Yes, former CIA member, Tim Ballard, has founded Operation Underground Railroad to combat the fastest growing “enterprise” (criminal business) in the world: human trafficking. There are about 30 million people being trafficked worldwide in 2020, 8 million of whom are children, largely used for the sex industry or for harvesting organs. Tim’s voice message to the world? “There’s slavery, and it’s alive. It’s terrifying to talk about this. It takes guts to listen to this interview [link below] and guts to engage. You think you would have been an abolitionist. Now is your chance! There are more people enslaved today than ever before.”
Once I started listening to the interview on the Candace Owens Show, I couldn’t stop! I’m going to share a few of his most cogent points, but if you think slavery is wrong and should be eradicated, please take time to listen to the discussion. A few “must knows;”
*The U.S. is the greatest problem, because our nation is the world’s largest consumer of trafficking services. This is shocking and horrifying. No wonder we are accused by some as being “the Great Satan.” We need to repent as a nation and pray for an end to this grotesque immorality.
*There’s been a 5000% increase in child rape videos in the past few years [we’re talking 5-7 year-olds, not teens].
*Should we legalize prostitution? According to Ballard, no, but we should not be prosecuting prostitutes. Rather, we should be prosecuting pimps. If we legalize prostitution, children will be even more terribly abused. We must protect children. (Listen to his explanation; it makes sense.)
*Should there be a “wall” of protection between Mexico and the U.S. “YES!” Ballard cited the case of one young woman they rescued who was kidnapped and taken through the dessert of Mexico into the U.S. She estimated that she had been raped 60,000 times before being freed and said if there had been any opportunity at a border, she would have cried out for help. (Editorial note from me: Victims are frightened for their lives in most cases if they’re not too drugged.)
*What can we do? In Michigan, there is MAP (“Michigan Abolition Project”). If you want to learn more or help support those who are on the front lines, I can now recommend two international organizations:
Operation Underground Railroad is working in 25 states within America and in 22 countries around the world. Their website is:
“But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:22-23).
It’s terrifying to face the evils of society. Incredibly painful. Gut-wrenching. We’d rather not even think about it.
However, the battle between good and evil rages whether or not we’re willing to acknowledge it or engage in the battle.
Blind eyes and hard hearts allowed the horrors of the death camps where millions of Jews were exterminated during World War 2. Deaf ears and love of comfort allowed the terrors of black slavery that existed before the Civil War in the U.S.
We like to think that we’d all be abolitionists if we’d lived during the 1800’s . . . but would we?
Harriet is a powerful look into the lives and times of slavery in pre-Civil War America, and I wish everyone would take the time to watch it, even if it makes us wince and lose some sleep.
Harriet recounts the true story of one of America’s bravest women: Harriet Tubman. She was born around 1822 as a slave; she died in 1913 at about age 91 and was an amazing example of courage, faith, self-sacrifice, and compassion.
As a small child, Harriet was beaten every time the white baby she was tending would cry. She recalled being beaten 5 times before breakfast one morning!
Much of her life as portrayed in the 2019 story is consistent with history (with the usual literary license and compacting of some historical events).
It is true that Harriet rescued 70 slaves in 13 expeditions and advised many more.
She usually left on Saturday evenings during winter to avoid detection, because notices about runaway slaves wouldn’t be printed until Monday, and plantation owners didn’t like going outside in the cold to search for themselves.
Harriet experienced visions directing her, which she attributed to God. She was deeply Christian. She really did pray for God to kill her evil master, who died suddenly a week later! (She later expressed ambivalence about her prayer after her cruel master died.)
Nicknamed “Moses” for her God-inspired ability to lead people to freedom, Harriet never lost a single soul: “I was conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say – I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger” (Wiki).
During the Civil War, Harriet worked as a nurse and made pies and rootbeer in the evenings to sell so she could support herself.
She also worked as a spy and map maker, and she was one of few women in American history to ever lead an armed assault during war—along the Combahee River, where 750 slaves were freed.
As an elderly woman, Harriet needed surgery to relieve pain from the childhood head injury she had received, but instead of using anesthesia, she chose to bite down on a bullet, as she’d seen Civil War soldiers do while having their limbs amputated! She was one tough lady!
In honoring Harriet Tubman when her biography was written, the famous abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, wrote this: “The difference between us is very marked. Most that I have done and suffered in the service of our cause has been in public, and I have received much encouragement at every step of the way. You, on the other hand, have labored in a private way. I have wrought in the day – you in the night. … The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism. Excepting John Brown – of sacred memory – I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have.”
If you watch Harriet and lose sleep the way I have, I would like to encourage you to start praying about what you might be able to do to help stop slavery, because slavery is not just an artifact of history. Slavery is very much an alive and evil ongoing issue. In fact, human trafficking is the fastest growing “enterprise” in the world today. Thursday I want to share some information about present day slavery and one avenue for helping fight it.
“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Last Friday was Valentine’s Day, and this week Alan and I are celebrating our 47th anniversary! In addition, we will both be turning 70 this year. Even though we are staring down inevitable retirement before too long, we are both feeling very vivacious and so are full of hope that there will be “life after retirement” and a future that will include all the things my father used to say were the essential ingredients for “the good life of all VIPS” (that’s all of us) . . . that our lives should be Varied, Integrated, Productive, and Social.
My father was not a professing Christian at that point in his life, so if I were making my own personal statement, I would definitely want God in the spotlight, but I do think Dad’s points are well taken. I would love to continue to be able to enjoy variety, integrity/integration, productivity, and social interaction, and in all the research studies, those qualities do come out as critical to emotional well-being and even longevity.
However, I have known more than a few loved ones (Alan’s father being one) who barely survived his retirement before being diagnosed with a terminal illness. I am seeing this more and more often, and it definitely makes me feel like I’m going to be holding my breath very tightly when we jump off the end of the retirement diving board!
One dear friend, whom I admire greatly, is struggling with her own beloved husband, who had a fabulous career and was always a rock in her life . . . but is now showing undeniable symptoms of memory loss just a few years post retirement. As we Boomers begin to time out, we find ourselves grieving losses. Our own. Those of our beloved spouses and friends. 😦 I don’t mean to discourage anyone who’s looking forward to retirement. Alan’s older brother, and my two older brothers have all retired and are aging extremely well, so it can be done! However, I want to share this timely and tender consolation from a devotional my friend shared with me:
A Valentine Devotion on the Cycles of Life I Corinthians 13:7 NIV “Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
“Years ago I copied this paragraph from George Matheson’s book published in 1909, The Representative Men of the New Testament. He writes that we can see these same cycles in romantic love [as in the cycles of life]. It’s an old book and I loved this paragraph for its poetry and imagery more than for its realism. Today I see its realism. I will read it as my conclusion: ‘What is the common process of love’s enlargement? Take a human love; take what we generally term romantic love. What are the stages through which it is wont to pass? I think there are four. At first it is a hope – something to be realized tomorrow. Then it is a present possession but reserved as yet only for garden hours when we are free from the bustle of the crowd. By and by its range is widened – it becomes a stimulus for the great duties of life; it comes out from the garden into the city; it nerves to do and to bear. At last it reaches its climax – it comes down to trifles. It glorifies the commonplace; it finds sermons in stones and sonnets in the dust. Little things are magnified; unromantic things are glorified. We do prosaic work. We perform menial duties. We go through cheerful drudgery. We pluck thorns.'”
Do you find yourself struggling to balance giving and receiving? In a perfect world, it seems like giving out should be as natural as breathing out and receiving should be as natural as breathing in, but I (at least) find at times that it’s hard to give—because it’s “giving away” something I want. And, sometimes I struggle with receiving because I fear indebtedness to the one who has given me something. What if I have nothing left for myself? What if I can never repay the giver?
It occurred to me that the breathing analogy works in understanding these quandaries too. “Breathing out” could become an issue if I am afraid I’ll not have enough oxygen for my next breath, and “breathing in” could seem suspect if I’m not sure of the purity of the air I’m receiving from the other person. What if I run out of air and die by giving out everything? What if I contract some terrible disease from breathing in “germy” air?
After a rather pain-staking search of the 1392 instances of “give” being used in the Bible (at least in the KJV version), I’ve come to some pretty reassuring and wonderful conclusions. First, the great majority of verses have to do with all the amazing gifts God offers us. I’ll give you a list at the end if you’re interested, but it pretty much includes more than anything we could ever want, including abundant provisions for both physical and spiritual life.
God promises us sufficient “air” to breathe in, so we don’t have to worry where our next breath is coming from—and we can be assured that it will be good for us! We can also share our air, knowing that we’re not going to suffocate!
In light of the overwhelming graces and kindnesses of God, He asks us to give out of our abundance to meet the needs of those who are lacking. (See verses on giving “alms”—which are provisions freely given to relieve the needs of the poor, such as Luke 11:41, “But rather give alms of such things as ye have.”) God doesn’t normally want anyone to give away everything they own. (That only happened once, when Jesus was trying to teach the rich young ruler that he was making an idol out of his money). The Bible repeatedly emphasizes the importance of working hard and saving to provide for those under our care . . . and warns against laziness: Proverbs 6:6-11; Ephesians 4:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” However, He also wants us to help those who are “weak”: “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak” (Acts 20:35).
I think the important distinction is this: Those who are capable and lazy should not be supported; those who are disabled and unable (“weak”) should be.
That being said, there is always room for compassion. The Good Samaritan helped the wounded man without knowing anything about the man’s worthiness or character. (At least, we as readers are told nothing.) Love sees need and tries to help. “He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor” (Proverbs 22:9); “He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse” (Proverbs 28:27).
The bottom line as I understand it is that God wants us to work hard and provide for our own as well as being charitable and generous toward those in genuine need. God doesn’t “need” anything from us, but we can express our love for God by loving others and helping meet their needs. However, we can give God ourselves (Romans 12:1-2); we can give God glory (Revelation 14:7); and most of all, God wants us to give him thanks for all the wonderful blessings he pours out on us! “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Text for meditation: Luke 6:38, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”
Appendix on Gifts God gives: If you’re feeling down and depressed, or you’re struggling to think of anything to give thanks for, here’s a small sampling of God’s blessings, many given to all mankind, and all offered to all of mankind who will receive them!
Life and breath and all things (we see in this present world): “He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:25-26).
Difficulties to bring us to God: Ecclesiastes 1:13 “And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.”
All that we need for this life: Romans 8:32 “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?“
All things we need to live a life of godliness: 2 Peter 1:3 “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.”
The ability to recognize God’s good gifts to us: 1 Corinthians 2:12 “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.“
The prospering of our efforts: 1 Corinthians 3:7 “So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.”
The holy scriptures: 2 Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
Wisdom Proverbs 2:6 “For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” Ephesians 1:17 “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.“
Life via wisdom: Ecclesiastes 7:12 “For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.”
Understanding: 2 Timothy 2:7 “Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.” 1 John 5:20 “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.”
Counsel and restraints: Psalm 16:7 “I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.”
Protection: Psalm 18:35 “Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.”
Help from trouble: Psalm 60:11 “Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man.”
Strength, power, and peace: Psalm 29:11 “The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.” Psalm 68:35 “O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places: the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God.”
Deliverance: Psalm 18:50 “Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.”
The spirit of power, love, and a sound mind: 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
Promises to help us partake of God’s divine nature: 2 Peter 1:4 “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.“
Grace: Proverbs 3:34 “Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.”Ephesians 4:7 “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:10 “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.” 1 Peter 5:5 “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.“
Good doctrine: Proverbs 4:2 “For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.”
Instruction: Proverbs 9:9 “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.”
The oracles of God: Acts 7:38 “This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.“
Favor: Proverbs 13:15 “Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of transgressors is hard.“
Mercy: Acts 13:34 “And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.”
Fruit: Proverbs 31:31 “Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.“
Knowledge and joy: Ecclesiastes 2:26 “For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.“
The ability to enjoy the fruits of our labor: Ecclesiastes 5:18 “Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.”
Riches and wealth: Ecclesiastes 5:19 “Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.”
Knowledge of salvation: Luke 1:77 “To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins.“
Understanding of the person and work of Christ: 1 Corinthians 12:3 “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.“
Light to find the way of peace: Luke 1:79 “To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” 2 Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:14 “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” Revelation 22:5 “And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.”
The promise of salvation by faith: Galatians 3:22 “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.”
Treasure in heaven: Matthew 19:21 “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”
Spiritually abundant life here on earth: 1 Timothy 6:17 “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.“
A physical body for each of us: 1 Corinthians 15:38 “But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.“
Jesus’s life as a ransom: Matthew 20:28 “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
A good shepherd to lead us to heaven and give his life for us: John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”
Jesus’s body as a sacrifice for us: Luke 22:19 “And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.” Ephesians 5:2 “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.“
Everlasting life through the blood and flesh of Christ: John 6:51 “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 10:28 “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” John 17:2 “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” 1 John 5:11 “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”
Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God: Mark 4:11 “And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables.” Luke 8:10 “And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God.”
Rewards for our giving: Mark 9:41 “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.“
Words to speak when we are on trial: Luke 21:15 “For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.” 1 Peter 3:15 “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”
Power for ministry: 1 Peter 4:11 “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
The ministry of reconciliation: 2 Corinthians 5:18 “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.”
Grace and spiritual gifts: Romans 12:6 “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us.”
Whatever we truly need: Luke 11:9 “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
The kingdom of God: Luke 12:32 “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.“
Grace and truth: John 1:17 “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” James 4:6 “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”
The water of life: John 4:14 “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” Revelation 21:6 “And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.“
Spiritual meat: John 6:27 “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”
Spiritual bread: John 6:32 “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.”
Spiritual life: John 6:33 “For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.“
An example for how to live: John 13:15 “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.“
A new commandment: John 13:34 “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (I notice that Jesus says repeatedly that the law came by Moses, or that Moses “gave” them the law.)
A comforter: John 14:16 “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.”
Peace and His presence to relieve fear: John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”2 Thessalonians 3:16 “Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.“
The words of God: John 17:8 “For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.” John 17:14 “I have given them thy word.”
The glory which God gave Jesus: John 17:22 “And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.”
Commandments to follow: Acts 1:2 “Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen.” (I was so impressed by this verse two years ago that it has inspired me to study the “commandments” that Jesus gave us.)
The authority to help others “rise up and walk” (if not physically today, for sure spiritually!) through the powerful name of Jesus: Acts 3:6 “Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”
Authority to build others up: 2 Corinthians 10:8 “For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed.”
Faith that results in soundness: Acts 3:16 “And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.“
The name of Jesus, which is the only name by which the world can be saved: Acts 4:12 “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.“
Repentance and forgiveness of sins through Jesus: Acts 5:31 “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” 2 Timothy 2:25 “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” (If you have a loved one you wish would come to faith, don’t argue! Teach them whenever they’re willing to listen, but also pray for them, recognizing that God is the one who will bring them to repentance and faith.)
The Holy Ghost: Acts 5:32 “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.”Romans 5:5 “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
The Spirit: 2 Corinthians 1:22“Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.”2 Corinthians 5:5 “Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 4:8 “He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.” 1 John 3:24 “And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” 1 John 4:13 “Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.”
The Spirit, who gives us life: 2 Corinthians 3:6 “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”
The Spirit, who gives us many gifts for building up the body of Christ: 1 Corinthians 12:7-9 (and on) “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit . . .”
Assurance of Christ’s resurrection (given to all men to either accept or reject): Acts 17:30-31 “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”
An inheritance among the brethren: Acts 20:32 “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” Psalm 61:5 “For thou, O God, hast heard my vows: thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear thy name.”
Suffering: Philippians 1:29 “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.“
Hope and consolation: 2 Thessalonians 2:16 and 17 “Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.”
Victory over death: 1 Corinthians 15:57 “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.“
A friend from my writing group wrote this a few years ago but shared it with us recently, and she has graciously allowed me to pass it on to you:
It’s snowing on this Sunday afternoon in December as my husband and I enter the double doors of the nursing home where his mother lives. I had called ahead and reserved the “family room” for the three of us so that we would have privacy and space to spread out our project – her Christmas cards. Always one to send hand-written cards with kindly and concerned notes to her long list of friends, Mom is ninety years old and long past being able to “do her cards” on her own. So I’d purchased cards with two of her goals in mind: a Christian message and a rural theme, and one goal of mine: the cards must be pretty.
In our bag as we walk down the hallway is my purchase, a Christian-messaged card celebrating the birth of Christ into the world superimposed on a red barn in the countryside. The entire front of the card is covered in sparkling glitter. Also in the bag is her address book which is now in my care, pens, stamps, and a printed letter supposedly written by her telling her friends how she is – fine – busy with family and friends and grateful for God’s love and salvation. We are ready and we have a job to do!
As we push Mom’s wheelchair down the hall to the family room, we ask her if she’s had a good lunch. “I haven’t had any lunch.”
“No lunch? Are you hungry?”
“No, I’m not hungry.” We look at each other. The entire building is filled with the aromas of Sunday dinner.
We gather around a table in the private room, Rob and his mother side-by-side and facing me. We spread out our things. I open her address book to the first person, addressing and stamping the envelope while Rob opens the first card for her to sign. He leans in close to her, his right arm around the back of her chair, his left hand pointing to where she should sign. He watches her sign, folds her letter inside the card, and seals the envelope. We have begun. Soon we are in a pleasant rhythm. Address, stamp, sign, fold, seal. Sometimes Rob prods her along with, “Now, Mother, this is your nephew, so sign ‘Aunt Eileen,’” and she complies. Sometimes unprodded she writes Love, or I love you, before her name. Working down the list, we come to her college roommate, a “W.” “Oh, yes,” she said. “She married Edwin Wierach and they live in Grand Blanc.”
“Isn’t that the way it is?” I think to myself. “She can’t remember lunch, but she remembers her college roommate and the name of the man she married.”
It takes most of the afternoon to finish her cards. I feel victorious. It’s a precious time of walking down memory lane with our beloved ninety-year-old Mom. I’ve known her for close to 45 years and we have accomplished mountains of projects. Real projects, hard work. Recently, however, our times together usually involve a delivery of some sort or a conversation of superficial pleasantries or a trip to the doctor rather than meaningful labor. But today, this afternoon, our bag is filled with finished Christmas cards ready for the Post Office. Mom’s friends and relatives will once again receive greetings and love from her.
Sitting across from me my husband smiles, glitter flashing on his eyelashes, glitter around his mouth, glitter on his hands. Mom has the happy look of a job well done, glitter in her hair, on her blouse, winking on her cheek.
She is gone in August. This is our final project.
(I am adding this verse, not my friend, but isn’t this story an inspirational account of honoring parents? 🙂 “Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” [Ephesians 6:2-3].)
If you’re struggling with betrayal, abuse, or the loss of your spouse for any reason, you may be dreading the holidays rather than looking forward to them. Thanksgiving is just past, but we’re facing a month of holiday cheer that will be choked with tears for many lonely and hurting people, and if your heart is broken right now, I’d like to recommend He Left God Stayed. Annalee’s book records her journey from the devastation of being abandoned after twenty years of marriage to finding her way through the pain to wholeness . . . over the course of nearly twenty years, learning to lean on the everlasting arms of her Lord and God.
At first I read the book on the recommendation of a girlfriend who’s had a similar experience on the theory that it might be inspirational for any of my readers who are living through heartbreak, but I quickly realized this book is full of rich insights for all of us. Each chapter begins with some of her story but ends with “insights to grow by” and a prayer. I am not a fiction reader, but Annalee’s book became as fascinating to me as the page-turner mysteries that so engage my husband!
By the time I finished, I had been challenged in many areas personally, especially in reflecting on my own life, learning more about forgiveness, growing in submission to God, and desiring to be more compassionate as a Church toward those who’ve been abandoned. I’m not charismatic, but I appreciated reading about Annalee’s experiences. Her faith is sincere and her walk with God in many ways very like my own. Besides all that, I’ve ended up with three new books to read, based on insights she’s gleaned from them. It reminds me of the good ole days of grad school when every worthwhile research paper needed to end up providing new leads for further study!
To bless you with some bits of wisdom from her book, and possibly to whet your appetite for more, let me share a few favorite quotes:
“He [God] wanted to heal me and replace the anger with forgiveness, the fear with peace, and the shame with joy.”
“I needed to mature and respond, rather than react, to life’s circumstances. Learning to walk the road to wholeness was scary—it felt so unfamiliar.”
“The Holy Spirit wants to reveal the hidden things in our lives that keep us from being free to love and serve God with our whole being.”
“Praise is more spontaneous when things go right; but it is more precious when things go wrong” (—Author unknown).
“Praise was an important key to finding the life I’d longed for—a life free of fear, anger and shame.”
“When we are broken, we have to make a choice. Our way, or God’s way. We can turn our back on Him, or surrender everything to Him.”
“Brokenness is not the opposite of wholeness; it is the continuing precondition for it” (—Roberta Hestenes, quoted on p. 89).
“Forgiveness is not an option for a follower of Jesus Christ. If we fail to forgive, it affects our relationship with God and interferes with our spiritual growth . . . Forgiveness is for us. It’s to help us move forward and choose to live instead of staying stuck in the past with all of its pain.”
“Don’t be afraid of the future. God is already there” (—Bill Gothard).
“If you do God’s work, God’s way, God will provide” (—James Hudson Taylor).
“You have as much right to believe what you believe, as others have to believe what they believe” (Annalee’s mother).
“It’s everybody’s business if you sin. When you’re tempted to sin, ask yourself what it will cost you. . . It is your family’s business if you sin . . . It’s the church’s business . . . it’s the world’s business” (—Dr. Crabtree, speaking at Annalee’s ordination). He also said, “Allow God to interrupt your agenda with glorious surprises.”
From one of her prayers: “Help us to forgive those who have done evil acts against us and forgive those who weren’t able to protect us. Reveal to us those whom we need to forgive. We release anything from our past that would delay the bright future You have planned for us. Please give us the grace to walk in your ways and the courage to move forward in life.”
“My life was fuller than it would have been without the suffering . . . I had become what God intended for me to become. Instead of merely surviving, I had thrived. And so can you.”
“For your Maker is your Husband—the Lord Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth” (—Isaiah 54:5).
P.S. —He Left God Stayed is available on Amazon, but Annalee will send it to you at a discount if you contact here personally between now and December 8 at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Two nights ago, Grand Rapids enjoyed the great privilege of being addressed by Martin Lowenberg, a ninety-one-year-old survivor of the Holocaust who has taken up the mantle of trying to be an agent for spreading love and peace. I arrived fifteen minutes early, which was way too late to actually be admitted into the overflowing hall. After winding slowly through the stop-and-go traffic (all of whom were looking everywhere for parking, just like me), I found my way to a nearby church lot. But alas, the venue was dangerously overcrowded and the leadership made the decision to turn away all remaining wanna-hearers.
However, I noticed that the hour and a half presentation was recorded and is available on the Kent District Library Face Book page (Lowenberg starts at about minute 8):
The powers that be are trying to find a time to bring him back to speak at a larger venue, but meanwhile, I wanted to simply report the heart of his message, particularly in light of the reactivity of at least one of my blog followers, who disagreed with the church sign I posted yesterday, encouraging people to “Just love everyone. I’ll sort “em out later. —God”
Of the 179 times the word “hate” is used in the Bible (KJV), the overwhelming preponderance has to do with people hating God or one another. There are about twenty times it mentions things that the Lord hates, such as wickedness (Psalm 45:7), evil (Psalm 97:10), pride, lying, murder, discord (Proverbs 6:16-19 lists seven sins the Lord hates), etc. I think Amos 5:15 sums it up: “Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate.” God clearly hates evil, and he also wants us to hate evil, love good, and establish justice. What are we doing to “establish justice”?
Certainly, justice isn’t established by hating people!! Hating evil is not the same thing as hating people. Jesus specifically commands us to love people, even those who are cruel and hurt us: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
This is also the message of Martin Lowenberg, who is Jewish and suffered terribly—in five different concentration camps during World War 2. His message? Love others. Be kind, because love heals and hate hurts. Lowenberg’s life demonstrates the ability of the human spirit to overcome tragedy and be happy. In the Q&A afterward, he mentioned that we can all learn to be happy and understand that life doesn’t have to be serious and sad all the time.
On the other hand, this sweet, bent-with-age, very elderly gentleman is clearly not just resting at home! He’s on the road sharing his story, not for the sake of making people feel sorry for what he endured, or to make himself famous, but to help people learn that hatred hurts others. “We all want to live as long as we can in happiness and harmony with our families.” So, he advised those who asked for advice to “Be good people, help others, be with others, and show them what you would like to see . . . stand up against evil. It’s very difficult to speak against evil, but we need to do it all the time.”
Hebrews 1:9, “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” God anoints those who love righteousness and hate evil with joy, and I think this is the message Martin Lowenberg was sharing . . . and demonstrating in his life.
That’s the message of this incredibly inspiring true love story called Until Forever (2016 version), which is based on the lives of Michael and Michelle Boyum and their enduring love as teenagers and young adults dealing with Michael’s diagnosis of leukemia.
If I didn’t know someone with a similarly buoyant spirit, it would be hard to imagine anybody as sweet, faith-filled, and steady as this young man, but in reality, I know Tom F., who has also been through the wringer with leukemia and is every bit as kind and outreaching, so I know a few of these treasures exist!
Like my friend Tom, Michael always had the needs of others at the forefront of his thinking, and even during his hospital stays, he was busy reaching out to others with encouragement and the love of Jesus!
Until Forever doesn’t shy away from the painful realities of how a cancer diagnosis effects everyone who loves the patient. In Michael’s case, his younger brother was severely effected,
as were many friends from his church family. (I loved the inclusion of this sweet young man!)
Equally miraculous to Michael’s radiant spirit was the response of Michael’s girlfriend, Michelle, who refused to give up and stood by his side despite all the pain, insecurities, and sufferings that Michael endured. (Tom’s wife, Lynnie, is actually just as beautiful and wonderful as Michelle is, as depicted in the movie, so I have no trouble believing such devotion and faith exist!)
Here is a photo of the “real” Michael and Michelle (shown in the final credits of the movie). I truly believe only God can produce a love like theirs!
Well, I don’t want to ruin the story by telling you everything, but it’s one of the most moving movies I’ve seen in a long time, full of faith in the midst of fear
and triumph in the midst of tragedy.
If you are struggling with fear and tragedy, please take the time to watch this movie! It is possible to experience hope and peace in the midst of any illness.
“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:1-5, ESV).
Do you get overwhelmed by all the appeals for help you receive from organizations? How about the folks at the markets with placards asking for spare change? Fall is “the season” for fundraisers in Grand Rapids, and this past week, one of my friends experienced one company’s latest bright idea for pressuring people into donating: “Just text in your donation right now while you’re sitting at the table, and we’ll flash your name and amount up on the big screen!” Woah! Is this meant to create competition, extra glory for the donor, or shame for those who won’t or can’t give more (beyond the extremely expensive ticket price for the dinner)?
I would like to say, “Wait! We’re getting this all wrong!” I’ve been to fundraisers that are almost like auctions: “Who will give us $100? Just raise your hands! Now, who will give us $1,000? Who will give us $5,000?” I think the last bid was for $25,000 that night. We didn’t participate in the bidding war, but I did go home feeling a little shell-shocked.
Jesus taught us the “right” way to give: “When you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:2-4).
Giving to the poor is commendable, but let’s give out of hearts that overflow with compassion, not to avoid the social stigma of feeling uncharitable! Giving can fill us with joy when done out of a pure heart for the right reasons, but otherwise, it just makes us resentful or proud. Dear Lord, don’t let our acts of charity go to the loudest, highest bidders or be governed by our desire for the praise of men, but rather let us give prayerfully, in response to the quiet promptings of your Holy Spirit. So simple. So obvious from scripture. So contrary to the way our world works!
Text for this meditation: Matthew 6:1-4 “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.“
“You never know God is all you need until God is all you have” (Rick Warren, but possibly from Mother Teresa first). Here is where the rubber meets the road. It’s hard enough to love well even those we do love, but where in the world are we to get the grace to love those who are our enemies . . . those who hate and hurt us, or even those who are opposed to our values and obstruct our freedom to pursue what we believe to be right and good?
Who are our enemies, anyway? In many countries around the world, Christians are miserably persecuted, and so it’s obvious who your enemies are. I pray for you, and I read often about the terrible ways in which believers are tortured and killed. If you are reading this and among those who are suffering persecution for your faith, my heart goes out to you. Psalm 56 provides comfort for those who are pursued by deadly enemies. The title says, “Upon Jonath-elem-rechokin,” which has been translated, “the silent dove in distant places.” Is that you? In this psalm, we learn from David that it’s only through placing the whole weight of our burdens on God that we can overcome fear with faith and overcome evil with good. Jesus was able to go beyond faith to actually love his enemies. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). I read these words, and I know the “theory,” but I would have to be tried by fire to be able to say that I could ever love people so well that I could be put to death and respond the way Jesus did, although I’ve read testaments to martyrs who’ve come close.
In America and many parts of the Western World (and Australia), it’s often not obvious who our enemies are. We’re so well protected by our government that many of us do not have known enemies. For example, can you name your enemies? When I stop to think about it, I can’t! I’m oblivious. Probably if someone doesn’t like me, s/he simply quietly disappears from my life. Is that being an “enemy?” I don’t think of it that way; it seems more like not choosing to be a friend, and in a world of lovely people, of course we all have differences in personal taste and choose to spend time with people who see life most similarly. That’s not being an enemy; that’s just being free to use our limited time to be in community with those we enjoy the most.
So, where are our enemies? Do I need to go out and find some so that I can love them? That brings to mind the admonition about stirring up trouble (Proverbs 26:17). I don’t think God wants us to go there! We have myriad spiritual enemies who are out to destroy our souls, but God doesn’t tell us to love the minions of Satan! Rather we are to resist the devil (James 4:7), flee lusts, and keep company with those who are seeking God (2 Timothy 2:22: “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart“).
So, we shouldn’t be looking for enemies, but maybe we (or at least I) should be more on the lookout for understanding whom my enemies are. Studying through the Bible passages that speak of enemies, I found three verses that stood out as speaking about God’s enemies: *Psalm 68:21 Those who continue in their sins *Romans 5:10 Those who have not yet been reconciled to God *Psalm 66:3 Those who have yet to submit their wills to his
I’m listening to Running with the Giants (by a New York Times’ best-selling author, John C. Maxwell), and he makes the point that “Submission is laying down the terrible burden of always wanting to have your own way.” I love that! Have you submitted your will to God the Father and Jesus Christ his son yet? If so, we are brothers and sisters in Christ, and not only friends but family! If you have not, then technically, we are “enemies” in the sense that we have opposing views on the reality of the God of Love and Light and his worthiness to be our Lord and Master.
God calls us to love our enemies, whether they are abusive people who actively try to hurt us, or dearly loved people with whom we disagree on spiritual matters. Either way. From the most wicked to the most kind—however others respond to us—we are called to love them! Love God; love others—both friends and foes. If we have to, let’s learn to bleed love. How is this possible? Only through experiencing the love of God in our lives and allowing His love to flow out through us. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Texts for this study: Matthew 5:43-45, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies.” Luke 6:27, “But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies.” Luke 6:35, “But love ye your enemies.”