ask: How did God give His only Son?

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NIV).

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, paid the ultimate penalty for my sins. He died on the cross. While Jesus died on the cross, He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30, NIV). Jesus meant that He had truly done everything necessary for my salvation.

The Trinity

As the Son of God, Jesus is equal to God Himself, as a man God walked the earth. Theologians call this the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. However, even though Jesus was equal to God the Father, (John 1:1–3; 10:30, NIV). God chose to become a human being (Jesus) and die for us sinners, (Philippians 2:5–8, NIV).

The Gift and the Giver

So, back to the beginning- I believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son. I accepted Him as my Savior because He paid the eternal penalty for my sins when He died on the cross.

Instead of death and separation from God, I now have eternal life because I believe in Jesus Christ. By trusting in Christ, three things happen:

  1. My sins are forgiven (Colossians 1:14).
  2. I become a child of God (John 1:12).
  3. I possess eternal life because of the Gift of Jesus Christ (John 3:16).

My Declaration of Dependence

On July 4, 2016, I called out to Jesus Christ on the windswept cliff tops of Pointe du Hoc. Pointe du Hoc is located between Utah and Omaha Beaches and sits atop a prominent position on the coast of Normandy, France. The overhanging cliffs up are to 100 feet in height. I claimed my total Dependence in Christ on Independence Day.

I know I was a sinner and I asked for His forgiveness. I believed Jesus had died for sins. There was no clanging of bells or flashing lights or a moment of earthshattering ecstasy. There was a warm, stable feeling of complete confidence in God. God had heard my confession of sin when I acknowledged Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and master of my life.

The Bible says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13, NIV). My simple declaration has been an anchor of my faith that saved my life.

No Easy Days

I still have bad days. I am weak, lazy, and sinful. I try not to focus on my weaknesses and faults (too many to list). Instead, I put my trust in Jesus Christ to help me.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20, NIV).

My faith in God has brought joy to my life. He has fulfilled every promise He made me. I am still learning to walk in the Christian life. I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

 

The Christian Example of Mr. Steve Bruhn

More than any other person outside of my parents and my wife, Mr. Steve Bruhn has influenced my life. As I look back, I am convinced that God’s providence, that Mr. Bruhn opened his martial arts school (K.C. Chung Tae Kwon Do) around the corner from my house. He would become my teacher, mentor, and friend. Mr. Bruhn is by far the most unforgettable and most faithful Christian I have ever known.

Teacher and Friend

In the fuzzy memory of my childhood, he really had two callings: First, as a martial arts teacher. In his Dojang (Korean for “training hall”) four to five nights a week he would teach me how to punch and kick. His second calling was as my friend and mentor as a Christian. In this second calling, he would have a profound impact on my life of being my most faithful counselor and advisor.

When I first saw Mr. Bruhn, I never thought he would become a mentor and good friend to me, really more of a big brother. But by chance, I regularly visited with him before each class started. Little did I know the impact this incredible man would have on my passage into manhood.

Mr. Bruhn shared with me his experience as a Tae Kwon Do teacher and his struggle as a Christian. This was an intense time for me. I was at the awkward age of fourteen-years-old and about to start high school. Mr. Bruhn and I became fast friends. I quickly became involved with helping out around the Dojang. Mr. Bruhn would also tell me about his journey as a Christian.

With each story, Mr. Bruhn would always impart a life lesson from the Bible. He’d used the story about opening his own martial arts school and about doing whatever it takes to accomplish a goal in life. His experience in being a teacher conveyed to me the importance of the Christian example of tolerance, respect, and compassion for people who are different from you. Mr. Bruhn’s most important lesson was that a real man stands up for the oppressed and downtrodden.

Mr. Bruhn would always ask me about what was going on in my life. He’d listen intently and provide some counsel and words of encouragement or sometimes a verbal kick in the butt if I needed it. After each visit with him, I felt uplifted and edified. This is priceless for a restless young man.

Bible Lessons

Mr. Bruhn’s faith in God was the kind of heartfelt worship in which even an uneducated person like me could understand. Mr. Bruhn prayed daily. When praying, he would bow his head as a sign of respect toward God. Sometimes he would quote Bible verses in our conversations. These verses would remind me of God’s unity, God’s providence, and the promise of God’s love.

My memories of that time were about transformation and tradition, growing up and growing wise, and finding myself– even 25 years later. One day, years later, I met an old friend from high school who knew Mr. Bruhn too. He said, “I really admire Mr. Bruhn, but he wasted his life just teaching at that Tae Kwon Do school. He neglected his physical and social life. He could have been so much more.”

I stopped in my tracks, looked at him in amazement, and said, “No way, Mr. Bruhn spent twenty-five of his best years teaching and helping people with his example. He’s lead a life most people can only preach about from an air-conditioned pulpit. His love and care of his students and the community where he lives and works can testify to his Christlike example.”

Steve Bruhn is one of only two men I ever met whom the term “great” could be applied. He rises each morning to spend an hour reading the Scriptures. Until he goes to bed at night, he leads a disciplined, dedicated life. He spreads happiness and joy to everyone he talks to.

His warmth and humor, his dedication to his students, his tremendous self-discipline, and uncompromising loyalty to God show that he lives by the ageless message of the redeeming qualities of the Gospel. His heart and example have been a blessing and benediction to my life. In Steve Bruhn, I found a teacher and a friend who changed my life. Thank God for you, sir.

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Part 1

This is my attempt to try and understand the problems of the Middle East.

Judaism and Islam

Judaism and Islam are the world’s two oldest, and largest monotheistic religions and they share a city they both consider holy– Jerusalem. The two religions share a variety of beliefs, customs, and practices. At the same time, there are enough differences, both cultural and in practice, that make the two religions clash. The conflict is so bad that even the similarities between the two ancient religions have been the source of conflict. This contention goes back thousands of years. Judea is the Biblical Hebrew and Israelite home of Jewish ancestry. Arab states considered Israel as their own land since they conquered Palestine in 638 C.E., but according to written history and oral tradition, it was the promised land of the Jews. Judea was captured by the Romans and renamed Palestine. Palestine was later conquered and inhabited by the Arabs for over a thousand years. In 1881, Jewish settlers started migrating to Palestine in large numbers. Their goal was to consolidate and live together in their own culture and in their ancient homeland, they believed, promised to by God. These migrations came in greater and greater waves, especially after World War I and the Holocaust of World War II.

 

Israel and Palestine-Two Worlds Clashing

The Zionist Movement

The Zionist movement arose to restore the Jews to Israel, their believed Promise Land. Towards the end of World War I, the British government decided to endorse a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The British decision to help the Jews was made public in a letter from Lord Arthur Balfour to lead British Zionist Lord Rothschild on November 2, 1917, just before the end of World War I. The contents of the message became known as the “Balfour Declaration.” The Balfour Declaration was drafted with the assistance of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was a strong supporter of Zionism.  Britain wanted to protect her sea route to India. Britain’s economy relied heavily on trade from India. Supporting Zionism was the most straightforward way of securing lasting British influence in the Egyptian region of the Suez Canal. The Arabs resented the Jews coming in and taking over their land. Under the leadership of Grand Mufti Haj Amin El-Husseini, the Arabs rioted for days until later revolting. This riot was the first step of creating a history of hostility between the Jews and Arabs in Palestine. Next, Britain put a stop to Jewish immigration into Palestine. It wasn’t till after the Holocaust when Britain allowed mass immigration into Palestine. The horrors of the Holocaust left the Jew survivors with no other choice than to return to their ancestral homeland. The tremendous growth Jewish immigrants over the years into a land they had lived for over a thousand years made Palestinians angry and protective.  Not even the White Paper of 1939, which curtailed the migration of the Jews to only 75,000 and did not allow them to purchase land, satisfied the Arabs. The time of pre-independence history of Israel before 1948 created a stable base for various political parties and a specific cultural and economic development of a Jewish State. In 1947, the United Nations (U.N.) partitioned the land of Palestine into two states– one Arab and the other Jewish. The Arabs did not accept the new partition of Palestine, which led to a war. The Jews won an astounding victory against overwhelming odds, giving birth to the modern day state of Israel.

A Map of Israel and Palestinian Territories

My New Bible Study Program

Introduction

I started my Bible Study Program a month ago. I wanted to give it 30 days before I started writing on commenting on what I’ve learned. The results have been amazing.

Background

I grew up in a very secular household. My mother’s family was German Presbyterians, my father Italian Catholics. My parents never debated about God. No one was right or wrong.

For some reason, we never discussed religion. For my dad, God seemed to be a private and personal thing with him, and I didn’t want to intrude upon it. I grew up without religion simply because no one made any effort to teach me about God or any religion.

My father wanted me to be baptized by the Roman Catholic Church. I think this was more a tradition than anything. From the time, I was three years old until I was six my mother took me to a local Presbyterian Church. I attended Sunday School, but the lessons never stuck. When I six years old I told my mom I didn’t want to go to back to the church, and we never did.

After my parents divorced when I was ten, my Dad took me to Catholic Church once or twice a year.  With my brief experience of the Catholic Church, I had no direct experience of the “Divine.”

The rituals of the Catholic Church seemed very formulaic. My memories are of sitting, standing, and kneeling. The congregation said memorized verses at designated times. The service finished with believers making the sign of the cross and saying, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.”

The Catholic Church we attended didn’t seem to have a social connection. The whole experience seemed very isolating and without emotion. That is the sum of my religious experience and training.

Becoming a Christian

I felt a stirring in my heart to commit to Christ. I made a simple declaration to bring Christ into my heart. The decision gave me a sense of purpose I have not felt since I was deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

My decision to follow Jesus Christ has changed my life forever. I am determined to get an education equal to the great task of serving the Lord. A sign of my spiritual decline would be my neglect of the Bible. When I started my Bible Study, I knew nothing of God or His word.

Getting Ready

Now I see myself as a prayer warrior, an athlete in training. I try my best to study God’s word for at least an hour a day. Exposing myself to the inspired message of God has made me a happier and better man.

Going from non-belief to belief has been a transforming experience. My identity as a believer in God has changed my life. It has been a happy, satisfying, and comforting new way of looking at the world. I could never keep quiet the still small voice in my heart that kept speaking to me. I tried to be indifferent and respond to the gentle moving of the Spirit of God.

I knew the time had come to get serious about knowing the most person in human history– Jesus Christ. I didn’t know anything about His life, His teachings, or even His impact on the world. My Biblical knowledge was starting from scratch.

I know it wasn’t just about what I knew but that I knew Him.

Thru the Bible Network

I started with Dr. J. Vernon McGee, a Bible teacher, theologian, who was also a radio minister from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. In 1967, he began broadcasting the Thru the Bible Radio Network program.  Dr. McGee’s program is a systematic study of each book of the Bible, where he takes his listeners from Genesis to Revelation in a five year “Bible bus trip,” as he called it.

Dr. McGee has an easily recognizable, heavy West Texas twang. He sounds like President Lyndon B. Johnson. His 30-minute program is designed to guide listeners through the Old and New Testaments in just five years. I learned he died in 1988.

The world has changed a lot since the death of the Dr. McGee, but the daily messages remain intact and are an excellent reference tool for any beginning Bible student. Dr. McGee uses cultural references that date the program. (Still, every once in a while, you hear mention of the Soviet Union or the Vietnam War.)

I believe Dr. McGee teaches straight out of God’s word, and I think God honors that even though he has been dead for 30 years. His mission statement is ‘The whole Word to the whole world.”

How Bible Study has helped me

I use Dr. McGee’s book and study material. His commentary is helpful and has encouraging interaction with God through His Word. His book is full of discussion starters and suggested questions to help me with my study of the Bible.

I value the time I have with God’s Word. Studying it first thing in the morning allows me to make it a priority. I start each Bible study session with prayer. I humbly ask God to help seek the truth in what I read in the Bible.

The best way for me to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to live my faith through personal and physical example. Studying the Word of God has become one of my greatest treasures and hope in a new and better life.

Bible Study has helped me in four areas of my life:

  1. Help me to grow in my love for Scripture and the Lord.
  2. Gain wisdom and knowledge that the Bible teaches.
  3. Internalize the Word of God in a way that transforms my life.
  4. Getting to know Jesus Christ as my Savior and Redeemer.

I don’t know where the Lord is leading me. I am excited about the great adventure and blessings by walking with God in faith. I know God is always faithful to His promises.

Praying- Source: thoughtco.com

Understanding Israel- The Israeli Settlements: An Uneasy Peace

Living in and around a combat zone like the Occupied Territories in Israel is complicated and extraordinary. Interviewing people from both sides to understand how this conflict impacts their daily lives. It tough looking for answers to this complicated conflict. Everything depends on what side of the conflict you are on.

In Jerusalem, you are either an Israeli or Palestinian. Both sides claim this small piece of land as their “home.” This land is divided by walls of hatred, fear, anger, and concrete. I wanted to understand why. I am going to try and put some cracks into those almost impenetrable walls.

The State of Israel was established in 1948, in an area known then as Palestine. The new nation’s borders almost immediately exploded into a war. The War of Independence led to a Palestinian Exodus into two territories: the Gaza Strip and the West Bank on either side of Israel. Today some Israeli settlers are staking claim to land in the West Bank by building communities there called settlements.

With the settlers come the soldiers of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) that protect them. There also come the Palestinian protestors that want the settlers out. I was curious to find out why anyone would want to live in such a volatile place. Usually, Palestinians are not allowed into the settlements for security reasons. This decision is very controversial because the settlement is technically in Palestinian territory.

Most Israeli families want to live a normal life, away from all the controversy. To an outsider, all they hear is that the Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories are the reason that there is no peace agreement.

An American-Israeli settler named Tomer says, “When we came here there was nobody here, so we didn’t take anybody’s land. The hill we live on had nobody around it, and nobody was using it.”

For some Israelis, the settlements offer an affordable place to raise a family. But for the Palestinians is about getting land back they already claim as their own. Refugee camps are where many Palestinians came to live after they were displaced from their homes after Israel became a nation.

The camps started out as communities of tents for displaced Palestinian families. Now, over the last 70 years, they have grown into makeshift housing for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Israeli settlements are being built up all around the camps.

Mazin, a Palestinian activist, says, “The settlements affect my daily life. Most of the time in the summer we are without water. Most of the time in the winter without electricity. This happens because every month there is an increase in the number in the settlement.”

As the settlements push deeper into the West Bank the tensions increase. Roads leading into the settlements become battlegrounds.

“The bus stop near my house has been bombed three times,” said Udi, an Israeli student. “You can get blown up just going to school. We are restricted to living inside the fence of our settlement. The Palestinians can go wherever they want. It’s scary to be afraid all the time.”

Israeli Settlements

Israel says that this increased violence is the reason they built the walls and checkpoints that surround the Palestinian territories. Many Palestinians cannot pass through these checkpoints at all. Mariam, a Palestinian refugee, living in the West Bank cannot visit her son living in the Gaza Strip on the other side of Israel.

The settlements force the Palestinians and Israelis to live closer and closer together and pulling them further and further apart.