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  • Leaving Babylon

    Posted on September 25th, 2013 rhonda No comments

    “The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her

    because no one buys their cargoes anymore –

     cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones & pearls . . .

    and bodies and souls of men.

    Revelations 18: 11-12


    It’s hard to leave a country under any circumstances; but what if you leave your country, just to move to another country that’s the same?  If Babylon is a system, how do we leave?  Babylon is a man-made system where we all work to make a name for ourselves, as opposed to God’s system, where He’ll give us a name if we’re obedient.  The difficulty with living in Babylon is that it’s an exploitive system, because we can’t do it ourselves.  Once we realize how hard it is to supply all of our own needs without God, we start looking to use other people as tools to get what we want.  People have called the United States a modern-day Babylon, but does a country exist that is not  Babylon?


    Regular readers know me as a human-trafficking abolitionist.  A while back, I was in the market for a knapsack.  Serendipitously, I passed a chain store, which had a sign advertising that their products were American-made and slave free.  Plus, they had a large collection of simple knapsacks in a variety of colors – just what I was looking for.  As I was making my purchase at the counter, I was listening to the music playing over their sound-system.  The lyrics were sexually-perverse, violent, misogynistic and disgusting.  Yes, I made a purchase at a slave-free store, but that store supports, through its own purchases, a belief system that weakens young girls and makes them vulnerable to exploitation.  I haven’t disentangled myself from this system.  I’m still in Babylon.


    Right now, I don’t think it’s possible for one person to leave Babylon alone.  Leaving requires obedience to God, personal sacrifice, willingness to endure persecution, and collective action.  Abram obeyed God’s command to leave his people, and I can only image how hard that was for him.  Abram was obedient.  He left Babylon.  Yet, as soon as a famine arose in the land, he and Sarai returned to Egypt (Gen. 12:10).  Egypt may be a different country with different leadership, but it’s based on the same “do-it-yourself” system as Babylon.  Jacob and his family eventually settled in Canaan (Gen. 42:7), but another famine made Jacob send his sons to Egypt to buy food.  It’s hard for one person or one small group of people to survive on their own.  As soon as trouble comes, we go back to Egypt and Babylon.


    What fascinates me is that both Abram & Jacob were both in Canaan when they turned to Egypt for help.  Isn’t Canaan supposed to be the land promised to them?  Maybe that means that, on this earth, the promised land is an ephemeral, temporary thing.  Several weeks ago I heard a pastor say, “Jesus is our Promised Land”.  The sentence stuck with me.  Until His return, I’m wondering what it takes for all of us to disengage this system, come out of Babylon, and create at least a temporary Canaan.  If you’ve got any thoughts on the matter, let me know.


    Come. All you who are thirsty,

    Come to the waters; and you who have no money

    Come, buy and eat!

    Come, buy wine and milk

    Without money and without cost

    Isaiah 55:1



  • Babylon’s Beginnings

    Posted on September 18th, 2013 rhonda No comments


    “Come out of her, my people,

    so that you will not share in her sins,

    so that you will not receive any of her plagues;

    for her sins are piled up to heaven,

    and God has remembered her crimes.”

    Revelation 18:4


    She is Babylon.  Within two days, I heard two pastors talk about Babylon.  Now I know that Babylon is neither a woman nor a country, but a system – different than what God created.


    Pastor described it as the difference between the blessing system and the build-it system.  Obviously, the blessing system is God’s system.  The build-it system is the Babylonian system.  The build-it system was created by Nimrod, a descendant of Cush.  The first centers of Nimrod’s kingdom were “Babylon, Erech, Akkad and Calneh, in Shinar” (Gen. 10:10).  As men moved into Shinar and settled there:


    They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.”  They used bricks instead of stone, and tar for mortar.  Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth” (Gen. 11:1-4). 


    The significance of them forsaking stones for bricks is that stones are made by God, while bricks are made by man.  They did all of this work to make a name for themselves.  Yet, in the blessing system ordained by God, we make a name for ourselves by being obedient to God.  The blessing system was inherent in the relationship between God and Abram, a descendent of Shem.  God told Abram:


    Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and

    go to the land I will show you.

    I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you;

    I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. . . .


    So Abram left, as the Lord had told him . . .  (Gen. 12:1-2 & 4)


    In the blessing system, if we honor God, He makes our name great.


    But now the Lord declares:

    “Far be it from me!

    Those who honor me I will honor,

    but those who despise me will be disdained.”

    I Samuel 2:30



  • Balaam

    Posted on September 11th, 2013 rhonda No comments


    “. . . They hired Balaam son of Beor from Peor in Aram Naharaim

    to pronounce a curse on you.

    However, the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam

    but turned the curse into a blessing for you,

    because the Lord you God loves you.”

    Deuteronomy 23:4-5


    The school year started.  Test design is one skill comprising the fine art of teaching.  If a test is too difficult, strong students will fail.  Conversely, if a test is too easy, poor students will pass.


    God tested me, and I failed.  I read Numbers 22-24.  The King of Moab, Balak, asked Balaam to curse Israel, and Balaam refused.  1 John tells us that we should test the spirits to make sure that they’re of God (4:1).  Balaam passed the “John” test, because he said, “Even if Balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold.  I could not do anything great or small beyond the command of the Lord my God” (Nu. 22:18).  He acknowledged God, and God’s authority over him.   So I was taken aback by God’s anger at Balaam.  I had to re-take this test by reading more closely and thinking more deeply.


    Why were Balak & Balaam even talking in the first place?  I’ve yet to read about an extended exchange between a prophet of God & an enemy of God’s people.  Yet, Balak & Balaam had a conversation that lasted a few days.  That’s the 1st red flag I missed.  The second was, after being told that God has blessed Israel (Nu 22:12), why did Balaam feel the need to try to “find out what else the Lord will tell me” (v. 19)?  Apparently, Balak upped the ante by offering Balaam enough money to make him blink.  Balaam wanted God to tell him something different so that he could collect his money.  Other books of the Bible refer to Balaam’s real motives (Deut. 23:4-5, Joshua 13:22, II Peter 2:15, Jude 1:11).  This exercise in reading all the different references to Balaam in the Bible also reinforced the importance of getting the whole picture of a person.


    The experience also made me wonder, “Who are the Balaam’s in my life?”  I let people fool me with their talk.  Everything they said was Bible-based & God-honoring, so I ignored the red-flags that should have told me where their hearts really were.  They were talking the talk, but not walking the walk.  Through the grace of God, now I know better.


    “They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness.”

    II Peter 2:15



  • Book Review: Girls Like Us

    Posted on September 4th, 2013 rhonda No comments


    “A father to the fatherless,

    A defender of widows

    Is God in His holy dwelling.

    God sets the lonely in families,

    He leads forth the prisoners with singing . . . . “

    Psalm 68:5-6


    In her memoir, Girls Like Us, Rachel Lloyd quotes the psalm in her chapter on healing. Lloyd was a commercially sexually exploited child who is now the Founder & Executive Director of the Girls Education & Mentoring Service (GEMS), which offers services to other commercially sexually exploited girls.   Lloyd’s been healed, and now offering healing to the girls in her program.


    It’s hard to heal someone if you cannot name the injury.  The injury is commercial sexual exploitation.  Before advocates like Lloyd and others came on the scene, the misdiagnosis was called prostitution.   “Prostitute” conjures up the image of a grown woman who “chose” to prostitute herself, is immoral or amoral, and is destined for a bad life.  Sex-trafficking abolitionists like Lloyd, however, argue that “commercially sexually exploited children” (CSEC) is the accurate term. 


    Using her past and the experiences other CSECs, Lloyd vividly illustrates the life of a CSEC.  She talks about life before becoming a CSEC, how CSECs enter the life, what keeps them in the life, how they get out, what helps to heal them of their past, and how they can chart out new lives for themselves, fulfilling God’s purposes for them.


    Girls is good reading for everyone, including teens.  It’s readable, relevant and accessible to everyone.  Despite containing graphic and disturbing images, Girls is a good way for parents to engage their children in a conversation about uncomfortable subjects – healthy relationships, sex, drugs, “appropriate” touch, etc. 


    Girls is a hard and necessary read, for Christians.  God demands that His people love their neighbors as themselves, which means being in a healing & affirmative relationship with other people.  Lloyd talks about the Christian community that “loved me back to life”.  Unfortunately, before she got to that community, she encountered plenty of people, including police officers & social workers, who only showed her disdain, judgment, distrust, and hostility.  Girls is a hard and necessary read for Christian professionals, especially those who work in human services, youth & family services, workforce development, and criminal justice.


    Through Girls Like Us (ISBN#978-0-06-158206-6), we also see Rachel Lloyd’s transformation from commercially sexually exploited child to a woman who is an author, educator, mentor and service provider.  As she sat on her stoop on a sweltering summer night, trying to think of a name for her dream organization, Isaiah came to her mind.  And GEMS was born.


    “O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted,

    I will build you with stones of turquoise,

    your foundations with sapphires.

    I will make you battlements of rubies,

    your gates of sparkling jewels,

    and all your walls of precious stones.

    All your sons will be taught by the Lord,

    and great will be your children’s peace.”

    Isaiah 54:11-13