Seafarers Ministry reaches people from around the world with the gospel, no passport required.


Jeff Johnson grips a rope rail and walks up the gangplank of Balsa 89, a cargo ship docked for the day in Port Canaveral, Florida. Seven thousand tons of road salt is being conveyed from the ship’s hold to a tall mound on dry ground. Johnson looks up, and the crew waves from the deck. After many days at sea, they are anxious to greet this guest from terra firma. Once inside the galley, Johnson unzips his backpack and begins to stack phone cards and magazines along with Bibles, evangelistic tracts, and In Touch Messengers on the table.
Mark and Jeanie Wodka in front of the ministry building.

Johnson is a Seafarers chaplain, serving with one of the more than 30 unaffiliated Seafarer ministries in ports across the United States. These ministers offer physical and spiritual support to cruise and cargo ship personnel as they dock and come ashore to shop, reconnect with the world outside, and rest. Today is Johnson’s first contact with Balsa 89’s new crew, which is composed of 19 men from the Philippines. The captain takes an immediate interest in the Messengers. Johnson explains that these devices have an audio New Testament and biblical lessons in Tagalog, the most widely spoken language in the Philippines. The captain is pleased. “When you hear it,” he says, “you can memorize easy.”

A crew member uses one of the many private carrels to phone family back home.

The ship’s chief officer eyes the items Johnson has placed on the table and asks, “Do you have a Tagalog Bible?” Johnson discovers that this man has been reading an English-language King James Version, but as much as he enjoys it, he’s been missing some of the richer meanings of the text. In fact, he prayed for a translation in his language just that morning. A smile breaks across the officer’s face as Johnson hands over a paperback copy of Scripture in Tagalog. Then the officer gathers up a handful of Messengers and goes to share them with the crew.


When he leaves, Johnson shuttles several crew members—now in shorts and sandals—to the Space Coast Seafarers Ministry, a spacious single-story building about a mile from the docks. Port Canaveral is the second-busiest seaport in the United States, and this Space Coast location sees a steady stream of visitors. The vans outside—with makeshift gold crosses affixed to the front grill—are a welcome sight to weary ocean travelers. Last year, volunteer drivers shuttled 35,000 of them from the port. The Seafarers also provide hot food, computers and Wi-Fi, and a ride into town for shopping. Sundays keep them the busiest, with about 200 people entering the doors. “It’s a complete ministry,” says Johnson. “We don’t charge them anything.”

Balsa 89 crewmen relax on the bridge.


People from over 80 countries are greeted by a team of domestic missionaries, mostly volunteers, who are honored to serve Christ by welcoming the stranger. And when these visitors from many far-flung places return to Port Canaveral, they are strangers no more. “We really want to work one-on-one,” says Johnson, “so we can build a relationship that goes past sharing the gospel and having somebody get saved. We want to disciple as well.”


When the crew of a cargo ship or a cruise liner enters the door of the Seafarers ministry, Jeanie Wodka is there to greet them warmly. She takes the guests on a tour of the facility and listens as they describe their life back home and the languages they speak. Visitors are all led to one of many bookshelves along the walls where they can find Bibles and resources in their heart language.

Daily life for those aboard these ships is an experience of being away from the things they know and the people they love. Jeanie and her husband Mark—the director of the Space Coast Seafarers—can relate: They chose ministry as their life’s work, at one point moving with two small sons to Indonesia, where they shared the gospel with new friends and neighbors.

Jeanie Wodka shows a first-time visitor the day’s shuttle schedule.


In fact, every member of the Seafarers’ team can relate to that sense of loss and unmooring. By using their experiences—uncertainty in a foreign land, hardship in the loss of a job, or loneliness—these believers are able to connect with all who visit. They know that working aboard the ships can be a challenge—endless days at sea, unforgiving contracts, and a life below deck that is fraught with temptation. Promiscuity and substance abuse begin to look like normal behavior, presenting a challenge for even a mature believer. Johnson learned this from someone who experienced it first-hand: A young man who went to sea as a missionary on a cruise line found the environment so oppressive that he barely got through his six-month contract.

Jeff Johnson shares the gospel with visitors.

But the Seafarers also get to witness the wonderful encouragement God brings to the crews through their ministry. Like the musical entertainer who leads a Bible study on his ship and renews himself with visits to his friends at the Seafarers. Or the ship’s cook who is up early every morning, listening to his Messenger. He uses the teaching to help him lead a gathering of believers and unbelievers alike. And recently, from within this group, a Hindu man trusted Christ as Savior.

After the most recent crop of visitors has had a chance to visit the library and check in with relatives back home, Johnson steps to a microphone. “We’re going to go shopping in 29 minutes,” he says, as heads look up from cellphone and computer screens, “but I want to ask you about God, all right?” One man from India tugs at an ear bud, letting it fall limply away as he tries to catch every word. Johnson shares a brief explanation of the gospel and concludes by saying, “Any of us would be happy to talk with you. If you have problems or you’ve got a question, come to us.”

In this sanctuary of gentleness and hospitality, the love of Christ is on display. Each day, staff members and volunteers come prayerfully, following the opportunities God gives them. And when a Christian crew member reports that there isn’t a Bible study on his or her ship, Johnson says, “Here’s the deal: I’m not the Holy Spirit, but ask God to raise up a leader and see what He does.” Inevitably that person will come back, saying that God is leading them to start a group. And Johnson will lean in close, “Tell me what you need. I’m here for you.”


Photography by Stephanie Brunner


Judge torpedoes ban on counseling against same-sex feelings

City tried to dictate speech of licensed therapists

A federal judge has torpedoed the city of Tampa’s attempt to block licensed counselors from helping patients overcome unwanted same-sex attractions.

Similar laws have been defeated in other jurisdictions.

In Tampa, U.S. District Judge William Jung granted summary judgment to Liberty Counsel in its lawsuit against Tampa’s ordinance prohibiting “licensed counselors from providing voluntary talk therapy to minors seeking help to reduce or eliminate their unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity.”

The ruling, which permanently strikes the ordinance, was based on the fact that cities don’t have the authority to regulate health care.

“According to the city, the ordinance regulates medical professionals and ‘part of the practice of medicine’ within the city limits,” the judge said. “The city is unaware of any child every receiving proscribed SOCE [sexual orientation change effort] in the city. The city has never before substantively regulated and disciplined the practice of medicine, psychotherapy, or mental health treatment with city limits. Nor does the city possess charter or home rule authority to do so.”

The ordinance, the judge said, “is preempted by the comprehensive Florida regulatory scheme for healthcare regulation and discipline.”

Liberty Counsel defended marriage and family therapist Robert Vazzo and his minor clients, as well as New Hearts Outreach Tampa Bay.

The judge also noted: “Nothing is more intimate, more private, and more sensitive, than a growing young man or woman talking to a mental health therapist about sex, gender, preferences, and conflicting feelings. The ordinance inserts the city’s code enforcers into the middle of this sensitive, intense and private moment. But this moment is already governed by Florida’s very broad rights of privacy, something the ordinance ignores. … The Florida Constitution’s privacy amendment suggests that government should stay out of the therapy room. The Tampa Ordinance does not address this constitutional issue, and in doing so the city attempts to occupy a very private space, contrary to a strong statewide policy.”

The judge also pointed out the city’s move “eliminates” a “longstanding parental right without discussion or exception.”

Liberty Counsel chief Mat Staver called it a great victory for counselors and clients.

“The city of Tampa has no authority to prohibit counselors from helping their clients achieve their goals,” he said. “Regulating healthcare is above the pay grade of local municipalities. While striking down the ordinance, the court shredded the arguments used to justify these unconstitutional counseling bans. This ruling dooms every municipality in Florida and is the beginning of the end of more than 50 similar local laws around the country. This ruling also shows clearly why the other statewide laws will meet the same fate as Tampa. The First Amendment will wipe away every one of these speech-restrictive laws.”

A magistrate judge, ruling the city’s ban likely violated the First Amendment, recommended to the district court that the ordinance be killed.

Original here

It Is Scientifically Proven that Media Affects You

Word Hid In psalm-119-11

I’ve been writing about the Christian approach to pop culture and entertainment for close to two years now.During that time, I have several times had people claim, either in comments on my writing or in personal discussions, that certain kinds of trash in media, whether it be nudity, profanity, or worldview issues “don’t affect” them.  I find it interesting that people claim that.  Because scientific studies – secular scientific studies, no less – prove that they do.  Allow me to explain.

Social scientists have been studying media affects for several years.  Studies like this became popular as early as the 1920s, when many people, especially parents, were worried about the effects that gangster movies might be having on their children.  There were some errors in the assumptions of some of these early studies, but they paved the way for some truly remarkable studies carried out by a social scientist by the name of Dr. Gerbner.  Dr. Gerbner was originally focused on finding out if violent depictions in television had any impact on people’s behavior (it does, by the way, although not to the radical degree that some claim).  Later, however, he developed a theory that shows unequivocally that entertainment shapes our worldview—media cultivation theory.

A lot of Dr. Gerbner’s research involved children.  These studies did not.  Instead, when studying media cultivation, he studied adults.  What he found was that heavy viewers of television described reality is being very close to the world that is depicted on television.  Light viewers, on the other hand, did not.  This is exactly why Dr. Gerbner said that media “bends, blurs, and blends” our perception of reality, especially because television is not real life.  People aren’t dying for sex three times a day.  Not everyone sleeps around with strangers.  Everyone doesn’t swear one hundred times in two hours.   But because this is what we’re seeing on television, and because it shapes our worldview, then all of a sudden those activities, and especially ones that we might say “aren’t so bad” seem completely acceptable and even good.  This is why Dr. Gerbner said that whoever controls the stories of a culture, controls that culture.

And this isn’t the only study done on media effects that reveals worldview-shaping properties.  Dr. Susan Sarapin, who was once a professor at Purdue University, did a study that revealed that people who watch violent cop dramas such as CSI and Cold Case believed in greater amounts of crime in the real world, especially when compared with people who did not watch those programs.

Even more troubling is the fact that media doesn’t only affect worldview; it affects behavior.  Think I’m wrong?  Then how do you explain the study done in 2008, when researchers found a correlation between time spent viewing sex on TV and pregnancy before age 20?  Or the fact found in NurtureShock (one of the most influential books about parenting ever written, was on the New York Times Bestseller List for six months) that more television watching among kids led to more insults and bullying?  What about Dr. Leonard Berkowitz, who found that violent media makes individuals more likely to respond to frustrating situations in an aggressive manner?

I’ve been saying this for a long time, and yet nobody seems to listen or pay attention.  You cannot keep on saying that media doesn’t affect you because, to be frank, it’s a lie.  The opposite claim, however, that media affects us so deeply that we ought to be very cautious with what we set before our eyes, is not only Biblically sound, but scientifically defensible.


Follow me on Twitter

Original here

Safe, Secured, Loved

Oct 5, 2019

In the measure of mess seen in the world, uncertainty has a way of tossing one about.  As waves lifting the vessel to scary heights only to crash back down again are the problems many faces daily.  Circumstances that provoke fear instead of inspiring faith.

The catch all of it is whatever side one spends the most thought in, it has the strongest hold on that life.  If it is one faith, then with one foot in front of the other one will march forward into depths unknown without regard to the thrashing swells of the sea. But if it is in fear, the move forward becomes halted.  Continuing to sail to the other side no longer seems a viable option, thus one cries out as the disciples did, “Master, carest thou not that we perish,” (Mark 4:38)?

Of course, He cares.  He loves you.  You are His and He is riding in the boat of life with you.  He has never abandoned you.  He has never forsaken you.  People are the ones who have allowed the fear and uncertainty around to obscure their view of the Savior.

Refocus on Him.  Imagine His protection covering you as the most indomitable shield.  Thus He is at the helm of your life, speaking, “Peace, be still,” (Mark 4:39).  What comfort that brings to the tossed soul knowing He still has it all in His hands.

So, “Why are ye so fearful,” (Mark 4:40)?

Fearfulness comes from lack of belief.  The storms want us to see things through the lens of the ferocious wind-tossed seas, but Jesus wants us to see them as being subdued already under His dominion and authority.  He wants His people to believe more in the promises of His word than the fearsomeness of the waves.

In Him we are safe, secured, and loved.  Therefore, as the psalmist reminds us:

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.

Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident,” (Psalm 27:1-3).

In other words, we are safe in Him!

In a baseball game, safe means one has arrived at the base untouched and unhindered.  I can’t promise you that life will never touch you in an attempt to knock you out of the running.  But, riding with Jesus you can still arrive safe.

“Safe, Secured, and Loved!”

Talk to Your Father

Tim Sisarich looking at city

by Tim Sisarich

I must admit that I’m easily distracted. Particularly when I’m struggling with a problem that I don’t want to talk about with anyone – even though I should.  But I recently pushed past the distractions and sent out an email to a bunch of friends, letting them know that I was going through an especially rough time … and still am, to be honest.

I essentially told them that there was nothing going on in my life worth sharing. What surprised me the most was that almost every single one of them came back and said that they, too, were going through the same sorts of struggles.

While it did make me feel relieved that I wasn’t alone, I was also pretty frustrated. Why do we insist on pretending that life is OK when it just isn’t?

Why can’t we be honest enough to tell our buddies that we can’t do what they’re doing because the credit card is maxed out, or that the bank just rejected our mortgage extension again? And why do we struggle to tell our kids that we’re just not coping well right now?

It’s as if we are too scared to share our struggles because talking about them out loud would somehow make them worse. Or maybe it’s because others will see us as failures.

And it’s often the same thing in our relationship with God. We don’t take things to Him in prayer because we feel we have to keep going – through our own strength – rather than admitting to Him that we’ve grown weak and weary.

Yet Jesus told us that we should make our requests and prayers known to our Father in Heaven. Christ reminded us that His Spirit is with us, that He comforts us and that He takes our burdens from us.

The closing prayer from week six of The Family Project Devotional speaks to my heart because it is such an honest plea:

Father, You have told us to be anxious for nothing … Help us always to come before You – when we are alone, when we are with friends or family, and when we are in a great congregation – so that we truly learn to pray without ceasing.

And to that I say, ‘Amen!’

Learn more about God’s irreplaceable design in The Family Project® – a 12-session DVD curriculum that explores why God’s plan for families matters today. Take your small group on a life-changing journey to strengthen and encourage families! Get The Family Project® curriculum today.

Tim Sisarich is a storyteller, presenter and author. He directed Focus on the Family’s documentary film, Irreplaceable, and is the host of The Family Project®.


Original here

The Good Neighbor

Gershon knew he was called to share Jesus with the people of Galilee, and God showed him how.



He’s not a secret agent, yet there’s something agent-like about him. American by birth and using the alias Gershon, he lives embedded in the field, a key contact for short-term mission teams to Israel. Gershon keeps a home with his family in Galilee, in a nondescript maze of neighborhoods. And there, in a chamber of the cinder block basement beneath the living room, are Bibles, Scripture booklets, and gospel tracts in 30 languages, all stacked tightly on shelves.

At one time Gershon and his wife, an Israeli believer in Yeshua, wondered how to take the gospel to half a million people in their region of Galilee. They were new missionaries and, by their own admission, “stumbling along, trying to figure out what we were supposed to be doing.” Though prayerful, busy, and even on the lookout for opportunities outside the norm, they were continually distracted from their projects by visiting mission teams in need of resources and local know-how.

Then they realized something: God was sending these teams. And what better way to reach a multitude than with a dedicated legion of volunteers? So for a decade now, Gershon has collected missional resources and developed itineraries for as many as 48 visiting groups a year, from all over the world. He tells them, “You’re not here to help me; I’m here to help you. This is your outreach, but here’s my suggestion on how you can use your time.”

One project targets the 120 communities in the Jezreel Valley—an area about the size of Atlanta, Georgia. Workers have canvassed a third of the homes with prayers and literature, knowing that a seed sown by one team can be reaped by another the next week, or in years to come.

Gershon is excited that more Jewish people are coming to Christ. Though the total is still less than 0.5 percent, he has seen the number go from about 3,500 to 10,000 believers.

One section of his literature room is packed with boxes of In Touch Messengers, devices containing the Bible and select Dr. Stanley messages. Gershon is stocked with the most requested languages—Arabic, Hebrew, and Russian—along with plenty in Bengali, Nepali, and Hindi for these growing populations. People are thrilled to receive them, he says. “They never imagined there is such a thing,”

Like a good agent, Gershon stays ready—he maintains a low profile, knows where everyone’s headed, and keeps on hand what they need most.


Photograph by Ben Rollins

The In Touch Messenger is an indispensable tool in reaching the lost for Christ in places like Israel. Through your partnership, the good news of Jesus Christ is going where it’s needed most, helping missionaries like Gershon spread the gospel quickly, clearly, and irresistibly.

VIDEO Forgiveness In Action brother embraces killer ex-cop at sentencing

colossians 2 13 14 cross forgive

by Ebony Bowden and Jackie Salo October 2, 2019


In an incredible act of compassion, the brother of the black man murdered by white Dallas cop Amber Guyger hugged her and offered her forgiveness Wednesday as she was sentenced to 10 years behind bars.

Victim Botham Jean’s brother, Brandt Jean, was reading a victim-impact statement in the Texas courtroom when he broke off and asked the judge if he could hug Guyger.

“I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug, please? Please?” Jean asked Judge Tammy Kemp.

The jurist said yes, and Brandt got off the stand and walked toward Guyger at the defense table. She leaped up from her seat and ran to hug him.

They clutched each other in an embrace that lasted for more than a minute — with Guyger loudly sobbing into Jean’s shoulder.

At one point Kemp also embraced Guyger and gave her a Bible.

The 31-year-old former cop had just been sentenced to a decade in prison for fatally shooting Botham Jean, 26, after she entered his apartment, mistaking it for her own one floor below.

Enlarge ImageBrandt Jean (left) hugs Amber Guyger at her sentencing
Brandt Jean (left) hugs Amber Guyger at her sentencing Pool

She was allegedly distracted while sexting her cop boyfriend when she made the fatal mistake as she returned home after work.

Botham was eating a bowl of ice cream in his apartment, which was unlocked, when Guyger shot him, thinking he was an intruder at her place.

Her lawyers said the killing was just a tragic error. Prosecutors said she should have called for back-up before shooting anyone — and suggested she had a racist past.

Either way, her victim’s brother said in court that he didn’t think she should do any time.

“I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you because I know that’s exactly what Botham would do,” he said.

Guyger had faced a sentence of five to 99 years on the murder rap. Before her guilty verdict was rendered by a jury Tuesday, she elected for the panel also to decide her sentence.

Prosecutors asked for no less than a 28-year sentence in honor of Botham, who would have turned 28 last month.

In pushing for a stiff sentence, the prosecution brought up text messages that had sent before the slaying Sept. 6, 2018.

Enlarge Image
Brandt JeanPool

In some of the texts, the then-cop joked about Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination while working security at a parade in his honor last year.

Her friend texted her, “When does this end lol.’’

Guyger responded, “When MLK is dead. . . oh wait . . .”

The messages were deleted but later retrieved by authorities.

After her guilty verdict was announced in court Tuesday, shouts of “Black lives matter!’’ erupted in the street outside.

During her time on the stand, Guyger said she wished Botham “had the gun and killed me.’’

The jury convicted her after deliberating for just five hours.

After the verdict, Guyger remained standing until the jurors filed out of court. Then she collapsed back in her seat and stayed there for about 15 minutes before guards led her away.

She is not eligible for parole.

Amber Guyger Hugged By Victim’s Brother In Emotional Court Moment | TODAY

sinner saint past future