Thursday, February 15, 2007

The fight to end slavery continues

Amazing Grace has been recorded over 3200 times; more than any other song. It was written by John Newton, a slave trader who sold over 20,000 slaves into captivity until a near-death experience at sea prompted him to leave the slave trade and dedicate his life to Christ. The lyrics of Amazing Grace tell of the remarkable transformation God created in his life. Newton said of himself, "Only God's amazing grace could and would take a rude, profane, slave-trading sailor and transform him into a child of God."

John Newton was a mentor to William Wilberforce and encouraged him in his fight to abolish slavery. Elected to parliament at the age of 21, Wilberforce led a life-long fight to end slavery. Although continually defeated over 20 years, a law to end slavery in England was passed in 1807, the year that John Newton died.

Wilberforce continued to fight for the abolition of slavery in all British colonies for 26 more years. The law was finally passed three days before his death.

Two hundred years after the British Parliament abolished slavery and 144 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, there are still 27 million people living in slavery; more than at any other time in history.

* 27 Million: Number of people in modern-day slavery across the world
* 800,000: Number of persons trafficked across international borders each year
* 17,500: Number of foreign nationals who are trafficked into the U.S. every year
* 91: Number of cities in the United States with reported cases of trafficking
* 50: Percent of all victims are children
* 20 Million: Number of bonded laborers in the world
* 218 Million: Estimated number of children working aged between five and seventeen
* 126 Million: Estimated number of children who work in the worst forms of child labor - one in every twelve of the world's five to seventeen year olds.
* 300,000: Estimated number of child soldiers involved in over 30 areas of conflict worldwide, some younger than 10 years old.

    ***MAY 2014 UPDATE***

  • 25% of international human trafficking victims are in Texas.
  • Interstate 10 is the #1 human trafficking corridor in America.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


When Jeffrey Dahmer, the infamous serial killer, turned his heart to Jesus and was baptized, many people were skeptical; some Christians were outraged. Is it just that a man so vile can gain entry into heaven so easily? It is if you believe in salvation by grace. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast (Eph 2:8-9 NIV).”

To say that one sinner is more worthy of hell than another is to argue that some people are more worthy of heaven; and that our worthiness (or righteousness) comes from something that we did or did not do (works!). Salvation is the gift of God. We cannot boast about it nor can we argue the injustice of another’s salvation.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells of a young man who squandered his inheritance on the fast life. He was immature and wanted nothing more than to indulge his lusts, no matter how expensive. He shamed himself, humiliated his family and embarrassed his community. After having lost everything, he decided to return home. There was no “I told you so” lecture. There were no tests of loyalty. His father welcomed him with open arms and celebrated his return. All his rights as a son were restored. John 1:12 tells us that, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (NIV).”

The elder brother felt this was unfair and was livid. He had been faithful and loyal and believed himself to be deserving of the attention that his brother was attracting. Unfortunately, this is the mind-set of some Christians when one our own falls into sin and returns to the church. They don’t rejoice with the angels. They react as if they had been cheated. They want to put a limit to God’s love and grace.

Consider the woman caught committing adultery in John 8 who was going to be stoned to death. Jesus did not disagree with the woman’s guilt or her death sentence. Jesus confronted the mob with their own sin and need for grace. When the crowd left, Jesus told her to go and sin no more. The woman did not ask for forgiveness and there is no evidence of her repenting or coming to faith in Christ. We don’t even know if she said thank-you. Jesus showed that woman grace, even though she did not deserve it. That is an example of how we are to treat the lost. “…While we were still sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NIV)”

Lost people matter to God and they ought to matter to us. “The Lord…is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9 NIV).” Church ought to be a place where the lost can encounter God’s grace and where Christian’s who have lost their way can come back home.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Why do so many newcomers leave the church?

Why do we keep losing so many of our new people? This question is often asked by churches that have difficulty assimilating newcomers. Even if they have a lot of visitors every Sunday, some churches see a steady march out the back door.

It could be that newcomers and churches have conflicting priorities. People stay in churches where they can make friends but too many churches want newcomers to believe and behave a certain way before they can be friends. In other words the process is BELIEVE, BEHAVE and, then BELONG.

This was not Jesus’ pattern. He called Matthew, a despised tax collector, to be part of his crowd and even socialized with his rowdy friends (Mark 2:13-15). It was later that Matthew became on of the 12 apostles (Mark 3:14). It was after he befriended a Samaritan woman with a tarnished reputation that she became a believer (John 4).

Newcomers come to church seeking community. Most will place a higher priority on the character of the people in a church than on the church’s doctrinal distinctives. Once the newcomers feel welcome and accepted, they will be open to learning and, in time, their lives will be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and the combined witness of the community.

In other words BELONG, BELIEVE and BEHAVE is the biblical pattern for a church that wants to impact its neighborhood by transforming the unchurched into fully devoted followers of Christ.