Monthly Archives: January 2017

Human trafficking opponent in Houston to launch initiative

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By Tonya Whitaker
Inside The Pew

For seven Super Bowls, Nita Belles has brought attention to the troubling occurrence of human trafficking that takes in-our-backyard-human-traffickingplace during major sporting events. And this year is no different.

Millions are awaiting the big game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons, scheduled to take place in Houston, Texas, the host city of Super Bowl 51, on Sunday, February 5, 2017, but as in previous years, human trafficking is a real concern to many, especially Nita Belles.

Belles is the founder of In Our Backyard (IOB) — http://inourbackyard.org/ — and Jan. 28 she officially announced the launch of the “Convenience Stores Against Trafficking” (CSAT) initiative. She did so during her appearance as keynote speaker at “Vulnerable: A Conference on the Issues of Gender, Race, Poverty & Human Trafficking,” held at South Main Baptist Church, 4100 Main St. in Houston. The free conference kicked off at 1 p.m.

“The Houston Super Bowl was the right time to launch the campaign,” Belles said. “Houston was very accepting and welcoming of the program. Greater Houston Retailers Association put CSAT materials and training out to 1,900 convenience stores.”

IOB will also work with local law enforcement and other groups responding to the anticipated increased sex trade activity in the Houston area. Days before the launch of the initiative, on Jan. 24, KTRK-TV, the ABC-affiliate in Houston, reported a 21-year-old woman — who said she was brought to Houston specifically for sex trafficking at the Super Bowl — was raped in downtown Houston by a pimp. According to the report, a Good Samaritan rescued the woman and took her to Ben Taub Hospital for treatment.

In addition, Belles said her organization have unveiled a major social media drive aiming to boost awareness of human trafficking during the events surrounding the February 5th game. The anti-human trafficking campaigner said she hopes for a quarter of a million shares of the new Thunderclap video, “Link Arms Across America,” during the first quarter. The short awareness message features former victims holding signs of things they were told by their traffickers.

“Thousands of women, children, and even some men across the country are caught up in the horrors of sex trafficking, convinced that there is no way out, and convenience stores can be a first line of help for these victims,” Belles said. “Businesses like these can be heroes in this fight; we’re so glad for their support.”

Since founding IOB in 2006, Belles has become widely recognized as a leading voice in the fight against human trafficking. A frequent speaker to law enforcement, medical, civic and community groups, she has also been an adviser on anti-trafficking legislation to legislators in several states and authored the authoritative book “In Our Backyard: Human Trafficking in America and What We Can Do to Stop It.”

“Human trafficking happens 24/7, 365 days a year, in every zip code in America,” Belles said. “But working together, we can bring an end to this atrocity.”

Belles said volunteers are being recruited for the event to help canvas convenience stores in the Houston area. Visit the IOB website (http://inourbackyard.org/) to sign up.

© 2017 Inside The Pew

Connection between MLK Jr. and Martin Luther goes beyond names

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By Tonya Whitaker
Inside The Pew

Jan. 16 is the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. While churches and numerous organizations throughout the land will martin-luther-king-jr-and-martin-luthercelebrate this day, King’s legacy goes beyond his unselfishness to stand up against social injustice. Beyond his words, King is a solid rhetorician with the ability to communicate a powerful message orally (“I Have a Dream”) and in print (“Letter From Birmingham Jail”).

As a graduate student, I was fortunate to research and write an expansive study of Martin Luther King’s letter. I consider it a concrete piece of rhetoric; it is King’s best. Although the letter was intended to address the criticisms from fellow clergy members, the letter took on greater meaning for all readers.

The storytelling and direct reference to historical “extremists” (King’s reference) is impressive, to say the least.

  • Apostle Paul – “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”
  • Martin Luther – “Here I stand; I can do none other so help me God.”
  • John Bunyan – “I will stay in jail to end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.”
  • Thomas Jefferson – “We hold these truths self-evident that all men are created equal.”
  • Abraham Lincoln – “The nation cannot survive half slave, half free.”

King’s use of Paul, Luther, Bunyan, Jefferson, and Lincoln as extremists is part of the letter’s impressiveness. On this day, take a moment to celebrate King and read his letter in its entirety.

Martin Luther: 500 years of influence

The legacies of Martin Luther and MLK are forever linked, thanks to MLK Sr.

According to the organizer of the Luther commemoration, LutherCountry, Michael King, visited Germany in 1934. The elder King was moved by the life of the Protestant Reformation leader that Michael King Sr. changed his and his son’s names to Martin Luther King senior and junior.

MLK is one of many who found inspiration for their protests through Luther. This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, which began with the posting of Luther’s 95 Theses on the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church on Oct. 31, 1517. Luther’s 95 outlined his discontent with the Roman Catholic Church’s use of indulgences (selling salvation). He believed the only way to salvation is through faithfulness to Christ and adhering to his teachings, not by purchasing sacraments. Instead of accepting the punishment levied against him by the church, Luther stood behind the word of God.

“It is almost impossible to write the history of western civilization without mentioning Luther,” said Oxford University theologian Alister McGrath in “Martin Luther: Driven to Defiance.” We should stand up for things we believe. The idea that every person is precious in the sight of God.”

Luther’s protest in 1517 has inspired, and continues to inspire, Americans. Thousands are planning to visit LutherCountry in 2017, to walk in Luther’s footsteps. Those, who cannot travel to Germany in the celebration year, can still join in the commemorations in a very 21st century way: online.

For further information, visit www.visit-luther.com, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

© 2017 Inside The Pew

How to honor God with your money and achieve financial freedom in ’17

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By Jeff Rogers
Special to Inside The Pew

Saving more money and getting out of debt always rank as some of the most common New Year’s resolutions. But resolutions are easy to break, especially if not backed by a strong sense of purpose. This New Year, consider what God is really wanting you to do with your finances. How did you do last year in this area? And what do you want to improve on this year, to better honor Him?

This fresh start of 2017 is a perfect time to evaluate your finances in light of God’s Word, and work towards managing them better, in the way He has called us to in scripture.

So, here are some tips to honor God with your money and achieve financial freedom in 2017. 2017 can be your best money year yet if you follow these simple, God-honoring principles.

Research what the Bible really says about debt.

One of the biggest chokeholds that Satan has on many Christians is excessive debt. Debt brings bondage, not freedom. If you have a strong understanding of how God really feels about debt, you will be more prone to avoiding it. Research scripture and spend time praying about how and why God wants you to avoid debt. As Proverbs 22:7 says “…the borrower is slave to the lender.”

Set long-term goals.

As a financial advisor for over 33 years, I’m sometimes amazed at how many individuals or couples have never setjeff-rogers-stewardship-legacy-coaching long-term financial goals. As the old saying goes “If you aim at nothing…you are sure to hit it!” God’s Word speaks wisdom in this area in Ephesians 5:15-17 (AMP) “Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil. Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is.”

Build liquid reserves & savings to respond to emergencies and unexpected expenses.

Many otherwise good financial plans are ruined or suffer a setback because they don’t have the liquid reserves and flexibility to respond to emergencies or unexpected expenses. We recommend setting a goal of building 3-6 months worth of your household budget in liquid reserves/savings. It will take some time, but paying off debts can free up money that can build your liquid reserves as can using things like tax refunds, bonuses, overtime pay, etc.

Spend less than you earn

As the old saying goes, “If your outgo exceeds your Income, your upkeep will be your downfall!” Nobody (the government, corporations or you and I) can spend more than what we bring in for an extended period of time without running out of money. Develop a spending plan and budget, and stick to it. You may find it is easier than you think!

Rejoice in generosity

Have you ever noticed that some of the most unhappy, bitter people are those who are stingy and who hold tightly to every dollar? Have you also noticed that many of the most joyful people in this world are generous (toward God and towards others)? In fact, I’ve heard one Christian leader say “I have never seen an unhappy…generous person!” And you know what, neither have I! As the late Larry Burkett said, “Nothing breaks the chains of materialism like generosity.” I learned a lot from Larry’s teaching and that was one of the most valuable lessons and has transformed my life. Have you allowed generosity to transform your life, your marriage, your family? If you want to break the bondage of materialism and selfishness in your children or grandchildren, read the Kingdom Assignment and do a generosity project with them; or take them to your local Rescue Mission or a third world country where they can experience real poverty and hardship. They will likely come back changed…and so will you!

Spend some time this New Year praying through what God wants for you and your family financially. By following these tips, lots of prayer and a little bit of self-discipline, 2017 can be one of your best money years yet. For more tips visit http://stewardshiplegacy.com/blog/

Photo cutline: Jeff Rogers

Jeff Rogers is founder and chairman of Stewardship Advisory Group and Stewardship Legacy Coaching.

To make a difference you have to be different

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By Shirley Weber
Special to Inside The Pew

Do you know your identity? To me this question was one I could not really answer without confusing myself even more. As I became a teenager up into my early adulthood, I went through an identity crisis.

An identity crisis is a period of uncertainty and confusion in which your sense of identity becomes insecure.

I spent a lot of time trying to fit in. I would wake up in the morning feeling miserable before I would even get out of bed. One day as I was walking home a neighbor’s daughter invited me to church. I really did not want to attend but she would not give up.  The pastor played a film about Jesus dying for me. He died so I could have life and life more abundantly; that night changed my life. I was so curious that I started searching for answers by reading the word. In reading and studying, there are three topics that gave me confidence in knowing my identity.

  • The Lord made me special. “Then God said let us make man in our image in our likeness and let them rule.” (Genesis 1:27, NIV)
  • The Lord chose and loves me. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (Ephesians 1:4-6, NIV)
  • The Lord has placed me in his royal family: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9, NIV)

When knowing your true identity, your faith will grow stronger and develop; you focus on your identity in Christ. Knowing who you are will restore your joy, bring contentment, and change your life.

I discovered the tools to overcome obstacles in my life such as not knowing my true identity, being fearful all the time, and waking up depressed day to day. The tools that I used were the word of God that renewed my mind each day as I applied the scriptures to my situations. I transformed from insecurity to confidence, from depression to vibrant living.

Shirley Weber is author of “To Make A Difference, You Have To Be Different.” She and her husband, Pastor Larkin Weber Sr., are founders of Couples Night. For bookings, call Shirley Weber at 225-933-5816.