The loudest voice

There is a good chance that I may not know your story…or know the details of your life, what you believe, behaviors you have whether public or private, or the things that have shaped you to be who you are today. I believe life should be lived intentionally and with great purpose. I believe that because of my faith. I also believe that some people can become seriously and painfully misguided by their beliefs.

This is one of those stories.

You see, last weekend I was in Dallas to go to another sexpo. Porn convention. Adult show. Name it what you will, I was there. Arriving in Dallas, I already knew the weekend would be different. It already was. My very arrival was contingent on the spontaneous road trip that I took with strangers I met at Houston airport. The city seemed quite when I arrived at nearly midnight while walking from the train station to my hotel in Downtown. I prayed to myself as I walked, pulling my seemingly overweight bag (I had almost 10 big books in there!). I prayed because I was grateful: the week leading into this Dallas convention I had been at another convention with thousands of pastors, a handful of which were the financial reason I was able to be walking through Downtown Dallas heading to a porn show. I was excited because this was another convention with XXXchurch where I would be able to share my story and the love of Jesus to anyone wanting to hear. Even gazing out my hotel room’s large bay windows at the silhouette of the cityscape, my heart melted. It melted because I know in my heart that Jesus loves me and that he is why I am who I am today, but so many people are stuck living lives of quiet desperation, brokenness, shame, fear, and wandering. My story of redemption- of Jesus changing my heart and my brokenness- is why I feel obligated and compelled to go to conventions like Exxxotica. If one person- ONE PERSON- can see Jesus through me and hear about how much he really loves them and accept that, then every single moment is worth it all.

But sadly, some people share a very different story.

At Exxxotica, we were met with many different voices, voices all telling a different story. Exxxotica itself is an event that highlights and glamorizes the sex industry and those who work it. I have met many industry workers and have gotten to know some closer; they are some genuinely amazing people. I don’t like pornography or what it can and will inevitably do to someone; I believe that it is a painful part of some people’s stories. It was a part of mine which is why I feel I have a voice in this.  Though I don’t like it, I do believe some people genuinely do, including some of those who work as porn stars. I also believe that when you disagree or even know the damages of certain behaviors or lifestyles, usually the loudest and meanest voice is the least received of them all. XXXchurch goes to this shows not “save” anyone from the industry. We don’t go to rescue people from trafficking. We don’t go so we can convert porn stars or producers or consumers. We go because we love Jesus and we believe He truly loves them. We go in love. We go giving out free things like stickers and t-shirts. We smile, we chat, we stand all day, we laugh, and we get to know people’s stories. We don’t yell. We don’t condemn. We don’t judge. That is not our job. Nothing we do or say can or will save someone for Heaven OR condemn someone to Hell. We are not God. We simply share who Jesus is to us and how he loves people.

There was a much louder, crueler voice present. They weren’t a booth. They weren’t a vendor. They were a local church. They were a church that apparently had craft time before showing up to the Kay Bailey Convention Center. Signs were made…and screaming was their choice of presentation.  Instead of preaching of the love of Jesus, redemption, salvation, or anything else, this church purposefully spoke in hate and condemnation. This church had signs that read “God hates fags”, “Homo sex is sin”,  and “Got AIDS yet?”. The kicker of it all was a man, who I believe was the pastor, holding a sign that read “You deserve rape” with the other side reading  “God laughs at your rape”. Tell me, please dear pharisees of that Dallas church, where in the Bible it says such things? Where does God laugh at sorrow or pain? The God you were screaming so violently and cruelly at attenders and workers of this convention is most certainly not the God I serve.

My God is a God of tremendous love. A God who forgives. A God who is unconditional. A God that sacrificed the very thing that brings us new life. He is a God that when we make choices and live our lives to our own pleasing, he draws us to Him and lets us choose to love Him (or not). It is a choice to allow God to work in our lives and transform us. You see, He is an incredibly patient God that will wait for us and never abandon. He will love us and never hurt us. When we hurt, he weeps, because he truly understands sorrow. He doesn’t laugh at our pain, but wants to be our strength especially when we have none. My God- my Jesus- sat with sinners at their tables, the very people that the religious elite thought they were too good or righteous for. Jesus chose to be associated with people who had baggage, made mistakes, had pain, lived questionable lives, had sorrow, had brokenness, and he chose in the midst of all of that to be a voice… calming and loving and redeeming. A voice resonating around the world even still 2,000 years later. A voice that didn’t need to show condemnation, especially when he was the only one actually able to be self-righteous. Jesus loves us as we are but loves us way to much to stay the same. He has a greater story ahead for us. And that story, dear friends, is what we share when we go to sexpos and porn conventions. This is why I share what God has done in my life. I have experienced first hand his grace and mercy and redemption. Instead of shoving religion down people’s throats or in their faces, I want to always offer hope through relationship with Jesus Christ.

The church protesting there may have been the loudest voice, but it was not the truest or holiest.

As always, Jesus loves porn stars. But he also loves the protestors. He equally wants to redeem us all.

 

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A POW’s brave love.

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan…”

President Roosevelt continued with, what I would imagine, great pain and sadness in his heart as he addressed the nation about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Our nation in a single day lost thousands of men and women- service and civilians. Our nation was hurt. Wounded at our heart. Shortly after the attacks our nation retaliated in explosive force [literally] by something called the Doolittle Raids. The retaliation involved a mere 16 B-25 “Mitchell” bombers with 80 airmen total. Not much of a fight in comparison to the 300 that Japan attacked Pearl with in those early minutes. But our men- the Raiders- bombed military establishments in Japan.  Unlike any other mission, the Raiders could not return to the aircraft carriers but to land…they had no choice but to crash land in China in hopes of avoiding the Japanese that had infiltrated the Chinese border. We lost some of the Raiders that day. Most returned home. Eight men became POWs, held captive by a merciless enemy.

This is one of their stories. I cannot help but be moved by this man, one of the POWs. He experienced Pearl and the tragedy along with the rest of our nation. He experienced the bombing over Japan. Such vengeance and hatred overwhelmed his heart. He wanted the Japanese to die painfully and without mercy. When his bomber was crashing over occupied China, he and his crew had to parachute out. For 40 months, Staff Sergeant Jacob Daniel DeShazer was held prisoner by the Japanese, tortured and facing death every single day. For 40 months he had no idea when his death would happen, although he thought it was certain. For 34 of his 40 months, he awaited death in solitary confinement. Most of the other POWs had already died. Only 3 made it home when the American armies invaded and freed the camp.

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He was not the same man.

Physically DeShazer was malnourished, sick, and nearly dead. Mentally the isolation could have made him crazy. Mentally he could have given up a long time before he did. But Spiritually…something had changed. During his imprisonment, he needed a glimpse of hope to simply survive; he finally received a Bible from his prison guards. They figured it would not matter. They figured it was only a book requested by a prisoner awaiting death. Though he only physically had the Bible for 3 weeks, God began to work on DeShazer’s heart. He saw the messages and stories of the Bible as reason enough to survive, and reason enough to not give up, and as reason enough to believe in a God that was greater than his imprisonment. In August 1945, DeShazer was freed and made his voyage home to America. He would need to recover, to heal, to be restored. It would take time, but it would happen.

He soon married and attended school…to be a missionary.

How can someone who had once be filled with such hatred toward the Japanese, been a prisoner of the Japanese, tortured and nearly killed at the hands of the Japanese, decide to be a missionary to the Japanese? For DeShazer, it was the simple fact that God loves and he had to be that love to to his previous captors. It was not a matter of hate anymore. It was a matter of redemption. If God could redeem him, a man full of hate, could not that same God change the hearts of others? He loved with such a redeeming, forgiving love that Mitsuo Fuchida, the commander who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, was brought into the same story of redemption through salvation in Jesus Christ. Let me say that again..the man who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, a broken dark day in American history, was saved by the redeeming love of Jesus Christ because a POW was brave enough to love.

“Jacob DeShazer was brave like a Japanese samurai. He was brave as a prisoner of the Japanese. He never yielded to the guards. After conversion he was braver, enough to love [the] Japanese. As a missionary, he never sought fame or wealth, just the lost. He was kind, patient, and humble, for he was a brave Christian. He was brave enough to make the Japanese commander of the attack on Pearl Harbor one of his best friends.”

—Iwao ShimadaPastor of the church the DeShazers started in Japan

 

I find his story so incredible. How can I not be moved by the legacy of a man that lived out the forgiveness of Christ? In his forgiveness toward Japan, one of the leading Japanese officers of the Attack on Pearl Harbor came to know Jesus Christ. I have to believe that because of men and women like DeShazer, that my purpose is beyond myself and my situation, good or bad, can be used to glorify God, bringing hope to many. So on this day of December 7, remember this history. Remember those who died and fought valiantly. Remember the soldiers who defended our nation in one of the greatest wars in world history. But also remember the stories of men and women like Jacob Daniel DeShazer who chose to forgive the enemy that hurt him the greatest, because just as Christ died for him, he also died for them. Redemption is always possible.

 

 

Check out this video from the man himself.

 

 

[this is an old post I updated: originally called A POW’s Forgiveness Towards Japan]

This all starts with me.

I have to say, I have thought and prayed long and hard about writing this and expressing the brokenness upon my heart tonight. Like anything I post, I want to post my thoughts, convictions and opinions but with grace, love and compassion. But tonight, I find it so very difficult to do just that…write my thoughts and opinions without the risk of being judged, condemned, or considered hateful. Please know, as you read this, I am broken as I write and all I ask is that you offer me grace and love and I try to offer.

Ferguson. Mike Brown. Eric Garner. Those are just a few of the names being mentioned in the news and all forms of social media. You probably know them. If you don’t, you should probably get informed on what is happening. My heart is so deeply broken tonight by the news, social media, protests, killings, deaths, and looting. This is not right. All of it, its just not right. Ferguson matters. The people of Ferguson matters. Women and men in uniform matter. Black lives matter. White lives matter. Every ethnicity in the world matters. The deaths of both Mike Brown and Eric Garner matter. The protests and the looting matter. None of this started at Ferguson. None of this started during the Civil Right’s movement with Dr. King. None of this started during slavery.

It started a very long time ago when Man decided to do their own thing. Sin…the very thing that is innate in each of us. Sin is the thing that creates entitlement. It births prides and raises hate. Judgment. Anger. Hate. Rape. Murder. Racism. Prejudices. Biogtry. Adultery. Lying. Gossip. It all comes from the same place. In our core, we can be very bad people simple because we are people. But at the same time we are offered something so incredibly beautiful and challenging through Jesus Christ. Without his love transforming our hearts and minds, we can and will hurt others by our sin. We just might sin differently than others. We may wound or injure others differently than someone else. But we will inevitably hurt, wound, injure someone. That’s why this news about Ferguson and NYC and the deaths of two black men just breaks my heart. It breaks the heart of Jesus.

He lets us CHOOSE to love him which means we can choose to hate him and live opposing to his love.

I was not at Ferguson or NYC. I do not know any of the officers, Brown or Garner, but I know me. And in knowing me, I know I am flawed. I judge others. I criticize immensely. I hurt and deeply wound. I don’t always control my tongue and therefore gossip and maybe even slander. I make quick, often uneducated judgments of others. I don’t know what happened for real in either case therefore I will not make an opinion on the Grand Jury verdicts or state whether police were right and the victims were wrong. I will say that I understand how flawed and broken we all are and how if we have learned anything from the recent events in the news, we should be able to recognize this brokenness. Its not about being black or white. Its not about being from lower income or lacking education. Its not about coming from money. Its not about being a cop. Its not about guilt or innocence.

Simply put…we are all guilty…of something. And that is exactly why we need Jesus. It is why I desperately, earnestly know I need Jesus. Without him, I could very easily become victim to my own demise. Without him, I could very easily throw judgment at either party knowing for sure what really happened. Without him, I could sling hate toward one side over another. Without him, oh there are so many things I could do, be, say. But because I have him- Jesus Christ- as the redemption for my life, I choose recognize that what is happening regarding Ferguson and NYC are just part of a bigger story of the broken world we live in and a need for a savior. Because Jesus redeemed me from my sin, shame, and brokenness, I firmly believe Ferguson can be redeemed. Yes, things are lost, and some things won’t change. But I can try. You can try. We can together try to understand. To love. To stop hating. To stop looting. Stop judging. And if, only then, we can possibly see healing and restoration.

I challenge you, whatever side- if on a side- you find yourself tonight, I ask that you try, for a moment, to understand the perspective of the other. I ask that the looting and vandalism stops. I ask that both sides stop slandering, hating, judging, and start seeing how this all can be changed. It won’t be easy. It will take effort for all of us. Whites don’t understand the struggle  and history of the black community. Simply put…I really don’t understand but I want to. I want to try to understand, so be honest and talk to me. I want you to understand that not all whites are bad. I do not hate you, so please don’t hate me. I want the cops to understand that not every black person is a criminal- some are, but many are not. I want blacks to understand that most cops actually care about justice and aren’t in it for killing. If you haven’t been in a situation like these, please hold your judgments and outrage a little and instead pray to understand.

Pray that you might love others that you don’t understand. Pray that you might help those who can’t help you. Pray that you might love others who may never care about you. Pray that you might bridge this gap of brokenness. Pray for yourself, that you might be redeemed. All of this that is happening right now…its start with me. It starts with you. Until we can each work through out our own hate, prejudices, judgments, misunderstandings, and sin, we cannot and will not be able to really help others. Jesus, oh my sweet Jesus… he is the answer and he waiting for you to reach out to him. He knows this is a mess. He knows you and your struggle. And he wants to redeem.