Month: July 2013
The Message (MSG)
7 Jesus answered, “You don’t understand now what I’m doing, but it will be clear enough to you later.”
In this life, we have an incomplete view of God’s dealings, seeing His plan only half finished and underdeveloped. Yet once we stand in the magnificent temple of eternity, we will have the proper perspective and will see everything fitting gracefully together!
Imagine going to the mountains of Lebanon during the reign of Israel’s great King Solomon. Can you see the majestic cedar? It is the pride of all the other trees and has wrestled many years with the cold north winds! The summer sun has loved to smile upon it, while the night has caused its soft leaves to glisten with drops of dew. Birds have built their nests in its branches, weary travelers and wandering shepherds have rested in its shade from the midday heat or taken shelter from the raging storms. And suddenly we realize that this old inhabitant of the forest has been doomed to fall victim to the woodsman’s ax!
We watch as the ax makes its first gash on the cedar’s gnarled truck. Then we see its noble limbs stripped of their branches as the tree comes crashing to the ground. We cry out against the wanton destruction of this “Tree of God,” as it is distinctively known, and express our anger over the demolition of this proud pillar in the forest temple of nature. We are tempted to exclaim with the prophet Zechariah, “Wail, O pine tree, for the cedar has fallen…!(Zech. 11:2), as if inviting the sympathy of every less-majestic plant and invoking inanimate things to also resent the offense.
We should not be so quick to complain but should follow the gigantic tree as the workmen of “Hiram King of Tyre” (2 Chron.2:3) take it down the mountainside. From there we should watch it being sailed on rafts along the blue water of the Mediterranean. And finally, we should behold it being placed as a glorious and polished beam in the temple of God. As you contemplate its final destination, seeing it in the Holy of Holies as a jewel in the diadem of the Almighty King, can you honestly complain that this “crown jewel of Lebanon” was cut down, removed from the forest, and placed in such a noble setting? The cedar had once stood majestically in nature’s sanctuary, but “the glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house”(Hag.2:9)
So many people are like these cedars of old! God’s axes of trials have stripped them bare, and yet we can see no reason for such harsh and difficult circumstances. But God has a noble goal and purpose in mind: to place them as everlasting pillars and rafters in His heavenly Zion> And He says to them, “You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God”(Isa.62:3). I don’t ask my cross to understand, my way to see-Better in darkness just to feel Your hand, And follow Thee.
Exodus 26:1-11 (The Message)
1 “Make The Dwelling itself from ten panels of tapestry woven from fine twisted linen, blue and purple and scarlet material, with an angel-cherubim design. A skilled craftsman should do it. 2 The panels of tapestry are each to be forty-six feet long and six feet wide. 3 Join five of the panels together, and then the other five together. 4 Make loops of blue along the edge of the outside panel of the first set and the same on the outside panel of the second set. 5 Make fifty loops on each panel. 6 Then make fifty gold clasps and join the tapestries together so that The Dwelling is one whole. 7 “Next make tapestries of goat hair for a tent that will cover The Dwelling. Make eleven panels of these tapestries. 8 The length of each panel will be forty-five feet long and six feet wide. 9 Join five of the panels together, and then the other six. Fold the sixth panel double at the front of the tent. 10 Now make fifty loops along the edge of the end panel and fifty loops along the edge of the joining panel. 11 Make fifty clasps of bronze and connect the clasps with the loops, bringing the tent together.
Ephesians 2:21 (The Message)
21 that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day – a holy temple built by God,
Too long, Too short. Too big. Too small. Too tight. Too loose. These words describe most of the clothes I try on. Finding the perfect fit seems impossible. Finding a church that is a “perfect fit” poses similar problems. Every church has something that’s not quite right. Our gifts aren’t recognized. Our talents aren’t appreciated. Our sense of humor is uncomfortable.
We feel as if we don’t fit. We struggle to find our place. We know, however, that God wants us to fit together with one another. The apostle Paul said we are being “built together to become a dwelling in which God lives” (Eph. 2:22 NIV).
The believers in the church today, like the tabernacle in the days of Moses and the temple in the days of Solomon, are the dwelling place of God on earth. God wants us to fit together-for there to be no divisions in His church. This means that we, the building blocks, are to be “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement”. No church will be a perfect fit, but we can all work at fitting together more perfectly.
Christ’s love creates unity in the midst of diversity.
It should be against the law to break the law. Unfortunately, it is not. In early 21st-century America, a dirty little secret still exists among public officials, politicians, judges, prosecutors, and the police. The government – federal, state, and local – is not bound to obey its own laws. I know this sounds crazy, but too many cases prove it true. It should be a matter of grave concern for every American who prizes personal liberty.
When I became a judge in New Jersey, I had impeccable conservative Republican law-and-order credentials. When I left eight years later, I was a born-again individualist, after witnessing first-hand how the criminal justice system works to subvert and shred the Constitution. You think you’ve got rights that are guaranteed? Well, think again.
Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, particularly when it comes to the American criminal justice system. Nowhere else does the state have greater raw power over an individual’s life, liberty, and property. And nowhere else are our constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms under such a relentless, subtle, and ultimately devastating attack.
The deck is grossly stacked in the government’s favor. No wonder, as a recent New York magazine cover story put it, referring to the government’s long winning streaks in criminal trials, “The Defense Rests – Permanently.” No wonder that in 2003 fewer than 3 percent of federal indictments were tried; virtually all the rest of those charged pled guilty.
Being an American means having certain rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. That’s what it has always meant, and that’s what it will continue to mean in the troubled times before us. Most of us take these guaranteed rights and liberties for granted. Most of us live comfortable lives that never bring us in conflict with the criminal justice system. But in many ways, that’s a bad thing, for if you had seen the system as I did, you would never take your guaranteed rights for granted again.
Breaking the Law to Enforce the Law:
As a judge, I once heard an infuriating case involving the owner of a small Italian restaurant, an immigrant from Italy who was visited by two well-dressed gentlemen who introduced themselves and asked for weekly payments of a hundred dollars. In return, they promised the restaurant owner that his garbage would be collected on time, he would not have any trouble with labor unions, he would not be the victim of any crime, and no competing restaurant would open in his neighborhood.He threw them out. They returned unannounced about six times and every time their demands increased, eventually to a thousand dollars a week, each. After he rebuffed that demand, they said they’d be back the following week with guns, and he’d better get one. Terrified of this threat, and afraid as most immigrants are to involve the police, the restaurant owner borrowed a friend’s gun.
When the two gentlemen returned and asked if he had a gun, the restaurant owner reached into a drawer, pulled out the gun, and pointed it at them. They immediately slapped handcuffs on him! Unbeknownst to him, they were New Jersey state troopers who were trying to either shake him down for money or coerce him into breaking the law.
His prosecution for carrying a gun was assigned to me, along with a similar case involving a nearby Italian bakery.
Before the cases began, I ordered the troopers to appear in my courtroom, to inquire if their schemes were self-directed or authorized by their supervisors. They refused to be so interrogated, whereupon the prosecutors asked me to dismiss both cases, which I did.
The bakery owner was so delighted, he proclaimed in a classic Sicilian accent: “The Judga, he can eata for free for the resta his life!” I never took the owner up on his offer, but I appreciated his sentiments.
Torture and Psychological Abuse
Political ambition can be a powerful motivating factor for government abuse of our rights. Consider one of the cases that helped propel Janet Reno to national stardom. In 1984, Reno faced a serious challenger in her bid for reelection as Dade County’s state attorney. In August of that year, Frank Fuster and his wife, Ileana Fuster, were arrested for sexually abusing more than 20 children who attended their home daycare center. Reno began the case by soliciting Laurie and Joe Braga, both billed as “child abuse experts” with no psychology training, to interview the children.
The Bragas used suggestive and misleading interview techniques to elicit false accusations from the children in the case. The children were brainwashed with fantasies of sexual abuse involving masks, snakes, drills, and other objects, and eventually came and other objects, and eventually came out of the interviews thinking they were victims.
Of all the children alleging sexual abuse against Fuster, Reno’s office only presented physical “evidence” that one child was abused. The prosecution invoked a laboratory test suggesting that a child had tested positive for gonorrhea of the throat. However, the lab test that was performed is very unreliable and often gives false positives. Reno’s agents tested for the family of bacteria to which gonorrhea belongs rather than specifically for gonorrhea; other bacteria that could have caused the false positive are harmless and are frequently found to live in children. Of course, the state ordered the lab to destroy the evidence three days later, thereby preventing the defense from challenging the state’s “evidence.”
Recognizing that the case against Fuster was weak, Janet Reno’s final straw was to torture Ileana Fuster physically and mentally to the point where she could be coerced into implicating her husband.
Reno had Ileana isolated from the prison population and placed in solitary confinement, naked. Ileana described her treatment in a 1998 interview: “They would give me cold showers. Two people will hold me, run me under cold water, then throw me back in the cell naked with nothing, just a bare floor. And I used to be cold, real cold. I would have my periods and they would just wash me and throw me back into the cell.”
Late one night, the naked Ileana, according to her lawyer, received a visit in her darkened solitary cell from an intimidating 6-foot-2 woman. The woman told Ileana that she knew that Ileana and her husband were guilty. “But how can that be? We are innocent,” Ileana proclaimed. “Who are you?” “I’m Janet Reno,” the woman said. Ileana repeatedly told Reno that she was innocent, and Reno kept repeating, “I’m sorry, but you are not. You’re going to have to help us.” Reno made several more solitary, nightly visits to the naked Ileana, each time threatening Ileana that she would remain in prison for the rest of her life if she didn’t tell Reno what she wanted to hear.
Finally, Reno hired two psychiatrists from a company called Behavior Changers Inc., who met Ileana 34 times in a one-month period. These psychiatrists claimed to be able to help individuals “recover memories,” but their technique was simply to hypnotize Ileana so that she could be brainwashed into believing that Frank Fuster was a child molester. The coercion eventually worked: with the psychiatrists present and with Janet Reno squeezing her hand, Ileana implicated her husband.
Ileana’s trial testimony against her husband put the final nail in Frank Fuster’s coffin. Reno won the conviction, her reelection bid, her name in the newspaper headlines, and a stepping stone to a position as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. However, Ileana Fuster has repeatedly retracted her confession and testimony, swearing that she and Fuster never abused any of the children, and that her confession was the product of brainwashing.
Yet, thanks to Janet Reno, an innocent Fuster remains incarcerated for 165 years without the possibility of parole.
Messing with Texans
It is unfair, unwise, and un-American for police to break the law in order to enforce it. A corrupt police officer in Tulia, Texas, a small rural town of about five thousand people, engaged in what one commentator deemed an “ethnic cleansing of young male blacks.”
Thomas Coleman, an undercover narcotics officer, committed one of the worst police atrocities in recent years by arresting 46 people on July 23, 1999. Of those arrested, 39 were black, which amounts to approximately half of the town’s adult black population. Many others were involved in the family or personal relationships with black Americans in an otherwise overwhelmingly white community. Coleman’s previous law enforcement employers knew that Coleman himself had once been arrested for theft during an undercover operation, that he used racial epithets, and that he had a widespread reputation in the Texas law enforcement community as being unreliable and untrustworthy.
Nonetheless, on the basis of Coleman’s testimony, 38 individuals arrested on that day were found to be guilty of drug dealing. Some were sentenced to up to 90 years in prison! Some were coerced into accepting plea bargains under the threat of lengthy imprisonment.
What is most shocking is that the prosecution’s only evidence against these defendants was the testimony of Coleman, the dirty cop. The testimony was uncorroborated: no witnesses or other police officers could confirm that Coleman bought drugs from these defendants. And Coleman could not offer any audio or video surveillance verifying his undercover drug purchases. Not even fingerprint evidence was introduced.
Coleman’s testimony was based solely on notes he scribbled on his stomach and his leg. He did not keep a permanent notebook. At the time of their arrests, these 46 supposed drug dealers possessed no guns, no drugs, and no money. Coleman claimed to have purchased $20,000 worth of cocaine from these “dealers.” Furthermore, some of the individuals who were arrested established that they were miles away from Tulia that day. A few of them neither worked nor lived in Tulia. All of the people arrested that day were either convicted by juries or pleaded guilty. In 1999, Texas attorney general John Cornyn – now a U.S. senator – named Coleman the outstanding law enforcement officer of the year.
The Tulia, Texas, debacle attracted national media attention and a coordinated, multidefendant habeas corpus campaign, coordinated by the NAACP and many law firms. About four years later, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals exonerated the victims of Coleman’s fraud. Coleman had previously acknowledged that the convictions were based on nothing more than his testimony. While he stated that he was “pretty sure” that all the defendants “deserved” to be behind bars, he admitted to several “mess ups” and stated that some of his own sworn testimony was “questionable.” It is a rare anomaly that police abuses such as that perpetrated in Tulia, Texas, are overturned. You can’t help but wonder how many wrongfully convicted defendants never had the luxury of seeing justice served. It shouldn’t be a luxury.
Coleman currently faces trial for perjury, but the buck does not stop at Thomas Coleman. Coleman’s activities were financed by the federal government’s war on drugs, as he was part of the Panhandle Regional Narcotics Task Force. The Department of Justice encourages officers like Coleman to rack up as many arrests as possible, since the money is allocated to the task forces on the basis of number of arrests, not convictions. Because there is no distinction between high-quality and low-level arrests, the federal government creates an incentive for officers like Coleman to engage in sloppy investigations against low-level offenders, and against the innocent.
Rights No More
The war on terrorism has increased the need to protect vigilantly our civil liberties. In July 2003, the U.S. Department of Justice held a celebration at which it handed out honors and praises to federal agents and lawyers involved in the prosecution of the Lackawanna Six.
It should have handed out indictments instead, because those prosecutors – or at least some of them – violated their oaths to uphold the Constitution in order to coerce six soccer-playing young men from Lackawanna, New York, with no criminal records, into accepting long jail terms, well out of proportion to their alleged crimes.
The six – all Arab Americans in their early 20s, five of whom were born here – were charged in federal court in the Western District of New York with providing aid and support to a terrorist group, before September 11, by attending camps in Afghanistan, learning about weapons, and listening to Muslim clerics preach hatred toward the United States.
They were charged with listening to others – including, in the case of one of them, Osama bin Laden himself – talk about causing America harm and with training for some undefined jihad, even though they said that once they arrived and met the people in the camps, they wanted nothing to do with it. The government actually told a federal judge that since the clerics being heard by the six were preaching violence, the six had committed crimes of violence.
The court rejected that argument out of hand. After reviewing the evidence against the six, the judge wrote that these defendants – like all defendants – are guaranteed due process, and that federal courts should do more than just pay lip service to the guarantees of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; they should enforce them.
“We must never adopt an ‘end justifies the means’ philosophy,” the judge wrote, “by claiming that our Constitutional and democratic principles must be temporarily furloughed or put on hold in cases involving alleged terrorism in order to preserve our democracy. To do so would result in victory for the terrorists.”
But within mere yards of where this fair judge sat when he wrote those words, the government lawyers who once swore to uphold the Constitution were plotting to put it on hold.
According to a lawyer for one of the six – himself a former federal prosecutor – the government lawyers implicitly threatened the six during plea negotiations that if they did not plead guilty, if they did not speak up as the government wished, if they did not cooperate in their own prosecutions, if they insisted on their due process rights, the government would declare them to be enemy combatants.
In that case, the so-called defenders of the Constitution threatened, the six would have no due process rights, no trial, no lawyers, no charges filed against them, and they would receive solitary confinement for life.
There is no reported case in American history in which a court allowed a defendant to be told that his insistence on due process would result, not in prosecution and conviction, but in punishment without trial. It has always been the case that when entering a guilty plea – and when negotiating for that plea – the defendant’s fears of punishment were limited to that which the law provides. Today, for the government to threaten that the punishment can be increased by fiat by the president after the crime has been committed is not only unconstitutional, it is tyrannical.
Liberty: Void Where Prohibited
It is only a warped view of American history, culture, and law that could seriously suggest that constitutional rights are discretionary – that any president can strip a person of his due process rights. Let’s be clear: There is no Supreme Court case supporting or authorizing presidential enhancement of punishment, and the Justice Department knows that.
So if it is constitutionally impossible for the government to strip a person of his due process rights, why did the lawyers for the Lackawanna Six let their clients plead guilty and accept six-to-nine-year jail terms? Because they knew that the government had suspended rights before and gotten away with it. They knew that the president had actually declared three people to be enemy combatants and kept them locked up without charges and away from their own lawyers. And before the Supreme Court stepped in, he appeared to be getting away with it.
Ultimately, the fate of American liberty is in the hands of American voters. Though we are less free with every tick of the clock, most of us still believe that the government is supposed to serve the people – fairly, not selectively.
There are some surprisingly direct ways to address the excesses I’ve described. First, Congress and the state legislatures should enact legislation that simply requires the police, all other law enforcement personnel, and everyone who works for or is an agent of the government to be governed by, subject to, and required to comply with all the laws.
That would eliminate virtually all entrapment, and it would enhance respect for the law. If the police are required to obey the same laws as the rest of us, our respect for them and for the laws they enforce would dramatically increase, and their jobs would become easier. In short, it would be against the law to break the law.
Second, Congress and the state legislatures should make it easier to sue the federal and state governments for monetary damages when they violate our constitutional liberties.
The federal government and many states have rendered themselves immune (called “sovereign immunity”) from such lawsuits if the lawsuit attacks the exercise of discretion by government employees. That is nonsense. You can sue your neighbor for negligence if his car runs over your garden or your dog. You can sue your physician if he leaves a scalpel in your belly. You should be able to sue the local police, state police, and the FBI under the same legal theories if they torment you, prevent you from speaking freely, bribe witnesses to testify against you, steal your property, or break the law in order to convict you.
If the Constitution is enforced selectively, according to the contemporary wants and needs of the government, we will continue to see public trials in some cities and secret trials in others; free speech suppressed on inexplicable whims; police targeting the weak and killing the innocent; and government lying to its citizens, stealing their property, tricking them into criminal acts, bribing its witnesses against them, making a mockery of legal reasoning, and breaking the laws in order to enforce them.
This is not the type of government we, the people, have authorized to exist, and it is not the type of government that we should tolerate. We can do better. If government crimes are not checked, our Constitution will be meaningless, and our attempts to understand it, enforce it, and rely on it will be chaotic.
Jontesha wants to start her own business, Aaliyah plans to attend law school, and Marla hopes to become a Broadway actress.
These goals are written on the teenage girls’ coat of arms in a summer program called “In Our Own Voices.”
Sponsored by Just Communities of Arkansas, a nonprofit that seeks to bring people together to achieve inclusion, equity, and justice, the workshop aims to teach students about themselves and others through creative writing projects.
“From our work with young people, we know that they need to be encouraged to find their own voices, and to be confident that what they think and feel is important,” Ruth Shepherd, executive director of Just Communities of Arkansas.
“Giving these youngsters an opportunity to explore the themes of diversity, identity, neighborhood, parents, and other important adults and institutions in their lives makes it possible for them to become more introspective, more thoughtful about how they present themselves, and how they interact with others.”
The class is based on a curriculum to foster social justice created by Kelly Ford, a graduate of the Clinton School of Public Service.
Ford writes in her curriculum paper: “Young people can benefit from a structure that encourages them to think, share and listen face to face. And if, in the doing of these things, they find their voice, improve their communication skills and self-esteem, or develop an affinity for reading and writing, wouldn’t we call that impact?”
On a recent Wednesday at the newly opened Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center in Little Rock, neighborhood is the topic. Students are asked to close their eyes and imagine their house and its surroundings. When prompted by the moderator, the students share what they see.
“A garden with colorful flowers,” a child says.
Another one says, “A brown house that needs to be cleaned.”
“A big, loud dog,” says one girl.
From there, the students write about their neighborhoods on bright, yellow pieces of paper. They are timed as a way to work quickly. After a few minutes, they are asked to share their work with others at their table.
They then take their thoughts and write a poem that will be placed in their binder. Students are asked to read their poems, and after a reading, everyone snaps their fingers for positive feedback.
Other daily projects include creating a coat of arms about what makes each student unique, writing an ode to something they like and a writing exercise about who raised them. The latter project’s goal is to teach “diversity, self-esteem, acceptance and understanding,” according to the curriculum.
At the end of the two-week class, the students will host a party to “share their voices” with family and friends and read their best piece of writing. They will also have a book with their writing in it to keep.
Just Communities of Arkansas plans to share the curriculum with its affiliate organizations around the country. Ford says she believes the power of the arts—literary, performing and visual—can effect change.
“Writing is a way for students to discover how they really think and feel about some things. It’s an opportunity for them to dream, to mourn, to explore situations (hypothetical or real), and more,” Ford said.
“I think we learn empathy from reading and writing. Hopefully, this curriculum is structured in such a way that the students find much within themselves of which to be proud.”
We’ve all done something bad. But imagine doing something bad, so bad that you go to jail for the rest of your life, with no chance of parole. Would this be considered a violation of the Eighth Amendment, which protects us from “cruel and unusual punishment”?
That is the heart of the issue of the Supreme Court cases Sullivan v. Florida and Graham v. Florida. In both cases, the juveniles were found guilty of offenses in which no one was killed, and they received life sentences without the chance of release. These two are among the over one hundred cases across the country in which a juvenile was sentenced to life in prison without parole for non-homicide offenses.
In Sullivan, Joe Sullivan was sent away for life for raping an elderly woman when he was 13. The case of Graham focuses on Terrance Graham, who was implicated in armed robberies when he was 16 and 17. In both cases, the judge ruled against the advice of the Department of Corrections and gave the stiffest punishment allowable by law.
In Sullivan, the judge said that he was “beyond help,” and the judge who sentenced Graham to life without parole stated during sentencing: “If I can’t do anything to help you, then I have to . . . protect the community from your actions.”
These cases come after the 2005 Supreme Court case Roper v. Simmons, where the court ruled 5 to 4 that it is unconstitutional to execute anyone convicted of a crime when he or she was a juvenile.
Now the issue is whether letting a juvenile spend the rest of his or her life in prison is constitutional. Furthermore, the issue of whether prisons are meant to rehabilitate criminals or keep them away from society is being raised.
Bryan Stevenson, who represents Joe Sullivan, concedes that there is a difference between the death penalty and life without parole. But he says that a life term is different from other prison sentences because it denies the prisoner any hope for a future. “They’re just two different kinds of death sentences,” he said before the court. “One is death by execution, the other death by incarceration.”
Nineteen states, including Louisiana, have filed a brief supporting life sentences without parole for juveniles in non-homicide cases. “I disagree that the juvenile crimes are any less culpable than the adult crimes,” said Louisiana Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell in an NPR interview. “These are young criminals. That’s what they are, and the ones who are getting these sentences are the worst of those.”
The court seemed divided on the issue. Justice Stephen G. Breyer said, “The confusion and uncertainty about the moral responsibility of a 13-year-old is such that it is a cruel thing to do to remove from that individual his entire life. You see, we are at the extreme.”
Justice Samuel Alito disagreed with Breyer, remarking, “You are saying that, no matter what this person does, commits the most horrible series of non-homicide offenses that you can imagine, a whole series of brutal rapes, assaults that render the victim paraplegic but not dead, no matter what, the person is sentenced, shows no remorse whatsoever, the worst case you can possibly imagine, that person must at some point be made eligible for parole?”
In a victory for the rights for juveniles, the Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that a sentence of life without parole is unconstitutional for anyone under 18. The majority opinion, which follows a 2005 ruling that executing minors is unconstitutional, said the punishment must be interpreted in light of the country’s “evolving standards of decency.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, went on to say, “By denying the defendant the right to enter the community, the state makes an irrevocable judgment about that person’s value and place in society.” Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote a dissenting opinion, said that interpreting the Eighth Amendment with the changing societal standards is “entirely the court’s creation.” He argued that the “question of what acts are ‘deserving’ of what punishments is bound so tightly with questions of morality and social conditions as to make it, almost by definition, a question for legislative resolution.”
Please let me hear from you on what you think about this issue. I have two young adults sentenced to life one in Maryland and one in California. I lost my daughter at the age of 18 and my son at the age of 19 and it haunts me every day. I can’t Imagine losing a younger child at the age of 13 to 14 years old.
Paul prays #1 for STRENGTH. Tonight we will look at some additional requests in this prayer that ends the first half of the book of Ephesians
Years ago there was a song that went, ‘My love is higher than the highest mountain, softer than a sigh, my love is deeper than the deepest ocean, wider than the sky, my love is brighter than the brightest star that shines every night above, and there is nothing in the world that can ever change my love’.
We would all agree that this person has a highly exaggerated expression of human love but if you change the words from My love is to God’s love is then you suddenly have a song that reflects truth instead of exaggeration.
PAUL SECOND REQUEST IS THAT OF LOVE
REQUEST #2: LOVE (17) …and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, (19) and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge,..
· Three things necessary for Paul’s kind of love
1. FIRST: It is something we are to be rooted & grounded in
a. This means to be established/stabilized in the
Superior love that comes from God.
b. The world has it’s own brand of love which is very
self -centered. Paul prays that we will be
established by God’s definition of what love really is.
Two words: One is agricultural while the other is architectural. One means to get our roots solid into the soil. The other means to be stable so as to not be collapsible. Our love is firmly rooted in our relationship with Jesus and the storms of the world cannot make our love fall apart.
c. It is one thing to be rooted and grounded in doctrine or
even in service in the church but being grounded in
God’s kind of love is an even deeper walk with God.
Parallel verse to this would be Romans 5:5 ‘the love of God has been shed abroad/poured out in hearts through the Holy Spirit’.
Thought of swabbing the decks, pouring water everywhere, or for us today ‘laying carpet’. Covers every area, ‘wall to wall’. Missing 6 inches on one side would look odd.
We are to be so rooted/grounded in love that it effects every part of our life. Every relationship, ministry, attitude, action.
SOMETHING WE ARE TO BE ROOTED AND GROUND IN
2. SECOND: Something we strive to know the extent of.
Able to comprehend what is the breadth, length, height,
a. ABLE – idea of being a full strength, full capacity.
When we are spiritually at optimum place then we
begin to understand some tremendous things about
b. Comprehend means more than just to know something
but it literally means to lay hold of something so as to
make it your own, to know and to feel.
To understand it to the point that it has a deep impact
upon who you are as a person.
You might tell somebody a joke and ask, ‘Do you get it?’
Louis Armstrong said about JAZZ, ‘Man, if I’ve got to explain it, you ain’t got it’.
We get our word for a monkey’s tail from this word.
b. Comprehend(grasp 4 things)
The Breadth of Love: wide enough to encompass all mankind
The Length of Love: long enough to last for eternity
The Heighth of Love: high enough to take us to heaven
The Depth of Love: deep enough to reach the most
CAN YOU EVEN BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND THAT KIND OF LOVE
AND TO MAKE IT YOUR OWN.
AND TO LOVE LIKE THAT YOURSELF.
Paul prays that you do. Imagine a church like that.
Comprehend with all the saints..
SOMETHING TO BE ROOTED AND GROUNDED IN SOMETHING TO KNOW THE FULL EXTENT OF
3. THIRD: It is something we see the fullest expression in
Jesus. (19) and to know the love of Christ which
a. This is actually a pretty funny statement by Paul.
He is praying that we will know what is unknowable.
The love that is in Christ is beyond human knowledge.
Lit. ‘to throw beyond’. I am playing shortstop but God’s thought keep going over the center field fence. I will never catch them, they are too far beyond my position.
b. KNOW is an intimate word like the love between a
husband and a wife. Paul prays that we will have an
intimate knowledge of the love of Christ.
Don’t ask me to explain the love of Christ but if you ask me if I know what it is then I can say I do, I have experienced it.
REQUEST #3: FULLNESS (19) …that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (20) Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,
1. Paul prays that we might be filled with God’s fullness.
This word for filled means to be filled over the top, a full
a. Paul is praying that we will be overwhelmed the
presence of God. Think that sounds like an inviting
b. To pray this prayer means that we want God to so fill
us with Himself that there is nothing left of me.
Demonstrate this kind of attitude by some men who were called the Cambridge Seven.
In 1884 they were seven of the finest cricket players in England and were each students at Cambridge University.
They each gave up wealth, privilege, and comfort to bring the gospel to the people of China.
This would be equivalent to a Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa or Ken Griffey Jr. quitting baseball in their prime to go to the mission field.
The most notable was a man named C.T. Studd who also gave up a sizable inheritance to serve as a missionary in China, India, and Africa for 45 years.
Verse 20 is a wonderful verse that opens up the truth
about the heart of God towards us. If we can just get
self out of the way then look what God is waiting to give
when we embrace His fullness. Illustrates Paul’s fourth
REQUEST #4: Glory (20) Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, (21) to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. AMEN
1. This great prayer of Paul that we would have God’s
strength in our service, have God’s love in our hearts, and
have God’s fullness in our lives is all for a purpose.
That purpose is to bring glory to God.
a. It is all meant to draw attention to the one behind the
curtain who makes the kind of life we live possible.
2. When we live DYNAMITE CHRISTIAN lives then verse 20
describes the kind of God the world will begin to see.
a. HIM WHO IS ABLE – That will be the testimony our life
teaches. God is able in all of life’s struggles, He is
more than sufficient
b. ABLE TO DO EXCEEDING ABUNDANTLY BEYOND:
1) TO DO: create, perform, bring forth. No matter
what the challenge God can bring forth lemonade
out of lemons, healing out of hurts,
2) EXCEEDINGLY ABUNDANTLY BEYOND: three
straight superlatives. Beyond was used to describe
a river above capacity or at flood stage.
Exceedingly beyond capacity. God can do more
than our life could ever contain.
Like the little boy asked by his grandparents about how big the grand canyon was, ‘Way big, way way way way big’
c. BEYOND ALL THAT WE ASK OR THINK: More than our
life could contain and more than our minds could
imagine. I don’t know about you but I can think of a
lot of things but God is able to do more than that.
CONCLUSION: The world knows God can do these things because He is doing them in the lives of His people. Those who:
1) Those who surrender through faith to His Spirit so that His power might strengthen our lives.
2) Those who experience the extend of His Amazing Love and so share it with the world
3) Those who are filled to overflowing with His presence as they lose themselves in Him.
All these things bring Him glory in the church…to all generations forever and ever.
Didn’t end with Paul or the Apostles. This prayer was not just for the Churches in that day but for every generation forever and ever. IT IS FOR US!
God alone deserves glory for He alone is glorious.
In spite of the progress that has been made in the United States since the Civil Rights Movement toward achieving racial justice, racism remains the single most destructive force in American society. Social problems such as poverty, unemployment, urban decay, deteriorating educational opportunities, crime and violence are all elevated by the persistence of racism in our society.
To reduce all forms of discrimination including racism, it is important that we keep moving forward with the necessary legal reforms. But past history reveals that we cannot legislate an end to racism. People must address racism in personal relationships and in their daily lives. Racism must be challenged in our workplace, schools, the media, and in every institution of our society.
Do standardized achievement tests unfairly advantage white and Asian students and disadvantage the rest? According to a group of educational organizations and civil rights groups the answer is yes. The recently filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education pointing out that black and Latino students in New York score below whites and Asians on standardized tests so consistently that although they are almost 70% of the overall student body, they are only 11% of students enrolled at elite public schools. As a result, the complaint argues that New York City is in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act because schools rely on a test that advantages one racial group over another.
This is not the only instance where race has become an important factor for how standardized tests are used in public education. Just last month public schools in both Virginia and Washington D.C. announced targets for how many students in each racial group must pass for schools to remain in good standing. For example, in Virginia only 45% of black students in each school must pass standardized math tests while 68% of whites, and 82% of Asians must do the same. Officials say that these plans are not discriminatory because students who are the farthest behind must progress the most, but critics reason that if one expects less from some students, those lower educational expectations will become a self-fulfilling prophecy for school districts and those students will fall even farther behind.
The Convict Lease System and Lynch Law are twin infamies which flourish hand in hand in many of the United States. They are the two great outgrowths and results of the class legislation under which our people suffer to-day. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington claim to be too poor to maintain state convicts within prison walls. Hence the convicts are leased out to work for railway contractors, mining companies and those who farm large plantations. These companies assume charge of the convicts, work them as cheap labor and pay the states a handsome revenue for their labor. Ninetenths of these convicts are Negroes. There are two reasons for this.
(1) The religious, moral and philanthropic forces of the country — all the agencies which tend to uplift and reclaim the degraded and ignorant, are in the hands of the Anglo-Saxon. Not only has very little effort been made by these forces to reclaim the Negro from the ignorance, immorality and shiftlessness with which he is charged, but he has always been and is now rigidly excluded from the enjoyment of those elevating influences toward which he felt voluntarily drawn. In communities where Negro population is largest and these counteracting influences most needed, the doors of churches, schools, concert halls, lecture rooms, Young Men’s Christian Associations, and Women’s Christian Temperance Unions, have always been and are now closed to the Negro who enters on his own responsibility. Only as a servant or inferior being placed in one corner is he admitted. The white Christian and moral influences have not only done little to prevent the Negro becoming a criminal, but they have deliberately shut him out of everything which tends to make for good citizenship.
To have Negro blood in the veins makes one unworthy of consideration, a social outcast, a leper, even in the church. Two Negro Baptist Ministers, Rev. John Frank, the pastor of the largest colored church in Louisville, Ky., and Rev. C. H. Parish, President of Extein Norton University at Cane Spring, Ky., were in the city of Nashville, Tennessee, in May when the Southern Baptist Convention was in session. They visited the meeting and took seats in the body of the church. At the request of the Association, a policeman was called and escorted these men out because they would not take the seats set apart for colored persons in the back part of the Tabernacle. Both these men are scholarly, of good moral character, and members of the Baptist denomination. But they were Negroes, and that eclipsed everything else. This spirit is even more rampant in the more remote, densely populated plantation districts. The Negro is shut out and ignored, left to grow up in ignorance and vice. Only in the gambling dens and saloons does he meet any sort of welcome. What wonder that he falls into crime?
(2) The second reason our race furnishes so large a share of the convicts is that the judges, juries and other officials of the courts are white men who share these prejudices. They also make the laws. It is wholly in their power to extend clemency to white criminals and mete severe punishment to black criminals for the same or lesser crimes. The Negro criminals are mostly ignorant, poor and friendless. Possessing neither money to employ lawyers nor influential friends, they are sentenced in large numbers to long terms of imprisonment for petty crimes. The People’s Advocate, a Negro journal, of Atlanta, Georgia, has the following observation on the prison showing of that state for 1892. “It is an astounding fact that 90 per cent of the state’s convicts are colored; 194 white males and 2 white females; 1,710 colored males and 44 colored females. Is it possible that Georgia is so color prejudiced that she won’t convict her white law-breakers. Yes, it is just so, but we hope for a better day.”
George W. Cable, author of The Grandissimes, Dr. Sevier, etc., in a paper on “The Convict Lease System,” read before a Prison Congress in Kentucky says: “In the Georgia penitentiary in 1880, in a total of nearly 1200 convicts, only 22 prisoners were serving as low a term as one year, only 52 others as low as two years, only 76 others as low a term as three years; while those who were under sentences of ten years and over numbered 538, although ten years, as the rolls show, is the utmost length of time that a convict can be expected to remain alive in a Georgia penitentiary. Six men were under sentence for simple assault and battery — mere fisticuffing — one of two years, two of five years, one of six years, one of seven and one of eight. For larceny, three men were serving under sentence of twenty years, five were sentenced each for fifteen years; one for fourteen years, six for twelve years; thirty-five for ten years, and 172 from one year up to nine years. In other words, a large majority of these 1200 convicts had for simple stealing, without breaking in or violence, been virtually condemned to be worked and misused to death. One man was under a twenty years’ sentence for hog-stealing. Twelve men were sentenced to the South Carolina penitentiary on no other finding but a misdemeanor commonly atoned for by a fine of a few dollars, and which thousands of the state’s inhabitants (white) are constantly committing with impunity — the carrying of concealed weapons. Fifteen others were sentenced for mere assault and battery. In Louisiana a man was sentenced to the penitentiary for 12 months for stealing five dollars worth of gunnysacks! Out of 2378 convicts in the Texas prison in 1882, only two were under sentence of less than two years length, and 509 of these were under twenty years of age. Mississippi’s penitentiary roll for the same year showed 70 convicts between the ages of 12 and 18 years of age serving long terms. Tennessee showed 12 boys under 18 years of age, under sentences of more than a year; and the North Carolina penitentiary had 234 convicts under 20 years of age serving long terms.”
Mr. Cable goes on to say in another part of his admirable paper: “In the Georgia convict force only 15 were whites among 215 who were under sentences of more than ten years.” What is true of Georgia is true of the convict lease system everywhere. The details of vice, cruelty and death thus fostered by the states whose treasuries are enriched thereby, equals anything from Siberia. Men, women and children are herded together like cattle in the filthiest quarters and chained together while at work. The Chicago Inter-Ocean recently printed an interview with a young colored woman who was sentenced six months to the convict farm in Mississippi for fighting. The costs, etc., lengthened the time to 18 months. During her imprisonment she gave birth to two children, but lost the first one from premature confinement, caused by being tied up by the thumbs and punished for failure to do a full day’s work. She and other women testified that they were forced to criminal intimacy with the guards and cook to get food to eat.
Correspondence to the Washington D.C. Evening Star dated Sept. 27, 1892, on this same subject has the following:
The fact that the system puts a large number of criminals afloat in the community from the numerous escapes is not its worst feature. The same report shows that the mortality is fearful in the camps. In one camp it is stated that the mortality is 10 per cent per month, and in another even more than that. In these camps men and women are found chained together, and from twenty to twenty-five children have been born in captivity in the convicts’ camps.
Some further facts are cited with reference to the system in use in Tennessee. The testimony of a guard at the Coal Creek prison in Tennessee shows that prisoners, black and dirty from their work in the mines, were put into their rooms in the stockades without an opportunity to change their clothing or sufficient opportunity for cleanliness. Convicts were whipped, a man standing at the head and another at the feet, while a third applied the lash with both hands. Men who failed to perform their task of mining from two to four tons of coal per day were fastened to planks by the feet, then bent over a barrel and fastened by the hands on the other side, stripped and beaten with a strap. Out of the fifty convicts worked in the mines from one to eight were whipped per day in this manner. There was scarcely a day, according to the testimony of the witness, James Frazier, in which one or more were not flogged in this manner for failure to perform their day’s task. The work in the mines was difficult and the air sometimes so bad that the men fell insensible and had to be hauled out. Their beds he described as “dirty, black and nasty looking.” One of the convicts, testifying as to the kind of food given them, said that the pea soup was made from peas containing weevils and added: “I have got a spoonful of weevils off a cup of soup.” In many cases convicts were forced to work in water six inches deep for weeks at a time getting out coal with one-fourth of the air necessary for a healthy man to live in, forced to drink water from stagnant pools when mountain springs were just outside of the stockades, and the reports of the prison officials showing large numbers killed in attempting to escape.
The defense of this prison is based wholly upon its economy to the state. It is argued that it would cost large sums of money to build penitentiaries in which to confine and work the prisoners as is done in the Northern States, while the lease system brings the state a revenue and relieves it of the cost of building and maintaining prisons. The fact that the convicts labor is in this way brought into direct competition with free labor does not seem to be taken into account. The contractors, who get these laborers for 30 or 40 cents per day, can drive out of the market the man who employs free labor at $1 a day.
This condition of affairs briefly alluded to in detail in Tennessee and Georgia exists in other Southern States. In North Carolina the same system exists, except that only able-bodied convicts are farmed out. The death rates among the convicts is reported as greater than the death rate of New Orleans in the greatest yellow fever epidemic ever known. In Alabama a new warden with his natural instincts unblunted by familiarity with the situation wrote of it: “The system is a better training school for criminals than any of the dens of iniquity in our large cities. The system is a disgrace to the state and the reproach of the civilization and Christian sentiment of the age.”
Every Negro so sentenced not only means able-bodied men to swell the state’s number of slaves, but every Negro so convicted is thereby disfranchised.
It has been shown that numbers of Negro youths are sentenced to these penitentiaries every year and there mingle with the hardened criminals of all ages and both sexes. The execution of law does not cease with the incarceration of those of tender years for petty crimes. In the state of South Carolina last year Mildred Brown, a little thirteen year old colored girl was found guilty of murder in the first degree on the charge of poisoning a little white infant that she nursed. She was sentenced to be hanged. The Governor refused to commute her sentence, and on October 7th, 1892, at Columbia, South Carolina, she was hanged on the gallows. This made the second colored female hanged in that state within one month. Although tried, and in rare cases convicted for murder and other crimes, no white girl in this country ever met the same fate. The state of Alabama in the same year hanged a ten year old Negro boy. He was charged with the murder of a peddler.
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Today the major English-speaking nations watch as a storm of problems draws ever nearer, a storm created by hostile forces that blurred and weakened their sense of morality. Does the Bible indicate where we will go from here?
A recent article in USA Today captures the essence of present discontent in the United States. It laments: “In poll after poll, two-thirds or more of Americans say the country is on the wrong track. Oil prices are near an all-time high. The president’s popularity hovers near record lows over a deeply unpopular war. Millions of homeowners are in danger of losing their houses to foreclosure. And many more Americans fear the loss of their jobs”
The article goes on to compare the country’s plight today with its tumultuous national picture in the 1970s: “Americans were shocked by the ’70s. We seemed to be running out of everything: oil, beef, even toilet paper. Prices were rising, and so was unemployment. Both the president and vice president resigned from office. The long struggle in Vietnam ended in a desperate retreat from Saigon by helicopter.”
Comparisons with recent history can be very instructive, but we should not ignore ancient times. The biblical “song of Moses” also invites historical perspective. It reaches down through the generations and suggests meaningful comparisons with the past: “Remember the days of old , consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you” (Deuteronomy 32:7
, emphasis added throughout).
If young and middle-aged Americans were to ask the country’s “greatest generation” of World War II what they thought of our current cultural behavior, what would the answer be?
Would they be full of praise for our national conduct? Are they pleased with what passes for entertainment on television during the evening of their lives? Would they not think that what’s really wrong with the nation is its steep moral decline over the last half century?
The other day I was talking with a man who is worried about his 15 year old daughter. His concern came when he found she was seeing a young man of 21 in an inappropriate manner, and his daughter could not see anything wrong with the relationship no matter how hard this man tried to explain it. And as we were talking about this at a function weeks later, one of the teenagers who overheard our discussion on the topic also saw no problem, and went on to inform us how things like this occur on a daily basis in and away from school, and began to boast how he could have sex with just about any girl from the age of 14 on up with no problem.
He explained the different sites where ads are put out for free, where anyone can write about anything that can be concocted in the human mind, and get replies. I asked him for the site, and he gave it to me. It was then I decided to browse through and actually see one of the most shocking sites I have ever seen. On the outside, it looks like a fairly innocent trader magazine type site, with people selling cars, furniture, electronics, and labor services. But one can go to the Personals section and look under the various types of personal ads beginning with the typical men and women seeking each other, etc. Then it goes into the homosexual and other misc. sections. What I saw were people posting their ads, some with nasty pictures included, requesting things with other people I had no idea of. But my teenage friend was correct. The ads had young women and men attempting to sell themselves for money or drugs, and whatever else.
The appalling thing to me was that this site is free, and has nothing except a button that allows the user to claim they are of legal age before entering. Any child can easily walk right in and read some of the most deranged postings that can be conceived. But it was not just the teenagers that bothered me; I saw many posts for married people looking for trysts and other strange requests. Many of these people were between their mid-twenties and on into their forties.
There were young women who wanted to stay married, yet wanted to glean extra money on the side by selling their various services, and married men who posted desires to exchange money for those similar acts. I will not even get into the rest of what was there. But it made me look deeper at why so many people, especially our youth, are so enamored with sex and money to the point they would cheapen themselves and think it perfectly alright. And of course there are many reasons I believe. The Liberal views that took root in the 60’s have begun coming to full fruition. The Sexual Revolution as the Women’s Movement called it took hold. How they ever figured it would benefit women is beyond me, but they pushed it. Then the Gay movements arrived, and took hold in a militant form that has an agenda to have our children taught that their lifestyle is just fine, and should be explored. Reading some of those ads, it also became evident that roots had strongly taken in our society. It is quite evident that having “fun” is more important than traditional; values such as hard work and fidelity.
Then the massive thrust of television and theaters that taught these same people that sex, and alternative lifestyles, marital infidelity, and divorce are all to be accepted as normal. The violence from Hollywood has also inundated the minds of our society, and has taken root as well. And even further, is the Liberal PC movement that takes into regard many of these lifestyles and embraces them as acceptable, all the while bashing Christianity and its value system. We have allowed in this nation to have the Bible, and mention of Christian values taken from society and have allowed all these other immoral and destructive behaviors and lifestyles to become seen as normal.
Yet, women are finding now that the militant Feminist movement has trapped them rather than liberated them. We now have many more abortions, many more single women trying to raise children due to divorce, or never having been married at all because for decades, this has been rewarded by one sided divorce rulings that offered no consequence for infidelity or real abuse. Why commit to marriage when divorce is so easy and so profitable?
We have allowed Hollywood to flood our homes with garbage sitcoms and movies that endorse and glorify these strange values. And we have allowed the alternative lifestyles to be taught to our children as acceptable, because God forbid we ever be called Homophobes by the Left thinkers.
And in this age of technology and mass media where we have to power and ability to use these things for the good of our society, we use them for its corruption and degradation. And we see the battle everywhere now, in our homes, in the office, in schools, in the court systems, and in our politics. And for anyone who has a sense of decency and morality, this is heart breaking at best.
And the Conservative Voice must be heard again in this nation. We need to disregard PC, disregard the small minority who wants God from our society and gladly pay for one way tickets to a Communist nation where those ideals are favored. We need to demand a moral government and we need to hold those politicians responsible for their example. Bill Clinton himself no doubt had a huge impact when he basically proclaimed that what he did was no big deal. To cheat on ones’ wife, to humiliate the office of President, to lie about it, our children saw and absorbed. After that episode, I talked to many teens who felt it was no problem as well and also took on those traits. Our children, our future, and they are of the mindset that infidelity is acceptable and just run from problems by divorcing or aborting human life is just fine when the going gets tough. We see our daughters and sons degrading each other, and we see wives becoming prostitutes and husbands refusing to live as men as an example to their children and wives.
We see a nation of self centered ideology where the upcoming generations desire all their parents have without the hard work. We have a very large population of young men in their 20’s and 30’s still living at home with little ambition. Because they know when the parents are gone they will inherit what they now have. Why become educated? Why work? Just have fun until Pay Day arrives in the form of a funeral. Why get a job when there are so many men willing to pay for a woman’s body? Why stay married when things get shaky, when a divorce and another spouse will make everything better?
We have seen to roots of Liberalism take a strong hold, and we are now reaping the fruits of it in our society. Because a nation is no stronger than its family structure I do not care how wealthy or powerful. Rome fell to decadence and Liberalism, and extreme taxation, and they last for 1200 years. We have achieved that decadence and immorality in just 200 years. This in the area of mathematical probability means we will also fall much faster if we do not return to our original roots. And as it says in Deuteronomy about the nation that walks from God, our children will be servants of the foreigners, our food that we grow will be eaten by those who do not inhabit the land, we will see diseases that cannot be controlled or cured, and eventually we shall ebb into the past where Babylon, Alexandra, Rome, and others have passed before us.
Or we will reclaim our roots and our morality and take back what has been stolen from us by the Liberal and immoral tenets that have soaked the minds of the generations coming up after us.
Or the roots that we now step over will strangle the life of this nation.
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