When I see that word I think 1800s, Abraham Lincoln, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin. But slavery is very much alive today. In Northern Sudan there are thousands of Christian slaves who are:
- denied freedom to practice their religion
- deprived of food
- tortured (burned, blinded, and/or raped)
Thankfully, there are organizations, like Christian Solidarity International, working to free the slaves.
It’s interesting to realize that the slave owners are willing to trade their slaves for cattle vaccines.
A human life in exchange for a vaccine!
The price of a cattle vaccine is around $50 U.S. dollars. So that is the price of a person’s freedom. That is such a small amount of money! I mean, I could buy two shirts (maybe 3) at Macy’s for $50.
What would you choose? Three shirts or a person’s freedom?
Pretty mind-boggling when you think of it that way, huh. At the same time, it’s exciting to know that it doesn’t take thousands of dollars to change a person’s life forever. I can help. You can help. And, together, we can make a difference one life at a time!
Find out how you can help free a slave at Christian Solidarity International’s website
The cruise ship menu blurred in front of me as I imagined vanilla ice cream melting over a warm slice of apple pie. Oh, how I wanted that delectable dessert! Remember, you shouldn’t eat rich foods before singing, my conscience dutifully reminded me.
Yes, it’s true—I’m now embarrassed to admit it, but I was a finalist in the karaoke competition that evening. (Hey, you have to entertain yourself somehow in the middle of the ocean!) Sure, the competition was for fun, but I would still be in front of a few hundred people, and I didn’t want my voice to be affected by my meal. I’d carefully eaten only a light dinner, and my stomach was quite content—at least it had been until I read the dessert menu. Then my self-control went out the window.
All I could think about was apple pie!
When the waiter returned to take our orders, my stomach seemed to sigh as each family member requested a mouthwatering dessert. Turning to me, the waiter asked, “And for you, miss?”
“Nothing, thank you.”
“Nothing from our delicious dessert menu? Are you sure?”
“Well, I would love dessert, but I have to sing in the competition tonight, so I shouldn’t eat any.”
“”I understand,” he said with a wink. “I wish you the best.”
“Thank you,” I replied as he turned to attend another table. But what I wanted to say was, “Come back! I want the apple pie!”
I retreated to my stateroom to spare myself the agony of watching my family eat their desserts while my stomach grumbled. A few hours later, I sat in the green room with the other finalists. The emcee walked us through the order of the program and, thankfully, dessert was the last thing on my mind.
After the contest, I returned to my room with my sister. Opening the door, we found a tray sitting on our little table. A note read, “Hope the competition went well. From the dinner crew.” I lifted the cover off of the tray and— lo and behold—a slice of apple pie!
This experience came rushing back when I read the verse:
“No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).
The staff knew that I loved dessert (I confess, I had ordered dessert every night for the past four nights), and while it wasn’t an appropriate food before singing, it was perfect to feast on afterwards!
There are young people praying for spouses, couples praying for babies, parents praying for prodigals, people praying for jobs… Sometimes we really want something, but it’s not the right timing. In those moments, we must remember that God doesn’t keep anything good from His children.
If he does withhold something, it’s because it wouldn’t be beneficial for us at that time.
In faith, we must believe that He hears our prayers and that, in His perfect timing, He will fulfill His promise to give all good things—when it will bless us most. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)
The key is, what we think is desirable is often different from what He knows is better. God may sometimes make us wait for good things, but then we find it later—when we least expect it—waiting in our stateroom.
This article first appeared on Crosswalk
My pastor shared this video with my Bible study group a few months ago and I loved how Jeff Vanderstelt explained evangelism.
Hope you are blessed and encouraged by it!
“Don’t freak out, but there’s a bear on your right,” my friend whispered in my ear.
Mm-hmm, sure, I thought. For the past hour, she’d been trying to scare me with fake bear warnings as we hiked through Glacier National Park. Still, I turned good-naturedly to look up the hill. To my horror, I linked eyes with a giant black bear.
Suddenly our all-girls hike didn’t seem like such a bright idea. We were three city girls. While we loved the outdoors, wilderness knowledge wasn’t exactly second hand, if you know what I mean. Wild animals in my neighborhood consisted of rabbits, skunks, and the occasional possum (not to be confused with the neighbor’s cat). Now, here we were in the middle of a forest, face to face with a huge bear.
“Stay calm,” my friend repeated. “Don’t freak out. We don’t want to scare it.”
“Okay,” I responded nervously. “I’ll get the bear spray.”
My hands shook as I clumsily extracted the bear spray from my backpack. What thing do I push? How close does the bear have to get? Do I use the whole can? How do I make sure the bear is downwind so I don’t get this in my face?
I had briefly read through the manual, never believing we would actually encounter a bear. I hadn’t mentally rehearsed its use or even taken the can out and examined it. I just figured that, if the need arose, I would wing it and it would all work out. Brilliant, huh?
Isn’t that how we are with a lot of things? Especially in the area of relationships, we believe knowing about something will get us through it. But does it?
I’ve had many friends who “knew” that sacrifice was necessary in a relationship. They’d read books on it, heard it preached, and listened to married couples talk about it. And they left it at that, figuring they could work on it when they got there. Why waste their time beforehand?
Looking back, many of them now wish they had applied their head knowledge before meeting The One. They realize they should have worked on their characters during their single years. It would have made their transition into a relationship and marriage so much easier.
What Are We Waiting For?
The more I watch those around me, the more I realize that we should never wait to develop our character. As singles, we get caught up in improving our looks, improving our finances, and improving at our hobbies. Meanwhile, our character gets pushed aside.
We know what the Bible says about the foundations of a good marriage. We’ve listened to sermons and read a few books, so we’re good. Right?
As in my encounter with the bear, knowledge is worthless without application. I needed general knowledge, sure. But I also needed to walk through the process of using the bear spray so that when the time came, I would be ready, not fumbling around and putting our lives in danger.
Similarly, we need more than just the knowledge of what character qualities are necessary for a godly marriage. We need to put them into practice now. In Ephesians 5, God lays out His design for marriage:
- Wives submit to your husbands, as to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22).
- Husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25).
- The wife must respect her husband (Ephesians 5:33).
- Each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself (Ephesians 5:33).
Are you practicing selflessness and love? How about respect and submission? Are they a part of your character?
Here are some questions we should ask ourselves:
Guys: Selflessness – Do I put myself first? Do I take care of my own needs before I think of someone else’s needs? Do I prioritize people over my hobbies? Am I following the cultural idea that life is all about me? Is that healthy? Can I die to myself? Can I sacrifice my pride and lead in apology? Am I willing to protect others emotionally and physically, even at a cost to myself?
Girls: Submission – Do I submit to those God has placed in authority over me (parents, pastors, boss, etc.)? Do I have a hard time with submission? Will it get easier or more difficult with marriage? If I struggle with submission, how can I improve in it? Am I allowing the world’s negative mindset regarding submission to influence my view of it? Is that healthy?
Guys: Love – What is love? Do I always act in love, or just when I feel like it? How will that affect a marriage? Can I treat my future wife lovingly, even when she isn’t behaving lovingly towards me? Will I love her more than myself? In what practical ways can I love those around me right now? Can I love another person enough to sacrifice for them?
Girls: Respect – What do I think when TV characters belittle men and make them look like weak idiots? Do I think it’s funny or sad? Do I find myself following Hollywood’s example and disrespecting the men in my life? How will this affect how I treat my future husband?
Wrapping it up
Okay, so back to the bear story. As you probably brilliantly deduced, we survived. And I was very fortunate because I didn’t have to use the bear spray. We just backed slowly away and, thankfully, the bear didn’t follow. But would I risk it again? No way! Next time I will definitely take the time to practice!
Will you join me in actively trying to improve your character? Don’t delay! Get out your Bible, know what it says about Christian character, and apply it with the Holy Spirit’s help.
Your character growth will bless those around you, and will one day bless your future spouse as well. What’s more, you’ll bring glory to your Savior as you grow into His image. And isn’t that our ultimate goal as His children?
My dear friends,
I want to walk you inside the gates of a horrifying compound. A property where just over
fifty small children are held under the facade that such a place is actually an orphanage.
In truth, the man who runs this operation holds these children as his private collection
with which to woo in the dollars of well-meaning people who have no idea of the true
corruption and abuse that is behind this man’s smiles and pleas for help. The children
are in bondage to a false advocate, a man who calls himself a pastor and yet wears this
title to exploit the suffering of children for his own selfish gain. He is not operating
legally. He has no papers for these children. And yet many of these boys and girls have
been in this prison for over six years.
As I walk you further in, your stomach tightens and sorrow floods your heart.
Annie’s Journal Entries from her visits to check on and feed the children:
SEPTEMBER 12, 2012
They live in cruel conditions – abused, starved, and neglected. The boys sleep in
crowded tents with no blankets, only a thin layer of dirt that turns to mud when it rains.
The girls sleep in small cement block rooms with padlocks on the doors to keep them in.
Broken wooden bunk beds line the walls with moldy foam pads as their only cushioning.
Stained sheets are available to a few, but with so many of the beds broken, the dirt floor
is where most of the little girls sleep. There are no shoes. No underwear. No toys but for
one plastic doll, a single toy car that ironically says “rescue vehicle” on the side, and the
trash that litters the property. There are no bathrooms. Corners both inside and outside
carry an unbearable stench, the evidence of being used repeatedly as a toilet. There is
no food, anywhere. Many of the boys are naked and you find shame in the eyes of the
ones old enough to know the indignity.
Their skin is ashy white, cracked, and wrinkled from severe dehydration. Their little bodies have scratch scars from untreated scabies. Their bellies are swollen and hard from the worms that fill them. Their ribs protrude from their skinny chests and their knees are wider than their thighs. Read that one again. Their knees are wider than their thighs. And they’re desperately thirsty.
SEPTEMBER 17, 2012
Tonight around 6pm we went back to the orphanage. We carried food and water and
were met by the pastor as we walked up to the gate. We hadn’t let him know we were
coming and he wasn’t happy. He didn’t turn us away but the spirit of control and
darkness upon this man made me sick to my stomach. I stood face to face with him as
he gave his reasons why we could not give food to the children. After listening but
remaining unmoved in our desire to see the children, he finally, reluctantly, let us in …
without the food we had brought.
The thick darkness from the absence of electricity could not shroud the truth of what
was in front of me. These children were dying. Their bellies were swollen and hard.
They were filthy, mud caked on their legs. They were either visibly frightened or
We handed them water bags, but they just held them. Drink, we said. Drink it now, not
later, but they just looked away. One by one I began ripping the corners of the water
bags open with my teeth, handing them back to the children, and when I did, every little
mouth drank the bags dry. We found out the pastor had told the children not to open the
bags. He would take them and resell them the following day.
I knelt in front of every boy until my eyes adjusted to the darkness and I could make out
each face. I found Davidson. He still looked frighteningly thin and sickly. Then the littlest
boy, Gems. He had a fever and was covered in dust and filth, his belly nearly stone
hard. Finally my eyes found Cardo, the boy whose face has only ever shown me one
expression – blank. During our previous visit I sat and held him for over 2 hours and not
once did his expression change. I asked if him if he was ok and picked up his frail body.
He was soaked in his own urine. The stench enveloping the children was thick and
consuming. Cardo’s little frame was so light and skinny it was as if I held an infant in my
arms. He held on to me and put his cheek weakly up against mine – the first response
I’d ever seen from him.
These children don’t say anything. They are just too vulnerable. Too weak. Too
Why is it so complicated to rescue children in bondage? Show us the strongholds that
block the way. Let’s go after them, tear them down, and deliver these little ones. Father,
come! Come in Your power and righteous- ness and justice. I know that You will deliver
these children. I know that You will rescue them and heal them. Let not one be lost,
Jesus. Not one. Come, Lord, and show us what’s next.
This is the reality of so many children in Haiti, and so many so-called orphanages. But
this one is different. It’s different to me because I know about this one and I have looked
into the eyes of the children there. And now I am a part of it. I either move to act on their
behalf or shut my soul to the Father’s heart and join in with their oppressors by my
indifference. There is no middle ground for me. But what I must remember is that while I
may lack in myself what’s needed for their rescue, Christ has and is everything needed
for them. And I have Christ! He is the help, the healing, the provision, and the leading.
Our first response must always be to look unto Him.
Stay tuned for a Annie’s Rescue Update later this week
- Used with permission from http://www.setapartgirl.com, setapartgirl online magazine, Jan/Feb 2013 issue, pgs. 66-81.
I wiped my sweaty palm on my jeans and lifted the rifle to my shoulder. It was my first time handling a gun, and I was a little nervous. The range officer had walked us carefully through gun handling safety, but that wasn’t enough to keep my hands from perspiring.
Looking through the scope, I lined up the target as best as I could. I took a deep breath in, exhaled, and pulled the trigger.
The sound echoed through my ear protection gear as the rifle kicked back against my shoulder. Yikes! This thing has a lot of power!
I continued shooting at the target until I ran out of bullets. Then, I set the rifle down and stared at its fine craftsmanship, my gaze finally settling on the trigger. The power of this long metal weapon was released by that tiny lever. Incredible, huh?
The human body is similar. One tiny part yields great power: the tongue.
The Bible says:
“Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, they are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.
See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison” (James 3:3-8).
A horse’s bit?
A ship’s rudder?
A spark that lights a forest fire?
A wild thing full of deadly poison?
The tongue is a powerful little body part! We need to take it seriously because how we control (or fail to control) our tongue can set the course of our lives.
So, how do we use our tongue to set us on a good course? How do we get rid of the evil, the deadly poison it wants to spit out? How do we take control of it? Here are some ideas:
- Purify Your Heart and Mind
- The Bible tells us that our words are a reflection of what is in our heart (Matthew 12:34). If we purify our hearts and minds, filling them with pure and noble thoughts, there will be no place left for evil thoughts. And if our minds are clear of sinful ideas, evil words won’t pour out of our mouths. Direct your hearts to heavenly things, as it says in Philippians 4:8.
- Cut Out Things that Defile
- If you find that certain music/books/television shows are negatively influencing how you speak, protect yourself by removing them from your life. Or, perhaps you’re picking up a friend’s rude language. Take it to the Lord and make a choice not to follow that example. If you are still being influenced, you may even need to limit your time with that person. Remember, bad company corrupts good character (and good speech).
- Stay Alert
- Never grow complacent. Examine yourself: What words am I speaking? Are they words that will build and encourage in righteousness? Are they words that glorify my Savior? What tone am I using—a kind tone or a rude one?
- Humble Yourself and Ask for Help
- I don’t know about you, but for me, this is the hardest one of all. Ask someone close to you (a sibling, parent, or friend) to lovingly tell you if they notice areas in which you could improve your speech. Of course, I don’t mean your pronunciation or eloquence, but the actual words you are saying. Ask them if you are: encouraging, rude, or kind? Do you speak with a haughty tone? Take their honest evaluation to heart and pray about it. Don’t put up a wall of pride. “A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke” (Proverbs 13:1).
- Pray for God’s Help
- The bottom line is we’re human—so we’re not very strong. The good news is, as Christians, we have the all-powerful Creator who can strengthen us! If we rely on our own strength, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and develop a “whatever” or “it is what it is” attitude about our speaking habits. However, if we rely on the Lord, He will keep our hearts tender and teach us how to speak more like him instead of more like the world.
The next time you see a gun, remember that your tongue plays a defining role in your life, and that it’s worth taking the time to tame.
This article first appeared as a guest post on Your Origins Matter
Jennifer’s voice was almost as small as her stature that morning as she stood in front of the group. Surrounded by her friends and mentors of the past month, she laughed and smiled shyly as her soft voice slowly rose with confidence.
“I thank God that I came here to Mto Moyoni,” she said, looking back at some fifty pairs of loving eyes. “Because I am coming away from here changed.”
There was a gentleness and joy about Jennifer that day as she shared her story, a healing glow that wasn’t there when she first came to Mto Moyoni spiritual retreat center one month earlier. But only once you know her story can you understand the miracle therein.
The realities of Jennifer’s past are never easy for her to face, much less move beyond. How does one merely dismiss two years of hell? It’s a question every other former child soldier in Uganda understands.
There is a deep scar on Jennifer’s right arm that serves as a constant reminder of those two years in the bush with the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army). In the time between her fourteenth and sixteenth birthday, Jennifer was shot, stabbed, beaten, abused, and burned by her brutal captors.
“It was terrible,” she says with downcast eyes. “I thought I was going to die.”
It’s been nearly ten years since Jennifer escaped from the LRA in the midst of a battle and fled to the Ugandan military. After three months in a rehabilitation center, Jennifer was able to return home to her grateful family near Achele. But returning home is rarely the last battle for those who have been through all that Jennifer has.
In some ways, it wasn’t until her month at Mto Moyoni that Jennifer truly faced the scars and callouses built around her heart. Over the past six years, Team Beyond has been able to come alongside many people like Jennifer, from Achele and beyond, offering sponsorship for a month of discipleship and learning about God’s father heart at the scenic retreat center on the banks of the Nile.
There is a quiet bravery now in the way Jennifer tells her story. Before that month at Mto Moyoni, Jennifer was never able to talk about those dark years of her life without crying. But now, there is an unmistakable difference.
“What I have learned, it really changed my heart,” she says as she finishes her testimony with a full voice and a warm smile. “I learned to forgive those who hurt me so badly. I want to continue with that heart and help others too.”
It is freedom that defines Jennifer today, not the scars of her past, and that reality, both physical and spiritual, has given Jennifer a new life and a new hope. “I know now that I’m not rejected,” she says. “I’m a daughter to God.”
Ryan Gilles is a photographer and journalist with International Teams. To read more stories like Jennifer’s visit www.namingtheworld.org
- Photos by Andrew Nicodem
During my teenage years, my biggest goal was to get the main role in a production at my ballet studio. Finally, after many hours of hard work, I landed my first solo. I was thrilled! I danced my heart out and was truly content—up until the curtain closed on the last show. Then I realized it was all over. My bubble of happiness popped. I waited anxiously for the next audition, and my happiness sprang up again when I saw my name listed as a main character. It was a strange cycle of contentment and discontentment—all dependent on when I had a good role.
In the book of Philippians, Paul speaks on contentment. He says, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatever state I am in to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11-13).
Looking back on the situation, I realized something: Although I loved the Lord very much, I wasn’t content with God. I was only content with God and a great dancing role.
Now, years later, that magical “and” has transferred into other areas of my life. I often catch myself thinking, I’m pretty content, but my life would be perfect if I had a new job—or a new boyfriend, or a new car, or a new travel adventure. What I don’t realize is that I’m saying, “God, you’re great and all, but you’re not enough.”
Not only am I slapping God in the face, but I’m hindering myself from growing deeper spiritually. A.W. Tozer shares this insight: “The evil habit of seeking God-and effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation. In the ‘and’ lies our great woe. If we omit the ‘and,’ we shall soon find God, and in Him we shall find that for which we have all our lives been secretly longing for.”[i]
I don’t need God and something else. God is all I need.
I need to stop trying to find fulfillment outside of Christ. I need to remember:
- I will never be fulfilled through special events – vacations, performances, races
- I will never be fulfilled through life changing events– boyfriend, engagement, marriage, first child, second child, child going to college, retirement
- Accomplishments will never satisfy me – promotions, graduations, awards…
“If we try to find meaning in our accomplishments rather than God, we will never be satisfied, and everything we pursue will become wearisome.”[ii]
- Stuff will never complete me – more money, bigger house, nicer car, newer gadgets…
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out” (1Timothy 6:6-7).
There will always be the next big thing/achievement/purchase/event, but let’s not allow it to dictate our contentment. As Elisabeth Elliot says, “Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living.”[iii]
[i] A.W. Tozer. The Best of A.W. Tozer. Camp Hill, Pennsylvania: WingSpread Publishers, 2000.
[ii] Life Application Study Bible. Commentary of Ecclesiastes 1:1-11. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Tyndale Publishers and Zondervan Publishing House, 1991.
[iii] Elisabeth Elliot. Let Me Be a Woman. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale Publishers, 2004.
I sat there staring at my phone, secretly wishing I could call my friend. We hadn’t spoken to each other for a week, but it honestly felt more like a year. As much as I wanted to bridge the angry silence between us, something inside of me kept me from dialing her number.
A mini war raged in my heart. Part of me wanted to restore our friendship; the other part just wanted to be right. I wanted her to realize how wrong she was and come crawling back, asking for forgiveness.
My fingers fiddled with my cell phone keys, scrolling up and down past her name.
“No. Don’t do it!” one side of my heart cried. “You’ve already stood your ground for seven days. You can’t show weakness now by backing down! You have to stand firm. When she’s ready to admit her faults, she’ll have to be the one to pick up the phone and call.”
I tried to recall the argument. It was fuzzy in my mind. How did we get into this mess anyway? What was keeping us from making amends?
Pride, I realized suddenly. Yep, the whole situation reeked with pride. Pride kept me from reaching out. Pride made me value being right more than having a Christ-like attitude. I was caught in pride’s ugly trap.
Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty sprit before a fall.”
And we certainly had fallen. Our friendship had fallen. But, come to think of it, we’re not the only ones ensnared by pride. Almost every human relationship has suffered because of this sin.
Could pride actually be the primary source of human relationship problems? I think so.
Here’s how Charles Spurgeon describes pride:
“I might paint it as being the worst malformation of all the monstrous things in creation; it hath nothing lovely in it, nothing in proportion, but everything in disorder. It is altogether the very reverse of the creatures which God hath made, which are pure and holy. Pride, the first-born son of hell, is indeed like its parent, all unclean and vile, and in it there is neither form, fashion, nor comeliness.”
Yikes! Pride’s a pretty nasty thing. And it’s sure to wreak havoc in both your life and your relationship.
Consequences of Pride
Strangles Communication – When we are prideful about a situation, tension builds, and it’s difficult to communicate. We are so set on being “right” that we are willing to sacrifice fellowship with the people we care about.
Keeps us from Restoration – Pride creates a barrier to both forgiveness and apology. But God calls us to “clothe ourselves in humility” and to “make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive” (Colossians 3:13).
Creates Defensiveness – A.W. Tozer says this about pride: “As long as you set yourself up as a little god to which you must be loyal, there will be those who will delight to offer affront to your idol.” We are so easily offended and so easily become defensive because we’ve secretly made an idol of ourselves. We’re willing to fight at all costs to have the last word.
Restrains us from Offering Grace – When we are caught up in our own self-righteousness, it’s hard to be gracious to others. Yet God calls us to live full of grace: “Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?” (Matthew 18:33) “Show mercy and kindness to one another” (Zechariah 7:9).
Keeps us from Greatness – “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all” (Mark 10:42). Biblical greatness is the complete opposite of what our culture promotes. Jesus, who humbled himself enough to become a man, was the greatest man on earth. When we are prideful, we deny ourselves greatness because we are refusing to follow in Christ’s footsteps.
Finish reading Defeating Our Worst Enemy: Pride on Crosswalk and read how to keep pride from winning…