The following was adapted from a talk delivered on January 20, 2019 at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Ft. Worth, TX. Sanctity of Human Life Sunday
Imagine a baby in the womb – warm and safe. It’s a little boy. He’s not aware of the outside world. He just knows he’s safe.
Meanwhile, his parent’s marriage is falling apart as brokenness and selfishness drive a wedge between his mother and father. The fighting intensifies into a crisis.
With the little boy in her womb, the mother goes to her doctor filled with hurt and fear. She asks physician to get rid of the little boy she is carrying. The doctor replies, “I will not do that.” He sends her away. The little boy doesn’t know how close he came to death that day.
As the fearful young mother leaves the doctor’s office alone, Something inside her changes…
She chooses to keep the child regardless of what happens with her marriage. She whispers to herself, “He is mine! He is my little boy. Come what may.”
And so the little boy is born into chaos and brokenness. His parents divorce but the fighting and turmoil will continue for years to come.
A few years pass by and the little boy begins first grade. The first weeks are a struggle because he gets out of school hours before his mother gets off work. She juggles work and picking him up from school. It’s not working out.
One day when the mom picks up the little boy at the church where the school bus drops off the children, she sees a little lady looking after the children on the playground. She is older, kindly and not quite 5 feet tall. The mother introduces herself and points out her little boy on the playground with the other children. She says to the little lady, “Do you see that little boy playing over there? He is mine.” The mother tells the little lady of her struggles picking up her little boy after school.
The mother asks, “Would you be willing to look after my little boy until I get off work?”
“Of course, I will look after him.” responds the little lady with a warm smile.
And God quietly sends a missionary into the lives of the little boy and his mother.
The little lady cares for him, prays for him and loves him. She shares Jesus with the little boy. In the midst of the chaos and struggles going on around him, the little boy has an anchor.
Years pass and the little lady encourages the little boy to make a decision about Christ and be baptized. He does and there is great joy – at least for a little while…
The little boy gets a little older leaves home for boarding school far away. The little lady continues to pray and intercede for him. She sends him letters encouraging him and reminding him he is loved by God. He visits when he’s home sometimes.
However, time and distance grow between the boy and the little lady. She is growing old but she never ceases praying for him day and night.
The boy begins to wonder into the shadows and valleys becoming enchanted with darkness. He is at college far from home. He becomes entangled in snares and brambles of sin. The boy meets a girl on his dark path. They have a relationship and she becomes pregnant with their own child.
BUT, THE BOY HAS CHANGED He has grown selfish and filled with fear, shame and anger. He persuades the girl to kill the child in her womb. With the death of his child at his own hand – something inside of the boy dies too.
The little lady senses trouble. She launches salvos of prayer into the very halls of heaven. But, no answers are coming into the life of the boy.
Time passes as the void left in the boy’s life is flooded with more darkness, shame and destruction. The boy attempts to remain afloat pursuing worldly pleasures to sedate the pain, as he tumbles into the abyss.
And one day, the little lady who had prayed and prayed for the boy dies and goes to the Father in Heaven. Still, no answers in the boy’s life… Did the sustaining prayers die with the little lady?
Many years later, the boy has fallen into a deep pit in the valley of shadows – exhausted, ashamed and lost. He believes the only way out is to die by his own hand. After all, it is what he deserves.
THEN, SOMETHING CHANGES In the boy’s darkest moment, mighty God shuts the mouth of the roaring lion. He stays the hand of the enemy and declares, “This one is mine!”
Into this dark valley of shadows, the good shepherd seeks and searches for the one that wondered off. Over the mountains and through the valleys and brambles he finds the one he is searching for. He stoops down and lifts up the lost sheep. And he returns it to the fold with the others.
Do you see that sheep laying torn, bloodied and exhausted so very close to the shepherd’s feet? Do you see him resting there?
The good shepherd with wounded hands binds the wounds of this sheep. The shepherd looks into the tired and tearing eyes of the trembling sheep and whispers, “I have a plan and purpose for you. From the time you were in your mother’s womb, I watched over you and protected you. I love you more than you will ever know.”
A light dawns on the horizon of the boy’s life. And so the boy stumbles down a path toward God.
Now imagine a magnificent morning in heaven. Absolutely glorious. The little lady goes up to worship and praise the Father with the multitudes. The halls of heaven fill with God’s glory. An angel steps forward to announce that the little lady’s prayer for the little boy has come up for memorial before the Father – a prayer from decades ago – that God would bless, protect and use the little boy.
And so the Father in Heaven listens and sends forth a gentle rain of answered prayer into the life of the boy.
I am that boy.
I STAND before you today under that gentle rain of answered prayer – to bear witness to what God has done and proclaim the Gospel to the nations.
“The biggest thing in my life, ladies and gentlemen, is that God loves me. And God has done something through Christ on the cross that brings forgiveness and peace with God. It gives me a certainty and meaning for the future.”
Oxford Professor Mathematics Emeritus and Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College, Oxford
The this is a continuation of a previous story, you can read the first part here ….
It’s the end of August and I am sitting cross-legged on a rug in a refugee camp in Northern Iraq (Kurdistan). A girl politely places a glass in front of me containing very strong piping hot tea loaded with too much sugar. I can’t understand the quiet conversations going on around me as our team and our hosts settle into their spots on the rug along the dark walls of the tent. The inside of the tent is a cool oasis from the scorching 109F heat of the day. As if on cue, everyone begins stirring their tiny teas with tiny spoons. Everyone smiles at one another as a strange symphony of chiming metal against delicate glass fills the space. I don’t know our hosts except from reading about them but I feel quite welcome.
I am seated across the tent from a group of shy but seemingly contented Yazidi women and girls recently rescued from the Islamic State terror group (ISIS). ISIS terrorists are masters of human trafficking among other evils. Women and girls are stolen from their homes and sold as sex slaves. The boys are turned into child soldiers, suicide bombers or simply discarded. A few months ago, these women and girls were experiencing horrors beyond the bounds of human comprehension. Just thinking about what they’ve undergone is more than enough to break your heart and mind. But, they are survivors and resilient.
The epicenter of something massive on a global scale
Its difficult to fathom exactly how I got here. Yes, I flew from Dallas-Fort Worth to Frankfurt, Germany to Erbil, Iraq then drove north for a few hours. But, thousands of tiny threads converged to arrive at this moment. This is the epicenter of something massive on a global scale.
Two years prior, on a chilly morning I was invited to a meeting with the Fort Worth Police Department to address the sex-trafficking epidemic in Fort Worth. This small group of loosely affiliated agencies and non-profits were trying to get their heads around the problem. We were pressented with cases where little girls were being bought and sold for sex in my city, I was in a state of shock. The police department was overwhelmed. Local government was in disbelief and I’m considering vigilante justice.
Fast-forward a year. I’m now deeply involved in a taskforce combatting human trafficking in North Texas. The tiny group has grown to over 50 agencies, non-profits and departments. Over previous 12 months, I’ve made connections across the country with leaders and agencies dealing with the issues of human trafficking.
One Thursday evening, I’m preparing to leave my office when I get a call from a woman in our church who is in a US city that will remain unnamed. She’s a part of our anti-trafficking community, she’s a friend and she’s attempting to rescue a girl and her infant baby from her trafficker.
I hear fear in her voice. She’s at an airport with the victim, the victim’s baby and another woman assisting the rescue. The trafficker is part of an organized gang, very dangerous and issues an ultimatum to the victim; “Be at my house by 11pm or I’ll kill you.”
I’m sitting in my office in Fort Worth 8 hours away staring at a clock on my laptop screen edging closer to 6pm. The victim can’t board a plane because her trafficker has confiscated her ID. The women can’t leave the airport because he may have people looking for her. Local law enforcement cannot be trusted and hospitals are not geared up for this type of situation – they will just call the police. She can’t go to her parents because one of them sexually abused her for years. The three women and baby are stuck. They begin to panic.
I begin thinking and praying through the situation. The safest place at this point is the airport. But, they can’t stay there all night without raising suspicion of airport security.
From my office, we make a plan to get them to the airport hotel and into adjoining rooms. One room is for guests with physical disabilities. That way, they would be near an elevator and they could activate emergency devices in the room to call for help. They could flee to the adjoining room if necessary. Our plan was a tiny bandaid on a massive problem. They didn’t know if they were followed. The victim will be going through withdrawals from Oxycotin soon (her trafficker keeps her doped up in order to control her). She will need medical attention and aftercare to stabilize her from years of trauma. The baby will need formula and fresh diapers.
I’m thinking, “What the heck are we going to do? I have a friend in a potentially deadly situation and I have no way to help.” It’s now approaching 9pm. I’ve called everyone I know with access to aircraft. I considered renting them a car but then they would be driving for several hours without protection. I’m out of ideas. My assistant and I are staring at Google maps and the clock. We were both praying. This situation is far beyond our abilities or experience. We’re in way over our heads.
Then it hit me, “Wait a second! I know someone who knows a guy who deals with this type of situation!” I made a phone call and we prayed. “Lord, help them, help them …” That is about all we could pray at this point. We sit and stare at the clock. Nothing is happening. Minutes are rolling by. Still nothing.
Finally, I get the call I’ve been waiting for. First thing in the morning, a private plane will be dispatched to a small municipal airport outside the city. In the meantime, a retired US Special Forces guy will be parked at the hotel to keep watch over the sleeping girls. Like clockwork, the next morning (Friday) a plane arrives and the security team bring the victim, her baby, my friend and another young woman back to Fort Worth safely.
On Sunday, the victim (now trafficking survivor) is receiving care in a local facility and her infant girl is at our church for Sunday Services (in the caring arms of a young woman who agreed to babysit while her mom received treatment). When I got word the baby was on campus I knew I was walking under the gentle rain of answered prayer. Incredible!
There are people in our world willing to risk their lives to rescue forgotten women and children from evil and walk with them toward restoration. I had to learn more and God opened the door for me to do just that… I will take you on that journey.
Surfing the newsfeed experiencing a new emotion with every little swipe of my thumb, I’d get a little hit of dopamine. It felt great in the moment.
Over time I recognized that I had a problem. So, when I went overseas in August I deactivated my Facebook account and did not re-activate until nearly two months later. At present, I rarely check the platform. Yesterday, I logged in for the first time in a week to check messages and I decided to scroll the timeline. Not much has changed. I got bored after about 5 minutes and went on about my afternoon. Addiction defeated, problem solved right?
Last night I was alone at the ranch while Kat and the kids were at her folk’s house. Usually, I’d be outside doing something but the weather was nasty. So, I was stuck inside the house. I had some choices to make. I could watch a movie, I could catch up on news on my iPhone or I could sit down and try to finish a book called “Hearing the Spirit” by Christopher Ash. All decent options.
I rarely watch TV, so I crossed watching a movie off my list easily, no problem. I scrolled the news and read the paper earlier in the day. No need to do that. Reading a book was the most profitable activity I could do as the day drew to an end. Simple enough. Let’s read! I prepared to sit and read for an hour before going to bed.
At some point between making a hot cup of Rooibos tea, sitting in my easy chair and opening my book, I picked up my iPhone to check on the weather. Then, I began reading the news.
The battle was on!
I realized that the instant gratification and the dopamine release of scanning news on my smartphone had won over the delayed gratification and long-term benefit of reading a book. Like a naughty child, I took the culprit (my iPhone) to the other room and put it down. Problem solved!
I went back to my comfy chair and picked up my book. Then, I thought, “What if Kat calls with an emergency?” My phone is in the other room, I’d miss the call. I’d better keep it with me while I read. I got up and retrieved my iPhone from timeout. In the short walk from the other room where the phone had been to my chair, I decided to check the weather again. After all the wind was howling and it may freeze tonight. A few moments later, I was watching a news video on some media channel. I had been ambushed! It was an inside job!
It’s always an inside job!
My problem isn’t my iPhone or Facebook or Apple News. My problem is my heart. If I am honest, the dominant characteristics of my desires are worldly. Yes, I have a few Godly desires. But the shimmering allure and distractions of the world draw me away from God. There is nothing wrong with smartphones, social media or reading the news. However, when self-centered passions, instant gratification and ruling desires overshadow my desire to know God, my life becomes disordered and worldly in nature.
Worldliness is being devoted to affairs, activities and concerns of temporal existence over our spiritual lives. A life rooted in worldliness leads to emptiness, frustration and sadness.
As I prepared to pray this morning, I was lead to James 4 (Warning Against Worldliness). I read the passage and something changed. A light clicked on in an old forgotten room of my heart.
Worldliness and disorder ooze their way into our prayer life like an infection. We know the passage; “You have not because you ask not…” I hear many Christians (myself included) throw it in conversation or prayer when a need arises. In response, we say, “Amen and Amen!”
Is that what James 4 is about? We don’t have because we don’t ask?
You ask and do not receive, because you ask WRONGLY, to spend it on your passions.”
James 4:2b-3 ESV
We ask wrongly for the wrong things because we have yielded our hears to worldly passions. Therefore, our disordered prayers are rooted in worldly desires deep in our hearts dressed up in a veneer of “Christian lingo” and out of context Bible passages. God does not answer prayers that run counter to His nature and His revealed will in scripture.
Why do I pray for more stuff in my life to distract me from God? Because I’ve allowed worldly desires to ambush my pursuit of God.
November 11th was National Orphan Sunday. Frankly, every Sunday should be Orphan Sunday.
Our church is advocating for John and other children in foster care. You can help John and other children find a forever family!
“John is a sweet 10 year old boy! He said, “I really, really want to be adopted!” He is described as being all boy. John loves playing outside and catching bugs. He is very sweet and fun to be around. John likes to make jokes, and his infectious laugh will spread to anyone around him! He is competitive, athletic and ambidextrous. John is artistic and loves to draw- especially Minions and Pikachu from Pokémon. He desires a family that will love him unconditionally and be patient as he works through his trauma.”
Nearly 7% of all orphans in the USA are in Texas
17,000 children in Foster Care in Texas
340 kids are currently in Tarrant County foster care waiting to be adopted
20% of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless when they reach 21.
7 out of 10 girls who age out of the foster care system will become pregnant before the age of 21.
25% of children who age out of the foster care system still suffer from PTSD
Not everyone is called to adopt or become a foster parent. However, everyone can advocate for children in the foster care system.
Creative ways to help:
Pray for children in the foster care system and families who choose to step in.
“There are almost 17,000 kids in foster care in Texas. That seems like a crazy number until you hear there are almost 30,000 churches in Texas! There is more to Orphan Care than just fostering or adopting. If one Christian family from every church adopted and that church agreed to support and wrap around that family there would no no more orphans in Texas.“
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
Last weekend, I took my 9 year old son (Nelson) for an overnight camping adventure at our ranch.
I had three objectives. First, to invest time into my son’s life. Second, teach him practical outdoor skills while feeding his sense of adventure. Third, each activity was designed to point him toward authentic manhood. All the while, pushing him outside his comfort zone surrounded by God’s amazing creation.
Upon arrival, I gave him a gift. It was a small field med-pack with a headlamp (red light), a striker, one chem-light (aka: glow-stick for all you ravers), a multi-tool, a small LED light to illuminate the inside the bag at night, a zip-lock with several cotton balls soaked in Vasaline petroleum jelly, a small first aid kit, a wrist compass and a two-way radio. I instructed him to keep the pack with him at all times.
Before sunset, our first lesson was to learn how to start a fire without conventional ignition, like matches or lighters. We gathered rocks, tinder and wood. Then I demonstrated how to ignite a tinder ball using a striker and a cotton ball covered in Vasaline. Nelson practiced a few times before dinner.
Night came and temperatures fell. Stars filled the clear sky. Nighttime noises in the country surrounded us – crickets, frogs, locusts, owls and coyotes
We dawned our packs and made our way down to the pasture gate in the darkness. I instructed him to turn on his red-light head-lamp and close the pasture gate behind him. I prayed and read Bible passages about loyalty, leadership and humility over him. We turned on our two-way radios and tested our comms. Loud and clear.
“What are we going to do, dad?” he asked with a great deal of uncertainty.
As I put the compass on his wrist, I said, “Son, I am going to walk 250 yards down the path. You will stay here until I call on the radio. When I call, you will begin walking on a southwest heading, keeping on the path. Do not wonder off the path. As you know, there are cactus, snakes and trip hazards out here.” I continued, “Down the hill, there is a tree with a green chem-light hanging in it. I will meet you there.”
Coyotes were howling all around and the moon was not quite high enough to give much light. The red headlamp only emits enough light to illuminate the ground a few feet in front of you.
With his voice a little shaky, he uttered the words I expected, “Dad, I’m a little scared.”
I replied, “Son, there is nothing to be afraid of – this is just a new environment for you.”
I continued, “You have your radio and red light. You will be able to hear my voice and talk to me on the radio. You won’t be able to see me. But, I will be able to see you. Stay on the path, use your radio and your compass. I’ll meet you in a few minutes at the tree. I love you.” I shut off my headlamp and made my way into the darkness.
You will be able to hear my voice and talk to me on the radio. You won’t be able to see me. But, I will be able to see you.
When I arrived at the tree, I made the radio call to Nelson. I could see his red light up the hill begin to move toward my position. He radioed that he was still afraid. I encouraged him to keep walking down the hill. “I can see you. You are doing a great job son. Keep going!”
As he approached our meeting point under the tree, he couldn’t see me in the darkness. So, I called out to him without the radio. Nelson trotted over to me. He was so excited, I was too. Hive-fives and hugs around the board. I congratulated him and read Bible passages on purity, honesty and self-discipline to him.
After a drink of water and another radio check, I told him we had a second objective – further into the pasture. The terrain is rocky with a little creek running through it. There would be another tree with a chem-light hanging in it. I walked ahead into the dark to the meeting place and called him over the radio to begin walking. He could hear my voice but couldn’t see me. But, I could see him.
He arrived at the tree excited and confident. I instructed him to take off his pack, get out his striker and fuel. “Are we going to start a fire here?” he asked. I replied laughing, “YOU are going to start a fire!” We cleared a small space and he gathered tinder. With minimal guidance from me, he assembled a small bundle and put the petroleum jelly soaked cotton ball in the center. After several minutes of failed attempts, he produced a giant spark that landed in the center of the bundle. We had fire! The boy had built his first fire. I could see his self-confidence and satisfaction on his face.
As we hovered over the tiny flames, I read scripture about excellence, integrity and perseverance over him and I prayed. He was so excited. We put out the tiny fire, put on our packs and headed back to the pasture gate where we had begun.
This time Nelson would lead the way and I would follow. We talked and laughed as we walked in the darkness. Looking forward to building a camp fire and roasting some marshmallows. We would sleep beneath a blanked of stars. Nelson had conquered fear, learned something about listening to the father’s voice in the darkness and learned perseverance through fear and adversity.
Maybe you are in the darkness right now. The darkness can be a dreadful place. However, our heavenly father can see us and we can hear his voice in darkest night. You can call out to him. He will answer.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
Before our Savior marched to the cross, He prayed. He cast the seeds of His Gospel into the eternal hearts of future generations – the Martin Luthers, the William Wilburforces, the Charles Spurgeons, the Jim Elliots, the Billy Grahams and so on. This includes you and me. One of the Savior’s seeds landed perfectly in the soils of your heart and mine.
“in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
The seeds of our salvation were cast on the bed of eternity as yet the foundations of the earth were laid. Try to imagine it with our finite minds as we plunge into the depths of God’s unending, all encompassing grace – it is incomprehensible.
Will you join me in preparing the soils of future generations with prayer?
Father, THIS EASTER, may seeds of the Gospel be cast into the eternal hearts of men and women here today and generations yet born. May the seeds sown THIS Easter reap a harvest of righteousness, prayer and revival in generations to come. We pray in one accord for our children’s children’s children and so on that they may believe that you sent Jesus Christ… for “those who will believe in Jesus through [our] word.”
“The shower of answers to prayer will continue to your dying hour. Nor will it cease then. And when you pass out from beneath the shower, your dear ones will step into it. EVERY prayer and every sigh which you have uttered for them and their future welfare will, in God’s time, descend upon them as a gentle rain of answers to prayer.
Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
We pray for a mighty harvest in generations to come. May our present prayers shower down like sweet rain from heaven on generations yet born for the Father’s Glory. In Jesus’ name.
Blessings and Happy Easter!
[This post is an excerpt from an email I sent to my fellow church staff members. I thought it may encourage my readers to experience Easter and Prayer in a deeper way. I hope it blesses you … and you children’s children for generations to come.]
This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.