Embracing True Rest

Sunday, April 2, 2017

It was a crazy morning; my alarm clock was going off and it was time to be up and start the day. My mind glazed over the homework I had been finishing late into the night; I had to remember all of the facts I had memorized for my infection control test: “Ringworm, a fungal organism…” I had finally been able to get to sleep at 2am, and started to wonder if I should really get up after only two and a half hours of quiet. I knew I could still make the bus if I went to back to sleep for just one more hour.  But I felt convicted; simply going back to sleep was not the kind of rest I most needed. I needed to rest in Jesus; in His Word and in prayer.

So I hopped out of bed, and got into His word, even though I was exhausted.

Second Chronicles 14:7c says “Because we have sought the Lord our God… He hath given us rest.” As a high school student, I have been told numerous times that teens need a large amount of rest; some sources suggest at least 12 hours of it daily. And I definitely agree, if we’re talking about resting in Jesus. Sleeping on the other hand, although important, shouldn’t be our very first priority. More often than not, people my age ditch their time with Jesus in the morning for “just a little more” sleep.

Taking a look at the original language of the verse above shows us some important things about seeking God and resting in Him. The Hebrew word for sought is “darash,” it’s a verb defined as:

  • Ask
  • Call
  • Consult
  • Inquire
  • Resort
  • Search
  • Seek after
  • Searched carefully
  • Study
  • Worship [1]

As followers of Jesus Christ, we need to be people who pursue our Jesus with all our heart, soul, mind and strength! I want to be a woman who asks of the Lord, calls on Him, consults with Him, resorts to Him, searches for Him, seeks after Him, studies Him, and ardently worships Him! He must be our very first priority, always.

And when we examine rest in 2 Chronicles 14:7, we find the Hebrew word “nuach.” This verb is defined as:

  • Calm
  • Come to rest
  • Camped
  • Enter into rest
  • Find rest
  • Free
  • Give comfort
  • Satisfy
  • Wait quietly [2]

True peace is found in complete, abandoned surrender to Jesus Christ. We enter into rest when we seek Jesus; our emotions may not always follow, but true rest is not dependant upon our feelings. It’s dependant on Jesus - who never, ever changes. As we obey Him, we can truly find rest; laying distractions aside frees us to bask in the comfort He gives. A favorite song of mine says: “Who can satisfy my soul like You? Who on earth could comfort me and love me like You do? Who could ever be more faithful true?” [3] Even in times of great stress and turmoil, He remains unmoved; He continues to be our place of perfect, unwavering safety. As it says in Psalm 18:2: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Taking a moment this lovely Sunday afternoon to stand in awe of Jesus. He has always been faithful to give me rest; I just need to calm my heart before Him and listen to His still voice. God is our maker; who could know our needs better than Him? And how incredible is it that He can satisfy every single one of them in and of Himself?! Set your gaze on Him, and seek His face always.

“I think of the love of God as a great river, pouring through us even as the waters pour through our ravine at floodtime. Nothing can keep this love from pouring through us, except of course our own blocking of the river. Do you sometimes feel that you have got to the end of your love for someone who refuses and repulses you? Such a thought is folly, for one cannot come to the end of what one has not got. We have no store of love at all. We are not jugs, we are riverbeds” (Amy Carmichael).

1. Hebrew “Darash” http://biblehub.com/hebrew/1875.htm
2. Hebrew “Nuach” http://biblehub.com/hebrew/5117.htm
* Both Hebrew words found using the NASB Lexicon: http://biblehub.com/lexicon/2_chronicles/14-7.htm
3. Who Can Satisfy My Soul by Dennis Jernigan

The Expanse of Human Trafficking

Sunday, March 12, 2017

It was a regular Tuesday morning. I was glancing through my Facebook news feed, and thinking about my goals for the day, when a friend's post took me completely off guard:

"While walking through a foreclosed property, I saw [a] picture which was drawn by an 8 year old girl that used to live here. I was told the girl attempted suicide three times, and according to the neighbor was being sold for sex. Although CPS (Child Protective Services) was involved, she was never removed from the home. Maybe they missed all the porn found in her bedroom. Child abuse, rape, neglect, and prostitution is alive and well in our back yard Grand Rapids! God help us." *

I was speechless.

There's a little girl out there, probably only miles from where I live, who is in trafficking. Her parents didn't protect her from abuse, CPS apparently couldn't do much about it, and obviously the people harming her weren't about to stop.

In 2015, there were 220 human trafficking cases worked by the FBI here in Michigan alone [1]. Of course, there's also the other statistic too: in 2016 there was a total of 7,572 trafficking cases throughout the US, according to Human Trafficking Hotline [2].

Often I personally have thought about how severe some situations of trafficking are in other, poorer countries. Like Cambodia, India, the Philippines, or even places like China, Russia, and France, but I only recently realized that this tragic problem is so close to home.

One day, I was driving home with a friend of mine when she suddenly mentioned, with great sadness, that her niece's best friend was in trafficking. Kylen was 12 years old and living in an unstable home; her mom didn't take very good care of her and her sister was a wild partier. Many people would describe Kylen as a bubbly and sweet, make-everyone's-day kind of girl. She loved people.

But on the inside, Kylen was lonely, and often found solace in using social media to communicate with the people around her, and keep her head above the water. As the school year went on, Kylen got involved with the wrong crowd at school, and her mom became very concerned. Would she follow in her sister's footsteps? Her mom couldn't bear the thought. So it was decided that the next fall Kylen would be homeschooled by her best friend Lacie's mom, since she had offered. As the year progressed, things were looking up. Kylen was making better choices, and her grades were improving.

Until one morning. The air was crisp; the fall trees all around were turning to beautiful shades of red, orange, and brown. Kylen's mother had a busy day ahead of her; she mentally reviewed her plans for the day: put in 13 hours at work, stop at Walmart to pick up the few groceries they could afford, and clean out the kitchen closet. As she walked through the busy diner carrying a platter full of steaming food, she realized that she hadn't put her phone away like she usually did during work - and it was ringing. 

She quickly asked another waitress to deliver the meals and stepped outside. "Hello Mrs. Davis, this is Doctor Jameston from Sparrow Emergency Room; I am calling to let you know that your daughter was found by police in a man's home. We believe she has been raped. Would you please come immediately? Your daughter is in need of your support."

In utter shock, Mrs. Davis dropped her phone to the ground. Mouth wide open, tears streaming down her cheeks; how could her daughter have been raped?! Angrily, she got into her car and drove to the hospital. There sat little Kylen on a hospital bed, still shaking.

"How could you do this to our family?!" her mother demanded. The nurse explained that it was not Kylen's fault that she had been harmed, but to no avail. Her mother was furious. Soon the full story came out: Kylen had been contacted by a man on Instagram. He asked her to meet up with him. She wasn't completely sure what to think, but being the lonesome twelve-year-old she was, it seemed like a solution to her feelings of emptiness. When she got to his house she was raped and threatened not to leave, but somehow the police found out within only hours of her arriving at his house, and she was rescued.

A policeman came into Kylen's room and explained that she was safe now, but needed to be very cautious. He mentioned how blessed she was to have been rescued so quickly; many young girls just like Kylen spend years or even a lifetime in trafficking. The officer explained to her mother that she would have to set special safeguards to ensure that Kylen wouldn't go back to the man; but Kylen's mom was rather passive about the situation. When they got home, her mother told her "You got yourself into this, now get yourself out. You need to be responsible!"

Not surprisingly, Kylen returned to the man's home. Although it was horrible on so many fronts, she comforted herself with the fact that she now had a place to belong. Now there were people who would look for her when she was missing and ask her how she was doing.

For her protection, I have changed several details, but this is not just an illustration, this is a true story of a girl who currently lives in trafficking. Her heart is broken daily, but she tells herself that it's better than being alone or back home where her mom would be mad at her.

Kylen is only one story of the many, many, many who are in bondage in trafficking in the US. Between 2013-2015 there were 49 prostitution related arrests by the Lansing Police Department [3]. Did you know that in the first 3 months of 2016 there were 62 trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center?

There are many great Christ-centered organizations committed to rescuing children & adults from vulnerable situations, but there are so few people willing to be involved. With one child being trafficked every 30 seconds, we have no time to lose. According to one organization - Tiny Hands International - when these people are trafficked they are "Sold like an animal, but treated much worse." [4]

Human trafficking is flourishing right in front of us. William Wilberforce, who lived in the late 1700s when slavery was practiced by nearly every upper class person, had this to say after informing others of the awful state of the slaves, “You may choose to look away, but you can never say again that you did not know.” [5]

Human trafficking has many different avenues - forced labor, sex trafficking, and debt bondage being the most common [6] - and we can stand up on behalf of these lives! We can be a voice for these vulnerable men, women, and children who are so often helpless and pushed into repeated cycles of abuse.

I found out by taking an online quiz that there are 42 individuals in the world whose slavery is continued in part by the things I buy. Who would have thought that buying certain types of foreign imported shrimp (the normal kind you get at Meijer!) could actually be funding the oppression of vulnerable people? I challenge you to find out:

- For slave owners to come to Christ and set their captives free 
-That those in human trafficking would come to know Jesus Christ as their personal savior, if they do not already, and that they would be delivered from oppression
-For consumers to be educated on how purchasing unethically sourced items, food, clothing, etc. promotes and funds trafficking
-That God would give you His heart for the vulnerable

“I mean not to accuse anyone, but to take the shame upon myself, in common, indeed, with the whole parliament of Great Britain, for having suffered this horrid trade to be carried on under their authority. We are all guilty—we ought all to plead guilty, and not to exculpate ourselves by throwing the blame on others; and I therefore deprecate every kind of reflection against the various descriptions of people who are more immediately involved in this wretched business… Let it not be said that I was silent when they needed me.” [7]
--William Wilberforce

I would love to hear from you! Did you know trafficking is so rampant in Michigan? How do you stand in the gap for slaves?

1. http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2016/06/02/sex-trafficking-michigan-ireland/85290032/ 
2. https://humantraffickinghotline.org/states
3. http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2016/06/02/sex-trafficking-michigan-ireland/85290032/ 
4. https://www.tinyhands.org/ 
5. http://www.azquotes.com/quote/360393?ref=modern-slavery 
6. http://sf-hrc.org/what-human-trafficking 
7. http://www.azquotes.com/author/15635-William_Wilberforce 
Photo Credit: https://stocksnap.io/

Is Jesus My First Love?

Monday, March 6, 2017

It was a regular Rockford evening. With washcloth in hand, I glanced at the snow out the window. As I scrubbed away the grease from a pan, I listened to closely to the sermon on my phone. “What do people know you for?” was the pastor’s question. What came next was an important, soul-searching moment.

A thought popped into my head: in the past years I had been given the privilege of writing on a vast array of topics, including: abortion, Christ-esteem over self-esteem, human trafficking, true beauty, victory over fear, emotional self-control, modesty, missionary interviews, feminism versus Biblical womanhood, honoring brothers in Christ, among others.

Is Jesus Christ the defining point of your existence? the pastor passionately asked.

If my funeral was today, what would be said of my life? What would be the central obsession of my writing? Would it be said:

“You know, Cassidy had a lot of opinions, and those were the most important to her.”

“Cassidy was the most talkative person I ever met!”

“If there was a competition for the most energetic person alive, I think she’d win it!”

“Cassidy’s greatest ambition was for there to be an end to abortion!”

“You know, the one mark she specifically made on my life was her passion for missions; that was really the defining aspect of her life.”

If any of those things were said to be the one defining fact of my life, how they would fall massively short of the calling I have received, as a follower of Jesus Christ. How it would truly expose my failure.

In the book of Revelation, we find this verse:

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:1-4).

The Ephesian believers were doing some things right: they were toiling, persevering, not tolerating evil, testing false teachers to the Truth; they endured for His name’s sake and had not grown weary, and yet in all this, they had missed the central point: Jesus.

Forsaken for a secondary cause
It’s so easy for me and other Christians to attempt to justify the times we put something above Him. Many things I have been reading and hearing lately seem to have these themes in common:

“I agree that time with the Lord is important, but I don’t want to get discouraged if I accidentally miss one day. Life is so busy with senior year, you know!”

“Happiness is an innate need for the human being; Jesus wants you to be happy! Stop doing things that leave you feeling less than wonderful!”

“No, I haven’t really been in the Word in my free time lately, but I have been keeping up with my Bible class at school, so I’m doing fine.”

“I see why that’s important, but who actually has time to pursue Him so seriously?”

“Haha, the other day I was trying to spend some time in prayer, but totally got distracted by my Facebook notifications, and spent a whole hour talking with a friend instead. I think it was probably fine; God wants us to reach out to others, right?”

“Every single day when my alarm clock goes off so I can have time with Jesus, I just hit snooze. God made my body with a need to sleep, so don’t try to guilt me out of taking a few extra minutes for myself. Brain surgeons are saying that people can die if they don’t sleep, you know.”

A strange dissatisfaction comes over my soul when such statements are made. These are justifications for taking eyes off of the Prize. We reluctantly accept that all of us have busy lives and tell ourselves that if God really wanted us to be in His Word, in prayer, and ultimately know Him better, then He would just take away all of the day-to-day tasks.

As Oswald Chambers has so eloquently said: “Am I allowing my spiritual life to waste away, or am I focused, bringing everything to One central point… Is Jesus Christ more and more dominating every interest of my life? If the central point, [and] the most powerful influence of my life is… the Lord, then every aspect of my life will bear fruit for Him.”

Is Jesus Christ the cry and obsession of my heart? If not, then I am not giving my all in my relationship with Him. Leslie Ludy has said, “Until He is our all and all, we are not truly living the Gospel life.”

Am I so in love with Jesus that I am willing to change my schedule to have more time with Him? What would happen if I started passionately pursuing Him first thing in the morning, instead of hitting snooze? Can I be found praying throughout the day, continuing to consciously dwell with Him even at work and school?  When others glance into my life, are their eyes lifted to Him? Do I desperately long to know Him better?    

Just take a look at what His Word has to say on this:

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1-2a).

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).

“It is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand; let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light… But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:11b-12, 14).

“You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11).

“‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’... declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:13-14a).

It’s true: many of us do have busy lives, and lots of commitments and deadlines. But the things that are important to us do get done.

My friend Holly told me that she has no time to spend with the Lord, “My schedule is just insane!” she expressed. A few minutes later, she was talking with the friend across the table from her about how excited she was so excited for her weekend plans: watching Netflix for six hours.

Setting time aside to be with Him may cost you something; perhaps it will be less sleep, an adjustment to your work schedule, a class dropped, leaving a sports team, the TV turned off. Whatever it may be, I want you to know that He is worthy of your time. 1,000 years from now, will you be thinking about how glad you are that you spent seven hours browsing through the mall? Will you wish you had seen that one movie everyone thinks is all the rage?

Let’s prayerfully study our schedules and see if we are truly building each part around Jesus. He is so worthy. May our lives be marked by an obsession for Jesus that so far exceeds the love for any other person in the entire world. Don’t compromise the important ground of spiritual discipline in your life; cling to Jesus, and seek Him with every fiber of your being.

“Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall enjoy much peace. If you refuse to be hurried and pressed, if you stay your soul on God, nothing can keep you from that clearness of spirit which is life and peace. In that stillness you will know what His will is” (Amy Carmichael).

Can Birth Control Cause Death?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Could a medication you’re on be causing the death of a loved one?

As Christians of the 21st Century, we seek to be fathers to the fatherless and voices to the voiceless, as Jesus has called us to be. Many of us have spent time volunteering at crisis pregnancy centers, or have donated money or resources to pro-life organizations, or have helped individuals who were abortion minded. And yet there is another side to this discussion of life and death decisions that is considered too private to be discussed. Did you know that this rather unspoken area is one 90% of Christians unite on [1], agreeing to it and even promoting it?

This rather shushed area, is called birth control.

In our culture, it’s a given that when two people are married, they better be on birth control until they feel ready to have kids. As a matter of fact, a majority of Christian premarital counseling courses endorse and even encourage its use; not to mention doctors and other healthcare professionals. For such reasons, couples feel secure using hormonal or mechanical* birth control regularly.

To all the people my age (17 and younger), have you ever thought that the subject of birth control relates to you?

You may not be currently using birth control, but I can almost guarantee that it will be recommended for your use or your spouse’s use in the future. And it very well could cause the death of those you are closest to.

When, for example, a woman takes hormonal birth control, she is either receiving a dosage of estrogen and progesterone or just progesterone. The estrogen/progesterone pill sends a message to the woman’s brain that she is pregnant, which leads the body to stop the release of more eggs from the ovaries. But birth control is not very effective in this; often eggs are still released into the fallopian tubes and the egg gets fertilized and becomes an embryo - a living human being. The developers of the pill were well aware of this fact; and that’s why they added in the progesterone. The progesterone has a different job; it hardens the lining of the uterus. After 7-14 days in the fallopian tubes, the embryo descends into the uterus, and if this baby’s momma has been on the pill, it will be nearly impossible for it to implant; thus it will most likely die.

The loss of life is sad enough, but there is another side to the pill; in 2005 the UN’s International Agency on Research on Cancer recorded in their report “Monograph 91” that estrogen-progesterone combination drugs was a group 1 carcinogen for breast, cervical, and liver cancer [2]. Women who use mechanical or hormonal birth control are actually placing themselves at far greater risk for cancer, blood clots, and heart attacks, according to Dr. Angela Lanfranchi, a breast surgeon and clinical assistant professor of surgery at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School [3].

In January, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade reminded us again of the horrifying statistics that over 58,000,000 lives have been taken by abortion. That’s more lives than the total population of Myanmar! How many lives, would you estimate, have been taken through birth control? How many little lives, just at the very beginning, were starved to death since they were unable to implant into the uterus and get food from mommy? This should break our hearts, as it breaks our Jesus’s heart, and it should drive us to action as well.

What are you doing today to be a voice for those little, little ones that even a majority of pro-life organizations have overlooked? Would you be willing to stand in the gap for them?

Imagine, a few years down the road, that you have a little girl. She has your eyes, and adores life. She’s the apple of your eye, and you love to get down to her level and play together. But one day, you get a call; your little Susie has somehow begun to starve to death. Your friend on the phone tells you that there’s no way she’ll make it longer than a few days if she doesn’t get some food in her quickly.

What would you do?

If I was in this situation, I would do absolutely everything I could to get to my little girl and bring her some food before it was too late; and I would call the people I considered my friends and ask them “Will you help my little Susie? She’s starving to death!”

Each of these precious lives that are ended by birth control are God’s “Susie’s.” He loves each of them and has called us to stand in the gap for them [4]. This is not optional, it is a commission from our King. We are called to be “a father to the fatherless.”

A famous speaker once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” If we do not stand to protect these lives, who will?

What are some practical ways we can protect these little ones?

- Personally choose not to use birth control

In the future, expect to be asked by your health professional about birth control. It’s not only recommended for preventing pregnancy; it is also suggested for controlling acne, regulating cycles, or to reduce cramping. Each of these side effects can often be treated naturally or with other medications.

- Graciously speak up on their behalf

Would you be willing to graciously speak up if you heard someone talking about birth control? Each of us have two things: a voice and influence in others lives. If we use these things to protect these vulnerable little ones, they can have a chance at life that they might not have had otherwise.

One fast and effective way to speak up on their behalf is to share blog posts or videos on social media; it starts conversations and gives helpful and important information. Check out a few of these links:

- Consider embryo adoption in the future

Another way you can be an advocate for these little ones is to consider embryo adoption in the future. After couples have an in vitro fertilization treatment, there are often embryos left over that are either thrown out, donated to science, or put away in bio freezers. These little embryos who do not have a chance at life until they are adopted.

“When a couple goes through IVF, the doctors create as many embryos as possible because it costs a lot, physically and financially, to retrieve the eggs and fertilize the embryos. One to three embryos are transferred into the woman’s uterus, and the rest are frozen… Embryos are considered property under federal law.” (Embryo Adoption Awareness Center)

We can do something about all of these precious little ones who are frozen in time in bio freezers all over the US; let’s be advocates for these valuable lives!

To find out more about embryo adoption, check out these links:
  • An embryo adoption story:

  • Embryo adoption agencies:

These little ones can be saved if each one of us personally chooses to stand up and be an advocate for these lives!

* Due to the fact that this article was first presented as a speech with a time limit, mechanical birth control was not sufficiently addressed in this post. But from the research I have done, I most definitely believe that IUDs and other forms of mechanical birth control can and do cause embryonic abortions. As Colorado Right to Life has said: “By redefining an established term, the abortion and pharmaceutical industries could mislead women by selling them ‘contraceptives’ that in fact do not only prevent ‘conception’ but were also designed to kill the tiniest children by preventing implantation so they cannot continue to grow in their mother's wombs. Such ‘contraceptives’ are not contraceptive, but are mechanical (IUD) or chemical (pills) abortifacient ‘birth control.’" [Source]

1. Poll: http://www.gallup.com/poll/154799/americans-including-catholics-say-birth-control-morally.aspx
2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1f3qTt1YDk [see also: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/surgeon-birth-control-pill-a-molotov-cocktail-for-breast-cancer]
3. Ibid
4. A similar illustration was first presented by Pastor Eric Ludy in his short film "Depraved Indifference."