Month: October 2013

Ban The Box Victory In California: Felon Struggle Will Change; Let Work and Pray!!

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900,000 members strong and growing

Last week, after sustained pressure from thousands of ColorOfChange members, California Governor Jerry signed “Ban the Box” legislation. The law prohibits public sector employers from making deeply prejudicial inquiries about past convictions during initial stages of the hiring process. It’s a monumental victory that we should all celebrate.

But the work to eliminate unfair barriers for formerly incarcerated folks in every state continues. And its up to each of us to make sure that our friends and family are aware of some exciting opportunities to organize in our home states. By helping us grow our community, we can ensure that the next time we secure a victory — like the one we had last week — our friends and family are organizing and celebrating with us.
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My wife and I are still in hot pursuit along with various proactive individuals to help us and we help them with this struggle. There is so much injustice in this industry and it all is associated with capitalism off the backs of human life. People are more valuable than a bottle or can or computer screen or television you decide needs to be recycled. Please pray for us to get our business opened to keep people out of jail once they get out. We want to open Second Chance Alliance to educate and empower the very people like us who are being denied a second chance because our caste status doesn’t render us valuable.
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The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world, and the private prison industry is making a killing off this broken system. For-profit prison companies get paid for each person that fills their cells — raking in $5 billion in annual revenue.1 Empty beds mean lost profits, so to keep the money flowing the industry spends millions lobbying the government to expand the destructive policies that keep more people behind bars for longer, harsher sentences.2

Tragically, one-third of all Black men will spend part of their lives in prison.3 Meanwhile, for-profit prisons promote and exploit mass incarceration and racial-bias in the criminal justice system — further accelerating our nation’s prison addiction. We can stop this. The prison industry depends on corporate backers for the capital it needs to keep growing,4 and allies in government for contracts that fill their prisons. If we convince enough investors and board members to leave the industry, we can discredit incarceration as a business, bring attention to the harm it creates, and deter public officials from granting contracts to prison companies.

Please join us in urging investors and board members of for-profit prison companies to get out of this exploitative business. We’ll inform them of what they’re involved in, and if they refuse to do what’s right, we’ll hold them publicly accountable.

Federal agencies and state governments contract with three main companies to lock people up: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), GEO Group, Inc., and the Management and Training Corporation (MTC). The top two prison companies, CCA and GEO, are publicly traded and financed by investors, major banks and corporations, who hold shares in the industry. CCA and GEO Group make money by charging a daily rate per body that is sent to them — costing tax payers billions for dangerous, ineffective facilities.5 The industry also makes money by avoiding tax payments. CCA will dodge $70 million dollars in tax payments this year by becoming a real estate investment trust (REIT) and designating their prisons as “residential”.6

In order to maximize profits, prison companies cut back on staff training, medical care, and rehabilitative services — causing assault rates to double in some private prisons.7 A 2010 ACLU lawsuit against CCA-run Idaho Correctional Center cited a management culture so violent the facility is known as the “gladiator school”.8 The industry also maximizes profits by lobbying for and benefiting from laws that put more people in jail. In the 1990’s CCA chaired the Criminal Justice Task force of shadowy corporate bill-mill, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which passed “3 strikes” and “truth in sentencing” laws that continue to send thousands of people to prison on very harsh sentences.9 Black folks are disproportionately subjected to these uniquely harsh conditions due to our extreme overrepresentation in the private prison system.10

In many parts of the country, the political tide is shifting against the for-profit prison industry. Earlier this summer, Kentucky, Texas, Idaho, and Mississippi broke ties with CCA after reports of chronic understaffing, inmate death, and rising costs to the states became undeniable.11 In April, New Hampshire rejected all private prison bids because the prison corporations could not show that they would follow legal requirements for safely housing prisoners.12 And, there is growing opposition to California Governor Jerry Brown’s misguided plan to comply with a Supreme Court order to alleviate the State’s prison overcrowding crisis by moving thousands of prisoners into private facilities, at a public cost of $1 billion over 3 years.13

The private prison industry should not control who is locked up, for how long, and at what price. For-profit prison companies have investors that cut across many industries. Some of these investors — wealthy individuals, major banks and financial companies — know exactly what they’re doing. But with enough pressure, they might reconsider whether it’s worth being known as profiting from exploitation and racism in the criminal justice system.

Profiting off the brutality and discrimination of incarceration is shameful. Please join us in calling on the investors and board members of for-profit prison companies to get out of this corrupt business.
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UPDATE: Since Black Friday, tens of thousands of ColorOfChange members signed a petition and hundreds have made calls asking the Walmart Board of Directors to meet with workers to improve working conditions. Thus far, Walmart has not responded. Please share this image to show Walmart that you stand with workers: urge Walmart’s Board of Directors to come to the table and put an end to unfair labor practices.

For over a year, workers have asked Walmart’s Board of Directors to work with them to improve the company’s notoriously exploitative labor practices. To date, Walmart workers brave enough to speak up about their harsh working conditions have been slapped with retaliatory cutbacks on hours and even firings. If Walmart continues to refuse to meet with workers and take concrete steps to improve conditions, workers throughout the company’s vast operations will walk off the job on Black Friday, November 23rd. By supporting Walmart workers in the fight for good jobs and a decent working environment, we can help raise the standard for the entire retail industry and show Walmart executives that there’s a price to pay for exploiting its workforce.

We shouldn’t want anymore of this so called worship in America

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With all the attention focused on Ted Cruz’s attempt to defund Obamacare in the continuing resolution, some of the law’s parade of horribles are momentarily out of view. Come October 1, those horribles will resume their onward march as the law’s impact on subsidizing elective abortion will begin to become clearer.

One area that deserves special scrutiny is the feature known as Multi-State Plans (MSPs). This provision of Obamacare represented a partial victory for progressive forces who favored a national, single-payer system. In its place they accepted a category of health-insurance plans managed by the Office of Personnel Management under contracts with private insurance companies. Unlike the federal employee health plans, which are available only to federal workers and their families, these MSPs are guaranteed a place on each state (and District of Columbia) health-care exchange and will therefore be available to every resident of the United States. By virtue of being offered on the exchanges, premiums paid to purchase these plans will be eligible for the generous scheme of subsidies created under Obamacare.

Passage of MSPs required one other major finesse from Democrats on the Hill. In order to deal with the abortion coverage MSPs might provide, the law stipulated that each state must have at least two MSPs and that at least one of them must be a plan that confines its abortion coverage to situations defined by the Hyde Amendment, which are, to simplify a bit, cases of rape, incest, or where the life of the mother is in danger. While the law provided no specific assurance that the other MSPs (one or possibly many more) would cover elective abortion, it has seemed clear from the start (and blisteringly obvious from observing its past patterns) that the Obama administration would ensure that abortion-covering state plans (let’s call them ASPs) would be available everywhere possible (especially inasmuch as the MSP program might ultimately prove a gateway to single-payer).

The only obstacle standing in the way of this is substantial, a separate provision of Obamacare that recognizes the right of the states to exclude ASPs from their exchanges. On the eve of opening the exchanges for consumers to choose a plan and gain a major tax break in 2014, where do MSPs stand?

Twenty-three states, all of which have had Hyde Amendments governing their Medicaid plans in place for years, have banned ASPs from their exchanges. If United Health Care, CareFirst, Aetna, or another large insurer creates an ASP for purchase in New York, Vermont, or California, that plan can be offered in Virginia, Missouri, and 21 other states only if the elective-abortion coverage is excluded. ASPs can, however, be offered and heavily promoted in 27 states and the District of Columbia. Keep in mind as well that Obamacare fully finances (at first) the expansion of Medicaid in states that agree to sign on. At present, 17 states (13 of them by court order) fully fund elective abortion using state money in their health programs for the poor.

Is all this a tempest in a teapot with little effect on publicly supported abortion? Far from it. An analysis by the Charlotte Lozier Institute published this week suggests that the number of abortions that will be heavily subsidized via federal premium tax credits and Medicaid expansion is likely to be between 71,000 and 111,500 per year. This approaches one in ten abortions performed in the United States. The number is split roughly 50-50 between abortions subsidized by the ASPs in states that have not barred them from their exchanges and abortions newly reimbursable under Medicaid expansion in states that use their own taxpayer funds to underwrite them.

Social conservatives are rightly alarmed about the impact of Obamacare on abortion subsidies and reimbursement. They are also right to avoid naiveté about the ways in which OPM and Kathleen Sebelius’s Department of Health and Human Services will steer girls and women toward the ASPs as their best choice for “comprehensive reproductive health care.” One way is to engage Planned Parenthood and other elements of the abortion industry as major recruiters for these plans via the Navigator program, which is already underway. Look for the extra prominence of ASPs on government web sites and in promotional literature, where euphemisms may abound and default buttons can funnel applicants toward particular choices.

Whatever the outcome of the current maneuvers over defunding Obamacare in the continuing resolution, issues like MSPs and ASPs assure that the collateral battlegrounds will remain hot. We have passed the law and now we are beginning to find out what is really in it.

Satan Is Really at Work In Government and Church

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In a rare non-partisan move, the U.S. House of Representatives has voted overwhelmingly to create a special envoy for religious freedom in South Central Asia and the Middle East, but the measure will go nowhere without help from the Senate and White House.

The legislation – drafted by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.) – was approved with 402 votes in favor and 21 Republicans and one Democrat against.The bill, if approved by the Senate, would create a special office within the State Department for an envoy who could become an advocate for religious minorities.

“Will a special envoy guarantee these communities’ survival and even flourishing? I do not know,” Wolf said in a speech before the House earlier this month. “But I am certain that to do nothing is not an option, lest on this administration’s and this Congress’s watch we witness a Middle East emptied of ancient faith communities, foremost among them the “Sunday People.”

The legislation is supported by many large religious groups in the U.S., including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the United Methodist Church, and the Southern Baptist Convention. Many Jewish and Muslim groups have also endorsed the legislation.

Wolf applauded those who voted for the legislation in a statement to FoxNews.com.

“I applaud my colleagues for voting for this bill, which sends an undeniable message to persecuted people of faith the world over, and just as importantly, to the forces that oppress them, that America – this shining city on a hill as envisioned by our founders – will not be silent in the face of the evil,” he said. “I urge the Senate to act swiftly and send this legislation to the president’s desk for signature. A special envoy for religious minorities is long overdue.”

The same piece of legislation was brought forward for a vote on Capitol Hill hill back in 2011 and was also passed by 402 votes but blocked when it moved on to the Senate for a vote. Critics fear that, without support from the White House, the Democrat-led Senate will once again let the bill die.

“Passage of this legislation comes at a critical time for religious minorities, especially in the Middle East. This new special envoy will give a new voice to the millions being persecuted for their faith — be it the Coptic Christians in Egypt, Christians like American pastor Saeed Abedini imprisoned in Iran, or countless others,” Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, told FoxNews.com.

The House vote comes as attacks against religious groups – Christians in particular – have risen sharply around the globe.

Last Sunday two suicide bombers attacked the historic All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan, killing 85 people.

According to recent reports, more than 40 churches and other Christian institutions and schools have been attacked in Egypt alone, with Coptic Christians targeted by Islamic extremists since Mohamed Morsi was ousted as president.

Check Points of Life and Faith

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I am plagued about the check points God has placed in my life. I sometimes don’t want to heed to His alarms of check your armor or go this direction or stop and pray. I sometimes don’t want to stay still in complete solace and seek His face due to my agenda seemingly more important at the time. There are so many check points in scripture and life.

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Law enforcement safety checkpoints have been a hot topic in Alabama this week after a Crenshaw County sheriff’s deputy lashed out on his Facebook page at people who warn motorists of the whereabouts of lawmen camped out to catch wrongdoers.

Should police have checkpoints? And if they do, should those checkpoints be publicized? Al.com readers were sharply divided on both issues, especially the latter: An Al.com poll, in which nearly 3,000 people responded, showed 48.6 percent said it’s OK to warn others about the time and place of a checkpoint; 51.74 percent said keep it quiet, or “Don’t give the creeps an edge.”

Statewide, law enforcement officials are also divided. Some agencies, like the Alabama Department of Public Safety, tout safety checkpoints as one of their strongest law enforcement tools. Others, like the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, uses them sparingly, citing the expense of staffing needs as one reason they haven’t had one in at least nine months.

ADPS officials said they carry out frequent, systematic and repetitive driver’s license checkpoints. So far this year, Alabama State Troopers have conducted more than 8,000 safety checkpoints throughout the state.

Galatians 6:14

The Message (MSG)
14-16 For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can’t you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them!

They were people who were living to themselves. Their hopes, promises, and dreams still controlled them, but the Lord began to fulfill their prayers. They had asked for a repentant heart and had surrendered themselves with a willingness to pay any price for it, and He sent them sorrow. They had asked for purity, and He sent them sudden anguish. They had asked to be dead to the world, and He killed all their living hopes. They asked to be made like Him, so He placed them in the fire “as a refiner and purifier of silver”, until they could reflect His image. They had asked to help carry His cross, yet when He held it out to them, it cut and tore their hands.

They had not fully understand what they asked, but He had taken them at their word and granted them all their requests. They had been unsure whether to follow Him such a long distance or whether to come so close to Him. An awe and a fear was upon them, as Jacob at Bethel when he dreamed of “a stairway…reaching to heaven”, or Eliphaz “amid disquieting dreams in the night”, or as the disciples when “they were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost, not realizing it was Jesus. The disciples were so filled with awe, they felt like asking Him either to depart from them or to hide His glory.

They found it easier to obey than to suffer, to work than to give up, and to carry the cross than to hang upon it. But now they could not turn back, for they had come too close to the unseen cross of the spiritual life, and its virtues had pierced them too deeply. And the Lord was fulfilling this promise of His to them: “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself”(John 12:32).

Now at last their opportunity had come. Earlier they had only heard of the mystery, but now they felt it. He had fastened His eyes of love on them, as he had on Mary and Peter, so they could only choose to follow Him. And little by little, from time to time, with quick glimmers of light, the mystery of His cross shone upon them. They saw Him “Lifted up from the earth,” and gazed on the glory that radiated from the wounds of His holy suffering. As they looked upon Him, they approached Him and were changed into His likeness. His name then shone out through them, for He lived within them Their life from that moment on was one of inexpressible fellowship solely with Him above. They willing to live without possessions that others owned and that they could have had, in order to be unlike others so they would be more like Him.

This is the description of all those throughout the ages who “follow the Lamb wherever he goes. I am trying to move beyond my own expectations to have checkpoints and encounters with my Lord. I wish we all would look at the need to get out of His way and our own way to have a experience of gazing upon Him and His presence. Let Him embrace you today and get to where He is. Don’t forfeit you resurrection because of life and all of its temporal glory, move beyond this world and think eternally.

Should We Expect Politicians to Act Like Christians?

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Recently I was asked whether John the Baptist lost his head for expecting a lost politician to act like a Christian. John, you’ll remember, was executed for telling Herod that it was not lawful for the king to have his brother’s wife.
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This is an important question, not simply for understanding the background of this particular text. Christians often shrug off questions of public ethics because we say, “Why should we expect lost people to act like Christians?” I once heard a prominent preacher say that it didn’t matter to him if his neighbors went to hell as prostitutes or as policemen; it only mattered that they were going to hell.

In one sense, this is a good impulse. After all, Jesus never acted shocked or appalled by the behavior of the lost people. Jesus spoke with gentleness to the lost sinners around him, but with severity at religious leaders, hiding their sin behind religiosity and using their positions to serve selfish interests.

And the apostle Paul wrote that he didn’t judge “outsiders” but instead that it is those “inside the church whom you are to judge” (1 Cor. 5:12). The gospel didn’t come to achieve a society of morally straight people unreconciled to Christ.

But, if all that’s true, why does John persist in calling out this obviously unregenerate political leader for his sexual behavior? John isn’t incidental to the biblical story. Jesus calls him the greatest of the prophets.

Obligation of a King

This wasn’t really a question of merely personal behavior by an outsider. Herod was clearly a pagan internally, but he held an office instituted by God, an office with obligations for obedience to God. The rulership over Israel, after all, wasn’t the equivalent of the queen of England or the president of the United States. Israel was a covenant nation of priests. The king was to be of the house of David, and he was to model the line of Christ.

In the same chapter of Deuteronomy that the apostle Paul quotes to speak of internal church discipline, the law lays out the qualifications for king. He shouldn’t use the office to serve his appetites for things or for sexual gratification (Deut. 17:17), but ought to meditate on the Word of God and act according to it “that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left” (Deut. 17:20).

Not Merely Private Morality

This was a question of public justice, not merely of private morality. Herod’s sin was multifaceted. Yes, it was a private act of sexual immorality, taking as his own a woman he shouldn’t have. But Herod was acting not just as a man but as a ruler.

Herod, of course, was a puppet king, acting as a client of the Roman Empire. He couldn’t have provided what he offered in his sexually ignited boast of giving Herodias’s daughter “up to half my kingdom” (Mk. 6:23). Herod didn’t have the same power as David, but it was the same principle at work. David’s taking of Bathsheba was more than just an immoral use of his private parts, but an immoral use of his public office.

We can all see what this means, even apart from divine revelation. One of the good things the feminist movement has brought to us is the way we deal publicly now with sexual harassment. An employer who pressures an employee for sexual favors isn’t just an immoral person; he is misusing power. When the CEO sleeps with an intern, his offense isn’t just against God and his wife, but is also an unjust abuse of power.

In line with all the prophets before him, John spoke out against the powerful misusing their privilege to exploit the vulnerable. Think of Daniel telling Belshazzar that the “writing is on the wall” for his prideful kingdom’s fall or Isaiah speaking truth to power to those who “rob the poor” and “make the fatherless their prey” (Isa. 10:2). Think of, after John, Jesus’ brother James denouncing the landowners who exploit workers with unjust wages (Jas. 5:4-6).

Judging Outsiders

John risked his neck to speak on this question not just to Herod as king but also to Herod as a man. Paul doesn’t “judge” the pagan outsiders, that’s true. He means that there is no means of holding those outside the church to the accountability of church discipline. But the church can still discern between good and evil. Even as Paul calls out the sin of the church member in Corinth, he compares it to the moral climate of the “pagans” on the outside (1 Cor. 5:1).

Jesus deals gently with tax collectors and sinners. He doesn’t, as he does with the religious leaders, call them whitewashed tombs or turn over their market tables. But he doesn’t refuse to speak to their sin. When he meets the woman at the well, he isn’t shocked by her serial monogamy, but he doesn’t leave it unquestioned either. He asks her, “Where is your husband?”

Those outside the church aren’t our battlefield but our mission-field, that’s true. We shouldn’t rail against them as though they are somehow different than we are, apart from God’s mercy in Christ. But the gospel is to be pressed on all creatures, on every human conscience. And the gospel is a call not only to faith but also to repentance. God now “commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed,” (Acts 17:31), Paul preached at Mars Hill.

We then speak to lost people not only of the historical truth of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and not only of his grace and mercy in receiving sinners. We also call them to turn from sin, and to agree with God that such sin is worthy of condemnation. Without this, there is no salvation. We speak then, as the apostle did to a pagan ruler, about “righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment” (Acts 24:25).

Still Accountable

Our lost neighbors might be “pagan” in the sense that they are not part of the community of God, but they are still accountable before God. Their consciences are embedded with a law. John wasn’t the first to say to Herod that he couldn’t have his brother’s wife; this was hardly new information. Herod’s conscience already told him that much, and pointed him to his accountability on the day of judgment. John’s rebuke was an essential part of gospel preaching.

Christians often ping back and forth between extremes. The church of the last generation was often more concerned with a moral majority than with a gospel priority. In our attempt not to fall into that error, we could fall into an opposite, and just as dangerous, ditch. We could assume that all moral norms speak merely internally to the church, and we could fail to speak to unbelievers about such things. Such would be a refusal to love our neighbors, to warn them of what we will face at the judgment seat. But it would also be a refusal to preach the gospel. Without defining sin and justice, we cannot offer mercy.

Guilty consciences don’t initially like that word. None of us did, at first. But that’s the mission we’ve been given. Some of us may wind up with our heads on silver platters. Jesus knows how to put heads back on.

YouTubers Post Video of Distributing $100 Bills to Members of the Homeless Community

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The guys behind the YouTube channel “Give Back Films” have posted this video of them distributing $100 bills to members of Salt Lake City’s homeless community. Though some may argue about the motives behind filming acts of charity, the video’s makers say, “We hope that by putting these videos on YouTube, some of you are inspired to go out and do the same type of things”


An elderly woman recently wrote a letter to the Pope, explaining a heartbreaking turn of events, in which she was mugged while on the way to a hospital to see her sick husband. Days later, the priest at her local church received his own letter—with the official seal of the Vatican. The envelope contained a check for $270 along with a message from Pope Francis’ new alms master Archbishop Konrad Krajewski that read, “Please deliver in the manner it deems appropriate, the relevant amount to the lady in question, that it is a gift of His Holiness, who offers her his apostolic blessing accompanied by desired aid and divine comfort for her and for her husband.” The priest was reportedly shocked by the personal gift, telling a local newspaper, “It’s an extraordinary series of events: Francis knows not only how to interact with people, communicating brilliantly and infusing them with great hope, but also responds to personal requests” …

It’s easy to blame Congress, but their struggle highlights something familiar to us all.

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This week, we saw the United States government come to a grinding but deliberate halt. The word “shutdown” was spoken, spouted, typed and tweeted millions of times as the American people tried to make some sense of it all. What did it mean? What, if any, parts of our government were still operational? And most importantly, who was to blame?

Both sides seem to be perfectly willing to simply toss blame at the other side and hope the stalemate comes to a close sooner rather than later.
A major cause of the situation is that neither side is willing to part from how they think things should be. Both sides are stringent in their beliefs that they know what is best for the American people. And both sides are viciously adamant in their stance, so much so that they’re willing to furlough thousands of government employees without pay.

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Instead of offering good, honest-to-God compromises, both sides seem to be perfectly willing to simply toss blame at the other side and hope the stalemate comes to a close sooner rather than later. In fact, as of last night, four different resolutions had been offered between the opposing sides, only to see them struck down with extreme prejudice and malice.

And while this impartial writer is neither qualified or willing to discuss and debate the ins and outs of the Affordable Care Act, there is a part of this whole ridiculous debacle—and that’s what it is—that we younger Christians can take to heart and mind and soul.

When and at what time, if any, is it okay to compromise your stance and when is it imperative to fervently stand your ground? And more importantly, how can we tell the difference?

Most of us have been taught from diapers that we are meant to hold tight to our Godly beliefs. We’re taught the refusal to doubt what we believe to be truth, now and forever. We stand firm on these things and we fight for them. What we believe, who we love, where we belong; these are the kinds of things that we will bruise and bully into reality. These are the kinds of things that ache so desperately in our hearts that our mind is made up and our will is steeled against any would be intruder or disturbance.

But throughout life—at work, at church, in our relationships—our days are filled with compromises and concessions. We work with or for someone we don’t like or respect. We attend service at our chosen sanctuary of worship even though other members may disagree with us politically or theologically. We move cities and jobs to follow our partners as they chase their dreams.

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It’s not easy. Frequently, we’re afraid of looking weak when we give into the demands of others. We like the idea of being seen as strong and steadfast. We have images in our head of people like Joan of Arc and Dr. Martin Luther King, who stood by their principles to the bitter end. With those pictures, the word “compromise” does take on a dirty taste.

But the reality is, few of our compromises involve Civil Rights or the freedom of our nation. We do well to know which items we will not compromise on—those beliefs of ours that we will cling to no matter what. But it takes great wisdom and maturity to understand what items we will compromise on as well.

Because compromise isn’t necessarily about giving in or forfeiting the things we want. It’s about giving a bit here and there in the present so that our life is easier or more fruitful in the future. We learn to deal with coworker or boss we can’t stand because our job requires it of us and we are good stewards with what God has given us. We go to Church with those we disagree and bicker with because that’s where God has placed us and His will and wisdom are above our own. And we give up our lives and jobs and move cities because our partner landed their dream job and we want to support them and invest in our relationship with them.

It’s the wisdom we’re given through prayer and faith that allows us the temperance to acknowledge when is the time to fight and when is the time to compromise. And while most of us may have a good idea of what’s worth fighting for and what’s worth compromising on, the choice isn’t always an easy one to make. Sometimes when we know we should fight, we concede. And other times, when we know we should humbly forfeit and compromise on what we want, we instead fight tooth and nail, causing more harm than is necessary.

And that’s where the United States’ government finds itself today. Through hundreds of years of bickering and fighting, these two parties have once again reached a bridge they refuse to cross together. Instead, they hunker down across the proverbial battlefield and loft soft shots of insults and blame at each other.

We can examine this shameless exercise in greed and stubbornness and apply it to our own lives so we keep from making the same mistakes.
It’s the saddest of states, really. Neither side is doing all they can to bring this standoff to the end because they aren’t being affected. No, it’s the people that put them in their elected seat that suffer. Congress and both political parties have to realize that this is not a time for bullheaded force or tyrannical might. Rather, this is a time of compromise and focused determination for the sake of the citizens who have allowed them in office.

Maybe this shutdown of the American government will be done by the end of the weekend and maybe it’ll last for the foreseeable future. How are we to know? What are we to do? Other than taking a closer look at who we vote for come next election season, we can examine this shameless exercise in greed and stubbornness and apply it to our own lives so we keep from making the same mistakes.

We can resolve to be better than the puffed up politicians of America. We can decide to approach our lives through prayer and faith so that when we are made to decide between fighting and compromising, we’ll make the wise, Godly choice that fits our situation.

80 percent of the mentally ill live in low or middle-income nations. So why aren’t we doing anything about them?

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The sun is scorching hot, and the two leafless trees provide little refuge in the way of shade. The village dwellers barely notice. Especially one young boy, probably 8 years old.

His face lacks the youthful exuberance you would expect and is replaced with grave concern, sewn deep into the fabric of his soul. Diagnosis: Hatred from the gods. At least that’s what he’s been told since he started acting strangely a few years ago. What else could cause the paranoia and compulsions he’s tried so hard to hide?
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In reality, the small African child is victim of a severe case of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and depression. But how would anyone in his small village possess that knowledge? Only in the last few generations have wealthy nations with available research monies begun to form an understanding of the inner workings of the mind and its applicable abnormalities.

Prior to this new understanding, those suffering from mental illnesses were largely treated as criminals, often grouped together in the same cells and shackles, beaten and left unclothed. Dorothea Dix, well-known reformer in the 1840s, reported this type of activity—in Massachusetts. Her eyewitness report went as far as to include the story of one patient, kept in a “close stall” for 17 years. Sadly, this activity carried on for several generations.
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In the late 1800s, New York World reporter Nellie Bly went undercover as a mental health patient in New York’s infamous Blackwell Island Insane Asylum. The resulting work, Ten Days in a Mad-House, went “viral” and helped to reform the inexcusable injustices in government-run mental health facilities.

Bly called the asylum on Blackwell Island “a human rat-trap. It is easy to get in, but once there it is impossible to get out.” Bly personally experienced ice-baths and forced isolation. She also described the choking and beatings that other inmates experienced. Possibly the most damning conviction was the fact that foreign women, incapable of communicating in effective English terms, were hauled off to Blackwell—in spite of being perfectly sane.

Thankfully, there are no “Blackwell’s” in today’s United States, even though injustices still exist; see Juliann Garey’s recent article in The New York Times. But as a whole, the research dedicated to mental health and the services available are worlds apart from the early 1900s.

If the West is just advancing from mental health’s Dark Ages, then most developing nations are still firmly planted in its Ice Age.
Unfortunately, these great strides haven’t made the leap over poorer nations’ borders. Not even close. If the West is just advancing from mental health’s Dark Ages, then most developing nations are still firmly planted in its Ice Age.

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 80 percent of people suffering from mental disorders live in low- or middle-income nations. The vast majority of this group has no access to mental health care. Furthermore, though mental illnesses account for approximately 13 percent of the Global Burden of Disease, they are beneficiaries of only 2 percent of world health expenditure.

Take Ghana for example, 2.2 million of the 22 million-member population suffer from mental illnesses or epilepsy. Far too many patients for the 12 active psychiatrists and three public psychiatric hospitals in the country.

Chris Underhill, founder of Basic Needs, a mental health advocacy pioneer, became painfully aware of the crisis when traveling overseas several years ago. “(I)n rural areas of Africa and Asia, it is common to chain people in shackles and put them in cages to ensure their control. It was therefore clear to me that mental health is a hugely neglected area,” he wrote in an article on Takepart.com. Cases like this are the reason the WHO has declared mental health “a global human rights emergency.”

In an era completely invested in social justice and charitable campaigns, most of us are unaware that a need of this magnitude even exists. How do we account for such a discrepancy? And it’s not solely on a personal level. The mental health community at-large seems to lack a real plan to tackle the growing issue.

If any organization should champion the cause of those in mental darkness, it’s the Church.
In his 2010 article titled, “Mental illness and the developing world,” author Andrew Chambers argues that the overwhelming need for funds and organizations devoted to mental health may be due to a lack of empathy. Compared to more “visible” diseases (i.e. AIDS, malaria, etc.). “It is much more difficult to generate that empathy: there are no externally apparent symptoms to create a good snapshot image, and indeed it is very difficult to understand what living with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder would actually be like,” he writes.

Despite the difficulty in assessing these needs, we can rely on our own nation’s dark past and the testimonies of friends and family who suffer from similar disorders to foster the compassion we need to take action. This starts with addressing mental illness as actual illness. Failure to understand and empathize with those suffering within our own borders will certainly keep us from seeing the bigger picture, and prevent us from donating our time and money to those who desperately need it and unknowingly beg for it.

If any organization should champion the cause of those in mental darkness, it’s the Church. Dorothea Dix proclaimed this in her 1843 Memorial to the Legislature of Massachusetts: “Could we in fancy place ourselves in the situation of some of these poor wretches, bereft of reason, deserted of friends, hopeless; troubles without, and more dreary troubles within, overwhelming the wreck of the mind as ‘a wide breaking in of the waters,’—how should we, as the terrible illusion was cast off, not only offer the thank-offering of prayer, that so mighty a destruction had not overwhelmed our mental nature, but as an offering more acceptable devote ourselves to alleviate that state from which we are so mercifully spared…”

This “devoting of ourselves” as the Church should be through prayer, through action and maybe even through financial means. Organizations such as Basic Needs, who are devoted solely to issues of mental illness abroad, are perfect places to start.

Maybe then, if we start to do our job, the young boy can breathe a sigh of relief.

Christians need to be more than just consumers

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Three months after my house arrest sabbatical, I realized I had a problem. I was stomach down on my living room floor with my laptop sprawled in front of my face, and I was desperate for something to read.

The problem was, I’d already read 14 articles, and it wasn’t even 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

I had to ask myself in that moment: what is so alluring about reading six different articles about Miley Cyrus and her downward spiral? Why am I reading a film review of Fast and Furious 6 when I decided at age 13, after seeing 2 Fast, 2 Furious, that I was too old for anything involving Paul Walker?

I realized after a little introspection that I was doing it for a number of complex reasons. It wasn’t so much about the content in these articles, video clips and GIF-addled lists, but the feeling of being in the know about something. It was about feeling smart and separate from the nonsense, as if reading about the vanities of artists and the vacuity Hollywood made me, in some way, above it all. All the information made me feel like I had a little more control of my place in a culture that’s becoming more confusing and disheartening every day.
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And yet, where was I? On the floor, my nose buried in my newsfeed.

Please, don’t misunderstand this as a critique of technology, or of our excess of information. The problem is not that we have too many ways to waste time, but that we choose to waste it. When a glutton gorges himself on a pound of chocolate in a half- hour, you don’t blame the chocolate. You blame the glutton.

The problem is that our new excess of information and the infinite ways to access it makes consumption feel like action. And as Christians who are called to be “in the world but not of the world,” the pull is just as strong, if not stronger.
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Our ability to critique secular culture from an arm’s lengths makes it easy to feel like we know absolutely everything about “that world out there”—that secular world—to know every bit of its brokenness, and just leave it there to fester.

This may seem hypocritical, since admittedly I’m adding yet another article to the swarm of online information, and I’m asking you to read it. My only hope is that these words inspire exactly what I think is the solution to our consumption epidemic: creativity.

Of course, the real solution is, and always will be, Christ. With any arising cultural conundrum, it’s of the utmost—no—it’s of eternal importance that our faith in God and His promises is the foundation of our solution. And it seems to me that this conundrum in particular—this tendency among young, social media-savvy evangelicals to consume information about the depravity of our culture like Cookie Monster at an Oreo Factory, only to belch out the same tired critiques—comes down to our understanding of the Kingdom of God and how it’s made.

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As long as we’re standing in the space between Christ’s resurrection and His return, when his Kingdom will come fully, we have some responsibilities. While there is infinite cause for lament and for desperate cries of Christ’s return, Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God as something that is cultivated through our faithful, persistent work. Though we’re not responsible for its ultimate arrival, we are responsible for what N.T. Wright calls “building for God’s Kingdom:”

“What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future.”

You might have noticed that “tweeting” is suspiciously absent from that list. What we should note, however, is that Wright also leaves out “criticizing,” which is precisely what the saturation of information, and of ways to access it, welcomes and encourages.

Isn’t there more to building for God’s Kingdom than merely articulating what’s wrong with the crumbling shanty-town that is Pop Culture? Pointing out ugliness is easy. Making beauty is the hard part.

I think “building for God’s Kingdom,” if you’ll grant me the liberty of redefining our terms, is synonymous with what you could call creating a culture that reflects God’s Kingdom. And I believe people, both on an individual and a communal level, play a fundamental role in determining the presiding culture.

People make the choice to either to respond negatively to the images put out by the media, or decide to create, build and work toward better ones. And if the Holy Spirit and our knowledge of a loving, redeeming Creator drives us, how much greater is our power to influence the culture around us?

Yes, we should be wary of the dominating culture’s depravity, but what if we were so focused on creating and cultivating our own culture of goodness and beauty that we could finally see the riff raff for what it is, and no longer felt so threatened by it?

This isn’t about taking a social media fast or turning a blind eye to the sad things about our culture that need to change. It’s about reversing the flow of what media excess encourages so that we can more effectively build for God’s Kingdom. We need to create first and consume second.

We need people who know that making is always better than taking.
Our access to a million different viewpoints, images, and snippets of information threatens to turn us all into quasi-critics of everything and creators of nothing. And while there is a place for critics (see: Prophets), the last thing the Kingdom needs is a million not-so-good ones.

We need poets who write good poems, engineers who build sound bridges, bakers who make delicious bread. We need people who approach their work, play, and relationships like a fresco painter approaches the freshly erected walls of a sanctuary: with the care, passion and joy that comes with knowing his work will last into the coming of the Kingdom. We need people who know that making is always better than taking.

It’s easier than ever to devour every piece of insight and information on the Internet and mistake the feeling of oversaturation for satisfaction. But in the end, the only things that bring satisfaction are things where the sole purpose is the active worship of God.

So, if reading 15 articles a day is what it takes for you to get up and praise God with your mind and hands and words, then by all means, do that. But in my experience, gorging myself on data and online criticism never makes me want to love more or build anything at all. It just makes me a pseudo-expert in how and why things fall apart.

And if we’re truly “building for the Kingdom,” we should be far more concerned with how we can make things come together.

Why our churches need to reach out to modern-day Samaritans.

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Jesus’ final words to his disciples are in Acts 1:8 “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

I think most of us are aware of the call to reach those in our Jerusalem—people in close proximity like neighbors, co-workers and fellow soccer parents. And in our Judea—those who might reside in other parts of the country or world, but who we can easily relate to—relatives, fellow employees in other locations or the guy sitting next to us on a plane. And lots of us are engaging with those at the ends of the earth these days, as we head off in record numbers to Haiti, Guatemala or Africa on short-term mission trips.
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But when is the last time you were challenged to reach into Samaria? And where is Samaria?

For Jews living in Jesus’ day, Samaria represented those half-breed “dogs” to the North who were in love with their pagan idols. So stories like “The Good Samaritan,” which might have a nostalgic ring to our ears, came off to first century Jews as a contradiction of terms at best and repulsive at worst. Perhaps comparative to a modern-day sermon titled “The Good Al-Qaeda.” For most of us, the terms good and Al-Qaeda should not appear together in the same sentence.
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Samaritans represent the outcasts. The people we are most repulsed by and want nothing to do with. For Jonah, it was the Ninevites. Not because he was afraid of them, but because he was afraid God would forgive and bless those he thought of as scumbags (Jonah 3:10-4:2). But God sent Jonah to Nineveh, and He sends us to our own Ninevehs and Samarias and asks us to invite the outcasts in.

So who would be the Samaritans for your church?

At a church I visited in Long Island, NY, it was the Wiccan community. There was scarcely a block in the quaint downtown area that didn’t have a Psychic reading stand or some sort of New Age shop. Obviously, these two groups—the church and the Wiccan community—did not intersect with each other.

But the visit reminded me of a woman I met four years ago who had pastored a Wiccan church in our area and had attended a local clergy group asking to become a member.

You can imagine the response she encountered. Though she was politely (or not) dismissed from the group, one brave pastor who decided not to dismiss her so quickly. He ventured where few Christians dare and knocked on the door of The First Church of Wicca.

Now, he had no idea who he was seeking. This woman was not just a local witch, but was actually a high priestess in the movement. She had single-handedly gotten Wicca recognized as a bona fide religious group in jails and prisons across America, held two doctorate degrees and was part of launching of a national television series called “The Witch Next Door.”

One might surmise this small town pastor was in way over his head as he wandered into dangerous Samaritan territory.

But he went. And he befriended this woman. He was even courageous enough to want to learn more about her and her faith. From some of my limited encounters with “the dark side” I can’t say I would recommend such a thing, but it’s good he didn’t ask my advice.

Over time, the two became friends, and the Wiccan pastor asked if she could attend the Christian pastor’s church. Light is stronger than darkness, and in time she became intrigued with what she saw. She read books he recommended, and she eventually become a Christian and decided to start a Christian church to reach her former followers.

Those kind of things happen when we venture into Samaria through the power of the Gospel and allow outcasts into our churches.

Samaria has always been as fruitful a venue for the Gospel as it has been a repulsive place for Christians to consider entering.

Jesus headed there early on in His earthly ministry, and when He met that Samaritan woman at the well, John 4 chronicles the longest recorded encounter Jesus has with any one person in all of the Gospels. It’s also the only place we read about where nearly an entire city comes to faith.

While there may be an initial resistance to going into Samaria, if people get beyond that and actually venture out to those in prisons, group homes, AIDs clinics, alzheimer’s wards or homeless shelters, fruit is inevitably born. And it also brings enormous energy back into the Church.

Our church bodies need these outcasts in order for the Church itself to come to fullness and maturity in Christ.
So, how do we best reach Samaritans? Calling someone to invite them to hear a guest speaker talk about dysfunctional families at church this week, as you let them know how much this could help them, probably won’t do it. No one likes to be the mission field. That only communicates how you’re on the upper plane and they are on the lower.

Rather, notice how Jesus began his dialogue with the Samaritan woman. He asked her for a drink of water (Acts 4:7). I find that you can get troubled kids, prisoners, nearly any Samaritan to your church simply by asking them to help you. Help you with setting up, with the sound, with directing parking or any number of things. Samaritans, like the rest of us, often need to feel they belong before they can believe.

While I know outcasts need the Church to come to maturity in Christ, I am equally convinced that our church bodies need these outcasts in order for the Church itself to come to fullness and maturity in Christ.

After all, when you read the gospels, Jesus was constantly going well out of His way to reach the poor, the sick, the orphan, the widow and the imprisoned.

And, as Matthew 25 shows us, the degree to which we reach out to—or don’t reach out to—outcasts is the degree to which we reach out to—or don’t reach out to—Jesus.

4 ways Christians can respond during times of uncertainty.

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Today marks a strange and rare occurrence in America. The government is in a partial shutdown for the first time in nearly 18 years.

But you know this by now. At this point, there are few who don’t know that this is happening. However, many don’t fully understand what it means. Life has continued on for most as it always has. But life has come to a stand still for many of the 800,000 “non-essential” government workers who were told to go home or not come in today.
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The bickering on Capitol Hill is disturbing despite which side your find yourself on for the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” as it has become known. This is an embarrassment on a global scale. Even Syria, in the midst of a civil war, has continued to pay its bills. This is not a time of great pride in our great country.

We can respond in a way that shows this country, this world, the love of God.
Despite all of this, a unique opportunity has arisen for Christians everywhere. We can respond in a way that shows this country, this world, the love of God.
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This time can activitate the giving heart of the Church. Many local Bodies are ahead of the curve in this, but others have no idea where to start. Many people are confused and unsure of what’s next, but the Church has an unfailing hope. We should always show it, but it’s in times like these where something beautiful can awaken in those who know Jesus and in those who do not know Jesus.

Here are 4 ways for us as Christians, as the Church, to respond to the shutdown:

Pray for the leaders of this country and the people who are hurt by this

This should be the no. 1 action on every Christian’s “list” right now. This should be continuous for us. We need to ask God to intervene in the lives of the men and women who will not agree. We need to ask God to intervene in the lives of the people who are hurt by that lack of agreement.

We all have opinions, and that is great. That is a wonderful part of humanity. What cannot happen, though, especially in the Church, is for the opinions to cause disunity among us and cause us to ignore what it seems is currently being ignored in Washington: People.

God loves people. We need to love people right now and ask God to intervene at this time.
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Ask your local church if there is anything you can do for those in need

Giving is, at times, sacrificial. We cannot be so materialistic that we look at what we have and not want to give to the one who has none. Sometimes, God even asks us to give all we have to the one who has none. And at a time when people will be going to work without any guarantee of pay, there is an opportunity for some of us to offer help.

It is so important to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, because He tells us what makes sense to God, not us.

The leaders in your local church should have a solid grasp of the general needs of your community. If they don’t, find a local church that does have a good grasp of those needs and ask what you can give/do.

Being a pastor, I see that our local body often has more needs come to our attention than the provisions to meet those needs. This isn’t completely out of sheer number, it’s also because of the poverty mentality that so many of us possess. The concept of giving or helping is so foreign to so many. We have to open our eyes to the needs around us. The pleasure of helping others is something that we can ALL do.

You can give resources, pastors can put you to work, or you can be given tips and advice on how to help those around you. If the shutdown continues, those government employees on furlough may need financial assistance, and even if it doesn’t, they could probably use your encouragement and support.

Don’t wait for your local church or community organization to organize something

I know this kind of contradicts what is written above, but hear me out. Sometimes, we really embrace being sheep. Whether it is witnessing, social justice or even fun, we generally wait for someone else to organize something.

This isn’t completely terrible. Some people have no idea where to start. In that case, yes, contact these places to see what is happening. However, do not ignore the fact that the very best weapon against the injustices around you is you.

Some local churches will definitely have a good handle on the general needs of the community. But you also have a great handle on the needs around you. You have family, friends and neighbors that a local body doesn’t always know about.

Don’t wait to see what organizations are doing. Don’t say to yourself, “Someone should do something to help.” The Church is people, not a place. You are the Church. Go help the people around you.

What we can do is not simply rise to a national occasion of need, but always be available to meet needs.
Don’t let this be isolated

Needs will always be around. Jesus said that we’ll always have the poor with us. It’s the nature of being on this planet.

What we can do is not simply rise to a national occasion of need, but always be available to meet needs. In any time of uncertainty, the Church should be at the forefront of helping and offering hope. Not simply for publicity, but because it’s what we should have been doing all along.

We should always be helping meet needs. Let this time of uncertainty be a wakeup call to understand that we are not to rise to the occasion like it’s some special thing. There is always an occasion. There are always needs. If you do something during this time, don’t let the next public crisis be the next time you do something.

We are the Church, and we should bring hope to the world. Whether that is salvation or meeting a need, don’t see it as simply “rising to the occasion” right now. Do what we should have been doing all along: Loving people.

You make me feel some type of way!!!!

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The only people that we truly need in our lives are those who respect us and want us enough to be in theirs. Living life to try to live up to someone else’s standards is not only degrading to ourselves, but it also puts our mental freedom in the hands of a person who could care less about whether we are free or not. In order to avoid situations such as these, we have to be strong, and smart enough to recognize the people who don’t really care about us when it comes down to it.

If someone doesn’t show you the same love that you show them and acts as if you are unimportant at most times, this may be a big clue as to the fact that you don’t need them in your life. Be wise in your decisions on who to love, and be sure that the people that you love, and that you would be there for, would be there for you as well when you need it.

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Psalm 77:3 (The Message)
remember God – and shake my head. I bow my head – then wring my hands.

Psalm 77:3

New International Version (NIV)
3 I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.[a]

I wonder how many of us have ever been over critical and missed a blessing of God? Psychologists define attitudes as a learned tendency to evaluate things in a certain way. This can include evaluations of people, issues, objects or events. Such evaluations are often positive or negative, but they can also be uncertain at times. For example, you might have mixed feelings about a particular person or issue.

Researchers also suggest that there are several different components that make up attitudes.
1.An Emotional Component: How the object, person, issue or event makes you feel.
2.A Cognitive Component: Your thoughts and beliefs about the subject.
3.A Behavioral Component: How the attitude influences your behavior.

Attitudes can also be explicit and implicit. Explicit attitudes are those that we are consciously aware of and that clearly influence our behaviors and beliefs. Implicit attitudes are unconscious, but still have an effect on our beliefs and behaviors.

I remember a mother of a church I once attended by the name of Mary Smith. She went to church one Sunday morning and winced when she heard the organist play a wrong note during the processional. She also couldn’t help but notice that the alter bouquets were looking wilted. She felt the usher passing the offering plate was scrutinizing what every person put in, which made her angry. To top it all off, the preacher made at least five grammatical errors in his sermon. After the closing hymn, as she thought, What a careless group of people!

Amy Jones went to church one Sunday morning and was thrilled by the arrangement of “A Mighty Fortress” that was performed. Her heart was touched at hearing a teenager read the morning Scripture lesson. She was delighted to see the church take up an offering to help hungry children in Nigeria. In addition, the preacher’s sermon answered a question that had been bothering her for some time. During the recessional, she felt radiant joy from the choir members. She left the church thinking, What a wonderful place to worship God!

Mary and Amy went to the same church, on the same Sunday morning. Which service would you have attended? Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I an thankful that thorns have roses. I believe the whole word of God. I especially like the introduction of the New testament that depicts the essential Christ and His finished work that has given us every spiritual gift in heavenly places.

Have you ever reflected on your actions and discovered that they go completely against everything you’ve always stood for? Its difficult to have the words we say and the things we do always be a positive reflection of our values and convictions. In my experience, it does not just happen naturally once you state your guiding principles in a vision or mission statement. Rather, it takes dedication, discipline, and hard work to stay faithful to what you believe in and hold true. What do we do then when we find our actions do not match our beliefs?


This week I was reading the book of Jonah, a story in the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) written almost 800 years before Jesus arrived on the scene in Israel. The book begins with a situation similar to the one I described above. Jonah negatively reacts to a message from God and find himself acting in a way that completely contradicts his values and calling as a prophet of God. Because of his actions he risked loosing both his credibility as messenger of God and his God-given calling. I believe the book provides four lessons on how to approach a situation where your actions and beliefs are at war with each other.

Consider these four lessons from Jonah’s struggle:
1.Don’t run from the fact that you are struggling to do the right thing. There is no shame in this type of struggle. In fact, this type of struggle helps you gain clarity around your convictions and the behaviors that support them.

2.Seek help. How you do this is up to you. Hopefully, you have a small group of people you trust for support and wise counsel. If you don’t, then do what Jonah did and pray. No matter where you are at in your relationship with the Almighty, He always wants to hear from you and help you.

3.Remember you were created for a purpose and a calling. Sometimes we lose site of the fact that each of us has been given amazing gifts and talents to serve others. When we use those special gifts and talents we don’t need to worry so much about the outcome or struggle because we know if we are true to ourselves and our calling, our actions will be blessed.

4.Rejoice in your freedom to choose. What an amazing gift is free will and to live in a country where we have the ability to make personal choices based on our beliefs. Give thanks for this opportunity.

If you are struggling with a decision or behavior that does not align with your core beliefs, don’t give up or lose hope. Remember these lessons from Jonah and start making the small decisions to help you stay true to your beliefs. As always, I’m here to help…

Healing from Heaven

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Experiencing life while walking with the Father of Life is a painful, yet blessed encounter. I am in so much discomfort tonight due to the state of my life and our nation. I realize God is still in control, but to gain knowledge by way suffering is not in vain. I count it all joy to be considered worthy to grieve from the conditions that God wills for my life.
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2 Corinthians 1:1-10 (The Message)

1 I, Paul, have been sent on a special mission by the Messiah, Jesus, planned by God himself. I write this to God’s congregation in Corinth, and to believers all over Achaia province. 2 May all the gifts and benefits that come from God our Father and the Master, Jesus Christ, be yours! Timothy, someone you know and trust, joins me in this greeting. 3 All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! 4 He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. 5 We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort – we get a full measure of that, too. 6 When we suffer for Jesus, it works out for your healing and salvation. If we are treated well, given a helping hand and encouraging word, that also works to your benefit, spurring you on, face forward, unflinching. Your hard times are also our hard times. 7 When we see that you’re just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you’re going to make it, no doubt about it. 8 We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. 9 We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally – not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! 10 And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing.

Thomas Moore (1779-1852) was an Irish songwriter, singer, and poet. His talents brought joy to many who saw him perform or who sang his music. Yet, tragically, his personal life was troubled by repeated heartaches, including the death of all five of his children during his lifetime. Moore’s personal wounds make these words of his all the more meaningful: “Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish; earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.” This moving statement reminds us that meeting with God in prayer can bring healing to the troubled soul.

The apostle Paul also saw how our heavenly Father can provide solace to the hurting heart. To the believers at Corith he wrote: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Sometimes, though, we can be so preoccupied with an inner sorrow that we isolate ourselves from the One who can offer consolation. We need to be reminded that God’s comfort and healing come through prayer.

As we confide in our Father, we can experience peace and the beginning of healing for our wounded hearts. For truly “earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.”

Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow!
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort, and there I am blessed.

Prayer is the soil in which hope and healing grow best……

“Mind the Checks”

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1 Kings 19:12

The Message (MSG)

11-12 Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.”

A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.

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A woman who had made rapid progress in her understanding of the lord was once asked the secret of her seemingly easy growth. Her brief response was, “Mind the Checks.”

The reason many of us do not know and understand God better is that we do not heed His gentle “checks”–His delicate restraints and constraints. His voice is “a gentle whisper.” A whisper can hardly be heard, so it must be felt as a faint and steady pressure upon the heart and mind, like the touch of a morning breeze calmly moving across the soul. And when it is heeded, it quietly grows clearer in the inner ear of the heart.

God’s voice is directed to the ear of love, and true love is intent upon hearing even the faintest whisper. Yet there comes a time when His love ceases to speak, when we do not respond to or believe His message. “God is love”(1 John 4:8). and if you want to know Him and His voice, you must continually listen to His gentle touches.

So when you are about to say something in conversation with others, and you sense a gentle restraint from His quiet whisper, heed the restraint and refrain from speaking. And when you are about to pursue some course of action that seems perfectly clear and right, yet you sense in your spirit another path being suggested with the force of quiet conviction, heed that conviction. Follow the alternative course, even if the change of plans appears to be absolute folly from the perspective of human wisdom.

Also learn to wait on God until He unfolds His will before you. Allow Him to develop all the plans of your heart and mind, and then let Him accomplish them. Do not possess any wisdom of your own, for often His performance will appear to contradict the plan He gave you. God will seem to work against Himself, so simply listen, obey, and trust Him, even when it appears to be the greatest absurdity to do so. Ultimately,” we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28), but many times, in the initial stages of the performance of His plans:

In His own world He is content To Play a losing game.

Therefore if you desire to know God’s voice, never consider the final outcome or the possible results. Obey Him even when He ask you to move while you still see only darkness, for He Himself will be a gracious light within you. Then there will quickly spring up within your heart a knowledge of God and a fellowship with Him, which will be overpowering enough in themselves to hold you and Him together, even in the most severe test and under the strongest pressures of life.

I feel like an authoritarian on this matter due to all the time I could have avoided the various obstacles I have endured because of my inability to welcome God’s spirit to lead me through the challenges I have had to face in this life. I want you to honor His presence by way of my testimony. I hope this will help someone to get to know Him for the God, Protector, Provider He wants to be in your life. Please welcome Him into your heart and experience Him without the pains He doesn’t intend for you to go through.