The 700 Club/Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Influencing Culture with Amazing Faith

Marco Grob for TIME

Pastor Wilfredo De Jesus (or “Pastor Choco” as he is affectionately called by his congregation from a childhood nickname based on his love of sweets and chocolate) has the honor of being named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People for 2013. In April, the magazine also featured him on a cover story about the new Latin churches transforming religion in America. Pastor Choco is the senior pastor of New Life Covenant Church in Chicago.  It is one of the fastest growing churches in the city.  He was elected to the position in July 2000 when his father-in-law retired.  At that time, the church had 68 weekly attendees.   Today, (13 years later) New Life Covenant Church has 4,000 local members and 14,000 globally via church plants with 135 international ministries reaching the most destitute – the homeless, prostitutes, drug addicts, gang members, etc.

Pastor Choco has witnessed and experienced in his own life that no person is too lost, too evil, too wounded, or too hopeless for God’s love to transform them.  He was one of six children raised by a single mother in an area of Chicago that showed little promise.  His life changed at age 14 when he applied for a job cleaning streets through a city program aimed at helping the youth in the city.   Instead of street cleaning, he was assigned to a little church working with the youth who loved the Lord.  Pastor Choco soon accepted Jesus himself and has stayed with the church ever since.

“Each of us has a past, but we don’t have to be defined by our past anymore,” Pastor Choco says.  The forgiveness Christ offers transforms us, and we no longer have to let the past dictate our future.  Amazing faith gives us insight and courage to give away things that seem so important to the majority of people (possessions, positions, power, etc…) but ultimately, these things don’t matter at all.  God fills our hearts with His love, strength, and purpose and we become complete.  A life of faith isn’t easy, and it requires everything we have.  God gives us blessings far more valuable than any wealth that can be obtained if we put ourselves in God’s hands without reservation.  Pastor Choco hopes people will believe big, dream big, and represent the King of kings with boldness and joy.

Going deeper in God and giving it your best are two important areas to live a life with amazing faith.  To go deeper in God, don’t settle for shallow things and don’t give up.  Every difficulty, every form of opposition and every doubt is a test to see if we’ll quit or grab God’s hand and take the next step forward.  Again, don’t let past failures determine your destiny and accept Christ’s forgiveness.  Dive in and answer Christ’s call to fish for people.

To give it your best, give it all.  Develop a habit of being at Jesus’ feet.  Don’t wait.  When you live this kind of life you can expect criticism.  With this, delight in the love of the Lord, or enjoy Jesus’ smile.  Remember the cost that Jesus paid for us.


Biggest Loser Winner Danny Cahill on ‘Losing Big’

By Chris Carpenter
CBN.com Program Director 

CBN.com – Season eight winner of The Biggest Loser, Danny Cahill, had grown to hate himself.  An aspiring musician, Danny had gone from weighing 175 pounds and opening for Donny Osmond to tipping the scales at 460 pounds with a 69-inch waist.

His downfall into morbid obesity had been gradual.  A music career that slipped away, a troubled marriage, a gambling addiction that nearly overtook him, and the foreboding sense that his best days were behind him drove him to find refuge in food.

When he was at his lowest point his wife convinced him to try out for The Biggest Loser.  Danny’s decision to actually follow through and try out for the show changed his life physically but more importantly fostered a new sense of spiritual hunger within him.

I recently sat down with Danny to discuss his new book, Losing Big: The Incredible Untold Story of Danny and Darci Cahill, advice on how to lose weight, and what he has gained from his greatest loss.

Please take a moment and tell me about your background. What were you doing before The Biggest Loser, and how did you get to the place where you wanted to be on that show?

One day, I’m sitting on the couch and I weigh 460 pounds.  It’s hard to believe but I had a 69-inch waist.  I was feeling like a failure in every sense of the word, not only to my wife but to my kids.  I’m sitting there, 460 pounds, and my seven-year-old daughter walks in.  She says that I’m her hero and that she wants to be just like me.  I thought, “Wow!” Every father loves to hear that.  Then she says, “I want a belly like yours.” This is a seven-year-old daughter that you don’t want to follow in your footsteps, you know?  And here I am with a 69-inch waist, and she’s saying she wants a belly like mine.  It freaked me out.  That’s when I decided something needed to change.

I understand that you lost 239 pounds in six months during your time on The Biggest Loser.  That’s a great deal of weight in a short amount of time.  What does a typical day look like for a typical Biggest Loser contestant?

The first day kind of freaked me out because sixteen of us got on a bus and we’re headed to the ranch (facility where show is taped). We stop and turn into this beach. There’s policemen pulling us over, and I thought, “What, did we get a ticket or something?” No, this is the first challenge right off the bat. So, they line us up on the sand of Malibu Beach, and they said, “You’re going to run a mile. But the year before, the final four had run a marathon, and this was the last mile of the marathon, and you’re going to run one mile today.” And I’m thinking, “I’m 430 pounds, I haven’t done any workouts,” and I’m going, “I’m going to run a mile? There’s no way.” In fact, we were all worried to death, because one of the other contestants had collapsed on the beach. She ended up in the hospital, and another person collapsed at the end, blood sugar went low, and he ended up in the hospital. It was really sobering because we realized how sick we were. And you just don’t go through life with your stuff, whether it’s weight, whether it’s ruined relationships, or whether it’s your finances, or whether it’s your family dynamics, whatever the stuff is that you deal with. And it’s kind of like what you do every day becomes your normal. So, being 430 was my normal.  And being sick was my normal.

I thought that this was not normal. We could die. And so, we went to the ranch. After the first workout, I wrote a letter to my wife that said, “If I would have known it would have been this hard, I wouldn’t have tried out.” And I had meant it with every ounce of my heart, even if God said, “You’re going to do this.” I would have said, “No, I’m not.” Because it was that hard.

If you could pick one significant moment that you think fueled your weight loss turnaround, what do you think it would be?

The thing that flipped the switch for me was my daughter telling me that she wanted a fat belly like mine. That aside, I would have to say that it was my faith. It was the first time I stood up in faith for what God had told me to do, and for some reason it was just different. When I thought that it was time to do this, it was just time to stand up in faith.

It was one of those things where I knew what I knew and I wasn’t going to hear any different. In fact, when people would discourage me from trying out for the show and tell me negative things, I would stop answering their phone calls. I didn’t want anything or anyone telling me I wasn’t going to do this. I was going to speak out of my mouth that I was on the show, and I think what fueled this whole thing was because of Genesis 50:20:

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (NLT)

It was the cause. It was that day I got that scripture and I knew that it wasn’t just for me, that it would affect mine and my family’s and my wife’s life. It was going to save our family, but it was going to be for so many more people.

Since the show, we’ve been blessed to be able to go to other countries and do missions, and I’ve been able to speak at 200 events around the country to churches, to businesses, to organizations, to kids, to schools and just share that message that all hope is not lost. Because when you’re 430 pounds or when your hair is falling out, hope seems to be a very dim light.  People need hear that God is bigger than our problems.

What advice can you give to a person who, based on bad decisions they have made, have let their lives fall into a place where they’re tremendously overweight. What kind of advice can you give to folks to change that mindset?

People have to have faith that every step counts. That every step, no matter how small it is, counts. Every journey starts with one step and that step counts. Okay, so the first pound you lose, if you’re 460 pounds, counts. The first dollar you pay off when you’re $62,000 in debt, it matters.  The problem is when those problems are so big that it seems like it doesn’t matter. The biggest word of advice I can give is to lose your “quit.” That’s my mantra. I wear a wristband that says, “Lose Your Quit.”  You’ve got to know that what you’re doing matters in the end, and you’ve got to see where you’re headed and quit seeing where you are, and where God wants you is where you need to go and just lose your quit.

Why do you think people put things off for so long? They live a life of misery before they finally make that decision to put things into God’s hands and say, “Not me, it’s yours”?

What you do every day becomes your normal, and normal is what you do. So, slowly I went from running three miles a day and being a musician and having all these hopes and dreams. It wasn’t an overnight thing. It was a slow process giving all that up and building up to 460 pounds and by the time I turned around it seemed like, “Bam! What happened?” But it happened over a long period of time in my normal, and I think people just get in that rut which is a grave with the ends kicked out. And they just seem like they just can’t get out, because it becomes their normal. So, you’ve got to see differently. You’ve got to speak differently. When you’re sick you’ve got to say, “I’m well.” When you’re in debt you’ve got to say, “I’m out of debt,” because you have to speak it and see it and believe it before it ever starts happening.

Final question for you. What have you gained through your great loss?

I think the biggest thing I’ve gained is a great purpose. Everyone has the faith, you know, faith is believing in the things not seen, but I’ve actually got the knowledge now that all things are possible through Jesus Christ who strengthens me. It’s not a faith thing for me anymore, because it’s a belief. It’s just a belief.  I don’t have to lean on faith in that because I’ve watched it happen with my own eyes for six straight months losing 239 pounds, and I did it because Jesus went with me to the ranch.  And Jesus went home with me after the ranch and Jesus is with me now, that’s why. Do you know that one of the final things in my book is about another one of the ‘biggest losers’ that was on the show with me finding Jesus Christ?  If God used me for only that purpose it was well worth it.  Not because I preached it to her, but because I lived it to her.



God in the Graffiti

By Mary Ruth Goochee and Chris Woodland
The 700 Club

Kristy Burchard

CBN.com – This graffiti artist/break dancer talks about how she got into a bad relationship, got pregnant, and then found redemption in Jesus Christ and a new lease on life.

“My name’s Kristy. I draw. I dance. I break dance. I do illustration and murals. My company is Formulated Lines and I love doing it.

“I love various types of dancing, but definitely break dancing is the most passionate. What drew me to break dancing was the fact that there were no girls I knew that did it. I had a brother growing up, and everything he could do, I could do too.

“I just got into the whole New York culture, and from doing that, I met a lot of other friends that were from up North. A lot of my friends that I became really close with were African American.

“Yeah, I looked different and, yeah, everything else about me is different, but that is who I am, because I love all this stuff, all this hip-hop.

I grew up in church my whole life. When I was probably around 16, you start to be a teenager and, ‘Oh, I know everything.’ That’s where God kind of started fading away. I prayed, I still knew He was there, but I’m like, ‘OK, I’m going to do what I think is fun.’

“I was with somebody for four years and we split up, and it was just a horrible relationship. But I prayed and prayed to get out of it. And when everything happened, when I got pregnant and messed up in the worst way and lost everything that I had, I couldn’t dance, I couldn’t do anything. I lost my respect. I really got to the point where I gave myself to God when that relationship ended when I was 22, because it was such a bad relationship. And it was like one of those ones you’re sucked in, yet you can’t let go of yourself. And from God’s power, getting me out of that made me realize how strong God was, because He was the only one that could get me out of that.

“From that point on, I just was just focused on God and it was great.

“I got to the point where I’m like, ‘Man, I have to do something with my life.’ A few of my friends, they drew graffiti, and that’s actually what started me wanting to do graffiti. And then the colleges were coming and they were telling us, ‘You can go to art college.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, I draw. That’s easy.’ That really brought a big direction in my life to go that way.

“From that, God’s helped me get work and build my own business and do a totally different direction I never thought I would want to do. But now that I’m here, I thank God that that’s the way it went. He brought me in the direction He knew I really needed and He knew I really wanted. I appreciated the fact that God has never left me. After everything I’ve been through and every bad thing I’ve done, knowing that I’ve known the right way and I didn’t choose it sometimes, the fact that He’s never left me and I can come to Him and ask for forgiveness and He’s right there.”



The Agostos: A Marriage Revival

By Kara Lavengood
The 700 Club

Rafael Agosto

CBN.com – “I wanted somebody that would understand me. I wanted someone that when I said to them what I had gone through that I could have that shoulder to lean on as opposed to being judged.”

Linda had just moved from New York to live with family members in Florida when she found that person. At her new school, she met Rafael.

He recalls, “When I got to school that day, I saw a group of friends of mine, and I saw this new girl standing there. I said, ‘Wow!  That’s a new girl.  She’s beautiful.’ So I walked up to the crowd and introduced myself.”

Linda says, “As soon as I looked at him, I said, ‘Wow.’ I liked him at first sight.”

Linda and Rafael felt an instant connection and started spending time together.

“It was just a lot of talking at first. We fell in love that way,” Linda says. “Me pretty much airing out all my feelings, all my frustrations and him doing the same thing having gone through the life that he lived.”

Rafael was coping with the loss of his mother. She was a drug addict and  died from AIDS when he was 13. Linda had her own problems.

“I looked to alcohol as a refuge due to everything that happened in my childhood with my father drinking and the domestic violence that was in the home,” she says. “I was sexually abused at an early age.”

But their troubles were just beginning.  Linda was only 16 and Rafael was15 when she became pregnant.

Rafael says, “There were people that were telling me, ‘You guys are too young to have a baby. Get rid of it.’ ‘Don’t worry about her. Women have raised kids by themselves before.’ You know, ‘don’t throw your future away.’  But I was set on it.  I was like, ‘I don’t care what it takes. I’m gonna stay with Linda, and I’m gonna raise this baby. We’re gonna have a family.’”

Rafael and Linda moved back to New York to live with Linda’s family.  After the baby was born, the young couple realized they weren’t ready to settle down.

“We would still go to the clubs,” Linda confesses. “We would still go to the bars. So that life didn’t change.  It was like now I had somebody to join me at the clubs. I wasn’t drinking by myself.  ”

Linda AgostoJust three months after their first son’s birth, Linda  got pregnant again.

“Because things were a little shaky at the time, we decided to just get married,” Rafael says. “We were like, ‘OK, maybe it’s time to make things right.’”

instead, they  had more complications.

Rafael continues, “The problems really started once we got married, and things became very, very difficult My stepfather passed away, and we had custody of my brother and [our own] two children.”

Rafael  worked hard  to support his growing family.    Then he met a man at work who made things even harder.

“One day he invites me to his house for lunch, and he pulls out a bag of cocaine.  I had vowed I would never do drugs. My mother was into drugs, and she actually died of AIDS when I was 13-years-old. I always vowed that I would never use drugs. So I was like, ‘Put that away. Do whatever you want but I don’t do that.’  A week later, I don’t know what happened, but we ended up at the same house.  He pulled it out, and this time I tried it.  From the first time I tried it, I was hooked. I was addicted.”

Rafael’s addiction grew.  He was soon spending $500 a day on drugs.

Linda recalls, “That’s why we lost everything.  Every single dime would go into his habit.  We would get income tax check — sometimes $3,000, $4,000. I never saw them.”

“It was a really bad situation,” Rafael says. “Lying to my wife, wouldn’t come home. From the time I would get up in the morning, I couldn’t resist having it. So I’d do whatever it took to get it.”

Again, Linda became pregnant, but she couldn’t take it anymore. She packed up the kids and left.

“I arrived at my sister’s house.  He never followed me,” Linda shares. “He loved the drugs more than his family — that’s how I saw it.”

Linda realized that the one who would love her and never leave her was God.  She accepted Jesus as her Savior and began praying for Rafael.  Just three months later, she saw a flyer advertising a revival.

“It said on the top that if you need a miracle come at 7:30.”

Linda needed a miracle in her marriage.  She convinced Rafael to come along.

“We’re sitting way in the back,” Rafael says. “He starts to preach his message, then he stops and he says, ‘I’m not gonna preach yet.  There’s somebody here that’s tired of living the way they’ve been living. The living God tells you today, if you give Him a chance, your life will never be the same.’

“A lot of people came, and they threw like boxes of cigarettes on the altar. But he kept insisting that the Lord was saying that there was still someone. He kept on and on until he finally just stood, right in front of our section. He said, ‘Somebody in this section, today is your day.’”

The AgostosLinda says, “I was just praying and praying. Finally when I opened up my eyes and I looked to the side, my husband was going to the front.”

Rafael opened up his heart to God and was immediately delivered from his drug addictions.

He says, “I instantly felt something change.  I felt something right away. I said, ‘Whoa, something happened here.’ And I cried. I cried in front of that platform. My life has never been the same. I haven’t touched another drug, another drink since that day.”

Rafael and Linda are now teaching their children about God’s power and how He transformed their lives and brought them back together.

“We’ve had our ups and our downs like any family even after being saved. But there’s one thing that I think is the most important thing is that I have them there. I know that it’s because of God.  God is powerful. You give your life to God, and God will take care of you.”


Christian Testimonies of Salvation

Amazing Stories

Paula Abbott: The Love of the Father

Paula longed for the love and affectrion of her father, but she never received it. Instead Paula drifted through life looking to fill the void in a variety of destructive ways.

Spud Alford: He Did It God’s Way

He had Olympic-sized dreams, but a career-ending injury forced him to seek something more.

Jerry Balone: A Changed Man

He was the baddest of the bad with a murder rap and life sentence in prison. No expected Jerry Balone to become a Christian.

Peter Baltes: Accepted

Heavy metal was his god, but while touring with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Peter found himself in churches looking for refuge.

RafRaf Barrack: Saved By Her Enemy

Don Teague and RafRaf Barrack were as different as could be. Then September 11th happened, and a war intertwined their lives.

Jared Bellan Decides to Trust God

The wrong crowd led to bad decisions when Jared Bellan was a young teen in Pennsylvania, but a prison sentence helped Jared make a new decision.

Jeremy Benson: The Night God Played Tag

Jeremy Benson grew up knowing hard times and feelings of hopelessness. By the time he was 16, he was playing car tag, a dangerous game with his life, and landed at the doorsteps of a church.

Mike Benson: The Makings of a Conqueror

It took prison to bring this bank robber to his knees. Mike submitted to Christ when he had nowhere else to go.

Kelly Carroll Discovers the Lover of Her Soul

A lifetime of negative male relationships leave Kelly Carroll contemplating suicide just to end the pain.

Arturo Castro: Finding His Rhythm

After several deaths in his family, this musician took out his anger physically on his new wife.

David Choy: A Healing in the Key of Christ

David Choy’s life looks perfect as an award-winning composer and pianist. He loves his wife and children, but in the midst of this is a history of near tragedies that marred his life.

Johnny Lee Clary: Christ and The Ku Klux Klan

He was an Imperial Wizard in the Klan when his life began to come undone.

Legalism or Love: James Clay’s Escape from the Sect

James Clay’s mother left her husband, the father of her three children, to join a legalistic Christian sect. It was a decision that confused James’ understanding of God for years.

How Puchi Colon Found His Rhythm

He is a latin gospel singer with soul, but Puchi could have wound up somewhere else. For more, go to puchicolon.com.

Steven ‘Lyrycyst’ Cooper: A Life Changed

From seeing his mother beaten to living on the run, this young rap star saw a lot of pain growing up. Finding Christ was the turning point.

Cody Custer: A Cowboy’s Tale

Cody Custer met his lifelong goal when he became a professional bull rider. He was in the tough fighting and partying crowd until he listened to a few Christian cowboys.

Ed Donnally: A Wild Jockey, A New Direction

He was famous on the race track, but out of control in his private life. Drugs and a run-in with the law made this jockey change his ways.

Charles Dudrey: Addicted to Crime

Years of abuse led to his life as an outlaw. He was hard and cold, but an unlikely event stirred in him the conscience he didn’t know he had.

Clay Dyer: ‘God Doesn’t Make Mistakes’

He was born without legs and only one partial arm with no fingers or thumb. Yet, this outdoorsman has never let these obstacles stop him.

Gigi Erneta’s Search for Peace

Gigi Erneta went to Hollywood to chase her acting dream, but she only got work in horror flicks and low budget TV. Gigi was disappointed with her life and realized she had been running from God.

Lance Foreman: Beyond the Prison Walls

Lance Foreman was the product of a broken home. As result he spent most of his time on the street dealing drugs. It was a road that led to a deadend and left him nowhere to go but up.

Mary Forsythe: Finding Life Behind Bars

She went from making big dollars as a pharmacist to making pennies mopping floors in prison. What went wrong? And why was she reading the Bible in a shower stall?