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Are you inoculated? Or infected with the real thing?

conclusion

A wise mentor of mine one time totally blew my mind by comparing Christianity to a contagious disease!  “Many claim to have the disease we call Christianity, but seem instead to have been exposed only enough to be safely inoculated from the real thing.”

In the concluding session of Christianity Explored, we’ll consider Jesus’ own definition of being a true follower.  According to Jesus true followers not only embrace the identity of Jesus as the Son of God and God’s only chosen King.  They also follow him as their leader.  Following means two further painful things:  i) denying self and  ii) taking up one’s cross (self denial to the point of dying to self).

The trouble with so many people who claim affiliation with Jesus today is this:  they simply don’t fit Jesus’ own definition of a true follower.  They associate themselves with Jesus through an extremely shallow understanding of Christianity.  Almost like being injected with a dead virus!  The immune system recognizes the attack and quickly summons the anti-bodies necessary to fend it off.  On the outside, maybe the person’s temperature elevates for a while till the threat has been dealt with.  But life as usual resumes now equipped for all future threats of exposure.

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:34-35 NIV)

Many who call themselves Christians today are like an inoculated patient.  Contending with a mild dose of the virus, but not displaying the full symptoms.  Perhaps inducted into the culture of Christian surroundings, but not fully convinced of Jesus identity.  Not fully prepared to follow his leadership.  Come check out the last session of Christianity Explored and wrestle with what getting the real disease involves!

Christianity Explored meets at Christ Community Church, 9:00 and 10:45 in room D-126.

 

 

Christianity Explored begins next week!

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Interested in Christianity but need a safe place to ask your honest questions?  Christianity Explored is a discussion based group investigating the life and teachings of Jesus.  You’ll be in the company of other spiritual seekers.  No prior knowledge of the Bible or Christianity is required.  You’ll not be made to read anything, sing anything or pray out loud.  You can ask any question you want.  The Gospel of Mark from the Christian Bible is our source material.  A trained facilitator will guide each session.  Each meeting is about an hour long and includes a short video presentation with discussion questions.

Christianity Explored at CCC

Christianity Explored groups will meet on Sundays at Christ Community Church Starting April 3rd through May 22nd   in Room D-126  Come at 9:00am or at 10:45 or you could grab a lunch at the café and join the 12:15 group (whatever fits your schedule best).  If you have questions about Christianity Explored or want to make sure we know which class you’re interested in feel free to text: 402-285-5743.  Or contact timp@cccomaha.org

Christianity Explored at Do Space

Do Space groups will begin Thursday, April 7th at 7:00pm in the Large Conference room to the right of the main entrance.  Do Space is located on the corner of 72nd and Dodge Streets.  http://www.dospace.org/

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Traffick Report

back page ads for escorts in omaha

What follows below are excerpts from an interview conducted by the Nebraska Human Trafficking Task Force with the owners of two different escort agencies in Lincoln Nebraska.  Escort agencies are of interest in the issue of trafficking because of their connection with prostitution.   The complete interview is found in the full report of the Task Force available at this link:

Nebraska Human Trafficking Task Force – July 2013 Report

We don’t think of trafficking as a problem that’s all that visible in our community.  But every time you hear of an escort service or a spa or a massage parlor – consider that prostitution and trafficking are not far away.  By the way what’s with the map?  That’s a six month snap-shot of where on-line ads for escort services showed up in the Omaha metro.  Looks like a lot of traffick to me!

So if you interview the owners of those services, what’s the picture look like?  See for yourself!  Wow…let’s be in prayer and let’s be engaged in our community to know what is happening and not be afraid to report what we see to the authorities.

Appendix F: Questionnaire of Lincoln Escort Services

(Feb 2013 – The interview is recorded with their exact comments. Also, we interviewed with the understanding we were researchers not criminal investigators.)

1. How did you get involved with the sex trade?

Grew up around it…. Not from family members but from friends and peers doing it.

2. What is your best estimate of how many women are involved in the sex trade in Lincoln, also Omaha?

A lot more than you would think… In Lincoln 200 to 300 ladies in a 3year time span, probably closer to 300. You have females from age 15 to 40.  College students and girls from low-income neighborhoods. A few women from Omaha but we tried to stay away from Omaha because it is much more dangerous. We would TRIPLE the number of women that are involved in Omaha, but it could be more than that.

3. What is your best estimate of how many minors are involved in the sex trade in Lincoln? In Omaha?

The one escort owner was 15 when she was first approached to go have sex for money by a pimp. In Lincoln, the escorting agencies are pretty good about not hiring minors…. It is the “street” pimps that don’t care how old you are… in Lincoln we do have these…. I would guess in a given year at least 50 to 100 minors are trafficked in Nebraska and have sex for money. In Omaha, once again, the demand is greater.

4. What is the average age of entry into the sex trade?

12 to 14…. it comes to that point of desperation and not seeing another option. It varies but the seed is planted to explore the sex trade from the time you start being sexually active and not understanding what sex is intended for… many young girls are having sex already with multiple partners trying to fill the voids in their life so when they see they can get paid for the same thing they are already doing… it just makes sense to do it.

5. What are the most common reasons people get involved with the sex trade business?

Many minors are coerced and encouraged with promises of clothing, money, an easier life. Many minors and even some women are on the streets and have no stability, no way of providing for themselves… this money is fast and comes the same day, you’re not waiting 2 weeks to get a check. We see a lot of grown women willing to go into prostitution out of desperation but then it comes to a point of not being able to leave because their boyfriend (that turns into a pimp figure) is beating them up and demanding them to go get that money!

6. Once a woman gets involved in the sex trade business how easy is it for them to get out?

Not easy, people don’t understand this part… If a woman is already willingly to take off her clothes for money, to go to multiple strangers’ houses and hotel rooms where anything could happen – rape, murder, held captive, robbed, beat up – they don’t think highly of themselves and their low self-esteem didn’t happen overnight…. Add on a boyfriend beating you or an addiction or knowing you have no education or skills…. It’s nearly impossible.

8. Overall, is the sex trade a violent business?

Yes, almost all ladies in this business have been robbed at a call or an attempted robbery. As a business owner you get threatened by some of the “ladies” boyfriends for not giving them enough calls and you get threatened for not hiring or working a young lady. We have been personally robbed a number of times.

9. Do you have stories of violence toward women in the sex trade business?

Many, from girls having to have facial reconstruction and false teeth from being beat up, being held hostage, and men threatening children or one even sexually abusing the child while the mom is locked out of the room.

11. How does the sex trade change between Lincoln and Omaha?

For whatever reason, Omaha is very dangerous because of territories. Certain owners or pimps do not let other women besides their own work in those areas and see those areas as being theirs. In Omaha, the chances of you being robbed, beat up, or raped are much greater than Lincoln. In Lincoln we have more women owned escorting businesses and Omaha has more male owned. All the women that we know that own their business now are former workers themselves and understand and care more for the dangers…. While the men never having been in the situation only see the money and care less for the risk that the women take.

13. What is the typical business model of a sex business?

One owner, hires, fires, collects the money. There are some men owned that let women operate them because most other dudes don’t want to deal with another man. The only time you really bring in help is for photography and drivers.

14. Does the use of the sex trade business increase significantly at NE football games and other large events?

Yes, the phones ring all day and all night when there is almost any event in town.

17. Are there boys or men employees? Is their experience different?

Yes, a few men. They are in demand, both straight and gay men, for bachelorette parties. This is common and in most cases that is pretty legit. They dance for money. Transgender workers can make a lot of money. More than just a man or woman…. They can double their prices… Men call often for transgender.

18. How often does the individual paying for services of an escort enter into illegal activity?

About 85 or 90% of the time.

20. What can be done to identify and help women that are involved in the sex trade?

Passing laws to help identify would be good. But there needs to be a place where they can come talk to a counselor or sort through their thoughts…. Sometimes just like in domestic violence or a rehab situation they need that support to tell them…. They are victims and they deserve better and they have a real concern. They are not hearing this…

22. Are escorts typically unwilling to tell law enforcement that they are experiencing violence and control over their lives?

They don’t tell much to the police.  Especially when it comes to the sex trade.

Is it really THAT big of a deal?

(Guest blogger – Lisa Ashton, Assistant Director of Spiritual Discovery)

memorial stadium

One Memorial Stadium full?  Yes.  Two Memorial Stadiums full?  Possibly.  Hard to believe, but, it’s true.  The stadium holds 81,067.  Pack out the house plus tens of thousands more and what do you get?  An idea of how many American children a year who are victims of trafficking.  According to the documentary, Sex and Money, 100,000 kids a year are slaves to the sex trade…right here in America. Oh and by the way, that number is playing it conservative.  We’ve all seen aerial views of a sold out arena.  Imagine it being filled with the amount of kids who are being forced into commercial sex acts every year. Memorial Stadium couldn’t hold them all.

Dallas: ~200-300 children a month.

Atlanta: ~300 children a month.

It’s happening all over the country…big cities…suburbs…small towns. Everywhere.

What I learned in this documentary was appalling.  I recommend it with a HIGH degree of caution.  There were moments when I cheered for the bravery of those who are fighting this issue and then other moments when I was flat out disgusted with the human race.  God, how can you watch all of this?  Owners of child porn sites…and the thousands upon thousands of people who subscribe.  Pimps who rob prostitutes of their self-worth and dignity.  Porn stars who believe that life in the sex industry is a good life.  People who argue for the legalization of prostitution.  Stories of trafficked girls who are beaten and brain washed.  Human value being attached to a price tag for sex.

Since this documentary was a secular film there was no mention of Jesus.  Sure there were many redeeming qualities.  But, there was no sure guarantee of hope and victory in the end. No promise that one day all this evil will be wiped out and complete healing will come.  I turned off the film and sat with Jesus for a moment in the silence.  Ok God, can you remind me of the Good News in the midst of this junk? And he did.

Today as I will spend some time in prayer over this issue I will be praying for the children right here in our country who are being prostituted.  Teens who have no parents to come looking for them.  Girls who think their pimps really love them.  I’m going to pray for places like www.streetlightusa.com  that are providing a bed for trafficked victims.  And I’m going to pray that today, some sex slave right here in Omaha, can go free.

You can check out the film at this link:

www.sexandmoneyfilm.com

Also just quick reminder about the upcoming Gathering event this weekend – Friday, Nov 8th at 7:00 PM in the Student Center at the Old Mill Campus. We’ll be watching part of another documentary called Half the Sky and we’ll meet the director of a local restoration home for women.  Here’s the link to the Gathering Facebook page if you want more details.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/CCCs-Gathering/138119792919267?ref=hl

 

 

 

 

Ed, when are you coming back to church?

I was born, baptized and raised as a Catholic.  My mother’s family was devoutly Catholic, but my stepfather was a non-believer.  During my time in the military, I was exposed to many different religions.  After I served my time, I sought out various denominations searching for a church home.

One day as I was driving home from work, I heard a voice say “Ed, when are you coming back to church?” I was overwhelmed by the voice and told my wife we needed to go back to church.

We found a church home and we both had a full immersion baptism as Christians after one year of attendance at our previous church.  My walk with Jesus has been wonderful and I’ve grown so much in the past 12 years.

– Ed

Thought I was a Good Christian

I asked Jesus into my heart at age 5.  As a teen I thought I was a “good Christian” because I could list the sins that I didn’t do, but as the list shrank and my guilty feelings grew, I drifted away from God.  For years I lived for myself, but many people were praying and God didn’t give up on me.  My life was a depressing mess when I realized I needed to put God first.  I made big changes, gave my life back to Jesus, and felt the love of complete forgiveness and grace.  I feel so thankful for what he did for me, making me clean again, blessing me, and carrying me through life’s difficulties that I want to live my life for him.

– Christina

5 Weeks in Hell – Off and Running!

The first big question we sought to tackle at Gathering this week was this: Did Jesus teach that hell is real and that it is a place of eternal separation and punishment? (We always love jumping in at the deep end)!

Two passages we looked at really got under our skin. Churned up all kinds of dialogue. First of all there’s that narrative of the Rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. Click here and give it a read. Whether Jesus is telling a parable or describing a real scenario he may have known about, you have to face the fact that he’s essentially describing the difference between heaven and hell with a huge hint about how one winds up either place.

The bottom line with the rich man was un-repentance! What an ugly word, Jesus! It set off a miniature avalanche at just about every table at Gathering. The man suffering in hell suggested that poor Lazarus be sent back from Abraham’s side to earth to warn his relatives about eternal punishment. “If they didn’t listen to the law and the prophets, they’re not going to listen to a person resurrected from the dead!” Jesus went on to indicate that there was an impassible gulf between paradise and hell – even IF someone wanted to traverse between the two he could not.

Here were a few of the questions that popped up:

  • If the issue is repentance, how does one ever know he has genuinely repented?
  • What is repentance?
  • Does praying at a Church service really constitute repenting?
  • What about a person who lived an exemplary life but didn’t ever repent? Would that person go to hell?
  • How about a child who doesn’t know right from wrong?
  • Would a person who grew up in a place totally isolated from the possibility of hearing about Jesus go to hell when he/she dies? Is that fair?

Got any thoughts? When you look at it, Jesus did dig himself pretty deep with some of his sayings about hell. Hell either doesn’t exist at all and Jesus was somehow using the concept of punishment to motivate moral behavior. OR he knew exactly what he was talking about and it makes perfect sense that he would very emphatically warn about it.

We’ll look at that sheep and goats thing in my next post. Check out the CCC Facebook page where I have posted more comments and questions.

Also you might find this downloadable resource sheet on hell interesting that we handed out at the first session.