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Once an atheist, now a Messianic Jew

‘I looked at the sky and declared my atheism…but who was I announcing it to?

Rory White

He absorbed the complicated rhythms of the Sixties, which left him drug-dependent and filled with emptiness and pain. But then he encountered God’s glory in a blaze of light so powerful he couldn’t stand — and his life changed unalterably forever.

“When I first heard about the holocaust it was incomprehensible,” says Rory White, who grew up in a Jewish family in Los Angeles. He spent his earliest years in post-war Germany, due to his father’s work as a radiation researcher. He recalls that he played in bomb pits that covered the fields as far as he could see. “They filled with water and we caught pollywogs at the bottom,” he says.

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Eat, Pray and Love: How a Bible verse written in lipstick and a trip to the Sistine Chapel brought spiritual awakening

When she sat down in front of a vanity to have her hair done in her sophomore year of college, there was no way to know this would mark the beginning of a spiritual journey that would change the course of her life.

Stephanie in Ghana

“People always talk about the incredible changes that occur during college, but I had no idea what I was in for,” says Stephanie May, a recent graduate of theUniversityofColorado. “It was wonderful, but also a really rough time in my life.”

Raised in the Episcopal Church, she always believed in God, but knew nothing about the Bible. “I would have called myself a Christian, but it was more for the ‘morally upright’ social connotation I felt came with it,” she says.  Admittedly, her moral choices reflected a self-centered, rather than God-centered approach to life.

“I completely lost myself in my search for happiness and completion. I looked everywhere — getting caught up in all of the destructive pastimes that college so conveniently provides,” she says.

Beneath surface appearances, she felt “there was a greater plan at work…that somewhere down the line I would see why everything had happened the way it did.” 

On a Friday night during her sophomore year, she sat down with the president of her sorority for a haircut. “She was famous for doing hair, so I found myself sitting in the chair in front of her vanity as she teased my hair within an inch of its life,” Stephanie recalls.
 
As she gazed into the mirror, she saw something unusual. “I noticed a quote written in lipstick. I’ve always been a quote junkie and so it piqued my interest right away,” she notes.

The quote said “Look at the nations and watch — and be utterly amazed. For I’m going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (Habakkuk 1:5)
 
Something about the words captivated Stephanie’s heart.

Continue reading at: http://blog.godreports.com/2011/05/eat-pray-and-love-how-a-bible-verse-written-in-lipstick-and-a-trip-to-the-sistine-chapel-brought-spiritual-awakening/

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Olympic swimming champion found unconditional love in Jesus

John Naber

As an Olympic swimmer on theU.S.team, he won four gold medals and set as many world records at the 1976 games inMontreal. His relaxed demeanor in high-pressure competition set him apart from other athletes – all because of an unseen presence that profoundly altered his focus before races. 

“I like the water; I’m comfortable there,” says John Naber, sports broadcaster, author, and motivational speaker. 

His father was a management consultant who moved frequently, so in John’s first 12 years he lived in six different houses. He also spent seven years in Europe, which led to a summer tour ofOlympia,Greece, the site of the ancient competition. 

The family’s tour guide atOlympiaexplained the importance of sportsmanship in the early games and noted the ancients even built a Hall of Shame for cheaters in their events. Impressed by this, 10-year-old John turned to his mother and said, “I want to be an Olympian one day.” 

“What sport?” his mother asked, knowing he hadn’t demonstrated any hint of future greatness. 

“I have no idea,” the youngster replied. 

As a freshman atWoodsideHigh SchoolnearStanfordUniversity, Naber befriended a swimmer who won a silver medal in the Junior Olympics. Inspired by his new friend, Naber decided to join the swim team. 

“I jumped in the pool and found myself swimming laps,” he recalls. “I was cramping up but I enjoyed the process of racing the clock.” Naber didn’t win a race in his first two years of competition, but the stopwatch looked better and better with each passing month. 

By his junior year, Naber was the best swimmer on the team and he had even begun to entertain the idea of trying out for the 1972 Olympic team, but a serious setback derailed his plans. As he clowned with friends, he broke his collarbone after a springboard launched him into the side of the pool, while trying to avoid a lane rope as tight as a guitar string. 

Continue reading at: http://blog.godreports.com/2011/04/olympic-swimming-champion-found-unconditional-love-in-jesus/

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Former Dodgers pitcher measures success God’s way

He was the youngest starting pitcher in Dodgers history, which led to some difficult moments for a fresh-faced kid with high ideals who learned to measure success God’s way.

Joe with Sandy Koufax, 1966

“I was drawn to God,” says Joe Moeller, who played for the Dodgers between 1962 and 1971 and now is an advance scout for the Florida Marlins.

He felt God’s tug on the heart from his earliest days. At only 8-years-old, he snuck out of his house in Manhattan Beach on Sunday mornings to attend a small church down the street. “My parents had no idea I did that,” he says.

While his mother was a Christian Scientist, his hardworking parents slept late on Sunday mornings and showed little interest in church. “My dad didn’t believe in anything,” he says.

Young Moeller walked himself into the back row pew each Sunday but couldn’t comprehend very much of what was happening. “We had a King James Bible at home but I didn’t understand a thing in it.” Still, the Lord continued to draw his heart.

One day a local youth pastor, Jim White, pulled up to Moeller on a motorcycle. “Want a ride?” he asked. It was a divine appointment on wheels.

Moeller accepted and they sped off. After a brief spin, White pulled over and asked Joe a serious question: “Do you know who Jesus Christ is?  Moeller wasn’t sure how to respond.

“He’s the Son of God and he died for you,” White told the nine-year-old. “Do you want to accept Him?”

Continue reading at: http://blog.godreports.com/2011/03/former-dodgers-pitcher-measures-success-god%e2%80%99s-way/

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Player on NBA’s first all-Black starting team stands tall for Jesus

He was an All-American at UCLA and later won three NBA world championships with the Boston Celtics. After his illustrious sports career, he came to understand his mother’s teachings about faith in a whole new way through a fresh encounter with God. 

“My mother was an ambassador for Jesus Christ,” says Willie Naulls, the founder of Willie Naulls Ministries, a Christ-centered mission promoting a balanced awareness of academic, physical, and spiritual achievement. Naulls spent the early part of his childhood on the wrong side of the tracks in Dallas, Texas at a time when segregation still held its grip on the city. “It was very oppressive,” he recalls.

Willie Naulls

Despite the harsh racial atmosphere, his mother’s strong faith encouraged him to see his uniqueness as a child of God. “I was taught not to hate the people who hated me because of the color of my skin, but to pray for them and God would work it out.”

A work ethic that included careful preparation for any assignment and discipline in-the-task was encouraged. “She taught me that nothing is worth having unless you work for it,” he notes. “She was totally against welfare unless people couldn’t work.” As a result, seven-year-old Naulls got his first job delivering ice blocks in the days when many homes still had iceboxes rather than electric refrigerators.

He was large for his age, but his boss overestimated the boy’s strength by allowing him to haul a 50-pound block on his back. As a horrified woman watched in her kitchen, Willie’s knees buckled at an inopportune moment, which sent the ice careening across her linoleum floor. The resulting crash took out a wood burning heater in a cloud of soot. His feet never moved so fast as the panicked youngster raced home.

Naulls provides a colorful account of this incident in his book, “Levitation’s View: Lessons Voiced from an Extraordinary Journey.” 

On Saturdays, work took priority over playtime. “We had to shine our own shoes, iron our own clothes, and fold them up before we could go out to play.” It was part of the weekly ritual to prepare for the Baptist church on Sunday morning and school the following day.

When he was nine, the family moved to Los Angeles and settled in a government housing project filled with shipyard workers in San Pedro. This “re-integrated” melting pot provided emotional breathing room for Naulls to form his identity. “Within a few months, my life’s course and destiny were shifted from oppression and the influence of people not wishing me well to that of people who let me be me.”

“I know there was still racism in San Pedro, but they didn’t drive around at night looking for a nigger to lynch,” he says.

Naulls felt distanced from his father, which only got worse after the elder Naulls accused his wife of unfaithfulness during the time he was away from home serving in World War II. One night 12-year-old Naulls awakened to screams by his mother. When he raced out of his bedroom, he witnessed his father pounding his mother with both fists.

Dad saw the children’s faces, barked at them in a menacing fashion, and they retreated to their room. Later young Naulls was haunted by his inaction. “Why didn’t I give my life to protect mom from him?” he wondered. “How can I ever forgive myself? I’ll get even one of these days,” he told himself.

Alarmed neighbors called police, and Willie watched as two officers hauled his father to jail. It was the kind of scene that would leave its imprint for many years. Eventually his parents found reconciliation and forgiveness in Christ and their marriage survived.

A rising star

The first sign of his athletic ability emerged at age 11 in dodge ball. Then he became an all-city baseball pitcher for San Pedro High School. During high school, he thought football was his best sport. 

Naulls at UCLA

But a basketball scholarship to UCLA – and the influence of legendary coach John Wooden — changed his athletic path and the course of his life. “A lot of Coach Wooden’s one-liners were ones I had heard from my mother,” he notes. 

“‘It’s what you learn after you think you know it all that counts…Do your best… Compete against yourself alone…Nothing is worth having unless you work for it,” – in these maxims Naulls heard the echoes of his mother coming from the Wizard of Westwood, the much-lauded coach who eventually won 10 NCAA championships over a 12-year period.

Naulls captained his team at UCLA, became its most valuable player, and then earned an All-American selection in 1956. As his college athletic career soared, his spiritual life sputtered at low altitude.

“At UCLA, I never went to church,” he admits, even as he assumed he was a Christian because of his mother’s influence.

Continue reading at: http://blog.godreports.com/2011/04/player-on-nba%e2%80%99s-first-all-black-starting-team-stands-tall-for-jesus/#more-132

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Encounter with Jesus on the moon left astronaut changed

In the rounded gray Apennine mountains of the moon, Apollo 15 astronaut James Irwin had an encounter with God he would never forget. Irwin was the eighth man to walk on the moon and the first to ride in the Lunar Rover. Apollo 15 was a ‘J-Mission,’ which meant he and fellow astronaut David Scott spent an extended period on the lunar surface – almost three days, where they collected 170 pounds of geologic material including the famous “Genesis Rock.”

Irwin on the moon

Scientists believe the rock dates back to the time the original lunar crust was formed, which they estimate at 4.5 billion years. “It was remarkable,” Irwin commented later. “It was sitting on a pedestal rock almost free from dust. It seemed to be saying, ‘Here I am, take me.’”

Irwin and Scott worked for an extended period with little rest prior to their liftoff. “Apparently, when Jim was suiting up his water tube kinked so he wasn’t able to get any water,” recalls Mary Irwin, his wife.

Outside their spacesuits, the temperature on the lunar surface was 150 degrees. “He perspired like crazy,” Mary says. “He was losing his electrolyte balance. An imbalance of sodium and potassium can trigger a heart attack,” she notes.

While Irwin did not suffer a heart attack, flight surgeons on earth who monitored the men were alarmed when they saw both astronauts develop irregular heart rhythms.

Irwin’s situation was more severe, with abnormal heartbeats every other beat. Neither man was told about their condition by Mission Control. Flight surgeons reasoned they were already getting 100 percent oxygen, they had continuous monitoring of their vital signs, and they were at zero gravity – conditions that partially replicated or even exceeded an ICU unit back on earth.

NASA also had concerns about wider dissemination of this sensitive health information. “If doctors said something and it was on the loop, who knows who would have leaked that to the press,” Mary notes. “They didn’t need that kind of situation terrifying people.”

As Irwin moved about the lunar surface, apparently unaware of his precarious health situation, he was struck by the size of the earth – about the size of his thumbnail.

“I was just amazed to see the earth,” he said. “It reminded me of a Christmas tree ornament – a very fragile one, hanging majestically in space. It was very touching to see earth from that perspective.”

At one point, Irwin had trouble with a planned experiment. “He was erecting an experiment that wouldn’t erect, due to a cotter pin or something of that nature,” Mary recalls.

Frustrated in his attempts to get the experiment to work, Irwin decided he would pray.

Continue reading at: http://blog.godreports.com/2011/03/encounter-with-jesus-on-the-moon-left-astronaut-changed/

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Louis Zamperini: How he came to Christ through Billy Graham in L.A.

He ran for his country in the Berlin Olympics of 1936. During WWII, his B-24 crashed in the Pacific and he barely survived 47 days adrift on a raft. Picked up by the Japanese, he spent the remainder of the war in a P.O.W camp, where he endured horrible abuse at the hands of a prison guard nicknamed “The Bird.”

                          Zamperini passport photo

After the war, he met and married the girl of his dreams, but post-traumatic stress disorder threatened to destroy his marriage. All the while, he dreamed of a return to Japan to hunt down and kill the former guard who tormented him.

“I had nightmares every night,” says Louis Zamperini, the subject of Laura Hillenbrand’s bestselling book “Unbroken.” The nightmares followed Zamperini home like a crazed hound from hell. “No one knew about it, because I looked perfectly normal,” he says. “I covered it up by drinking.”

His wife Cynthia suspected something was terribly wrong, because Zamperini often woke up in a cold sweat, shouting. One night he dreamed he was strangling The Bird. In fact, he was on top of his pregnant wife with his hands around her neck, choking the life out of her. “I woke up and couldn’t believe it,” he says.

         ‘Unbroken’ bookcover

His life spiraled downward as he began to chase other women at local bars, where he and his Olympic buddies often got free drinks. “I began to fall apart,” Zamperini recalls. “My wife decided she wanted a divorce.”

About that time, a new couple in their apartment building talked about a young evangelist preaching in a large tent in downtown Los Angeles. “In those days ‘evangelist’ was a dirty word because there were so many crooked ones,” Zamperini notes.

The young evangelist was Billy Graham, the object of William Randolph Hearst’s famous order to his news editors — “Puff Graham” – that led to 10,000 people jamming the tent each night. Cynthia went with the couple to hear Graham, but Louis refused to go. When Cynthia returned home after the event, Louis immediately noticed something was different.

Continue reading at: http://blog.godreports.com/2011/03/louis-zamperini-how-he-came-to-christ-through-billy-graham-in-l-a/#more-31

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Miracles in escape from communist Romania confirmed faith in God

He grew up in a Christian family during Ceaucescu’s communist regime. As his schoolteacherstried to brainwash him with their atheistic philosophy, he wondered about God’s existence. But during a daring escape attempt when he was only a teenager, God revealed Himself in powerful ways.

“We listened illegally to Radio Free Europe,” says Aurel Antimie, a 49-year-old building contractor with a sturdy build and graying hair. “My dad listened to the radio secretly with pillows in the windows so no neighbors could detect us and report us to the authorities,” he says.

Antimie before his escape

Aurel experienced some tensions in the school system because he came from a Christian family. “Teachers would make me stand up in class and mock me,” he recalls. “We were taught that there is no God, and that man is his own god,” he says. “They washed the brains of people – telling them there is no Creator.”

At 16, he began to question the faith of his family. He wondered who was right, his parents or his schoolteachers. “I said, ‘God, if you are somewhere and you still reveal your identity to people, I need to know you are there.’”

During the next two years leading up to his 18th birthday, Aurel began to dream about escaping Romania. President Ceaucescu had launched his own version of the Cultural Revolution inspired by trips to China, North Korea, and North Vietnam. More and more, he used neo-Stalinist tactics to influence the direction of Romanian society.  Aurel and his family watched the deterioration of their beloved country at the hands of the heavy-handed regime.

Even as a teenager, Aurel’s heart began to yearn for freedom, and he plotted his escape.

His first challenge is that he lived on the east side of his country, near the border with the former Soviet Union. He would have to cross 600 miles to get close to the western border with Yugoslavia. His first thought was to attempt to cross the river Dunube (Danube in Germany), which straddles the border with Yugoslavia. The river is often a mile wide in many places as it flows toward the Black Sea.

“My original plan was to cross the river, but I didn’t swim very well. There are a lot of soldiers with boats and they have sensors to detect additional noise. You can be detected very quickly,” he notes.

Once spotted, a swimmer is no match for a motorboat. “They come after you very quickly and in most cases they will spike you in the water. Then you drift downstream and they have a screening point where they collect all the bodies.”

Continue Reading at: http://blog.godreports.com/2011/03/miracles-in-escape-from-communist-romania-confirmed-faith-in-god/

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