Christians, You Can Save Illinois

Hands to Heaven

Christians, You Can Save Illinois

A Biblical recipe for fighting violence and corruption

The news in Illinois resounds with chaos and calamity; murders, shootings, muggings, violence against women and children, government corruption, high unemployment, high taxation, it makes me think of Nineveh and other Old Testament cities where evil reigned and godless leaders ruled.

Living in Illinois and watching the whirlwind of violence makes me either want to move away or close my eyes and shelter myself against the reign of terror besieging our cities and state. But there is hope.

In 2 Chronicles 15 the land of Judah found itself in a similar situation.

In those days it was not safe to travel about, for all the inhabitants of the lands were in great turmoil……God was troubling them with every kind of distress.“

 But God called on His people and gave them hope.

“7 But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”

God also gave them instructions:

“ 1 The Spirit of God came on Azariah son of Oded. He went out to meet Asa (the king) and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach and without the law….

When Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Azariah son of[a] Oded the prophet, he took courage. He removed the detestable idols from the whole land of Judah and Benjamin and from the towns he had captured in the hills of Ephraim. He repaired the altar of the Lord that was in front of the portico of the Lord’s temple.

Then he assembled all Judah and Benjamin and the people from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who had settled among them, for large numbers had come over to him from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him.

10 They assembled at Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of Asa’s reign’….

Verses 11-13 tell of the ancient means of reconciliation with God and cleansing the land of thugs; today we don’t need animal sacrifices because Jesus became the One sacrifice for all times. We don’t kill corrupt people or unbelieving souls, we seek justice and pray for those who persecute us.

Then notice what they did….14 They took an oath to the Lord with loud acclamation, with shouting and with trumpets and horns. 15 All Judah rejoiced about the oath because they had sworn it wholeheartedly. They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side.”

The final verses of this chapter share how the king personally cleaned his own house and rid the land of evil and committed himself to God.

Let me repeat: So the Lord gave them rest on every side.   Sounds pretty nice… peace….as in no violence, no murder, no corruption, lower unemployment.   Sounds impossible! But nothing is impossible with God.

Let me summarize and update the recipe of bringing peace to the land for our time.

  1. God-fearing people gather and clean up their own lives, homes and territories of godless activities; a personal repentance.
  2. Christians repent on behalf of the nation, state and leaders and call on God to draw near to them and their cities and state and nation.
  3. Christians take an oath to live holy lives, surrender to Jesus, seeking Him and His presence.
  4. Politicians follow the faithful and take personal oaths to eagerly seek God and rid the government of godless men and women.

Is it so hard to believe that amidst the corruption and violence of Chicago and the State of Illinois that God would not answer Christian’s heartfelt and sincere cries for help? Do we not believe that our land and our children are worth saving by humbly leading a movement of repentance? The programs and policies of the government have failed us in Illinois. Its time to call for the power of the Almighty to reverse the violence and corruption tide and bring peace and prosperity back to our land. A time to watch the All-Powerful do what politicians cannot do.

Christian leaders will you rise up? Will you lead the repentance revolution?

Send this to your Pastor and Christian leaders you know, let them lead a revolution of drawing closer to God, so He can draw near to us.

Your comments, forwards, likes, tweets, and suggestions are helpful and encouraged.   Please share your thoughts below.

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Businesses ignoring Faith Celebrations

Businesses ignoring Faith Celebrations

It’s strange to me that faith is rarely recognized in business, maybe even considered taboo to speak about. Shouldn’t businesses recognize that faith plays a strategic role in most people’s purchases, celebrations and lives? Come on corporate America, get with it! Start by unlocking charitable giving programs to faith-based organizations. It can be done….. and oh…yeah…Happy Easter!

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4 Steps To Engaging High-Capacity Volunteers

One the most challenging aspects of running a ministry is utilizing high-capacity volunteers effectively. We have heard stories of the corporate CEO who volunteers only to be stuck stuffing envelopes. That is a terrible and discouraging use of time and talent. How do we place motivated volunteers in the right place, doing the right things, so they are inspired by their service and involvement with our ministry?

Here are four steps I use:

1. Qualify the person: I like to have a one-on-one meeting with every high-capacity volunteer to ask a few key questions and to assess their fit for ministry:
• When in your faith journey did you become passionate about helping the extreme poor (our mission)?
• What is your occupation?
• What talents and expertise will you bring for the ministry?

I am looking for synergies and opportunities for alignment between their spiritual and workplace experience and our volunteer needs.

2. Explain the mission and needs. Many volunteers know far less about our mission than we think they do. I spend 30 minutes or more explaining our mission, vision and transformational model. I want to find out what part of our ministry resonates with them and connect them as close to those aspects that excite them most.

3. Present the SHAPE Model to help volunteers identify their talents and gifts. Part of the problem with placing high capacity volunteers in the right places is that sometimes they don’t always know what they want to do. For the last six months, I have been using the SHAPE Model and I’ve seen some amazing results. This model helps people self identify which role they might want to explore.

SHAPE 5 types of people BH is looking forThe SHAPE Model is made up of 5 categories of volunteers.
S: Sage. A sage is someone who brings wisdom or years of expertise to the organization. As I am describing the SHAPE Model to the prospective volunteer, I usually say: “I would consider you a Sage because of your expertise in Peru or your understanding of non-profit finances.”
H: Helper. These are people who want to get their hands dirty. They’ll do just about any work a leader asks them to do.
A: Ambassador. An Ambassador excels as a resource for connection. They know a lot of people and know people we need to know.
P: Philanthropist. Do I need to say anything about this category? Tap into their unique enthusiasm to contribute for priceless results.
E: Executive Leader. An executive leader is someone who demonstrates an understanding of servant-style leadership of a team or a committee.

Most importantly, we have to ask the potential volunteer, “Which one(s) of these do you think best represents your giftedness. If they say,” I am a P.” I know they have just given me permission to ask them for a contribution. If they say “A”, then I’ll ask them to throw a party and invite their friends and colleagues, and I’ll take a few minutes at the party to explain what and how we do our mission.

4. Ask for and give grace.
Finally, I ask the high-capacity volunteer for grace. I say, “It’s my desire to enable you to have the greatest impact possible on helping the extreme poor. I want you to feel the pleasure of serving the poor while using the talents and gifts God has given you. But the process is not a science, it’s an art. If I put you in the wrong place the first time, please let me know. The next ask will be more on target. If you’ll give me a little time, and some grace, I’ll do my best to connect you for maximum joy and effectiveness. ”

For one of our most valuable volunteers, it took three different roles before he was fully engaged. Now he saves our organization thousands of dollars in doing meaning work that blesses him and blesses the poor.

Today we are lot better at connecting people to our vision and mission. How have you learned to better engage volunteers? Share your stories and comments below.

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World Vision, Tony Campolo, and Child Sponsors

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I really didn’t want to write a response to the whole World Vision snafu. There are so many who have commented on the core question, that my voice would not shed any more light on it. However, I can speak to a sidebar issue that has arisen. Tony Campolo commented on it this way:

“What upsets me even more is that, within 24 hours of World Vision USA’s initial decision, there were more than 4,000 cancellations by those who had been sponsoring children in Third World Countries through the auspices of World Vision USA. It is hard for me to understand how being opposed to the hiring policy stated by World Vision USA should lead these fellow Christians to withdraw support from desperately needy children. To make innocent children suffer because of outrage over what the Board of World Vision USA decided does not seem to me to fit with the requisites of Jesus as he outlined in Matthew 18 the way to handle differences between Christian brothers and sisters….” http://www.redletterchristians.org/one-response-troubles-world-vision/

Two issues concern me about this statement:

1. It implies that sponsored kids will be forced out of World Vision programs because their sponsors quit on them.

At World Vision nobody is saying to 10 year old Jonathan in Kenya, your sponsor quit, sorry, “no food for you”. Sponsorship is a uniquely successful marketing tool that gives the appearance of a one-to-one money transfer… but in reality it does not work that way. The children in the program are taken care of by World Vision whether there is a individual sponsor or not.

2. The statement also assumes that those who canceled their support were desiring to harm children… I do not believe this to be true.

Donating requires that you trust the organization you give to. If World Vision’s decision and reversal has lowered your trust of World Vision then you may need to stop giving and find organizations you do trust.

I give World Vision the benefit of the doubt and believe them when they say they care about the values they were founded upon. They were able to admit their mistake and humbly ask for forgiveness. That is the Biblical way to do it.

If you disagree with World Vision’s reversal then you probably shouldn’t have supported World Vision in the first place, since their core beliefs are probably not within your belief system.

Obviously the initial decision by World Vision was better left on the shelf in the boardroom. It should never have been made in the first place. However, since it was made, many good questions about leadership, corporate decision-making, faith and culture are being talked about and debated.

If you throw the needy children into the mix, then the discussion becomes emotionally charged and not focused on the critical aspects of this situation. Leave the children out of the debates.

I echo how Tony closes his post, “But then, that’s my belief – and I could be wrong.”

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The Most Under-Utilized, Under-Leveraged Asset in the Fight Against Extreme Poverty

The local church is the most under-leveraged asset in the fight against extreme poverty. Below is a map of the poorest countries of the world and it displays where there are populations of 40,000 or more Christians. As you can see from this graphical display the church has the opportunity to make a significant impact among the poorest of the poor.

Why do you think it isn’t leveraged more?

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Adoption and Vulnerable Child Care Website List

Below are some recommended adoption websites, links to resources and recommended orphan and vulnerable child organizations.  I have put this list together for a sermon I am giving at Willow Creek Community Church, to their orphan care ministry.  I hope this is helpful to you.

Bright Hope

www.BrightHope.org

Bright Hope and Willow Creek Partnership in Zambia http://www.brighthope.org/our_projects/zmb0030.php

Support a poor family caring for an orphan in Haiti  http://www.brighthope.org/our_projects/hai0040.php

 Russian Adoption

This group screened medical records and video tape for both our adopted children: http://www.childstudy.org/pre-adoptive-services/

Information and chat-rooms about Russian and Ukrainian adoptions http://www.frua.org/

Links and information for International Adoptions http://www.karensadoptionlinks.com/regions.html

Congressional Coalition on Adoption http://www.ccainstitute.org/

Adoption Agencies and Ministry List

http://www.christianalliancefororphans.org/agencies-and-ministries/adoption/

Funding Resources for Adoption

http://www.abbafund.org/

http://www.lifesongfororphans.org/

https://www.americaschristiancu.com/

http://www.giftofadoption.org/

Books and Resources

faithbasedcarefororphans.org

http://www.christianalliancefororphans.org/resources/resource-library/

http://www.icareaboutorphans.org/RBooks.aspx#guide

http://www.showhope.org/Resources/HelpfulTools.aspx

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Frequent flying: Making the Mundane Interesting

Anyone who has flown on an airplane has seen the safety video or live presentation at the beginning of the flight.  Usually the captive audience doesn’t pay much attention, and the presentations are mundane and ordinary.   Well, Air New Zealand has taken the mundane to a new level and made a safety video worth paying attention too.  Check it out.

What mundane or ordinary messages are you sending out that could use a creative spark to recapture interest?

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The Story of Jyoti – Dancer, Prostitute, Now on the Path to Freedom

Jyoti began dancing at traditional Indian weddings at the age of 18.  Her parents died a year earlier, her older brother is under-employed, her younger sister is seriously ill, and because the family is poor – her younger brother can’t even attend high school.  All these young people live with their grandmother, but she was very old and frail.

Dancing was the first step in the proverbial slide down to a labyrinth of darkened corridors.  Propositioned by drunken wedding celebrants, Jyoti considered her options and could not see the lair she was entering into.

“The money looks good and what harm can come from sex?” she thought to herself.  She willingly, almost innocently, gave herself over to prostitution to provide for her family.

However, it wasn’t long until the inviting veil of money was lifted and the evil face of prostitution became reality; chemical and physical abuse, shame and slavery.  Jyoti knew she needed to get out; she could see down the road to where this was leading and she realized she had made a huge mistake.  But how could she get out?  To whom could she turn?

Jyoti remembered an aunt who went to Christian church.  The aunt talked about how the church had helped her, so Jyoti thought maybe she could get some help, too.

She showed up at the church, crying as she relayed her story.  The women counselors put their arms around her and shared that there is hope in Jesus.  They also shared the good news that they had a home where she could live and receive help until she was safe and found a new job.

Last month, Jyoti became Bright Hope’s first resident at our safe house in India.  It is a secure location away from pimps and family members who might force her back into prostitution.  Jyoti will receive Biblical counseling and soon enter into a jobs training course.  Jyoti is finding redemption, forgiveness, love, acceptance and Hope.

Bright Hope was able to open this church-run safe house because of your prayers and generous gifts. During the next few months, more women will choose to leave prostitution.  A raid on a brothel is planned very soon.  This raid will remove any girl under the age of 18 and offer them residency at the safe house.  Investigations by local police say there may be up to 20 girls ages 18 and under in this one brothel alone.

Will you do three things to help us continue this ministry?

  1. Pray for the raid between now and Dec. 31st.  Pray for the police to act responsibly and not tip off the brothel.  Pray for the under-aged girls to be found and rescued, and for the older women to accept our offer of help and a home.  Pray for the funding and government licensing of the safe house.
  2. Become a HOPE BUILDER FOR HUMAN TRAFFICKING VICTIMS.  You will be the first to receive photos of rescued girls, stories of repaired lives, and prayer requests for those not yet freed.  For only $30/month you will help free girls and restore their lives.  $65/month and $100/month options are available. www.BrightHope.org
  3. Show a film on Human Trafficking.  At Bright Hope we recently showed the film “Nefarious: Merchant of Souls”.  This emotional and impactful documentary touched the hearts of everyone who saw it.  Many tears were shed; people were angry, sad, and heartbroken by the lives destroyed by this evil work.  Bright Hope would like to bring this 90 minute documentary to your group of 50 or more.  We will help debrief the audience and answer questions after the film.  I know it will be an incredible informative event for your group or church.

Contact Bright Hope on the web at www.BrightHope.org or phone 224-520-6100 (ask for Madelynn Reyes).

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Stunned by Evil…

One of my most startling memories of seeing hatred manifest itself into violence was while I was traveling to Russia during a very cold winter in the early-nineties.  A colleague and I were visiting a local outdoor market in a large town.  There were all kinds of vendors selling food and clothing.  It was cold, cloudy and bleak.   I was looking for a Russian hat called an ushanka, a warm hat that covers the ears and is turned up in front.   As I was busy trying various hats and haggling over the price, off in the corner of my right eye, I noticed a rough looking man and a young attractive girl arguing.

Before I could even turn I saw this big burly man with a brown winter coat and black Russian hat, reach for the woman’s throat.  It was violent and deeply disturbing; I had never seen anything like it before. Seared in my mind is seeing the anger in this man’s face and his powerful hand reaching out to grab the girls throat.

A couple of people started to shout but most people carried on with their business.  I was momentarily frozen and couldn’t figure out if the man was just fooling around or if this was real.  “Should I get involved or stay back?” I asked myself.

I started to move toward them, when a person who obviously knew the man intervened and broke the man’s grip on the woman.  The young woman fell backward.  Her purple face now turning pale white as blood rushed back into her head.  She was stunned, unable to cry because of the shock and obvious fear of her attacker.

The incident was over as quickly as it began, but the impression on me has lasted for decades and has changed my life.

Afterward as I thought about the incident, I became increasingly disappointed with my slow reaction to the violence I was witnessing.  Yes, I was young and had never been exposed to such violence before.  But I thought my reaction was far too slow and that woman could have gotten seriously hurt if not for others who stepped in to help.

So, I made a commitment to myself that day that in the future I would react as fast as possible to any kind of violence I might witness.   Obviously wisdom has to be employed in all such cases, but I don’t want to be someone standing on the sidelines watching evil overcome good because I was afraid or unsure.

I want to be available…to be an agent for good, both physically and spiritually.

Romans Chapter 12 says “Overcome evil by doing good”.  In order to fulfill this scripture we have to be willing to take action.  I don’t believe God is requiring us to become super heroes and physically save everyone in need.  But I think each of us, using our own gifts and talents can play a part in helping people who are victims of violence, hatred and evil.

How about you?  Have you had a brush with evil?  What part do you play in keeping evil restrained?

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Your Child is Missing!

One of the heart stopping moments in life is when you think your child is missing.  You may be in a mall or grocery store and when you turn around your child is missing.  An overwhelming panic grabs you; the worst comes to mind, and your heart races.  It is an awful few seconds that seem like minutes or hours.  But most often, for 99.9% of parents, the child is only an aisle away or around the corner, safe and sound.   When you gain sight-line of your child your panic turns into a beautiful sigh of relief.

However, that isn’t the case for Supna, a young girl I met earlier in the year.  She was only 17 and was sold into sex slavery to pay off a family debt.  After she met with our team she was taken underground because her captors feared we were going to rescue her. They sold her for 30 days at time and made money from her.

Since then we can’t find her!  She is lost!  Rumors of her whereabouts circulate between family and friends, but nobody really knows where or how she is.

There has been recent chatter that she was badly beaten and taken to a local hospital.  No one can say for sure, except that she isn’t safe and she is lost.

I sometimes wonder if she remembers our meeting.  I briefly shared the Lord with her and she prayed with a woman on our team.  I wonder if she is holding onto Jesus as only a child would in the face of such evil.

All I can do now is pray. Father God, your child is missing.  I pray for a day when I will see her again.  I pray she will be alive and able to recover from the human trafficking demons that keep her imprisoned right now.

Will you pray with me for Supna, right now?

Bright Hope is showing a documentary about the plight of human trafficking on Friday, September 14th, 7PM at the Bright Hope Center in Hoffman Estates, IL.  “Nefarious: Merchant of Souls.” This hard-hitting documentary exposes the disturbing trends in modern sex slavery. From initial recruitment to victim liberation—and everything in between—the previously veiled underworld of sex slavery is uncovered in this groundbreaking, tell-all documentary.   Let me know if you can join us, CHDyer@BrightHope.org

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