I woke up this morning just in time to hear my wife start her car as she headed off to work. I had slept in a bit longer than intended, but I guess I needed it, because I woke up more refreshed, energized, and excited about whatever great things God had in store for me today than I had in weeks. As I showered and got dressed, I made a mental list: There are a couple of clients I need to tend to. Business has been slow, so I really should follow up on some folks I haven’t heard from in a while. Those notes I promised my class I’d have on my Bible study blog really needs to be done today. And I gotta leave some time to read another chapter or two in that book about Calvin. This is going to be a good day! And it’ll start with a big mug of coffee! As I headed downstairs to start the brew, I grabbed my phone and opened my email. Halfway down, I saw the newest one: “Your overdraft protection has been activated.”

WHAT? I knew I was operating close to the line, but I was sure that there were at least a few bucks left in there. Once the coffee was started, I trotted back up to my laptop so I could get a better look. OK. There were a couple of purchases from Target from early last week. (I love that 5% discount I get with my Red Card, but – seriously – do they really have to take a week to clear?) And then those few small purchases I was expecting. But still, there was enough left. Then I looked closer and found the culprit. The last debit, the one that put me over the line, was my automatic payment to Zoe International for Tui, the little girl we help to support.

In the next 60 seconds, I went through the stages of grief. Denial: “This can’t be right!” Anger: “Who can I blame?” Bargaining: “If I agree to take the blame, can we make sure this doesn’t happen again?” Depression: “Face it. It will happen again. You’re just an idiot. Your coffee’s ready.” By the time I got to my waiting pot, I was getting close to acceptance when the thought popped into my head: “You know, that’s just part of having kids. The other ones always cost you money you weren’t planning on. She’s just like your other children.”

She’s just like … my … other … children. We’ve been supporting Tui for – what – over 2 years now? And this is the first time that thought entered my mind. Just like my other children. But what I do for her is so little – just a few bucks a month, automatically deducted from my checking account. Oh, and her picture hangs on my fridge. And ten months ago, I actually got to meet her and spend a little time with her. That was really special, but is it really enough that I should think of her as one of my kids?

Cherie and I have sponsored numerous children over the past 35 years, and we’ve been happy to do our little part. But I can’t say that I ever really thought of any of them as part of my family. Oh, there were some that we sponsored for a number of years, and I do remember them fondly and wonder where they are and how they’re doing today. But did I ever hear that little voice say, “She’s one of your kids. She’s part of your family”? I don’t think so. To my loss, I guess.

Child sponsorship can be a wonderful thing. You get pictures of your child to hang on your fridge, and you get periodic updates. You hear about the things she likes, and you learn of the things she needs and the ways you are helping to meet these needs. You help make sure that she is getting enough to eat, she’s going to school, and that she’s learning about Jesus. You write letters to her, and sometimes you get letters from her. In short, you get to change a kid’s life – all from the comfort of your living room, and at very little cost to you.

OK. That last part sounded a little crass, but here’s the point. It’s what I learned this morning: Child sponsorship is an opportunity for great joy, and it’s also an opportunity to become neglectful. When God hands these little ones to us and says, “Here – you get to take care of her,” it’s really, really easy to think that if we set up automatic payments and stick her photograph in a place where we’ll see it from time to time, we have fulfilled our duty. And when He goes so far as to send us half way around the world to meet her, we can keep our guard up so much that the most we come away with is, “She’s really a cute and complex kid. It was fun meeting her,” and even then not let our heart become affected too much.

Sponsoring a child does bring with it some duty, but it’s more than payments and pictures and an occasional prayer. It is the greatest and most joyful duty given to us as followers of Jesus: It’s the duty to open our hearts and let them in, love them and let them become part of our family. And when we meet them, to let down our guard enough that coming back home without them breaks our hearts. When that happens, she becomes part of our daily routine: We think of her, pray for her and recognize our wonderful responsibility to care for her. And when we do, that auto-payment we set up won’t sneak up on us.

But something else might, like maybe a little tear. Because, after all, this little runt who just overdrafted my checking account and generated an additional service charge – yeah – she is my kid. And I love her, and I miss her, and wish I could give her a big hug. And I’m glad she cost me a few extra bucks today, because maybe now I’ll remember to think of her, pray for her, care about her and miss her a little more often. Just like my other children.


Stop the Train! (Part 3)

Posted: May 9, 2013 in Biblical Basis

In Stop the Train, Part 1, we introduced the idea that human trafficking is a runaway freight train that will only be stopped by the intervention of some imaginary superhero, or, in reality, only by the power of God.  In Part 2, we looked at 2Peter 1:3-8 and saw that God’s power within us is sufficient for “everything,” and we dared to suggest that “everything” includes stopping the train of human trafficking.  We looked at that “divine power,” and how we receive it from God.  We ended that study with a list of eight spiritual qualities that Peter says will “render [us] neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” if they are ours and are growing. And we concluded that the fruit of this knowledge includes the fight for justice and freedom of the oppressed and enslaved.  In this final chapter of Stop the Train, we will look at those eight qualities, and we will discover a key that will open the door to let them into our lives.   Once we unlock them, we will see how we must fight to hold on to them and see them increase so that we will be useful and fruitful in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and all he has called us to do, including winning the war on slavery.

2Peter 1:5 – Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NASB)

 Again, there are 8 qualities: faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.  The list is preceded by two significant clauses. The first is, “For this reason.”  That is, because we have “become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (v.4),” we are able to seek out and acquire these qualities.  Jesus’ work on the cross and the subsequent indwelling of the Holy Spirit sets us free from the power of sin and worldly corruption. The second clause is “applying all diligence, supply,” (which is the word order in the Greek). The grace of Christ which sets us free from the world’s corruption – from our own corruption – does not lead us to a place of idleness and self-indulgence.  God’s grace is not retirement, it’s work; it’s your calling. It’s your dream job – the thing your heart has always longed to do, the work that will energize you, fill you with joy, satisfaction, and a host of other amazing qualities, and will lead you closer to the heart of Jesus.  But it’s hard work, and diligence is required.

The first step is faith and, by the time we reach verse 5, we’ve already taken it.  Peter assumes that his readers already have faith; it’s the one thing on this list that he doesn’t tell them to “supply.”  That’s because faith is necessary for us to believe and receive all the things that are in verses 3 and 4, things we discussed in part 2 of Stop the Train!

  1. God has exercised His divine power
  2. Through that power, He has granted us everything we need for life & godliness (i.e., everything).
  3. “Granted” implies grace; we don’t deserve these things.
  4. He gives us these things through knowledge of Him (i.e., Jesus Christ, see v. 8).
  5. He called us.
  6. His calling proceeds out of His glory and excellence.
  7. This is “so that…” – there is a purpose and an intended outcome in these things.
  8. That purpose is that I can partake of God through the presence of His Holy Spirit within me.
  9. This is for those who “have escaped the corruption that is in the world,” that is, those who have received Christ’s salvation.

All of these things, not just the last one, can be accepted only by faith.  So, if we have made it to verse 5, we already possess the first quality on the list.  We have faith. That’s why faith is the only quality that we are not told to “supply.”  It’s already there.

Far too many quit there.  They hear about Jesus. They accept what they’ve heard by faith. They receive His gift of salvation.  They are set free from sin.  All done.  Mission accomplished.  But that’s clearly not how Peter sees it.  To him, faith is the beginning, not the end, of our journey.  It is the first step in a long and arduous process of applying all diligence to “supply” all of these qualities until they are ours “and are increasing.”

Fortunately, Peter gives us a very powerful strategy for doing this.  Unfortunately, that strategy has been buried in almost every translation other than the New American Standard (which we are using here) or the Greek.  In other versions, we are told to “add to” our faith, goodness, etc., or to “supplement [our faith] with” these qualities.  It’s almost like we are to go out there – somewhere – find some “moral excellence,” bring it back and tack it onto our faith.  That’s a lot of work, and with no mention about how to do it.  Is it any wonder that so many people give up?

But that’s not what the Greek says. First, the word frequently translated “add” or “supplement” here in verse 5 is the same word that appears in verse 11 where the NAS again translates it “supply,” while others use words like “minister,” “provide,” or “given.”  There, in v. 11, it is clear that the source of the object (the Kingdom) is Jesus.  All of the translations agree with that.  Why, then, do so many of them translate the same word in v. 5 in such a way that we are led to believe that the source for these “qualities” is ourselves?

The second key word is the word that is translated “to” or “with” in several other translations.  The Greek, however, is the word, “en,” which simply means, “in.”  In your faith, supply … .  Don’t go “out there, somewhere” to find these qualities.  Don’t reel them in, haul them home, and tack them on to your “faith.”  These things are not found elsewhere; they are not to be found “out there.”  They are found “in” that which you already have!  Instead of running around trying to find these qualities, Peter is telling us to stay “in” your faith, and let your faith, not your self-effort, “supply” them.  Rather than looking elsewhere for something to “add to” your faith, look in your faith – look it in the eye, look at its source – look to the One who has made you a “partaker of His divine nature,” who has given you His Holy Spirit to dwell in you.  Look to the one whom the author of Hebrews calls, “the Author and Perfecter of your faith.”  Stand in that faith which He has authored in you, and permit Him to “perfect it.”

Now, I don’t think there is any particular order to the next seven qualities, nor do I believe they must be sequential.  But I think Peter is telling us that each time Jesus, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, begins to perfect a quality within you, it gives you more to stand in as He supplies the others.

But wait, doesn’t Peter say that we are to diligently supply these things?  If the Holy Spirit is doing it, what is the work we are to be doing?  Quite simply, I think it’s the incredibly hard work of yielding – of giving up on all of the things we have dreamed of, desired, looked forward to.  Letting go of the control we think we must have.  Getting out of the way of the Spirit’s work.  And obeying what He calls you to do.  Verse 10 says, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.”  The work is in knowing, trusting, and obeying your calling, and in “practicing” these qualities.  The Holy Spirit will supply and develop these things in your as you stand in your faith, but you – we – must “apply all diligence” to see that they are put into action.

We can’t produce faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, or love within ourselves.  All of those come from God thorough the mercy of the cross and the power of the Holy Spirit.  But, as He produces these things, we can nurture them, or we can ignore them.  We nurture them when we remain in them, and not only them but also in Christ, in His Word, in fellowship with fellow Christians, in prayer, in truth and in our calling. We nurture them when we put words and hands and feet to them, when we respond to their presence by speaking about them, by doing them, and by going wherever they take us. This, Peter tells is, is how we experience true success.  This is not the success the world desires, rather it is success in “the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

We will recall that this true knowledge of Him is the means through which God’s power flows through us (v.3).  And only by that power can we stop the “unstoppable” flow of human trafficking.  I pray that we will consider the lessons of this passage as we obey this high calling we all share.  Only by doing so will we ever see the success that He alone offers.

Stop the Train! (Part 2)

Posted: March 26, 2013 in Biblical Basis

In my previous post, I likened the current onslaught of human trafficking to a runaway freight train gaining speed, power and momentum until it becomes Unstoppable.  Like the train in movie that bears that title, the unstoppable train of trafficking needs someone who can overcome all odds, face down every adversary, survive every deadly pitfall and bring it to a stop.  The movie has the advantage of an omnipotent author who can create such a character out of his own imagination.  Those who fight human trafficking aren’t so fortunate – we lack the omnipotence.  But God does not, and if we call on Him and use the tools He has given us, I believe that we can stop this train.

The key that unlocks the power of God is His Word, where we find everything we need for life and true success.  In 2 Peter 1:3-8, we read about “His divine power … [that will] render us neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NASB)

We started to look at that passage in “Stop the Train, Part 1;” lets dig a little deeper this time.  Let’s start at the end – a little bit backwards, I know, but it helps to know where you are going.  The goal of this brief Bible study is to discover how we can be useful and fruitful in the fight against human trafficking.  But wait!  Isn’t Peter talking about being useful and fruitful “in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”?  And doesn’t the rest of this letter deal with the problem of false teachers?  Indeed he is, and indeed it does.  But I think we are still showing respect to Peter by applying his teaching to our situation.  Can we agree that fighting injustice in all its forms, including human trafficking, flows naturally and necessarily from “the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ?”  Hearing no objections, I’ll take that as a “yes.”  (Feel free to comment below if you want to discuss this further.)

So, if we are to be useful and fruitful in the fight against injustice which the knowledge of Christ leads us to, what is the key?  Well, Peter says that “these qualities” need to be ours.  What qualities?  He lists them in verses 5 through 7.  But let’s not go there quite yet, because if we look at verse 5, it starts with “Now for this reason … .”  What reason? That pushes us back to verse 4 which starts, “For by these [things]… .”  What things?  Now, we are back to verse 3.  We’ll pick it up from there:

“His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness,”.  Whoa!  Life and godliness.  That’s pretty much covers it, doesn’t it.  There’s not much, at least not much that matters, that doesn’t have to do with life and/or godliness. It’s like saying that God’s power gives us everything we need for, well, everything.   I just checked the Powerball.  Wouldn’t you know it, I missed that $338.3 million jackpot on Saturday.  That would have covered everything I need!  Nope.  Not according to God’s Word.  The jackpot is worthless.  It’s God’s divine power that gives me all that I need.  Period.  End of story.  So, how do I get it?  Moving on …

“through the true knowledge of Him who called us… .”   Sounds familiar, doesn’t it.  We just saw that in our fast forward to verse 8:  “the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Bible study geeks call this an “inclusio;” I think of them as bookends that prop up a small library of ideas that deliver a lesson.  The phrase in verse 3 is the left bookend, and the same (or almost the same) phrase in verse 8 is the other bookend.  The stuff in the middle is the library of ideas that deliver one very powerful lesson!

The first idea is right there in the next three words:  “who called us.”  Have you been called?  I’ve been to seminary, so somebody must have thought I was called, or they probably wouldn’t have let me in.  And I’ve been a pastor.  I’m not employed as one now, but I’ve been told, “Once a pastor, always a pastor.”  I like that.  But I think what’s really true is, “Once you’ve been called by God, you are always called by God.”  Fighting the urge to launch into a long digression about being called, let me just say that if you are reading this, there’s a pretty good chance that you have been called – called into the fight for justice, the fight for the oppressed and the poor, the fight against the trafficking of men, women, little boys and little girls. If you have, then the next phrase will light your fire!

“by His own glory and excellence.” Now get this:  Your calling that brought you here, your calling to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves, your calling to take a stand for justice and righteousness, for love and restoration came from the very core of God’s being: two things that we lack, but God possesses completely: Glory and Excellence. I don’t know about you, but when I think of things I would call “glorious,” I think of mountains and waterfalls, or beautiful music, or my granddaughters in my arms and my grandson praying with me.  But I know that all of these things are imperfect; they are but weak reflections of God’s glory.  The same goes for excellence.  There are things that I look at and say, “that’s excellent,” but I know they are just pale reflections of God’s excellence.

But your calling is crystal clear.  It is like God reached into Himself and gave you His glory and His excellence.  Now that doesn’t mean that everything you do with that calling will be perfectly glorious and excellent; it won’t be.  But there will be moments when you step back and you say, “What just happened?  That couldn’t have been me!  That was God, plain and simple.”  If you haven’t had those moments yet, you will. And here’s how:

“For by these [that is, by His glory and excellence] He has granted to us [this is grace; a grant given without consideration of merit] His precious and magnificent promises[of  God’s divine power that comes through the knowledge of Him who called you], so that …Stop there.  “So that … .”  There is a reason God has given us all of these things.  There is a purpose in His grace.  There is a so that.  I confess to having grown irreversibly weary of those who seem to suggest that God’s grace has no expectations; that all He wants is for us to gobble up the benefits of grace and wait for more.  It’s as if all of the “so that’s,” the “in order that’s” and the “Therefore’s” that are followed by commands and plans and expectations matter only to the degree that they ask nothing of us.  But then, you know that, or you wouldn’t be here.  You wouldn’t have asked the question, “Now that I’m Aware… What do I do about it?”  That question is so central to the Gospel.  It’s not just being aware of what is happening in the world, and the needs of persecuted, abused, oppressed, enslaved, hungry, dying and trafficked people.  At its core, it’s about being aware of what God has done for us in Christ, and asking, “Now that I’m aware of His mercy, grace and forgiveness, How am I to live?”  The next phrases answer that question.

 “so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature,”  What does it mean to be “partakers of the divine nature?  There is no universal agreement here, but I see that as a reference to the Holy Spirit; that by all that we have seen thus far, God has given us a piece of His own divine nature to dwell within us.  This we know to be the Holy Spirit.  It makes sense because of the next phrase:  “having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”   There is only one way to have escaped the corruption that is in the world, and that is through receiving Christ’s salvation.  And once we receive His salvation, He immediately comes to dwell in us.  Therefore, Peter is telling us that the first result of God’s power on us is that we have been set free from our own slavery to this corrupt world and its lusts, and have received the Holy Spirit.

But there’s more:  “Now for this reason, also…”.  Again, Now that I’m aware of all that God has given me in His all-sufficient power that comes through knowledge of Him, and carries with it a calling that proceeds, and carries the stamp of, His own glory and excellence; now that I’m aware that Christ has set me free from the corruption and lust of this world, and has given me His Holy Spirit … Are you ready for this? …

“applying all diligence …”  It’s time to get to work.  Knowing what God has done for me, and knowing that He has given me a calling to make a difference in the war against injustice, particularly human trafficking, it’s time to apply some effort.  I don’t like that.  I shun anything that looks like it might be difficult.  I was spoiled as a child, and I have spoiled myself as an adult.  I don’t want to work.   I rather like the easy, pleasy sit-and-soak message of Gospel Lite.  On one hand, I want the joy that comes from making a difference, but I don’t want to “apply all diligence.”

But, there’s still some good news. “in your faith supply…”  In other words, even in the pursuit of due diligence, my faith – and its byproducts – remain active. God has called us to action, but He has not left us to work alone. My work is to be done “in my faith.”  In other words, God’s power, driven by the turbines of His Glory and Excellence, the same power that delivers us from the sinful world and into the presence of His Holy Spirit, will also give us all we need to pursue the following eight qualities:

  1.      Faith
  2.      Moral Excellence
  3.      Knowledge
  4.      Self-control
  5.      Perseverance
  6.      Godliness
  7.      Kindness
  8.      Love

And that brings us to our goal: “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” A discussion of these qualities could take another 2,000 words.  Depending on response to this study, I might follow this up with one more just for that purpose. But for now, I will end with these thoughts:

It is not my purpose here to denigrate secular organizations or individuals who pour their lives out for people in bondage to slavery and other gross injustices.  I deeply appreciate all efforts of everyone involved in this fight.  I only want those of us who come from a Christ-centered approach to comprehend the significance of that legacy, and to remember the difference it makes in the way we approach, overpower, and ultimately defeat this enemy.

Stop the Train! (Part 1)

Posted: February 8, 2013 in Biblical Basis

Now that I’m Aware … what comes next?   William Wilberforce nailed it when he said, “You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know.”  Choosing to look away is not an option.  But doing something?  Where do I begin?  Sometimes I feel like Denzel Washington in the movie Unstoppable, trying to stop a runaway freight train carrying toxic chemicals, certain to derail and kill thousands.  Plan after plan fails.  Attempts end in death. And the train keeps moving faster, and faster, and faster.

It’s all too familiar.  We thought we had slavery licked 150 years ago.  Now we discover that it’s ripped up the lives of 25 million … no, make that 27 … no, 30 million!   It’s become the #3 largest criminal enterprise in the world.  No, make that #2.  Do I hear #1??  Yes, we are helping children and women and men around the world, but at the same time, it’s like we’re bidding against the devil, and he has more resources than we do!  Isn’t there some way to stop this train, or at least slow it down a little?

Goodness knows, we’ve tried.  Intervention, rescue, aftercare, education are all extremely important parts of the solution.  We do community education and development.  We work with governments to overcome corruption, institute better laws and enforce the ones that are in place.  We seek to hold perpetrators accountable and we plead with men to stop the demand.  More than anything, we stress the three most important words in this fight: awareness, awareness and awareness.  Again, all of that is incredibly important.  The question is: Is it enough?  When enough people are doing all of these things, working together, coordinating with each other, sacrificing to make it all happen – Will that slow down the runaway freight train of human trafficking?  Maybe.  Will it stop it?  I doubt it.

I know.  I’m just some guy with an attitude and a keyboard, and there are thousands of people out there who have far greater knowledge of the situation that I do, who are investing far more than I am, and who are banking it all of the confidence that this evil can be taken down – that this train can not only be slowed down, but stopped dead.  Who am I to say that they are incorrect?

But I’m not saying they – or this strategy – is incorrect.  I’m just saying that it’s incomplete.  I know I’m already on the verge of beating an illustration to death, but if you’ve seen Unstoppable, you know how it ends.  (If you haven’t: spoiler alert!)  Strategy after strategy is employed, and they all either fail or are aborted because they are doomed to fail.  Finally, the hero does what heroes do and overcomes all odds, cheats death repeatedly, gets stupidly lucky more than once, and is able – by some unknown power – to get into the locomotive and stop it from destroying the (fictional) city of Stanton and half the eastern U.S. along with it.  Seriously, this guy would have to be God … .

Exactly.  But you knew that, didn’t you.  You just didn’t say it; you assumed it.  I’m not pointing fingers, here.  I’ve been doing the same thing.  In fact, that’s pretty much why I haven’t posted anything  here for a while.  Once you make God an assumption, He tends to disappear, and on we go without Him, thinking He’s still there, but not really making any headway.  God doesn’t like to be “assumed.”  He wants to be – He expects to be – constantly at the center of all that we do; the periphery is not God’s comfort zone.  He’s either in, or out.

Then it hit me a couple of days ago when I was reading from 2 Peter 1:3-8:

 His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NASB)

Now, I’m aware that this post is getting a bit long.  I also know that giving this passage even a cursory look will make it way too long.  So, I’m going to continue to examine it in my next post.  For now, let’s just look at the first part of verse 3 and set it alongside v.8: His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, …  8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Whatever else Peter is telling us in these verses (and he is telling us a lot more), he is assuring us that God’s power in us is sufficient for “life and godliness.”  While there are other “qualities” that render us useful and fruitful, it all begins with the power of God.  Without it, we are “useless and unfruitful.”  We most certainly can’t expect to stop a runaway train.

Now that I’m aware … What do I do?  There are dozens of things you and I can do – probably hundreds.  But before (and while) doing anything, we must be ever aware of our need for God’s power.  The task is too great and the enemy is too strong to take a single step without it.  But with His power, we will win this fight.

NEXT: How do we receive God’s power, and what comes with it?  Stop the Train, Part 2

The Invisible Slavery

Posted: January 22, 2013 in Abortion

Forty years ago today, Row v Wade, the Supreme Court decision that blew open the door for abortions in the US, was passed.  Since then, over 54 MILLION abortions have been performed in the US alone.  That’s 54 million women who didn’t have to be shackled with the burden of pregnancy.  Isn’t that grand!

For those who missed it, those last two statements were dripping with sarcasm.  The truth is, that’s 54 million women who were victims of a well-oiled, multibillion dollar machine that uses their bodies to make big bucks.

But worse, this is 54 million babies who died.  Fifty four million children whose life was taken from them simply because they were an inconvenience to their mothers and fodder for a corrupt and evil industry.

What’s really strange – and deeply disturbing – is that the abortionists know exactly what they are doing.  There is no denying that the fetus is a human being, a child.  In his blog post, We Know We are Killing Children  — All of Us Know, John Piper relates this story:

I took an abortionist out to lunch once, prepared to give him ten reasons why the unborn are human beings. He stopped me, and said, “I know that. We are killing children.” I was stunned. He said, “It’s simply a matter of justice for women. It would be a greater evil to deny women the equal right of reproductive freedom.” (emph. added)

(The full article, which gives 11 reasons that everyone knows that abortion is killing children, can be accessed here: http://goo.gl/MNWWJ)

I don’t know what’s more maddening – the twisted logic behind this statement, or the fact that the church is largely ignoring it’s proliferation, the deadly misleading of expectant moms and women in general,  and the killing of these children.  This past Sunday, being the closest to the Roe v Wade anniversary, was dubbed “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.”  Not that this day is particularly sacred; it’s just an opportunity for churches who don’t address abortion or other sanctity of life issues at other times during the year, to have a reason to do so.  But countless churches don’t even do that.  They ignore abortion completely.  They turn a deaf ear to the silent screams of dying babies, and the private cries and emptiness felt by the mothers whose babies are gone.  I struggle to understand why.  I tend to think that it’s part of neo-evangelicalism’s paranoia toward anything controversial or political.  But this is not a political issue, any more than it would be if your neighbor was selling his 9-year-old daughter on Backpage.com.

This blog is, after all, about human trafficking.  Slavery is about powerful people using weaker people for personal gain, and giving the weak no means of escape.  Abortion is the ultimate form of human trafficking.  The trafficking path may only be about 7 inches long, but the child is forced down those 7 inches for the personal gain of the abortion industry.  And the journey always ends in death.  It’s meant to.

Which brings us back to the twisted logic:   ““It’s simply a matter of justice for women.”  What justice is there for women when 27 million (assuming that ½ of all abortions are girls) have been killed? Or take the issue globally: Gendercide, the practice of aborting little girls just because they are girls, has taken as many females as the current female population of the the US.  What kind of justice is that?  Or, what kind of justice is there for the mothers of these babies who have been lied to, told that their babies are “just tissue” or “only POC’s (“products of conception”)?

Today, on the 40th anniversary of the deadliest Supreme Court decision in US history, let’s all do something life-affirming.

  • Encourage an expectant mom, especially one you think may have been tempted by abortion , but chose life.
  • Pour a little extra love on the children around you, and remind yourself how glad you are that they were not aborted.
  • If you know a mom who chose abortion in the past, give her a call or a text today, just to let her know that she is loved. (No need to mention abortion; she thinks about it enough already.)
  • Contact a local Crisis Pregnancy Center (google “Crisis Pregnancy [your city]”) and ask what you can do to help
  • Pray. Pray. Pray.

Immeasurably More

Posted: December 22, 2012 in Zoe Children's Home

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,

according to his power that is at work within us,

 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus

throughout all generations, for ever and ever! (Eph 3:20, NIV)

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly two weeks since I last saw the children, staff, missionaries and Zoe Ministry School students at Zoe Children’s Home, and that it’s been a full ten days since I arrived back home.  I had been told that the time at Zoe would fly by, but I found that it moved beautifully slowly.  Maybe that’s because I had nothing to do all day but marvel at God’s work and pour His love on those amazing kids and their caretakers.  Here, my life is filled with work, Facebook, grandkids, volunteering, shopping … way too much stuff, and with few exceptions (n.b.: grandchildren), little of it seems to matter all that much.  But on the mission field, everything matters. Because everything is about the mission – in particular, the missio Dei, the mission of God – unfolding in our midst.

For nearly two decades, I had dreamed of going to Thailand, and my dreams had become quite huge, unrealistic and unreasonable.  But when by dreams finally came true, I found that they had in fact been pathetically puny.  I began to see God’s dream unfold before me, and I watched how He was turning it into reality.  His dreams are always “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”

For nearly as long, I had been telling myself that I was “in love with Thailand.”  I now know that I was only in love with the idea of Thailand.  But now that I have been there and seen the land, the people, the need and the fullness, the mission, the children, the miracles, the joy, the love, I can truly say that God has filled me with a love for Thailand that is, again, “immeasurably more that I ask or imagine.”

I know. You want specifics.  You want stories.  I understand, but one of the reasons it’s taken me nearly two weeks to write about my time there is that I simply can’t find the words to do justice to the experiences.  You just have to, well, experience them.

But there is one thing that comes close to telling the story.  Zoe Children’s Home exists to rescue and provide shelter, education, the love of a family, the good news of Jesus, and the joy of His healing to children who are either in grave danger of being trafficked, or who have been trafficked.  Now, I don’t care how much of all things a deeply traumatized child receives, there seems to be some residual of that trauma that stays around for a very long time – years, decades, even a lifetime.  On my way to Zoe and the months before going, I expected that there would be some of the children who would be battling behavioral and emotional issues stemming from their experiences.  I knew it would be a good place, but not necessarily a happy place – not all the time, anyway.

But when I set foot in Zoe Children’s Home and saw the sparkle in those kids’ eyes, the smiles on their faces, the giggles from their mouths, and the unabashed joy pouring from deep within their being, I knew that I had found not just a “happy’ place, but  — sorry Disney – the Happiest Place on Earth!

But then, it only gets better.  Every Tuesday evening, the entire Zoe family – kids, staff, ministry school students – all gather for prayer meeting.  It’s all done quite simply.  Shortly before everyone begins to arrive, the lights are dimmed, and praise and worship music is played.  There are no announcements; everyone just knows that, as they arrive, it is time to pray.  We had been briefed ahead of time, and were told that, if we would find a place on the floor (there are not many places to sit other than the floor) and began to pray, we would receive a blessing.  Oh, did I ever!  As I sat there quietly, numerous people – staff, ZMS students, older children, little ones – would come up to me, set their hands on me, and pray for me.  I had no clue what they were saying, but the honor that I felt was being bestowed on me in those moments, and the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in and through these children – keep in mind where they had come from! – was overwhelming.  I knew that I was in the presence of spiritual giants, some of whom were under 4 feet tall.

What had made these little ones into such giants was the very thing that would have destroyed so many of us.  They had started out with nothing, and then lost everything they had.  They could not have been in a worse place.  But Jesus came to them, first in the form of a person – or several – who rescued them, took them in, cared for them, and showed them real love for the first time in their lives.  Then by His grace they began to see beyond those people to Jesus, Himself.  And they saw in Him something far, far greater than all that they had ever lost.

I often speak of the time when his disciples asked Jesus who was the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven, and He grabbed a kid.  Or when he pointed to the children who had gathered around Him and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Jesus was telling us that our greatest, best, and most profound teachers are not the people with the seminary degrees, but children.

And here I was, sitting on the floor of the big meeting room at Zoe Children’s Home, being schooled by a bunch of these wise, experienced teachers.

More to come …

The Journey Begins

Posted: December 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

Originally written on November 19, 2012 as part of a letter to my first supporters and prayer partners.  I have been blessed by them all!

It’s been said that “A journey begins with a single step.”  My journey began years ago when I learned about child trafficking and the vulnerable children in Thailand.  My “single step” was a commitment I made to God that, if He ever gave me the opportunity, I would go to Thailand to learn more about this terrible thing, and find out what I can do about it.

In the Bible, we read something similar.  The writer of Hebrews, speaking of Abraham, said “He went out, not knowing where he was going.”  Apparently, when I took that first step of commitment, expecting it to be in the direction of Thailand, God had another place in mind.  Before I knew it, I was on a plane to Ukraine, where I met many amazing people, and one little girl in particular.  Her situation was not like what I was expecting to find in Thailand, but it was certainly dire.  And God had me take another step – a really big one – along with my family, as we adopted that little girl, brought her home, and made her part of our family.

Now, fourteen years later, she is grown, doing great, and on her own, and we are proud of her, and so happy that God sent us to Ukraine.   But now … well, He’s reminded me of that first step long ago, and  He’s given me that opportunity to go to Thailand; clearly, this is His appointed time.  Once again, I really don’t know “where” I’m going.  Oh, the places, I do know; I have the full itinerary right in front of me.  But I’m not really sure where God is taking me, other than  “to learn about child trafficking and what you and I can do about it.”  Beyond that, I’m not sure, but here’s what I do know:

  • Thailand is the number one destination for foreign pedophiles seeking children to abuse.  More of those men come from the US than any other country.
  • The average age of a girl’s first victimization by commercial child sex abusers is 11.  For many, it’s 8, and for some, as young as three.
  • Once a child becomes a victim, they are usually kept under lock and key, held as slaves, forced to “serve” as many as 30 “clients” every day.
  • The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) in Thailand is complex and deeply ingrained.  Poverty plays a huge role, as parents face the decision of selling a daughter or not having enough money to feed her and her siblings.  Deception can involve traffickers making promises to a parent that his daughter will be taken to the city, offered a good job, and send money back home to feed the family. Lack of education strips children and their parents of most other options.  That’s just the beginning.
  • Given the pervasiveness of the problem, there is a monstrous shortage of organizations and facilities addressing this problem in Thailand.
  • The response to the situation is also complex. Prevention seeks to educate, equip and empower parents, caregivers and the children themselves to avoid the trap that is being set for them.  Prevention also works to help governments establish and enforce action against perpetrators. Rescue may include such things as brothel raids resulting in the freeing of the victims, or it may be rescuing street children from the extremely high risk of being trafficked.  Restoration includes providing safe shelter, a real, loving home, counseling and skill development to enable the child to become free and productive in their own society.  For Christian ministries like Zoe, it also includes teaching the children about Jesus, his love, his healing power, his forgiveness, and his wonderful plans for their lives – plans of a hope and a future (Jer 29:11).

More than anything else, I know that there is still a lack of awareness.  While more and more people are becoming aware of the scourge of CSEC, few know enough to also know what they can do.  So they look away, shaking their heads, and asking, “Now that I’m aware, what can I do?”  Hearing no answers, they just walk away, trying for forget what they have just learned.

This is what I hope to change.  I want to help people find the answer that that question, “Now that I’m aware…?”  But I can’t do that until I first get my feet on the ground, get the problem in my face, and the faces of children burned into my mind and heart.  Once that happens, I believe I’ll find out what God has for me next.