If I knew then what I know now

My Beginning of Wisdom site
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  • Persecution Purifies

    Posted on October 10th, 2013 rhonda No comments



    gather together all the Jews who are in Susa,

    and fast for me.

    Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day.

    I and my maids will fast as you do.

    When this is done, I will go to the king,

    even though it is against the law.

    And if I perish, I perish”



    A pastor said that persecution is actually necessary for us, because it will force us to decide to lean into God completely, or leave God completely.  Persecution purifies us.


    Esther is a positive example of what to do when being persecuted. Esther, her family, and her people were taken captive & exiled in Babylon.  Then, the Persians defeated Babylon and Israelites were able to live on foreign soil freely.  Ironically, it’s then that Haman tells Israel that it would be destroyed.  Esther evolves from being a young woman hiding her identity and initially reluctant intervene on Israel’s behalf, to a leader who’s willing to risk going before the king, confronting her enemy and exposing her own identity.  How did she do it?  Pastor said she did it because she had a Mordecai, who was an Old Testament figure foreshadowing Jesus.  Mordecai mirrors Jesus in that he:

    • Didn’t bow to Haman (Satan) – Esther 3:5
    • Had a burden for God’s people (4:1)
    • Imparted his burden to Esther (4:12-14)
    • Prayed
    • Defeated Haman & his sons with the gallows (tree) that Haman originally built to kill him (7:9-10; 9:14)
    •  Spoke back to the devil through writing & distributing letters stating the authority & victory of God’s people (8:9-14)

     The next time we’re in trouble, we should look to Esther for an example.


    “For He will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 

    He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver,

    He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. 

    Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness,

    and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord,

    as in days gone by, as in former years.”

    Malachi 3:2-4



  • A Heart of Flesh

    Posted on October 2nd, 2013 rhonda No comments

    First of all,

    you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come,

    scoffing and following their own evil desires.

    They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ He promised? “

    2 Peter 3:3-4


    I read the newspaper and got angry – again.  The article is entitled, “Once Scorned, but on Revenge Sites, Twice Hurt”.  Essentially, in the aftermath of a breakup, ex-boyfriends are now posting naked pictures of their ex-girlfriends on “revenge websites”.  The article discusses the movement among victims to impose legal penalties.


    I took a few minutes to ask myself why this kind of stuff makes me so angry, especially when it has nothing to do with me (thank God!).  I should praise God that He’s given me a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26), one that is empathic and can “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15).  I’m able to envision the shame and rage that someone would feel if they were put in that situation; and able to feel their anger and being helpless to prevent their victimization & humiliation.


    I get angry because I forget that the “Lord is not slow in keeping His promise” to bring justice.  One of the things that is especially hard for me to remember is that, for the wicked, just being who they are is a punishment.  When I’m angry, it’s an uncomfortable feeling.  I get hot.  I feel tense.  I get headaches.  I don’t like being really angry, because it just doesn’t feel good.  Yet, because I’ve put my faith in Christ, I’m one of the righteous.  I’m a daughter of God & a royal priest (1 Peter 2:9).  I get relief from my anger in Jesus Christ.


    However, where’s your relief when you have a heart of stone, unable to forgive, angry & vengeful all the time, and bent on the destruction (literally or metaphorically) of other people?  Even though the wicked sometimes appear to be flourishing like a green tree, they must be miserable on the inside.  They say “misery loves company”.  Think of what kind of torment a person must be feeling on the inside in order to treat someone else so horribly, and pray for them (Luke 6:28).


    Pray – and make sure they pay hefty fines & go to jail.  I posted the article below.  I hope you have a heart of flesh, too.




    But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:

    With the Lord a day is like a thousand years,

    and a thousand years are like a day.

    The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness.

    He is patient with you, not waking anyone to perish,

    but everyone to come to repentance.

    2 Peter 3:8-9

  • 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

  • Book Review: Revelation

    Posted on August 27th, 2013 rhonda No comments


    “The revelation of Jesus Christ,

    which God gave him to show His servants what must soon take place.

    He made it known by sending His angel to His servant John,

    who testifies to everything he saw –

    that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

    Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy,

    and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it,

    because the time is near.”

    Revelation 1:1-3


    It’s difficult to take something “to heart” when you don’t understand it.  That’s why so many versions of the Bible exist, to render the word of God in a way that other people can understand. 


    I read my Bible, and enjoy reading other books.  So I can often be found book-browsing.  That’s how I stumbled upon a Biblical treasure – on discount!  Of all the books in the Bible, Revelation is one of the most difficult for me to understand.  That’s why I was delighted to discover a graphic novel version of the 66th book, entitled “The Book of Revelation”; translated by F. Mark Arey & Fr. Philemon Sevastiades, illustrated by Chris Koelle, and published by Zondervan in 2012 (ISBN: 978-0-310-42140-5).


    Am I now an expert on Revelation?  No.  Here’s what it did do for me, though.  First, it’s accurate, despite being illustrated.  Second, the graphics were arresting.  The illustrations were realistic, intricate, provocative and subtle.  As artwork, it was just visually stunning; and it was fascinating to see Koelle’s rendering of Revelation’s metaphors.  For example, Revelation personifies Babylon as a woman.  You have to see how Koelle worked that out for yourself.  Third, my fascination with the artwork forced me to slow down and read more carefully.  When I don’t understand, my eyes glaze over, and after a few seconds of reading I realize that I can’t remember what I just read.  More careful reading helped me absorb some details that I didn’t get before.  Fourth, I read it again, and I understood more of John’s revelation.


    Once I get what’s going on, I pray that I’ll begin to take it to heart.




    “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people.  Amen”

    Revelation 22:21

  • Woe!

    Posted on August 20th, 2013 rhonda No comments


    “I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted,

    and the train of His robe filled the temple.”

    Isaiah 6:1

    Every time I think of Sybrina Fulton, I start to cry.

    Her son was killed, and the killer was acquitted. I don’t know how much it hurts to (1) bury a son, (2) know that your son was innocent, (3) know that he died violently, and to (4) see his killer walk away with no consequences.  God knows.  He sacrificed a Son who was far superior to Trayvon.

    Despite those burdens, she remains dignified, respectful, peaceful, forgiving – and godly.  I saw excerpts of an interview with her after the verdict was made public.  The interviewer asked, “What would you say to [your son’s killer]?”  Her response was that she would pray for him.  She said that she’s not going to allow herself to lose her blessings due to holding hatred in her heart.  She said the killer would one day have to give an account to God for what he did.


    As I was puzzling over the verdict, Isaiah came to my mind.  Years ago, I heard a sermon based on Isaiah 6.  Pastor wanted the youth to know how to hear the call of God and do the will of God.  He noted that when Isaiah was allowed to see the Lord, seated on His throne, receiving praise from the seraphs, Isaiah’s first response was “Woe is me . . . . I am ruined!  For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have see the King, the Lord Almighty” (v. 5).  His point was that when we see the Lord, we realize two things.  First, we realize how holy and pure and beautiful and righteous He is.  Second, by comparison, we realize how unholy, dirty, ugly and wicked we are.  That realization causes us to confess, “Woe is me!”

    The closer we walk with god, the more He re-makes us in His image (2 Corinthians 3:18, Colossians 3:9-10, Ephesians 4:22-24).  I see evidence of that re-imaging in Sybrina  Fulton.  There should be a clear distinction between the people of God and everyone else.  I see that Ms. Fulton has been walking with God for a while.  I still have a long walk to go.

    “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;

    the whole earth is full of His glory.”

    Isaiah 6:3

  • Payday!

    Posted on August 13th, 2013 rhonda No comments


    You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth & clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.

    Psalm 30:11-12

    I thank God for allowing me to see the payoff.  A while ago, I wrote about coming home at the end of my workweek feeling tired and frustrated.  A few weeks after that post, I finally got to see what I was working for.  I work with adult students who are struggling in school and taking remedial classes.  At the end of the spring semester, they took a series of placement tests to determine whether or not they were exempt from taking further non-credit classes.  The tests determine whether or not they could finally start taking classes which would allow them to accumulate the credits they need to graduate.

    When the test scores came in, I had the responsibility and privilege of giving students the news.  Some students still need to take at remedial classes, but not as many as initially thought, and everyone made improvement.   We were able to acknowledge the progress that had been made.  Some people passed all their tests.  There were tears of joy, smiles, high-fives; and in one instance – unrestrained celebration.  One student just got a glimpse of his score and started jumping up & down and running through the halls.  He hugged me.

    That celebration wasn’t the highlight of my day.  There were two students who had a particularly hard semester.  On paper, they weren’t as successful as other students.  Nonetheless, they worked hard and made progress.    I was proud to see that all of their work paid off; and I was happy to say that I had small role in helping them get through the semester.

    I didn’t get a pay raise, but God did compensate me for my work.

    Let them praise His name with dancing and make music to Him with tambourine and harp.

    Psalm 149:3

  • Does God Heal Women?

    Posted on August 7th, 2013 rhonda No comments


    “Her brother Absalom said to her, ‘Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you?  Be quiet now, my sister; he is your brother.  Don’t take this thing to heart.’  And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.”

    2 Samuel 13:20


    A few weeks ago I watched a re-run of the original Law & Order.  A woman killed the man who raped her.  Law & Order prompted me to pick up the Bible and see how God comforted and restored rape victims.


    I couldn’t find anything.  There are stories of rape in the Bible.  There are stories of women being healed of diseases.  Yet, I couldn’t find a story of a woman who received justice and healing from rape.  Tamar’s story ends with her living as a desolate woman.  I mentioned in a previous post that sometimes the Bible is hard for a woman to read, because sometimes it appears as though God doesn’t care as much about women.  That little seed of doubt in my mind started growing again.


    Then I saw Before: An Evening of Original Monologues, written by young women who were sexually exploited and prostituted.    Prior to the show’s start, I bought a book by the organization’s founder, who was also exploited as a young woman.  The back cover says, “With time, through incredible resilience, and with the help of a local church community, she finally broke free of her pimp and her past . . . .”  When seated, I noticed the show’s cast praying before their performance. They opened the show with a trio of survivors singing a song called “Happy Being Me”.  During the show a few women talked about prayer getting them through.  I don’t know GEMS to be a Christian organization, but it appears that there are Christians in it.


    Maybe God was using Before to address my doubts.  I was suddenly surrounded by women who talked about what horror that they’d been though, and that they’re now fine.  Their message is just that they want to prevent other girls from going through something they’ll need a healing from.  One day later, I was in a completely different context, and heard two female acquaintances mention that they were incest survivors.  They still struggle, but they’re also engaged in life.


    If that’s God’s answer to me, I’ll take it.


    “Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing”

    Exodus 15:20