The Truth Project: Black and White

Any way you spin it, sin is an ugly word.
I dare you to find someone who will disagree with you on that point.

If you’re just joining in, we are finishing up our first month of a series entitled The Truth Project here on The Pearl Press. For the next little while, we’ve made it our goal to address hot topics in culture today. To provide you with Biblical truth and real life application so that together we can learn to let Christ and His words invade every facet of our lives. We don’t want to tell you what to think or believe, but rather, break down facts and truth in a way that you can apply to your life in a way that has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with allowing Christ to shape our worldviews as we dare to venture deeper into His Word.

That being said, I struggled with how on earth I could possibly present the topic of sin to you in an unbiased way. How could I approach that word from a neutral angle when the word itself carries so much negativity?

And then it hit me.
My job in writing this article is to present you with facts and truth.
And the truth of the matter is, there is no unbiased approach to sin.
It’s all bad.
All ugly.
That is not my opinion or me being biased, that is just what it boils down to.
It’s simple and straightforward.
In a world where so many other things are blurry lines and shades of gray, there is nothing blurry or gray about sin.
It’s black and white of the clearest most distinct shades.

According to, there are nearly 1100 references to the word sin in Scripture. I hope that this time around you’ll forgive me for the length considering there is much to say and I want so much to give you as much of it as possible to use in allowing God to work this out in you!
So, in the spirit of black and white and truth and facts, I am going to allow God to speak for Himself on this matter. And perhaps Merriam, just to kick things off.

Sin according to Merriam Webster:
a  :  transgression of the law of God
b  :  a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God

At this point, I would encourage you to take a few moments and peruse Genesis 3. In order to understand how we ended up here navigating this world full of pain and hurt and sickness and death, we have to understand where we have come from.

Sin has been around for as long as we have been around. As far as we know, the very first choice that humans made was to sin. We acted on our impulses, sold out to our lust, believed the lies and the doubts that snaked their way in, and ultimately decided that one piece of delicious fruit in one fleeting moment was worth more than everything that God had already given. We decided that God could not possibly know best, He must be holding out on us, and in our pride we thought it better to try and be like Him. We disobeyed, and we sacrificed everything good and pure and true for an empty lie.

And yes, I said we.

You can be angry with Eve or even with Adam, or perhaps with both of them for landing us here, but you would have done the same thing {We’ll save that little discussion for our Daily Dose on Thursday!}.

The short story is this, Adam and Eve disobeyed. They sinned. And God threw them out of the Garden. That beautiful garden filled with luscious vegetation that provided shade from the sparkling sun and soft green grass to lie down in and every sort of fruit and nourishment they could have ever needed and every creature ever created living together in harmony, and most importantly pure, endless communion with God.

That we would choose that one piece of fruit over everything that He was generously and lovingly offering. And from here the question inevitably arises as to whether or not He knew that we would choose that all along. We can argue that at another time.

God is forever hoping that we will choose Him
He was then, He is now.

But, Merriam said it well in her definition above. “Sin estranges us from God.” That is a fact. And so they had to go. And so it continues throughout all of history. Sin builds a wall between us and God.

Here’s the abridged version of the sin story…

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it...The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—  children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1 selected)

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools  and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.  They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,  slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;  they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.  Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:18-32)

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—  he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3)

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.  For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:18-19)

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.  What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6)

That, my friends, is only a sampling. The Bible has SO much more to say in regards to that little word, sin.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that sin is something you can remain neutral about. That good people don’t sin. That sin is something you can remain silent about or not really think about too often.
Sin is a big deal. A really, really big deal. Sin is inevitable in our world and inevitable in you. Sin has to be addressed in our lives.

I do understand that it’s heavy. It’s dark. It’s scary. It’s easier to avoid. But please, friends, be encouraged by what you read above. The fact is that sin is here. We chose it and now we have to live with it. The truth is that it is dark and ugly. But, the greater truth is that God is here too. He is hoping, ready and waiting for you to choose Him! He is light and He is beauty! He is present in the darkness and the temptation.

There is dark and there is light. There is sin and there is God. The choice is yours. It’s really very simple. It’s black and white.

The Daily Dose: Change for today

I’m going to be honest, when  I was a teenager, I was a tremendously selfish person. I was only interested in my hobbies and having fun. And I certainly wasn’t going out of my way for anyone but myself. But four years ago (when I was 22) my emotional and spiritual blindness was beginning to wear off. I was finally waking up. It was so strange to me, but it is one of the best things that has happened to me.

Often  people ask me how I can believe there is a loving and just God if He can allow evil and darkness to remain in our world. It’s a valid question. Something so many of us struggle with in our minds and hearts. For all of us, the only answer is clinging to Jesus. To the light and hope and freedom and justice that can only be found in Him. That the world is desperately craving.
We are daughters of God, His managers and ambassadors, called to be reflections of His love and grace in our context every day.

Do not let the sadness or suffering or darkness all around you stop you from living out that call.
Do not become paralyzed or trapped in pessimistic or fatalistic ways of thinking and perceiving the world. Promise yourself that you will be the change you want to see in your world.

Madai's life inspired me.
Her story changed and touched my heart profoundly.

At the age of  22, I made a decision to take action; to be part of the fight against human trafficking. To see an end to slavery in my generation. To stand for social justice.

It sounds intense. To some, even crazy. Perhaps impossible. Unattainable. BUT, I think God is longing to demonstrate his love and justice for each and every victim. He wants to demonstrate that love and justice through us.

So, what can we do!?
The problem is huge. Massive. Deeply rooted and complex? We are so small in comparison….

I know, it sounds so simple and passive, but that is where Satan gets us. Convincing us that prayer isn’t doing anything at all and thus convincing us not to pray; that we have to be doing something to make a difference. That, my friends, is a lie. A big, fat, lie. Prayer is our most powerful weapon!

Pray hope.
Pray light.
Pray joy.
Pray strength.
Pray for God to reveal Himself.
Pray love and truth.
Pray freedom.
Pray restoration.
Pray healing.

Make a stand and refuse to live in blindness and oblivion any longer. Refuse to look away, to remain quiet, to sit back simply because it doesn’t touch you personally or because you have no idea where or how to begin. Talk about it. Start conversation. Educate. Inform. POST IT ALL OVER SOCIAL MEDIA!

I now belong to a team that is committed to doing just that. An international organization THE A21 CAMPAIGN (A21) I am part of its official representation in Mexico and in the state as a member of Team A21 Jalisco. It is a great privilege, and it refreshes my soul to see more and more people- especially young people- from all over the globe joining together in this struggle for freedom, for justice.

We can be hope in hopeless situations and light in the darkest of places. We can be a voice for those who are voiceless. We believe we are a different generation, a generation that may see the end to modern slavery. Because when we finally break free from selfishness and allow God to expand our viewpoint, to break our heart for the things that break His, there is no telling how He will use us!
Pearls, let’s care about the things that God cares about, the things and the people that weigh heavy on His heart, and then let’s do something about it!

At A21 we have a motto that fascinates me and that resonates in my mind and heart. Today, I am offering it to you also.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, let your legacy be freedom! For all. For your sisters that you share a bedroom with and for those seven time zones away, your neighbor down the street and in a far away land, the children that play in your backyard and the ones across the ocean facing grown up things every single day. Say "No!" to selfishness and "Yes!" to unconditional love. Follow the example of Christ.

You were created to leave a legacy.
A legacy of freedom.
A legacy for Christ.

The Truth Project: Addressing Social Justice PT. 2

I looked into the eyes and heard the testimony of a Mexican girl- a victim of human trafficking.
Human Trafficking is our modern day slavery; the slavery plaguing our generation.
Human Trafficking is illegally trading human beings for the purposes of forced labor and sex trafficking, with an average victim being 12 years-old. Only 1-2% of victims ever find their freedom.
It sounds impossible, unimaginable, unfathomable, but the United Nations estimates that there are more than 27 million people being held as slaves worldwide.
Right now.
As you’re reading this article.

This girl, named Madai (she is my age, by the way) was betrayed by her pimp. She thought she was in love. She thought he was in love with her. And then he sold her into the sex trade. She attended to more than 30 clients each day. She was forced to be a sex slave in Mexico City when she was only 19 years old. She was able to escape her pimp and eventually renounce him. Now she lives a restored life and dedicates her life to speaking out, about, and against Human Trafficking in Mexico. When she shares her testimony, she recounts seeing little kids- boys and girls- teenagers and women being exploited and used as merchandise, again and again.

How is it humanly possible to sell another human? To exploit a person for the gaining of power and money? Why do so many of us ignore the problem? Why haven’t more of us stood up for those who are suffering, for those without a voice?

While the Bible does not explicitly mention Human Trafficking, it does have much to say regarding social justice and righteousness. A great passage of scripture for us to reference on this subject comes from Isaiah 42:1-7.
Have you ever wondered what you can do about it; if the Bible has anything to say about you having a part in social justice? Jeremiah 22:3 tells us:

And in Micah 6:8:

And the million dollar question: Why on earth does God stand by and let it happen? If He is able to stop it, why won’t He? What is He doing about it?
If we read more from the prophet Isaiah, we see that God is in fact doing a whole lot about it. And, if we do not become engaged in carrying out justice in our world, He will enact His own justice.
In other words, if we don’t act, He will.
Every 30 seconds, another person becomes a victim of human trafficking.

In the time it took you to read this article, at least 10 people were robbed of their freedom.

The average person sells for $90

In many places, the very people who should be protecting and rescuing these victims are the ones most responsible for exploiting them.

These are the facts.
What will you do with them?

The Truth Project: Addressing Social Justice

As the child of minister/missionary parents, I grew up having slightly different materials read to me than most of my peers. At bedtime, my mom used to read to my younger siblings and I from a series of books called Hero Tales, which consisted of true stories from the lives of missionaries and other Christian workers of the past, abridged for the benefit of children.  There were fascinating accounts about Gladys Aylward, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Hudson Taylor, and others who sacrificed greatly in their efforts to spread the message of Jesus.

As I grew a little older, I began to read lengthier biographies about some of these people. One in particular that I have returned to through the years is The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. In case you're unfamiliar with her story, Corrie was a Dutch woman who lived during the Nazis' rise and fall. As Holland became increasingly dangerous for Jewish people, she and her family, who were devout Christians, began to take in and hide Jews in their home. Eventually, Corrie and her family were caught and sent to concentration camps. When Corrie's father Casper, who was quite elderly, was told by a Nazi official that he could be released if he promised not to take in any more Jewish people, he replied, "If I go home today, tomorrow I will open my door to anyone who knocks for help."
The Ten Boom family believed that all people were created in God's image and therefore were inherently valuable and equal. They also believed in a God whose love is so great that He gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. For them, these beliefs were not just theoretical. They were willing to give up their personal safety and endanger their own lives to save the lives of others.

Although the setting and situations are different, God and His Word remain the same. The Bible clearly teaches us that all humans are valuable to God, and that at the greatest personal cost, He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Very rarely, Romans tells us, will a person die for someone else; yet God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Furthermore, we are shown in scripture that we who are followers of Jesus are to extend this same sacrificial love to others. 1 John 4 refers to Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf, telling us in verse 11, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." There is no caveat, no footnote accompanying this verse.

However, as I witness the attitudes that many of us have adopted towards refugees (and others who are in need), it often seems as if we think that the Bible should have made exceptions to those passages: "Love one another in the same sacrificial manner that Jesus loved you...unless your personal safety or comfort is called into question. Then, by all means, keep your distance."

Perhaps we think we have our reasons. We've all heard the arguments against allowing refugees into our countries, with comments such as, "They should stay in their own country and fight", "The safety of my children is more important", "But some of them are/may be terrorists!", and my personal favorite, "They can't really be refugees. They have cell phones and are seen here taking a selfie!" (As if the person making the comment would really leave their cell phone at home in the event that they were forced to run for their life.)

I lived in Greece for a year and a half, and in late August 2015, the team that I worked with and I drove up to the border between Greece and FYROM (also called Macedonia). We had heard that thousands of refugees had begun coming through the Greek border each day, so we went to see for ourselves. I'll never forget driving up to that border for the first time. We passed families with small children making their way towards it on the roads as we approached. When we finally stopped, there, spread out on the fields and train tracks before us, were thousands of men, women and children. They had the few belongings they could take with them, and had no shelter from the rain that had been present that week.

One of the first people that I had the chance to talk to, out of those thousands, was a young man about my own age from Syria. He described how he had been employed in a good job as an English teacher, when the militant Islamic army had tried to force him to join. He knew that he would either have to begin killing others for the army or be killed by them. He told me, "My life changed in a moment, and I had to decide: war, death, or escape. All I have now is the hope of a peaceful future somewhere in Europe." He described how being forced to flee his own country and being turned away from other Arab countries had made him feel as though he was no longer human. "You and your friends are the first people I have met on my journey that have treated me like a person," he told me.

As heartbreaking as his story was, I quickly learned over the coming months that it was not unique to him. I met many more men who had experienced the same thing. I met mothers and fathers - some of the mothers pregnant, some of the fathers carrying tiny babies, and many with several small children - who, after other family members had been killed, had realized that their only hope was to take their children and run. I hugged and prayed for little boys whose fathers had drowned the day before while crossing the sea on a flimsy plastic boat (another all-too common experience for thousands of refugees). I heard the stories of Christians who had fled persecution, knowing that they would be killed if they stayed in their home countries. I witnessed desperation up close when the border was closed to everyone except for three people groups, and thousands of refugees were stuck at an increasingly cold and dangerous camp for weeks.

Yet these same people, who had experienced all of this destruction and death, welcomed us around their campfires, helped us with organizing groups of people that would be crossing, picking up trash, passing out food, and much more. They shared their limited food with us (I'll never forget in mid December when a friend of ours from Iran exclaimed "potato party!" and proceeded to cook his potatoes on a fire and pass them out to us), laughed with us, took selfies with us, cried with us, and became our friend. Again and again I was amazed at the kindness, hospitality, resilience and love of the refugees I met.

After the terrorist attacks happened in Paris, I began getting concerned messages from time to time from friends. "Be careful," they would write. "One of the attackers came through the Greek camp you're at." I knew that their warnings came from a place of love and concern for me.

However, I can't help but contrast the mindset of so many of us with that of Corrie Ten Boom and her family. "Our safety is more important," we say (or think), while Corrie and others like her understood that loving like Jesus means sacrificing so that others may be safe, loved, and have life. Our position is in no way as dangerous as hers was, but the imperative placed on us is no different. We have before us the opportunity to extend love to people who, through no fault of their own, have been made outcasts and have had to endure horrors that few of us can fathom.

How are we going to respond?

You might not be able to get on a plane and go to a refugee camp, but I promise you that there are families near you that have immigrated here under difficult conditions. You can find ways to serve and befriend them. You can also give to organizations that are helping on the front lines, such as Convoy of Hope, the A21 Campaign, UNHCR, and others. Let's not be people who are silent and complacent while others are suffering. Let's be people who love through both words and actions.

The Truth Project

Maybe these are questions that you have wrestled with your entire life. Or, maybe these are questions you have never consciously asked yourself before this moment. But, the fact of the matter is, we all have to ask them at some point. We all have to make a choice about truth. As Christians, our very existence depends upon truth: do we believe in Jesus? And if Jesus is not truth, then we serve nothing and become nothing.

Whether you know your views on truth or not, we all come to understand truth through our own worldview. Our worldview is shaped by our culture, family, and experiences. Even if you have never thought about your own worldview or really even understand what it is, you have one. We all have one. We all look at the world with unique lenses and we come to understand the world through these lenses. This is why ten people can read the same book, but can understand it in ten different ways and walk away with ten different sets of ideas. Our worldview shapes how we make decisions in every aspect of our lives, and our worldview is also why we can find other people’s choices strange or unusual. Our culture is very independent, and we base many of our choices on what is best for ourselves; other cultures are more communally based and they make decisions on what is best for their entire family or community.

Taking that into account, we at The Pearl Press want to help you, our reader, better understand your own worldview as Christian woman. For that reason we will spend the next four months walking through The Truth Project, discussing topics such as sin, marriage, racism, sexuality, money, healing, and social justice. To accomplish this, we will be changing up the formatting of The Pearl Press.
(Shakin it up.. or mixin’ things up if you will!)

Every Sunday we will focus our on the exploration of  biblical understanding on each topic. Our hope is that this will help you begin to understand and even further develop your own worldview by looking in the Word of God. We are not trying to force you into agreement with our understanding of the truth, but we want to present you with what the Bible has to say about each of our topics and let you make a decision and come to your own conclusions based on that information. Following Sunday’s post, we will then share on Thursday our own stories regarding each topic and show you the various ways that each of them could impact your life and why this topic matters in regards to your own worldview understanding.

Our ultimate goal with The Truth Project is to help you confront and work through some hot topics in culture today and even within Christian circles. We want to empower you to come to a greater understanding of these topics and hopefully encourage you to engage with the people around you. I know that for a long time, I shied away from talking with people about certain topics because I felt I didn’t have the understanding or education to address the matters they were speaking of. I didn’t know what the Bible said about homosexuality or gender roles or what it meant to participate in social justice. I felt excluded from certain groups because I had nothing to contribute to their discussions. I couldn’t engage with non-Christians because I had nothing to counter their claims, and some Christians saw me as ignorant because I didn’t have a strong enough opinion on certain matters.

We are praying that through The Truth Project, you will not have to suffer as I have in the past. That you will walk away feeling equipped to confront the culture you live in every single day.To create a space where you can engage and dig into these topics with us. A safe place to express your opinions as well. We want to hear from you over the next weeks and months! PLEASE feel free to share your thoughts and ideas as we work through these topics. And don’t be afraid to challenge the thoughts and ideas that we share each week!  We want to be forever cultivating souls here at The Pearl Press and the best way to do that is together!

We hope that at the end of The Truth Project, you will have come to better know truth as it is presented in the Bible and make that truth a fundamental part of your life. Knowing God is knowing truth.