The Pursuit of Purity

By Ashley Barnett

As a little girl, I dreamt of being loved and belonging to someone. However, I also dreamed of adventure. I loved discovering treasures in hidden places. Sometimes it worked in my favor, and other times it did not. You see, I was the child that could find the Christmas presents and memorize numbers, pass codes and pins with just one try. Needless to say, my parents became quite clever in their methods to keep things a surprise.

As I grew older, my search for adventure and love was increasing rapidly, especially as I entered middle school, where I saw young girls and boys begin to form interests in each other. Of course, I wanted in on the experience, but no one seemed to like me. As I began to look around, I realized why—I didn’t look like my blonde haired or blue-eyed classmates. I represented something that made some individuals uncomfortable. I represented another side of America. I was African-American. Everything about me was quite the opposite of them.

Several students voiced their discountenance in some of the most detrimental ways. From rape threats over the phone, death threats at school, to being asked to perform sexual acts within the classroom. One friend, during that time, was forbidden to even claim friendship with me by her parents. We kept our friendship a secret from her parents until after high school. As a result, my self-image was skewed. I learned to hide my hurt because it made me feel safe and somewhat in control. I learned to smile when I really wanted to scream.

Fast forward—I am entering my freshman year in high school and everything is super new, especially the guys. They came in all shapes and sizes, but they shared the same race. My hopes were that this time, perhaps someone would like me or find me pretty. It was also during my high school days that I began to get curious about the forbidden word … sex.

Growing up in a small town and a strict home, this was definitely not the topic of conversation at the table. The only person who would address my curiosity was my recently born-again brother. He had been a part of this small Bible study group with some of my cousins, and he was amazing. He taught me the real gift of love, and sex between a husband and wife. He sat and shared with me words that I live by up to this very day. It was as if, the Lord, Himself, spoke through my brother into my heart. My brother shared how God would honor my marriage if I abstained from sexual intercourse, and that my husband would cherish me.

After that day I purposed in my heart to give my husband, myself. One of the main reasons was that I grew up poor and had nothing of monetary value to share with him. I didn’t think of myself as smart, so I wanted him to have the most valuable gift I had … my virginity.

I did not realize the promise I made in my heart that day and the pressures that would soon follow. Thankfully, during high school, I did not face as many temptation as I did in college.

College opened my eyes to a whole new world and built even more curiosity in my mind. The first prayer in my heart was, “Lord, the covenant I made with you at 14—I am not strong enough to keep. You will have to keep it for me.” He did just that.

While a freshman at NC A&T SU, I was exposed to lifestyles and ideals that were different from my own. It was a beautiful experience, but it also pulled on the promise that was in my heart. I started to expose myself to what “college-life” was about or so I thought. I placed myself in some of the most compromising situations, only to have God block and shield me from myself.

He protected me, and during my sophomore year, He introduced me to a young lady named Sophia. She was a neighbor in my dorm. Sophia would constantly explain to me that there was a different life that God had for me, a deeper life with Him. You see, I thought I was okay with God. I had no idea there was more.

For months, Sophia asked me to attend the campus Bible-study, but I would always refuse. Eventually, one night, to get her to stop asking, I agreed to go. I walked in to see so many people, who were also my age, crying out to God in prayer. I had never seen that before and from that moment on I had to keep going.

After a year of attending, the campus leader posed a question, “Who has never been baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues?” So, my best friend and I walked up to where the leaders were. They prayed, and then the most powerful exchange occurred. God took my weaknesses and gave me His strength. He then introduced me to people who walked with me and prayed for me to stay committed to the promises I had made years ago.

It is HIS Grace and HIS Mercy that kept me. Not ANY goodness of my own, but the Divine assistance of the Holy Spirit. It is for HIM and HIM ALONE that I can say, HE IS WORTHY!!

2 Timothy 2:13 states, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful [true to His word and His righteous character], for He cannot deny Himself.” (AMP)

There is a love that runs so deep, sex can’t even touch it. When you encounter the lover of your soul, all else is meaningless. That’s the love I have grown to learn about and to love. There is a peace that comes in the pursuit of purity.

Song of Solomon 2:4 “He has brought me to his banqueting place, and his banner over me is love [waving overhead to protect and comfort me].

I have experienced the beauty and strength of waiting. Can I tell you it’s worth it? As mentioned in the Song of Solomon 8:4 “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases.”

I have learned to surround myself with one or two strong friends who I can confide in, who will always help to lead me back to the Lord, who believe the destiny that God has spoken over my life. You should do the same. Look at them like Aaron and Hur from the Old Testament. These men held up Moses’ arms when he grew tired from the battle. As I mentioned before, there have been many instances where I have placed myself in awkward situations, but by God’s grace He would always provide a way of escape. He will do the same for you—Only ask Him!

Also, I learned the value of staying active in my church or local community and beyond. Learn a new language. Expose yourself to people and cultures that are different from your own—travel and try something new, as often as you can! Trust me, the “sky is NOT the limit.” There’s more—far beyond what your eyes can see. So, dream big and pursue great things!!

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My Family’s Resurrection

By Trina Titus Lozano

On March 31, 2002, I was in church celebrating Easter, or as my dad trained me to say … Resurrection Day. My husband and our four children, two girls and two boys, were all there together. Our daughter, Brooke, a senior in High School, was singing with the worship team and our son Brandon, a sophomore, was on the drums. The usual 20 minutes of music played, and as I worshipped, my mind kept wandering to my childhood Resurrection Day memories of my parents, Larry and Devi Titus. My dad would preach, and my mom would play the organ, wearing a fashionable hat for the special occasion. As we took communion, I had another flashback to that time when I was in the second grade—I prayed and invited Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. I loved being a Christian.

One day after Easter, this particular year, was April Fool’s Day, and on this day, my life changed forever. My husband told me he had filed for a divorce—which was no April Fool’s joke! The papers were to be served in 3 days. In fact, I was served papers, and he moved out into the apartment he’d already prepared for himself. The devastation that happened in my heart that day is indescribable, but now, fifteen years later, that day reminds me of the Resurrection Power of Jesus Christ.

Although my husband had the same name, he fully repented and became a new man. After being gone for only a few months, he took the risk to cancel the divorce and move home to an angry and devastated wife. I took the risk to welcome him home, and WE took the risk to trust God way beyond our comfort zone. Individually, and together, we have both discovered and experienced the reality of what forgiveness tastes like and what God can do with a dead-end, no-win situation. We discovered what it means to abandon the outcome and trust God completely, to obey Him and to live out what we sang about in church each Sunday. We now know what life after death feels like because we experience it every day.

We believe in the power of Love, real Agape Love. Love that never fails. Love that believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. Love that has the power to make the dead rise up and live again. God’s Holy Bible became alive to us and Romans 8:11 promised that the same Spirit, Who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in us, and He would give our marriage new life. We tested our theology, and it’s real. God is real.

This “Unintended Journey” caused us to relocate our family to Dallas. Shortly after moving here we attended a Tuesday Night Experience and felt the love of God at CFNI. Our daughter, Brittany, became a student in 2007, and I was working in the attendance office when I was asked to teach a women’s elective course using my mom’s book, THE HOME EXPERIENCE, as our text book. Since 2010, I’ve worked full time as a marriage and family counselor and was ordained to preach in 2012. Currently, I’m working for Kingdom Global Ministries, teaching HOME EXPERIENCE intensives monthly with my mom, Devi Titus, and counseling weekly.

The year I was born, in 1965, my grandpa was ordained through CFN Fellowship of Ministers and Churches to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I am so grateful to carry on the legacy of ministry with my husband’s support and covering.

Resurrection Day is just around the corner, and now, five generations will celebrate together. After church, we will hide and hunt eggs with our kids, their spouses and our ten grandchildren; then we will sit down to eat brunch with my grandma and my parents, join hands to pray and give thanks. While we eat, we’ll talk about what life after death really means to us and why our family believes in miracles.

God did a miracle for us, and He can do it for you, too. Just believe in the Resurrection Power of Jesus Christ and believe in the Power of Agape LOVE, and you will experience the miracle of LIFE.

Have a Happy Resurrection Day 2017!

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La infancia de Jesús, ¿normal o sobrenatural?

By Hugo Martínez

No existe personaje en la historia de la humanidad sobre el que se hayan escrito más libros que Jesucristo. Y es que la persona de Jesús, sus extraordinarias obras, sus enseñanzas y doctrinas han cautivado la atención, la curiosidad y la investigación de miles y miles de escritores en todo el mundo durante los últimos 20 siglos. Ciertamente, los evangelios guardan silencio en cuanto a la niñez del Mesías, hasta que aparece en el Templo de Jerusalén a los 12 años. Este desconocimiento ha dado lugar a una serie de historias apócrifas acerca de la infancia de Jesús, pero la Biblia nos menciona lo siguiente.

En Lucas 2:39-40, el evangelista nos revela que luego de que Jesús fue circuncidado, sus padres cumplieron con todos los requisitos establecidos en la Ley, y—más tarde, terminado todo— viajaron a la región de Galilea. La pregunta es: ¿Qué sucedió en la vida de Jesús durante este espacio de tiempo? Quizás es difícil conocer los detalles íntimos al respecto, pero sí podemos tener una idea general, puesto que José y María, sus padres, como judíos devotos, fueron obedientes a lo que establecía la Ley sobre la educación familiar de los hijos. Así que podemos deducir que Jesús fue educado conforme a la tradición.

Examinemos dos etapas en la niñez de Jesús. La primera de éstas es la formación pre-rabínica. Cubre los primeros años del niño durante los cuales los padres lo introducen a la palabra de Dios en el hogar, y de esta manera se prepara para integrarse a la escuela local, donde obtiene su preparación rabínica. Cabe destacar que la formación rabínica era la educación de todo judío, la cual empezaba en el hogar a una edad temprana. Existía un acuerdo entre todas las autoridades judías de que esta preparación era necesaria e importante si se deseaba un conocimiento duradero sobre la Ley en cada generación.

A través de los siglos han surgido una serie de textos apócrifos acerca de la niñez de Jesús. Pareciera que los autores de dichas fábulas jamás tomaron en cuenta las palabras del apóstol Pablo, quien les recordó a los Filipenses que el Señor se había despojado a sí mismo y adoptado forma de siervo, hecho semejante a los hombres (Filipenses 2:8). No obstante, la Biblia indica que Jesús creció en sabiduría y gracia para con Dios y los hombres.

Esta idea, expuesta en este artículo, tiene respaldo en el conocido currículum que servía para la vida de todo judío, revelado en el pasaje del Mishna. Este documento afirma lo siguiente:

El historiador judío Flavio Josefo hace referencia a los principios pedagógicos que eran enseñados en Israel: “Los judíos aprendieron las leyes de tal manera como para que se hallasen grabadas sólo en el alma.” De su lado, el autor Rabí Natán hizo otra declaración al respecto: “Si uno estudia la Torah durante su juventud, las palabras de la Torah son retenidas en su sangre y proceden con claridad de su boca.” El apóstol Pablo nos confirma la veracidad de este principio cuando le recuerda a Timoteo: “…Desde la niñez has sabido Las Sagradas Escrituras.” Por esta razón, deducimos que los padres de Jesús tenían bien en claro su responsabilidad de instruirlo, como expresa Proverbios 22:6: “Instruye al niño en su camino y aún cuando fuere viejo no se apartará de él.”

Algunas fuentes cuentan que los niños empezaban a estudiar la palabra de Dios desde la cuna, pues al parecer los padres tomaban al pie de la letra la porción de la Torah que ordena: “Y las enseñarás a vuestros hijos, hablando de ellas cuando te sientes en tu casa, cuando andes por el camino, cuando te acuestes y cuando te levantes” (Deuteronomio 11:19).

Todo esto nos puede ayudar a concluir que Jesús, así como tú y yo, fue enseñado y educado; tenía que asistir a la escuela, obedecer a sus padres y cumplir con responsabilidades, pues las Escrituras resaltan que en todo momento estuvo sujeto a sus padres (Lucas 2:51).

Así que Padres, tenemos un gran compromiso para que nuestros hijos crezcan en sabiduría divina. Es necesario enseñarles los principios de Dios en todo momento, tal como instruye la Biblia. ¡Hagamos crecer a nuestros hijos con la sabiduría de la Palabra! Y ustedes, hijos, no desprecien las enseñanzas de sus padres ni la dirección de sus madres, porque adorno de gracia serán a sus cabezas, y collares a sus cuellos (Proverbios 1:8-9).

Hugo Martínez es el Director del Programa en Español de Cristo para las Naciones, en la ciudad de Dallas, Texas, donde además se desempeña como instructor. Todo esto lo hace con una gran passion enfocada en entrenar y capacitor a esta generación a la que Dios lo ha llamado a servir.

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Abstinence (Part 1)

By Hugo Martinez

Is sexual abstinence the will of God for my life?

In the Spanish Program at Christ For The Nations, my wife and I give a class each year in which we talk about dating, marriage, family and ministry. In this class, we touch on a very difficult subject to teach young people—sexual abstinence. As believers, they want to know what God’s will is in this matter for their lives, since today young people think and say, “I do not want to follow any religion or go to any church where sex is thought to be dirty.”

Unfortunately, the entertainment industry has influenced how we should think and feel about this subject. We are bombarded in our homes week by week with scenes of young people and adults who get in and out of the beds of others as if they were sexual robots. Only the eccentric and “weird ones” are presented as chaste because they are too stupid and ugly to find a mate or partner.

The message they are sending to young people is undoubtedly the following: If I do it, then I am part of the group; since everyone does it, I must do it. What we should note here is that of course the beautiful young actors in those hot dramas never face the consequences of their sexual disorders. No one ever gets infected with herpes, syphilis, chlamydia or AIDS. None of them is ever told by a doctor that there is no cure for the disease they have contracted and that they have to endure the pain of illness for the rest of their lives. The reality is that our entertainment culture has conditioned parents and children to think that this how things should be. It is normal; everybody does it.

Of course, the first thing to remember is that sex was made by God. God created it—it was God’s idea. We emphatically assert that sexual intercourse in the context of a marriage full of love and commitment is the most exciting and wonderful thing one can ever know. It is the greatest gift in the world. God has not created anything better than this in marriage. But outside of marriage, it can be the most devastating thing you can do in your life; it can destroy everything that you have hoped for.

Let’s look at what the Word of God says in 1 Thessalonians 4:3:

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you His Holy Spirit.”

God’s answer in His word is clear, affirmative and simple. There can be no misunderstandings. It is not even necessary to pray to have some interpretation or receive some revelation. Here God has already said what His will is. To know the will of God in relation to abstinence, you just have to read the passage; there is no way to dodge and look for another alternative. God says it in such a clear way that it can be resolved once and for all for every believer who wants to know God’s will in this matter. Sexual abstinence until marriage is God’s perfect plan.

A couple of young believers once told me, “We are struggling in this situation. We have sexually surrendered to each other. It was not our intention, but now we have trouble stopping. We do not know if it is bad or not, because we love one another.” My immediate answer was simple and clear; search for this passage, read it, underline it and discover what the will of God is for your lives. This makes it clear, both to those young believers who already have had sex and those who do not know if it is God’s will, to stop doing it.

Hebrews 13:4 puts it in a way that solves a lot of confusion regarding this matter. “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” With this statement, it is clear that having sex is outside the will of God. Do not ask God if you should live together or get married. God has already said what His will is. If you are already living together and really want to follow God’s will, you should immediately stop living together, because doing so is outside the will of God. This is not an idea of mine; this is directly from the Book that is the foundation of our beliefs.

In the second part of this article, we will present another truth that we need to teach young people: Sexual abstinence until marriage is the divine plan to save your life!

Don’t miss Part 2 of this article in the Summer issue of The Voice.

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Preparing For Christmas

By Michelle Ofori-Ansah

My two little boys, Boaz and Jakin, have been excited about Christmas since roughly the minute Boaz’ last birthday presents were opened in October. Jakin has been saying, “It’s Christmas Mommy and Daddy!” at random times, and we think it’s his way of indicating that something needs to be celebrated. Now, I recognize that my sons are really just looking forward to the next time they get to open presents . . . but I have decided that this year I want to take advantage of their anticipation. This year, I want to get an Advent calendar.

I don’t remember my family ever having an Advent calendar. Obviously, even if we did, it didn’t make much of an impression on me. Now, I love Christmas ­— Christmas carols, Christmas movies, Christmas food, the Christmas story, Christmas Eve service (and/or Christmas Day service) — I love them all. But for this Christmas, I want to focus on preparation ­— my personal and my family’s heart-readiness for this season.

That’s where the Advent calendar comes in. An Advent calendar is a way of celebrating Christmas, the birth of Jesus, for more than just the 25th of December. It was originally created to give Christians a chance to prepare their hearts for this important season. It has been adopted primarily for children, both to harness their excitement about Christmas and to help them understand the real meaning behind the holiday. But its primary purpose remains to help with preparing for celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Let me ask you. Are you prepared for Jesus’ birth? His birth literally split time . . . all our dates are referenced by this pivotal moment . . . before and after His birth. The most important question in the world is, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). As my sons start to understand Christmas and all the fun it represents (Presents! Lights! Vacation!), I want them to understand the real meaning behind it. It seems simple to add an Advent calendar to our lives, but I am excited about exploring the birth of Jesus in a deeper and more meaningful way.

When Jesus came to Earth as a baby, He gave up His divinity, His power and His status to become part of a hated and despised race. Philippians 2:7 describes this very well. “Rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” I want to understand this in a deeper and more tangible way, and I want my sons to start to grasp the miracle represented by a song like Away in a Manger. So, we will be using an Advent calendar this year. But more than just enjoying the chocolate, scriptures and fun pictures in our calendar, we will be preparing our hearts for Christmas. So, are you prepared for Christmas?

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An Orphan No Longer

By Maria Erokhina

“My mother was only 13 years old when I was born,” Jordan shared. She was adopted on the eighth day of her life, a gift and a promise to her new parents. They named her Jordan, after the river that the Israelites had to cross to enter the Promise Land. Her name became a reminder of God’s faithfulness to His promises.

Jordan, an African-American girl, grew up in a good Christian home in a Caucasian family in a small town in Louisiana. She was the only child, and her parents poured out all their affection on her. Despite their unconditional love, she struggled with feelings of emptiness and rejection. She often asked herself, “Why did my mother give me up? Am I worthy to be loved? Do I belong here? After all, who am I?” She felt out of place, like a tiny piece of a giant puzzle that she couldn’t figure out.

For years, these thoughts were brewing inside of her, leading to rebellion in her teenage years. Jordan couldn’t wait to gain independence from her parents, and when she turned 17, she seized the opportunity to leave home and go to college. The worship band in her home church used to play songs from Christ For The Nations, and she had also heard many good things about their summer camp, Youth For The Nations. She ended up choosing to attend CFNI, and looking back she sees this was God’s direction, although she didn’t realize it at the time. As a confirmation of God’s involvement, Jordan was given the rare chance to receive an Urban Leader Scholarship that helped her to pay for CFNI.

In the fall of 2014, Jordan moved to CFNI, and a new chapter began in her life. God set her free from the orphan mentality and revealed to her who she was in Christ. She traces this revelation to the moment one of her teachers, Michael Massa, described the power of the blood of Christ. To illustrate how His blood covers us, he asked four students to hold the corners of a large red piece of fabric and to walk down the aisles of the classroom, so that the cloth hovered over the students sitting at desks between the aisles. That picture was etched in Jordan’s heart. “It became clear to me that it’s Jesus’ blood that makes me a child of God. I was astounded by that. I couldn’t get over it. I became fully aware that I am not an orphan anymore. I am a daughter of God!”

This was just the beginning. There was another Divine encounter waiting for Jordan at CFNI. Adam McCain, another CFNI teacher, spent time getting to know her. As he did, he realized that he had been the youth pastor in the church where her biological mother grew up. He remembered praying and speaking destiny over Jordan when she was still in her mother’s womb. The two were so amazed at how God had Divinely orchestrated their meeting, almost 20 years later, that they couldn’t hold back their tears. That moment God whispered to Jordan’s heart, “You are a promise from Me. And you will see all of My promises come to pass.” Suddenly, Jordan had a moment of clarity. Her life wasn’t an accident. Her conception, adoption and the family she grew up with were sovereignly ordained by God.

“You are a promise from Me. And you will see all of My promises come to pass.”

Then, last summer, her life came full circle. Jordan was able to meet her biological mother for the first time. “I’d been waiting for that moment my whole life, and it felt surreal, but it was like nothing I expected,” she said. Jordan was surprised to discover how much she had in common with her mother, and yet how different their lives were. She says, “I love my biological mom, but our meeting opened my eyes to appreciate the life God has given me and the family that raised me.”

It has been quite a journey of healing that God has taken Jordan on. He put the pieces of her life-puzzle together, giving Jordan assurance that He’d been there in every moment of her life. Jordan is graduating from CFNI in the spring of 2017. She dreams of going to the mission fi eld with her parents and plans to pursue further education. She also wants to reach youth, especially young girls, with the message of sexual purity and how valuable each person is to God. Jordan knows what it feels like to be an orphan, and through God’s Divine connections and healing truth, she is prepared to take the message of adoption to others throughout the world.

“If you are struggling with your identity as a child of God, I pray that you understand that you have been adopted into God’s family through the blood of Jesus Christ. No matter what you have done, nothing can hinder the Father’s love for you, no matter what you’ve gone through — His love remains constant.”

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