3 Ways You Are Fueling Sex Trafficking

SEX TRAFFICKING…

When most people hear this term, they tend to envision a young child, kidnapped, handcuffed to a radiator, locked in a room somewhere with a gross, sweaty, pedophile showing up to pay the trafficker and have his way with the young child in the room.

When I tell people that I am a survivor of human trafficking, they tend to say, “Oh like the movie Taken?” Because I MUST have been pulled out by one leg from underneath my bed in order to be forced into prostitution.

While those scenarios may absolutely take place, that is not the most COMMON scenario of trafficking here in America. We are not in Thailand or Cambodia, or Nigeria or any other third world country. If we are expecting to see sex trafficking the same way it looks in those countries, we will definitely miss it. As a culture, we need to start portraying clearly, what trafficking looks like in a developed, modern country like America.

So the question is… if we’re not identifying it, does that mean we’re fueling it? Here are three ways you can unknownly be perpetuating sex trafficking right within your own home:

1. Glamorizing Commercial Sex

To glamorize commercial sex, we first need to identify commercial sex: Pornography, Exotic Dancing, Prostitution. The majority of which objectify human beings, and make them an object for sale or personal use.

Glamorizing these industries only fuels that stigma that using people is acceptable, which encourages the demand and I don’t really need to explain Supply and Demand, do I?

How do you glamorize it? Well, since glamorous is defined as “charming, fascinatingly attractive, especially in a mysterious way, full of excitement and adventure.” If you are portraying the sex industry as any of the above, you are setting yourself or someone else up for a game of Russian Roulette.

2. Embracing “Cultural Norms”

It is not funny or cool or normal to dress up like a Pimp and Ho for Halloween, to use terms like “pimpin’” when describing something. It is not normal to visit a strip club for your 18th birthday or a bachelor party with “prostitutes” and “strippers” for your pre-wedding celebration (thank you Hangover). Somehow in our American Cultural, these items have become standard, expected and normal.

Parents, when you turn the other cheek and think “Oh, boys will be boys” or “It’s just what’s in now” you are telling your children that it perfectly acceptable to behave, act and think that way.

3. Using Demeaning Terms

Anytime I hear the term “prostitute” I cringe; let alone “hooker.” Even more appalling is when used as an adjective to describe a child: Child Prostitute or Teen Hooker.

This is seen not only when people talk but a lot in the media. If we want to make a change, when we read or hear that term used we can correct that person simply by saying something like, “Do you mean prostituted children? Victims of trafficking or forced prostitution?” You may even feel led to email that journalist, reporter or news station/paper to help see the problem in placing the blame on the person which supports misconceptions.

Pimpin’ has somehow replaced the word “cool” in our country and this needs to change.

Parents if you have thought “but I have sons” so somehow sex trafficking won’t affect you, think again! Not only can boys be victims of exploitation, but every buyer of sex was at one point a son. If you are accepting and laughing along with your sons about that teen hooker when your son describes his new phone as ‘pimp’—you are setting up your son to become a buyer or worse a seller. Let’s change the culture!

Rebecca Bender is a nationally recognized and awarded expert on domestic sex trafficking. After escaping nearly six years of both labor and sex trafficking, she emerged as a Survivor Leader, providing consulting, training and speaking with some of the largest anti-trafficking groups and government agencies in the country, including FBI, Homeland Security, and former president Jimmy Carter. After writing her first book, Roadmap to Redemption, she founded the Rebecca Bender Initiative.

Enough Is Enough

Getting Off the Hamster Wheel of Unachievable Standards

 

I remember the first time I cried in a dressing room. It was my junior year of high school, and I couldn’t fit into the size I was used to wearing. I was on the cross country team, running six miles every morning, so I knew I was in the best shape of my life. Up until that point, I had been able to squeeze into the smaller sizes at the store, but something had happened to me over the summer. I went from having girl hips to having real hips. As much as I tried to wish them away, they were there to stay.

Like a lot of women, I’ve seen the advertisements and the pictures in magazines of women with flawless skin and perfect bodies. They look like they’re ready to swan dive into the ocean in a swimsuit at any moment. I’ve read the articles and heard the sales pitches about the perfect hairstyle, lipstick, or piece of clothing I need to make me beautiful. I’ve struggled against the draw to compare myself to the girl next to me. I’ve heard my heart ask a lot of questions, all pointing to the main question: “Am I Enough?”

I thought the answer might lie in a new haircut, new diet, or new workout routine. I’ve found myself wondering how to fit all three of these into my schedule, and then realized I’m on a hamster wheel. I’m running and running, but not getting anywhere, because there’s always one more area that makes me feel like I’m not enough.

The truth is, the only place I’ve found a real answer to this question is in the presence of God. I’ve tried to find it from guys. I’ve tried to find it from people I look up to. The only Person who’s spoken to the depths of my heart is God. I’ve brought Him my insecurities. I’ve told Him the things I don’t like about myself. He loves the places that seem unloveable.

My workout routine is not frequent enough to be classified as a routine. I usually sleep too long to be able to spend more than one minute on my make-up. I have realized partway through getting ready on several occasions that I only shaved one leg and completely forgot about the other one, but I am enough.

I’m enough today, and I’ll be enough tomorrow.

At my best and at my worst, I’m enough.

I’m enough when my hair’s messy, and when it looks like a Pantene commercial.

I’m enough when I’m sleep deprived and when I start the morning with a three-mile run.

What I do is enough.

Who I am is enough.

I work hard enough.

I love deeply enough.

What I have to give is enough.

I’m going to be enough for someone to marry.

I’m going to be enough for someone to call mom one day. 

I am enough.

I am enough because God looked at creation in the beginning and called it good. I’m enough because my mistakes and shortcomings have been covered by His blood. I am enough because the places where I am weak are where He shows Himself strong.

Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” We are carriers of beauty. We reveal the very traits and attributes of God. The God who clothed the lilies of the field and spread the stars across the sky did not hold back when He was making each one of us. Next time I feel myself running on the hamster-wheel of unachievable beauty standards, I will think of His words and remember that I am enough.

 

 

ANDREA IS A GRADUATE OF THE SCHOOL OF MINISTRY AT BETHEL AND CURRENTLY SERVES ON THE WRITING TEAM FOR MORAL REVOLUTION. SHE IS PASSIONATE ABOUT SEEING THE CHURCH CARRY JOYFUL HOPE AND EXPECTATION IN EVERY AREA OF THEIR LIVES. SHE LONGS TO SEE THE UPCOMING GENERATION EQUIPPED AS STRONG LEADERS WHO STEWARD THEIR LIVES WELL AND INFLUENCE SOCIETY AS A RESULT. 
WEBSITE: ANDREADALLEY.COM

How Do You Talk To Your Pre-Teen About Sex?

I remember asking my daughter Delani if she knew what sex was when she was about nine years old. We had had a conversation before that, but it was a simple explanation about how babies don’t just come out of Mommy’s tummy—Mommy and Daddy “make love” and that’s how we get a baby. But then she told us that a boy at her school kept telling her he wanted to “sext” her. Clearly this nine-year-old little boy didn’t fully know what he was saying, but when we heard this, Ben looked at me in slight panic. We both knew it was time to have a real sex talk with our daughter.

I asked Delani if she wanted to go for a ride to the local drugstore or go for a walk by the cows. She picked the drugstore, because she knew there was a much greater chance for a treat there! I also asked her if she wanted Daddy to be part of the sex conversation, and she said she just wanted it to be us girls. So we left for the drugstore, and in the car I asked her, “So, what does it mean to have sex with someone?”

“Well, it’s when a mommy and daddy lie on the couch, kiss a lot, and then the couch turns red,” she answered. “This means they have had love.”

I was not prepared for that! I knew she didn’t know much, but I had to try not to laugh at the innocence of her response. Obviously, I had a lot to fill her in on. I began by giving her a basic overview of sexual intercourse and conception, and then explained why these belong in a lifelong relationship with a husband and wife in the covenant of marriage.

By the time I finished, we had been sitting the drugstore parking lot for ten minutes. I asked her how she was feeling and if she had any questions. She said she was good and wanted to go inside. A few minutes later, as we walked down an aisle looking for nail polish, she asked, “So Mom, when the penis gets really big and ejaculates the white stuff, that stuff is what you need to help make the babies, right?”

Of course, we had to be standing near about four other people when she asked this question, and I could just feel them wondering what in the world sparked this question and how I was going to respond. I realized I could respond with embarrassment and tell her we would talk about it later, or I could choose to protect the freedom and safety in talking about this subject I wanted to build with my daughter. So, I replied, “Yes, that is correct. The white stuff that comes out is called sperm. You need an egg from the mommy and the sperm from the daddy to make a baby. Did you find a color of polish that you wanted?”

Yes, after we left the store I explained it’s better to ask sex questions when there aren’t a bunch of strangers around, because not everyone is as comfortable discussing the topic. But I also told her I was so happy that she didn’t feel scared to ask me that question, no matter who was there! Since that time, she has ended up in situations where she realized she knew more about sex than her peers and chose to not share what she knew, communicating that maybe they should talk with the parents. I love hearing that she navigating this topic with maturity.

Now that Delani is approaching the end of junior high, we are entering a whole new season. As she has been going through puberty and maturing physically, she’s experienced feelings that she could hardly imagine having at the age of nine. Ben and I have had to work harder to pursue connection with her as she desires to be her own person and navigates the hormones and social dynamics that are just being introduced into her world.

Can I say that we’ve done everything correctly? Not even close. But I have done all that I know to do with the heart of connection, and that is all I can ask of myself and from Ben. One of my favorite things we have told Delani is “Delani, Mommy and Daddy have never raised a teenager before. We are learning as we go, but I promise our goal is never to control you. It’s to stay connected to your heart.” We also try to use a lot of “I messages” to let her know how her behavior is affecting us and remind her that we’re responsible to protect and hold up our side of a safe, loving relationship. And we often ask her, “What do you need from us?”

Now that we are entering a season where our daughter is experiencing growing sexual needs, I’m so grateful that we made the decision not to let someone else teach her about sex because we were too intimidated by the topic. It really was the choice to have an open and ongoing conversation about sex that I think has made this season easier on our connection than had we chosen to avoid it.

I know that it can feel painful for parents to talk about sex, as they may have walked through their own abuse and pain. But our children need us to be open and honest with them about this important area of life, and being willing to overcome fear pain around sex in our own lives is a battle that we must fight for their sakes. I believe God’s heart is for children to learn about the beauty, wonder, the power of sex, along with the passion and purpose in covenant, from their parents. We love our children more than anyone else on this planet. Let’s not leave the door open for them to be taught about sex by voices of people who have agendas that don’t align with God’s heart for them.

Parents, you can do this!

As the Director of Parenting at Loving on Purpose, Brittney Serpell brings a wealth of tools, knowledge, and practical experience to her role. Brittney is certified in Love and Logic and worked for six years as the Development Director for the children’s department at Bethel Church, where she created and established a culture of strong communication and team values. Brittney and her husband, Ben, married in 2003, have three wonderful children, and are actively loving their kids on purpose!

Article originally posted at lovingonpurpose.com


Sex & Marriage

Sex and marriage have become two words that almost don’t seem to go together. It seems the narrative has become, “Husbands never get as much as they want, and wives periodically grit their teeth through it.” We have experienced this first hand in our own marriage. It has taken us years to learn how to fully enjoy sex, and in all honesty, years to understand that sex in marriage isn’t a luxury but rather a necessity.

Much of our struggle in this area was similar to many other couples. I never felt like we were having enough sex and Cait had no desire to have any. It actually took us a long time for her to even experience total fulfillment. Yes, I mean what that implies! As a matter of fact, it was eleven years into marriage before she experienced an orgasm. For eleven years we struggled, fought, and were often confused about what we were doing wrong. We really loved each other but for some reason, we couldn’t figure out how to get into a healthy sexual rhythm. For anyone who experiences this, you already understand the impact that a bad sex life can have on other areas of your relationship.

We often found ourselves being sharp with each other and lacking patience. At different times throughout those years, it felt like we were parenting-partners rather than romantic lovers. Thankfully, that all changed in 2017 and things have only continued to get better.

This process caused me to ask some important questions. Such as, “Why do I desire sex so much?” At times I would compare my need for sex, to her complete lack of desire, and think, “Why am I so gross? Why do I need something that she seems to disdain? Am I really just an animal?” This is an important question for someone who feels their sex drive is stronger than their spouses.

The answer is actually pretty simple. God designed sex to be a powerful bonding force between a husband and wife. As I began to discover God’s design through scriptures like Matthew 19:6, 1 Corinthians 7:1-7 (NIV and MSG are both great) and of course much of Song of Solomon… I realized it was an important building block for marriage. In addition to scripture, I began to learn about the biology and chemicals like vasopressin, dopamine, and oxytocin that are released in my brain when I make love with my wife. It is very clear that God intended sex to be a powerful tool to bond my body, soul, and spirit to hers. Understanding that I was created this way helped me to silence the lies that I could have believed.

It also caused me to be very passionate about the value and importance of sex inside of marriage. It seems that for many it has become a “luxury” rather than a necessary expression of love. As my wife and I have begun to discover the beauty of it, I am so grateful we never gave up on experiencing sex the way God intended.

It took years of trial and error, failed moments and completely vulnerable conversations. Listening to her telling me that she didn’t enjoy it, and my coming to grips with that reality and not blaming her for it. I also looked for ways to express my desire for her without her feeling objectified. These were just some of the challenges we overcame, and in some ways, are still overcoming. There were even periods where I considered that perhaps this was my lot in life, to love a wife who couldn’t fulfill me in this area. I chose to begin to look for other ways to love her and be loved by her. Now looking back, I realize that the choice to not have sex wasn’t really an option if I wanted a healthy and fulfilling marriage. God didn’t give sex to marriage as an optional upgrade, but rather as a critical part of the base model.

As I assess the state of our culture in regards to marriage, I have realized that we are in desperate need of great marriages that have great sex! Let me connect some dots for you before you think a Christian shouldn’t be talking like this.

A study done by the Pew Research group on millennials’ mindset towards marriage came to the conclusion that many have the viewpoint of, “It’s time to embrace new ideas about romance and family and acknowledge the end of traditional marriage as society’s highest ideal.”

Fewer millennials will get married than any other generation. Out of those who do get married, they will marry much later. In a very real sense, our culture is losing its faith in marriage. Why is this?

For a few decades now, we haven’t given people something to believe in when it comes to marriage. Everyone is aware of divorce statistics which has caused many to believe divorce is a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’. Consider how marriage is described in many places, “ball and chain” or “the end of freedom.” When most people think about sex, they view it as exciting and erotic when you are young and single. Believing it ’s boring and rare when you are married.

Ok, so why did I turn this personal blog into a cultural statement? Because I believe that one of the best things we can do for ourselves, our kids and society is to have great, connected, intimate sex in marriage! Our kids will watch marriages they hope to have one day and our culture will realize that God was right when He said, “It’s not good for man to be alone…the two will become one flesh and what God brings together let no one separate.”

Married couples I urge you, DON’T GIVE UP! Keep having sex even when it’s not great. Learn together, try new things. Make it a priority to make love in a way that connects your body, soul, and spirit. Your future self and the next generation will thank you for it.

 




 

Cole Zick is passionate about seeing the church come together to be effective and thrive in every area of life. He and his wife Caitlin currently serve as directors of Moral Revolution in Redding, California. With eleven years of marriage and ministry experience, they openly share their story and first years of sex in marriage hoping to start a healthy conversation and ultimately see others find freedom through their experience. They also created four children in five years, which gives insight into their love for chaos.


What To Do When Time Isn’t Healing Your Wounds

Is it possible to walk through pain and come out the other side really okay? Yes. Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Most definitely. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4). In other words, mourning is necessary; it’s the process that leads to wholeness. Yet many Christians are afraid of pain and believe their only responsibilities are to cheer people up. Consequently, hurting people push down their pain instead of confronting it. This leads to a life of unresolved agony. As children of God, we must learn how to walk away from pain (not hide it), so that we can become healthy and whole people who live joyful lives. So let’s take a look at some practical steps for walking away from pain.

 

1. Forgive those who caused you pain.

Forgiveness shuts out bondage and frees you to begin living in peace. There are a few things that you should know about forgiveness. First of all, forgiveness is an act of your will, not a manifestation of your desire. In other words, forgiveness doesn’t have to feel good. Second, forgiving someone doesn’t preclude you from experiencing pain when he or she is around, and it doesn’t mean you have to trust them. Forgiveness simply means you no longer will the person to be punished.

 

2. Change the way you think about pain.

One of the greatest misconceptions people have about pain is that time heals. This couldn’t be further from the truth! If time healed, people in prison would be the most whole people in the world. Over the course of many trials and tribulations, I have learned the value of finding joy in the process of my pain and of looking forward to the outcome. Joy—or the promise of joy—gives you the ability to face seemingly impossible circumstances and helps you to thrive when life is hard. It’s critical that you change the way you think about trials, pain, and perseverance, so that the joy of the Lord will become your strength in the tough seasons of your life.

 

3. Allow yourself to mourn.

Contrary to popular opinion, mourning isn’t sitting in a dark room thinking about your agony until you become angry and overwhelmed. This may be a part of your process, but it certainly isn’t the endgame. The process of mourning that leads to wholeness has a beginning and an end. As you would at a funeral, you experience grief as you recount the loss, yet tears tend to wash away your pain as you process your memories and recount your history. Allow the mourning process to run its course and lead you into wholeness.

 

4. Examine your troubled thoughts.

Sometimes during the process of walking out of pain, you become so distressed that your thoughts are like troubled children arguing with their siblings. The noise and confusion can be so dramatic that it is nearly impossible to concentrate on the voice of God. This often causes you to feel alone and afraid. In moments like this, it’s necessary to deal with each screaming thought individually. Separate your troubled thoughts and interview them independently. This step is often the most challenging because it requires you to dig down to your root issues, but facing your pain head-on is the only way to find true resolve and, ultimately, closure.

 

5. Strengthen your broken places.

If you’ve spent your whole life shut down because you’re afraid of being rejected and hurt, then I suggest you read a great book on boundaries. It also might be wise to listen to some teaching on how to communicate your feelings. Give a voice to what’s going on inside of you. This is the way to become a powerful person in every area of life.

 

6. Pace Yourself.

Processing pain is a lot like lifting weights. If you lift weights every day, all day long, instead of getting stronger you’ll break your body down to the point that it can’t do anything. In the same way, if you process all day long, every day, you will have what we call an emotional breakdown. Therefore, it’s essential that you pace yourself. It’s also important, as you are working through emotional times or stressful seasons, that you eat healthily, sleep well, exercise often, and have fun.

 

IT’S WORTH IT

Regardless of the reasons you’re hurting or you’re numb, the way out is to dive in. By doing this, you will become a master at discovering your pain, communicating for closure, and healing your soul. It’s worth going through the process so that you can be free and fully step into the great destiny on your life! Today I pray that wherever you are in your process of pain, that you would find comfort in the voice of a loving Father, pulling you into His arms and speaking strength and truth over you!

 

Originally posted on krisvallotton.com.

 

KRIS VALLOTTON IS THE AUTHOR OF NUMEROUS BOOKS, CO-AUTHOR OF THE BEST SELLING SUPERNATURAL WAYS OF ROYALTY, AND IS A WELL-KNOWN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE SPEAKER. KRIS IS THE FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF MORAL REVOLUTION, THE SENIOR ASSOCIATE LEADER OF BETHEL CHURCH, AND THE CO-FOUNDER OF BETHEL SCHOOL OF SUPERNATURAL MINISTRY.  HE AND HIS WIFE, KATHY, HAVE BEEN MARRIED FOR 40 YEARS AND RESIDE IN REDDING, CALIFORNIA.  THEY HAVE FOUR GROWN CHILDREN AND EIGHT GRANDCHILDREN.
FACEBOOK: FACEBOOK.COM/KVMINISTRIES
TWITTER: TWITTER.COM/KVMINISTRIES
INSTAGRAM: INSTAGRAM.COM/KVMINISTRIES

How to Be Sure That You’re Ready to Date

Dating: it’s one of the most confusing subjects in the world today. Why should you date? When should you date? How should you date? So much of our society has approached dating relationships like a nomad’s journey with no real starting point or ending point; instead, its appetites, lusts and emotions direct its senseless drifting. And because of this, most dating relationships leave the participants worse off than when they started. It doesn’t have to be this way though!

 

DATE PROACTIVELY

We all have a desire to let the beauty of a relationship unfold on its own, and that all sounds very romantic but it’s not realistic or healthy. Imagine with me that you’re going with some friends to climb Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, but none of you had ever been rock climbing in your life. Long before you ever arrive at the face of the mountain, there are many things that you would need to know in order to make sure you have an adventure of a lifetime. Without some pretty good planning and preparation, what is meant to be a great exploit could soon turn into a rocky nightmare. So by preparing for the exploration before it happens, you are now able to enjoy the thrill of the climb.

Dating relationships are much like rock climbing—they require planning and preparation so that both individuals can enjoy the journey. So before you even take one step into a relationship, you should sit down and ask yourself a few questions:

Am I really ready to date?
How do I know I’m ready?
Is the person I am dating ready to date?

There is no sense in being in a relationship that one or both of you are not ready for.

 

ARE YOU READY TO DATE?

“Okay,” you ask, “how do I know that I am really ready for a romantic relationship?” You are ready to date when you can be a benefit to the person you’re with no matter the outcome of the relationship.

I’m going to talk to the guys for a second: think about what your relationship would look like if you took God’s own daughter out on a date. If you’re anything like me, there is nothing that I would ever do to hurt her. In fact, I would ensure that when she was with me, she would feel special, appreciated, and protected.

And now for the ladies: the same goes for you when you are dating God’s son. You need to make sure that your actions and participation leave him feeling protected and appreciated, regardless of whether or not the relationship goes the distance.

This means you need to be healthy before you date by taking care of your own issues before you focus on someone else. There is no shame in realizing that you have some struggles to take care of personally before moving forward. What you have to remember is that in a relationship, any cracks in your foundation will be magnified and exposed by the pressure of another person standing on the foundation of your life.

 

SO WHAT IF YOU HAVE CRACKS IN YOUR FOUNDATION?

Again, you must be healthy before taking on the weight of responsibility of another person. If you cannot honestly say that you are in a place to be with someone else and leave them better off no matter what happens in the relationship, then you should take some time with a mentor or counselor to work on those areas that need attention until you are confident that the cracks in your personhood are worked out.

 

FIRST AND FOREMOST, KNOW WHO YOU ARE

Before you can tell someone that you want to be in a romantic relationship with them, you need to know who you are. This is a compilation of your identity, beliefs, passions, desires, talents and personality traits. Each one of these attributes should be carefully explored and appreciated for their intrinsic value because you will carry these characteristics into every relationship that you will ever be part of. The more you know yourself, the more of yourself you are able to give to someone else, and the more secure and confident you will be in a relationship.

 

SECOND, KNOW WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR

There is no perfect set of “wants” that you should pursue in a relationship (there are evil desires that should obviously not be part of our lives at all). However most of what you “should” desire in another person is determined by individual preference. That being said, the more you know and understand your own needs and desires, the better you will be at discovering what you are looking for in a relationship with another person.

 

DON’T KNOW WHAT TO LOOK FOR? START HERE.

Your destiny will be a huge factor in determining what type of person you will need to be with. Finding someone with the same passion and calling in life can create a great partnership. Remember, you are not trying to find someone you can live with—you want to find someone you don’t want to live without. Couples with like passions in life have a natural connection that requires less work to keep their relationship healthy.

Another way to help determine what you desire in a partner is to hang around married couples and see how they interact with each other. Pay close attention to the attributes that you admire in them and the ones you don’t like. By discovering who you are, where you are going and what attributes you like in others, you should be well on your way to being able to identify what you are looking for when you see it in someone else.


Check out Jason’s new book, Emotional Prosperity: A Practical Guide to Counseling. In this book, you’ll discover keys to find emotional wholeness even in the areas you thought you’d never have breakthrough in. Whether you’re a counselor walking others through an emotional process or someone who is looking for wholeness in your own life, we know this will bring so much freedom.

 

Originally published on krisvallotton.com.

 

Jason Vallotton is the author of The Supernatural Ways of Forgiveness and the co-author of Moral Revolution.  Jason was born and raised in the small town of Weaverville, CA where he served as a wild land fire fighter.  In these formative years his passions for discipleship and leading others into wholeness was ignited.  He currently serves on the Core Team at Bethel Church and is a sought after counselor and speaker.  He and his wife Lauren have three children and reside in Redding, California.
Instagram: @jayvallotton

Put Your Promise Back On

I bought my purity ring when I was fifteen. I remember everything about that day. I remember being so excited to give God my entire life, making a promise that I would wait to have sex until I got married. I proudly wore that ring and loved it when people asked me what it represented because that meant I got to share with them about my faith. I ran after God year after year continuing to keep my promise even though it wasn’t always easy. I loved to encourage others to make the same stand and would often lead, sing, or speak at conferences for this cause. It was awesome. I felt like I was making a difference letting young people know not everyone was “having sex.” There were people out there waiting.

Then the day came where I noticed I was now older. I was in my thirties, and here I was with this ring on STILL. I thought my stand would show God He could trust me, that I was ready to get married, ready to give my husband this ring. I even planned it when I was younger. I would write the most amazing letter and give it to him with the ring right before we walked down the aisle. It would be such a special moment – he would probably cry 🙂 .

The day came when I started seeing others who were once in my youth group or kids’ church getting married, and here I was with this ring on STILL. Thoughts from the enemy made me feel embarrassed. I allowed him to change the way I looked at my ring. A fifteen-year-old girl, so proud of her ring, turned into a woman embarrassed that she still wore it. A couple of years ago, I took the ring off, not giving up on my promise to God but tired of being reminded that it seemed like I was doing my part, but God forgot about His.

I lost my confidence in God’s promise. I gave up on the idea that it would actually happen. I became double-minded. My prayers for my future husband were covered with doubt. God’s love is so great that He sent people to speak into my life to help me see where I was living. I asked God to forgive me for my doubt, renewed my confidence in His promise, and finally, I put my ring back on.

Since putting my ring back on, my enjoyment of life is starting to change. When I see a wedding, it becomes a reminder not of my singleness, but of my promise. I can truly celebrate with others knowing that one day I will celebrate too. This mindset causes me to live in freedom, and it feels amazing. It isn’t always easy, and I have to make an intentional decision to choose to think this way every single time I see a really cute couple on Instagram, but that’s what I’m choosing. “All God’s promises are yes and amen.”  

If you’re in a similar season, my encouragement is to expose every lie. What are the thoughts you’re thinking? Lies usually sound something like this: “It will never happen. God forgot about me. No one likes me. My last relationship didn’t work out, so I guess that means I’ll be single forever.” You’ve probably never thought these things before right? It’s probably just me then 😉 .

Here’s the deal: these thoughts came from an emotion or a feeling; they didn’t come from God’s truth. When I asked God if one day I would be married and He responded with a yes and also confirmed that through other believers, then God’s truth to me was it will happen. His Word tells us, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).

Now I do wish that God would have given me a timeline, that would be so much easier, but this is where my faith can be strengthened. Do I trust God? Do I believe that what He says will truly happen? Do I believe that He is able?

If your answer is no to any of the above questions, then there’s an opportunity for you to look deeper into your relationship with God and to find out the why behind your answer. If you answered yes, then there’s an opportunity for your faith to increase as you believe in the things you have not seen yet. From someone who has heard “Just wait on God, it will be worth it,” longer than she can remember, and feels like her whole life has been waiting, I will spare you that overused encouragement. Instead, I’ll tell you, “Just believe God WILL; it will be worth it.”  When I live every day believing God will, even through my disappointments I can find peace and joy because I believe God will come through for me.

I encourage you today to put your promise back on too, whatever it is, and believe God will do big things. 

 

Alicia Keys hand-picked her, Blake Shelton fought for her, and Ashton Kutcher tweeted about her: If you watched the 12 th season of NBC’s “The Voice,” you saw Sacramento singer-songwriter Missy Robertson wow the judges (and millions of viewers!) with her emotional version of “Scars to Your Beautiful” (originally by Alessia Cara) and win a coveted spot on the reality TV series. Weeks later, her journey on the show ended after singing her heart out in the Battle Round to “Tightrope” (originally by Janelle Monae). A wild musical adventure, her time in Los Angeles led Missy to take a huge leap of faith by quitting her job to pursue her lifelong dream of performing music full-time. Her worldwide fans have responded. Dubbed “Mistletoes” (from her childhood nickname), Missy’s supporters have proven their loyalty since her departure from “The Voice,” and connecting with them has been one of the best parts of her rise to fame. She’s currently in the studio recording new original music (release date coming soon!), but Missy is also available to book now. With influences spanning from her church roots to Crystal Lewis and Aretha Franklin to Adele and Ms. Lauryn Hill, Missy lights up the stage with a unique combination of soulful vocals and passionate performance perfect for any event or venue.
WEBSITE: THEMISSYROBERTSON.COM
FACEBOOK: THE MISSY ROBERTSON
INSTAGRAM: @THEMISSYROBERTSON
YOUTUBE: THEMISSYROBERTSON

All the Ways to Be Beautiful

“Andrea, how much do you weigh? ‘Cause you were by far the heaviest person to pull back into the raft.” 

His words carried across the bus and hit me square in the face. I was on my senior trip in high school, in a bus full of my fellow classmates, on our way home from white-water rafting. My group had been playing a game where we would stand on the edge of the raft and try to stay on, during one of the more mellow sections of the river. When we fell off, two strong, former football player guys would pull us back in. One of them decided to share this observation in front of everyone on the way home.

I heard some of the guys around him call him out. I was usually not short on sarcasm, but this time his words caught me off guard, so I just sunk into my seat until my friend next to me said, “Don’t listen to him. He’s just being a jerk.”

The thing that bothered me, even before he brought it up, was I knew I was healthy. I had run cross country, played soccer, and just finished my last season of track that year as one of the top mid-distance runners. My body wasn’t going to get any more fit than this. But at 5’11,” I was still heavier than my smaller friends, and outside of starving myself and maybe losing some muscle, there was not a whole lot I could do about it. I couldn’t help thinking that even though I was healthy, there was something wrong with my body. I was never going to fit the standard of beauty I had seen in all the magazines and movies.

In college, I successfully gained the freshman fifteen because I wasn’t working out as intensely. I still went to the gym pretty regularly and tried to eat healthy, but my body became something I more or less just tolerated. It kind of felt like we were at odds a lot of the time.

Years later, I started ministry school and the first year of a three-year process of learning to love myself and my body unconditionally. It sounds like a beautiful journey, but it was mostly me snot-crying on the floor of the sanctuary or in my room or wherever I was talking to God really. He would bring up lies I was believing, past hurts, words people had spoken over me, and words I had spoken over myself. I would basically just cry it all out and try to let the truth of His Word sink into the empty places. I slowly started to break up with the unfair standard I was holding myself to.

In my journey to accepting my body, which was not an overnight success, I had to let go of who I thought I should be and what I thought I should look like. I had to let go of all the numbers culture used to define “ideal beauty.” I had to let go of the image in my head of what I thought guys wanted, and I had to accept all the parts of myself I couldn’t change. It wasn’t helping anything to be in a battle with my body. My hips were going to follow me the rest of my life, and my height wasn’t going anywhere either. It was time to make peace with them.

This may sound weird if you’ve never done anything like this, but another thing I did was repent to my body. I told my body I was sorry for not loving it unconditionally and for wanting it to be something else. I put my hand on my head and blessed my height. I thanked God for the unique qualities that I could carry that no one else could because of the way I was made. I told God, even when I didn’t believe it, “The way you made me is good.”

I also started to notice something about the women around me who I thought were really beautiful. I noticed it wasn’t that they looked like supermodels, it was that they were happy with who they were. They weren’t trying to be anyone else. They were at peace with themselves, and because they liked themselves, other people did too. The beauty of the inner-world they had cultivated and stewarded drew other people in.

The truth is, beauty looks a million different ways. I’ve seen beauty in all the wrinkles that cover a grandmother’s face when she smiles at her grandkids. I’ve seen beauty in a mother whose changing body is making room for new life. I’ve seen beauty show up in lots of curves and no curves. I’ve seen beauty in dark skin and light skin and faces covered with freckles. I’ve seen it in wild curls and in smooth, straight locks, and I’ve seen it show up in moments that photographs or videos could never do justice.

God does not limit beauty to a small range of numbers and features like society so often does. He does not hold back on the way He creates so that we all fit a certain mold. God has chosen to reveal Himself through you in a way that is completely different from anyone else. You are the only one who can wake up and be who you are. Don’t listen to the lies that come in from other people or from the enemy. Don’t let people put limits on you that God doesn’t. Remember that even in the moments you don’t believe it or feel it, the way He made you is good. Surround yourself with people, messages, and media that doesn’t let you forget it.

 

Here is a resource from one of our friends at Moral Rev, Abi Stumvoll, that helped me a ton through the process of learning to love myself: Unconditional: How to Let Love Win

 

ANDREA IS A GRADUATE OF THE SCHOOL OF MINISTRY AT BETHEL AND SERVES ON THE WRITING TEAM FOR MORAL REVOLUTION. SHE IS PASSIONATE ABOUT SEEING THE CHURCH CARRY JOYFUL HOPE AND EXPECTATION IN EVERY AREA OF THEIR LIVES. SHE LONGS TO SEE THE UPCOMING GENERATION EQUIPPED AS STRONG LEADERS WHO STEWARD THEIR LIVES WELL AND INFLUENCE SOCIETY AS A RESULT. 
WEBSITE: ANDREADALLEY.COM 

Why Depending on a Spouse to Make You Happy Doesn’t Work

Fairytales and movies are teaching people that once they find their Prince (or Princess) Charming, all will be right in the world. They tell tales of finding “the one” who will make you the happiest person on earth. The resolution of all of life’s challenges, the deep need to be known and seen, and all the sadness in your heart will disappear once you’re married, the stories say. What a load of crap! These stories are unrealistic, and if you believe them they will set you up to sabotage the very thing you’ve been waiting for.

If you’re reading this as a single person, I want to save you and your future husband or wife a load of pressure and anxiety. You can start practicing this lesson now. If you’re already married, then I hope this truth will bring some freedom to your relationship. The truth is nobody can make you happy—not your spouse, not your friends, not your job, and not your parents. Having people in your life can bring joy, but that alone is not sustaining. You have to be in charge of your own happiness.

One of the best ways to ruin a perfectly good marriage is to make it your spouse’s job to make you happy. Happiness is an inside job. Of course I don’t want to be with someone who makes you sad… but happiness is something that you cultivate internally. No person can make you happy except for Jesus Christ who lives inside of you.

The other night, I wrapped presents with my wife Kathy. I love giving, but I hate wrapping gifts. I offered to help her anyway, and we wrapped gifts for hours. Finally, she asked, “Do you like wrapping gifts?” I said, “No.” “Then why are you doing this?” she asked. I said, “Because I like being with you.”

The truth is, you can find joy even when you’re not doing things you like.

The problem we’re facing is that we have exchanged joy for pleasure. We marry for pleasure, not for joy. Pleasure and joy aren’t the same thing. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…” It doesn’t say consider it all pleasure. So, in the midst of pain you can still have joy.

We know people who have three or four children together and have never gotten married. When we ask them why, they say, “It’s just a piece of paper.” My response is, “If it’s just a piece of paper, then why don’t you sign it?” Cohabiting says, “I’m in this relationship for what I can get.” Marriage says, “I’m in this relationship for what I can give. I’ve come to this relationship to lay down my life so you can live.”

There’s something amazing about this. If you haven’t experienced it, it’s difficult to describe, but the truth is until you find someone to die for, you don’t really live. You never really find life until you give it away.

What would it be like if all of us, every day, laid down our lives so that someone else could have life? What would it be like if you found a place with God where you gave up so that you could actually live? What if we stopped chasing pleasure and started chasing joy? Joy has a name. His name’s Jesus.

ACTIVATION FOR THE WEEK

So today I want to encourage you to find your source of life in your relationship with Jesus. He is the Giver of all good things. Stop and ask God if you’re putting someone else in the spot that He should be in. Are you expecting your spouse, boyfriend, or future husband or wife to be your source of joy? If so, repent from that today and ask the Lord to take His rightful place in your heart and in your life.

Beyond that, put away your selfishness and set your focus on giving to the people you love. How can you give up living for pleasure and start living for joy? I promise that even if the trade of pleasure for joy can sometimes be challenging, you’ll find life at the end of the exchange. I want to challenge you to do one thing this week to love someone without selfish ambition, and I bet you’ll be blessed in the process! If you’re married then I’d start with your spouse. If you’re single, then take a look at your relationships with your closest friends and family. No matter where you’re at in life, joy lies in loving others.

Originally posted on krisvallotton.com.

 

KRIS VALLOTTON IS THE AUTHOR OF NUMEROUS BOOKS, CO-AUTHOR OF THE BEST SELLING SUPERNATURAL WAYS OF ROYALTY, AND IS A WELL-KNOWN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE SPEAKER. KRIS IS THE FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF MORAL REVOLUTION, THE SENIOR ASSOCIATE LEADER OF BETHEL CHURCH, AND THE CO-FOUNDER OF BETHEL SCHOOL OF SUPERNATURAL MINISTRY.  HE AND HIS WIFE, KATHY, HAVE BEEN MARRIED FOR 40 YEARS AND RESIDE IN REDDING, CALIFORNIA.  THEY HAVE FOUR GROWN CHILDREN AND EIGHT GRANDCHILDREN.
FACEBOOK: FACEBOOK.COM/KVMINISTRIES
TWITTER: TWITTER.COM/KVMINISTRIES
INSTAGRAM: INSTAGRAM.COM/KVMINISTRIES

 

 


Denying Ourselves. Loving Gay People.

“‘YOU MUST LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, ALL YOUR SOUL, ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND ALL YOUR MIND.’ AND, ‘LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'” LUKE 10:27B

 

These incredible directives are rarely spoken of yet they are the first and highest commands of God. There could be many reasons for that, but I presume it is because we think we understand them or that we comply. Yet, the issue of love is the hinge pin for one of the most dynamic rifts in the history of the Western Church. Who we love, how we love, whether or not we can love and leave, and the penalty for certain expressions of love are being questioned. Secular culture is confronting the Church’s inability to articulate the greatest commandment. Out of this vacuum, a humanist morality is emerging that seeks to satisfy our need for love apart from God. The outcry for love that meets our need for human dignity is quickly redefining what was once a uniquely Christian virtue.

I think it’s time we take a second look at “love” to rediscover how it is the backbone of all of scripture.

Every week, I face the dilemma of reconciling humanist perspectives on sexuality to Christianity and am called upon to address the issue among Christian leaders. In my many conversations about homosexuality, I observe the challenge of seeing that behavior as sin, yet desiring to reach out in love.

Over and over, I encourage Christians to experience and extend God’s love to gay people so that they may be drawn to seek Him. Ultimately, the exchange of love for God and Him for us, empowers us to obey His words. This love is essential for any of us to follow Christ.

“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15

I’ve spoken to some who are puzzled that our efforts at loving seem unfruitful. But, you see, Christians don’t have a monopoly on love. God created humanity in His image to love. It uniquely describes the human experience. We all seek to receive and extend love. In fact, some would argue Christians do not love well; and yet, we know the One who does. Christians are the only people who experience the love of God daily and may invite others into it.

 

WE MAY NOT LOVE WELL, BUT WE CERTAINLY KNOW THE ONE WHO DOES. OUR ABILITY TO CONNECT PEOPLE TO GOD DISTINGUISHES CHRISTIAN LOVE.

 

True Christian love always seeks to bring people into His presence, where they may experience the beauty and satisfaction of the love they were designed to enjoy. But let me take this one step further and connect us to the first command: to love God and our neighbors wholeheartedly. The love spoken of in this command is others-centered. It draws us away from ourselves to seek the well-being and fruitfulness of God and our community. It is self-sacrificial love that seeks to promote and empower others into the fullness of God’s purposes.

Sometimes we only see sacrifice in this passage, but that is not at the heart of this command. You see, if we all focused outwardly like this, we would also be the target of someone’s love. It is a joyous liberation from having to meet our own needs. Imagine if everyone around you was for you. What if you didn’t have to rely solely on loving yourself well, or the love of your parent or spouse, in order to feel fulfilled? What if your life experience wasn’t just God’s love and you on an island? I think that’s how many of us feel as we struggle to love ourselves, but God’s heart is that we would be fully loved by our “neighbors.”

None of us can envision that. Take a moment to imagine that your neighbor, friends, church congregation, boss, all loved you as much as they possibly could in order to ensure you felt valued, empowered and whole. Loving yourself might not feel so challenging if your entire life experience incorporated love from others. Certainly it would be a delight to love your “neighbor” if you knew she loved you.

Through the first command, God invites humanity to experience the fulfillment of being honored and delighted in by God and the community. No doubt it is a dynamic experience within the Trinity. Jesus carried this outward focus in all He did and said. He not only washed the feet of others, but established their well-being through healing and restoration. He actively sought to serve others, as God actively seeks to serve us by answering our prayers. Jesus was, by all accounts, completely fulfilled in this endeavor—even through the cross and beyond. And, as God loved Jesus in this same way, Jesus was satisfied internally by God’s love.

 

THE POWERFUL IMAGE OF GOD’S FIRST COMMAND IS SO RADICAL, FEW OF US EMBRACE IT. IF WE ACTIVATED THIS COMMAND, OUR CULTURE WOULD BE CHANGED!

 

Set against the backdrop of sexual confusion, the first command invites us to open our hearts to gay people. How? By connecting them directly to God’s love through prayer. That is, through a direct encounter with God. Can you recall the most recent time you experienced His love? Perhaps it was a moment when you felt ashamed, fearful, or confused. God offers us shelter that invites us to His security—without punishment. In fact, corrective words from the Lord are easy to take. Though they may seem pointed, somehow my response is always, “Yes, that IS true. I want your way.” He is so convincing! God’s correction invites us into His excellence, which is attractive. I never feel condemned when I hear from the Lord.

What makes our love for gay people sacrificial, aligning it to the first command? It is that we have denied ourselves and directed the individual in front of us to God. We have become an ambassador that acknowledges that while our own love may fall short in some ways, God’s love is always perfect.

 

Originally published on elizabethwoning.com.

 

In her early 20s, Elizabeth Woning “came out” as a lesbian and embraced the LGBTQ community. She attended a Presbyterian (USA) seminary openly lesbian, but upon graduating, an encounter with Jesus dramatically shifted her perspective. Over time, her relationship with God led to transformation and healing. Today Elizabeth is free of same-sex attraction and happily married to her husband, Doug. She teaches at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry and is a member of the Moral Revolution team. Her ministry highlights the power of intimate relationship with and knowledge of God to bring identity, wholeness and fulfillment. She is passionate to provide consulting to church leaders as they navigate the complexities of sexual and gender identity in our culture. Elizabeth holds a Master’s Degree in Theology and is a licensed pastor at Bethel Church.
Website: elizabethwoning.com

 

Note from the MR Team: We don’t want to make light of a complex issue or pretend that it has simple, formulaic answers that work across the board. It is also not our heart to invalidate the feelings, struggles, or experiences of others. We do want people to have the freedom to follow the convictions of their heart and seek after the life the Lord is calling them to. We do want to be a voice of hope to the person who is wondering if change is possible or if anyone has ever experienced it before. We do want to encourage people to seek the Lord above everything else, to love Him with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to watch Him do more in their lives than they ever thought possible.