Archive for January, 2012

Did you know there are over 30 Million slaves in the world today?  That’s more than any other point in history.  Just think about that for a moment.  In this modern era, and in your generation, there are more people being forced to work against their will than ever before.  How can this be?  We’ve progressed as a society in so many ways… but there are still millions who are being worked, imprisoned, abused, and beaten in some of the most horrible conditions possible.

Human trafficking goes beyond all racial backgrounds and national borders.  Traffickers don’t target any specific group of people, they just look where they can make the most money.  Read more about that here, or look at a map.  No country is unaffected by human trafficking.   This problem takes many forms around the world:  forcing victims into prostitution, subjecting individuals to slavery or involuntary servitude, the use of people to commit sex acts for the purpose of creating pornography, misleading workers into debt bondage, and more.

According to the U.S. State Department, 800,000 people are trafficked every year.  And approximately 1 million children enter the commercial sex-trade annually.   Every year, an average 17,500 are trafficked into the United States.  Some estimates say that there are approximately 100,000 – 150,000 slaves in the U.S. right now…. but “fewer than 1,000 victims have been assisted through the efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement since 2001, when services for trafficking victims were first made available.”  I don’t know about you, but that’s unacceptable to me.

In doing the research for this post, I came across these facts, and must share them with you.  There are even more at the website, and it also lists their sources.  Please be aware, some of these statistics may be disturbing or offensive.

  • Approximately 75-80% of human trafficking is for sex.
  • Researchers note that sex trafficking plays a major role in the spread of HIV.
  • There are an estimated 27 million adults and 13 million children around the world who are victims of human trafficking.
  • Human trafficking not only involves sex and labor, but people are also trafficked for organ harvesting.
  • Human traffickers often use a Sudanese phrase “use a slave to catch slaves,” meaning traffickers send “broken-in girls” to recruit younger girls into the sex trade. Sex traffickers often train girls themselves, raping them and teaching them sex acts.
  • Eighty percent of North Koreans who escape into China are women. Nine out of 10 of those women become victims of human trafficking, often for sex. If the women complain, they are deported back to North Korea, where they are thrown into gulags or are executed.
  • An estimated 30,000 victims of sex trafficking die each year from abuse, disease, torture, and neglect. Eighty percent of those sold into sexual slavery are under 24, and some are as young as six years old.
  • Ludwig “Tarzan” Fainberg, a convicted trafficker, said, “You can buy a woman for $10,000 and make your money back in a week if she is pretty and young. Then everything else is profit.”
  • H human trafficker can earn 20 times what he or she paid for a girl. Provided the girl was not physically brutalized to the point of ruining her beauty, the pimp could sell her again for a greater price because he had trained her and broken her spirit, which saves future buyers the hassle. A 2003 study in the Netherlands found that, on average, a single sex slave earned her pimp at least $250,000 a year.
  • Although human trafficking is often a hidden crime and accurate statistics are difficult to obtain, researchers estimate that more than 80% of trafficking victims are female. Over 50% of human trafficking victims are children.
  • The end of the Cold War has resulted in the growth of regional conflicts and the decline of borders. Many rebel groups turn to human trafficking to fund military actions and garner soldiers.
  • According to a 2009 Washington Times article, the Taliban buys children as young as seven years old to act as suicide bombers. The price for child suicide bombers is between $7,000-$14,000.
  • UNICEF estimates that 300,000 children younger than 18 are currently trafficked to serve in armed conflicts worldwide.
  • Human traffickers are increasingly trafficking pregnant women for their newborns.  Babies are sold on the black market, where the profit is divided between the traffickers, doctors, lawyers, border officials, and others. The mother is usually paid less than what is promised her, citing the cost of travel and creating false documents. A mother might receive as little as a few hundred dollars for her baby.
  • More than 30% of all trafficking cases in 2007-2008 involved children being sold into the sex industry.
  • The Western presence in Kosovo, such as NATO troops and civilians, have fueled the rapid growth of sex trafficking and forced prostitution. Amnesty International has reported that NATO soldiers, UN police, and Western aid workers “operated with near impunity in exploiting the victims of the sex traffickers.”
  • Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” video is about human trafficking. In the video, Gaga is trafficked by a Russian bathhouse into sex slavery.
  • Human trafficking is the only area of transnational crime in which women are significantly represented—as victims, as perpetrators, and as activists fighting this crime.
  • Over 71% of trafficked children show suicidal tendencies.
  • After sex, the most common form of human trafficking is forced labor. Researchers argue that as the economic crisis deepens, the number of people trafficked for forced labor will increase.
  • Most human trafficking in the United States occurs in New York, California, and Florida.
  • According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), over the past 30 years, over 30 million children have been sexually exploited through human trafficking.
  • Several countries rank high as source countries for human trafficking, including Belarus, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Albania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Romania, China, Thailand, and Nigeria.
  • Belgium, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Thailand, Turkey, and the U.S. are ranked very high as destination countries of trafficked victims.
  • Women are trafficked to the U.S. largely to work in the sex industry (including strip clubs, peep and touch shows, massage parlors that offer sexual services, and prostitution). They are also trafficked to work in sweatshops, domestic servitude, and agricultural work.
  • Sex traffickers use a variety of ways to “condition” their victims, including subjecting them to starvation, rape, gang rape, physical abuse, beating, confinement, threats of violence toward the victim and victim’s family, forced drug use, and shame.
  • Family members will often sell children and other family members into slavery; the younger the victim, the more money the trafficker receives. For example, a 10-year-old named Gita was sold into a brothel by her aunt. The now 22-year-old recalls that when she refused to work, the older girls held her down and stuck a piece of cloth in her mouth so no one would hear her scream as she was raped by a customer. She would later contract HIV.
  • Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises because it holds relatively low risk with high profit potential. Criminal organizations are increasingly attracted to human trafficking because, unlike drugs, humans can be sold repeatedly.
  • Human trafficking is estimated to surpass the drug trade in less than five years.  Journalist Victor Malarek reports that it is primarily men who are driving human trafficking, specifically trafficking for sex.
  • Victims of human trafficking suffer devastating physical and psychological harm. However, due to language barriers, lack of knowledge about available services, and the frequency with which traffickers move victims, human trafficking victims and their perpetrators are difficult to catch.
  • Human trafficking around the globe is estimated to generate a profit of anywhere from $9 billion to $31.6 billion. Half of these profits are made in industrialized countries.
  • Some human traffickers recruit handicapped young girls, such as those suffering from Down Syndrome, into the sex industry.
  • Human trafficking is a global phenomenon that is fueled by poverty and gender discrimination.
  • Human traffickers often work with corrupt government officials to obtain travel documents and seize passports.
  • Women and girls from racial minorities in the U.S. are disproportionately recruited by sex traffickers in the U.S.
  • The Sunday Telegraph in the U.K. reports that hundreds of children as young as six are brought to the U.K. as slaves each year.
  • Japan is a major hub of sex trafficking.
  • Japan is considered the largest market for Asian women trafficked for sex.
  • Airports are often used by human traffickers to hold “slave auctions,” where women and children are sold into prostitution.
  • Due to globalization, every continent of the world has been involved in human trafficking, including a country as small as Iceland.
  • Many times, if a sex slave is arrested, she is imprisoned while her trafficker is able to buy his way out of trouble.
  • Today, slaves are cheaper than they have ever been in history. The population explosion has created a great supply of workers, and globalization has created people who are vulnerable and easily enslaved.
  • Human trafficking and smuggling are similar but not interchangeable. Smuggling is transportation based. Trafficking is exploitation based.
  • Sex traffickers often recruit children because not only are children are more unsuspecting and vulnerable than adults, but there is also a high market demand for young victims. Traffickers target victims on the telephone, on the Internet, through friends, at the mall, and in after-school programs.
  • Human trafficking has been reported in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and in some U.S. territories.
  • The FBI estimates that over 100,000 children and young women are trafficked in America today. They range in age from 9 to 19, with the average being age 11. Many victims are not just runaways or abandoned, but are from “good” families who are coerced by clever traffickers.
  • Brazil and Thailand are generally considered to have the worst child sex trafficking records.
  • The AIDS epidemic in Africa has left many children orphaned, making them especially vulnerable to human trafficking.
  • Nearly 7,000 Nepali girls as young as nine years old are sold every year into India’s red-light district—or 200,000 in the last decade. Ten thousand children between the ages of six and 14 are in Sri Lanka brothels.
  • Human trafficking victims face physical risks, such as drug and alcohol addiction, contracting STDs, sterility, miscarriages, forced abortions, vaginal and anal trauma, among others. Psychological effects include developing clinical depression, personality and dissociative disorders, suicidal tendencies, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
  • The largest human trafficking case in recent U.S. history occurred in Hawaii in 2010. Global Horizons Manpower, Inc., a labor-recruiting company, bought 400 immigrants in 2004 from Thailand to work on farms in Hawaii. They were lured with false promises of high-paying farm work, but instead their passports were taken away and they were held in forced servitude until they were rescued in 2010.
  • According to the U.S. State Department, human trafficking is one of the greatest human rights challenges of this century, both in the United States and around the world.

Another issue that doesn’t receive much national attention, is the fact that pirated movies and music frequently help pay traffickers.  “…the cash they pay lines the pockets of serious, organised criminals, who use the profits from film piracy to fuel their trade in human traffic, hard drugs or even terrorism.”   I’m sure that speaks to all of us in an alarming way.  Maybe you’ve never intentionally purchased a pirated movie or song, but every time you download that “free file share,” there’s a chance it helped a trafficker.  A very small chance perhaps, but not one I’d be willing to live with.  Have you ever considered why that song was free?  I guarantee you it’s not out of the goodness of someone’s heart who pines at the thought of teenagers not being able to freely listen to their favorite artists.  Those websites have sponsors, and they have advertisers, and the more website hits there are, the more money there is to be made.  It makes sense when you realize that many “free music” websites have banner ads or pop-up windows that show soft porn, hoping you’ll click on the link to go to their site.   So even though you never purchased something pirated, you did help support it, and doing so, you helped support sex trafficking…. that makes you think, doesn’t it?

On the subject of pornography, if you purchase, or view freely online any form of porn, you are either directly or indirectly supporting this horrible industry.  You may think that all the women, men, and children in the images are doing it at their own free will, but you would be mistaken.  It’s true that some people make this their “profession,” but most (if not all) are doing it out of desperation, hopelessness, the need for attention, or because of trafficking.   So, just like piracy, even if you never paid to view those images, you did visit the website, and that makes money for advertisers and those in the sex-trade industry.   The same is true with drugs.  If you’ve purchased or used illegal or street drugs of any kind, you very likely helped support human trafficking.  Nothing we do impacts only ourselves, everything we do has consequences on others in some way, either in direct affect, or through our witness.

After reading all of these facts, maybe you’re a bit overwhelmed.
Maybe this is a problem that is bigger than you realized.  You’re probably asking, what can be done to stop this?  What can I do?  There are many organizations that are taking action against trafficking.  The International Justice Missionthe Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Not For Sale Campaign, the Polaris Project, NightLight International, and many others are fighting for the rights of slaves around the world.  The actions of IJM and others perform strategic operations that break up underground trafficking syndicates.   Many stories can be read on the IJM website and others about individuals who have been saved from a life of abuse and forced labor.  Ministries like NightLight are providing rescued women a chance to make a living by teaching them how to make and sell their own jewelry.  The picture to the right is a bracelet I purchased last semester from NightLight.  It was hand-made by a woman who was forced into the sex-trade industry, but now is making jewelry and selling it to support her family.   She and many other women are finding hope and a sense of worth because they are no longer treated as chattel, but like the beautiful children of God that they are.

One step you can make right now to Lift Your Voice on this issue is to sign the petition on the IJM website.   Join the other thousands who are speaking out.  Ask President Obama to take a major stand on this issue.  Together we can help stop human trafficking.  We can spread the awareness of the seriousness of this issue.  We can take a stand against the other illegal activities that promote trafficking (like piracy, porn, and drugs).  And we can lift our voices in unison and declare that we value the lives of all people.  We value their rights because we know Who they were created by.  Whether they know it or not, each one of these victims is in the image of the living God Who came to save all humanity.  We must raise our voices and tell the world that because of Him, we cannot stand idly by and allow innocent lives to be destroyed in this way.   Together we can make a difference.  But your voice must join in.  Will you Lift Your Voice?

Lavender Sweater Initiative

Posted: January 26, 2012 by liftyourvoice1 in Uncategorized
The Lavender Sweater Initiative….. In an attempt to spread the message of God’s love we are challenging you to leave anonymous notes of encouragement to your peers written in purple marker. These notes can be anything that would encourage those around you and to let them know that they matter and God cares.

Send us pics of your notes and we’ll send you a t-shirt with the logo on it.

Worldliness vs The Church

Posted: January 26, 2012 by andersontwo in Worldliness

How do we as Christians be in the world and not of the world? Jesus said that it wasn’t going to be easy. “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” John 15:18-19 Jesus called us all to go out into the world and make disciples. He told us to tell our neighbors about Christ and he told us to be a city on a hill for him. Jesus called himself the light of the world and a light to the darkness and turned to his apostles and asked the same. How do we go to a fallen world and try to impact it for Christ when everything is calling us liars, hypocrites and cowards? We are labeled as judgmental and haters because of what we believe and because we know the truth. Should we expect anything less from a world that killed our Lord and Savior? However, even though this world is clearly going to hate us, we are still commanded to stay in it or else we would have been raptured upon the moment of salvation. It’s been sort of the paradigm for the church people to stay with the church people and form our own little bubbles together. Sure we send out missionaries from time to time because we don’t want to do all the hard work ourselves but it’s far easier to just stay with Christians so we are “tempted” to do bad things. Does this philosophy fit into a lot of mainstream, dare I say, conservative churches today? This sort of worldview has formed a great deal of complacency in the church and unfortunately, apostasy as well, not to mention all of the “fake” Christians we see so often in our churches. So, how does this relate to worldliness and how we interact with everyone else and all of those “unsaved heathen folk”? Everything! The paradigm and philosophy our churches today use when addressing the “world” is exactly why we are having problems living within it and are more and more becoming like it then becoming like Christ.

Let’s talk numbers for just a minute because numbers don’t lie, or so the saying goes. According to research done by, focus on the family, Josh McDowell and partners, Barna, Campus Crusade and others, there are staggering statistics that show a growing apostasy and complacency within the church. I am going to leave the “unsaved” people out of the equation for a bit because the “church” itself needs to be addressed first. The church has a problem. The problem, in short; we’re not teaching the Bible! Unfortunately, this is a relatively new concept too! Before the nineteen hundreds Christians in America would have been considered the majority, plain and simple. If you didn’t go to church on Sunday it was because you were dead. Almost all the court judges and legislature would have said this country was a Christian country based on the principles of God! Hey, we used to teach that in schools too! Where’d that go I wonder? Now, we have this whole idea of pluralism in our churches and government, this whole idea of relative truth and skepticism. How did this happen? Two ways. One, the church of the last century didn’t fight back against the governmental changes and moral changes taking place in America. Two, they didn’t teach their kids to do the same. Now things are getting worse and this generation is showing more reason for concern than any generation prior. The youth of this generation of falling away from the church at an astounding rate and it seems like we are just sitting by and letting it happen. We tell ourselves that they will come back in the end anyway. Wrong. Let’s throw out some numbers about these church kids.

Let’s destroy the myth about youth coming back to the church if they leave it during their college and high school years. Studies by Campus Crusade show that 80% of all people saved come to Christ before the age of eighteen. This means that only 20% come to Christ after this point. So, let’s say a teenager leaves the church when he is sixteen without ever accepting Christ. He is 80% likely to never accept Christ. So, let’s ask ourselves why the youth of the church are leaving and why we are becoming more like the world than we should. According to Barna, there are six top reasons that young adults and teenagers are leaving the church. Churches seem overprotective, Christianity seems shallow, churches seem antagonistic to science, church experiences related to sexuality seem simplistic and judgmental, Christianity is too exclusive, and the church seems unfriendly to those in doubt. Another staggering statistic would be that 84% of Christian 18-24 year olds have no idea how the Bible applies to their field of professional study. A couple of interesting similarities jump out here. It would seem as though the church isn’t making the Bible real enough for Christians. This would fall on pastors and leaders more than anything. Secondly, the church is being so judgmental and conservative minded about certain issues that it is stifling growth. Some might say that the church is teaching the Bible well enough and that the youth aren’t really going all that wrong in churches today. I would say to look at your youth groups and tell me if you really think that’s true but I have statistics too.

According to Josh McDowell and associates America, (We’ll get to the church in a minute) has been decreasing in Biblical knowledge for several decades. In 1991, 52% percent of America believed there was no absolute truth. That’s not too bad. In 2003 though, the numbers jumped to a ridiculous 91% believing in no absolute truth! You can blame relativism for that one. That’s just ten years and the statistics jumped forty percent! In 1995, 10% of Americans believed the Bible was the absolute infallible word of God and in 2002, 4%. The statistics aren’t exactly in the favor of a Christian nation. Still losing this in the world and not of the world fight from these statistics. Let’s talk about the church and young adults. 63% of young adults don’t believe that Jesus was really the son of God. Um…. 58% believe in relative truth and that all truths are valid. 51% don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead. I’m pretty sure there’s a verse in 1st Corinthians 15 that’s pretty clear about the importance of that one. 65% percent don’t believe Satan is real. After all, Satan’s greatest deceit is to make us believe that he doesn’t exist. 68% don’t believe in the Holy Spirit. Now, how exactly are we supposed to be a city on a hill and salt and light to the world if we don’t believe that the very source of our power in Christ even exists in the first place? 64% believe that if a person is generally good then they go to heaven. Um, shall I site Ephesians 2:8-9? I shall. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no man can boast.” This is what the youth, essentially, my generation believes doctrinally and about the Bible. It’s no surprise that people are falling away. This then begs to ask the question why? Why are the contemporary youth struggling so much? Why is the church failing at raising up its children in the way they should go?

I would like to stop here and say that this is not “all” the church’s’ fault. It’s not like contemporary culture is making this whole, raising children thing any easier. The peer pressure and temptation for youth is greater now than it has been ever before. The amount of technology at our disposal and the amount of information at our fingertips makes things so much easier. Pornography is rampant; sexuality is pushed more through media sources now than ever before. Negative cultural trends are looked upon as cool and there is a greater and greater pull for people to see Christians as the “weirdos”. It’s not like past generations didn’t have these problems but they have just been intensified in the past several decade. In the forties and fifties problems in school included chewing gum and talking but in the nineties rape and murder were much more prevalent. So, let’s not blame everything on the church. The world is enticing. The church though, doesn’t seem to be so enticing.

Young adults are leaving the church for six main reasons that can really be narrowed down to two. The church isn’t making the Bible real and relevant and the church is too judgmental. Let’s start with the relevancy of the Bible. I understand that the Bible is timeless and the words of truth transcend time. However, people aren’t seeing that because of the emphasis put on all the “old” traditions and similar stories. The more I sit back and watch the more I notice less and less emphasis put on doctrine and more on entertainment. Some of the statistics of the youth can only be real because the church hasn’t done the job of teaching doctrine or because the schools and the world has done a better job teaching whatever else the world teaches. So then you get the Christians that don’t really understand the Bible and what it really teaches. You get young Christians that should be old and ones that are still drinking milk when they need to be eating meat. You get the hypocritical Christians that talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. Shame. The church being judgmental is probably one of the gravest issues I can see. Honestly, I know that sin is sin and that at some point the church should condemn sin; however that seems to be all the church does. I would like to refer to Scripture for an example before I show some statistics. I look back to 1st Corinthians five when Paul addresses the man having an affair with his mother in law. Well, the church condemns the man and casts him out of the church, which if the man doesn’t repent, is just action. However, in 2nd Corinthians Paul addresses the same issue because the church didn’t all the man, who had repented at this point, back into the church! This sounds so familiar to what I see in churches today. They back away from anyone that is “sinful” or having problems instead of exhorting them and helping them get back on track in their walk with Christ. It’s like so many Christians have this holier than thou ideology and that if they get too close to the “sinner” they might catch the disease. No! We are to pick our fallen brother up and love him back to Christ and help him, not cast him to the street and leave him there! On to statistics.

23% percent of adults 18-29 year olds say that the church demonizes everything outside the church. 22% percent say that the church is too focused on the evils of video games, movies and music than anything else. 30% of contemporaries say that church is boring and another 25% say that their “church experience” lacked God. 29% say that the church is afraid of other beliefs and faiths and 22% percent said that the church is too much like a country club, only for the insiders. Another 36% percent said that they were afraid to talk about their doubts of faith in church. 40% said that the churches’ teaching on birth control and sexuality is outdated.

So let’s look at this for just a moment. I don’t think anyone could deny that the church is taking a lot of time looking at video games, music and movies as an evil. That music is the devil’s music! Or so the saying goes. One third of the people polled say that that church is boring and that it lacked a certain God feeling. I can sort of attest to this because often I sit and church and look around during worship and see solemn faces and vacant expressions. Alright people, the Israelites praised God for 30 days straight in the wilderness and we can’t do it for thirty minutes. Another third said that the church was too afraid of other beliefs and faiths. Now, I do think the church needs to take a stand on “Jesus is the only way to heaven” idea cause it’s the truth, but I also think we need to be familiar with other beliefs so we aren’t ignorant of other people. Probably one of the saddest things in the church today is their ignorance. The church seems to do a good job in keeping to themselves and making a good point to keep in tradition and the cultures that it sets for itself. This probably wouldn’t be a bad thing if the devil took the same approach too. However, the devil figures out how to hurt us, how to make us go apostate. If we try to say that the church doesn’t need to do something different to keep its members then we fool ourselves. I cannot help but stress the fact that we are losing the battle. Worldliness is slipping into our churches and pulling out our youth. I cannot help but think that this is because the “world” is more appealing than the church. The church is starting to look just like the world and it’s turning everyone away because they say, “If that is what a Christian is then why do I want a part of that?” The reason the church was so contagious in the first century was because it was so much different than anything that had been conceived before. The apostles had the signs and wonders, the testimony of Jesus and the Holy Spirit changed people’s lives. It wasn’t until after Christianity was ruled the official religion of Rome than the apostasy of all the other religions filtered into the church. Another subject for another time though.

So, it’s clear that worldliness is an issue, especially in our churches and in our youth? There is starting to become less and less distinction between the two. The world sees rules and regulations, as does our youth when they should see freedom in Christ. I can’t help but think that there are four main reasons we are becoming more of the world than Jesus commanded. One, the church has stopped teaching good doctrine. Enough of this charity gospel stuff and this it’s all fun under the Son ideology. We need to get back to the basis of Scripture that teaches Jesus as Lord and Savior. Two, we need a good apologetic. Churches aren’t taking time to go through and explain why the Bible is the Bible and why it is inerrant and infallible. I’ve heard it said that we need to take it on faith but faith is the evidence of things not seen and we have plenty to see that proves the Bible true. Where are the lessons on truth and the issues that are the most pressing in the world today? The church needs to stop being afraid to address the “hard” issues that might make a few people cringe in their seats. Thirdly, the church needs to stop being so negative. Statistics show that people are afraid of the church because of being judged. They feel as though if they make one wrong step they will be excommunicated. The church looks at so many things with such a negative outlook. Ever heard a sermon on sex or music? Sex is evil and music is the devil. Why doesn’t the church talk about the beauty of sex within the proper context or the beauty of music? God made both of them and they both glorify him when done right. Still, too much negativity is given to the “problems” of society and we steer away from it so much that it makes the church look “holier than thou” and rules regulated. The contemporary youth don’t have any interest in that sort of thing and so they become of the world. Fourthly, the church needs to get excited again. Where is the love and fervor for Jesus Christ that you saw in the church during the first century? Where is the excitement and the joy of the Lord? Rejoice in the Lord and again I say Rejoice! Why aren’t we dancing in the streets like David? (Can’t do it naked anymore though…) Why are we told to not raise our hands or why are we told to solemnly stand in reverence? Where is the joy, where is the jumping, the gladness? God has redeemed us from the curse of the law! Jesus has set you free from sin! That should get you excited! If we would just live with that excitement people would see that we were different, people would wonder why. We want them to wonder why! We’re supposed to be a city on a hill and we do that by praising the one you made the hill.

So, how do we live in the world and not be of the world? We love on another. Churches become places of safety. We teach our children how to defend their faith and teach them to know why they believe what they believe. We embrace change and cling to the transcendence of the Bible. We become the city on a hill and the salt and light of the world God called us to be. People will come. We may be in the world, but we are also IN CHRIST!

Speaking Truth in Love: A Call to Christian Humility and Civility

I am concerned with the lack of love with which Christians, or professing Christians, so often seem to speak.  In Scripture we are repeatedly told to speak truth, but while that we speak truth is important, how we speak it is just as important.  This is the part which we as Christian leaders often neglect when we teach our youth to be committed to truth and speak up and speak out without shame for what they believe.  Consequently, we have discerning young people, who can identify error, and will be bold in speaking up, but not speaking in love.  They will then spew, in their spoken and written communication, obscenities, malice and hate all in the name of Christ and truth!  We cannot neglect this matter, for to do so is to fail to teach what it means to speak truth and it shows a lack of understanding of what it means to grow into maturity in Christ.  Let me give you the passage out of which I am working here.

Until we all come to the unity of the faith . . . to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, that we no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, . . . but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him, Christ-Who is the Head, in all things” – Ephesians 4:13-15

Unity in faith is a good thing, growing in our understanding of Christian truth so as not to be easily drawn away into false doctrine is a good thing, but as good as these are, we cannot claim to be anywhere near maturity in Christ unless we are doing so “in love.” I will go far as to say that if we do not speak the truth in love we are WRONG and disobedient to the Lord, no matter how much our words conform to His Truth.

Now here is why this is on my mind.

In the last year (2011), in Cranston, Rhode Island, a self-professed atheist student, Jessica Ahlquist, acted on her convictions to get a prayer banner removed from the walls of her high school which calls on  “Our Heavenly Father” to bless the school.  She said this verbiage makes her feel excluded at school because, “I am an atheist, I don’t believe in a heavenly Father and I wouldn’t like to see that posted on a wall in my school.”  The ACLU, of course, rushed to her aid and helped her win her case.  As of January, 2012, the banner has been ordered to be removed.  This, of course, set off a firestorm and upset many people who are “Christians,” or who were glad the prayer was posted in their school and saw no harm in it.  The atheist student, however, took the matter to court and the ruling was for the school to take it down.  You can read about the case and watch videos here http://www.theblaze.com/stories/fed-judge-sides-with-teen-atheist-orders-public-school-to-remove-prayer-mural/

What we are seeing is a battle of worldviews and, I admit, a misinterpretation of the original intent of our nation’s first amendment.  There are non-theists and even anti-theists, who want not just freedom “of” religion in our country, but freedom “from” religion, vying for a completely secular public space where there is no mention of deities or supernatural forces; which includes the elimination of “In God We Trust” from our money.  The secularist desires that we focus on the here and now, what we have in “This world” (the root meaning of “secular”) and not look to any divine guidance in human affairs because it is meaningless or at best irrelevant.  This, of course, is not at all what our founding fathers were seeking when they wrote those ten famous words; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”  That discussion, however, I may save for another post, because to appreciate these ten words, we have to consider the historical background of the entire amendment, and what Thomas Jefferson meant, several years later in referring to it, by his metaphor concerning “a wall of separation.”  For those interested in this whole matter, I recommend that you read, Ten Tortured Words by Stephen Mansfield.

So in this particular post my issue is not with the atheist student, or the ACLU or the public officials who sided with her and had the banner removed, or the gross misinterpretation of the first amendment; my concern is with how the Christian, or professing Christian, students handled themselves once the prayer was removed; in short, it was not loving at all.

This became grievously clear to me when reading the blog written by atheist Jen McCreight, posted on January 13, 2012, which she wrote after the ruling, and more importantly the response by students opposed to Ahlquist.  McCreight sarcastically entitled her blog, “That Christian Compassion.”  Ouch!

In it she observes,

“Jessica Ahlquist may have won her legal battle to remove an unconstitutional prayer banner from her public school, but that doesn’t mean she can finally resume her everyday life. No, now she’s receiving horrible comments from fellow classmates, community members, and other angry Christians who are very, very offended . . .”

There’s the general anti-atheist remarks:

  • “May that little, evil athiest teenage girl and that judge BURN IN HELL!”
  • “yeah, well i want the immediate removal of all atheists from the school, how about that?”
  •  “Jessica Ahlquist may have won her case, but she’s going straight to hell. #Godovereverything”
  •  “I hope there’s lots of banners in hell when your rotting in there you atheist f**k #TeamJesus”

And worse, the threats:

  •  “U little brainless idiot, hope u will be punished, you have not win sh..t! Stupid little brainless skunk!”
  •  “F**k Jessica alquist I’ll drop anchor on her face”
  •  “definetly laying it down on this athiest tommorow anyone else?”
  •  “Let’s all jump that girl who did the banner #f-thatho”
  •  “literally that b**ch is insane. and the best part is she already transferred schools because shes knows someone will jump her #ahaha”
  •  “”But for real somebody should jump this girl” lmao let’s do it!”
  •  “Hmm jess is in my bio class, she’s gonna get some s**t thrown at her”
  •  “I want to punch the girl in the face that made west take down the school prayer… #Honestly”
  •  “hail Mary full of grace @jessicaahlquist is gonna get punched in the face”
  •  “When I take over the world I’m going to do a holocaust to all the atheists”
  •  “gods going to f**k your ass with that banner you scumbag”
  •  “I found it, what a little b**ch lol I wanna snuff her”
  •  “if I wasn’t 18 and wouldn’t go to jail I’d beat the s**t out of her idk how she got away with not getting beat up yet”
  •  “lol I wanna stick that b**ch lol”
  •  “nail her to a cross”
  •  “We can make so many jokes about this dumb b**ch, but who cares #thatb**chisgointohell and Satan is gonna rape her.”

The full list can be found here. http://jesusfetusfajitafishsticks.blogspot.com/2012/01/ahlquist-screenshots-if-by-christian.html

McCrieght then states,

“I feel ill after typing these up. . . Not only does this make the threats toward Jessica very real, but it just depresses me. How are teenagers so full of violence and hatred?”

She answers,

“Oh right. Religious brainwashing by their families and communities.”

You can read McCreight’s full, uncensored blog and follow her links here – http://freethoughtblogs.com/blaghag/2012/01/that-christian-compassion/

I am sorry if the list above offended you, but you, whether you are a Christian youth or a Christian parent, or leader need to see it, and I hope you are as appalled as I am with this outflow of utter meanness and hatred pouring from alleged Christians.  I, along with the atheist blogger, McCreight “feel ill” after reading these horrific comments. To be honest, I am offended more at these responses than the ruling!  How can anyone who names the name of Christ feel comfortable with such degradation of a fellow human being created in God’s image (which Jessica is, whether she believes or acknowledges it or not)?  I have to point out the greatest irony of all this which is that these malicious posts of students objecting to having the prayer removed demonstrate that the prayer itself, which called on the “Heavenly Father” to help them “grow morally [and] be kind to our classmates,” seems to have meant nothing to them; having little to no effect in their lives. What, really, are they fighting for?  Did they ever really pray it, or just once meditate through it?  What’s the point in fighting for something that is obviously quite meaningless to you?

I realize that McCreight listed only negative comments in her blog, and there may be positive ones.  I also realize that the ones professing Christianity may not really be Christians at all, but is it possible that some were? I know, personally, that I have heard genuine Christians seeking to follow Christ be less than Christ-like in their speech, especially toward those whom they consider liberals, secularists and unbelievers.

For sake of argument, let’s say that some were genuine Christian young people who posted those hateful comments.  Not only is it inconsistent with the prayer itself, it is completely incompatible with a Christian posture in society.  I do not understand where our young people are getting the notion that such malicious and obscene language is acceptable.  McCreight talks about “religious brainwashing by their families and communities.” Perhaps she is correct, but I think more to the point is the lack of solid and deliberate biblical instruction on this matter of speaking the truth “in love”  from parents and leaders.

McCreight mockingly and sarcastically entitles her post “That Christian Compassion” because she is right, we are showing anything but.  A love for Jesus and truth does not justify unloving speech toward our fellow humans.  Again, I say; that we speak the truth is important, but how we speak it is JUST AS EQUALLY important. It is not optional, but mandatory, and this kind of spewing is not consistent with being truly “Christian,” which means “belonging to Christ.”

For those who claim to belong to Christ, I want to place before you, and comment on, several biblical passages in which we are admonished in various ways to “speak the truth in love.”

Of course, there is the Ephesians 4:15 passage, perhaps the most famous for this principle, which says we are to “speak the truth in love.”

In 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Paul instructs his protégé, Timothy.  Here we see that the Lord’s servant MUST NOT be quarrelsome, BUT in sharp contrast have opposite qualities. He says,

24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,

In Titus 3:1-5a Paul instructs the following.  Notice that while Titus is the leader receiving the letter, he is told to “Remind” the people of his church (thus all Christians), certain things.

1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. 3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us,

In Colossians 4:15 Paul tells these Christians:

5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside (non-believers), redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Emphasis Added)

Peter tells the persecuted believers to whom he is writing, in 1 Peter 3:15

15 But sanctify the Lord Godin your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;

Finally, James instructs us not to be verbally abusive towards our fellow humans because humans are created in God’s likeness.  James says in James 3:9-10,

9 With [the tongue] we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude [likeness] of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.

Let’s make several observations about these passages:

First, we should realize that every one of them were written to Christians living as minorities in a world of paganism; persecuted minorities with no “inalienable” rights.  Christians were minorities and had no Declaration of Independence, Constitution or First Amendment to think about, let alone appeal to!  This is not to say that we should lay down flat and let the secularists have their way for truth demands that we make sure the First Amendment is properly understood and taught. But our country is still under more Christian influence than the Greco-Roman world in which the Apostles moved and ministered (and effectively so, I might add).  We seem to think that the Gospel will die if the US becomes a secular state.  Whatever happened to, “I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.”?  If you think about it, the first church’s days were more dark, anti-Christian, and far more dangerous than our own. (By “our” I mean we in the U.S., for there are plenty of Christians experiencing horrendous opposition, persecution and death in other countries as you read this).  Yes, Paul would appeal to his Roman citizenship to get some legal leverage, and we should use the laws in place to our advantage to continue to freely practice our faith, and publicly express it, and even fight for our rights (whatever they happen to be), but this does not need to, nor should, be with hatred and malice.  Based on the passages above, which is God’s authoritative word to us, we are, as believers, to:

(From 2 Timothy 2:24-25)

  • Refrain from quarreling (Lit. – be non-combative; elsewhere, Paul tells us that the weapons of our warfare are NOT physical, but spiritual;  2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
  • Be gentle to all (Lit. – affable or pleasantly easy to approach and talk to, friendly, cordial; showing warmth and friendliness to ALL, not those we like or agree with.  Remember that our Master told us to “love your enemies.”)
  • Patient (Lit. – patiently enduring evil, patient with wrong-doing; we have to endure, not necessarily seek to eliminate, what we consider wrong or evil to some extent, besides, if we are going to overcome evil, Paul tells us to do so with “good” by which he means acts of kindeness to those who persecute us – Romans 12:1–21)
  • Be humble/meek (have a mildness, not madness, of disposition)

(From Titus 3:1-5)

  • Be subject/obedient to rulers and authorities (We are not generally to be lawbreakers, even if we might think it is for a good cause. We should, as a rule, operate within the bounds of the law.  There is a limit, of course, if our authorities should demand that we explicitly disobey God; then we must “obey God rather than man” but it is generally the case that our authorities do not ask this and we must obey them).
  • Be ready to do good (Doing good means to be, as much as possible, a benefit and blessing to others, especially those in opposition – again, refer to Romans 12:17-21)
  • Refrain from speaking evil of anyone (Lit. – blaspheme; yes, we can blaspheme fellow humans, because humans are created in God’s image. The implication here and more so in James 3 (see below)  is that blaspheming humans is equivalent to disrespecting God).
  • Be peaceable (Lit. – to refrain from brawling and contention)
  • Be gentle (Lit. – moderate, equitable, civil)
  • Be humble/meek toward all people (same as above – mildness of disposition)

Notice in this passage WHY we are to take this posture in our interactions with all people, especially those who do not know Christ; because we remember where we came from and what we are still capable of.  We did not save ourselves through our own goodness, for we have none.  God, in His rich mercy through Christ gave us, who deserve nothing, His wonderful salvation.   Christians forget this too frequently and take a posture toward the world as though we are better than them.  We are not better, we are only better off, and that is not because we deserve it.  We are failing to show them the real difference that being Christ’s follower makes in our character.

(From Colossians 4:15)

  • Our speech (notice speech) should be “with grace, seasoned with salt.” This means that our words, particularly towards those “outside” the faith, should not be hateful or hurtful, but filled with “grace” (unmerited kindness) and “seasoned with salt.” We should be kind, even when not receiving kindness, and we should use speech that makes people thirsty (like salty food does), giving them something to think about in a non-threatening manner, guiding them toward the truth by using reasoned argumentation, not emotional hate-speech (which will never work anyway).  With the tools of reason and logic we should seek to be persuasive, and we will not be persuasive as long as we are abrasive.

(From 1 Peter 3:15)

Peter tells his audience, who are persecuted and oppressed Christian minorities scattered around Asia Minor, that in this context we should be:

  • “Ready to give a defense to anyone who asks a reason for the hope you have.”  We as Christians like this part, and emphasize it. This is our stock verse to call believers to “defend” the faith!  But let’s remember, ours is a message of HOPE not HATE.  We often come across in our defense as too hateful, rather than hopeful, I’m afraid. Remember, there is no hope, no real hope, for the atheist (Ephesians 2:12 – the word “without god” is literally a-theos – or atheist).  Christianity offers hope, and we should joyfully live like we have it, especially when persecuted.  Peter says earlier in the same letter that this is a “living hope” for eternal life and reward because of Jesus’ resurrection.  Part of our defense for our hope is to clearly and logically argue the truth of the resurrection. If Christ is truly raised from death, He is the Savior and Lord of the world; He alone is the world’s ultimate and only hope.

Notice that Peter does not stop there, but tells us how to give the defense, “in meekness and fear.” Again I say, speaking and defending the truth is NOT enough.  HOW we speak it is just as important.  If we are not going to speak the truth in love to those who oppose God, we may as well just shut up!

  • Meekness/humility (we saw this before in Paul’s words above, the meaning is the same here)
  • Fear (meaning in this case respect toward God and even others to whom we speak; humans are created in God’s image, even if they do not acknowledge or believe it, and we must show them due respect in our speech.  James says this in 3:8-13, as stated earlier.  Reverence for God is demonstrated in respect toward those created in His image.

(From James 3:9-10)

  • It seems to be James’ main point that we must keep constant watch on our tongues (what we say and how we say it) because of our inclination towards evil, hurtful. bad, speech; it comes so easily, and must be reigned in like a wild stallion.
  • He gives the example that we will praise God with our tongues, and then, turn around a moment later, and with that same tongue, verbally abuse His image in people.
  • He says these things “ought not to be” which is clear moral instruction. Our praise of God, and even our fight for Truth, is meaningless when we speak in an unloving – that is a hateful, spiteful, malicious ways, even to those who mock and deny Him.

As you consider these passages of authoritative instruction to those who call Jesus their Lord, there is NO WAY that the speech coming from supposed Christians and directed at Jessica Ahlquist can be justified; absolutely NO WAY.  When we use such hateful, hurtful, threatening speech, whether we are talking or writing, because someone is attacking our beliefs, we are very far afield of those beliefs. Our beliefs do not merely supply us with content for our creed, but with characteristics for our conduct, and communication.  If we say we believe the Gospel and Jesus and the word of God, we are lying to ourselves when we spew forth hate and threats in our own writing and talking in defense of that truth!  This is ungodly behavior in the name of God.

Let us from here on out summarize our public presence and posture, whether we are speaking or writing, in these two words: humility and civility.

Humility is the quality of recognizing that I do not have all the answers and can be mistaken.  It means I recognized that I am where I am because of the grace of God.  Being humble makes me teachable, not defensive and hateful.  Civility means that I treat others as equal citizens with a right to believe what they do and fight for those rights.  I have the same exact rights, and fighting for them, especially as a Christian, does not mean spewing hate and malice toward those I perceive as threatening them, or taking them away. I must graciously and humbly seek to persuade others with reason and logic.  If I fail and they win, I may continue to try, but I am never justified in doing so maliciously or hatefully.

In this blog space, we will sometimes raise very volatile and emotionally charged issues, like that of abortion.  I must say that, on that issue, I am proud of the way my former students have been behaving toward those who may disagree with them.

If you ever want to write for our website, please know that humility and civility are required.  We will accept no hate-speech or malicious and hurtful writing.  We want you to express your hope and convictions in the kindest possible words.  This does not mean that you  refrain from rigorous logic and argument, for this is how we are to combat falsehood, but remember that everyone who posts here is created in God’s image and likeness, and that they matter and God cares.

If we fail in the areas of humility and civility, we fail, epically, to speak the truth in love.

Doc H

I Can Play The Background

Posted: January 25, 2012 by liftyourvoice1 in Testimonies, Worldliness

(Note: I’m not sure if you see the connection to worldliness or if there is even one. I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to share this, hopefully my thoughts are coherent and that this story accomplishes what it was intended too. Which,  was to bring God Glory!)

The past several weeks we have addressed many interesting and tough concepts here at Lift Your Voice.  This week’s topic is no different.  Worldliness is a very broad topic to discuss. Through the busyness of my week I have been praying and pondering what to write about here on the blog. As I have prayed, one song has come to my mind; and along with that song came thoughts of MY STORY.   So, for my part I will share the song and the story…or as we Christians like to call it my TESTIMONY.

Those who have listened to the show, or if you’ve seen our facebook page, you will know that I am a fan of the Christian rapper Lecrae. Lecrae is a very talented artist, and he is firmly rooted in scripture. One of his best songs and the song that has been running through my head all week is Background.  The song has been on repeat in my itunes, spotify, and my ipod all week. I just cannot get the melody and the message of the song out of my head.  Lecrae’s song speaks to me on so many levels. The language he uses, that of a performer specifically, within the song makes it feel and seem as though he were telling MY STORY.  Before I tell you MY STORY, I want to show you the lyrics of this song and perhaps you will understand MY STORY and how it fits into this discussion on worldliness.

“Background”
(feat. C-Lite)

I could play the background
I could play the background
Cause I know sometimes I get in the way
So won’t You take the lead, lead, lead?
So won’t You take the lead, lead, lead?
And I could play the background, background
And you could take the lead

It’s evident you run the show, so let me back down
You take the leading role, and I’ll play the background
I know I miss my cues, know I forget my lines
I’m sticking to your script, and I’m reading all your signs
I don’t need my name in lights, I don’t need a starring role
Why gain the whole wide world, If I’m just going lose my soul
And my ways ain’t purified, don’t live according to Your Word
I can’t endure this life without Your wisdom being heard
So word to every dance, a foe, a pop star
‘Cause we all play the background, but mine’s a rockstar
Yeah, so if you need me I’ll be stage right
Praying the whole world will start embracing stage fright
So let me fall back, stop giving my suggestions
‘Cause when I follow my obsessions, I end up confessing
That I’m not that impressive, matter of fact
I’m who I are, a trail of stardust leading to the superstar

I could play the background
I could play the background
Cause I know sometimes I get in the way
So won’t You take the lead, lead, lead?
So won’t You take the lead, lead, lead?
And I could play the background, background
And you could take the lead

I had a dream that I was captain of my soul
I was master of my fate, lost control. and then I sank
So I don’t want to take the lead, ’cause I’m prone to make mistakes
All the folks who follow me, going end up in the wrong place
So let me just shadow you, let me trace your lines
Matter of fact, just take my pen, here, you create my rhymes
‘Cause if I do this by myself, I’m scared that I’ll succeed
And no longer trust in you, ’cause I only trust in me
And see, that’s how you end up headed to destruction
Paving a road to nowhere, pour your life out for nothing
You pulled my card, I’m bluffing, You know what’s in my hand
Me, I’m just going to trust you, You cause the dice to land
I’m in control of nothing, follow you at any cost
Some call it sovereign will, all I know is you the boss
Man, I’m so at ease, I’m so content
I’ll play the background, like it’s an instrument

I could play the background
I could play the background
Cause I know sometimes I get in the way
So won’t You take the lead, lead, lead?
So won’t You take the lead, lead, lead?
And I could play the background, background
And you could take the lead

I know I’m safest when I’m in Your will, and trust Your Word
I know I’m dangerous when I trust myself, my vision blurred
And I ain’t got no time to play life’s foolish games
Got plenty aims, but do they really Glorify Your name
And it’s a shame, the way I want to do these things for You
Don’t even cling to you, take time to sit and gleam from You
Seems You were patient in my ignorance
If ignorance is bliss, it’s ’cause she never heard of this

I could play the background
I could play the background
Cause I know sometimes I get in the way
So won’t You take the lead, lead, lead?
So won’t You take the lead, lead, lead?
And I could play the background, background
And you could take the lead

I could play the background
I could play the background
Cause I know sometimes I get in the way
So won’t You take the lead, lead, lead?
So won’t You take the lead, lead, lead?
And I could play the background, background
And you could take the lead.

If you have known me for any length of time, you probably already know and have heard this story.  But, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure I’m going to share it with you.

MY STORY

Selfish desires are a major part of, if not the foundation of worldliness. For many selfish desires lead to hedonism and a lifestyle that is very worldly. At one time in my life I had been on a path to fulfill my selfish desires, my selfish ambition.  My ambition was to be in the spotlight, to be the focus of as many people’s attention as I could. I wanted to be rich and famous and have lots of power in the world. Ever since I was little I have had a sense that I was set apart to be and do something great. Of course throughout much of my life my concept of what is great was viewed through what the world thought greatness was.

For many of you, you may be too young to remember the show “Family Ties.” It was a very popular sitcom throughout the 1980’s. I was two almost three when its last season aired.  But, I remember watching it when I was little. Recently, thanks to Netflix, I’ve been able to watch this beloved show again. As, I’ve been watching these old episodes I have realized that I was at one time very much like one of the sitcoms major characters, Alex P. Keaton(played by Michael J. Fox). Alex is the oldest of his family during the shows run his character was very ambitious and very set on becoming as rich and powerful as he could. Often times his selfishness and earthly desires would get him into trouble, and by the end of the show he would learn a valuable life lesson and it would look like he would be less selfish than before.  But, of course in the next episode, despite being knocked down a few pegs in the previous episode, he would be his old prideful and selfish self and he’d learn a whole new less.

Although an extreme example I did have my moments where I was like Alex. My parents have always described me as a “Ham” or one who has to be the center of attention all the time. It’s true. I love attention. I love being the focus of everyone around me. From a young age I had decided that I would find as many ways to be that focus of everyone’s attention that I could. Naturally these desires lead me to become involved with theater.

The first play I can remember being in was my first grade classes production of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” I played Yukon Cornelius (we based our play off of the classic Christmas movie). It was my first taste of being on stage and I loved it.  The next time I was able to get on stage was in fifth grade. From that point on there really hasn’t been a year where I haven’t done something that involved theater. From the fifth grade until I graduated high school I was in a total of 24 productions in church, school, and around the community.  I was told by a well-known actress from the area that I could make a career out of acting. The founder of my high school’s theater program who also happened to be a producer for Sight and Sound Theater in Lancaster called me a triple threat on the stage. A local newspaper writer who wrote reviews of professional theater for the paper said after one of my performances that I would have gotten rave reviews from him if he were writing a review for the paper. I once had a community theater company asking me to come and play the lead in their next production.

I loved theater, and I was good at it. I was good at it, and I knew it (which was very dangerous). I truthfully wanted to make that my career.  But, not only was I involved in theater, but if it was performance based, or it involved me being in front of people, I was there and I was involved. I was in my school’s morning TV show which did the announcements on all the televisions in the school. I did that because it was the best way I could force myself into every student’s life every day. I was on the TV and they had to watch, I got to be the center of attention. I was my class’s treasure for two years because it would bring me attention. I ran track and cross country (I did love these sports and had a lot of fun) because as an athlete at school it brought me attention. I was the school’s mascot for football because it brought me attention.  Everything I did was all about bringing me glory and attention.

There was a section in the local paper each week set aside for teens and stories about teens in the community. It covered issues that teens would discuss, events that teens were a part of, theater, sports, politics, and so on. Frequently I was interviewed for various topics that were printed in that section. It got to the point where the reporter that wrote that section stated that she would just contact me for every story. I hate to word it this way, but at least in the immediate area I grew up in I could have been considered a local celebrity.  My father was the Pastor of a church, and often times considered the pastor for the town as a whole.  If Will Smith was considered the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” then I very well may have been considered the prince of Bowmansville for a period of time.  At the very least I was a favored son of my high school and my community.

I don’t say these things to pump myself up, but rather to paint the picture of what I had wanted at one time. In my community it was difficult for me to go anywhere without someone knowing either me or my father, and to a degree I liked it that way. I was the center of attention. My selfish desire to have glory and be well known and liked was being realized in the community.  At the time I felt that I cast a very big shadow and I most definitely had a big head.

I was center stage and life was all about me. While I claimed to be a Christian, and I strived to live a life that was considered to be good, I wanted all the glory. God was in the background of my life.  It was very evident. At the end of every performance or the end of a run of shows, when I was not the center of attention or in the spotlight, I felt very empty. Being in the spotlight was my drug.  Without it I felt I had a meaningless life.  Much like Solomon in Ecclesiastes I was searching for meaning, despite the fact that meaning was right under my nose in a Bible, I couldn’t find it.

I came to Liberty University in fall 2005 with every intention of continuing the trend. I intended to try and continue to draw attention to myself and be the center of attention. I auditioned for the theater program and because it involved acting a ministry team called King’s Players.  Although I had developed somewhat of a big head, I made attempts at being humble. Underneath the humility still lay the desire to be the center of attention though. But slowly my attitude began to change. It actually had begun with my decision to come to Liberty. My decision to come to LU was the first decision in my entire life that I actually stepped back and let God make for me. I allowed Him to direct me to LU, but He still did not have control over everything. I was still in the business of bringing glory to me.

The change really took shape after my auditions. During freshman week at LU my prayer leader shared with me 1 Corinthians 10:31. It says “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.” He explained that everything we did in life, as Christians, should be done for the glory of God. This was a completely new concept to me, because everything I had done, all my accolades and accomplishments, were done for my glory. Every show I had done was to draw attention to me and my talent. I was trying to show everyone how good I was.  I thought about this for a while, and I realized and I asked myself exactly what the Bible says… what does it profit me to gain the whole world and lose my soul? I had spent my whole life trusting in me, my talents, and was trying to gain glory for me. I began to see why I was empty when I wasn’t the center of attention.  I saw that my talents were not there to bring me glory, but rather they were there to bring God glory.  I realized that if I began to try and glorify God in all things, all life’s little details and its big occurrences that I could find meaning and satisfaction in my life. I wanted to try this, so I decided to make 1 Corinthians 10:31 my life verse.

Remember that I had auditioned for two theater groups at LU right? Well, I ended up being cast in both.  I still had that talent; the difference was I had a new resolve to live for God’s glory instead of my own. Here came my first test in this. Because I was cast in both I had to make a decision. I could only choose one. Both directors gave me 48 hours to pick. On the one hand was glory and the spotlight in the school’s main theater group; on the other was a minimally funded ministry team that would not bring me much attention. I had to sit down and pray, and I applied my new life verse.  I prayed to God and asked Him which one I could bring more glory to Him through. Now, mind you this was through me, if you were in the situation God may have gained more glory if you chose differently than I, but for me God showed that He would gain more glory if I would choose King’s Players. This meant less glory and less recognition for me, but in the end I could glorify God more through my participation in the ministry team.

I have been a part of that ministry off and on for the last seven years or so. As a result of working with this ministry I gave in to God’s call for me to go into full time ministry. Up until then I did not want to go into ministry because chances were that I would not be the spotlight and I certainly wouldn’t get glory, money, or fame.  The point of my story is that I wanted to be the lead, not the background. I have grown to realize over the years that being the lead and wanting to be in control or the center of attention is a worldly desire. It’s worldliness. But stepping back and tacking the background and letting God take the lead and gain the glory, while difficult for me to do, is more satisfying. Also,  I still feel as though I am supposed to be great. But God defines that greatness. I believe that my success or my greatness is not defined by the greatness I achieve in man’s eyes but rather my obedience to God and His call on my life.

Lecrae’s song speaks to me because of its language. It’s a daily prayer for me.  I still struggle with the desire to be out front.  But I run these desires through a lens.  The line in the bridge where Lecrae says “Got plenty aims, but do they really Glorify Your name” is that lens. Do my aims glorify God’s name. I still often times get to be out front and be the center of people’s attention. I love to entertain.  But because I’m playing the background now, I make sure to point their attention to the lead……..The lead who saved my life despite my worldly and sinful desires.  I’m trying to embrace stage fright so that God can get the glory…because as Lecrae says all I am is “a trail of stardust leading to the superstar.”

(Note: I’m not sure if you see the connection to worldliness or if there is even one. I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to share this, hopefully my thoughts are coherent and that this story accomplishes what it was intended too. Which, was to bring God Glory!)

Brandon Witmyer—Director and host of Lift Your Voice

Lecrae: I Am Second

Posted: January 24, 2012 by liftyourvoice1 in Testimonies, Worldliness

I felt it was appropriate to share this testimony from Lecrae. It is a great picture of turning from a materialistic worldview to a Christ centered worldview. Lecrae has gone from being of the world to being in the world as a minister of the Gospel.

Falling Bible

Posted: January 23, 2012 by andreacaresse in Worldliness
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

You may think this a strange title, but you’ll see the meaning behind “Falling Bible” at the end.  It ties into this week’s discussion of “Worldliness,” which is not only an issue that affects our witness to non-believers, but it affects our relationship with God as well.  We as His children can never lose our salvation, but we can lose our fellowship with God.  The more we are of the world, the farther we are from God.   Worldliness is an issue that ranges from everything from daily distractions, to deep-rooted sinful desires that are born from being too attached to what the world desires.  If we are focused and dependent on God, worldliness should be so disconnected from our character that others around us can see a visible difference in the way we live and think.

As Christians, we are called to “be in the world, but not of the world.”   We are meant to be “light and salt in a wicked a crooked generation.”  God has chosen us to be a beacon of light and truth to those who don’t know His name.  One of the most important things to remember is that if we are distracted by the same fallen desires that entice the world, then no one will be able to see any intelligible difference in us, and they will not listen to the Truth that we need to share.   We are the image bearers of Christ.  What the world sees through our lives, they assume is a result of our beliefs in Jesus Christ.  If they look at us and see the same kind of individual as any other secular person, then they can freely suppose that our faith makes no difference and is not important to us.   Our faith in Jesus Christ should be the foundation that we build our actions, beliefs, attitudes, and desires on.  If we allow the world to dictate our values, then all we are doing is allowing ourselves to be “tossed to and fro, and carried about” by everything that’s wrong in the world.

What does the Bible say on the subject? Check these verses out:

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:15-16

“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:19

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

“Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?” 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

So what exactly do we mean by worldliness?  Think about these typical examples of someone “living of the world”:  A lifestyle of sexual promiscuity; addiction to drugs or alcohol; dancing the night away at raves; viewing pornography; destructive and harmful behaviors towards self or others…. Obviously these things are sinful behaviors that are a result of fallen humanity, but what about these?:  exposing yourself to movies, music, and games that promote acts of sexuality, violence, and profanity: wearing clothes that intentionally and provocatively show off your body; speaking with abrasive language and profanity; joking around with others on topics displeasing to the Lord; being a fan of an artist or actor that endorses actions you yourself don’t approve of; behaving a certain way simply to fit in with the crowd… These can sometimes be more subtle in our lives, hiding in a “grey area,” but they are destructive to not only our witness, but to our own minds…  Now what about these actions?:  Putting friend time before quiet time with God; reading your favorite novel over the Bible; humming that song in your head that you know is displeasing to God; wasting your time on facebook pressing the refresh button instead of doing your homework; chatting with someone online you don’t even know; being disobedient to authority in your life; not reading your Bible or praying because you’re “too busy”; allowing discontent feelings about your life to cause you to be angry with God.   Some of these are just not “smart choices,” but are they “worldliness” issues as well?  I think so, because they are results of us being too overcome with the pleasures of this world that we lose focus on what’s truly important and right in our lives.  So often we think of just “the big sins” (even though all sin is equal in God’s sight) as the definition of worldliness, but more often the subtleties of life are what begin to erode our faith and cause us to slip even further into actions that are no different from a non-believer.

The issue of worldliness goes way deeper than simply how we behave on the outside, but its source is how we think on the inside.  If our hearts are right with God, our actions will prove themselves.  If we are distant in our fellowship with our Savior, then our behavior will reflect that, and we will be vulnerable to the desires of this world.   The beautiful thing about light is that it radiates.  The closer we are to Christ, the more we glow, because we are reflecting more of Him.  But if we are so filled with the distractions of this world and distance ourselves from God, then our light will be muted and hard for others to see.

Last semester my light was muted, quite frankly it was just plain out.  I had lost my focus on my Savior, and instead my thoughts were concerned on this world and all that was either going wrong, or just wasn’t how I wanted.  I can look back to last year and see how a snow-ball affect started in my life.  It began with tiny little thoughts, thoughts about life and how I was dissatisfied with some things.  Slowly those thoughts turned to actions; I didn’t take my fellowship with God seriously.   My heart wasn’t concerned on seeking His face in fellowship; I wasn’t hungry for that one-and-only friendship. There were days when I didn’t want to seek His face at all, but I wanted to seek His hands (what He could give me).  At the time, it wasn’t clear to me that I was doing this, but I knew in my heart that I wasn’t thinking like I should.  I became overly concerned on how busy my life had become, and I found easy excuses for not opening God’s Word.  Either a distraction would come in my way, or a desire would overshadow my thoughts.  There were weeks when I only read perhaps a handful of verses.  And many other weeks when I would “read” without even absorbing the words… my eyes would just follow the lines.  As my fellowship with God distanced, my behavior changed.  Those who saw me on a daily basis detecting this change, often asked me how I was doing with some concern, but the same answer always came, “I’m good.”   Once the fellowship with God distanced, I didn’t have joy during worship.  Convocation, which was in past a great joy for me, became an arduous duty.  I engaged in conversations with others that, in truth, weren’t pleasing to God, and I knew it.  I developed “friendships” with those who weren’t making God their first priority.  My dissatisfaction for life in general grew, and not only did I not have time to read the Bible, but I didn’t have time for anyone else.  My entire attitude became one of self-interest and dissatisfaction.   As my thoughts and behavior worsened I began to dislike who I had become, and instead of running back to God, I sank further into a state of depression and stress.  I wanted so desperately to break free from the unhappiness that had consumed me, but I had no idea where to begin.  Soon, self-pity added itself to the mix, along with being overly concerned with other’s opinions of me.  No one else really knew what I was feeling; they just thought I was “busy.”   But that’s where my concern for the things of this world had led me.  Not only had seemingly harmless worldly thoughts separated me from fellowship with my Creator, but they kept me from being a light to others.  Who can be a light while they are dark on the inside?  Believe me, I’ve tried.   You can’t be a light in your own fleshy strength, it’s just impossible.   Simple daily distractions and concerns had caused me to forget what was truly important in my life: Fellowship with my God.

My life at this point was entirely run by my schedule.  My life was daily planned out before me and any purpose that remained in me was dedicated to staying afloat through my busy days.  Right about this time, I had a project due in art class.  The assignment was to create an image with a hidden meaning, something that made you look twice.   After getting the details on what was required for this work, I did what I do with every project:  I took some time just sitting and thinking, letting whatever thoughts come into my head, and asking God what He’d like me to do.  (Even though my fellowship with Him had distanced greatly, I knew I still wanted to create something He would want… it’s basically the premise behind all my art, and thankfully that part of my relationship still remained.)  So as I sat there thinking, I looked down on the desk and saw my weekly planner.  The pages were open and I could see how distracted and hurried I had become.  I closed my eyes to try and forget what I just saw, but it was still there.  I started thinking about how busy all of our lives are in this world.  We have so many attachments, distractions, senseless worries.  We rush to and fro, never giving God the time of day.  Like Manhattan during rush hour we never get to where we need to go, and we’re constantly feeling late, even if we’re “on time.”  I just sat there and started imagining the blur of traffic lights streaking all around and in the center of it all was my Bible falling away from me.  Its pages were morphing out into everything that was causing a distraction.  As the objects grew the more of the Bible they consumed, and the farther away the Bible fell.  All I could think about was, please, be still and know that I am God.  Stop the worrying, stop the hurrying; just be still.  Below is the final product.

This symbolically represents everything that distracts us in this life on earth; pictures of the worldliness that encapsulates our lives.  Its title is “Falling Bible,” because the more we are attracted to things of this world, the more the Bible falls away from our hearts.

Starting in the top-left, going clock-wise: Cell phone (all the connections and communications that distract us),  Earbuds (the media we allow to enter our hearts and minds that keeps us from hearing the voice of God), Keys (the multiple earthly possessions that we lock away in our hearts as being oh so important), Money (the love of it, or the financial stresses we face), Car (status symbols or objects that we flaunt to others), Ipod (music, videos, games, and internet access that we feed off of on a daily basis), Watch (time, one of this world’s most costly possessions and distractions), and finally an actual page from my planner… the thing that started it all.   The words Be still and know that I am GOD, appear as though they are set in stone, sunk deeply into the Word.  No longer can one’s eyes just skim over the lines on the page, we are forced to read them.  When we are in the midst of the rush of life, these words are a needed food for the soul.

I had many weeks to work on this, and during this time I was able to analyze myself very well.  This wasn’t necessarily the “turning point” for me; I had a lot of work to do to get back to where I had started.  But this project helped me see how distracted I had become; now I had to act on it.  I knew I had to change something, but I had to discover the what and how.  I finally recognized that what was going on inside me was my own doing, and was started by my own thoughts.  I started talking with godly friends and family, I finally genuinely asked God to help me (no longer in the accusatory “why don’t You help me?”  way I had been praying, I made intentional time for God and stopped doing, and just listened.  It took lots of time to unwind everything that had wound itself around my heart.  But Praise God with His help, it happened.

I’ve learned since then, that little distractions in life caused by this world can do a great deal of harm spiritually.  Since then, I’ve also learned what it means to have an “eternal perspective.”  Often during the course of a day I tell myself, “Life is short compared to eternity.”  It makes those life stresses and distractions not matter so much, and it keeps me from becoming too attached to this world.  Remember, we are not here forever.  We are only traveling for a very short time here on this earth.  While we’re here, we are to shine God’s light for the world to see!  To make Him famous, not ourselves.  To shine His light through our lives.  The closer we are to the world, the less the world will see His light.  The closer we are to Him the brighter we shine.