Because One is Too Many.

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One of my favorite parables told by Jesus in Luke 15 is the shepherd who leaves his ninety-nine sheep in search of one.  It reflects His heart and character that He believes that one person is worth it.  It reflects that each life is precious and valuable.   To me it speaks the message that when there are more people entrapped in slavery now than ever in history, and it can be daunting to think about helping as many as you can, to focus on one at a time is a far greater encouragement.  We can all become weary and burned out, but when we carry the attitude that even just one is worth it because one is too many it can change everything.  Some food for thought:

*God would likely have spared Sodom and Gomorrah for one (Genesis 18).

*The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine for the one (Luke 15).

*Jesus would have died for one.

Can you imagine how many more lives would have been lost during the Nazi resistance, if people didn’t find it important to smuggle “just one more” out of the Nazi clutches?  Never think that one treasured life isn’t worth it.

As I prepare for outreaches this summer I know that even if one life is saved then it is all worth it.   If only one girl receives lifesaving information, then it is all worth it.  Because one person enslaved is too many.  You too can do something for just one.

Ways that you can fight human trafficking in your area:

*Support local task forces, join a coalition or group that is fighting trafficking
*Support organizations that are fighting trafficking, rescuing and aiding victims
*Volunteer at awareness events, fundraisers, etc.
*Educate yourself and spread awareness

You can make a tax deductible donation to help fund For Such a Time Ministries summer outreaches here.

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Worry Stones

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Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

We live in an age where there is plenty to worry about. Just watch the news for a half hour and you’ll be tested. Yet, the Word of God says in Ecclesiastes 1:9 that there is nothing new under the sun. I’m pretty sure things seemed quite dire to the Israelites when they were hanging out at the edge of the Red Sea or even to David when he was hanging in the caves and wasn’t on a spelunking mission. We are not the first ones to feel like the world may be coming to an end and we won’t be the last. We are not the first ones to feel the weight of worry which is why God tells us in 1 Peter 5:7 to cast our cares upon Him because He not only cares for us, but He can handle it.

First, let’s look at that word cast. Thesaurus.com also describes cast as fling, toss aside, hurl, heave, launch, eject, thrust and the list goes on. Just replace the word cast with one of its synonyms to give the scripture a new perspective.

Heave all your anxieties upon Him because He cares for you.
Fling all your anxieties upon Him because He cares for you, etc.

This gives us an amazing picture of the heart of God and the weight it bears. Jesus can handle anything we cast at Him, as my dad once said, “There is nothing that can knock God off His throne.” That includes anything that brings you angst. Just give it to Him.

I remember years ago when I saw two teenage girls come out of a new age shop on a busy city street. They carried in their hands “worry stones.” The idea is that you were supposed to put all your worries onto those stones. My heart broke and I went to them to share a story about a man who came to carry all their worries over 2000 years ago. The love of Jesus Christ that came to bear the weight of their worry and fear. A love that doesn’t have a heart of stone. Worry is just like that stone. The only useful purpose it has is to be a weight.  With worry you end up with a burden you weren’t meant to carry.

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength. –Corrie Ten Boom

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? –Jesus (Matthew 6:25-27)

So…let it go, it is weighing you down.
Let it go, He carried it for you already.
Let it go, you are in His hands.
Let it go with a ferocity and remember that He cares for you.

The Weight of Grace

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Dictionary.com defines grace in many ways, one of them being the manifestation of favor, especially by a superior.  It also defines it as elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion or action.

Lets face it, sin is ugly, it’s consequences are ugly and not exactly what we would call lovely, in reality it disgraces.  Even though that is the goal of evil, to disgrace the human heart, Jesus came and bore the weight of disgrace to bring grace.

In reaching out to women who are (or have been) sexually exploited I see one common theme…disgrace.  That is probably the one word to best describe what evil has done to them.  Yet, my heart rejoices, not because of what they have been through, but what Jesus has done and what He will do in their lives.  My heart jumps at the thought of the passion Jesus has for these women and how He longs to reveal to them that He has removed their disgrace.

Jesus bore the weight of our sin, He bore the weight of our disgrace and rendered it powerless.  In other words, what Christ did on the cross reversed the curse. Jesus returned our grace, He returned favor, and possibly most important to the heart of a woman…He returned beauty.

Not sure about you, but I quite humbly, in the presence of God, feel quite lovely.  Knowing that Jesus died bearing my disgrace so that I could live here on earth (not just in heaven) in grace.  You see, what Jesus did was not just for the hereafter, but for the here and now.  If you are living today feeling disgraced, ashamed, discouraged, unlovely or unloved – please know that there is One who sees you, sees your pain, sees the disgrace of your past, but sees you not as you see yourself.  He sees forgiven, He sees holy, He sees lovely…He sees grace because He carried the weight of it like no one else ever could.

So from now on when you look in the mirror, ask God to see yourself as He sees you…ask to see the grace.  I guarantee your heart will forever be changed.

 

*Image from Flickr

The Miley Epidemic

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I cannot help but reply to the flurry of words hurled into cyberspace and social media airwaves, if you will, about Miley Cyrus’ risqué performance at the MTV VMA Awards.  I want to shout…

“WHAT DO YOU EXPECT!?!”

We live in a culture where nearly everything is hyper-sexualized.  We allow our daughters to wear shorts that should be known as denim underwear and watch music videos on MTV that are extremely sexual in nature.  We have an ever-growing problem in the United States where our daughters are being lured into sexual exploitation, while the majority of Americans decide to ignore this epidemic of sex trafficking (exempting those who are actually ignorant of this issue).

We take our daughters to places like Victoria’s Secret for their underwear…why?  Our boys are plagued with images of half naked women nearly all their lives and we have millions addicted to pornography.  We have a thriving billion dollar strip club/ and pornography industry that is visited by Christians and non alike…

So please, do not let this heartbreaking performance of a moment pass you by.  Instead of posting nasty words about Miley (all the while ignoring the married man on the stage), do something about it.  What can you do?  Stop shopping at places where they forgot to sew on the rest of the material on that skirt or pair of shorts.  Stop buying into the lie that our kids “need to experience” things in life that they have no business “experiencing” until they are in the right situation and it is a good experience.  Stop watching porn, stop visiting strip clubs and for crying out loud gain a little compassion for those trapped in it.

Talk to your kids, give them some boundaries, let them know they are made in the image of God and their bodies have great value…and not for the lust of another.

During a recent outreach to exploited women, my heart was broken to hear in their voices and experiences the hypocrites they have encountered.  These women have been visited by the very same people shouting about this Miley situation…people of faith, people in prominent positions, the average parent, and so on.  When have we become a society that embraces the devaluing of another human being?  Why are we spouting jargon from one side of our mouths and acting another way in secret?  Should we be outraged?  Yes, but we should be outraged by all of it.  Our words and our actions have weight and the world is paying attention…and more importantly, so are our children.

a sufficient scandal.

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I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!  Galatians 2:21 (NIV)

I am not sure how many times I have cried out to the Lord, “If I could just encounter you face to face, like the woman who touched the hem of your garment, I would never be the same.”  There have been many times in my walk with Christ that I have been superbly agitated with my imperfection.  Why, afterall, can’t I get it right?  I “know better” because I know what the word of God says about a particular situation.  I haven’t always rejoiced in my weakness because it reveals the strength of Christ (2 Corin. 12:9)…I don’t know that I have always even fully understood that.

The law could not prevent sin, but only to point it out and when Jesus came along and began saying He was the son of God and the way to heaven was through Him…well let’s just say that was scandalous.  Jesus was speaking a shocking language, if you will, they called Him all sorts of names and eventually He was crucified.  Yet, while the human mind and weakness (and the enemy for that matter), thought it was their will He die, it was all a part of God’s plan.

Jesus died to prove something, that because of the love of God we could be free, we could live in His grace and not by the law in which we would continuously break.  (Yes, we all know grace is not an excuse to sin.)  Jesus came to make access to the Father easy…it is by faith, this was the opposite of what had been tradition, which was by works.  This can be scandalous to our human minds and wills, because we think, “I’ve got this.”  Scandalous is just another word for improper or shocking and grace can be very shocking to our human will and weakness.

The other night as I was laying in bed talking to the Lord, I was reminded of the times I had cried out, “Lord if I could just encounter you face to face, all this mess would just break away and I would never be the same.”  Then, the Lover of my soul spoke directly to my heart and said, “You need to know I love you in the mess.”  …insert a profound heartfelt sigh…

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by GRACE you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus  – Ephesians 2:4-6 (emphasis mine) NIV

We all need to know He loves us in the mess, because that is His grace being sufficient.

Great Joy in Weakness

I personally have been wrestling with weakness or faults in myself.  The weaknesses or faults in other people do not bother me. I seem to have a grace filled heart for others, I on the other hand…grace tank empty.  A while back God showed me how I was living a double standard…I would encourage others and talk to them about God’s great love and compassion and in my own heart would be so hard on myself.  After all who doesn’t like to be perfect, right?  Well maybe there are a few of you out there who don’t mind having faults, but it is something that I wrestle with.  Just being real with you, because real is what we need to be with each other.  I don’t try to pretend to be perfect or act like I am, but I am extremely hard on myself at times.

This is something God has been speaking to me about (because yes, I believe God speaks through His word and to our hearts).  I have been drawn back to the scripture where Paul talks about boasting in weakness because in our weakness Christ is made strong (2 Corinthians 12:9) and I sit there saying, “God, my heart isn’t comprehending this.”

Last night, God showed me what mattered.  I was co-emceeing a benefit for orphans and when we came to the entertainment portion of the evening we had several amazing, well-rehearsed, practiced dance groups.  Yet, the first group to come out were 4 young ladies, two of whom were most likely under the age of 9 years old.  I watched as the two younger ones were very excited to be on the stage, counting their steps (very obviously), they were not in sync with the older two and would spin off in opposite directions.  Their precious teacher was back stage with me watching, shaking her head and chuckling to herself.  In that moment God touched my heart profoundly with how imperfect their dance was (by the standard of the world- not God’s standard) and how it brought Him great joy.  How, we are so imperfect and still bring Him great joy.   How we should be like little children, excited to be before God and bringing our best, whatever it may be and know that it brings Him great joy.  Later that night God spoke to me and said, “it is not your perfection that brings me joy, it is you.” Immediately I thought of the scripture,

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:2

WE WERE AND ARE THAT JOY.  Remember, it’s not the perfect dance that brings Him joy…it’s the dancer.

So maybe, just maybe when Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:31, “Let one who boasts, boast in the Lord,” he is saying that because of God’s amazing, phenomenal, mind-blowing love and who sings over us continually, we should shout from the roof tops “I AM WEAK, I MAKE MISTAKES AND HE DOESN’T JUST LOVE ME ALL THE SAME, BUT I BRING HIM JOY!”

So,will those girls get just as good as the adults with practice?  Of course, but that isn’t the point.  After all, God told us to be like little children.  By the way, the song those beautiful girls were dancing to was Joy to the World.

Ok, God…point taken and received.   I am thankful today for those 4 little dancers :)

Good Men (and women) Needed.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.    -Edmund Burke

It is a common misconception that slavery was abolished after the Civil War, but slavery is still thriving with an estimated 27 million people enslaved worldwide…more than at any point in history.

The most common form of trafficking (slavery) is sexual exploitation.  In fact, sexual exploitation makes up 79-80% of all trafficking and 85-90% are women and children.  An estimated 2 million children are exploited globally which includes prostitution, pornography, strip clubs and more.  The problem is not isolated to third world nations or even major US cities, but it’s right here in our communities and the victims cannot afford our ignorance or worse yet, our apathy.

One of the leaders in the fight against trafficking and exploitation should be the church.  Why? Because of whom we believe in and who He is.  Psalm 89:14 (NIV) says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne, love and faithfulness go before you.”  If God is all about justice then His people should be too…no exceptions.  The Word of God is full of scripture pertaining to justice and love.  Christ died for our freedom and that isn’t just a pretty metaphor.  He died so that ALL men (women obviously included) might be free.

Once we know about an injustice we can spread the word, we can give money to great organizations that are out on the front lines, we can volunteer our time, the least we can do is pray.  Most importantly we can teach our children their inherent value and the value of others; honoring themselves and honoring others…creating a culture that operates by the golden rule.

So it is time for the church to get involved because we know the One who is all about freedom, true love and justice, and that will help us win the fight against this atrocity.  We are to be a voice for the voiceless…“so the poor have hope and injustice shuts its mouth.”  Job 5:16

What can I do?
*Designate a time of prayer (at home, at church, bible study, etc.) for the ending of slavery and exploitation
*Support an organization or ministry that is working to eradicate slavery
*Volunteer your time or talents to a group

Statistics can be found at:
sharedhope.org
exoduscry.org
polarisproject.org
various government websites such as FBI, DOJ, DHHS, etc.