Abandoned in Hubei: Jessica's Story

Saturday, May 20, 2017

It was a humid 85 degree day in Hubei. A young mom held her three month old in her arms as she walked onto a bridge near the Yangtze River; she hushed her little girl, hoping to not be discovered for fear of being arrested for what she was about to do. As the sun rose just above the horizon, the lady placed her baby on a safe spot and pinned a note on her shirt.

“Shhhh! Qi ChunTeng!” Quietly, the young mom ran down the dock, looking fearfully around. At any moment she could be caught and reported to the police for abandoning her child. But what else was she supposed to do? Where would she find the money to raise this child? She was struggling financially. And her family would shame her for not giving birth to a son; she really didn’t want a girl after all.

In Wuhan, it was illegal to give up your child for adoption or you would have to face consequences from the local police - including possible fines and detention. To abandon a child was also against the law, and if the parent was caught leaving their child, they would be reported to the authorities. People who turned them in would be rewarded financially; this was especially motivating to the people of Hubei since the government controlled all the wealth.

Qi ChunTeng’s mother slipped away into the distance, feeling ready to forget this chapter of her life and begin a new one.

Soon little Qi ChunTeng’s wailing was heard by a village lady, who was on her way to the market. Most people of Wuhan were very used to finding abandoned babies, and would not go out of their way to help them, but this lady was different. Slowly, she bent down to the ground and scooped up a tiny, beautiful little girl. As the lady held her, she realized there was a piece of paper pinned to the baby’s sweater. She glanced at the description on the paper:


The woman realized that this little one couldn’t be more than twelve weeks old! She went to the police station and handed Qi ChunTeng over to them. The police filled out her paperwork, and placed her temporarily in the Qichun Welfare Home, a fifty year old orphanage down the street. An ad was placed, telling the community about this abandoned little one, along with the many other weekly abandonment announcements in the paper. The authorities did not see many of these deserted children ever reunited with their biological families.

Qi ChunTeng awoke in a metal framed crib, hearing the babies around her crying. This orphanage was understaffed, and although some of the employees truly loved each child, there were not enough people to go around. Most of these children did not bond with the workers, but learned to fend for themselves, as well as they could. This caused the little ones to be closed toward other people, since even the most basic needs weren’t always met. Any love that was given to these children was temporary--from their parents, to the police, to the orphanage staff, to foster care--as the children became older, an underlying question remained: “Am I worth enough to anyone for them to take the time to care for me faithfully? Will everyone get up and leave on me?”

After nine months at the orphanage, little Qi ChunTeng was transferred to a home with two sisters who would become her temporary foster parents, because a family from the US was pursuing her adoption. This was arranged to give the adoptive parents the impression that their child had received one-on-one care from the very beginning. The Chinese government did not want the adoptive parents to become aware of the difficult conditions these orphans had endured prior to a family’s promise to give them a forever home.

By the time she was sixteen months old, the time had arrived for Qi ChunTeng to meet her adoptive family. The sisters notified the adoption agency that little Qi ChunTeng had a high fever the evening before; the agency decided it would be best not to expose the Eddy family to Qi ChunTeng’s illness, and looked through their files for similar children they could instead send home with them. The orphanages were so full that they didn’t want to send this family back empty handed.

The day the adoptive family arrived, miraculously, their little girl’s fever had subsided. Soon Qi ChunTeng--now known as Jessica--boarded the plane with her new family, and hesitantly embraced this new life as a member of the Eddy family. Eventually Jessica came to understand that her new mom and dad loved her, and were not just temporary people in her life. As she got older, Jessica came to realize that in the same way her family welcomed her in, so her heavenly Father welcomed her with open arms. After being shown Christ’s love in this family for several years, Jessica trusted Jesus as her personal savior, and understood that Jesus was the one who protected her at every moment. When her mom abandoned her at the dock, when the village woman handed her over to the police, when the police transferred her to the orphanage, and when the orphanage moved her to the foster family, He was with her every step of the way.

One day, while a middle school small group, a friend asked Jessica rather insensitively: “Are your parents actually your real parents?!” Jessica was taken off guard by her comment; she really hadn't thought about that. As the small group leader continued with the lesson, Jessica began to realize why she had felt so insecure in the past several years. She felt alone and rejected as she began believing the lie that her mother had left her because she was unworthy of love. Because of these lies she believed, Jessica became very introverted.  

A few years later Jessica was great impacted by two passages:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:13-17).

Through His Word, Jessica found freedom to fully forgive her mom and let go of the lies that she was unworthy or unloved, combating both lies with the Word of God. She started praying specifically that her mom would come to know Jesus as her personal Savior. And that she would one day be reunited with her.  

There over 160 million orphans in the world who need to be rescued. Jessica’s story is such a beautiful reminder that every life is so valuable to our King. God has called each of us to stand in the gap for orphans:

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9).

“Whoever receives one little child…in My name receives Me.” (Matthew. 18:5).

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).

Let’s be women who joyfully stand for these lives! He so longs for each of these orphans to come into His family, through Jesus!

Why I Ditched Calvinism and Arminianism and What I Embraced Instead

Saturday, April 29, 2017

“After searching for answers for many years, I finally headed to my local Christian bookstore and looked for a book on predestination. One of the employees there set me up with some spectacular resources and now I finally see the light on these issues! Let me tell you ladies about Calvinism!” The Bible study leader’s voice boomed with enthusiasm. She proceeded to launch into a long discussion about just why John Calvin’s views could fix so many issues. I joined in to the conversation and mentioned that Calvin cannot and did not solve everything: only Jesus can do that.

On my ten minute drive home, my mind was conflicted; was it really true that I had to get under the banner of Arminius or Calvin? This leader seemed to suggest that if I didn’t get my thoughts “straightened out” on this (in other words, become a Calvinist) then how could I actually be saved?

Being my strong-willed and determined self, I got home and researched Calvin’s “opposite:” Arminianism. “Well, this seems to be missing some important things too…” I thought to myself, as I leaned against the kitchen counter. I Googled “Calvinism versus Arminianism,” and to my shock, there appeared to be some followers of both who had seemingly forgotten about Jesus. And instead of clinging to the Cross, they were clinging to their certain views on predestination, election, and free will.

What a total tragedy it is when the followers of Jesus leave Him behind for a bunny trail. And, yes, I dare call both Calvinism and Arminianism “bunny trails” whenever they take our eyes off of the Author of Salvation! Such a statement sounds like foolishness to many; this is the point where the long time information-oriented theologian clicks the “X” button in the top right corner of the web page. This article is not for the Christian satisfied with mere head knowledge about Jesus Christ; these thoughts have been churned out onto paper for the Christian hungry for Jesus Himself. You will not be satisfied with anything further I have to say if you do not desire to intimately know Jesus every day.

The Real Problem with Calvinism and Arminianism

What would you say is the defining characteristic of Christianity? God’s Word boldly exposes to us that it is not about any person or thing apart from God Himself. In other words, if your belief in Jesus is built upon anything apart from Him, you are standing on a faulty foundation, and eventually you will run dry. In John 4 Jesus talks with the woman at the well; He shows us that He is the only One who can truly satisfy our souls: “Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life’”(4:13-14 ESV, emphasis added).

Is this said of you? “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:2a NASB).

Or do you thirst simply for intellectual knowledge that will one day fade?

We absolutely should face questions about predestination, election, and more! Instead of running to a “18 Ways Arminius's View Clears Things Up” book, what if every single one of us, as followers of Jesus, ran to the foot of the cross with each puzzling thought? Here’s a startling revelation most theologians would shush me for saying: Jesus already has every single answer to each facet of these deep concepts. God is wiser than Calvin and Arminius! What a devastating mistake we make if we lean trustingly upon the shoulder of a man in a way that we should only look to Jesus. Let’s be women who always turn first to Jesus with every question of the day! I call out every individual who calls themself a believer to ask this of Jesus: “Lord, I want you to teach me whatever you see fit for me to know on predestination, election, and every other argument. I ask for my understanding of this issue to reflect a heart ever gazing up, into the eyes of my Savior.”

A.W. Tozer makes a very important statement that often helps me to bring perspective to these discussions: “Every belief that is not firmly rooted in the cross of Christ will lead others astray.” If your belief about anything comes into conflict with God’s Word, who wins? You or God? Calvin or God? Arminias or God?

“The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever” (Isaiah 40:8 HCSB).

“There are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:7b-10 NASB).

I do not necessarily consider these varying theological views to be fully contrary to the Gospel; rather I notice the fact that embracing these movements often puts our eyes on ourselves and what we can do rather than on Him. The Christian life is not all about me or you; it's about Jesus Christ! As Ian Thomas as so eloquently put it: “The Christian life can be explained only in terms of Jesus Christ, and if your life as a Christian can still be explained in terms of you--your personality, your willpower, your gift, your talent, your money, your courage, your scholarship, your dedication, your sacrifice, or your anything--then although you may have the Christian life, you are not yet living it.”

Digging Deeper

An author I greatly respect has said: “Important as it is that we recognize God working in us, I would yet warn against a too-great preoccupation with the thought. It is a sure road to sterile passivity. God will not hold us responsible to understand the mysteries of election, predestination and the divine sovereignty. The best and safest way to deal with these truths is to raise our eyes to God and in deepest reverence say, ‘O Lord, Thou knowest.’ Those things belong to the deep and mysterious profound of God’s omniscience. Prying into them may make theologians, but it will never make saints.” [1]

Are you consumed with side issues or the main Character? Jesus didn’t die so we could all debate and discuss little intricacies; He shows us plainly in His Word: “A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10 HCSB). We were created for His honor, glory, and praise.

“It is a tragedy when Jesus Christ becomes an academic subject… You could study the Truth, but if you don’t study the Truth as if it is in fact a Person, named Jesus, you are doing more harm than good. God always has an answer. Always!! If you have a question about Scriptural Truth, the remedy is to trust, with childlike faith, that God planted that question in your heart and mind and He desires to answer it. Stay focused on Jesus. No matter how intriguing or how factual your study may be, if it leads you away from a simple abiding trust and fellowship with Jesus Christ, don’t follow the bait. Sit at Christ’s feet and you can be certain that as you study His Word, with Christ at the center of your studies, you will never fail for lack of knowledge or understanding on any matter.” (Eric Ludy). [2]

Returning to Childlike Faith
Picture this: You’re standing in the middle of a world-renowned seminary and are being given a tour by the president, himself. As you walk through the brick lined hallway, you glance up at the large picture frames containing photos of some of the most well known theologians and Christian leaders of our time, who have graduated from this very school. You suddenly feel very small in the light of all their accomplishments. Suddenly, the president turns to you and abruptly says: “We would like to offer you one class on campus for free. Who would you like to study under?”

All at once your little sister innocently looks up and says, “Well, I want to learn from Jesus!”

Trying to regain your composure, you sternly look into the face of your sister with one command: “Shhh!” Doesn’t she know this is a once in a lifetime opportunity?! Jesus is always with me! These professors are not; how dare I pass up this chance to learn from someone greatly knowledgeable in deep things. To think, many of these people have studied for over ten years on their individual field!

Sadly, so often in my own life, I find myself to resemble the older sister. Trying to be put together and professional sounding, when the life God has called us to has a very different set of credentials. Paul had something to say to the church at Corinth while they were distracted:

“For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (11:2-3 NASB, emph. added).

How many of us have become so wrapped up in our own questions that we actually distance ourselves from Jesus, thinking that we have somehow arrived in our own way? Have we lost our sense of childlike wonder and awe that ardently worships the King of kings?

“And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, ‘Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:2-4 NASB).

We are called to look to our Jesus for everything, much like a child looks to their parents to meet their needs. What words quickly flow from the lips of a hungry two-year-old? “Daddy, food!” Do we go that freely to the throne of grace for the answers? He is completely willing to answer us; He has promised to give everything we need for life and godliness!

What about spiritual maturity?
Perhaps you have come to the conclusion that I am condoning the stupidity form of simplicity. Maybe your thoughts are: “Now, Cassidy’s goal is for believers to stay baby Christians forever! She just doesn’t like the hard subjects!” If we are living in obedience to Jesus Christ, we cannot stay as babies. He has called us to childlike faith that matures while still having a glowing child-wonder. As Arthur T. Pierson has said: “The disciple’s maturest manhood is only the perfection of his childhood.” [3]

Anytime we examine a movement - be that Calvinism, Arminianism or anything else - we must look at it through the lens of His Word. I know too many people who use Scripture to prop up their own points. Have you made God’s Word your ultimate authority? May we ever be the people who can say, “What Jesus says goes!”

Calvinism cannot save you, nor can Arminianism. If you’ve been building your life on the five points of Calvinism, I urge you to stop. If you have been desperately building Arminian philosophy into your life, I call you too to stop. If you must have five points, let them be: (1) Jesus (2) Jesus (3) Jesus (4) Jesus (5) Jesus. As I have already stated several times, this does not mean you will never examine predestination and the other issues these two views discuss; what is different is that your starting point is Jesus and your ending point is Jesus. This means you run to His feet and pour out your heart before Him long before you jog up to other teachers and ask for their opinions.  People are excessively flawed; Jesus doesn’t have even one flaw. Who would you rather go to? The Perfect One or a regular Joe with a bucket full of theories?

May our lives ever be built around Jesus Christ, who knows far better than any theologian on every controversial issue. Come and learn from the Master; He’s known all this a lot longer than even the most experienced pastors and teachers. Having doctrine that lines up with God's Word is of great importance! We see that clearly in several places in the Bible: "But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1 ESV). "Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son" (2 John 1:9 ESV). We need to test every word and thought to His Word. When others are teaching us, we need to dig into God's Word for ourselves and see if what they've said is true. Sound doctrine is of undeniable importance; the question I have been asking is this: who do you look to for the answers? Do you search the Scriptures for the answer and earnestly pray? Or do you believe what you believe simply because "so and so" said it?

Jesus is enough for me. Is He enough for you?

  1. A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Publishers, 2006), 74
  2. Arthur T. Pierson, George Muller of Bristol, 43 [as quoted in the sermon listed above].

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).