Until All Are Free

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Over the last 3 years, I’ve been involved in anti-human trafficking efforts throughout Lexington and Richland Counties.  Human trafficking, simply stated, is the exploitation of a person’s vulnerabilities for commercial gain.  This includes commercial sex acts and forced labor, especially from anyone under the age of 18.  On the forefront of global efforts is the A21 Campaign.   With over 14 offices across the globe, A21 seeks to abolish human trafficking by reaching out to the vulnerable through education and awareness, working with law enforcement to rescue victims and prosecute traffickers, and restoring the survivors to a state of independence.  A21 is an incredible organization that was founded by Christine Caine in 2008.  I can’t recall exactly when the first time I heard of it was, but most likely in high school in association with the Passion Conference and the END IT Movement.  However, it wasn’t until I was nearing the completion of my associate degree in criminal justice, the fall semester of 2016, that the passion for fighting the injustice of modern slavery surfaced in me.  It was during this time that my own heart was soften toward victims of crime, and while my honor society started raising money for Lighthouse for Life, I was given the opportunity to learn more about trafficking in the midlands and to connect with the Richland County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RCAHT).  I’ve been a member of the task force ever since, serving on the Education and Awareness committee for almost 2 years, and within the last year have started joining the SC State Task Force meetings.  I have also had the privilege to have participated in special operations with Richland County Sheriff’s Department where we would search for victims and arrest the people who think it is okay to buy a human being.  These operations were of special interest to me because I wanted to be a law enforcement officer.  I wanted to be a K9 officer, SRO, victim’s advocate, and then be an investigator that specializes in human trafficking.  And I had my first steps already planned out to get me there, and I asked God to bless the paths that I wanted to walk down.  But that wasn’t God’s plan.

Needless to say, my life is not at all going where I thought it would be by now.  Though I have thoroughly enjoyed my volunteer opportunities, taking an internship was not on my agenda of things to do, and it was going against my logical mind.   I wanted to get my career started, and I needed a full-time job, not move to an unfamiliar location and volunteer my time and talents.  But when I came across the application in February, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I recognized that God was leading me here–which left me with a choice to make.  I could ignore his promptings, or I could follow in obedience.

I looked over the long, multi-step application process, and thought that it was comparative to that of a police officer, and it didn’t make sense to me to apply for this when the department that I wanted (and still want) to be at was hiring.  But I had no peace at just the thought of sending out other applications. When I submitted the application for A21 on March 6th, I did it with full conviction that this was my next step in life, and that first interview was one of the best–if not the best–interviews I ever had.  After patiently waiting for an answer and going through the steps of the application process for over 3 months, I now will be joining A21 in the fight against human trafficking.  Now that it is here, I understand why God closed the doors I was asking Him to let me through, and why He allowed all of disappointments that I have been experiencing for the last year.  All of it was to prepare me to take this step, to remind me that my life is under His control and not mine–which is hard for a control freak like me.  I know that I am going exactly where God wants me to be at this time in my life, and I know that He will provide for me as I follow His lead.  As Christians, we know that we are called to “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Is 1:17 ESV), and to “open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute” (Prov 31:8, ESV).  God is using A21 to do that, and now He is sending me to join them.

If you are interested in supporting me, please follow this link, send me an email at kristennmatthews@gmail.com, or find me at church!

Kristen

Disappointments

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Disappointments come at us in all kinds of ways. It can be being skipped over for a promotion, not getting those pair of shoes because they did not have them in your size, a friend lets you down, parent skips out, someone at work makes fun or even bullies, a forgotten birthday or anniversary. The blanks could be filled in with any number of things. Disappointments hurt, bruise, even leave scars.

Scripture tells us that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him.  Notice the word ALL. That means everything! He can take it and use it in our lives to grow us. That may not be our first reaction. Ever thought about Joseph and what might have been going through his mind? His brothers threw him in a pit, sold him into slavery, and told their father he was dead. Scripture doesn’t tell us what might have crossed his mind and how he felt. Did he immediately remember the dreams God had given him? Did he trust in what God had shown him?  He went on to be lied about, betrayed, and thrown in prison. But in each case God was with Him and brought Joseph to exactly where He had designed.

We as His children are held in His hands, and He longs for us to lean on Him and allow Him to work. Sometimes we get knocked off center for just a little while, but then we come back to our refuge, healer, strength, Redeemer and LORD. God is always with us…always!

Blessings,

WM Team

When Night Lingers

when night lingers imageAll that night the LORD drove the sea back.  Exodus 14:21

The following comes from a devotion in the book, “Streams in the Desert.”

In this verse, there is a comforting message showing how God works during darkness. The real work of God for the children of Israel did not happen when they awoke that morning to find they could cross the Red Sea, but it occurred “all that night.”

There may be a great work occurring in your life when things seem their darkest. You may see no evidence yet but God is at work. God was just as much at work “all that night” as He was the next day, when the Israelites finally saw the evidence. The next day simply revealed what God had done during the night.

Are you reading this from a place in your life where everything seems dark? Do you have faith to see but are still not seeing? Are you lacking continual victory in your spiritual growth? Is your daily, quiet communion gone, and there is nothing but darkness all around?

“All that night the LORD drove the sea back.”   “Don’t forget it was “all that night.” God works through the night until the morning light dawns. You may not see it yet, but through the night of your life, as you trust Him, He works. 

God worked through the darkness of the CROSS to bring each one of us life, hope into every corner of our lives, and light into the night of our souls giving us abundant life through Jesus.

We all need reminding at times that God is in the night before the day dawns.

Blessings,

The WM Team

Reflections

reflections imageSometimes it is good just to stop and reflect on some of God’s truths. We hope the following will lift your spirits and encourage you this day or any time the clouds close in on you.

Remember these truths:

You are loved                                        John 3:16

God is the lifter of our heads              Psalm 3:3

He is the lover of your soul                 Romans 10:9

He delights in you                                Psalm 149:4

He sings over you                                 Zephaniah 3:17

He is your strength                              Psalm 28:7

He is your rock                                     Psalm 18:2

You are His and He is yours               Jeramiah 32:38 and 2 Corinthians 6:16

 

We encourage you to look up the scriptures and let God’s Word minister to you.

Blessings,

The WM Team

Relationships

relationships imageNavigating relationships can be one of the most challenging things we do. But in building authentic relationships we lay aside brave faces and allow someone to see the real us. The following is from a devotion I kept and I go back and look at periodically. It really does speak volumes and thought you would enjoy the treasures within.

“When we allow our busy schedules, weary spirits, or the fear of being hurt to prevent us from pursuing authentic relationships, we create a tremendous void in our lives. Not only do we neglect our own God given need to be in community, but we forfeit opportunities to extend God’s love to others. Letting people see the real you can be terrifying! But the relationships worth building will value a genuine heart over a fake smile any day. This doesn’t mean you should bear your soul to everyone you meet.

The best relationships are those in which we love, encourage, and challenge each other without the need to impress one another.

The following are reminders to us about ourselves and we should be willing to extend to others.

*Patient-we don’t always get it right the first time. Be Patient

*Kind-no one wants to be treated poorly. We treat others as we want to be treated. Be kind.

*Humble-we are all flawed and we know it. We admit it, own our mistakes. Be humble.

*Forgiveness-restoration is about second chances. We’ve all be given one. Be forgiving.

*Selfless-fulfillment comes from putting the needs of others before our own. Be selfless.

*Respectful-we don’t always have to agree, but we are not disagreeable. Be respectful.

*Honest-we speak many languages but lying is not one of them. Be honest.

*Committed-we never, never, never give up. Be committed

We all need and desire to have individuals in our lives who are authentic. They see the good, the bad and the ugly and stand by us. Hold us accountable and challenge us!  May we all be blessed of God to have such people in our lives and may we be that individual to someone else.

Open my eyes, LORD, so that I can see how You want to use me this day. Give me the ability to see the world through the lens of Your heart, to see others as you see them, to recognize Your divine appointments and to have the courage to say, “Yes.”  In the Name of Jesus, Amen.”

(Taken from devotion by Chuck Swindoll, insight.org)

Blessings,

The WM Team

Strongholds

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We all face them. One of the biggest is our thoughts! Once we have accepted lies into our thoughts, then we start to believe and actually bow down to those thoughts resulting in us being prisoners.

It’s like a child that was told over and over “you will never amount to anything” or “you were a mistake we didn’t plan you” or “why can’t you be more like your sister”. Those words not only cut like a knife, but the rejection becomes a part of that child and affects them in all of their relationships. Even their relationship with Jesus if she has accepted Him. They start to believe they don’t matter and will never be anything!  Now God’s Word tells us we are precious in His sight.

Fast forward to adulthood. That child has experienced one disappointment after another and in their mind believes they don’t deserve any better. They won’t get that promotion, be chosen for that special project, find someone who truly loves her. So how does the cycle stop? There is only one way; truth must take the place of the lies. That process begins when she starts to hear truth from God’s Word, and maybe for the first time realizes she counts. By God’s grace she comes into a personal relationship with her heavenly Father and starts a journey to wholeness.  But she must do her part by taking the truth of God’s Word and putting that into her mind to tear down the lies.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV

This applies to any kind of thoughts that are not in line with the Word of God. Jesus died to set us free and gives us a full, abundant life.  Scripture tells us “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17) And now that you are free, do not put on another yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

Our minds are a battleground. But we have “the mind of Christ,” and we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus. It is a daily surrender but we can be victorious, because Jesus is in our corner. We must agree with and apply Truth. Jesus is our strength, our confidence, and our identity – not what someone may have spoken about us or to us.

Blessings,

The WM Team

Compromise = Rebellion

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This week in studying about Samson, it really brings to the forefront how we can easily be doing our own thing, going after what we want, instead of seeking God and obeying Him.  Samson’s strength came from God, but he forgot that and got prideful in his own strength. He went after whatever he wanted without any regard to God and His commands and ways and totally left God out of his choices.

Samson didn’t realize that God had left him until he went to use his powers after Delilah, a woman he wanted for pleasure, betrayed him. Now Samson ended up being captured and both of his eyes gouged out, and the Philistines used him as a grinder of grain and to entertain them. When they had him brought out to entertain them, the temple was full of men and women. All the leaders were there plus about 3000 men and women watching from the rooftop. Samson asked the young man who was leading him by the hand to put him between the pillars that held the temple so he could lean against them.

Samson cried out to God to remember him. Samson took hold of the two pillars supporting the temple and leaned against them and said, “Let me die with the Philistines.”  He was broken and God heard his heart cry. The temple fell.  Samson had come to the end of himself and that’s when he found God’s strength again.

This serves as a warning for us that compromise creeps into our hearts. His story reflects the rebellion of Israel’s heart at the time. Bit by bit compromise comes in and takes over, and we find ourselves in the muck and mire of the world and far from God’s ways. The beautiful grace and mercy that was extended to Samson also awaits us when we return to God and turn from sin. We can be rebelling in ways we aren’t even aware of and that’s why we must call on God to search us.

Maybe like me, you need a spiritual checkup on a regular basis. We can ask God to search us and reveal any wicked ways in us. His word promises if we confess our sin He is faithful and will forgive us.

Had a checkup lately?

 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1John 1:9 NAS

 

Blessings,

The WM Team

Beth Moore Simulcast Rescheduled

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ATTENTION! ATTENTION!

EVENT RESCHEDULED!

Due to the impending weather concerns from Hurricane Florence, we have made the decision to reschedule the Beth Moore Simulcast. We are now scheduled for October 13th. Please be sure to change your calendars and we will see you for this fabulous event on Saturday, October 13th.

Changes

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We are just beginning to feel the changing of seasons approaching. I think we will all welcome those crisp mornings and comfortable days. But when it comes to changing of schedules or habits we naturally get our backs up a little. It’s human nature, and from the time we are little we fight it. Just try changing a child’s bedtime and see what happens! However, as a tree displays radiant and breathtaking color as its foliage dies, we as God’s children display more of who we are in Christ as we die to ourselves daily.  It isn’t easy.  It is continually denying ourselves and submitting to God’s authority over our lives. And let’s be honest, it goes against our natural tendency. It takes the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit who lives in us to bring this about – as we cooperate with God, He is changing us from the inside out so that the beauty of His Son shines through to be a witness to Him.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV

Just as we look for sincerity in our children’s actions, so does our heavenly Father. Half- hearted actions hurt Him and delay our transformation. We are all like caterpillars leaving behind the ugliness of our sin and becoming who we really are in Jesus. That caterpillar goes through some stuff to reach its transformation and we will too. All of it will be sifted through our Heavenly Father’s hands first and will be worked out for our good and to His glory.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2 NIV

Father, thank you that once we are your child, you guide us to be more and more like Jesus. Give us courage to move forward. Remind us that you are our strength and that is the only way we can daily surrender to you and be changed. We love you. May that love be the driving force behind our obedience to you as we enjoy the personal relationship we have with you – by your love displayed on the Cross through Jesus. Amen.

Blessings,

The WM Team