Wednesday, December 31, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: STOLEN


In 'The Night Circus' Erin Morgenstern wrote:

"You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift."




Having just read Katariina Rosenblatt's book 'Stolen', I would identify this as a book that needs to take up residence in the soul. Katariina's story is that of a sex trafficking survivor. From her first exploitive experiences as a troubled, lonely kid who loved her family to her advocacy and rescue work, we meet a woman who knows first hand the voice of God calling her to 'hope, opportunity, purpose and empowerment'. In fact these four words serve as an acronym for her organization www.thereishopeforme.org .

While she shares some horrific stories, the book is not titillating or overtly graphic. Enough information is given to let the reader know the sad truth, but not enough to distract from the dignity we need to give to victims. 

This is a good read for churches and people of faith who scratch their heads wondering how to respond to human trafficking, prostitution, strip clubs and the porn industry. Perhaps, a better read to understand the vulnerability that minors at risk are facing behind closed doors, in schools and in broken families.

______________________________
"Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Books in exchange for an honest review."

Sunday, December 28, 2014

TOUGH LOVE #7 - YOU STOP PEOPLE FROM ENTERING GOD'S KINGDOM

Have you heard the expression, “You make a better door than a window?”  The religious leaders made a better wall than a door.  They had access to God’s Word, the knowledge with which to save the world. Instead of giving people answers that would help them, they turned God’s Word into a barrier to keep people out of God’s Kingdom.


Luke 11:
52 "Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering."


The religious leaders had the keys to get in, but did not enter themselves.  Isn’t that sometimes the problem with experts?

The chef makes a feast for others but doesn’t want to cook at home.

It’s like the mechanic who drives a wreck.

The old saying is ‘those who can’t teach’.  I know many people who have great book knowledge of the Scriptures and a wielding grip on doctrine.  But some of them have no relationship with the Body of Christ.  They are experts, but their religion has no connection to helping people.

We must guard our hearts from an attitude of exclusivity.  Who are you trying to keep out?  If we are always concerned about who shouldn’t be included, we miss the point – maybe we’re not really in.

The Old Testament talks about God having a remnant of the nation that would be faithful.  Some Christian groups have taught that they alone were right and all the other churches false.  To follow their teachings and practices would guarantee that you were truly part of God’s People, not like the misguided people in the other churches.

My own father used to believe that sort of thing.  In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s he believed that most of the churches were in error and that God was calling a Remnant to come out of the churches and be the true church.  Further along, he believed that God was calling a Remnant out the Remnant.

Once you start down the path of being more correct than others, there is no return.  You claim to have the keys but don’t let anyone in.  Eventually you realize you cannot even enter.

In contrast, Jesus said that He is the door and whoever enters through Him will be saved.  My dad began leaving that kind of thinking behind 50 years ago.  In place of the Remnant coming out of the Remnant, he chose to trust in Jesus the true and merciful Judge.

He is the One who guards the door and He wants everyone to enter.  His willing sacrifice for humanity’s sin is proof that He is willing to accept all who enter by faith.

According to some traditions, the thief on the cross next to Jesus was named Dismas.  He was fully accepted without having an opportunity to prove himself.  His confession of faith in Jesus gave the dying thief the keys to the Kingdom of God.

Because of the ‘tough love of God’, there has been a divine intervention led by Jesus.  Though trapped in our sinful state, God brought a loving confrontation that calls us to return and be saved. This is not condemnation… it is hope to live.

Instead of being left out, God offers you the keys to the Kingdom. From the intervention that confronts our sin, Jesus leads us home with a right mind.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

TOUGH LOVE #6 - YOU REWRITE HISTORY INSTEAD OF LEARNING FROM IT


Charles Wolf Jr. is a professor of International Economics. In what is referred to as Wolf’s Law, he said, “Those who don't study the past will repeat its errors. Those who do study it will find other ways to err.”[i]


How true this was of the religious leaders Jesus confronted. The ‘Wolf’s Law’ seemed to be that these shepherds were actually wolves who destroyed the spotless lambs.



Luke 11:
47 "Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. 48 So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs.


Jesus points out that they are no different than their forefathers.  God would continue to send prophets to the nation and the religious leaders would continue the pattern of persecution. 

The prophets of old had a consistent message calling God’s People to obedience.  The religious leaders acted as if they had surpassed their ancestors’ ability to judge correctly.  God sent prophets to their nation and the forefathers killed them off.  The Scribes and Pharisees recognized that the prophets were right and honoured them by building memorial tombs to enshrine their importance.

Instead of looking back at past injustices and claiming moral high ground, we need to realize that we can be guilty of repeating history. We must resist the temptation to look back nostalgically at the ‘good old days’ and miss the lessons that history can teach us.  History teaches us that we are fully capable of making the same mistakes.

Monday, December 22, 2014

TOUGH LOVE #5 - YOUR DEMAND ON OTHERS IS UNBEARABLE

Tough love is ‘another version of "being cruel to be kind". To show somebody some tough love today will save them heartache in the future but may cause a small amount of upset for the receiver immediately after the "Tough Love" has been dispensed. They would suffer more if you let them get on with their life with no interference from third parties.’[i]


Luke 11:
45 One of the experts in the law answered him, "Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also."
 46 Jesus replied, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.


Jesus did not have anything good to say about people who put heavy expectations on others and yet provide no assistance to help people reach the goal. 

The term for burdens in the verse (phortion) is normally used to describe a ship's cargo. So the burdens are indeed heavy ones… Quick to point the finger but slow to lend a helping hand—that is Jesus' complaint… The scribes were so right in their own eyes that they unconsciously but constantly did wrong. What a rebuke to those whose life was focused on getting the law exactly right.[i]

The gospel sets us free from this kind of condemnation.  We are free to know the love and acceptance of a Heavenly Father who knows our weakness and yet remains gracious and encouraging.

Perhaps you understand what it means to be shamed instead of helped.  Often we have unfinished business dealing with our shame and guilt.  To know God’s forgiveness and grace gives us a new foundation for self-understanding.  We do not have to be a prisoner to those who held up standards we could not reach.  Their burden on us tended to sink our boat.





[i] The IVP New Testament Commentary Series

Friday, December 19, 2014

TOUGH LOVE #4 - YOU CORRUPT OTHERS WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT



 Luke 11:44 "Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it."



Touching a grave made a person ceremonially defiled (Num. 19:16), so graves were whitewashed to warn people. An unmarked grave was a hidden source of ritual impurity.[i]

To come in contact with the religious leaders was to be defiled by something dead.  The fraud was that the graves were unmarked.  You could not tell by looking at them that they were spiritually dead.  So the deadly influence of the religious leaders went undetected.

They had a defiling, negative influence on people but it was masked by their righteous image.  Sometimes people look as if they are spiritual and godly, but they can defile you without you knowing it. 





[i] Reformation Study Bible

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