True and Better

[copyright for video and script in link]

The Bible is not a a series of a disconnected stories.

It is a single narrative in which every story, every character points beyond itself to one who is greater.

The story of Adam and Eve is not just about the first man and woman…. there is a true and better Adam who passed the test in the Garden and who obedience is ascribed to us.

There is a true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood that cries out, not for our condemnation, but for our acquittal.

There is a true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go out into the void to create a new people of God.

There is a true and better Isaac, the son of laughter, of grace, who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us all.

There is a true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace that wake us up and discipline us.

There is a true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save them.

There is a true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.

There is a true and better Rock of Moses who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in the desert.

There is a true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who then intercedes for and saves his foolish friends.

There is a true and better David whose victory becomes his people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.

There is a true and better Esther who didn’t just risk losing an earthly palace but lost the ultimate heavenly one, who didn’t just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people.

There is a true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so that we could be brought in.

There is a true and better Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so the angel of death will pass over us. He’s the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, and the true bread.

The Bible is not a series of disconnected stories.

It is a single narrative that points to one person…

Jesus.

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Learning through busyness…

If I have learned anything this past year…I have been way too busy.

Let’s rewind.

A year ago, this month, I resigned from my church position at my former church where my parents pastor. A year ago I felt lost looking for what I was made to do. A year ago I was desperate, had a bad attitude, disappointed, frustrated, and an array of other emotions.
A year ago, I was humbled.

You see, when September of last year rolled around, I was without a home church, without a career, I was only a barista, struggling to pay rent and barely able to pay bills. I had no direction. I had no idea what the next few months, or even year would look like. Part of the purpose of me resigning from a secure job was that I was certain I was about to hired at a job in FL, where they ended up hiring within the department, thus not hiring me. Before finding out that I did not get the job officially, I had already put in my resignation at my church. So two weeks after my resignation was in effect, I found out that the University went another direction. I was frustrated, saddened, and honestly mad. I couldn’t understand why God led me to resign from my position and not give me the job I wanted.

Yeah, because we always know best, right?

One of the most humbling experiences for me took place over the course of the 3 months to follow my resignation. I had to move out of my apartment which I loved. I had to move back in with my parents after having lived on my own for a few years. I was applying to jobs seemingly every free moment I had with hopes of, at least, an interview. Nothing. Nada. Zip. By the time December came, I had received nearly 100 job rejection letters, emails, or calls, not counting all the jobs I didn’t hear back from. To make it worse, I got into my first car accident [as the driver] when a 90 year old lady drove into me causing nearly $800 of damage. The crazy thing about the accident is that it happened on my way home from the church I was attending, only an hour or so after I had been convicted about my lack of faith in God’s direction for my life. I admit, my faith was still present, but most certainly was struggling. I finally decided, through conviction of my attitude and faith, that I was not trusting God and I desperately needed to let Him make things happen. That has become my anthem these past 8 or 9 months:

let him make things happen….

Within two weeks of my accident, a friend called me with an offer to work at his church during the transition of leadership. I knew God opened a door, despite my not necessarily wanting to walk through it. But I did anyway, and I have yet to regret that decision. During this whole year thus far, I have helped lead The Warehouse, a place for teens to come out, have community, have tons of fun, while learning about Jesus. Who knew that a prayer prayed long ago (that story is for another time) could be answered in a simple yes to fill in a role at a church. I have preached in services, done Sunday school, helped with events, connected with 50+ students and been able to learn from a youth leadership team unlike any I have ever seen. I have learned, not mastered, working with special needs students and with that my patience has grown exponentially. Aside from living almost an hour away from this church, I love it. The drives to and from church have become, most of the time, a time for prayer and thinking. But with the church and the busyness it added to my already busy schedule, has been a part of something to learn from about myself.
I like being busy. I know myself…If I have nothing to do, I’ll do nothing. So when I could work 40 hours a week as a barista and 20+ hours at the church not to mention side work with non-profit or other ministry commitments, my schedule has been packed. I have lacked a social life. I have (for a long time) lack a dating life. My sleep schedule is so completely thrown off. My workout schedule has become something that has dropped severely on my priority list. I can feel in my body the exhaustion of my life this past year. I can feel it physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. About a month and a half ago, I was told something by a guest pastor that has changed my thinking….I realized something that kind of broke my heart a little. I had become too busy for God and what he was wanting to do. I had allowed the blessing of working at this church become my focus, and not thinking that this church was one facet of my story. One chapter had become the whole. I was told by this pastor “Don’t be too busy that you miss what God is already doing” (paired with specifics on what’s been going on in my life). That felt like a knife to my heart because I knew it was true. I knew he spoke truth, despite not knowing me at all or understanding my situation. But he was completely right. Somewhere along the path this past 8 months, I had allowed my schedule and jobs to dictate my calling and direction for my life, rather than allowing my relationship with God and prayer life dictate and direct my life. I was missing something. I very easily could have missed what God was doing.

So here I am, almost one year from my resigning from my former church, about to embark on the next step of transition: back to square one. This time, my attitude is better. This time, I know that anything that happens, God gets the credit, not me. This time, I know to be true that God has not forgotten my desires or passions nor my talents. I am learning to take a step back and allow myself to rest. I am learning to not be so consumed with a busy schedule that I’m lacking in spending some time in peace and quiet reading the Bible, learning God’s heart for things, praying, and journaling. Heck, I have even written a blog in 3 months (that’d probably explain the length of this blog).

Though this past year has taught me so much, I know that it is not in vain. I can’t change my apathy or laziness physically or spiritually the past few months, but I can change everything now. Yes, I love the church I’ve been at and I genuinely love working at Starbucks. I love the non-profits I’m a part of and I love my young adult group. But there has to be balance, otherwise you’re just filling your life with chaos and noise and appointments, disguising the voice of God in the midst. My challenge to you, as speaking from someone who has been painfully humbled through this year, don’t get yourself so busy that you’re forgetting and missing out on what God is doing. Its not even about what He will do, but what is also doing currently. Don’t let your job, ministry, other commitments, even your family, hinder your time with God. Don’t let anything mess that up, because if you distract yourself from your relationship with God, everything else can and will be affected. Allow for time within your busyness to spend adequate time in prayer and reading the Bible, and listening for what God might be teaching or showing you now. Sometimes, we just need some silence. Sometimes we just need some peace. Sometimes, we just need to, in the midst of chaos, find the one constant that is always and will always be present.

I don’t know what the next part of my story holds, but I know one thing for certain: I want God to make it happen and bring me along.

something to think about

Below is a quote from a webinar I listened to earlier in the week. This specific segment hit me hard. Pastors, we always have to remember the whole point of what we are doing. If we lose focus, maybe we should get out of ministry.

 

“You’re trying to be cool? You’re trying to be a celebrity? Let me get this straight. The mind you have belongs to Jesus. The gospel you preach belongs to Jesus. The people you serve belong to Jesus. And you have the audacity to use and pimp and prostitute them for your successes and book advances? Anathema…that is a spiritual crime. Are you kidding me? Jesus said the greatest among you is a servant. And he put a towel around his waist and he washed the feet of his disciples who would abandon him in just a few you hours. Are you kidding me? You don’t have time to interact with people? Being a shepherd and pastor means you smell like sheep . They actually know you and you know them. I do not understand it. It is an absolute joke. I think there are a lot of people who would be picked last on a sports team. And now they see they have a gift and its like ‘its my time to shine’….No its only one person’s time to shine and that’s Jesus.” – Derwin Gray

I’ve learned. Jesus loves _________.

Yet another weekend was spent at Exxxotica….an adult convention aka porn show. No I was not attending. No I was not there to meet my favorite porn star or get the latest pleasure items. I was there in the middle of all the adult materials and booths at a neon 20 ft. by 20 ft. booth. Branded with the name “Jesus Loves Porn Stars”, once more we made a statement loud and clear. People who have attended Exxxotica or any of the major adult conventions in the US have probably seen our booths before. We are not new to this. We are not amateurs.

xxxChurch has been doing this for a decade

…and we do it well.

Surrounded by sex toys, lingerie, nearly nude ladies and gents, stripper poles, cages, and many other things, we were at Exxxotica for one purpose: we firmly believe Jesus loves people. But I want to take it one step further. Jesus loves people- all of us- but he loves us way to much to want us to stay the same. We were made for more. We were made for better. We were made for far greater than the purpose we are living now. I couldn’t help but think of those attending the porn show as well as those working at Exxxotica. There were moms, dads, teachers, students, baristas [myself included], servers, designers, photographers, and tons of other types of people. There were single, married, engaged, straight, gay, swinger, and I’m sure the pedophile or molester [there were thousands of people].

We don’t go to these adult conventions or have our resources online for the sake of just telling people that Jesus loves them. YES that is a major part and core of what we believe. It is something we deeply believe. However, I think there is another facet to what we do under the surface. We are all made for more because God- our creator- has purposed us for greater… but we have to want it. We have to want him. I know people who were at Exxxotica enjoy their jobs. Maybe some don’t. I’m sure the attendees at it were mixed as well. But if I’ve learned anything, people are humans and we are fractured and broken without Jesus Christ. I don’t know how I could make it through life without my steadfast and firm belief in His love for me.

He offers redemption.
He offers restoration.
I don’t have to fix me. His love changes me.

And I am new.

No matter what anyone has done, his love is for them. Nothing we do or have ever done can prohibit his love from reaching us. I saw such an overwhelming image of that love while at Exxxotica. So many people there express how they don’t think God could love them. Others, shrugged and ignored it. Still others stood there for a moment pondering the statement “Jesus Loves Porn Stars”, all the while proceeding to insert their own name or profession into that statement.

Jesus loves accountants.
Jesus loves adulterers.
Jesus loves gossips.
Jesus loves murderers.
Jesus loves baristas.
Jesus loves football players.
Jesus loves gays.
Jesus loves politicians.
Jesus loves moms. 

Jesus loves _____________. Fill in anything there and Jesus loves. The point is that while, yes, we were in an adult convention surrounded by a hyper-sexualized and pornographic world, I saw God’s love- Jesus’ love- there in the midst. Why? Because he didn’t just die on the cross just for the religious. He didn’t die on the cross for the good. He didn’t die on the cross for those that were whole. He died for you and for me and for them. All of us have brokenness. All of us are not good enough and can’t be good enough to earn his love. He gives it freely. He died for all of us to have a chance a new life, new hope, restoration, forgiveness, and to live free! Only then, when we accept his love for us, do we change, do we become new, and do we begin to live lives that honor his sacrifice for us. But we have to start somewhere, and that somewhere is recognizing our brokenness and need for Him. He loves you and so deeply wants you to understand that.

His brokenness brings our wholeness.

 

Beyond Samaria.

Arriving to Toronto, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. This trip and convention, I was told, would be much different than the Atlantic City Exxxotica. This was “Everything to do with Sex”  and it would be large still but geared toward couples. I had no clue what that could mean.  All I knew for certain was: Jesus loves people and I was there, in Toronto, at that convention, to share the love of Jesus to people and patrons of the sex industry.

Over the course of three days, we encountered thousands of people. Some were with their boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse. Others were with their partner. Still others were alone. There were all sorts of costumes and personality in the wardrobes present at the show. Calendar men (firefighters specifically), Hustler girls wore their booty branded undies and tops, several body-painted ladies wore….body paint, dancers and strippers of the industry walked around in the latest lingerie and pasty fashions, while still others wore the best burlesque they could. And of course, don’t forget “Thong Man”- the 70+ senior citizen who changed his thong outfit every hour- police, Rambo, army, energizer bunny…. I’m sure he has dozens of different thonged outfits. Who knows where he buys them.  Everything pornographic from couples to dungeon had a booth, though still most gearing their audience for couples. But don’t worry… there were booths for tattoos, body-casting art, back massage chairs, travel Toronto, boots, dresses, and even food trucks! Plenty of fun stuff right? I’m not gonna lie… I bought a crepe from one of the venders. No shame at all. It was delicious.

In the middle of all of that there was xxxChurch. Surrounded by adult toys, sex therapists, and lingerie, we had our neon colored hippy-esque booth. We gave the industry girls gift bags, bottles of water, and tanks. For three days we handed out 2,000 Bibles [book of John actually] and 3,000 stickers. The hot pink “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” stickers were the attention grabbers and hot commodity of the weekend… other than the porn.  But we got attention. We got everything from confused looks to giggles but often immediate questions on what we were exactly.

That is the point.

In an environment where so many people have been rejected by Christians, here we were xxxChurch in all our neon glory, with a 20 foot booth inviting people to ask the real question they ALL wanted answered… Does Jesus really love porn stars? Does Jesus really love… me? Even though I’ve done [fill in the blank]? So many people wanted to know the love we offered freely. The love that was not condemning, judging or critical. Yes we were and always are honest about what we believe about pornography, sexuality, and God however, the first step we try to stick with is just letting people know that Jesus loves them.  No one in that convention hall was less than enough for God. None were less worthy than myself or anyone else. Not one person has done enough “bad” for Him to reject them. That is the beauty of grace and forgiveness.

By offering love and grace first, it opened so may doors for conversations for people to want to know about God. Between theological discussions and debates to confessions of wanting more to honest conversation on desiring God, we were the Church in the middle of a sex and porn convention.  I can’t help but think of Jesus going to the land of Samaria. He had to go to through Samaria even though he actually had another route option. Instead he chose to go to a city Jews avoided to go to a well that no one acceptable would be at during that time of day to speak to a woman who was a known mistress to many. The Samaritans were bi-racial outcasts of society. And even in their being an outcast, Jesus met this woman who was even more of an outcast because of her sexual behaviors. Jesus chose to show love and kindness to this woman. He chose to meet her where she was not ask her to change everything first. After their discussion furthered he offered something more… forgiveness and new life.  The beauty of the story is that Jesus’ love changed this woman, not the woman changing for him first. His love- unconditional, redeeming, perfect love- was this reason she changed her life and started living different. It was the reason she ran back into town to tell everyone she knew about Jesus.  (read John 4)

xxxChurch goes to these conventions to offer that first step. We go to an area most Christians avoid either because they are critical or because they don’t know what to do in that kind of environment. We go to a group of people, though often glamorized, are still largely deemed by society as nothing less than a lay, a mental image to find gratification, and another person to call a name. We offer nothing but love and kindness to everyone in the building. Of course we want people to know Jesus personally, but its not our job to convert. Its our job to be the Church and love of Jesus, and his job to do the rest. At the end of the weekend, I had such joy in my heart. I know many of those people from this weekend’s convention want to know more. They want to find freedom from addiction. Some might seek restoration for their marriage. Some might want to know Jesus personally rather than just a cuss word. Some might want out of the industry. All I know is that there are a few thousand people that can’t deny that they were told and shown a love that is rare. One worth dying for. One worth going to Samaria for. One worth giving everything for.

[title credit to Sue]

A problem with the Church [and my response to ministry criticism]

I have to say that going into this weekend, though I was extremely excited, there was a bit of discouragement that stayed with me.

On Thursday morning I posted a status that spoke about how I was leaving for Toronto later that day. This was my status:
“Today I leave for Toronto to work with xxxChurch at another porn convention. I know for those that are not aware of who/what xxxChurch is, us going to to a porn convention is strange. We are a non-profit that simply wants to help those with sexual addictions as well as tell those who work in and for the sex industry that someone- God- loves them. No matter who you are, you are enough for God. If you want more info ask me or check out xxxchurch.com”.

This Facebook status led to so many people commenting with encouraging words, sending me texts, etc. because they were so happy that someone, a fellow Christian, was going into areas of our world and culture that so many Christians avoid because they have no idea how to outreach to people of the sex industry. However, to my dismay and discouragement, I had one person who questioned the minsitry. What started off as simple questions seemed to evolve into borderline criticism and judgment of the methods of xxxChurch. After a few very clear and polite responses on Facebook- and everyone still being civil- I asked for the conversation to be continued not on social media as conversations can often be misinterpreted and taken out of context.

Now let me just preface this before I continue. As I was getting the comments via Facebook I was on my iPhone minutes away from boarding my plane to Toronto, where I would not have service and would have only limited wifi [Canada surely needs to work on their wifi]. As I am waiting to hear my standby ticket called, I was, to the best of my ability, trying to respond politely, clearly, and correctly as possible. I am sure I could have done a little bit better of a job.

However, after having reread my comments and the later private message with this person, I found myself to have responded exactly as I tried.  What left me discouraged is that this individual did not let the conversation end via the comments on the status. This person, despite my desire to continue to the conversation later in person, privately messaged me their opinions on the ministry and my beliefs. She continued to throwing questions at me, disregarding my desire to speak later as I was literally about to board my flight. She seemingly got a bit more intense and even borderline bullying in her responses. Now granted, I know this person more as an acquaintance, but we have dialogued on the ministry I have been working with.  She was not at all against me or other Christians going to adult industry conventions or strip clubs to do ministry. She was not against us sharing Jesus with people who’ve often never heard of him loving them. What she had a problem with was that with xxxChurch and the other non-profits I am involved with, is that we rarely get to see major conversions of people coming to know Jesus. We have limited time with people at strip clubs, porn shows, etc. Rather than picketing or judging people and telling them they need to repent [that comes later], we want to send one very clear message: Jesus loves _______. With xxxChurch, we fill the blank in with Porn Stars. Jesus loves people, plain and simple. Once we can tell people that Jesus loves them, if they want to or if we feel God nudging us to go deeper, we then share more of the Gospel.

With these kinds of events, we literally have 30 seconds or less with people. We hand them a Bible and say Jesus loves them. We make a choice- tell the love of a God who wants to redeem and restore them or preach repentance and conversion. This is where the individual from Facebook disagreed. I totally understand what she was saying. Repentance is necessary for being a believer in Christ. We must confess our wrongdoings and sin, believe in Jesus and turn our lives toward Him. Totally get it. Totally believe it.  I felt as though this individual would not listen to me once I said our first priority is not speaking repentance. This was actually not the first time we had discussed this ministry. She always seemed mostly supportive but also somewhat critical. Being critical is not necessary wrong as long one learns that we are just as Bible based, gospel-centered as so many churches, ministries or other non-profits. Our methods may look different, but we do not dumb down or distort the Gospel or need for Christ.

It saddened me that once I got to Toronto and was able to check email and Facebook, I saw that this individual deleted all of her comments from my status, blocked me via Facebook and deleted all other contact from me. This woman is a Christian and it broke my heart that she was [and is] allowing such dissension among believers. We are both the Church- the body of Christ- and yet I feel as though she has written not only me off, but so many other people who have ministry that doesn’t look like hers. I believe her intentions were good, but response and reaction definitely did not show the same.

If you, blocked Facebook friend, read this blog somehow, I want you to understand one thing: I love Jesus, I believe he loves people no matter who they are and what they have done. I believe that Jesus can and will redeem anyone that seeks forgiveness and salvation. There is new life in him. I am sorry if you got offended at my not backing down from your criticism. Forgive me if I was harsh or lacked eloquence or clarity in how I explained the ministry. I am sorry if I offended you and especially if I was wrong about calling you hostile, a bully, or condemning- that was the very reason why I believe these kind of discussions should not take place without being in person. I am sincerely sorry for any offense as that was not my intention. I thank you for being bold enough to want to hold other Christians accountable, but please understand that this ministry is legitimate and true to the Word.  We are Jesus going to Samaria. We are the disciples going to the poor. We are Paul speaking to those with the Unknown god. Please don’t be so quick to shut out ministries that have different methods so long as they preach the same salvation through Jesus.

To other pastors, Christians, ministry leaders who read this: don’t be afraid to take a stand for what is right according to God’s Word, but don’t be too proud to admit if you are wrong, critical, or judgmental of another’s ministry. Be the Church, regardless of denomination, gender, or age. Be Jesus’ loving eyes, smile, arms, hands, and feet. Let God’s Word resonate throughout everything you do, be humble enough if you are wrong, and be steadfast in your beliefs.

JJ’s story. {Jesus Loves Porns Star, Pt. 2}

I figure one blog post about this weekend was not going to be enough to explain what I experienced. So much happened in so little time that I have to decompress and really think about it all. I met so many people this weekend, probably most of which I will never see again. They will continue on with their lives and may even forget that they met me, the short, blonde, non-porn star at the Jesus booth at the eXXXotica porn convention. But there are a few… just a few that I pray to God I get to see again. I pray that I can encounter them somewhere, even at the next eXXXotica later this year. I have their names written down with descriptions in case I forget them, though I doubt I will. With all the people- the hundreds of people I personally met this weekend, there was only one person that had me thinking about beyond just hoping they open the Bible and read it. Let me preface this for a second… I was not thinking about him sexually, romantically or any other way that someone could turn my words around. I can’t fully explain it, I just know… there was something about JJ.

JJ. John.

The story of meeting JJ actually starting by meeting Jason [I think]. So let me start from the beginning:

Sunday evening the expo started to wrap things up and crowds were dwindling down. It was actually a common occurrence when guys would walk to our XXXchurch booth and flirt with the girls [me being one of them] hoping to get one or more of us to go out with them later. So with our booth being empty of passers-by and a lot of our team, two guys walked toward my friend and I to, of course, find out if we were indeed porn stars. Surprised by their lack of disappointment, they proceeded to ask my friend and I to the club and bar after we tore down our booth. After some small talk I asked for their names. The first, and most talkative of the two, proclaimed that his name was Jason. He then said “this is my friend John”… to which John heard and jokingly responded “you told them my real name?” I couldn’t help by  laugh. To some level John was trying to hide his real name from the people he was meeting at the expo. His real name was John, but he introduced himself to me as JJ. So having met Jason and John I introduced myself as Mandy, however, I did tell John that he could call me MJ. It may sound simple but on some small level I was trying to relate with him.

I don’t know JJ or Jason’s stories. I don’t know their backgrounds. But there were a few things I could pick up on based on our 10 minute conversation. We gave each of them a “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” book (Bible) and then slapped stickers on their arms and chests. It was actually the typical reaction to every guy that came by our booth. Women too for that matter. But something here was different. I noticed that Jason controlled the conversation, which isn’t necessarily bad. He was excited to be at the expo because as he proclaimed, he also loves porn stars and sex. He loves to drink and party. For at least 5 to 10 minutes he tried impressing my friend and I with his stories of drunken ridiculousness: having to walk 10 or so miles because he didn’t have a ride, breaking things while drunk, etc. JJ stood and listened, occasionally responding with a comment, but for the most part he let Jason speak. And speak. And speak. I was definitely not annoyed nor did I feel uncomfortable. Also, to point out, I was not impressed by his stories, though he was definitely a funny story teller. I noticed that every time we would share something about Jesus or XXXchurch, especially porn addiction, he would have to change the subject to something else he has done. What I found interesting was that the moment his phone rang, he walked away leaving JJ behind.

That is when things became a little more real. JJ and I were left alone at one corner of our XXXchurch booth to chat and I am honestly so glad. The moment Jason had walked away, I felt like suddenly JJ opened up and wanted to talk more about XXXchurch and porn addiction. Eventually the conversation even found its way to why I have become a part of XXXchurch. He was amazed at the truth behind porn addiction. He was challenged by the fact that I was simply at the convention, unthreatened nor freaked out, just to tell people that Jesus loved them, even them. The whole time JJ and I were talking, I had this gut feeling, almost like God was speaking into my heart from his (JJ’s). I felt like JJ wanted more… more than sex, more than porn, more than partying. Just more. More depth, more love, more truth. It didn’t even seem like JJ wanted to be there, at the expo. He explained some of his story to me- where he went to college, what he does now, and how he is trying to figure things out for what’s next. He wanted to know my story. He let me talk. He invited me into his world, not to get laid, not be like so many of the guys at the expo, but to know more about my world and Jesus. He was so incredibly nice and respectful. Ironically, I’d even go as far to say gentlemanly.

Whatever his story is in the details I don’t know, I know this: Jesus loves JJ.  At the end of the conversation I wish I had given him some form of contact information. I know that there was and is something tugging at his heart. I can’t explain it, I just know. For what its worth, I hope JJ knows that Jesus loves him, that his story isn’t over, that God has more for him. All I know is that JJ is from Brigantine, went to F.I.T. and now makes  furniture down the shore. Those are the details he told me, but that’s definitely not all I know. I pray that somewhere, some way I can reconnect with him. I pray that somehow our paths will cross again. He has the XXXchurch book “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” which actually has contact info inside… I hope and pray he not only reads the book, but contacts XXXchurch; that he finds the love of Jesus to be deeply true, that his life can be greater than ever imagined.

So to you JJ, I pray for you. I have been since I met you on Sunday. I have been intentionally praying that you discover who Jesus really is and can be for you! I pray that you read the Bible and contact us. I pray that we meet again and that when we do, we can have honest conversation again and you can tell me how Jesus loves you and that you have your hope in Him. But no matter what happens, I will pray for you.

Jesus loves you JJ.

Jesus Loves Porn Stars.

[I’d love for you to read this update, but please know, I am not using a filter nor am I dumbing down what I experienced for the sake of offensive material]

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I signed up. All I knew was that I was going to Atlantic City for eXXXotica… the nation’s largest adult entertainment expo. Let me put it more simply: I knew I was going to a large porn convention. I am a Christian and I love Jesus. Because I love Jesus, I also love people. It doesn’t matter who they are or where they come from…I just love them. That was my motivation behind going to eXXXotica. Myself and a dozen others went with an organization called XXXchurch, a non-profit designed to reach out to those in the sex industry and their patrons. We simply went to tell people one message: Jesus loves them.

For three days, my surroundings were x-rated.  Upon entering the main doors, “hotties” greet you, dressed in 6″ heels, a g-string, and pasties barely covering the nipples. That was not an uncommon scene. In fact, most of the “hotties” and “entertainers” wore something similar-  minimal clothing,  high heels, and glitzed makeup. The exhibitors at the expo were set up just like any job fair, festival, marketplace… the difference being the  material in which they sold or advertised. Nearly every table would greet the guests of the expo with nearly naked women [and some men], x-rated materials of hardcore and softcore pornography, and of course… giveaways and freebies of their merchandise. Fetishes of all sorts were present-Dungeon and S&M sex fetishes were actually a large area of the venue. People could meet and get pictures with their favorite strippers, porn stars, and other lady entertainers. Tables everywhere were selling dildoes, various forms of vibrators, condoms, flavored condoms, lotions and sensual massage oils. Don’t forget the “lolli-cock” stand… chocolate and fruity flavored lollipops in the shape of varying sizes of penises. In case anyone wanted to test their balance skills paired with sexual pleasure they could also jump onto the mechanical penis… basically a mechanical bull but not a bull. The other  option was the pleasurable see-saw which we were lucky enough to have right next to our booth of XXXchurch.  With exhibitors to met every fantasy, lust, fetish, and more, every person coming to  eXXXotica would leave happier than when they came in…

Surely not an environment for the easily offended or the prude. Good thing I’m neither.

And yet… Jesus loves them. Yes even them.

How dare we, the collective Church, believe that the love of Jesus cannot extend to those of this industry. Jesus loves the strippers, the go-go girls, porn producers, porn stars, escorts, and don’t forget the consumers and patrons. The moment we start thinking Jesus can’t or won’t love someone is the moment we have missed His heart. It is the moment we have missed everything He lived and died for; His reason for everything is love. Not the grotesque display of love as shown at an expo like eXXXotica, but a love that goes deep, that is intimate, that is real, that is tangible and that changes your life forever. That love infiltrates the darkness. By XXXchurch being present at eXXXotica in Atlantic City, we brought forth the light of Jesus’ love into a world deemed unfit and unworthy by so many in the Church. With scrutiny by Christians, we proceeded to be present. We proceeded to tell people that Jesus does IN FACT love porn stars and everyone else associated with the industry. Jesus loves them all. I’ll take it an even further step… Jesus loves even the child pornographer. The rapist. The molester. The trafficker. The pimp. He loves every single person that I saw walk through those front doors passed the “hotties” with the pasties and the mechanical penis. He loves every single one of the ladies walking around in their 6″ heels. He loves every single porn producer selling their merchandise. His love goes deeper.

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In the midst of the hypersexualized environment that I had voluntarily placed myself, I and my friends of XXXchurch gave out books called “Jesus Loves Porn Stars”.  They were actually the Gospel of John with stories of people from the sex industry mixed in, people that discovered how true His love really was for them. We gave those brightly colored books to anyone who would take them. People love free stuff, so we gave it to them along with HOT Pink “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” stickers. In fact people loved the stickers so much they kept coming back for them. We would stick it on their arms, chest, even butts… and for the ladies.. the boobs on top of their clothes or their pasties. But the point was that we were walking into their lives, their turf and were not afraid and not backing down. We don’t go to convert everyone. We went to share His love and let His love do the rest. I know there were so many people that didn’t get the books, either from refusing to take it or just not stopping by our booth. But there were those… the ones that took it were maybe snarling, laughing, chuckling at the sight of seeing a colorful covered book with the line that “Jesus Loves Porn Stars”. Some took it with appreciation. But I know, I just know, that some of those people will open it. They will read it. They will discover.. discover truth and love unlike anything they have ever seen or heard before. Some of them will take it another step… they will contact XXXchurch, among the many others thousands a year, and want to know more, want to be free, want to have love- real love- His love.

I will do this again. Some day, hopefully soon. But beyond that, I want to not forget. I met some amazing people this weekend. I also met some creeps, some drunks, some pervs that I even still cannot forget. I met some amazing ladies of the industry. I can’t forget them either. Jesus loves every person I met this weekend. Not a single one was not worth my time or money to be there. Every conversation and every Bible or sticker we gave out matters to me because it matters to Him. I have list of people I met and I will be praying for them.

I’m going to…a porn convention? Yup, that is true.

For anyone who knows me even a little has probably heard share my heart regarding the sex industry. In case you haven’t heard my thoughts, it is really quite simple: God loves strippers, prostitutes, pimps, porn stars, “Johns”, clients, escorts, and all other adult entertainers or producers [including those in the sex industry to whatever degree by force (i.e. sex trafficking victims)]. Simply put, God loves everyone. The problem is that the Church, collectively, has done a pretty terrible job of showing those in the sex industry not only that God does indeed love them, but the Church has failed at showing that love. We have been lousy examples of a love that has no barriers. We have not loved unconditionally.

How many churches or Christians for that matter would have a heart attack if a stripper or promiscuous woman, scandalously dressed, came walking into their Sunday service? Of course the Christian response is “love the sinner” so in the event of said stripper/promiscuous woman walking into the church, someone awkwardly approaches the woman…maybe, to welcome them to church but then at some point make the appearance of the woman not only feel shamed, but embarrassed, outcasted, and uncomfortable. Other women in the church fear for the eyes of the husbands while gossiping lightly in worry [and of course not condemnation because we never do that], meanwhile the stripper/promiscuous woman, probably still nameless to everyone else, is questioning and even regretting her decision to try out God. Sadly this tale is not a false one nor is it uncommon. The problem is that so many women of the industry are labeled as harlots and whores that when they step foot into a Christian setting it becomes a new world probably unknown to them that they believe there is no reason God could love them.

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You see…Jesus really does love porn stars, strippers, prostitutes, porn producers, et cetera. He loves people. It is his whole purpose of living perfect and dying brutally. It is especially his whole purpose in coming back to life- resurrecting. You see in Jesus’ life he showed a deep love for all people from all backgrounds. I’m sure the disciples were uncomfortable, awkward, and unsure about many of the people and places Jesus took them. However, it was the love of Jesus that drove them to go to the uncomfortable, awkward, and unsure places for people. It was even the love of Jesus that had them risk their reputations for those that needed Jesus’ love. So then, Church, why have we missed this step? Why have we fallen short of loving those of the sex industry? We have groups and ministries for alcoholics, former addicts, divorce, eating disorders, single moms, single dads, marriage, young adults, senior citizens, children, youth, young families, yet we fail so miserably on showing love to the sexually broken. Honestly, I think we fail so much at this area the most because it is also the most intimate and intimidating. Sexuality is at the core of the human creation. For so long the fractured existence of Man has been corrupted through our sexuality through all sorts of perversions. We are trying to fix ourselves, our brokenness, our longing, our loss. As Christians we can understand that Jesus loves us yet it is do difficult to deal with the our fractured sexuality. It makes people uncomfortable.

We need to fix this Church. We need to reconcile the difference between loving the sinner and hating the sin and realizing that loving Jesus means loving everyone, as you and I are even sinners, and knowing that sin is part of our human nature and existence. Love – only His love and holiness- can bring forth change, redemption, restoration, and healing, but it requires getting out of our comfort zones, embracing the awkward, and not quitting until we know that we have tried to love everyone, without shame or fear of condemnation…just true Love.

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XXXChurch is exactly what that image says… the #1 Christian Porn Site. But it is not porn. In fact they branched out as part of the Church and decided to reach the very group of people that the large majority of the Church has neglected or forgotten about. They created their ministry to bring accountability and restoration the porn addict, however the ministry has evolved to creating internet accountability programs, online devotionals/blogs, books being published, strip clubs and prostitution outreaches, Bible distribution, and porn convention outreaches. That is where I come in personally. The link below is to my site through Fireproof Ministries and XXXChurch. In just over two months I am going, with a XXXChurch team, to Atlantic City, NJ [not that far away] to the national porn convention. Hello Atlantic City Exxxotica. We will be giving out Bibles mainly. But in these next two months I ask you to partner with me. Yes, I would LOVE your financial partnership to help me reach my funds goal. However, I would love more your prayers. God has called me to go to this convention to simply show his love to those that the Church has most often forgotten. Whether I get the opportunity to pray with someone or share my testimony or just give them a Bible, prayers are much appreciated. As a Church, this is our duty to love everyone unconditionally, no “buts”, no excuses…just love and let His Love work on their hearts. Help me do so. Consider supporting me, whether financially or prayerfully. Beyond supporting me on this trip, see what God can do through you for others. Whether its getting involved with XXXChurch, starting a ministry, or just being a good employee, boss, husband, wife, et cetera, but see what God can do through you that you have been called… its your chance to make a difference. It may make you uncomfortable, awkward, or intimidate you but if God has shown His love, pay that forward and live a life that reveals His deep love in you. It is restorative, healing, and beautiful.

https://www.myxxxchurch.com/campaigns/view/AC-exxxotica-2013.html