Month: June 2014

~Having A Humanitarian Heart To Drive Change~

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Approximately 16 million United States citizens have been convicted of felony offenses. At least 14 million of these ex-felons are unconfined, and at least 9 million have completed the sanctions ordered by the criminal justice system and are under no official supervision.

Upon conviction for a felony offense and continuing past release from prison and parole, sometimes for life, ex-felons are subject to a wide array of limitations on work, education, family, and civic activities. These bans are sometimes used as explicit forms of additional punishment (i.e., voting bans) and sometimes invoked to protect vulnerable populations. Serious ethical concerns exist about these types of officially-sanctioned collateral consequences because they go beyond punishment within the criminal justice system. These ethical concerns are balanced against the fact that ex-offenders are undeniably at a higher risk for crime than non-offenders.

The exact calculus of this balance is outside the realm of social science. But social science research can calibrate the risk associated with a criminal history record, and we feel safe in concluding that explicit lifetime bans cannot be justified on the basis of safety or concerns about crime risk. Age and time since last offense can help predict current offending risk. Older offenders and individuals who stay arrest-free for 7 years or more simply have very little risk for future crime, and this risk is similar to that of non-offenders.

The issue of so many people being unemployed due to past records is causing a strain on the economic development of our community and nation at large.  Because the number of re-entering citizens is so great, “10,000 to 12,000 adults and 500 juveniles are projected to be released from incarceration and returned to communities each year, an even greater number reenter communities from local jails and federal correctional centers,”(Services).  We, the tax payers of America, are each carrying one to two additional people to our own families each year in the payment of our taxes, the cost of our goods, and the rise in the cost of housing.  Studies show that due to the ex-offenders  inability to find employment, recidivism is high, “Of the 7 million Americans (1 in 33) who were incarcerated, on probation or parole in 2010, more than 4 in 10 can be expected to return to prison within three years, according to a 2011 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Center on the States.” (Lee),  thus adding to our cost of living as we must continue to build institutions, hire more officers, and offset insurance rates by raising cost in preparation of the growing numbers of convicts.   If employers were more forgiving, and ex-offenders were allowed this second chance many are fighting for, the ex-offender would be responsible for their own cost of living, and the expenses would not trickle down or spread wide, the families and small business of our immediate communities will no longer have to suffer so greatly by footing the bill.

Citizens returning to society from jails and/or institutions, known as the ex-offender, ex-felon, or ex- convict, are being denied quality employment, housing and social services due to their past mistakes although they have paid their debt to society.  This is all a part of the “tough on crime” movement.  Quantitative research shows “lifetime bans for ex-felons affect an estimated 1 in 19 adults.” It is estimated that our government spends about “$52 billion dollars a year on those incarcerated”, stated in The PEW Center on the States, (Trust).  Not only are we spending money on incarceration, but we also are losing money not employing these individuals when they return home, “the United States had between 12 and 14 million ex-offenders of working age. Because a prison record or felony conviction greatly lowers ex-offenders’ prospects in the labor market, we estimate that this large population lowered the total male employment rate that year by 1.5 to 1.7 percentage points.  In GDP terms, these reductions in employment cost the U.S. economy between $57 and $65 billion in lost output.”  Out of the thousands of jobs available, 90% of the job vacancies are vacant due to the rejection of ex-offenders and out of the 10% that is left, only 50% of those will accept someone who has been convicted of a violent or serious felony.  This makes five percent of the available jobs in our nation open to anyone, contrasting the large numbers of those re-entering society after incarceration.

Who owns the responsibility of redeveloping the economic status of our communities, of society, of the world?   Now that the government has put in place re-entry programs designed to assist those individuals wishing to turn their lives around, permitting study programs, certification, and grant options, sending prepared citizens out into society equipped and qualified, would it not be the responsibility of the corporations, organizations, and privately owned companies to take a chance and take advantage of the people who are desperate to show they can work hard and well, and also take advantage of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) offered for hiring such candidates as the ex-offender?

There is plenty of work to go around that ex-offenders can and are qualified to do but are not being hired for.  “As many as 600,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs remained vacant across the U.S. due to shortages of skilled workers, according to the Manufacturing Institute’s most recent “skills gap” report.” (Sirkin)  Such certificates as welding, water treatment, carpentry, mechanics, machine technician, and computer operations are offered within institutions today, followed up with experience utilizing the education received while incarcerated in areas of shipping and receiving, manufacturing and telephone operators.  If our society continues on the path of refusing employment in most industries, the cost of taking care of the ex-offender will continue to be absorbed by us tax paying citizens, as these individuals continue to go in and out of jail, remaining unemployed, and re-offending to survive.  Where there is crime, there is cost to the tax payers, and “The government and the nation suffer.  In many countries the government has to pay the unemployed some benefits. The greater the number of the unemployed or the longer they are without work the more money the government has to shell out.” (Effects of Unemployment on Society and the Economy)  Why are private industries choosing to fit the bill to keep these people unemployed rather than putting them to work? Hiring the ex-offender can put the money back into the governmental budget through our employment output rates and “can” stop the cuts to other programs like the Department of Defense, that are in desperate need of funding. In many states across this nation, the government is focusing on the effects ex-offenders are having on society and individual communities due to the numbers for the year 2010 being as large as “725,000 are released from correctional facilities each year across the country,” therefore, vocational skills and career geared certifications, which are cheaper in the prisons than offered at private institutions, are being offered inside the institutions.  Skill sets such as plumbing, HVAC, IT, and basic administration, along with various needed resources and programs designed to set these citizens on the right path are being offered in these institutions, for example, the DMV is setting up satellite stations inside institutions for the issuance of state identification to be issued upon release.  Proper identification for employment is just one of the barriers ex-offenders face, but it is an obstacle that has proven to be of major importance. These training programs alongside these essential pieces needed for success place the responsibility in the hands of the public and private industries to hire these individuals who will then pay taxes, in turn, lowering our deficit.

I don’t know how to get this across to anyone, I don’t know if I am networking with the right people to get this done, but I could use some help to fore-fill this vision. It is really needed in our community in Hemet and Riverside County. There are programs, but not like this Second Chance Alliance May & I have in our heart to birth. I need your help, not just money, but anything that you possess in line with knowledge or skills to offer please feel free to contact us @ blessedaaron08@gmail.com and I will respond because we are serious about getting this done and making a difference.  It is noted and recognized by our government and others around the world that if, “they, the ex-offender, have a proper job, are encouraged to take personal responsibility and work hard, they will feel proud to be able to support their family and would even be happy to pay tax” .This idea is supported by Blue Sky, a social enterprise in the UK who only hires ex-offenders and the success rate has had a positive influence on their economy.  In reading the supported research and text associated with the successful program offered in the UK, it is stated that, “The employee re-offending rate is only 15%: 48% obtain sustained employment on leaving.” (Jarvis).  With the success rate of this particular program, which has had a total of 500 clients participate thus far, spreading the idealism and innovative ideas throughout the UK should speak volumes to the US.  If the returning citizen honestly wishes to work hard and take care of their families, their productivity will aid in the redevelopment of our economy.

It is obvious a change needs to take place; otherwise we will continue to be victims of the convicted felons’ cycle.  It is the belief of many that we can “…reduce the recidivism rate of offenders by reintegrating them into society instead of ostracizing them as criminals. If the community is not supportive, and/or receptive to giving out second chances, are not the government’s attempts to equip the ex-offender futile, the motivation of the ex-offender to turn their lives around and make good on giving back to a society that took care of them done in vain, and also are “we” not responsible for allowing the growth of the expenses that take care of the rising number of ex-offenders to affect our own lives?

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Rich Society-Too Big To Jail: How Did We Get Here?

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Crime is a social concept based upon social structure (organization of society) and social norms (ideas, customs, habits, attitudes of people).  As such, crime is considered to be an offense against society.  This concept of crime as an offense against society evolved from English tradition.

Common law was an offense against the country that, as such, was to be prosecuted by the King.  It was based on custom and tradition as interpreted by the judges.  It was not written down in a code that one could easily consult; rather it took its form from the collected opinions of English judges who actually created law when they ruled on specific cases.  As new situations arose and more opinions were formed, the common law grew.

Criminal law defines forbidden offenses against society  – by formalizing the common law – and specifies conditions for enforcing and punishing offenders.

New ‘too rich to jail’ case sparks outrage:
A rich father – a Du Pont family heir – served no jail time after raping his three year old daughter. How could a convicted child rapist end up with only probation and treatment? A legal panel discusses the case.

Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.

John F. Kennedy

To summarize, beginning in the 1400s, the English, and later the Americans, defined crime by:

  • the dominant morality expressed in  society – the common law;
  • the rules articulated by the most powerful members in  society; and
  • the sense of threat perceived by the most dominant, powerful members of society.

And they dealt with such crime through a criminal justice system which

  • defines crime by identifying the boundaries between right and wrong,  moral and immoral, legal and illegal;
  • patrols and enforces such boundaries;
  • judges those who fail to honor the boundaries; and
  • punishes those who have been judged guilty of a crime.

Categories of Colonial Law1. Crimes involving sexual acts.  Any sexual act other than traditional intercourse between man and wife was a crime in all colonies.  Sex-related crimes were the most frequent of all criminal offenses during the first 100 years of colonization – between 10 – 22% of all court business. Most common were �fornication before marriage;� bearing illegitimate children; and beastiality.  Sex crimes remained on the books in the 18th Century but were prosecuted less often – except for fornication which was prosecuted not because extramarital sex was immoral, but mainly because of the �practical considerations� of colonial society – adultery threatened family integrity and created the possibility of private violence/disorder; fornication among servants that resulted in childbirth left the new mother less valuable as a servant and society was left to support a bastard.

2. Crimes perceived as socially harmful misconduct.  Almost any act that contributed to public and personal disorder was considered a crime – drunkenness, blasphemy, lying, idleness, Sabbath violations.  Suchvictimless crimes appear more often in 17th Century court records than any other except sex-related crimes. Sabbath violations among the most prevalent crimes during both 17th and 18th centuries.

3. Crimes against the person – both criminal (dealing with public wrongs which involves social harm and violates the norms of the community) and civil  (dealing with private conflicts with violate relationships between individuals).  According to recent historical examinations of surviving court records in most of the colonies, the most common crimes against the person were slander -approximately 17% of all court business in all colonies; assault – approximately 6% of all court business; homocide –  almost always directed at servants and slaves, or related to domestic and inter-familial disputes; and witchcraft.

In the South, crimes against the person were punished the least of any other category.  Citizens of substance often felt it was their duty to defend themselves, their property, their family, or their honor against any real or imagined threat.  Often, when given a clear choice between observing the law or defending their honor – they choose to defend their honor.  These lawbreakers were treated with dignity and respect.  Juries were reluctant to convict a man of murder or assault if he had committed the crime to defend his honor – and action that was, at best, loosely defined.  Often, those convicted of assault were fined less than a dollar.

4. Crimes against property.   Crimes against property were rare – petty theft was uncommon and grand theft almost never occurred. Why?  Stealing property violated both the sanctity of private property and the code of honor that included a strong sense of economic morality.  People convicted of crimes against property received the most serious punishment which was designed to deter other would-be offenders and shame the culprit in the eyes of the community.

In the 18th Century, crimes against property increased as towns became bigger with more diversity and wealth.  Designating crimes became a way to protect property during the 18th Century.  For instance, in Virginia, hogs were a vital part of a family�s economy – more valuable than sheep.  Its laws made stealing hogs a more serious crime than stealing sheep.  In the late 18th Century, this changed even more.  Crimes against property increased, and in so doing, the concept of crime as a product of sin was challenged by a new social concept – crime was the product of idleness.

The Bible contains so many verses that address greed and oppression of the poor that I will not analyze them all, but I will relate as many of them as possible to modern-day scenarios. I have divided these verses by subject and will begin with a brief analysis of immigration. I will then follow with an examination of every verse that addresses greed, greed of the poor, interest, oppression, God’s judgment of the oppressors, and taxes.

Immigration

Exodus 22:21, “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

Context: Included in a listing of various laws.

Exodus 23:9, “You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

Leviticus 19:33-34, “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

Greed

Deuteronomy 17:17, “And he [the king of Israel] must not acquire many wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; also silver and gold he must not acquire in great quantity for himself.”

Context: God provides guidelines for future kings of Israel.

Analysis: Even the king of Israel was to avoid materialism.

Proverbs 23:4, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; be wise enough to desist.”

Interest

Exodus 22:25, “If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them.”

Leviticus 25:36-37, “Do not take interest in advance or otherwise make a profit from them, but fear your God; let them live with you. You shall not lend them money at interest taken in advance, or provide them food at a profit.”

Oppression

Exodus 22: 22-24, “You shall not abuse any widow or orphan.”

Context: Various laws are listed in this section on Exodus.

Analysis: Why are widows and orphans so special? Because, along with aliens, they had no inheritance in the land. In Israel, men inherited land from their fathers as they became adults (they did not have to wait for their fathers to die like we do today). As women reached adulthood, they left their fathers’ lands to live on their husbands’ lands. On these lands, people grew their food and built their homes with the resources of the land. So this inheritance of land gave young Israelite families what they needed to survive. It’s quite different from our society in which young people venture out on their own lacking both food and shelter and having to earn enough money to obtain it.

Widows, orphans, and aliens, however, could not share in Israel’s inheritance, and therefore, lacked proper food and shelter. That’s why God so frequently calls the Israelites to look out for their interests.

Exodus 23:8, “You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.”

God’s Judgment of the Oppressors

Isaiah 3:14-15, “The Lord enters into judgment with the elders and princes of His people: ‘It is you who have devoured the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?’ says the Lord God of hosts.”

Similarly, in Jesus’ day the Pharisees and Sadducees were feuding religious parties. The Sadducees held only the first five books of the Bible to be the word of God and denied belief in the afterlife, while the Pharisees believed in the entire Old Testament and in the afterlife, too. Jesus also believed in the entire Old Testament and the afterlife. So did He support the Pharisees? No, He didn’t! In Matthew 16:6, “Jesus said to them [His disciples], ‘Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.’” He went on to explain that He opposed not their “yeast,” but their teachings.

Despite the fact that Jesus had more beliefs in common with the Pharisees than He did the Sadducees, He opposed both sides, because both sides opposed God’s will. To support either party would have been the equivalent of supporting that party’s oppression of others and its promotion of man-made religious teachings over those of the Bible. Jesus protected His disciples from making the mistake of believing that one of two opposing parties must align with righteousness.

The way I see it, Jesus is neither a Democrat nor a Republican (but Satan is a Libertarian). The Democrats sin by promoting individual freedom to the point where we do what we want with our bodies at the expense of and to the neglect of others, while the Republicans sin by promoting individual freedom to the point where we do what we want with our money at the expense of and to the neglect of others.

I don’t mean to say that we sin by belonging to either the Democrats or the Republicans, or by supporting capitalism or socialism. But I do mean to stress that we must not let these establishments teach us right and wrong. For us Christians, right and wrong must come from the Bible alone. God’s teachings must take precedence over those of our political parties, social groups, and even our nation. Those who claimed Jesus’ name during His ministry and the days of the early church did so because they believed Jesus’ teachings, and they obeyed His teachings above all else. Today many Christians call upon His name, but promote and obey teachings contrary to His, such as the promotion of the interests of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the poor. If we don’t believe and obey Jesus’ teachings (and the Old Testament teachings He supported), then we really don’t believe in Him.

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~Radical and Upside-Down~

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Luke 14:7-14

New King James Version (NKJV)

Take the Lowly Place

So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place.10 But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. 11 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

12 Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

The values of the kingdom that Jesus came to establish were radically different than those of His day. The Pharisees and teachers of the law clamored for the spotlight and sought the adulation of the crowds. Many of us still do this today. We want instant gratification from peers and outsiders. We want our praise now, WOW!!! Lord please send your glory upon us to replace our selfishness, purify our hearts and breath new life upon us.

In Luke 14, Jesus told a parable taught His followers not to be like that. The parable talks about people who chose the most honored seat for themselves at a wedding feast (vv.7-8). He said they would be embarrassed when the host asked them publicly to take their rightful place (v.9). Jesus went on in His story to talk about whom to invite to such dinners. he said they shouldn’t invite friends and family, but “when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame , the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay” (vv. 13-14).

Are you disappointed because you have not broken into the more elite group in your church or neighborhood? Or because you are stuck down on rung two when you’d rather be on rung eight or at least climbing the social ladder? Listen to what Jesus said: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (v.11). That’s the radical and upside-down way of  God’s kingdom!

Blessed Savior, make me humble,

Take away my sinful pride;

In myself I’m sure to stumble,

Help me stay close by your side.

Empower A Felon

In Christ’s Kingdom, humility trumps pride every time………….

~Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living”~

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Socrates believed that the purpose of human life was personal and spiritual growth. We are unable to grow toward greater understanding of our true nature unless we take the time to examine and reflect upon our life. As another philosopher, Santayana, observed, “He who does not remember the past is condemned to repeat it.”

If a man would move the world, he must first move himself.
– Socrates

Why is it important to let go of these identities? Perhaps you like the label or “wife” or “husband” or “teacher” and truly feel you identify with it. Matthew B. James, Ph.D. of Psychology Today, puts it like this,

“As human beings, we are quick to identify ourselves using our circumstances; how others perceive us, our behaviors, and/or our positions in life. It’s somehow comforting to clothe ourselves in these identities. But none of those are really who we are. And the problem with latching onto these identities is, in addition to limiting our growth, it leaves us lost and confused when they are stripped from us.”

Knowing who you are doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate the many roles you play. It simply means you’re not attached to the label as you’re able to recognize on a deeper level the meaning behind these roles of labels. Further, in the event that one of these labels are stripped from you, you aren’t completely lost as to who you are.

There is a new realm of counseling that is gaining increased attention related to this topic. As individuals reach retirement, they find themselves at a loss for who they are now that they are no longer working and defined by their jobs. Adjusting to such a sudden change can be incredibly difficult for some people and can lead to depression, anxiety, decreased satisfaction in life, and mental health issues.

Awesome life tip define yourself

In today’s reflection, you’ll be asked to write down who you are. It may be difficult to exclude labels, but it’s interesting to reflect on your roles on a deeper level. Do your best to avoid labels that others have given you as well. Below, I’ve listed a few of my answers.

  • I’m someone who enjoys psychology, counseling, personal-growth, helping others, and being compassionate
  • I’m someone who loves to write and connect with others and I spend time blogging to fulfill that need.
  • I’m someone who cares deeply for friends and family and thus, spend time with them often.
  • I’m someone who loves learning and so I prioritize reading, being exposed to new things, and traveling the world.

define yourself

Who are you? Have you ever really thought about this question? Who are you as a person? I’m not talking about how others define you. I mean, how do you define you? What makes you who you are internally? Sadly, the definition of ourselves’ tends to be defined by external circumstances. For example, you fail a test in school, the definition of yourself becomes, “I’m a failure”. You get married, the definition of yourself becomes, “I’m a wife” or “I’m a husband”. In contrast, if/when you get divorced, you come, “The divorcee”.  But it’s not like in the time you were a wife, to the time you were divorced, you suddenly transformed into a new self, right? Or what if you were employed in the morning as a bank teller, but by the end of the day you were laid off. You’re no longer a bank teller, but are you a different person? No, you’re not. These external labels do not define you. Inside your soul, you are so much more than these labels.

How many times have you been introduced to someone and they ask, “So, what do you do?” immediately implying that they want to know what you do for a job. How often do you respond with something other than your job? I’m guessing hardly ever, yet I’m sure most of us do much more than what’s in our job description.

What if, instead of asking, “What do you do?” when you met someone knew, you asked, “So, who are you?” What do you think their response would be? Would they take a minute baffled by your question to reflect on it? Would they simply ignore it and describe their job as if on autopilot, unsure of how to answer such a question? Think about it for a minute; if someone asked you this question, how would you answer it?

Yesterday I discussed this topic with my Pastor, we discussed personal values. This week I plan on taking it a step further and discussing our deeper self, -who we are inside, not outside. This is not what society says you are either, but who you feel you are. We’re given labels are entire life (popular girl, jock, bully, rich kid, loser, CEO, stay-at-home-mom, etc.). But we don’t have to adopt those labels as our personal truth. We can refuse those labels as a definition of self, and instead embrace our authentic selves.

Why is it important to let go of these identities? Perhaps you like the label or “wife” or “husband” or “teacher” and truly feel you identify with it. Matthew B. James, Ph.D. of Psychology Today, puts it like this,

“As human beings, we are quick to identify ourselves using our circumstances; how others perceive us, our behaviors, and/or our positions in life. It’s somehow comforting to clothe ourselves in these identities. But none of those are really who we are. And the problem with latching onto these identities is, in addition to limiting our growth, it leaves us lost and confused when they are stripped from us.”

Knowing who you are doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate the many roles you play. It simply means you’re not attached to the label as you’re able to recognize on a deeper level the meaning behind these roles of labels. Further, in the event that one of these labels are stripped from you, you aren’t completely lost as to who you are.

There is a new realm of counseling that is gaining increased attention related to this topic. As individuals reach retirement, they find themselves at a loss for who they are now that they are no longer working and defined by their jobs. Adjusting to such a sudden change can be incredibly difficult for some people and can lead to depression, anxiety, decreased satisfaction in life, and mental health issues.

In my quest to be a mentor to all disenfranchised individuals I am formulating ways to redefine who I am and model that for those whom I will be privileged to  encounter. Shaka Senghor’s story is so many of our family member’s story. If we don’t help make a difference in there life we will soon see that it will reshape our lives. I need your help to make myself and vision in Riverside County and hopefully the world.

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~Don’t Let Anyone Suppress Your Dreams~

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If women would realize what an influence they have, they would be filled with pride. If men recognized how influential women are, they would be scared to death.”

It is said that we all influence at least 250 people in our lifetime. We each have the responsibility of leadership.

Every woman can be a leader. Yet results of surveys show that most women greatly underestimate their influence.

At home it can be organizing our children to clean the house or, more important, instilling values and morals into their lives. At the workplace, it can be motivating people for sales. We influence others by what we say and do–and by how we do our work.

We recognize that Mother Teresa was one of the great religious and humanitarian leaders of the world. When we aspire to be leaders, we must learn to discern between fame and greatness. Fame is Madonna; greatness is Mother Teresa. There is a tremendous shortage of and need for truly great leaders–leaders who are trustworthy, ethical, good, honest and who have high personal standards. The world is looking for honest and upright leaders.

Thankfully there are more women in leadership now than when I first began taking on leadership responsibilities. Being in leadership roles for more than thirty years–with greater and lesser responsibilities–I have learned a great deal about good leadership. What is a leader? “A leader is a person who influences people to accomplish a purpose.” How do you become a leader? “A leader correctly assesses a situation and knows how to take the next step.”

Whether you know it or not, whether you believe it or not, you’re a leader–an influencer. Your opinions are listened to and acted upon. The following nine principles will help you make the most of your influence:

1. Have a dream that will leave this world a better place

“Is there anything worse then being blind? Yes! The most pathetic person in the whole world is someone who has sight but has no vision.” So said Helen Keller.

Leadership is simply the ability to turn a dream or a vision of a desired future state into a reality with and through the cooperation of other people. To throw your life into something worthwhile, your dream must be worth dying for. What do you get excited about?

Have a big vision; something beyond your capabilities to keep you challenged. If we have aimed our efforts for this moment only–for ourselves, for the accumulation of material things, for pleasure–we will soon become dissatisfied and disillusioned with life. Former British Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher said, “There is little hope for democracy if the hearts of men and women cannot be touched by a call to something greater than themselves.”

Have a dream and vision that is greater then yourself–one that will leave this world a better place.

2. Know what your strengths are

To be leaders, we need each other to reach our goals. Each of us has only some of the skills needed to do a great job. We need to surround ourselves with people to fill in our gaps. Seventy-nine year-old Muriel Tower, an experienced entrepreneur, said, “You get things done through other people. Number one in business is get the best person for the job. Number two, delegate. Number three, supervise–go back and see that they did it.”

In order to be effective, you need a team to work with. We lead on the basis of our strengths; we gather our team on the basis of their strengths.

What is your leadership style? Are you a visionary? A person who can see the big picture and take risks? Or are you a detail person–an administrative type? You see the need for systems and order. You do things right and at the right time. You are efficient. Perhaps you are more of a sales person–a people gatherer. You love people and can sell anything to anyone, but don’t care about details. Or maybe you just love working by yourself. A hard worker–a producer. Let someone give you a track to run on and you’ll do it.

Before you are thirty years old, you can probably do all of those jobs without too much difficulty. But once you are over thirty, you realize you don’t want to do the things you aren’t good at. It uses up too much energy. When you know what you are good at, surround yourself with a team who are good at the other three.

When you have that team, meet with them regularly and have a purpose statement that you work toward. Review it often with your staff so you don’t lose your focus. Set short and long term goals, and evaluate two or three times a year to see how you are doing. Your team will be motivated toward reaching your goals together. Give credit where credit is due. Say “thank you” to the people you are working with. Encourage them often!

Understanding your strengths and the strengths of others is a key to effective leadership.

3. Strive for excellence

The people you want to influence will not rise to a higher standard of excellence than what they observe in you. The authors of Megatrends for Women write, “Male or female, the effective leader wins commitment by setting an example of excellence.”

We were hosting a dinner for influential women in three cities with a well-known, successful speaker. Of course we were eager to make a good impression, so we spent hours wording the invitations. However, when they were printed and we looked them over, we discovered–to our dismay–that the logo for our organization was printed upside down. It was a costly oversight.

After much discussion, we decided to reprint them even though we knew that the majority of the women would not even notice the mistake.

We wanted to influence leaders and we had to do things right, not only do the right things. Leaders must strive for excellence.

Strive for excellence and you will motivate others to do the same.

4. Be persistent

Mother Teresa was a determined woman. Margaret Thatcher was a determined woman. The key to being a good leader is endurance–being a non-quitter. You will be tempted to quit and be encouraged to quit by those who are friends and enemies. Be unwilling to throw in the towel. Be determined.

One journalist wrote of Mother Teresa: “When I met Mother Teresa, I discovered she was very tiny–less than five feet tall–and kept her head cocked to one side. She had gnarled hands and thick peasant feet that protruded from under her coarse white sari. Although there was no mistaking the aura of warmth and kindness that surrounded her, I felt I was in the presence of the most powerful, focussed and determined person I had ever met.”

According to a survey done by Deloitte and Touche, senior women executives rated Determination and Perseverance as the number one essential qualities for Women’s success in business. In order to leave this world a different place, you have to be persistent. Leaders don’t grow in a comfort zone. Leaders are not people with exceptional talent; they are people who have learned from their mistakes and get up and try again.

Persistence is a key to effective leadership.

5. Be willing to stand alone

If you have a passion, a dream or a mission, set measurable goals and work toward accomplishing them. You will find that many times you may have to work alone. You will probably be lonely.

People are looking for leaders who are willing to give it all they have, and they will follow–for a while. However, when the going gets tough, when pleasure and comfort compete with responsibility and long hours, followers will drop away. That is when you have to be sure that what you are doing is right, so that you will keep going.

James Cook said, “A person who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.”

6. Be ready for resistance

One of the facts of life is that when you are in leadership, you have to solve problems.

Pastor Lloyd Ogilvie, for many years the senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, California and now Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, once observed that “Everyone has problems; if you don’t have any now, you will have problems; wherever you work or live, you’ll have problems; or you just might be someone else’s problem.”

Sometimes we have the faulty notion that we should be able to go through life problem free–that if we have problems, something is wrong with our life. As leaders, we have to be responsible, no matter how painful it is. Running away is not an option.

We can easily fall into waiting for someone else to solve our problems. In her book, The Cinderella Complex, Colette Dowling writes about waiting for Prince Charming: “Like Cinderella, women today are still waiting for something external to transform their lives. We may venture out a little, but underneath lurks a wish to be saved, a deep yearning for dependence.”

You don’t need to wait for someone else’s help. You will have problems. Be ready. Expect it. If you know you are doing what is right, you won’t cave in when the going gets tough.

Facing problems and dealing with them by making good decisions is the difference between a leader and a follower.

7. Set an example for your staff

“Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and never succeed.”

I am amazed at how often people want a position, but not the responsibility. It is natural to want to escape responsibility; we all do it. However, being a leader means working long hours. It means being available to solve problems or give direction whenever necessary. Being a leader means being a servant, whether you are in your home or at work. You are always on call.

A leader works hard.

8. Be ethical

As I travel a lot, I gather stats from many different papers and magazines. USA Today stated that two in three adults believe ethics “vary by situation” or that there is no “unchanging ethical standard of right and wrong.” Only 18% of the people ages 20 – 30 said that there was one standard of right and wrong.

The Vancouver Province printed another study, which reflected that we tell 200 lies a day. Everything from giving excuses for our behaviour, to saying things like, “I hate to bother you . . . ” Don’t expect your staff or the next generation to do what is right if they see you doing what is wrong. It is incredibly important that we have a strong code of ethics to base our decisions and lifestyle on.

What set of values dictate your ethics–your behaviour? Or do you have a code of ethics? Do you have convictions that cause you to say, “I will never do that” or “For me, that is not an option?” If you don’t, sit down, think through and write down your non-negotiable code of ethics. Sometimes it can be the little things that erode your standards and–by the way–your self esteem. When temptation comes, you may very well do something that you will later be sorry for. Sometimes you have harmful situations to live with the rest of your life.

Margaret Thatcher once said, “I am not a consensus politician, I am a conviction politician.” What kind of leader are you? Do you have convictions of your own or do you live by the consensus of other opinions?

It is of utmost importance to have high ethical standards to be an effective leader.

9. Let God be your guide

Elizabeth Dole, President of the American Red Cross, stated in an interview: “To me it’s very important to know I have a source of strength beyond my own. When I’m undertaking a difficult assignment or making a tough decision, I’m glad I don’t have to rely on my own energy, wisdom, and judgement.”

Twenty-four years ago, I realized I needed a source of strength beyond myself. The goals I had set for myself were not satisfying and even relationships did not fill my deepest need. At the ageof thirty-two, I gave the control of my life to God. He is that source of strength I needed. I simply prayed, “I want You to be my Guide from now until I die.” He heard me.

Initially, I was filled with tremendous joy, peace and satisfaction. I felt like someone really cared for me–accepted me unconditionally. It was like finding a missing piece to a puzzle after looking for a long time.

My goals, priorities and dreams started changing. My dreams became much bigger–beyond what I could personally do. My scope of interest grew from the home base to the community, from the community to the province, from the province to our nation, from our nation to the world.

I noticed many women in my world were not maximizing their abilities; I worked hard to encourage and train them to be the best women they could be.

Yet what is more important, I realized that if Jesus Christ could satisfy me and change my life so dramatically, He could do that for anyone. So I started telling people how they could have a personal relationship with God.

Find the power to change your life and your world–let God be your guide.

Oliver W. Holmes was quoted as saying, “I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as is what direction we are heading.” What direction do you think you will be heading 5 years from now? 10 years from now? 25 years from now?

As a leader, what direction are you heading? What direction are you taking the 250 people you are influencing?

http://www.nba.com/video/channels/top_plays/2014/04/18/20140417-nyk-anthony-top10-yr.nba/

Living with hope

If you are looking for peace, there is a way to balance your life. No one can be perfect, or have a perfect life. But every one of us has the opportunity to experience perfect grace through a personal relationship with God through his Son, Jesus Christ.

You can receive Christ right now by faith through prayer. Praying is simply talking to God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as he is with the attitude of your heart. Here’s a suggested prayer:

Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life to you and ask you to come in as my Savior and Lord. Take control of my life. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.

Empower A Felon

Yes! I prayed this prayer.

~ I Am Fit To Be Used By God~

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Prisons have been in existence for thousands of years, originally as a place where people accused of crimes were held until their trial or judgment, while in more modern times imprisonment has also become a form of sentence itself. Prisons have also been used to silence or neutralize political or religious reformers. Throughout The Bible, God’s people very often found themselves in prison – in a world in which evil still reigns , their “crimes” were righteousness and truth.

Prison

Old Testament

“So Joseph’s master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail. But The Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.” (Genesis 39:20-21 NASB) (see Coat Of Many Colors)

“She said, The Philistines are upon you, Samson! And he awoke from his sleep and said, I will go out as at other times and shake myself free. But he did not know that The Lord had departed from him. Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison. However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it was shaved off.” (Judges 16:20-21 NASB) (see Samson And Delilah)

“Then the officials were angry at Jeremiah [see also Prophets] and beat him, and they put him in jail in the house of Jonathan the scribe [see Scribes], which they had made into the prison. For Jeremiah had come into the dungeon, that is, the vaulted cell; and Jeremiah stayed there many days. Now King Zedekiah [see Kings of Israel and Judah] sent and took him out; and in his palace the king secretly asked him and said, Is there a word from The Lord? And Jeremiah said, There is! Then he said, You will be given into the hand of the king of Babylon! [see King Nebuchadnezzar and Ancient Empires – Babylon] (Jeremiah 37:15-17 NASB)

New Testament

“For when Herod [see The Herods] had John [see John The Baptist] arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had been saying to him, It is not lawful for you to have her.” (Matthew 14:3-4 NASB)

“Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed. But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates, that is the sect of the Sadducees [see also Who Were The Pharisees? andSanhedrin], and they were filled with jealousy. They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail. But during the night an angel of The Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, Go, stand and speak to the people in the Temple [see Temples] the whole message of this Life.” (Acts 5:16-20 NASB)

“Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.” (Acts 8:1-3 NASB)

“I persecuted this Way [see The Way] to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished. But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me, and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?'” (Acts 22:4-7 NASB) (see On The Road To Damascus)

“Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church [see What Is The Church?] in order to mistreat them. And he hadJames the brother of John put to death with a sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread. When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers [see Roman Legions] to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God. On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold, an angel of The Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, Get up quickly. And his chains fell off his hands.” (Acts 12:1-7 NASB)

2 Timothy 2:20-22

20In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

I have seen men of high achievement in the world tremble with a sense of awe as they realized that on a given occasion they were the instrument of God’s working. I can tell you from personal experience that is something that is without compare in this life. It can happen anywhere, anytime. God works in wonderful ways, not always in very dramatic ways, but in ways we do not anticipate. It can happen to anybody. Being used of God is not confined to pastors, preachers or teachers. Anybody can be an instrument in God’s hands.

In the passage we are looking at this morning from Second Timothy, Chapter 2, beginning with Verse 20, the Apostle Paul describes what it takes to be used of God.

In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and earthenware, and some for noble use, some for ignoble. If any one purifies himself from what is ignoble, then he will be a vessel for noble use, consecrated and useful to the master of the house, ready for any good work. (2 Timothy 2:20-21 RSV)

Most of the commentators take this reference to “a great house” to refer to the whole professing church. They see the church as the house of God, which is the term Paul used for this in his first letter to Timothy. But if we compare what other Scriptures say on this, we discover that Scripture itself forces us to extend this analogy not only to the church, but to the whole world. Every person in the world is a possible vessel for God to use, regardless of what his attitude to God may be.

Scripture reveals that God uses his enemies, even the devil, to accomplish his work. God’s sovereignty, his majesty, is such that no matter who we may be or what we may be like, we can be used by him. In the story of the Exodus, in the Old Testament, we learn that not only was Moses the instrument of God but so was Pharaoh. In Romans 9, Paul says that Pharaoh was used of God to resist the departure from Egypt in order that the greatness of God might be manifest. The apostle says that God raised up Pharaoh, set him on his throne, and used him for his purposes. In fact, in the ninth chapter of Romans, the 21st through the 23rd verses, the apostle uses this very same figure about vessels of mercy contrasted with vessels of wrath. He says, “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use?” (Romans 9:21 RSV). So Scripture itself supports the idea that God can use anybody, believer or nonbeliever.

In Isaiah we are told that Nebuchadnezzar was the servant of God (Jeremiah 27:6), even though he was a Babylonian pagan. Cyrus the Persian king is called “God’s anointed one,” (Isaiah 45:1). God speaks of him as “my shepherd” (Isaiah 44:28), though he too was an unbeliever. If we understand life from the Biblical point of view, we must know that all people can be used of God. So it is not a question of whether you are going to be used of God or not. As this passage points out, the question is, How does God plan to use you? What is he going to do with you? To what purpose is he going to put you in his program? Will it be a noble purpose, or will it be, as this version says, an ignoble? Will it be for good or bad, blessing or judgment? We need to clearly understand this fact.

Recently I saw a sign on someone’s desk that said, “It may be that my whole purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others.” Everyone needs a bad example as well as a good one. That may be the purpose God will put us to.The Scriptures do not teach that only the righteous people are used of God. No, God can use anyone. He used Hitler to accomplish certain purposes of judgment and correction. God uses the basest of men; we all are instruments of his work. God used Judas, placing him in the apostolic band. Jesus knew that he would betray him. Judas fulfilled the Scriptures and the predictions of the prophets on that night when he lifted up his heel against the Lord and betrayed him. So God can use anyone.

What type of vessel are you choosing to yield to today? My quest of service is to the human being that is rapidly becoming an endangered species. Our youth are targeted for prison from schools and your family members also. Please consider my passion as my part to help fit others for service in life and their communities.

8k7la86586

~My Perspective Is Faith In God~

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Our instincts are the treasure map for our soul’s satisfaction. Following our instincts can make the crucial distinction between what we are good at—our vocation or skill set—and what we are good for—the fulfillment of our purposeful potential. When you’re truly engaged with your life’s calling, whether in the boutique, the banquet hall, or the boardroom, you rely on something that cannot be taught. I’m convinced that our instincts can provide the combination we need to align our unique variables with our callings and release the treasure within us. When harnessed, refined, and heeded, our instincts can provide the key to unlocking our most productive, most satisfying, most joyful lives. We often recognize people who seem to thrive by instinct. Fashion designers who do what they do beyond the training they received, with a flair for the latest trends that’s inherent and instinctive. Interior decorators and others in the graphic arts may wield this gift as well, but they are not the only ones. Athletes in the “zone,” or investors with a keen sense of timing, performers with the courage to audition for a role outside their fans’ expectations. They all know what it means to function by their own unique internal compass.

If you have ever had the privilege of working with someone like this, then you know they can take the mundane and make it magical. They can take the most simplistic equipment and produce the most superlative results. Often they maximize their training with their unique flair. No matter what you call it, the truly gifted simply have that extra something that seemingly others don’t have or don’t tap into the way they should. Unfortunately, much of what I see today isn’t about fulfilling one’s true potential as much as it is about appearing to fulfill what other people expect. Too many people want the appearance of winning rather than the practices and hard work that create a true champion. They mistake the prize for the art of winning and will ultimately buy a trophy without ever running a race. They didn’t take the class; they bought the diploma. They aren’t successful; they just have the props. They aren’t driven to achieve something; they just bust their gut to appear busy to everyone around them.

The irony is what these people fail to realize. When you’re living by instinct, then you will naturally enhance everything and everyone around you. In other words, success will come naturally! When both your intellect and instincts are aligned, then producing the fruits of your labors brings satisfaction beyond measure. Now, it will still require hard work and dedication on your part, but the internal satisfaction will fuel your desire to achieve even larger dreams. Based on the fact that we are all inherently creative people, if we are in touch with our instincts, then we will naturally increase our endeavors. When you don’t become fixated on winning the prize or appearing successful, and instead pursue your passions, then you will discover the fulfillment that comes from living by instinct. My instincts have said to pursue the ministry of “Helps” and name it Second Chance Alliance. I have done all I can to reach out, I am doing all I can to stand, I am doing all I can to pray my way through while I believe in the God inspired instinct of this vision. I believe this to be the course God has called me to operate in, and although it seems insurmountable and not gaining any momentum I will stand the course.

George Mueller’s Strategy for Showing God

In one of my blessings today I spoke with someone who invested time in review of my campaign. He told me that my faith is the fleece and I shouldn’t have to solicit funding because if God led me to it , He will truly fund it and that would be the proof. Well I took a look at that by reading what he suggested.

George Mueller was a native German (a Prussian). He was born in Kroppenstaedt on September 27, 1805 and lived almost the entire nineteenth century. He died March 10, 1898 at the age of 92. He saw the great awakening of 1859 which he said “led to the conversion of hundreds of thousands.” He did follow up work for D. L. Moody, preached for Charles Spurgeon,  and inspired the missionary faith of Hudson Taylor.

He spent most of his life in Bristol, England and pastored the same church there for over sixty-six years—a kind of independent, premillennial,  Calvinistic Baptist church that celebrated the Lord’s supper weekly and admitted non-baptized people into membership. If this sounds unconventional, that would be accurate. He was a maverick not only in his church life but in almost all the areas of his life. But his eccentricities were almost all large-hearted and directed outward for the good of others. A. T. Pierson, who wrote the biography that Mueller’s son-in-law endorsed as authoritative, captured the focus of this big-hearted eccentricity when he said, George Mueller “devised large and liberal things for the Lord’s cause.”

In 1834 (when he was 28) he founded The Scripture Knowledge Institute for Home and Abroad, because he was disillusioned with the post-millennialism, the liberalism, and the worldly strategies (like going into debt) of existing mission organizations. Five branches of this Institute developed: 1) Schools for children and adults to teach Bible knowledge, 2) Bible distribution, 3) missionary support, 4) tract and book distribution, and 5) “to board, clothe and Scripturally educate destitute children who have lost both parents by death.”

The Gift of Faith vs. the Grace of Faith

So were his prayers for Mary answered? To understand how Mueller himself would answer this question, we have to see the way he distinguished between the extraordinary gift of faith and the more ordinary grace of faith. He constantly insisted that he did not have the gift of faith when people put him on a pedestal just because he would pray for his own needs and the needs of the orphans, and the money would arrive in remarkable ways.

Think not, dear reader, that Ihave the gift of faith, that is, that gift of which we read in 1 Corinthians 12:9, and which is mentioned along with “the gifts of healing,” “the working of miracles,”prophecy,” and that on that account I am able to trust in the Lord. It is true that the faith, which I am enabled to exercise, is altogether God’s own gift; it is true that He alone supports it, and that He alone can increase it; it is true that, moment by moment, I depend upon Him for it, and that, if I were only one moment left to myself, my faith would utterly fail; but it is not true that my faith is that gift of faith which is spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12:9.

The reason he is so adamant about this is that his whole life—especially in the way he supported the orphans by faith and prayer without asking anyone but God for money—was consciously planned to encourage Christians that God could really be trusted to meet their needs. We will never understand George Mueller’s passion for the orphan ministry if we don’t see that the good of the orphans was second to this.

The three chief reasons for establishing an Orphan-House are: 1. That God may be glorified, should He be pleased to furnish me with the means, in its being seen that it is not a vain thing to trust in Him; and that thus the faith of His children may be strengthened. 2. The spiritual welfare of fatherless and motherless children. 3. Their temporal welfare.

And make no mistake about it: the order of those three goals is intentional. He makes that explicit over and over in his Narrative. The orphan houses exist to display that God can be trusted and to encourage believers to take him at his word. This was a deep sense of calling with Mueller. He said that God had given him the mercy in “being able to take God by His word and to rely upon it.” He was grieved that “so many believers . . . were harassed and distressed in mind, or brought guilt on their consciences, on account of not trusting in the Lord.” This grace that he had to trust God’s promises, and this grief that so many believers didn’t trust his promises, shaped Mueller’s entire life. This was his supreme passion: to display with open proofs that God could be trusted with the practical affairs of life. This was the higher aim of building the orphan houses and supporting them by asking God, not people, for money.

The accomplishments of all five branches were significant, but the one he was known for around the world in his own lifetime, and still today, was the orphan ministry. He built five large orphan houses and cared for 10,024 orphans in his life. When he started in 1834 there were accommodations for 3,600 orphans in all of England and twice that many children under eight were in prison. One of the great effects of Mueller’s ministry was to inspire others so that “fifty years after Mr. Mueller began his work, at least one hundred thousand orphans were cared for in England alone.”

He did all this while he was preaching three times a week from 1830 to 1898, at least 10,000 times. And when he turned 70 he fulfilled a life-long dream of missionary work for the next 17 years until he was 87. He traveled to 42 countries, preaching on average of once a day, and addressing some three million people. He preached nine times  in Minneapolis in 1880 (nine years after the founding of Bethlehem Baptist Church).

I am moved by this autobiography, but I don’t see myself as asking in a sense to defraud anyone. I don’t see my being affiliated with a philanthropist  approach as begging. My faith is in tact and my course set by God. Just like those orphans my passion is ex-offenders. I being an ex-offender makes my instinct to succeed that much greater for my fellowman. That being said, If One thousand people gave ten dollars, that would be Ten Thousand dollars and 6 men afforded the opportunity to rehabilitation. If the church didn’t ask for an offering how would the church budget get paid? If the preacher doesn’t educate the congregation about giving how many people do you think would give? We as individuals have to believe with the measure of faith we have. If you believe in this vision, please pray or contribute. If you don’t, please don’t seed my faith with guilt because I am moving in faith that “He” will do what He has said unto His servant. I accept all comments and questions. I even take suggestions, but I can do without anyone’s lack of faith or belief in this dream.

8k7la86586

~ Bad Boy Meeks: Has A Second Chance Already~

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June 18, 2014: This booking photo released by the Stockton Police Department is Jeremy Meeks. Meeks, 30, was one of four men arrested Wednesday in raids in Stockton, Calif.AP/Stockton Police Dept.

A handsome mug shot of a Northern California man arrested on felony weapons charges has gone viral on social media, attracting more than 30,000 “likes” and drawing comments praising his high cheek bones, chiseled face and striking blue eyes.

Jeremy Meeks, 30, a felon, was arrested Wednesday on five weapons charges and one gang charge, according to Officer Joseph Silva, a spokesman for the Stockton Police Department.

No previous arrest photo has garnered so much positive attention since the department set up the Facebook page in March 2012, Silva told The Associated Press.

“Wow. That is one good looking mug shot!” one person wrote.

“Momma, I’m in love with a criminal,” wrote another.

Some of the users also wrote that Meeks should be released because he was “handsome,” while others disapproved of the attention showered on Meeks, calling those praising the man’s looks “stupid” and “desperate.”

Silva reportedly said that Meeks is “one of the most violent criminals in the Stockton area” and added that Meeks was being held on a $900,000 bond, and was scheduled to be put on trial Friday afternoon.

second chance alliance

This is another amazing encounter with how the world views what is entertainment and praise worthy. I am looking at the possibilities this viral exposure can afford Mr. Meeks and his family if he changes his views on criminal activity. We all are children of a “Second Chance God”. This is another family man locked away from his family and although his choices propelled him into this incarceration, I feel his choices can get him a new start. He is blessed with good looks that can be marketed into a living wage for himself and his family. I thank God for this opportunity for this disenfranchised individual because so many of us don’t get noticed. Mr. Meeks should be at this moment contemplating his options verses this onslaught of attention.

ORG_NAME

Dear Aaron,

Last November you read this letter about my friend and colleague, Kevin Ring, who was headed to prison. It’s now been six months since Kevin self-surrendered to FPC Cumberland and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and his two young daughters.

As you can imagine, this past Sunday – Father’s Day – was an extremely difficult day for him. In fact, he wrote this beautiful and powerful piece that was featured in Sunday’s Washington Post. If you don’t read the whole thing (it’s not very long), I’d like you to at least read this one point he raises.

Fatherhood should not be a “get out of jail free” card, of course. All of us at Cumberland earned our tickets of entry. Nor would knowing that a convicted rapist or murderer was also a good Little League coach or Boy Scout leader move me if I were tasked with sentencing him. But in most cases, especially those involving the nonviolent offenders with whom I’m serving, I would want to know about the defendant as a parent, and about his family. For as much as it hurts us fathers, a growing body of research says it hurts our kids, too.”

I see this when I visit Kevin in prison. I watch the children as they eagerly wait for their dads to come through the visiting room door, and I see the big smiles that break out when they finally appear. I’ve seen fathers scoop up their kids, one in each arm, and squeeze them tight almost as if to absorb them. I’ve watched as a father gives a bottle to an infant, as another one buries his head in a toddler’s tummy making him laugh, and another plays endless card games with an older son.

Any one of these acts is a “Kodak moment” of fatherhood, yet it unfolds in a prison visiting room and will end at the given hour. The kids will return to a home without a father and, if they are lucky, will get another trip to prison in the not-too-distant future to see their dads again.

For a country that prides itself on innovation, we are remarkably unimaginative when it comes to punishment. As Kevin says, fatherhood should not be a “get out of jail free” card, but family impact should be considered at sentencing, because as I’ve heard for decades, when someone goes to prison, the whole family goes with him or her.

This is yet one more reason to support FAMM. We change laws that change lives – not just for the defendant or prisoner, but for the families that come with them. 

We are $15,000 short of our goal of $25,000 for this month. Please donate here to help us raise the funds we need to change the most laws that will have the broadest impact on families across America.

 

My best,

Julie

Julie Stewart
President and Founder
Families Against Mandatory Minimums

8k7la86586

~I am Food For The Universe; I Am~

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Isaiah 28:28

Grain must be ground to make bread; so one does not go on threshing it forever. The wheels of a threshing cart may be rolled over it, but one does not use horses to grind grain.

Many of us cannot be used as food for the world’s hunger, because we have yet to be broken in Christ’s hands. “Grain must be ground to make bread,” and being a blessing of His often requires sorrow on our part. Yet even sorrow is not too high a price to pay for the privilege of touching other lives with Christ’s blessings. The things that are most precious to us today have come to us through tears and pain.

God has made me bread for His chosen ones, and if it is necessary for me to “be ground” in the teeth of lions in order to feed His children, then blessed be the name of the Lord.

To burn brightly over our lives must first experience the flame. In other words, we cease to bless others when we cease to bleed.

Poverty, hardship, and misfortune have propelled many a life to moral heroism and spiritual greatness. Difficulties challenge our energy and our perseverance but bring the strongest qualities of the soul to life. It is the weights on the old grandfather clock that keep it running. And many a sailor has faced a strong head wind yet used it to make it to port. God has chosen opposition as a catalyst to our faith and holy service.

The most prominent characters of the Bible were broken, threshed, and ground into bread for the hungry. Because he stood at the head for the hungry. Because he stood at the head of the class, enduring affliction while remaining obedient, Abraham’s diploma is now inscribed with these words: “The Father of Faith.”

Jacob. like wheat, suffered severe threshing and grinding. Joseph was beaten and bruised, and was forced to endure Potiphar’s kitchen and Egypt’s prison before coming to his throne. David, hunted like an animal of prey through the mountains, was bruised, weary, and footsore, and thereby ground into bread for a kingdom. Paul could never have been bread for Ceasar’s household if he had not endured the bruising of being whipped and stoned. He was ground into fine flour for the Roman royal family.

Combat comes before victory. If God has chosen special trials for you to endure, be assured He has kept a very special place in His heart just for you. A badly bruised soul is one who is chosen.

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Being crush has made me bread for this struggle I am passionate about:https://blessedaaron08.wordpress.com/2014/06/02/the-why/

~Getting Started Toward a Goal Makes All the Difference~

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My wife and I started off in a small beginning. We almost destroyed one another just like we were used to devour those we sold drugs to and used drugs with. It wasn’t until five years had passed since our seeing one another that she took a small step of faith and reached out to me while I was serving my last year of a 5-year sentence in Corcoran State Prison and asked me to forgive her. That act of reconciliation has led to 23 years of friendship and 5 years of marriage. We have accomplished several small things that have turned into very significant events in our life and the lives of family and countless others.

Consider for a moment dreams or goals you’ve had which have been realized. Think back on those accomplishments or successful experiences which are most meaningful for you to remember. I’m willing to guess that more than one of them had a rather tentative, inglorious start.

When we look carefully at the path which led to a personal success, we often realize that it began with a modest step forward, that in time reaped a much greater harvest than we anticipated.

Such small first steps might include–

 An awkward first visit to a church singles group, that led to meeting the person you married.

 A hesitant phone call to ask someone out, or to inquire about a job opportunity, which received a much more positive response than you expected.

 An application for a grant, written with a sense of futility, thinking you’d probably be better off spending your time doing something else. Yet to your astonishment, the grant was given, and significant doors have now opened through that one effort.

 A business venture began with a paltry investment that succeeded far beyond your expectations.

 A book picked up in a time of discouragement, that inspired you and gave you the perspective to pursue your dream.

 A reconciled relationship, now going strong, which began with a simple request for forgiveness.

With the eyes of hindsight, we look back to such starting efforts with awe and gratitude. We realize there was greatness in that moment of small beginning that we didn’t begin to appreciate at the time. We may shudder, too, to think of how close we came to not taking that one initial step which opened such important doors.

A Reason for Optimism

Unfortunately, the benefit of the small beginning is often lost on us when we face the possibility of embarking on a new dream. The effort it would take to pursue it seems massive; we’re overwhelmed with the impossibility of it all. There seems to be little or nothing we can do to move forward.

To the eyes of faith, though, there is a world of difference between “little” and “nothing.” Often there is something we can do–some obvious first step we could take. This may be exactly what is needed to put the wheels of faith in motion.

For one thing, we shouldn’t underestimate the value that taking any initial step toward a goal has upon us psychologically. Suddenly our psyche is committed, and we become more alert to opportunities that will move us toward our dream. Others become more aware of our intentions as well and are more likely to try to help us.

Yet the spiritual aspect of taking the first step is even more important. The seemingly insignificant small beginning often gets much closer to the heart of the biblical idea of going forward in faith than we realize.

From Little Acorns . . .

We don’t usually think of it this way. The very notion of moving out in faith seems to imply taking a bold, extravagant step of some sort. We quickly think of the biblical prototypes: Moses parting the Red Sea, Joshua leading the Israelites to demolish the wall of Jericho with a shout, David marshaling his troops for battle, Gideon confronting the indomitable Midianite army with only three hundred soldiers, Esther going before King Ahasuerus knowing that her life hung in the balance, Peter preaching salvation to the large throng of Jews gathered on the day of Pentecost. It’s easy to conclude that if we’re not throwing caution to the wind, we’re not really taking a step of faith.

Yet Scripture also shows great respect for the small, subtle, unspectacular first step. Consider these examples–

 In the parable of the talents, Jesus commended the two servants who invested their money and upbraided the one who failed to give his one coin to the bankers (Mt 25:14-30). Few first steps are less inspiring than putting money in the bank. No one notices, there are no neon lights, and there is no immediate reward for this act of discipline. In fact, the period you must wait for any significant benefit can seem interminable. Yet with time, the incremental gains grow larger and larger, and the eventual profit is considerable.

It’s striking that Jesus paid such respect to prudent financial investment. Clearly, too, he intended the parable of the talents to be an analogy to other areas of life where we take risks for his sake. It conveys an unmistakable lesson–that we shouldn’t neglect the benefit of a small beginning in any venture of faith.

 Ruth’s marriage to Boaz–one of the most celebrated in Scripture–resulted from a small, ignoble step forward. The marriage became possible because of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, moved from Moab to Bethlehem. The move, detailed in the book of Ruth, was anything but a triumphant one for these two women. Both went to Bethlehem as widows–Naomi returning grief-stricken to her homeland, and Ruth following along out of devotion to Naomi. The move was borne more of necessity than of vibrant vision for the future.

Yet at least they did something to break the inertia of their grief and make a fresh start. In time the move brought benefits that exceeded their wildest expectations. Ruth met Boaz and married him, then gave birth to a son who became an ancestor of David. Naomi also found new life in this family connection, and in the many friendships that opened for her in Bethlehem. An unglamorous step forward brought about a wellspring of life for Naomi, Ruth, Boaz, and countless others who enjoyed the family relationships that resulted in the generations which followed.

 We tend to glamorize the healing incidents in the Gospels and assume that those who came to Jesus for help did so boldly, with a sublime confidence that they would be instantly cured. I’m certain, though, that many came in the same ambivalent, tentative spirit in which we often seek medical help today. The woman with the hemorrhage is a case in point (Mark 5:24-34). Terribly concerned that no one would notice her, and uncertain whether approaching Jesus was even appropriate, she decided merely to touch the hem of his garment. That one small gesture not only brought her healing but an effusive compliment from Jesus about her faith (v. 34).

As we see here, Scripture not only describes small first steps which brought results over time but those which reaped a surprising harvest immediately. Virtually all of the healing miracles mentioned in Scripture fit this pattern. The “miracles of expansion” do as well. These include incidents in the Old and New Testaments where large crowds were fed with a small provision of food (2 Kings 4:42-44; Mk 6:33-44, 8:1-9), and the miraculous provision of oil that saved the widow of Cain from financial ruin (2 Kings 4:1-7). While we cannot presume that our own small first steps will immediately produce such astonishing results, we can never know unless we try.

And in time the results of a meager first effort often do surprise us.

The Challenge of Small Beginnings

While taking the small first step can make all the difference, there are two factors which can keep us from appreciating an opportunity to move forward that we actually have. One is that because of its apparent insignificance, we may not even recognize the small beginning that’s available for us to make.

I remember a friend who left a well-paying nursing job to enter a doctoral program. Though Nancy had long wanted to pursue this goal, she assumed it was financially impossible, since she was a single parent in her forties. Finally, she faced up to the fact that there was a small beginning she could make, which was to apply for grants. She made six applications, assuming her prospects for success were minimal. To her astonishment, four of the six were granted. When Nancy shared this personal triumph with me, I couldn’t help but think of how many people there must be who need this same financial assistance–and would qualify for it–yet have concluded that it isn’t worth the trouble to apply. Nancy herself had overlooked this option for years.

Of course, writing a grant application means some uninspiring paperwork, and this suggests a second factor that can keep us from recognizing the chance to make a small beginning–the fact that we may look with contempt upon what we have to do.

Such was the near-fatal flaw of Naaman the leper in the Old Testament. Naaman sought healing for leprosy from Elisha, who told him to wash seven times in the Jordan river. Naaman’s response was one of anger: “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” (2 Kings 5:11-12 NIV). The text concludes, “he turned and went off in a rage.”

Naaman’s servants had the good sense to challenge him, saying, “if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” (v. 13). Naaman fortunately repented of his obstinacy and followed the prophet’s counsel. Yet his example warns us that no matter how greatly we want to reach a goal, our disdain for some of the details may keep us from moving forward. The initial steps that we must take are particularly likely to seem distasteful to us.

We need, in short, a greater esteem for the small beginnings of life. “Don’t despise the day of small beginnings,” as Pat Robertson is fond of paraphrasing Zechariah 4:10.

Taking Heart

Do you have a personal dream which has not been realized? To the best of your knowledge, is your dream in line with God’s best intentions for your life? Yet does it seem that there is little or nothing you can do to move toward your goal-that your hands are tied?

Remember that a small beginning is sometimes the very step needed to open yourself to the provision of Christ. Pray earnestly and look honestly at what you actually can do to start moving toward your goal. Don’t look with contempt on the small beginning. Think of it as the launching point for a journey of faith.

And remember that God’s hand in your life is not shortened. Stands the reason we are stepping out with Second Chance Alliance, Click to review and pray our strength. Thanks in advance.

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~Biblical Reversed Engineering~

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A good engineer thinks in reverse and asks himself about the stylistic consequences of the components and systems he proposes.

Helmut Jahn

Take the example of a business man.  When this now president of the company first began his journey in the working world he did not start as president but at the bottom of the corporate ladder.  Although he started at the bottom of the corporate ladder, yet this was not his original goal or intention; rather, being president was.  His originally goal or desires was accomplished last in execution, but his starting at the bottom of the corporate ladder, which was his goal last in order, was accomplished first in execution. With God’s decrees I call this purpose and execution; where purpose is the order of the decrees, and the execution is precision mirrored or reversed engineered implementation of these purposes.  Ecclesiastes 7:8, “The end of a thing is better than its beginning.”

 

And so, God who is infinite in wisdom has His end goal as His original intention—this is the first decree—but his last decree is what He starts first in execution, and continues to take a series of reversed engineered steps of execution until His original goal is accomplished.  This original goal is the public illuminary and supremacy of Jesus Christ, and the pinnacle instrument to accomplish this is a public, redeemed bride married to His Son, enthralled with eternal joy and praises of Him.

In any case, Adam and Eve in the garden were not God’s original intention and design for man; rather, their creation was at the bottom, in regards or order of goals; and so, as a result they were first in execution.

As I have said before, the fountain, the original and perfect example of love, is the love of the Father for the Son and the Son for the Father, through the infinite energy and motion of the Holy Spirit. This is the original love, which all other types of love is patterned after, started from and for, and then also terminated back into this original LOVE. Therefore, the perfect type of audience for Christ to receive the highest form of public supremacy is the type of audience that is united to Christ as Christ is united to the Father in the Spirit.  This is the starting and spring of human existence and of the election of the church of God.

This was the original plan both for Christ and the church.  Adam was not God’s original plan for mankind, because Adam was not created one with Christ, united to Him in the Spirit, as Christ is with the Father.  This only happened after the cross and will only be completed in heaven with glorified saints living with Christ, full of the Spirit and united to Him as He is to the Father!   Adam in the garden, (and then the fall, and then the incarnation, (etc.)), was a starting point to get Christ and the church to the original goal of Christ fully displayed in public supremacy, by a church that is as united in love in the Spirit to Him as He is to the Father, (within the context and capacity of the public).

The result is that the Church not only finds the joy in knowing Christ, but does so only because Christ found her in her sin and filth and then died in her place to bring her to Himself as a spouse.  This great mercy or great COST given by God insures and brightens the supremacy of Christ, even more than freely given love, for it insures and enlarges the churches ability to (1) know, (2) become and (3) enjoy Christ more through it!

NLT Ephesians 1:10, “And this is His plan: At the right time He will bring everything together under the authority of Christ– everything in heaven and on earth.”  And what is the goal of this?  Christ’s public supremacy!   Colossians 1:18, “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything [i.e. preeminence, supremacy].”

God’s mercy is that He takes away our sins.  Therefore, let us read the force of verse 32 of Romans chapter 11 with that in mind to see more clearly the weight of what is being said.  God appointed all (in context to the Jews) to disobedience so that He might take away their sins!  That is an incredible thing to say!  This is why Paul simply ends with praise to God’s wisdom and Supremacy after teaching on such incredible doctrines as this.

1 John 4:9,  “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.”  As said before, God’s wisdom concluded that the best possible way for us to enjoy God’s love was by us tangibly experiencing it through “mercy.”  God’s love to us is proven by mercy; this was God’s plan.  He conceived it, decreed it, and then made it happen.  God ordained the fall so that He could have mercy on us, which is the absolute and fullest measure of God displaying His love and assuring us of that love.  This was by God’s design, not by an accident, which God merely used.

One of the reasons God has it this way is because it helps to teach us about Himself and His character and ways.  Take for example how someone might ask why would God take so long to implement the New Covenant of Christ’s blood; why did God give us the old covenant and law?  Galatians 3:24, “Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian and teacher [tutor] to lead us until Christ came.”

Why do we have teachers, go to school, and have tutors to help us?  We have teachers and tutors because the end to which we are striving to accomplish (best in business, first in the orchestra, or best singer(etc.)) is too difficult and big for us to grab right now and so we are helped until the point we are ready.  This is similar with the Old Covenant and the New, or as some call it Law & Gospel.  In other words, the New Covenant of Christ’s blood was so spectacular and big and complex with so many bright glories that mankind needed preparatory aid and help to prepare them for its arrival.

Being taught and going to school is not my first goal, but getting a high paid job at a company is.  Accordingly, the tutor or Old Covenant of the law was not the first goal; rather, it was the New Covenant with a redeemed bride married to Christ.

It is important to note that the scripture is filled with this basic structure of the first idea introduced is the tutor, antitype and example and the conclusion is the actual or first intention.  In light of seeing how the first desire of God will be the last thing executed in history we see why patterns, antitypes, examples and tutors in scripture are not the original but reversed engineered from the original preparing us to understand and for the original desire or goal.

Now, we will take a quick detour into establishing the importance of the metaphysical in light of God’s predestination and decrees…

Applying God’s Sovereignty to both His Decrees and Creation:

 

Since this public creation is founded on God’s sovereign “good pleasure” to be a display of how Famous He really is through His Son, then God does not desire to “merely” give vague ideas of His Moral Beauty or Holiness, rather, His sovereign Will is to publicly reveal details about His Divine Nature and then act faithfully in this public world to this revelation so that His glory is clearly seen and adored by all watching eyes.  See Exodus 32:11-14, Psalm 79:9; God appeals to this in first person in Isaiah 45:4; Isaiah 48:11, Ezekiel 37:16-33; also compare Psalm 25:11 to 2 Samuel 9:1-12; also 1 John 1:9 –God is “just” to forgive in keeping to the promises He made.

The point I wish my readers to keep in mind is this: behind any one Revelation of God, in the smallest statue, command or reward regarding what He will do, is behind it the Infinite Sovereign Will and Pleasure of God that established for His Son to have creation as a gift with Jesus as the public image of God, with His Son having the central public Supremacy and Preeminence.

Take for example God telling Joshua and the Israelites that He will cause and destine them to defeat their enemies.  Did Joshua say: God, because you predestined us to win it takes all the value and seriousness out of it?  No, of course he did not, for his is not stupid; rather, Joshua loved and sincerely longed for a homeland (taking the creation serious) and so God’s predestination (taking the Divine perspective serious, or the decrees) made the victory sweeter and the fighting of his enemies more passionate.  Here Joshua consistently applied God’s sovereignty over the creation and the God’s decrees.

In any case, in my experience when talking of God’s sovereignty people revert to 2nd graders and will apply God’s sovereignty to His own decrees yet will forgo applying this same sovereignly will over creation; or reversely, they fail to apply God’s sovereignty over His own decrees, but will do so over creation.  If we would only consistently apply and  believe God’s sovereignty over both the creation and His decrees and see the harmony between them, then many issues would be solved.

The source that gives God’s decrees and predestination their value and importance is God’s sovereign will.  Likewise, the source that gives the creation and all that is in it, including God’s revealed commandments for man, its value and importance is the same Sovereign will.  The same sovereign will that predestined, giving the future its value, is the same sovereign will that established creation giving it its value.  The value of any given thing in the creation is only as great as God’s decree made it to be, and only strongly as He sovereignly made this thing relate and reflect to the centrality of Jesus Christ in public.

As I excepted God’s sovereignty in my life when He called me to reverse my beliefs and conduct, the end of that thing became better. My drug addiction was solved, my alcoholic disposition was solved, my selfishness was solved, my sinful lifestyle was solved. When I got back up from my fall reverse engineering in the gospel appeared:

Proverbs 24:16

For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.

Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

Pray our strength and patience in pursuing our goal to help others see the need for reverse engineering through scripture for their life. Click the link to view our passion and thanks in advance for your prayers and support.

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I believe I’m Blessed In My Agony…

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Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.

Kevyn Aucoin

It’s hard to move forward when you don’t know where you’re headed or why. God’s plan gives us the answers to life’s most basic questions like, “Where did I come from?” “What’s my purpose here?” And, “What happens when I die?” Knowing the answers gives us hope and helps us find peace and joy.

Your life didn’t begin at birth and it won’t end at death. Before you came to earth, your spirit lived with Heavenly Father who created you. You knew Him, and He knew and loved you. It was a happy time during which you were taught God’s plan of happiness and the path to true joy. But just as most of us leave our home and parents when we grow up, God knew you needed to do the same. He knew you couldn’t progress unless you left for a while. So he allowed you to come to earth to experience the joy—as well as pain—of a physical body.

One thing that makes this life so hard sometimes is that we’re out of God’s physical presence. Not only that, but we can’t remember our pre-earth life which means we have to operate by faith rather than sight. God didn’t say it would be easy, but He promised His spirit would be there when we needed Him. Even though it feels like it sometimes, we’re not alone in our journey.

That doesn’t mean He expects you to be perfect. He knows you won’t be. But He does expect that while you’re here on earth you try to the best of your ability to be more like Him and that you learn and grow from your mistakes. Each time you make a poor choice with painful consequences, that decision leads to unhappiness—sometimes immediately, sometimes much later. Likewise, choosing good eventually leads to happiness and helps you become more like Heavenly Father.

After such a tremendous victory at Jericho, Joshua chapter 7 is surprising to say the least. Suddenly we are presented with a series of failures that stand in striking contrast to the wonderful victories of the past six chapters. How instructive this is if we only have the ears to listen to the message of this chapter. The thrill of victory was so quickly replaced by the agony of defeat. This is the story of life, and something we each must learn to deal with in our daily walk. One minute we can be living in victory and next in defeat.

The distance between a great victory and a terrible defeat is one step, and often only a short one at that. A fact of reality is that in a fallen world we can be riding high on the cloud of some great spiritual success, and the very next moment find ourselves in the valley of spiritual failure and despair. One moment we can be like Elijah standing victoriously on Mt. Carmel, and the next hiding out in a cave, fearing for his life, and complaining to God (1 Kings 19:10).

Ai was the next objective in the path of conquest because of its strategic location. As with Jericho, its conquest was vital to the conquest of the entire land. It was smaller than Jericho, but its conquest was essential because this would give Israel control of the main route that ran along the ridge from north to south along the highlands of the central portion of the land.

Jericho had been placed under the ban, a phrase which comes from the Hebrew word, herem, “a devoted thing, a ban.” The verb form, haram, means “to ban, devote, or destroy utterly.” Basically, this word refers to the exclusion of an object from use or abuse by man along with its irreversible surrender to God. It is related to an Arabic root meaning “to prohibit, especially to ordinary use.” The “harem,” meaning the special quarters for Muslim wives, comes from this word. So, to surrender something to God meant devoting it to the service of God or putting it under a ban for utter destruction.1

For something to be under the ban meant one of two things.

(1) Everything living was to be completely destroyed. This has been called barbaric and primitive—nothing less than the murder of innocent lives, but the Canaanites were by no means innocent. They were a vile people who practiced the basest forms of immorality including child sacrifice. God had given them over four hundreds of years to repent, but now their iniquity had become full (see Gen. 15:16Lev. 18:24-28). The one family who did turn to the Lord (Rahab and her family) were spared. As with Sodom and Gomorrah, if there had been even ten righteous, God would have spared the city (Gen. 18), but since he could not find even ten, He removed Lot and his family (Gen. 19). Further, if any city had repented as did Nineveh at the preaching of Jonah, He would have spared that city, but in spite of all the miraculous works of God which they had heard of, there was no repentance, they remained steadfast in their depravity. Note Norman Geisler’s comment:

… the battle confronting Israel was not simply a religious war; it was a theocratic war. Israel was directly ruled by God and the extermination was God’s direct command (cf. Exod. 23:27-30Deut. 7:3-6Josh. 8:24-26). No other nation either before or after Israel has been a theocracy. Thus, those commands were unique. Israel as a theocracy was an instrument of judgment in the hands of God.2

(2) All the valuable objects like gold and silver were to be dedicated to the Lord’s treasury.This was evidently to be done as a kind of first fruits of the land and an evidence of the people’s trust in the Lord’s supply for the future (cf. Lev. 27:28-29).

The Disobedience of Israel Defined
(7:1)

Chapter 7 opens with a small but ominous word, the word “but,” which contrasts this chapter with the preceding one, particularly verse 27. First, there was the thrill of victory, but now theagony of defeat. This little conjunction of contrast is designed to drive home an important truth, the reality of the ever present threat and contrasts of life—victory is always followed by the threat of defeat.

Never is the believer in greater danger of a fall than after a victory. We are so prone to drop our guard and begin to trust in ourselves or in our past victories rather than the Lord. One victory never ensures the next. Only as it builds our confidence in the Lord and develops our wisdom in appropriating God’s Word do our victories aid us for the next battle, but the basis of victory is always the Lord Himself and our faith/dependence Him. A New Testament chapter that deserves consideration here is 1 Corinthians 10 and especially verse 12, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

The problem is clearly stated in the words, “The sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard …” Let’s note several things about this problem facing the Israelites as a nation.

(1) The word “unfaithfully” represents a Hebrew word that means “to act underhandedly.”It was used of marital infidelity, of a woman who was unfaithful to her husband. The sin here was both an act of spiritual infidelity, being a friend of the world rather than a friend to the Lord (Jam. 4:4), and a faithless act, seeking happiness and security from things rather than from God (1 Tim. 6:6f).

(2) The Lord held the whole camp of Israel accountable for the act of one man and He withheld His blessing until the matter was dealt with. There was sin in the camp and God would not continue the blessing of the nation as long as this was so. This does not mean that the rest of the nation was sinless or that this was the only sin, but this sin was of such a nature (a sin of direct disobedience and rebellion) that God used it to teach Israel (and us) a couple of important lessons.

a. God viewed the nation as a unit. What one did was viewed as a sin for the whole nation because Israel’s corporate life often illustrates truth and warnings for us as individuals (1 Cor. 10). As a warning for the church, it shows us we cannot progress and move ahead for the Lord with known sin in our lives because that constitutes rebellion against the Lord’s direction and control (Eph. 4:301 Thess. 5:19). It is a matter of loving the world and to do so is make one behave as though he or she was an enemy of God (Jam. 4).

b. One believer’s sin impacts everyone. Achan’s behavior also illustrates how one believer out of fellowship, pursuing his own selfish desires and agendas, negatively impacts and creates trouble for an entire group. Achan’s name, the Hebrew, akan, is a play on the word akor, which means “trouble.” So Joshua would declare that the Lord would bring trouble (akor) on Achan who had become a “troubler” to the nation because of his sin (cf. 7:24-25). Thus, the site of Achan’s death and grave was called, “the valley of Achor” (Hebrew, akor, “disturbance, trouble”). This should also call to mind Hebrews 12:15-16 and 1 Corinthians 5:6-7.

Though the crime was committed by one person, the whole nation was considered guilty. The nation was responsible for the obedience of every citizen and was charged with the punishment of every offender.

The Apostle Paul saw the same principle of solidarity at work in the church (1 Cor 5:6-13). Unjudged sin contaminated the whole assembly—“Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?” (v. 6).3

(3) We are also reminded how nothing escapes the omniscience of God (Psa. 139:1f). Sin never escapes His watchful eye. We can fool ourselves and others, but never the Lord. God sees the sin in our lives and desires us to deal with it, not hide it. Hiding it only hinders our progress in God’s will and plan (Prov. 28:13) and creates trouble for others. Numbers 32:23 reminds us, “be sure your sin will find you out.” This is similar to the idea of reaping what we sow because of the natural consequences of God’s spiritual and moral laws and because of God’s personal involvement, but the Numbers text does not just teach that sin will be discovered but that the consequences of our sin become active agents in discovering us (see Gal. 6:7-8).

(4) Sin is no small matter to God. The words, “therefore the anger of the Lord burned against the sons of Israel,” dramatically call our attention to the holiness of God and the fact that sin is no small matter with Him because it is rebellion and rebellion is as the sin of divination (1 Sam. 15:23). Even though the Lord died for our sins and stands at God’s right hand as our advocate and intercessor, God does not and cannot treat sin in our lives lightly. It is against His holy character (His holiness, righteousness, love, etc.) and against His holy purposes for us since it hinders His control and ability to lead us.

Or do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, “The spirit that God caused to live within us has an envious yearning?” But he gives greater grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble” (James 4:5-6, the NET Bible).

Thus, God must deal with us and the sin in our lives; He deals with us as a Father and as the Vine Dresser, but He nevertheless deals with us (John 15:1f; Heb. 12:5).

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~Represent an Idea: Keenan Coleman, YeJohn Torres and Johnathan Pratt~

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  1. Independence: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” Dr. Seuss

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This week has been a sheer blessing for May and I. We missed several of our kids graduate from middle school all up to High school and yesterday and today we have been apart of our grandson’s graduation and our youngest son. Johnathan and Keenan have taken major leaps to position  themselves to succeed  in-spite of the struggles they have had to endure. We thank God for our family. Carla Hayward my sister in law and Mother Green have sacrificed so much to keep our family members within family reach when life showed up in the lives of our kids.

Johnathan and keenan have excelled  academically and scholastically in football and basketball. They know all to well about grand parents and parents struggles that separated us for a brief time. We are very thankful for the support rendered us from family. YeJohn our nephew is a very talented individual with an artistic hand, he likes to sing and cook. Yejohn wants to be different, he also has admirable attributes that I liken to myself : ROTC while achieving his diploma. I did that and went into the Navy and became a Navy Seal. I admire his tenacity in overcoming struggles in academics, but stayed focused on his goal to not be defeated because of bad work ethics.

Marie, Johnathan’s mother is another exceptional individual in my life. She over came her educational struggles while raising my grandson. She went back to school while she worked and provided a safe atmosphere for our grandson in our absence. She never followed the crowd when some family wanted to write me off, she stayed her course and even rewarded me with the honor of a grandson named after me. We all have exceptional traits of character, my wife is due to graduated in 2015  after turning her life around from serving a seven year term and twenty five years of addiction. God has given us both a clean slate.

It is my prayer that all our kids and extended family will take a look at society and the pivotal swing it has taken towards mass incarceration and apply themselves accordingly. May and I are not sugar coating our plight of life with our kids nor our in laws. We are supplying them with our “Truth” and being very transparent in our walk as to allow them the hope and determination required to succeed.

A majority (66%) of the responding colleges collect criminal justice information, although not all of them consider it in their admissions process. Private schools and four-year schools are more likely to collect and use such information than their public and two-year counterparts.

A sizable minority (38%) of the responding schools does not collect or use criminal justice information and those schools do not report that their campuses are less safe as a result. Self-disclosure through the college application or in some cases the Common Application is the most typical way that colleges and universities collect the information. A small minority of schools conduct
criminal background checks on some applicants, usually through contracting with a private company.
Most schools that collect and use criminal justice information have adopted additional steps in their admissions decision process, the most common of which is consulting with academic deans and campus security personnel. Special requirements such as submitting a letter of explanation or a letter from a corrections official and completing probation or parole are common.
Less than half of the schools that collect and use criminal justice information have written policies in place, and only 40 percent train staff on how to interpret such information.

A broad array of convictions are viewed as negative factors in the context of admissions decision-making, including drug and alcohol convictions, misdemeanor convictions, and youthful offender adjudications.If it is discovered that an applicant has failed to disclose a criminal record there is an increased likelihood that the applicant will be denied admission or have their admission offer rescinded. A slight majority of schools that collect information provides support or supervision for admitted students who have criminal records, with more emphasis on supervision rather than supportive services.

In the United States, people can land in prison for life over minor offenses. They can be locked up forever for siphoning gasoline from a truck, shoplifting small items from a department store or attempting to cash a stolen check. Sentences across the United States in the last 30 years have doubled. Roy Lee Clay, for example, received in 2013 a sentence of mandatory punishment of life without parole for refusing to accept a plea bargain of 10 years for trafficking 1kg of heroin. Even the sentencing judge found this “extremely severe and harsh”. The bigger picture: a recent Human Rights Watch report found that the threat of harsh sentences leads 97% of drug defendants to plead guilty rather than exercise their right to a public trial.

Most citizens are shocked when they hear such reports. Federal judgeJohn Gleeson of New York said that the way prosecutors use plea bargaining “coerces guilty pleas and produces sentences so excessively severe they take your breath away”. Federal judge Mark Bennett of Iowa has described the “shocking, jaw-dropping disparity” of prior-conviction enhancements to force a plea bargain in a case. But these and other shocks mean nothing without a larger shock of recognition: Americans like to punish.

We like it so much that we ignore what legal punishment means in the nation’s jails and prisons. Incarceration extends far beyond the official designation of time served. It means horrifying levels of degradation and cruelty to prisoners at all levels. Overcrowding, gang activity, endemic rape, unchecked violence and overly long sentences have turned our jails and prisons into pocket war zones.

Recent federal governmental decisions to reduce or commute overly harsh drug sentences have been commendable initiatives in response. So has the Justice Department’s decision under Eric Holder to urge early release of low-level drug criminals sentenced under overly tough laws. But these efforts are drops in a very large bucket, and the bucket has a hole in it. That hole is the American belief in retribution.

Reacting against that belief, Justice Anthony Kennedy of the Supreme Court has written “a people confident in its laws and institutions should not be ashamed of mercy”. President Obama’s decision in December tocommute the sentences of eight federal inmates of crack cocaine offenses was a step in that direction, but it was a baby step. In his first four and a half years, the president received 10,000 applications for clemency. The numbers in prison, at the cost of $167,000 a year per inmate in New York City, has moved the problem beyond palliative measures.

A combination of elements – social, economic, historical, political, religious, philosophical and legal in scope – has produced a perfect storm of punishment in America, and the most important question about our justice system’s punitive impulse is rarely asked: who do we want prisoners to become when they walk out?

In this country, a prior conviction can prevent a released prisoner from getting a job, a necessary license or public housing. State policies that deny a convicted felon the right to vote disenfranchise 5.8 million Americans, including one in 13 African-American adults. If we are to restore inmates to reasonably responsible public lives, we must change these policies, and we must begin by making time on the inside functional. We must take the idea of punishment apart and put it back together in new ways. Too many in our prisons have no way out, find nothing to do while waiting for nothing to happen, and reach for an available depravity to make existence somehow meaningful.

This country has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of its prison population. On average, western European nations incarcerate 95 per 100,000 inhabitants, while the US incarcerates a stunning 714 out of 100,000. We also put away very large numbers in solitary confinement, a sentence unknown in most other democratic countries. Over 2 million people live behind bars in the United States. That’s more than the combined populations of New Hampshire and Vermont. According to a recent report by The Sentencing Project (pdf), 159,000 of these inmates are serving life sentences, a third without the possibility of parole – and about 10,000 of them for non-violent offenses. Few other countries allow such sentences for any offense.

The size of the problem means that it will be hard to turn around. Incarceration has become big business in the United States. The states and federal government spend $80bn dollars on their punishment regimes. Whole communities now depend on prison dollars for the livelihood of their citizens. One out of nine state government employees works somewhere in corrections. Prisons employ nearly 500,000 correctional officers, and their powerful unions want to keep prisons packed. More inmates mean more jobs for union members.

The role of money grows with the rise of private prisons. A full 7% of America’s inmate population resides in commercially run enterprises, places where overcrowding becomes an aspiration instead of the problem! The more people you push into lightly guarded and therefore poorly run institutions, the greater your financial gain. The administrators of private institutions openly acknowledge this marginal cost curve. Prison beds are their “honey holes”. The profit motive in the privatization of punishment spawns every form of corruption. Count on it. In any state with a large number of private prisons, legislators are on the dole.

Many see these problems, but nearly everyone in the system has reasons to keep things the way they are. Legislators raise their profile by criminalizing more conduct. Police must maintain arrest quotas. Prosecutors need high conviction rates. Judges are handicapped by harsh sentencing guidelines and often by the need to win reelection. An average prison guard has a better salary and benefits than would be available on the open market.

Law schools are seldom better on this topic. Aspiring legal professionals are taught how to punish in large, obligatory first-year courses on criminal law. Rarely do they receive detailed instruction on the plight of the punished except in small, voluntary clinics. Even law professors wonder whether mass incarceration is the problem that most deserves their attention.

No one, however, can ignore the reality that American prisons have become a public reproach. We are throwing away too many lives by making them worse instead of better. Most crime happens early in a life span. Does so much of it still deserve a life sentence? The real shock of recognition must come here. Nothing less than the ideals of the republic are at stake in the answer. A community is ultimately defined by how it treats those under its control.

That control begins with the right to punish, but the legal right is defined today from what the inflictor may do. More functional utility for the punished is needed. We now know that long sentences promote criminal behavior in and out of prison. European minimum sentences range from one to five years. Many jurisdictions in the United States set minimums at 10 years or more. Think about what this means: a single mother of two children, aged 11 and 12, may be put away for at least 10 years – all over a very peripheral role in drugs, because she is forced to accept a prosecution’s plea bargain against a possible charge of life without parole. Think about what that means: she will emerge from a prison far away from her family, when her grown son and daughter are 21 and 22 years old. What kind of development can we expect from these prison-induced orphans, and what is the prisoner – the mother – prepared to become upon her release?

Shorter sentences, more outside solutions, better parole arrangements, more vocational skills directed toward life after prison represent only the beginning of wisdom in 21st century penology. Action must follow language. The most popular and liberal New York governor in decades, Andrew Cuomo, speaks often against mass incarceration. On 1 January 2014, the traditional date for executive pardons, he pardoned three people. All three had long been out of prison. All elected political figures fear another crime and are haunted by the charge of “soft on crime”.

No one in America is soft on crime.

If we ignore those who are so unjustly treated in the name of justice, where up the ladder of concern do the rules say that it is time to start caring? Mistreatment in rampant punishment regimes tarnishes us all, and we have to worry about what comes next. Legal punishment grows when left alone. It never stands still.

We are being tenacious in following our dream. We know we stand alone, but we strive nevertheless, Check out our passionate vision by clicking the link.

 

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~Watch The Behavior~

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I have been primarily interested in how and why ordinary people do unusual things, things that seem alien to their natures. Why do good people sometimes act evil? Why do smart people sometimes do dumb or irrational things?

Philip Zimbardo

Lyfe had already served 10 years in prison before beginning his music career. Yesterday morning, he posted a message to twitter that read, “I really need u guys prayers today and tomorrow…would really appreciate it”, followed by a longer message yesterday afternoon.

This will be my last post. To everyone who gave me a chance I am forever in your debt. I have had a fabulous career because of you. All I can say in parting is that I have been honest with yaw. I didn’t sugarcoat a word didn’t hold back a single sylible of my life from yaw. I’ve lived a hundred lives in these 6 yrs so I not only won’t, i don’t have the right to complain. I would like to think that I’ve changed lives by changing my own, tho I can’t be sure. But one thing I am sure of is God gives and takes away in measure. He is fair, just and forever. Amen from aman… Smile, its contageous:)

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Natasha and Mary

                                                                                                             Natasha and Mary

Dear Aaron,

I testified this week before seven men and women who are poised to make a decision that could affect tens of thousands of drug prisoners and their loved ones. Liberty is at stake.

The federal Sentencing Commission, the lawmakers that write the rules that affect nearly every federal sentence, is trying to decide whether to lower sentences for over 50,000 drug offenders in prison. They asked FAMM’s opinion – you can imagine what we think! — and earlier this week, I had a chance to tell them in a public hearing.

I felt, as we always do when addressing lawmakers, that I was speaking for you.

I wanted to carry your voices straight to the Commission. So, to prepare for my appearance, I spoke with some FAMM members who had left prison early when the Commission made them eligible for lower crack cocaine prison sentences in 2008 and 2010. I wanted to know about all the life that has filled the years the Sentencing Commission gave back to them; things they would have missed if still incarcerated.

Let me share a couple of their stories with you. Stephanie lives in Mobile, Alabama. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison, without parole, at age 23 for a non-violent crime. She spent over 21 years in prison before her early release in November 2011. Here is what she has done with the four years the Commission gave her. She is there to pick up grandchildren from day care every day and keep them close when they are sick or their parents need a break. She marvels at how these six grandchildren attached to her so instantly, as though she had been there all their short lives, instead of not at all. All were born while she was in prison. Her return home helped knit-up tears in the fabric of her family; people who had not spoken for years have rebuilt relationships in her orbit. She has celebrated 27 birthdays of children and grandchildren and of course all the holidays and family reunions. She would still be in prison today but for the Commission’s decision.

 

Two months after Natasha was released from prison in March 2008, she enrolled in college. This week, she received her Master’s Degree in Business Administration. Natasha served 11 years of her 15 year prison sentence. In the four extra years of freedom she gained from the Commission, besides rocking her own education, she attended the college graduations of two of her children, was there to welcome two of her three grandchildren into the world, and said goodbye to her grandmother and her beloved uncle. Today she helps potty train the babies, teaches them to walk, and volunteers in the 6th grade classroom of her teacher’s-aide daughter, where she coaches reading.

The lives of all the former prisoners I had the privilege of speaking with no longer revolve around the milestones they missed, but the ones they are they are part of.

Stephanie and Natasha are just two of the people I had in mind as I testified before the Sentencing Commissioners this week, urging them toreduce sentences for all drug offenders in prison.Those seven Commissioners have the power to change the lives of up to 51,000 federal prisoners – giving them a chance to spend time with grandchildren, attend graduations, walk daughters down the aisle, or hold the hand of an elderly parent.That’s why we fight so hard for sentencing changes at FAMM. We know that every unnecessary year – or day – in prison is time away from what makes us most human: families, communities, and social networks.

We need your help to make the strongest possible case to the Sentencing Commission, Congress, the President, and state legislators that sentencing laws must change! We’re trying to raise $25,000 this month so we can produce more case profiles to share nationwide that tell the stories of the people in prison who need relief. If you can make a donation, please do so today by clicking here. Your donation contributes to freedom for someone.

Thank you in advance for helping us bring people home sooner.

Sincerely,

Mary

 

 

Mary Price
General Counsel
Families Against Mandatory Minimums

 

 


Families Against Mandatory Minimums
1100 H Street NW
Suite 1000
Washington DC, 20005

 

 

U.S. Sentencing Commission Hearing on Drugs Minus Two Retroactivity

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Director Michael Melendy takes a closer look at the life and times of rapper Cifforrd Harris. TIP is currently doing hard time and won’t see the light of day til march of 2010. Before his lock down, T.I. speaks to the future leaders of America, women. T.I. has commited himself to the upbringing of empowered women! WATCH as Rolling Out TV captures this significant step in the positive direction!

Produced By: Michael Melendy

Dear Aaron,

Today the U.S. Sentencing Commission held an all-day hearing on drug guideline retroactivity. As you know, the Commission agreed to lower guidelines by two levels for most drug offenders coming into prison afterNovember 1, 2014.

The question they tackled today is whether to apply that lower guideline to people already serving drug sentences. The Commission has estimated that about 51,000 prisoners could be eligible for lower sentences if the Commission approves retroactivity and their average sentence reduction would be about 23 months.

There were 16 witnesses at today’s hearing – including FAMM’s general counsel, Mary Price. We were most eager to hear the positions of the Department of Justice, the U.S. Probation Office, and the federal judges. In a nutshell, this is what they said:

Federal judges support retroactivity of the drug guideline. Judge Irene Keeley spoke on behalf of the Federal Judicial Conference and said that although retroactivity could result in motions from 51,000 prisoners, that was the courts’ “burden to bear.” She also called it a “moral issue” and said it would be fundamentally unfair to categorically deny retroactivity to prisoners.

The U.S. Probation Office basically said “we know how to handle retroactivity,” and pointed to crack reductions they have processed in past years.

The Department of Justice is a different story. The DOJ representative told the Commission that the DOJ supports “limited” retroactivity. DOJ thinks only the squeakiest clean drug prisoners should benefit – ones without any priors or guns or role enhancements. While that sounds semi-logical, it isn’t. That’s what judges are for – to determine who should benefit from retroactivity. That’s why we want judges to look at every applicant’s motion and decide whether the person is too dangerous to let out of prison.

Under the Department of Justice’s proposal, only 20,000 prisoners would be eligible to benefit from retroactivity. As you can imagine, FAMM and others who testified strongly oppose that position and argued against it.

We know that criminal history frequently overstates how dangerous a person is; that testifying to your innocence at trial can trigger an obstruction of justice bump; that there is a difference between someone who points a gun at another person and someone who got a gun bump from a codefendant’s gun; and that every case is different and deserving of individual attention. That was the message FAMM’s Mary Price sent to the Commission when she testified.

My take-away from the hearing is that the Commission still needs to be persuaded to vote FOR retroactivity – WITHOUT LIMITATIONS. They need to hear from families and friends of those in prison who are not squeaky clean but still deserve to have a judge determine if they are too dangerous to release a little early.

The Commission needs to hear that applying the lower guideline retroactively is the kind of fundamental fairness that Americans believe in. If your car had a defect, the manufacturer wouldn’t just fix it for those who buy cars in the future; they would fix it for everyone who already owns the car. Applying the lower drug sentencing guideline is the same argument. And they need to hear about the children of prisoners who are being punished as much or more than the prisoner.

We still have until July 7th to write to the US Sentencing Commission and tell them to make the drug guideline retroactive. Please do it! They will vote on whether to make it retroactive on July 18th. This is hugely important. Get involved. Get your families involved. Let’s make justice happen!

Best,

Julie

Julie Stewart
President and Founder
Families Against Mandatory Minimums

Families Against Mandatory Minimums
1100 H Street NW
Suite 1000
Washington DC, 20005

As we work with countless movements we are trying to help others with this cause titled “Second Chance Alliance” for our community. Click the link to view.

Desiree’ Lee is a Convicted Felon, who shares her prison experience and hard-ships as a convicted felon with teens and parents, in effort to show teens the reflections of making bad decisions and to promote effective communication between parent and teen.

With an emphasis on the importance of decision making and cultivating students’ visions, she reveals her experiences in prison, and life after prison. By enriching students with effective decision making tools, develop respectful relationships with their parents, teachers, and authority. Her story enables them to re-experience life as an inmate and become more aware of their opportunities and working towards future success. She believes that in working directly with the community, together we can increase high school graduates and prevent teen incarcerations nationwide.

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~Balance Your Vision and Life With “Truth”~

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I’ve always been fascinated by people who are consistently successful at what they do; especially those who experience repeated success in many areas of their life throughout their lifetime.  In entertainment, I think of Clint Eastwood and Oprah Winfrey.  In business, I think of Steve Jobs and Warren Buffet.  We all have our own examples of super successful people like these who we admire.  But how do they do it?

Over the years I’ve studied the lives of numerous successful people.  I’ve read their books, watched their interviews, researched them online, etc.  And I’ve learned that most of them were not born into success; they simply did, and continue to do, things that help them realize their full potential.  Here are twelve things they do differently that the rest of us can easily emulate.

12 Things Successful People Do Differently

1.  They create and pursue S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Successful people are objective.  They have realistic targets in mind.  They know what they are looking for and why they are fighting for it.  Successful people create and pursue S.M.A.R.T. goals.

S.M.A.R.T. goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.  Let’s briefly review each:

  • Specific – A general goal would be, “Get in shape.” But a related specific goal would be, “Join a health club and workout 3 days a week for the next52 weeks.”  A specific goal has a far greater chance of being accomplished because it has defined parameters and constraints.
  • Measurable – There must be a logical system for measuring the progress of a goal.  To determine if your goal is measurable, ask yourself questions like:  How much time? How many total?  How will I know when the goal is accomplished? etc.  When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued efforts required to reach your goal.
  • Attainable – To be attainable, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work.  In other words, the goal must be realistic.  The big question here is:  How can the goal be accomplished?
  • Relevant – Relevance stresses the importance of choosing goals that matter.  For example, an internet entrepreneur’s goal to “Make 75 tuna sandwiches by 2:00PM.” may be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, and Timely, but lacks Relevance to an entrepreneurs overarching objective of building a profitable online business.
  • Timely – A goal must be grounded within a time frame, giving the goal a target date.  A commitment to a deadline helps you focus your efforts on the completion of the goal on or before the due date.  This part of the S.M.A.R.T. goal criteria is intended to prevent goals from being overtaken by daily distractions.

When you identify S.M.A.R.T. goals that are truly important to you, you become motivated to figure out ways to attain them.  You develop the necessary attitude, abilities, and skills.  You can achieve almost any goal you set if you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps.  Goals that once seemed far away and out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable, not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them.

2.  They take decisive and immediate action.

Sadly, very few people ever live to become the success story they dream about.  And there’s one simple reason why:

They never take action!

The acquisition of knowledge doesn’t mean you’re growing.  Growing happens when what you know changes how you live.   So many people live in a complete daze.  Actually, they don’t ‘live.’  They simply ‘get by’ because they never take the necessary action to make things happen – to seek their dreams.

It doesn’t matter if you have a genius IQ and a PhD in Quantum Physics, you can’t change anything or make any sort of real-world progress without taking action.  There’s a huge difference between knowing how to do something and actually doing it.  Knowledge and intelligence are both useless without action.  It’s as simple as that.

Success hinges on the simple act of making a decision to live – to absorb yourself in the process of going after your dreams and goals.  So make that decision.  And take action.  For some practical guidance on taking action I highly recommend Getting Things Done.

3.  They focus on being productive, not being busy.

In his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferris says, “Slow down and remember this:  Most things make no difference.  Being busy is often a form of mental laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”  This is Ferris’ way of saying “work smarter, not harder,” which happens to be one of the most prevalent modern day personal development clichés.  But like most clichés, there’s a great deal of truth to it, and few people actually adhere to it.

Just take a quick look around.  The busy outnumber the productive by a wide margin.

Busy people are rushing all over the place, and running late half of the time.  They’re heading to work, conferences, meetings, social engagements, etc.  They barely have enough free time for family get-togethers and they rarely get enough sleep.  Yet, business emails are shooting out of their smart phones like machine gun bullets, and their daily planner is jammed to the brim with obligations.

Their busy schedule gives them an elevated sense of importance.  But it’s all an illusion.  They’re like hamsters running on a wheel.

The solution:  Slow down.  Breathe.  Review your commitments and goals.  Put first things first.  Do one thing at a time.  Start now.  Take a short break in two hours.  Repeat.

And always remember, results are more important than the time it takes to achieve them.

4.  They make logical, informed decisions.

Sometimes we do things that are permanently foolish simply because we are temporarily upset or excited.

Although emotional ‘gut instincts’ are effective in certain fleeting situations, when it comes to generating long-term, sustained growth in any area of life, emotional decisions often lead a person astray.  Decisions driven by heavy emotion typically contain minimal amounts of conscious thought, and are primarily based on momentary feelings instead of mindful awareness.

The best advice here is simple:  Don’t let your emotions trump your intelligence.  Slow down and think things through before you make any life-changing decisions.

5.  They avoid the trap of trying to make things perfect.

Many of us are perfectionists in our own right.  I know I am at times.  We set high bars for ourselves and put our best foot forward.  We dedicate copious amounts of time and attention to our work to maintain our high personal standards.  Our passion for excellence drives us to run the extra mile, never stopping, never relenting.  And this dedication towards perfection undoubtedly helps us achieve results…  So long as we don’t get carried away.

But what happens when we do get carried away with perfectionism?

We become disgruntled and discouraged when we fail to meet the (impossibly high) standards we set for ourselves, making us reluctant to take on new challenges or even finish tasks we’ve already started.  Our insistence on dotting every ‘I’ and crossing every ‘T’ breeds inefficiency, causing major delays, stress overload and subpar results.

True perfectionists have a hard time starting things and an even harder time finishing them, always.  I have a friend who has wanted to start a graphic design business for several years.  But she hasn’t yet.  Why?  When you sift through her extensive list of excuses it comes down to one simple problem:  She is a perfectionist.  Which means she doesn’t, and never will, think she’s good enough at graphic design to own and operate her own graphic design business.

Remember, the real world doesn’t reward perfectionists.  It rewards people who get things done.  And the only way to get things done is to be imperfect 99% of the time.  Only by wading through years of practice and imperfection can we begin to achieve momentary glimpses of the perfection.  So make a decision.  Take action, learn from the outcome, and repeat this method over and over again in all walks of life.  Also, check out Too Perfect.  It’s an excellent read on conquering perfectionism.

6.  They work outside of their comfort zone.

The number one thing I persistently see holding smart people back is their own reluctance to accept an opportunity simply because they don’t think they’re ready.  In other words, they feel uncomfortable and believe they require additional knowledge, skill, experience, etc. before they can aptly partake in the opportunity.  Sadly, this is the kind of thinking that stifles personal growth and success.

The truth is nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises.  Because most great opportunities in life force us to grow emotionally and intellectually.  They force us to stretch ourselves and our comfort zones, which means we won’t feel totally comfortable at first.  And when we don’t feel comfortable, we don’t feel ready.

Significant moments of opportunity for personal growth and success will come and go throughout your lifetime.  If you are looking to make positive changes and new breakthroughs in your life, you will need to embrace these moments of opportunity even though you will never feel 100% ready for them.

7.  They keep things simple.

Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”  Nothing could be closer to the truth.  Here in the 21st century, where information moves at the speed of light and opportunities for innovation seem endless, we have an abundant array of choices when it comes to designing our lives and careers.  But sadly, an abundance of choice often leads to complication, confusion and inaction.

Several business and marketing studies have shown that the more product choices a consumer is faced with, the less products they typically buy.  After all, narrowing down the best product from a pool of three choices is certainly a lot easier than narrowing down the best product from a pool of three hundred choices.  If the purchasing decision is tough to make, most people will just give up.  Likewise, if you complicate your life by inundating yourself with too many choices, your subconscious mind will give up.

The solution is to simplify.  If you’re selling a product line, keep it simple.  And if you’re trying to make a decision about something in your life, don’t waste all your time evaluating every last detail of every possible option.  Choose something that you think will work and give it a shot.  If it doesn’t work out, learn what you can from the experience, choose something else and keep pressing forward.

8.  They focus on making small, continuous improvements.

Henry Ford once said, “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small pieces.” The same concept configured as a question:  How do you eat an elephant?  Answer: One bite at a time.  This philosophy holds true for achieving your biggest goals.  Making small, positive changes – eating a little healthier, exercising a little, creating some small productive habits, for example – is an amazing way to get excited about life and slowly reach the level of success you aspire to.

And if you start small, you don’t need a lot of motivation to get started either.  The simple act of getting started and doing something will give you the momentum you need, and soon you’ll find yourself in a positive spiral of changes – one building on the other.  When I started doing this in my life, I was so excited I had to start this blog to share it with the world.

Start with just one activity, and make a plan for how you will deal with troubles when they arise.  For instance, if you’re trying to lose weight, come up with a list of healthy snacks you can eat when you get the craving for snacks.  It will be hard in the beginning, but it will get easier.  And that’s the whole point.  As your strength grows, you can take on bigger challenges.

9.  They measure and track their progress.

Successful people are not only working in their job/business, they are also working on it.  They step back and assess their progress regularly.  They track themselves against their goals and clearly know what needs to be done to excel and accelerate.

You can’t control what you don’t properly measure.  If you track the wrong things you’ll be completely blind to potential opportunities as they appear over the horizon.  Imagine if, while running a small business, you made it a point to keep track of how many pencils and paperclips you used.  Would that make any sense?  No!  Because pencils and paperclips are not a measure of what’s important for a business.  Pencils and paperclips have no bearing on income, customer satisfaction, market growth, etc.

The proper approach is to figure out what your number one goal is and then track the things that directly relate to achieving that goal.  I recommend that you take some time right now to identify your number one goal, identify the most important things for you to keep track of, and then begin tracking them immediately.  On a weekly basis, plug the numbers into a spreadsheet and use the data to create weekly or monthly trend graphs so you can visualize your progress.  Then fine-tune your actions to get those trends to grow in your favor.

10.  They maintain a positive outlook as they learn from their mistakes.

Successful people concentrate on the positives – they look for the silver lining in every situation.  They know that it is their positivity that will take them to greatness.  If you want to be successful, you need to have a positive outlook toward life.  Life will test you again and again.  If you give in to internal negativity, you will never be able to achieve the marks you have targeted.

Remember, every mistake you make is progress.  Mistakes teach you important lessons.  Every time you make one, you’re one step closer to your goal.  The only mistake that can truly hurt you is choosing to do nothing simply because you’re too scared to make a mistake.

So don’t hesitate – don’t doubt yourself!  Don’t let your own negativity sabotage you.  Learn what you can and press forward.

11.  They spend time with the right people.

Successful people associate with people who are likeminded, focused, and supportive.  They socialize with people who create energy when they enter the room versus those who create energy when they leave.  They reach out to connected, influential individuals who are right for their dreams and goals.

You are the sum of the people you spend the most time with.  If you hang with the wrong people, they will negatively affect you.  But if you hang with the right people, you will become far more capable and successful than you ever could have been alone.  Find your tribe and work together to make a difference in all of your lives.  Tribes by Seth Godin is a great read on this topic.

12.  They maintain balance in their life.

If you ask most people to summarize what they want out of life they’ll shout out a list of things like: ‘fall in love,’ ‘make money,’ ‘spend time with family,’ ‘find happiness,’ ‘achieve goals,’ etc.  But sadly, a lot of people don’t balance their life properly to achieve these things.  Typically they’ll achieve one or two of them while completely neglecting the rest.  Let me give you a few examples:

  • I know an extremely savvy businesswoman who made almost a million dollars online last year. Based on the success of her business, every entrepreneur I know looks up to her.  But guess what?  A few days ago, out of the blue, she told me that she’s depressed.  Why?  “I’m burnt out and lonely.  I just haven’t taken enough time for myself lately, and I feel like something is missing in my life,” she said.  “Wow!” I thought.  “One of the most successful people I know doesn’t feel successful because she isn’t happy with how she has balanced her life.”
  • I also know a surfer who surfs all day, every day on the beach in front of my friends condo complex in San Diego.  He’s one of the most lighthearted, optimistic guys I’ve ever met – usually smiling from ear to ear.  But he sleeps in a rusty van he co-owns with another surfer, and they both frequently panhandle tourists for money.  He has admitted to me that the stress of making enough money to eat often keeps him up at night.  So while I can’t deny that this man seems happy most of the time, I wouldn’t classify his life as a success story.
  • My dream of opening Second Chance Alliance solely with faith and obedience to the voice of God is challenging. I also go through anxiety and fear of looking like a fool. Most of the successful people I know back from when I was successful with my business sir named Professional Engineering and Concept Operation will not trust in my vision of re-entry for ex-offenders mostly because they won’t take a measurable look at the success rate of this type of business and because I am one of the people I am trying to help, it all boils down to them not wanting to disturb their “Balance” in their life.

These are just a few simple examples of imbalanced lifestyles that are holding people back from their full potential.  When you let your work life (or social life, family life, etc.) consume you, and all your energy is focused in that area, it’s extremely easy to lose your balance.  While drive and focus are important, if you’re going to get things done right, and be truly successful, you need to balance the various dimensions of your life.  Completely neglecting one dimension for another only leads to long-term frustration and stress.  For some practical guidance on balancing your life, I recommend Zen and the heart of happiness and especially the word of God.

~It Cost God Everything To Serve Us~

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Jesus never considered failing God. He knew that worry is a form of unbelief; It is anathema to God. Now me knowing this should alter my thoughts and fears to obey the knowledge I now possess. Taking on the impossible sometimes makes you forget the reality of the truth. Peter when asked to launch out of the boat to walk on water had to be an insurmountable endeavor, but he cast off the thoughts of what he may look like to his cohorts and pressed on. God’s visions and dreams He impregnates us with are huge and they make you experience contemplation based off what is visible and obtainable. I must admit I am going through the motions teetering  “anathema”  with this vision of Second Chance Alliance.

We are called for a holy and noble purpose! You were put on earth to make a contribution. You were not created just to consume resources, to eat, breathe, and take up space. God designed us to make a difference with our life.

While many best-selling books offer advice on how to “get the most out of life”, that’s not the reason God made us. We were created to add to life on earth, not just take from it. God wants you to give something back. This is God’s purpose for your life, and it is called your “ministry” or service.

You were created to serve God- the Bible says, in Eph. 2:10b. God has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do” (Col. 3: 23-4; Matt. 25: 34). These good deeds are your service. Whenever you serve others in any way, you are actually serving God (Eph. 6:7). What God told Jeremiah “Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work” (Jer. 1:5). You were placed on this planet for a special assignment.

You were saved to serve God, the Bible says. “It is He who saved us and chose us for His holy work, not because we deserved it but because that was His plan” (2 Tim. 1:9). God redeemed you so you could do His “holy work.” You are not saved by service, but you are saved for service. In God’s Kingdom you have a place, a purpose, a role, and a function to fulfill. This gives your life great significance and value.

It cost Jesus His own life to purchase your salvation. The Bible reminds us, “God paid a great price. So use your body to honor God” (1 Cor. 6:20). We do not serve God out of guilt or fear or even duty, but out of joy, and deep gratitude for what He has done for us. We owe Him our lives. Through salvation our past has been forgiven, our present is given meaning, and our future is secured. In light of these incredible benefits, Paul concluded, “Because of God’s great mercy … offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to His service” (Rom. 12:1).

The apostle John taught us, “Our love for each other proves that we have gone from death to life” (1 John 3:14). If I have no love for others, no desire to serve others, and I am only concerned about my needs, I should question whether Christ is really in my life. A saved heart is one that wants to serve.

Another term for serving God that’s misunderstood by most people is the word “ministry.” When most people hear “ministry” they think of pastors, priests, and professional clergy, but God says every member of His family is a minister. In the Bible, the words servant and minister are synonyms, as are service and ministry. If you are a Christian you are a minister, and when you are serving, you are ministering.

When Peter’s sick mother-in-law was healed by Jesus, she instantly “stood up and began to serve Jesus” (Matt. 8:15), using her new gift of health. This is what we are to do. We are healed to help others. We are blessed to be a blessing. We are saved to serve, not to sit around and wait for heaven!

Have you ever wondered why God does not just immediately take us to heaven the moment we accept His grace? Why does He leave us in a fallen world? He leaves us here to fulfill His purposes. Once you are saved, God intends to use you for His goals. God has a ministry for you in His church and a mission for you in the world.

You are called to serve God. Growing up, you may have thought that being “called” by God was something only for missionaries, pastors, nuns, and other “full-time” church workers experienced, but the Bible says every Christian is called to service (Eph. 4:14; Rom. 1:6-7; 8:28-30; 1 Cor. 1:2,9,26; 7:17; Phil 3:14; 1 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 1:3).

Your call to salvation included your call to service. They are the same. Regardless of your job or career, you are called to full-time Christian service. A “non-serving Christian” is a contradiction in terms.

The Bible says “He saved us and called us to be His own people, not because of what we have done, but because of His own purpose (2 Tim 1:9). Peter added, ” You were chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God, who called you” (1 Peter 2:9). The Bible says, “Now you belong to Him … in order that we might be useful in the service of God” (Rom. 7:4). How much of the time are you being useful in the service of God? In some churches in China they welcome new believers by saying, “Jesus now has a new pair of eyes to see with, new ears to listen with, new hands to help with, and a new heart to love others with.”

One reason why you need to be connected to a church family is to fulfill your calling to serve other believers in practical ways. The Bible says “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it” (1 Cor. 12:27). Remember, there are no insignificant ministries in the church. Some are visible and some are behind the picture, but all are valuable. Small or hidden ministries often make the biggest difference. In my home, the most important light is not the bright light in our dining room but the little night light that keeps me from stubbing my toe when I get up at night. There is no correlation between size and significance. Every ministry matters because we are all dependent on each other to function.

What happens when one part of our body fails to function? We get sick. The rest of the body suffers. Imagine if your liver decided to start living for its own self. “I’m tired! I don’t want to serve the body anymore! I want a year off just to be fed. I have to do what is best for me! Let some other part take over.” What would happen? Our body would die. Today thousands of local churches are dying because of Christians who are unwilling to serve. They sit on the sidelines as spectators, and the Body suffers.

We are commanded to serve God-if we are saved. Jesus says “Your attitude must be like my own, for I, the Messiah, did not come to be served, but to serve and to give my life” (Matt. 20:28). Beloved, for Christians, service is not optional, something to be tacked onto our schedules if we can spare the time. It is the heart of the Christian life. Jesus came “to serve” and “to give” – and those two verbs should define your life on earth. Mother Theresa said, “Holy living consists in doing God’s work with a smile.”

Serving is the opposite of our natural inclination. Most of the time we are more interested in “serve us” than service. We say, “I’m looking for a church that meets my needs and blesses me,” not “I’m looking for a place to serve and be a blessing.” The mature follower of Jesus stops asking, “Who is going to meet my needs?” and starts asking, “Whose needs can I meet”

God wants to use you to make a difference in His world. He wants to work through you. What matters is not the duration of your life, but the donation of it. Not how long you lived, but how you lived. If you are not involved in any service or ministry, what excuse have you been using?

“Abraham was old, Jacob was insecure, Leah was unattractive, Joseph was abused, Moses stuttered, Gideon was poor, Samson was co-dependent, Rahab was immoral, David had an affair and all kinds of family problems, Elijah was suicidal, Jeremiah was depressed, Jonah was reluctant, Naomi was a widow, John the Baptist was eccentric to say the least, Peter was impulsive, and hot-tempered, Martha worried a lot, the Samaritan woman had several failed marriage, Zaacchaeus was unpopular, Thomas had doubts, Paul had poor health, and Timothy was timid. That is quite a variety of misfits. But God used each of them in His service. He will use you, too, if you stop making excuses.”

Help us to be of service and we will help those we serve. Click the link to view our cause. I promise we will give back by empowering those we help to be productive tax paying God fearing people, they need community and helping hands to re-enter-grate them into a unforgiving society. We speak only what we know because God did it for May & Aaron.

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Jesus Truly Changed Everything!!!!

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If we think that this life is all there is to life, then there is no interpretation of our problems, our pain, not even of our privileges. But everything changes when we open up to the possibility that God’s story is really our story too.

Max Lucado

Jesus Changes Everything
Mark 12:35–44

35 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet.’

37 David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.

38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

 

The past couple of weeks we have been discussing the question of Jesus’ authority, and that theme continues in this passage. Jesus has been challenged about his claim to authority and then tested to prove the extent to which his authority would prevail. Now the questions have ended and Jesus goes on the offensive, asking his own question in verse 35 and then contrasting the religious practice of the scribes with the faith of a poor widowed lady.

Jesus is the new boss. His authority changes everything. In this text we see the authority of Jesus applied to three specific areas. The authority of Jesus changes how we interpret Scripture, how we live out our faith in the world, and how we worship God.

THE INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE

In verses 35-37, Jesus stakes his own theological challenge. “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?” he asks (v. 35). Though no biblical text specifically says that the Messiah would be a descendent from David, this was the standard understanding of the day. And for good reason. God had made a covenant with David, promising him that his kingdom would be established through his descendents and that his throne would be “established forever” (2 Sam 7:12-16). The Babylonian captivity in the sixth century B.C. had brought the monarchy to an end. But the prophets foretold of a restoration of the Davidic kingdom.

‎‎‎For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, ‎‎‎and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness ‎‎‎from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isa 9:6-7; see also Jer 30:9;Ezek 34:23)

‎‎‎‎‎‎About a century before Jesus, Jewish religious literature made explicit this Davidic hope, referring to the Messiah as the son of David.[1] Jesus is challenging one of the most widely held beliefs and hopes of his day.

Who is David’s Lord?

But his challenge comes in light of what David wrote in Psalm 110. “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’” (v. 36). Jesus notes that David refers to the Messiah as his “Lord,” raising the question of how Messiah could be David’s son if he is David’s superior. The answer is of course obvious to us Christians today: Jesus, the Messiah, is both David’s human descendent and also the Son of God. But let’s look closer at Jesus’ argument.

  1. Jesus appeals to the inspiration of Scripture to make his argument. “David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared.” Psalm 110 is considered by Jesus to be Holy Scripture, meaning it is given to us by the revelation and authority of God.
  2. The first “Lord” in Psalm 110 is Yahweh, but the second “Lord” is adonai. The question is the subject of the second “Lord” (adonai). Psalm 110 is an enthronement psalm; the words were used at the inauguration of the kings of Israel. But with the end of the monarchy the Psalm began to be seen as Messianic, and David’s “Lord” was understood to be a great Messianic king who would reestablish the monarchy to the point where it would never fail again.
  3. ‎‎‎While we have no problem with the idea of one’s descendent being greater than himself, both Jewish and Roman cultures did. For them, it was the patriarchs who were the “lords” of their families, and so Jesus points out the significance of this Davidic submission. Jesus’ point must have been taken, because he apparently silences his opponents with this word.

Son of David and Son of God

Of course, Jesus is not denying that the Messiah is a descendent of David. Rather, he is pointing out that he must be much more than a descendent. He must be both a descendent as well as David’s superior. And Jesus contends that he is David’s superior because the Messiah is also the Son of God. There are two pointers to that conclusion in this text.

‎‎‎‎‎‎First, as we mentioned earlier, in Psalm 110 there are two different Hebrew words for the translation “Lord.” But in Greek, it is the same word in both places, kurios. Why is that significant? Because as Mark has arranged the material, we saw the word kuriosjust a few verses earlier, in verse 29: “The Lord (kurios) our God, the Lord (kurios) is one.” There is only one kurios, and yet here we have Jesus claiming that title for himself as the Messiah.

‎‎‎Second, notice that Jesus quotes the entirety of Psalm 110:1. It is only the first line of that verse that Jesus utilizes to make his point that David refers to Messiah as his Lord (“The Lord said to my Lord”). But Jesus wants to press his audience further into the implications of his identity as David’s Lord. He is the one who sits at God’s right hand, the highest ranking that one could possibly achieve short of usurpation.[2] From there he waits until God deposes his enemies, putting them under his feet. The enemies of the Messiah are God’s enemies, destined for certain destruction.[3] These are bold claims that Jesus is making for himself.

God’s plan unfolds in Jesus

Again to Christian ears there is nothing surprising about these claims. But to those who confuse God’s kingdom with the kingdom of man, this is a clarifying text. Jesus shows us that we have to interpret the mystery of God’s plan revealed to us in Scripture through his Messiah. As David’s son there is continuity to this age, but as God’s Son there is also discontinuity. He has come to establish a different kind of kingdom than the only other kind we are familiar with. Not that his kingdom doesn’t impact the kingdoms of this age, but at the same time it challenges us to see beyond it.

FAITH LIVED OUT IN THE WORLD

The next section, verses 38-40, brings to light the tension between the uniqueness of God’s kingdom and how that kingdom impacts life in this age. The connection to the preceding is Jesus’ concentration on the scribes. In the previous paragraph Jesus questions the scribes’ interpretation of the Scriptures. Now he questions the genuineness of their religious practice.

“Beware of the scribes”

Who were the scribes? The title comes from the fact that in ancient Israel the ability to read and write was not widespread, so professional secretaries played a major role in public life. While scribes were employed in various professions, the term eventually began to be used more narrowly to refer to those who gathered, studied, and interpreted the Scriptures. But in Jesus’ day they were not mere copyists, as the word scribe might suggest. They were “the teachers of the law” (NIV) or “the experts in the law” (NET). In other words, they were the Bible scholars, the religious professionals and authorities.

One would think that we could look to the scribes for an example of authentic faith. But Jesus says we should “beware” of them. The scribes are not just wrong in their interpretation of Scripture; they are dangerous because of it.

The dangerous example of the scribes

Rather than being an example of godliness, Jesus says that they “like to walk around in long robes.” These were full-length prayers shawls made of wool or linen that set them apart as men of authority. The scribes, Jesus said, love the attention they get for wearing these “uniforms” because they also “like greetings in the marketplaces.” We are told that when a scribe passed through the market, people would rise and recognize their presence. The scribes also like to “have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts.” Who wouldn’t be gratified by the kind of public attention and respect that was afforded to the scribes? Things are no different today.

What’s so dangerous about this kind of self-seeking behavior? I think verse 40 answers that question. Not only do the scribes seek the respect of their fellow man, but they also “devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers.” Because of their behavior Jesus warns, “They will receive the greater condemnation.” Jesus’ warning seems to be that if we follow the example of the scribes we will follow them straight toward the judgment of God.

So don’t be like these scribes who “devour widows’ houses,” Jesus warns. Easy enough, right? Well, the danger is much more subtle than it appears. You see, we might think that the scribes were modern day prosperity gospel preachers, living extravagantly on the contributions of the poor. But such was not the case.

In the first century A.D. the scribes lived primarily on subsidies, since it was forbidden that they should be paid for exercising their profession. While few scribes were reduced to begging, an abundance of evidence shows that the Jerusalem scribes belonged to the poorer classes.[4]

In other words, the profession of the scribes was not in any way a sham. It was legitimate business, and most people would agree that they were worthy of their pay. How then were they guilty of devouring widows’ houses? Scribes served as lawyers, and they frequently helped a widow make decisions about what to do with her assets following the death of her husband. No one thought ill of them for receiving support from the widows they had helped. This was how they made their living. But Jesus accuses them of social injustice.

The gospel and social justice

Don’t miss this important point. Jesus expected these scribes to refuse to take any support from widows who were among the most vulnerable people in that patriarchal society. By taking support, Jesus says the scribes are guilty of violating the destitute. It’s a strong accusation to make, and we might even be surprised that Jesus expected that level of righteousness from them. But Jesus is saying that those who know the Scriptures best should be those who leave an example of how to live out the Scriptures.

If we know God through his gospel there must be a change in how we look at business and wealth. It should result in a serious concern for justice in this world. That is, true religious practice should make for a better society. We may not solve all the problems, but those who have understood the gospel should make serious contributions toward the solution. Why? Because we of all people should be concerned with social justice and not ignore it or excuse injustice for the sake of religious practice. We can be guilty of devouring widows’ houses simply by ignoring our responsibility toward them. We may not always know what to do for the poor, oppressed, and marginalized in our society; but if we know anything at all about the gospel of grace, doing nothing is not an option.

The relationship between faith and practice

I say that this is true if we know God because although to everyone else it may appear that we have a genuine relationship with God, he alone knows our heart. The scribes made “long prayers” that made them appear righteous, but Jesus said it was all done “for a show” (NIV). It was religious hypocrisy through and through. Craig Keener points out that Jesus, like the Old Testament prophets, saw social injustice and religious hypocrisy as inextricably linked.[5] This suggests the opposite may be true as well. When we sincerely respond to the gospel it leads us to live justly in society.

We have not interpreted the Bible correctly when we have not seen the gospel clearly causing us to be transformed by its radical grace so that we live differently—truly justly—in an unjust world. Such was the failure and the danger of the scribes. Now this may be discouraging to us. After all, if the scribes missed it, what hope is there for us?

TRUE WORSHIP OF GOD

Well there is great hope for us because the right interpretation of the Scriptures does not depend upon the sharpness of the mind but on the posture of the heart. That’s one of the crucial things we learn in the concluding paragraph of Mark 12 (vv. 41-44). The scribes are guilty of devouring widows’ houses because of their failure to attain real worship. And this in spite of their expertise in the Scriptures—they have missed the point of the Scriptures altogether! But we can see real worship in one of these widows.

A lesson from a poor widow

Jesus sits down across from the treasury and watches as people put money into the offering box. There were 13 receptacles in the temple for collecting the offerings of worshippers. The amount of money collected there was significant; Mark tells us that “many rich people put in large sums” (v. 41). Then Jesus watches as “a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.” A very insignificant amount, especially in comparison to the great sums deposited by the rich. This small act by an unnamed poor widow should have gone as unnoticed as her penny, except for the fact that Jesus makes a big deal about it. He summons the disciples to him for another one of those “teachable moments” (this happens 8 times in Mark’s Gospel).

And he begins his lesson with one of his 13 “amen” sayings: “Truly, I say to you.” Again, this denotes a significant observation that Jesus wants to communicate to his disciples. This discreet act by a poor widow carries huge implications about true worship and true discipleship. Why? Because “this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.” Of course, that is simply an untrue statement, unless Jesus counts differently than we count.

How the widow’s penny is more

Indeed he does. He explains that this woman has given more than anyone else because “they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (v. 44). Let’s meditate on this for a moment.

  1. The question here is about the worth of one’s worship, not the worth of one’s money. Jesus is evaluating the worship of the contributors, not the money of the contributors. Not all acts of worship have the same value in God’s eyes.
  2. True worship does not come without a sacrifice. Or, to say it another way, if there is no sacrifice then there is no true worship. The Old Testament gave us a vivid picture of this as the worship of God always included a literal sacrifice. It is impossible to worship without cost. The rich gave “out of their abundance,” that is, they offered up their surplus. They could give great sums of money without ever really missing it. But this woman gave “out of her poverty,” meaning she gave what was necessary for her own survival. It was “all she had to live on.” Her donation left her without any means for obtaining even her next meal.[6]
  3. To push that last point further, true worship is costly because it costs us everything. This poor widow, Jesus said, “put in everything she had.” She had two copper coins, but she gave both, refusing to keep even one of them for herself. This is what true worship demands. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom 12:1).
  4. This kind of worship cannot be coerced, but must be the natural result of our joy in God. This poor woman could have given her penny begrudgingly, feeling forced to do so in order to earn God’s favor. Or, she could have given her penny out of sheer delight in God, believing that he loved her immeasurably and would provide for her needs. The latter best explains why Jesus commended her.

The point of this text is not that true worship requires us to give away all of our money to the church or some other charity. It does challenge us to consider the motives of our financial giving. But money is only one part of our lives. The question here is whether or not you offer to God merely your surplus: your discretionary income and your discretionary time. Or, do you joyfully yield all of your life including your money and your time to God to be used as he sees fit?

What the scribes missed

The gospel is what can transform us to desire God above anything else. The gospel points us to Christ, the Son of David and alsothe Son of God, who has come to rescue us from our slavery to sin and death. Only the Christian gospel makes it possible for us to love God with our entire being and at the same time to love our neighbors sacrificially, unlike the scribes who were guilty of religious hypocrisy and social injustice. What was it about the gospel that they had missed?

They had simply failed to see how desperate they really were for God’s mercy and grace. They had failed to see that the deliverance they really needed was not political but spiritual, that God was far from them because of their sin not because of Roman dominance. But this poor woman knew her need and knew that God alone could supply her need. She gave everything she had in joyful worship, casting herself totally upon the mercy of God. That is what the gospel is all about. And if we can see that, and if we can let it grasp our hearts, then Jesus will change everything, beginning with how we interpret the Scripture, how we live out our faith in the world, and how we worship God.

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~I am A Conqueror In-spite Of What I See~

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Oh while I live, to be the ruler of life, not a slave, to meet life as a powerful conqueror, and nothing exterior to me will ever take command of me.

Walt Whitman

As the sun began to set tonight, I had a perfect view of the rolling hills around me. I realized I was really free and It is all because of the God that see’s  me as I couldn’t ever really see myself as a free man from addiction and riotous living and a covetous individual. I wanted everything that had a shine to it, I wanted everything thing as big as Texas. I wanted to have more, a insatiable appetite for everything and I would do evil things to acquire it. I am so glad I know my Savior and I can now say I see myself as a conqueror because of the finished work of my strong “Man” Jesus.

This campaign(Second Chance Alliance) is very toiling. Because I don’t want to fail, I am looking at the other campaigns and losing my identity as a conqueror. I thank you O’ Lord for being steadfast in your unshakable presence in my life.

Never Forget That You Are More Than a Conqueror!

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him that loved us. — Romans 8:37

How do you see yourself? As a champion who wins nearly every fight? Or as a loser — someone who struggles along, never seeming to conquer a single problem? How you perceive yourself is very important because it will ultimately affect the way other people see you.

Have you ever met someone who had a bad self-image or who always seemed to carry an air of inferiority around with him? It isn’t hard to discern this attitude in people. They feel so badly about themselves that they exude their negative perception of themselves and their sense of insecurity. On the other hand, if you’ve ever met individuals who are self-confident and self-assured, you know that it’s easy to recognize their confidence. Why? Because a confident person exudes confidence.

It is simply a fact that you will inevitably project what you feel about yourself to others. So this question about how you see yourself is very important. If you see yourself as a champion who wins every fight, that is exactly how others will see you. But if you see yourself as someone who struggles and wrestles with a bad self-image — that is precisely how others will perceive you.

So let’s turn to Romans 8:37 to see what the Word of God has to say about us. In this verse, Paul declares that “…we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” I want to especially draw your attention to the phrase “more than conquerors.” It comes from the Greek word hupernikos, a compound of the words huper and nikos. By joining the words huper and nikos together into one word, Paul is making one fabulous, jammed-packed, power-filled statement about you and me!

The words “more than” are derived from the Greek word huper, which literally means over, above, and beyond. It depicts something that is way beyond measure. It carries the idea of superiority — something that is utmost, paramount, foremost, first-rate, first-class, and top-notch; greater, higher, and better than; superior to; preeminent, dominant, and incomparable; more than a match for; unsurpassed, unequaled, and unrivaled by any person or thing.

Now Paul uses this same word to denote what kind of conquerors we are in Jesus Christ. We are huper-conquerors! Paul uses this word huper to dramatize our victory.

This is what Paul meant to get across in Romans 8:37:

“We are greater conquerors, superior conquerors, higher and better conquerors!”

“We are more than a match for any foe!”

“We are utmost conquerors, paramount conquerors, top-notch conquerors, unsurpassed conquerors, unequaled and unrivaled conquerors!”

But we must continue to the next part of the verse, where Paul calls us “conquerors.” The word “conqueror” is from the Greek word nikos. The word nikos describes an overcomer; a conqueror, champion, victor, or master. It is the picture of an overwhelming, prevailing force. However, the word nikos alone wasn’t strong enough to make Paul’s point, so he joined the words huper and nikos together to make his point even stronger!

When you put these two words together, they form the word hupernikos, which declares that in Jesus Christ, you are an overwhelming conqueror, a paramount victor, or an enormous overcomer. This word is so power-packed that one could interpret it as a phenomenal, walloping, conquering force!

That’s precisely who you are in Jesus Christ! So stop looking at yourself as a struggling loser. Regardless of your past experiences, you must begin to look at yourself through God’s eyes and in the light of Romans 8:37. This verse declares that you are always the winner and never a loser! And when you begin to see yourself the way God sees you, it will change the way others see you too.

Resolve right now to see yourself the way the Word of God does — as a walloping and conquering force! You are more than a match for any adversary or foe that would come against you today! 

sparking gems from the greek

My Prayer for Today

Lord, I thank You for making me a phenomenal, walloping, conquering force! Because of what Jesus has done for me, I am no longer a struggling loser. Instead, I possess the power to be an enormous overcomer! Holy Spirit, I ask You to help me take my eyes off my past failures so I can focus on the power of the resurrection that lives inside me. 

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

sparking gems from the greek

My Confession for Today

I boldly declare that in Jesus Christ, I am a conqueror who is utmost, paramount, foremost, first-rate, first-class, and top-notch; greater, higher, and better than; superior to; preeminent, dominant, incomparable; more than a match for; unsurpassed, unequaled, and unrivaled by any challenge that would ever try to come against me! 

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

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God Moments!

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Transformation is a process, and as life happens there are tons of ups and downs. It’s a journey of discovery – there are moments on mountaintops and moments in deep valleys of despair.

Rick Warren

Today’s pilgrimage was a blessing. May and I were at Stater Bros. grocery store. While shopping my wife noticed a midget female, she was elderly and legs were twisted and she sat in a wheel chair. She was shopping and pushing herself independent in spirit. We walked over to ask her how was her day and to commend her for being strong and not challenged due to her physical handicap. This woman began to weep and reach for our hands and she prayed for us in the middle of the isle at Stater Bros. grocery store. She was touched by our compassion and rendered us a God moment and she spoke of her joy about the good job my mom did in raising me. She spoke of other particulars that God had to be speaking through her, because we have never met. This was a God moment!!

 

I HAVE always been an avid church goer, but not just for the sake of going. Other than it being a requirement, I go because of the information I receive when I am there. Information that is priceless that helps with daily living.

I was in bible study at our designated time and our lecturer told a story of his early days as a converted believer. He told how a young lady was interested in him romantically, however, in his newly converted zeal he turned the conversation around. It resulted in the young lady accepting the lord as her personal saviour. He said what he discovered was the woman’s attraction to the spirit of God within him. I could tell he was proud that he was able to help her with what she really needed. He encouraged the group to be very alert not to miss opportunities as such that he called, “a God moment.”

In his definition, “a God moment” is when an individual believes that another person is attracted to their positive attitude, deportment, passion, love for God and man, and whatever else that makes the individual unique. However, what the person is really attracted to is God’s spirit that has influenced the individual.

The passion that he spoke with you could tell that this was important to him. He went on to say that what such a situation occurs you have to pay attention because their is no guarantee that you will have another God moment with that person.

The question to ask is, how do we help ourselves not to miss out on privileges that allow us to share our faith? We help ourselves by being sensitive to the spirit of God. In order for us to be sensitive to God’s spirit we must be intimate with God. Our intimacy with God allow us to recognize his voice. Knowing the voice of God is knowing his word. When we know the word of God we know what he says to our situations. Also it instructs us in every area of our lives. Prayer, reading the word and worship are vital in our efforts to obtain intimacy with God.

The amazing thing is, a God moment can happen anywhere. It is not restricted to the four walls of our churches, but literally anywhere. It can happen in the grocery store, the laundry mat, in the mall, on the bus or the parking lot. We need to be attentive not to miss out on the moment when we are given a chance to share the love of Jesus. I know is it flattering when people express their adoration for us.

Nevertheless, we must understand that it is God’s precious spirit that shines through us that lead people to us. It is our responsibility to lead them directly to the source.

Empower A Felon

Success Is Measured By Community Not Money

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Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.

Bruce Lee

what is success

If I were to ask you, “how do you feel about success?” What would be your response? Most people would say: I feel great about it, I want more of it, I deserve it, I am working towards it. Why are those feelings so common?

Because most of the people on this planet feel that being successful is a good thing. When they think of succeeding they think of material benefits, they think of happiness, and they think of accomplishment. Certainly, being successful can include all of these things and more.

Now here’s a personal question, what is success?

You see, personal success comes in many different forms and your concept of being successful might not be the same as mine. If you want to be successful in your life, then the very first thing you should do is to take the time to decide exactly what that means to you. Never mind what it means to anyone else, what does it mean to you?

To some people the epitome of being successful is earning a lot of money. In fact society seems to base the whole concept of being successful primarily by how much money a person earns. But society’s definition has more to do with flash than it does with substance. Many so-called successful people are very unhappy in their personal life. So, we need to ask…

Is that what you think of as being successful?

Having a personal definition of what being successful means to you, and then setting goals accordingly, is the only way to make your achievements truly meaningful. Striving to succeed according to somebody else’s standard or definition may win you the admiration of others, but will it bring you a sense of personal accomplishments?

If you want to succeed on a level that makes you feel truly satisfied, then I encourage you to take some time right now to write down your personal definition of success. Be specific for each area of your life. Think about what being financially and emotionally successful would feel like. What kind of relationships would represent successful  relationships to you? Once you’ve achieved some success in these areas, how will you spend your time, your money, and your energy? Who would you spend them with?

Get clear on what succeeding means to you!

If the concept of being personally successful sounds good to you, take the first step today. Discover your personal definition of success and write it down . I promise that you will feel more successful immediately.

Here’s the main point to take away from this article: Success is a multifaceted, personal concept. By defining what that concept represents to you personally, and by taking the time to write it down, you will automatically move your life in that direction.

What areas of life do you want to succeed in?
What role do money, friends, and happiness play in being successful?
How about integrity, honesty, values, love, and compassion?
The lines are open!

Empower A Felon

 

~ Partnering With God To Restore His People~

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The day started off with a great sign of hope. We had a pilgrimage burning in our inner man for sometime, but it wasn’t ordained as this day began to unfold. May and I received a follow-up phone call from 3ABN- Jason Bradley this morning before we went out on this pilgrimage. Jason spoke very candidly about should his superiors agree to give us air time we would need to raise air fair, but they would provide transportation and lodging.  Watching all of this unfold is somewhat intriguing but also strenuous on the mind and body. We feel sometime like we are making a fool of ourselves. This dream is in it’s 24th month of pregnancy and we still have faith that this vision will come to past.

Life is a pilgrimage. The wise man does not rest by the roadside inns. He marches direct to the illimitable domain of eternal bliss, his ultimate destination.

Swami Sivananda

It is the heart of God to restore. That’s the good news. The other news is that Israel had made a mess of things and, as a result, they had lost all the marvelous privileges God had lavished upon them. Constant, unremitting disobedience to God had brought about Israel’s loss of nation, city, and heritage.Characteristically God had met His people with the promise of deliverance even before their captivity. The Prophet Jeremiah had informed them that they would be enslaved for 70 years in order to make up for the neglected Sabbaths; but then God would begin the process of restoring His people.

God is firmly in control of history, of kings, and He works all things together to accomplish “the counsel of His will.” (Ephesians 1:11) In fact, this verse declares that God’s will is predestined. He will have His children with Him! Isaiah had predicted that a heathen king by the name of Cyrus would order the rebuilding of the temple and the city of Jerusalem! (Isaiah 44:28) Imagine the shock waves that must have gone through the demons when King Cyrus actually said, “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem…” (Ezra 1:2)

The book of Ezra tells the incredible story of God rescuing people from their captivity and restoring them to the place of knowing and worshipping God! It illustrates the way God sent His Spirit to restore the doctrine of salvation by faith during the Reformation. But the walls of Jerusalem had not been rebuilt and the city lay in ruins, bringing dishonor upon both God and His people. This is Nehemiah’s story, and it illustrates the rebuilding process by which God restores His Bride (His people) to their intended beauty.

May & I began our day with devotion and prayer seeking God’s direction for our life. We asked Him to lead us to paths that would link us with like minded ministries and He spoke loud and clear. We made several alliances within this pilgrimage today.

Contacts are needed to perform this type of grass root movement. Networking is essential to production and success. We are setting the stage for bigger outreach. In Hemet Ca. where God has planted us and given us this commission we are now desiring to partner with three churches God willing to Hand out backpacks containing basic necessities to ex-offenders and disenfranchised individuals. We feel it is a great way to help them physically as they adjust to life outside of jail and to put our brand in their spirit . We are hoping that Hemet Seven Day Adventist church on Girard St. Pastor David and Cornerstone church on Girard St. Associate Pastor Bob Meisel and The Dwelling Place Family Church also located in Hemet Ca. on Girard St. will join us in linking up as one team and organize  to use this opportunity to help those targeted individuals spiritually.

It is our hope that as we raise funds and collaborate with those that have a mind to work as Nehemiah did in pursuit of his vision coming to past will see our vision as theirs also and lay denominational titles down and put a rock in one hand and sword in the other and help build this new wall called “Ministry”.

In the Basic Backpack and New Life Supportive Care Network and Second Chance Alliance, ex-offenders and disenfranchised from County Correctional Facilities Southwest and Indio and State Prisons that release 28,000 inmates a year, could pick up backpacks filled with items such as food vouchers, bus tickets, and phone cards from these distribution sites, most of which are these churches. We saw great things within the scope of food banks and clothing being already dispersed. We also shared great testimony of how these ministries are taking off. We are also setting up radio time with radio station KPRO to discuss the times of all this taking place. If you are still reading and have been touched please pray our strength to see this to the end although it looks so far off.

Second Chance Alliance

 

 

Prison ministries are created to provide spiritual guidance to inmates who may already have a relationship with God, and to reach inmates who do not have a religious foundation. Many churches establish prison ministries as part of their outreach services to the local community, but there are also individual pastors, preachers and religious instructors who start ministries without the association or support of a church.

Just to inform you of others who have been successful in this endeavor I am going to share this:

Mission: Launch, a social enterprise startup founded last summer to help ex-offenders with reentry, was one of six projects chosen for the first crowdfunding class on girltank, a crowdfunding website for female social entrepreneurs worldwide.

Mission: Launch founder Laurin Hodge is now raising $25,000 through girltank to build the Returning Citizens Project, a web platform ex-offenders can use to track each step in their reentry process.

Case managers and ex-offenders themselves can use the dashboard to input metrics that are data-proven to be relevant to avoiding recidivism — job skills, work-life preparedness, clothing and housing basics — and track individual risk factors within certain counties and heavily populated areas of arrest.

Mission: Launch offers job training and placement for former prisoners by pairing them with business mentors in a variety of occupations. To help returning ex-offenders find relevant information, Hodge also set up i-Launch, an online Wiki cataloging reentry and job assistance programs in Maryland and Washington, D.C.

“In the beginning we thought Wiki style technology would be best, but we discovered people really needed more of a knowledge-management tool that gave the right information at the right time,” said Hodge in a follow-up e-mail.

After speaking with operators of halfway houses and ex-offenders in Washington, D.C., and the Baltimore region, Hodge discovered that former prisoners going through reentry needed something more than a Wiki in order to organize the reentry process — to keep job applications separate from rental applications, for instance — and measure personal progress against where other ex-offenders are in their reentry.

“Things like housing, transportation, clothing, community/relationship building, health/wellness all must be managed holistically,” Hodge said. “Yet without the resources to build an actionable plan and receive push notifications to help track progress or setbacks, individuals are left rebuilding in isolation.”

The $25,000 crowdfunding campaign with girltank officially begins today and goes through the end of July. Hodge estimates Mission: Launch has commitments for about 10 percent of the funding needed to complete the Returning Citizens Project, one of the two U.S.-based projects in girltank’s inaugural crowdfunding class.

Here is our cause, please click the link to view:

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Educating You About Our Project – “One Constant Is Change”~Ministry~

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You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

Mahatma Gandhi

Paul Owens orientation

Paul Owens, education coordinator for Welcome Back/Tarrant County, speaks at an orientation for new parolees.

 

Second Chance Alliance will be a ministry that helps ex-offenders re-enter society beyond prison. I am reminded of Paul the apostle who was Saul on house arrest and who received a second chance from God on the road of Damascus. May and I have been given a second chance and that stands the reason for this vision.

Men just released from state prisons in Huntsville arrived by bus in Fort Worth and gathered at the Tarrant County Parole Office. But before they re-entered the free world, they heard straight talk from someone who understood what they faced.

“You’re going to have to deal with some attitudes. You need to take your pride and put it aside. You don’t have it all together. That’s why you’re sitting here. Take it from a four-time loser,” said Paul Owens, education coordinator for Welcome Back/Tarrant County, a faith-based re-entry program for ex-offenders.

The men in the small room in South Fort Worth are among the 60 new parolees a week who attend re-entry orientation programs there, said Dalonika McDonald, unit supervisor for the Fort Worth District Re-entry Center.

Successful transition from life in prison to life in free society depends on three factors, Owens told the parolees—a support group, education and a job.

“The good news is you can make a change in your life,” he said. “You don’t have to go back.”

A bleak picture

But statistics predict many will return to prison. Nationally, about 650,000 people are released from prison annually, according to the Reentry Policy Council, a project of the Council of State Governments Justice Center. Two-thirds of state prisoners are rearrested within three years of release.

“Research shows that when people who are released from prison or jail return to the community, their job prospects are generally dim, their chances of finding their own place to live are bleak, and their health is typically poor,” the council’s website states.

Faith-based re-entry programs like Welcome Back/Tarrant County are committed to keeping ex-offenders from returning to prison and seeing lives transformed by the gospel, said Chaplain Jerry Cabluck, who leads the ministry.

The first 72 hours after an ex-offender is paroled often determines whether he or she re-enters society successfully or ultimately returns to prison, he noted.

A person who has been incarcerated for an extended time often returns to an urban area, without a driver’s license, with no knowledge of public transportation and with no idea where to find a job, he noted.

“When an incarcerated person is released, the first thing that happens is they encounter prostitutes, alcohol, drugs—sin and temptation right in front of them,” Cabluck said. “The Lord’s calling on my heart is to help ex-offenders learn basic life skills and provide a support network to help them resist the temptation to fall back into old self-defeating lifestyles.”

Welcome Back/Tarrant County provides newly paroled ex-offenders food, clothing and access to other services, such as health care and job-readiness training. The ministry seeks to connect the parolees with a church and mentors, as well as helping them pursue educational opportunities and find a job. The program places men and women in entry-level jobs, and at least 19 have enrolled in community college.

Mentor Care ministry video used by Welcome Back/Tarrant County.

In many ways, four-time-offender Owens is typical of the workforce Welcome Back/Tarrant County depends on, Cabluck said.

“We’re a green ministry. We recycle lives,” Cabluck said.

Ex-offenders relate well to other ex-offenders who know something about their life experiences.

• Three of four offenders released from prisons have a substance abuse problem. Only 10 percent in state prisons received treatment during incarceration.

• More than one of three reports some physical or mental disability.

• More than half—55 percent—have at least one child under age 18 who depends on the ex-offender for financial support.

• Only one-third participated in educational programs in prison, and barely more than one-fourth (27 percent) received vocational training.

Seeing lives transformed

sie davis400

Pastor Sie Davis understands life behind bars, life on the streets and how to bridge the two worlds.

“I was born in prison and born again in prison,” said Davis, a church planter who leads a residential ministry in Dallas to help ex-offenders make the transition to life in the free world.

His mother, who struggled with drug addiction, was incarcerated in the Goree State Farm for Women near Huntsville when she gave birth to her son in 1955.

“They didn’t know what to do with me. I was in the prison nursery nearly three months before my aunt came to get me,” he said. “I tell people I was the youngest parolee in the state of Texas.”

But it marked neither his final release, nor his last time in prison.

“I spent most of my life on the streets of South Dallas and 17 and one-half years in prison. It was on the installment plan. I was in prison four times,” he said. On the streets, he worked for his stepfather—Chicago Red, an organized crime figure known as “the Godfather of South Dallas.” On two occasions when he was imprisoned, he shared a cell with his biological father, who was doing time for drug-related charges, pimping and pandering.

During one of his periods of incarceration, Davis made a profession of faith in Christ. After his conversion, several prominent leaders in prison ministry helped mentor and disciple him. Even so, within six months after his release, he returned to prison on a drug charge.

Christian life in the free world

Many ex-offenders find living as a Christian in the free world after release more difficult, in many respects, than living as a Christian in prison, Davis said.

“People say, ‘Church is church.’ Church ain’t just church. It’s different in prison than it is out here,” he said.

African-Americans, Hispanics and Anglos worship alongside each other in prison—a rarity in the free world, he noted. Practices common in most churches—such as passing the plate to collect an offering—are foreign to men and women whose first worship experiences are in prison chapels.

Furthermore, offenders who first become acquainted with free-world churches through prison ministry volunteers may develop an unrealistic expectation of what it means to live as a Christian outside prison.

“They put on a show like they’re always happy, get along with everybody and have no problems. Come out, and you see they have struggles like everybody. There’s a lot of illusion that’s taken as fact,” Davis said.

Making the transition

Ex-offenders need help with employment, transportation and other services. But mostly, Davis said, they need help making the mental transition to life outside a penal institution.

“There’s a transition in the mind when a person goes into prison—moving from this big old world to go live in a little cell and never go more than two or three miles for years at a time,” he said.

Likewise, release demands mental transition. He recalled one ex-offender who constantly had to be reminded after release to zip his trousers.

“There are no zippers on prison uniforms,” he explained. “Things we take for granted, they don’t understand.”

In the last decade, Davis has devoted his life to helping ex-offenders. He directs the statewide Crossroads Unwinding ministry and its 12-step substance-abuse-recovery “Overcomers” program. He leads a residential program for recently released ex-convicts, with a location for men in South Dallas and a women’s facility in the Pleasant Grove area of Dallas.

He is pastor of the Church of the Called Out Ones, and he works as a church-planting consultant with the Baptist General Convention of Texas to help start other congregations for ex-offenders. He also preaches in prisons around the state, sharing his testimony and seeking to prepare prisoners for life outside penal institutions.

Davis believes ex-offenders need to worship with other ex-offenders in the crucial months immediately after their release, but he also hopes mature Christians from traditional churches will serve as mentors to spend time with newly released prisoners, listen to them and help them grow spiritually.

“It’s tough. Ex-offenders have to behave over and above everybody else. They have to strive a little harder than anybody else. They come out filled with fear. They know a lot is coming against them,” he said.

“At the same time, the church has fear. We have to teach churches how to accept ex-offenders. …We need to educate the church. There’s a mission field right here—people who are getting out of prison every day.” Please click the insignia below to view our project. We are the hands, feet and body of Christ. Please help us to help our community. We have a plethora of education and holy spirit indwelling related to this matter.

 

Empower A Felon

The “WHY”

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aw

I’ve lost some joy, I’ve lost some time

Now it feels like I will lose my mind
Journey long and lost my way
And now it feels like I’m lost, is all I say
Searching here and over there
For what I’ve lost where is it, I don’t know

But I will find a way to lift up my hands
And I will find a way to worship You, Lord
Though my heart is low I’ll find a way to give You praise
I will find a way to love You more

I’ve lost so much down through the years
It seems that all I find of late is a face so full of tears
I search each dark and empty place
The peace I used to know somehow I have misplaced
Searching here and over there
For the things I’ve lost I don’t have them anymore

But I will find a way to lift up my hands
And I will find a way to worship You, Lord
Though my heart is low I’ll find a way to give You praise
I will find a way to love You more

One thing I’ve not lost is the will to move ahead
And I kept a faith and trust in You Lord
And I find way down within myself
A love for You, Lord, that overflows
But I know that I can love You more
With every loss and through it all

But I will find a way to lift up my hands
And I will find a way to worship You, Lord
And though my life is broken I’ll find a way to give You praise

My pain is still a reality today. I have put my hands to the plow and honestly moved forward, but like everything in life there is a time to smile and a time to cry. Dates, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations and all memorable occasions render times of reflection. I left home at the ripe age of seventeen. I was accepted in the Navy and College at the same time. I had my first child(a son) Demir Deshon Pratt at seventeen part of the reason I was in hot pursuit of success. After completion of boot-camp and a semester of school I went home to get married and set-up my family. Another child was born shortly after my son turned one years old(a daughter named Paris Deshon Pratt). I graduated college and turned down my commission to officer candidate school and went into the fleet. After two campaigns abroad I came home to a sick son who was diagnosed with Sickle Cell Anemia, who died shortly after  that. My daughter was left with my then wife who was young and couldn’t deal with the death of our son and being a parent with an absent husband serving his country. Shortly after that my mom past and I was in Beirut and was introduced to what it fells like to take a human life all the while grieving the lost of the Mother that gave me life.

Paris really didn’t get a good chance at life with her mom because she wasn’t exposed to structure anymore. We divorced and my life got more intricate with time due to the demand placed on me by the Navy to serve with honor all around the globe. I would go visit and offer my brief time to attempt to structure my daughters life, but I always was greeted with resistance. Well as time would have it my life went left after exiting the military, not knowing about the hidden scars from nine campaigns I plunged into a dualism existence, serving God and mammon. That behavior landed me into years of not really being stable, drug addiction and riotous behavior led to (Prison). My daughter was left to many types of abuse while living in my home town of Washington D.C. with her mom. She was exposed to the many different effects of a lifestyle her mom could only afford her. Exposure to many men, drug deals and murder and all sorts of dysfunctions that led to her negative behavior. I made one more attempt to right the misfortune of us both and went to get my daughter and afford her a better chance at living, still un- rehabilitated and in sheer delusion that I was in control of my life I brought my daughter to live in my dysfunction of dealing drugs and living a dual life style with my new family and kids. She was jealous and felt neglected although she had structure and siblings to live with that had somewhat of a good model to exude before her. She no longer lived in the ghetto and depraved circumstances, she was in an up scale community, but with a different set of demons still before her eyes.

I had to go serve a Federal obligation for 5 years and she was left with her step mother and siblings, but she couldn’t deal with the boredom and structure living without the iron hand of a man around. She performed so well and achieved academic success beyond any of the other kids, but she wanted to go home to her mom in Washington D.C. where she was neglected and abused. Well today marks the 10 year anniversary of our last talk before she made a fatal choice that would alter her life forever:

Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2007

Crack dealer sentenced to life in fatal shooting

Silver Spring woman charged with murder in slaying of District teen

A 23-year-old Silver Spring woman charged in the November 2005 premeditated fatal shooting of a Washington, D.C., teenager in Silver Spring was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Parris Deshon Pratt of the 100 block of Croyden Court was found guilty March 16 of first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of Phillip Cunningham, 16, who lived in a Washington, D.C., group home.

Pratt shot Cunningham to death because she believed the boy had been ‘‘snitching” to police about her crack cocaine dealing business, Assistant State’s Attorney Peter Feeney wrote in his sentencing recommendation.

The Hon. Nelson W. Rupp Jr., the judge presiding over Pratt’s trial and sentencing, said he was ‘‘struck by the total lack of remorse” Pratt showed when she spoke to the court before her sentencing.

‘‘It’s not going to happen again if I have anything to do with it,” Rupp said before delivering his sentence.

Before the sentencing, Pratt apologized for getting herself into the situation that led to Cunningham’s death and asked for forgiveness from the boy’s family. But she said she felt her life was in danger at the time of the shooting and that she was the ‘‘sacrificial lamb.” She said it was the witness who testified against her that fired the bullet that killed Cunningham. She admitted to shooting Cunningham twice in self-defense.

According to the sentencing recommendation, it was Pratt’s DNA, not that of the witness, which was found on the gun.

‘‘If my back is against the wall, I do the best that I can,” she said before her sentencing. She said she was ‘‘totally out of my character” and abusing drugs when the shooting occurred.

According to defense testimony before her sentencing, Pratt was physically and sexually abused as a child, and abusing the drug PCP by age 14. Several of Pratt’s family and friends testified before her sentencing that she was misunderstood and a product of her upbringing.

But Rupp said it shocked the ‘‘conscience of the court” to see Pratt’s family claiming ties after defense testimony stated that she had been living on the streets, and ordered family and friends, who were weeping when Pratt was sentenced to life without parole, out of the courtroom.

‘‘If there was a way to charge the family … they’d be charged,” Rupp said.

Pratt was charged with first-degree murder and the use of a handgun in the commission of a felony three days after the shooting. According to the sentencing recommendation, a witness to the Nov. 17, 2005, slaying came forward and told police that Pratt lured Cunningham into her car and drove Cunningham and the witness to the 9200 block of Manchester Road, where she shot him in the head three times.

Pratt fired two shots at Cunningham after asking him to take a walk down a driveway on Manchester Road, according to the sentencing recommendation. As Pratt and the witness began driving away, Pratt noticed Cunningham was still moving. She backed up the car, and shot Cunningham in the head a third time.

Pratt then drove to Wheaton after the shooting to sell crack cocaine, according to the sentencing recommendation.

At the time of his death, Cunningham was enrolled as a sophomore at Calvin Coolidge High School in the District. Erica Cunningham, the 24-year-old sister of Phillip Cunningham, said Thursday her brother was a typical teen who was just ‘‘starting to get it together.” Cunningham also had three other brothers, all wards of the Washington, D.C., foster care system.

Pratt also received a sentence of 20 years for the use of a handgun in the commission of a crime, and five years for the possession of a regulated firearm by a prohibited person, to be served consecutively.

After the sentencing, public defender Alan Drew said he would appeal the sentencing and pursue a three-judge review panel.

I have a story of pain and triumphs just like we all do. I am not ashamed at being transparent about my struggles, failure, and challenges for without them I wouldn’t be who I am today. Praise God for His grace. I am fighting so many different fronts for myself and my kids. I have another son doing life for the same thing here in California, so you see this is a another part of the “WHY” to Second Chance Alliance. I have real life experience to offer to our communities and families abroad,. My wife has her own story to tell as well. Please pray my strength today. Thanks for your time in reading this blog and for your pondering to assist us in our cause, if you never viewed it click the insignia below.

Empower A Felon

Nothing Is Impossible With God-Ask Question If Need Be About Our Cause

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Top 10 Theodore Roosevelt Quotes

…And why you should take charge and dare to do mighty things!

 

#10

“I am only an average man, but by George, I work harder at it than the average man.”

#9

“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

#8

“There were all kinds of things I was afraid of at first, ranging from grizzly bears to ‘mean’ horses and gun-fighters; but by acting as if I was not afraid I gradually ceased to be afraid.”

#7

“Let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out.”

#6

“Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don’t have the strength.”

#5

“I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life; I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

#4

“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

#3

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in that gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

#2

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”

#1

“It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly;
who errs and comes short again and again;
who knows great enthusiasms,
the great devotions;
who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly
so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

 

Keep the Momentum Going:

Central to the concept of self-determination is an opportunity to freely make personal choices, to have the authority to control individual budgets and the support to achieve personal goals. Individuals must also have opportunities to contribute to their community. Community systems for people with disabilities are not an end in themselves but provide the possibility for individuals to be true members of those communities through work, leisure, friendships, and civic involvement. To realize lives that are full of opportunities, people and families need person-centered supports that help them to marry their aspirations with actual accomplishments.

Peer support is when individuals with similar interests and/or life experiences offer mutual assistance. In Peer Support Networks, individuals unite voluntarily to help one another by offering mutual support and sharing resources. They are complementary to the public services available to individuals with developmental disabilities. Such networks can be composed of individuals with disabilities, family members or both. A coordinator is needed to advise and organize the Network, though it should ultimately be shaped by the needs and preferences of its members. These networks can range from informal networks to more formal human services cooperative.

Jail Diversion:

Jail diversion is a strategy used widely to address the growing over representation of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system. Jail diversion programs identify offenders in the criminal justice system that have a mental illness and will be better served by appropriate community-based treatment rather than by incarceration. Not only does treatment reduce the individual’s chances of recidivism, but it also improves public safety by freeing beds in jails and prisons for serious and violent offenders whose crimes were not a result of a mental health problem. One aspect of jail diversion that has proven more difficult to analyze is its fiscal impact. In order to address this gap (Second Chance Alliance)wants to develop a model to quantify the potential cost offsets of jail diversion programs. The model is a computerized simulation that projects the effectiveness, costs, and potential cost savings of implementing jail/prison diversion programs for offenders with mental illness, the majority of whom have co-occurring substance abuse disorders. This cutting-edge, computerized tool will help policy makers and public officials consider different service package, resource allocation options and their fiscal implications.

Work Force Development:

Second Chance Alliance wants to work with several states to create the infrastructure necessary to help citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities and supporting organizations to find and retain competent employees (direct service professionals) who will provide high quality community based supports. Second Chance Alliance will support states to develop a framework for change using tools and a model that our partners developed on workforce training and development; including nationally validated skill and ethical guidelines, apprenticeship guidelines and performance based assessment tools.

We are but individuals striving to put together a comprehensive proactive program for ex-offenders and challenged human beings. We are hoping to get the buy-in from all walks of life that see our campaign and like its grass roots concepts and begin to query us about the how and why of it all. Please click the gofundme insignia to see our cause.

Empower A Felon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helping Hands-May & Aaron Are Thankful To All Who Helped Us

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If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.

Henry Ford

"Fresh Oil"

When a child is upset, we try to comfort her. When a stranger drops his groceries, we help him pick them up. We bring over a meal for a sick neighbor. For most of us, helping others is just something that comes naturally. It is simply how we respond to events that
occur in day-to-day Life. Helping others is a part of the human experience and one of the things that makes human beings human.

Part of being a responsible person and fulfilling our various roles in life involves caring for others and using helping skills. Parents cannot meet their children’s needs if they do not listen to them. A husband needs to be sensitive to the nonverbal cues of his wife. A teacher must know where and how to refer pupils who need additional help or tutoring. A supervisor cannot maintain the respect necessary to supervise others if he/she…

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Keep The Fight

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Job 5:26

The Message (MSG)

20-26 “In famine, he’ll keep you from starving,
    in war, from being gutted by the sword.
You’ll be protected from vicious gossip
    and live fearless through any catastrophe.
You’ll shrug off disaster and famine,
    and stroll fearlessly among wild animals.
You’ll be on good terms with rocks and mountains;
    wild animals will become your good friends.
You’ll know that your place on earth is safe,
    you’ll look over your goods and find nothing amiss.
You’ll see your children grow up,
    your family lovely and lissome as orchard grass.
You’ll arrive at your grave ripe with many good years,
    like sheaves of golden grain at harvest.

A man who once wrote about the salvaging of old ships stated that it was not the age of the wood from the vessel alone that improved its quality. The straining and the twisting of the ship by sea, the chemical reaction produced by the bilge-water, and the differing cargoes also had an effect.

Several years ago some boards and veneers cut from an oak beam from an eighty-year-old ship were exhibited at a fashionable furniture store on Broadway in New York City. They attracted attention, because of their elegant coloring and beautiful grain. Equally striking were some mahogany beams taken from a ship that sailed the seas sixty years ago. The years of travel had constricted the pores of the wood and deepened its colors, so that they were as magnificent and bright as those of an antique Chinese vase. The wood has since been used to make a cabinet that sits in a place of honor in living room of a wealthy New York family.

There is also a great difference between the quality of elderly people who have lived listless, self-indulgent, and useless lives and the quality of those who have sailed through rough seas, carrying cargo and burdens as servants of God, and as helpers of others. In the latter group, not only has the stress and strain of life seeped into their lives but the aroma of the sweetness of their cargo has also been absorbed into the very pores of each fiber of their character.

When the sun finally drops below the horizon in the early evening, evidence of its work remains for some time. The skies continue to glow for a full hour after its departure. In the same way, when a good or great person’s life comes to its final sunset, the skies of this world are illuminated until long after he is out of view. Such a person does not die from this world, for when he departs he leaves much of himself behind-and being dead, he still speaks.

When Victor Hugo was more than eighty years old, he expressed his faith in this beautiful way: “Within my soul I feel the evidence of my future life. I am like a forest that has been cut down more than once, yet the new growth has more life than ever. I am always rising towards the sky, with the sun shining down on my head. The earth provides abundant sap for me, but heaven lights my way to worlds unknown.

“People say the soul is nothing but the effect of our bodily powers at work. If that were true, then why is my soul becoming brighter as my body begins to fail? Winter may be filling my head, but an eternal spring rises from my heart. At this later hour of my life, I smell the fragrance of lilacs, violets, and roses, just as I did when I was twenty. And the closer I come to the end of my journey, the more clearly I hear the immortal symphonies of eternal worlds inviting me to come. It is awe-inspiring yet profoundly simple.”

Empower A Felon
Empower A Felon

Avoiding Hurt In The Church

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The title of this writing may seem to be rather unusual. After all, we would suppose the church to be a safe place – right? However, unfortunately, the church has sometimes been a place where many have experienced wounds instead of healing. In fact, statistics show that a great percentage of persons who cease attending church, do so because of some type of offense or injury to their feelings that happened there. Sometimes these occur because of the insensitivity of the church; other times, people are themselves at fault for being too touchy or sensitive to misunderstandings. In any case, it is sad that such experiences ever occur, because the church is an indispensable part of the believer’s life. Not only does it provide a place to worship, serve and learn about God, but it is also a community where believers can practice love toward their brethren as the Bible requires; “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Whatever you do, don’t give up on the church. God requires you to be faithful to it and to be accountable to its spiritual leaders. (See Hebrews 10:25; 13:17). If you have been hurt there, don’t run away – but equip yourself with the protection of God’s Word. You may not be able to stop offensive things from happening, but by applying God’s principles you can stop them from hurting you. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Ps. 119:165 KJV).

The following 13 steps are the revelations I have found to work in avoiding hurt within the church:

(1) Avoid developing unreasonable expectations of the church — “My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him” (Psa. 62:5).

The definition of disappointment is “the failure to attain one’s expectations.” Don’t expect things from the church or the minister that they can’t deliver, or that the Bible doesn’t teach for them to do. Many expectations have to do with preconceived “traditions” which we have come to associate with a church, perhaps from another fellowship we once attended or grew up in, etc. It’s a good idea to meet with the pastor and ask what you can expect of his ministry and the church.

Occasionally people get disappointed when they find out their church can’t supply all their earthly needs. Most ministers and churches do attempt to help people in every way they can – especially the needy during crisis and emergencies. But some people come to expect the church to meet all their material needs or pay their bills like the early church did. Unfortunately, this just isn’t possible unless everyone agrees to sell all their property and possessions and give them to the church like the early believers (Acts 4:34-35). Most churches would be blessed if everyone merely paid their tithes, however statistics show that only a small percentage of churchgoers give a full tithe regularly.

Neither is it realistic to expect the pastor to spend all his time with you, to attend every social function, or for him to show you constant attention. Instead, learn to place your expectations upon God — He will always be faithful to His promises in His Word and will never let you down.

(2) Don’t place an absolute trust in people —   “Thus says the LORD: Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD” (Jer. 17:5).

Come to terms with the fact that everyone is human and will fail you at sometime or another. Even the pastor will make mistakes. The only one you can trust entirely without fail is God.

Realizing that any human can fall short, the degree of trust we place in people must be limited and will depend on their track record. The more we get to know a person’s character and the history of their behavior, we’ll be able to determine how trustworthy they are. This is one of the reasons why the scriptures tell us to get to know our pastors and spiritual leaders — so from their godly lifestyle, we’ll be able to trust their leadership. “And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you.” (1 Thes. 5:12).

There’s a difference between “love” and “trust.” It’s possible to love and forgive someone, without placing an absolute trust in them. To illustrate this, let’s say there’s a school bus driver who has a drinking problem. One day while transporting a load of children he becomes intoxicated, wrecks the bus and kills all the children. As the lone survivor of the crash, he turns to the church to seek God’s forgiveness for this horrible act of irresponsibility. If he repents of his sin, will God forgive him? Absolutely. Should the church love and forgive this person? Of course. And what if he would then like to volunteer to drive the church bus for us? Do we trust him? Absolutely not! It would be unthinkable to put a person in the driver’s seat who has shown such recent negligence. Certainly, we love and forgive him, but because of this man’s poor track record, we could not risk the lives of our passengers. Over a long period of sobriety and safe driving, this person may be able to prove that he is again reliable or trustworthy.

Remember that love and forgiveness is granted unconditionally, but trust must be “earned.” Trust is the acquired confidence in a person’s actions. We certainly can, and should trust persons who show trustworthy behavior, but because all men have the potential for failure, we should never put an infallible sense of trust in anyone but God.

(3) Focus on common ground — “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10).

Avoid becoming highly opinionated. Opinions are the interpretations and ideas of men, which if constantly pressed on other people, can cause division or promote sinful debates and quarrels (Rom. 1:29). Opinionated people are prone to get hurt when others disagree with them.

The Bible teaches for all Christians to “speak the same thing” so that there will be unity in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 1:10). The only way such unity is possible, is for Christians to focus on the common ground of Christ and His Word. That is, we need to “say what the Word says,” to let the Word speak for itself and not try to promote divisive opinions about it. In scripture, we see that Paul instructed Timothy to “Preach the Word,” not his opinions (2 Tim. 4:2). A preacher is intended be a delivery boy of God’s message, not a commentator of the message. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job (1 John 2:27).

Similarly, at one time the news media was required to comply with a very strict code of ethics. They were to report the facts of the news accurately without adding their opinion or commentary. However, as time has passed, news reporting has become less factual and more opinionated — corrupted with rumors and gossip rather than real information. Reporters have evolved into commentators which manipulate what people think about the news. Like reporters, preachers need to stick with the facts.

Naturally every believer has his or her own convictions about a great many things, but if you continually try to push your opinions on others, conflict will eventually emerge. Avoid controversy over scriptures which are vague and foster many interpretations — stand fast upon those common, basic truths — Jesus, His life, death and resurrection — and don’t add to what God’s Word says. “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He reprove you, and you be found a liar” (Prov. 30:5-6).

(4) Don’t expect any church to be perfect — “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” (Rom. 7:18-19)

It is remarkable to consider that the Apostle Paul — the great author of scripture — openly confessed that he was not perfect. Like us, he experienced struggles in his flesh to do the right things. If one of the leading authors of scripture and apostles of the early church admitted to this, it should not seem too strange if we find other brothers and sisters in the church struggling with imperfections too.

Since churches are made up of people like you and me who have imperfections, there will never be such a thing as a perfect church. Unless people understand this, they’ll have an unrealistic view of the church, and will eventually become disillusioned and hurt.

One of the jobs of the church ministry is to help perfect the saints — like a spiritual hospital, where people go to get well. Instead of resenting persons in the church for their flaws, be thankful they’re there trying to grow in Christ to get better. Learn to love and accept people for what they are — they’re not any more perfect than you are.

Just as it has been said of beauty, imperfection is in the eye of the beholder. A person with a negative attitude can find fault wherever they wish. In contrast the person with a positive outlook can always find the good and beauty in things. The well adjusted person in the church should seek out the good and encouraging things as the Bible teaches (Phil. 4:8). Those who dwell on the negative or continually find fault with the church will eventually get hurt.

(5) Don’t seek to promote yourself or your own agenda — “Do not lift up your horn on high; Do not speak with a stiff neck. For exaltation comes neither from the east Nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one, And exalts another” (Psa. 75:5-7).

Have a humble and meek attitude like Christ (Matt. 11:29, Rom. 12:3). Besides being obnoxious, pride and arrogance will set you up for a fall (Prov. 16:18). Don’t promote yourself, campaign or strive to attain an appointed or elected position. God is the one who puts persons in such positions, and unless He does it, stay away from it. Lift up the Lord in all that you say and all you do. Don’t boast or talk about yourself. “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him” (John 7:18).

Avoid an attitude of competition which creates conflict in unity. A competitive attitude compares self with others, and strives to rise above that comparison (2 Cor. 10:12). The philosophy of Christianity is not to try to outdo one another, but to submit to and lift up one another (Eph. 5:21). We are even told to “prefer” our brother above ourselves. “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Rom. 12:10). Competition between churches and Christians is divisive and contrary to the faith.

Don’t expect to receive preferential treatment or to get your way about everything. The Bible teaches that favoritism is wrong, and the church will try to make decisions and do things in the best interest of the whole congregation, not just a certain few. “…but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9). If you do things for the church or give generous offerings, do it to bring glory to God, not to bring attention to yourself or to gain influence (Col. 3:17). The Bible even says that when you give charitable offerings, do it anonymously so to gain God’s approval, not merely man’s (Matt. 6:1).

Avoid the trap of presuming that your opinions are always divinely inspired or are indisputable. Share your suggestions and ideas with church leaders, but don’t press your opinions or personal agenda. Sometimes, persons feel that all their ideas come from God. They may attempt to add clout to their suggestions or complaints by saying “God told me so.” Indeed, God does speak to His children, but you will not be the exclusive source through which God reveals himself in a matter. If your opinions really come from God, the Bible says that others will bear witness with it, especially His pastors and leaders (2 Cor. 13:1, 1 Cor. 14:29). (You won’t even have to invoke God’s name — they’ll be able to tell if your ideas came from Him. Be cautious, lest you find yourself using His name falsely, a very dangerous thing — Ex. 20:7). Pastors are His representatives in His ordained chain of command, and if He wants to get something across to His church, He’ll bear witness with the persons in charge.

(6) Avoid blaming the church for personal problems — “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).

When you go to church, you should try to dissociate the church from the other personal problems you deal with. The majority of hurt feelings in a church result from wounds and sensitivities people carry in with them. This kind of emotional distress can create “distorted perceptions” which may prevent you from seeing reality the same way others do. Such things as a low self esteem, abuse as a child, marital problems, personal offenses, family conflict, a root of bitterness, health problems or job dissatisfaction can twist your interpretation of words and actions. You may imagine that people don’t like you (paranoia), or misinterpret well-intended words as an offense. Trivial problems will seem like big problems. Blame for unhappiness may be transferred to the church, its leaders or the people. You may lash out against others or be quick to find fault with the church. Remember this: Don’t jump to conclusions over anything, because things are usually not as bad as they seem.

(7) Treat others as you wish to be treated — “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12).

Human beings tend to be “reciprocal” creatures. That is, they reflect the way they are treated. This is why Jesus gave us the Golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you.” The way that most people interact with you is as a direct result of how you interact with them. If you have a frown on your face, you won’t get many smiles. If you offer friendliness, it will usually be offered back (Proverbs 18:24). Be gracious, encouraging, and a blessing for others to be around. If you have a negative, critical attitude toward people it will tend to generate their critical attitude toward you. “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).

Many hurt feelings can be avoided if we will realize that people usually react to how we deal with them. Take a close examination at the way you say things, or even how much you talk. “…a fool’s voice is known by his many words” (Ec. 5:3). Don’t be rude and impolite. Check your attitude that you’re not overbearing and bossy — people will be turned off and will seek to avoid you.

(8) Have a teachable, cooperative attitude — “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17).

The Bible teaches believers to be cooperative and submissive to their spiritual leaders — something that’s not possible unless the believer is committed to a church and accountable to a local pastor. Accountability to a godly shepherd is a part of God’s order for the spiritual growth of every Christian. God’s Word gives the pastor authority to organize and maintain order of the church, and to teach God’s truth, to correct, and to discipline when necessary to hold his flock accountable to biblical principles. In Paul’s encouragement to ministers, he stated, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). (See also 2 Tim. 3:16, Tit. 2:15, 1 Tim. 5:20.)

A lack of proper respect toward authority is a common problem today. People don’t want to be told what to do, or be corrected if they are wrong. This is one reason why the modern church is turning out so many immature believers. When some people hear something they don’t like, or are corrected in some way, they simply pack up and go to another church down the street, or church-hop until they find one that says things they like to hear. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers” (2 Timothy 4:3).

As long as you are a part of any particular church, you must come to accept that the pastor and leaders are in charge there. Regardless of how unqualified you might think they are, God recognizes them as the authority in that body and will hold them accountable to that responsibility. Consequently, God holds you accountable to respect their authority, to pray for them, and to cooperate — not to be defiant and rebellious.

Always be cooperative, willing to humble yourself. If you have a rigid, inflexible attitude in the church you will probably get hurt.

(9) Don’t oppose or hinder the church — “These six things the LORD hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:16-19).

One of the things that God dislikes most are those who sow discord — who create division and strife in the body of Christ. Don’t be a gossip, a complainer, or stir up turmoil. If you’re displeased with the church in some way, offer your help to make improvements, pray for it, or as a last resort, find another church you’re happier with — but never become a source of agitation or hindrance.

Don’t badmouth a man of God — if you do so, you’re asking for problems. One time when Paul was punished for preaching the Gospel, he unknowingly condemned Ananias, the high priest, who had ordered the apostle slapped. However, when Paul realized who he was, he apologized for speaking against Ananias, knowing that it’s forbidden to speak against God’s representative — despite the fact that Ananias’ treatment of Paul was in error (Acts 23:5). It is a serious matter to “touch” God’s anointed — either with our words or our actions. Imperfect as they may sometimes be, they are His representatives. “He permitted no one to do them wrong; Yes, He reproved kings for their sakes, Saying, “Do not touch My anointed ones, And do My prophets no harm” (Psa. 105:14-15).

If a minister has done you wrong in some way, don’t incriminate yourself by responding in an unbiblical manner — don’t lash out against him, retaliate with rumors against him, or run him down behind his back. You should go and confront him privately according to the scriptural fashion described in Matthew 18:15-17. If the first and second attempts do not bring a resolution, take the matter to the spiritual body, such as the church board, or denominational overseers to whom he is accountable — any correction or discipline should be left to them. Keep in mind, an accusation against a minister is a serious matter and will not be accepted unless the matter can be substantiated by other witnesses (1 Tim. 5:19).

When things are not as they should be in the church or with its leadership, there are honorable ways to help promote improvements or resolve inequities. However, it’s unethical to oppose the church or attack its leadership, and persons who do will likely end up hurt, bitter or possibly worse.

(10) Be committed to forthrightness and truth — “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. “But if he will not hear you, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector” (Matt. 18:15-17).

When someone has wronged you, Jesus says that you are to first go to them and confront them privately between yourselves. Most offenses in the church result from misunderstandings, and many could be quickly resolved if offended parties would just go to the source and find out the facts. Unfortunately, some offended people will just absorb the offense silently, while growing bitter and resentful. It is important to God, and a matter of obedience to His Word, that such issues are confronted so that (1) you will not become bitter and withdraw from the church, (2) that the offender is held accountable to not repeat his offenses which could harm the faith of others, and (3) so that the offender who has perpetrated sin might be reconciled with God. If they are uncooperative with your first private effort, you are to try a second time, taking witnesses with you. Finally, if no success, turn it over to church leadership.

You should never take one side of a story and accept it as fact without verifying it with the other party. There are always two sides to a story. The scriptures address this very problem, that before we believe a rumor, we are to investigate thoroughly, to verify all the facts. “…then you shall inquire, search out, and ask diligently… if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination was committed among you…” (Deut. 13:14).

Without doubt, it is not possible to have a relationship with a group of people without occasional misunderstandings and offenses. And unless you will commit yourself to confront these issues in the way Jesus described, you will become hurt in the church.

(11) Be devoted to love and forgiveness — “He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him” (1 John 2:10).

Christians will avoid a lot of problems if they will just commit themselves to an unconditional love for their brethren. The practice of loving the brethren — all the brethren, not just the lovable ones — keeps us from stumbling. Never forget that Jesus takes personally how we entreat our Christian brothers and sisters. When we love even the “least” of our brethren, Jesus accepts that love toward Himself (Matt. 25:40). You cannot love the Lord any more than you love the least in the body of Christ. “If someone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20).

Be quick to forgive and don’t hold grudges. Unforgiveness and bitterness is one of the greatest reasons why people get hurt in the church and probably the greatest cause of apostasy — falling away. Remember that unforgiveness is one of your greatest enemies. If you refuse to forgive, it will prevent God’s forgiveness of your sins and could keep you out of Heaven. “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15).

(12) Don’t get caught up in the offenses of others —  “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, And works righteousness, And speaks the truth in his heart; He who does not backbite with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend” (Psa. 15:1-3).

One of the great characteristics of the body of Christ is to care about the burdens and sufferings of one another. However, as we seek to console and encourage friends that have been offended, we may be tempted to take up their offense against another. In sympathy, we may tend to take their part against the pastor, the church or whoever they blame for the offense. This is very unwise and an unscriptural thing to do, considering that your friend may be the cause of his own offense. His hurt feelings may be due to a misunderstanding, a difference of opinion, his own rebellious attitude, emotional instability — or he may be childish and immature. There are always two sides to a story, and only an idiot develops an opinion based on one side or without all the facts.

Sometimes offended persons will seek sympathy from naive, listening ears. They go about pleading their case, pouring out their bleeding-heart of injustice to those sincere, tenderhearted persons who will listen. Their goal is to seek out persons who will coddle them, support their opinion and take up their offense against the offending party. You should love and encourage a friend with hurt feelings, but reserve your opinion and avoid taking sides, lest you find yourself a partaker in other men’s sins, or you also become offended and hurt with the church.

(13) Don’t personalize everything that’s preached — Obviously, every pastor preaches with the hope that everyone will take the message personally and apply it to his or her own life. “If the shoe fits, wear it.” However, there are always a few who think the minister is pointing his sermon specifically at them. This is a common misunderstanding which causes persons to get hurt.

Feelings of personal focus from a sermon may occur if persons are (1) under conviction about a particular matter, (2) especially self-conscious, (3) under emotional distress, (4) if they spend a lot of time counseling with the pastor, or (5) if he has previously corrected them or hurt their feelings in some way. Keep in mind, a pulpit preacher doesn’t focus his attention solely upon one person. His concern is for the broad range of people in attendance.

Occasionally persons think their pastor focuses on them, the same way they focus on him. When a pastor stands in front of a congregation week after week, they develop a feeling of close friendship with him — they come to know personal details of his life, his family, and other traits. However, even if the pastor knows each person in his flock, it’s not really possible for him to concentrate on each with the same detail that they do on him. It’s easy for dozens of people to know him well, but not realistic for him to know dozens of people in the same way. Consequently, some develop the illusion that the pastor focuses on them when he preaches — that he remembers their personal details in the same way they remember his. But the pastor has too many other people to consider. He counsels with dozens of people, hears scores of similar problems and details. It’s not likely he will single someone out and preach at them, while trying to minister to the whole congregation. If there’s something specific that the pastor needs to say only to you, he will deliver it to you personally, in private — not in subtle hints from his sermon.

Besides this, it is the job of the Holy Spirit to personalize God’s Word to us so that we’ll examine ourselves and search our own hearts. When the Lord is dealing with us about His Word, it may seem like the pastor is speaking directly to us. Sometimes the Holy Spirit may even direct the preacher to unwittingly say things that may pertain specifically to us. The best attitude to have is to listen to each message objectively. In every sermon from the Bible, God has something to say to all of us. Be open to whatever the Lord would have to say, willing to accept His correction or guidance. Defensiveness is usually a sign of resistance to conviction.

It is my prayer that these principles will help and encourage you in your relationship with the church. If you been injured there or have merely strayed away, I urge you to find God’s grace to forgive those who may have hurt you and return to the fellowship of God people. As challenging as it may seem sometimes, the church is Christ’s plan for His people, and it is there that He will develop and mature you into a fully equipped disciple of His kingdom.

My Church Should Equal The Church Christ Is Coming To Receive

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Tonight I am suffering with sheer grief about my church, my mind, my body and my spirit the trichotomy I am. The “Why” is because of the condition of the building and gathering at churches I sometime am able to frequent. People say I miss you but never call, people say I love you but abandon you, silent gang banging and clicks look upon you with disdain because of caste status or educational prominence. The church today is a place I am struggling to go and fellowship with. I am told that my sister and brother are those that love the Father, but I just can’t see that always in myself nor in my sister or brother. I am perplexed within myself because I feel some type of way about the behavior of others that make me contemplate the realism of emotions displayed within the corporate setting.

The Church renewed. Renewal means restoring the Church to the full intentions and specifications and blueprints of the One who founded it: Jesus Himself. Jesus founded the Church according to the blueprint that was in His Father’s mind. You and I are involved in renewing it, getting it back to that perfect plan that Jesus had, based on what His Father gave Him. Renewing the Church is not something that you and I do, really, but it’s something that God does through us if we will let Him do it. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that is the key factor in the renewal of the Church. It’s not our efforts. It’s rather our surrender and our willingness to be ready to be used by the Lord. But He is the one who does it. It’s His power.

I really love the calling on my life and I really love doing the work and the abiding in Christ Jesus, because He gave so much for me to be able to bring glory to His Holy name. I want above anything to serve God and love with all my heart as to allow my life to be pleasing to God. I have every reason to be in fellowship with others and with Christ. No one heard my cry when I was in a comma for seven months from being shot in the chest but Jesus, no one heard me cry when I was in a pit in Libya and getting tortured beyond what I could bare, no one heard me when I was on a level four penitentiary facing death at every turn, no one heard me when I was hungry and strung out on cocaine living in the very vomit I created because I wanted bling-bling and women and candy paint on my toys. I really feel I need a Renewal and so does the Church. I want to understand these feelings because I want to be the hands of Jesus today!!! I am so fervent in my quest to be connected I try diligently to go to Saturday church and Sunday, I try to balance all this through the precious spirit of God because I am so disconnected without my God…. I am broken, the ministry is over whelming to me tonight, I don’t know who is real or what to do with these desires to let my difference make a difference. I feel ship wrecked and I am crying out to the God of the universe to help me find my place.

What Does The Real Church Look Like?

I believe with all my heart that God is going to re-establish His true Church – the real Church. I’m talking about the Church that He intended, the one that makes it possible for those who really believe in Him to see His purpose fulfilled in their lives. And what is God’s purpose? To see all those who believe in Him conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit working in the Church (His true Church), the Father wants to strip away everything in us that doesn’t look like Jesus.

The traditional church today doesn’t know much about that. Most “pastors” (if you read the article “Leadership in the Early Church” you’ll understand why I put the word pastor in quotation marks) preach an American gospel that’s designed to make people comfortable with themselves and with God. It’s an upbeat message of “I’m O.K. you’re O.K. Just live your life however you think is best (as long as you come to church on Sunday and give me your money). Don’t worry; God will meet you where you are. No changes are required, forget repentance, let’s just rejoice and be happy. I’ll see you in heaven. Remember, God loves you, besides, you don’t believe anyone is really going to hell, do you?” Church ministry today is designed to give people what they want, what God requires is irrelevant. And, that is what you would expect it to be when men are in charge, instead of God.

To see what the real church looks like requires a somewhat novel approach,we’ll have to look at the scriptures. I know it sounds crazy, but trust me on this. You won’t find what you’re looking for in church history books. After all, the first church wasn’t a Baptist church in Oklahoma or Texas (even though the Baptists claim they can trace their roots all the way back to John the Baptist, a claim John is probably not too happy about).

No, the first real church was Jesus and His 12 disciples. The first church was actually a training school for those who would establish the second-generation churches after Jesus ascended back to the Father. It was Jesus showing His disciples, first hand, how to have church. They met in houses and gardens, by the sea and on boats in the sea, in the middle of the road, on hillsides and on mountaintops. They met wherever Jesus happened to be. These meetings formed their understanding of what church was supposed to be and established a pattern for the next generation of churches.

Now, just for fun, let me describe to you what one of these meetings in this first church must have looked like. When it was time for the meeting, everyone got dressed up in their best suit of clothes, grabbed a hymnbook and a big, fat Bible to carry under their arm. Then they all made their way down to the building with the sign out front that said “First Church”. The marquee out front had the sermon topic for the day: “How To Overcome Anxiety In A Frenzied World”, and the name of the class that would meet that evening, “Divorce Recovery at 6 PM”. Everyone filed in, sat down in neat rows, eyes forward, and waited for the minister of music to start the service. They sang three songs, recited the Apostles Creed, sang another song, passed the offering plate and listened to a choir “special”. Then Jesus, looking resplendent in a shiny, blue, three-piece suit, with a really great silk tie, took the pulpit and delivered a comforting, somewhat humorous, thirty-minute sermon. Everyone felt good about what they had heard and complimented Jesus on what a splendid job He had done, and then they all went to lunch. And Jesus was relieved that no one was uncomfortable with what He had said and felt sure that most of them would return next week. And in the satisfaction of a job well done, He soon forgot about the whole thing and began to think about something really important, His golf game (His putting had been terrible the past several weeks). That sounds just about right doesn’t it? No?

Then how about this? Get out your Bible (I mean it, don’t read any further, unless you have your Bible), now read Matthew 5:1 to 8:1. What you just read was an account of one of the very first church meetings. The actual church was small, but there was a “multitude” of visitors that day and the sermon was really long. Then read Matthew 8:2-4. That was the next church meeting, but this time there was only one visitor. Now read Matthew 8:5-13. Here’s something unusual. The sermon was only about 20 seconds long (imagine that), and it was both confronting and judgmental. I’m sure some of the visitors were offended this time, and I don’t think they’ll be coming back. Then Jesus had another meeting at Peter’s house (Matthew 8:14-17); another the next day by the Sea of Galilee (8:18-22); then, later, in a boat (8:23-27); and still another the following day on the other side of Galilee with the disciples, two other guys, a bunch of demons, a herd of pigs and some more visitors from town (8:28-34).

Are you getting the picture? From Matthew 5:1 to 8:34, Jesus had at least 7 church meetings. Actually, He probably had many more than that. How do I know? Because, in reading these 4 chapters in Matthew, the Lord taught me the one, overwhelming principle illustrated in this first church. It’s really simple, but at the same time, really profound. What does the first church show us? What should every church learn from its example? What were the 12 disciples doing? Pay attention. Here it is: THEY WERE LIVING WITH JESUS!!! The function of the church, any church, is to enable believers in their walk with Jesus. It must promote the reality of living moment-by-moment, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, week after week, year after year with Jesus.

The simple fact of the matter is that church is supposed to be the support system for believers in their continuous, uninterrupted relationship with Jesus. It should support them in their constant, openly transparent, submissive, obedient, life changing, transforming, renewing, Holy Spirit-led, love relationship with the Savior; and if you’re ever going to be conformed to the image of Christ, that is the lifestyle that is required. How can you be changed into something you haven’t experienced and submitted yourself to? And I don’t want to cover old ground again, but that doesn’t simply define a relationship. If you read your Bible (void of the prevailing religious bias and deceptions) you will realize that what I’m describing is salvation. The Bible doesn’t describe salvation as something that is accomplished in the past. It can’t be based on something you’ve already done (church membership, baptism, a profession of faith, confirmation classes, etc.). Salvation is a hope (actually, a confidence) that is based on what you are doing today. It is based on the firm commitment to a continual relationship with God that requires your submission to His will and purpose. It requires change (yours, not His). And I hate to mention this just now, but it involves suffering (really, you can look it up, try I Peter 4:12-19 for starters). If you just read the red letters in the Gospel accounts, you’ll see that Jesus never describes salvation as something that is quick and easy (only religion scribes using isolated verses do that). Instead, He presents it as something that is difficult, something that demands persistence and something that only a few will achieve (Jesus said there would only be a few that would be willing to travel the narrow road that leads to life).

Salvation is not based on what you know about God, Jesus made that perfectly clear. It’s not an intellectual exercise; it’s a lifestyle. It’s living with Jesus. The church is a group of people living with Jesus, sharing their experiences with one another, as they live with Him; nothing more; but certainly, nothing less! A community of believers undergoing change together, submitting to His will and purpose, being conformed to the image of Christ, as they are being saved (yes, salvation is a continuing process that has a starting point, but no ending point, read Luke 9:23-24; I Corinthians 1:18; Philippians. 2:12-13; Hebrews 3:14 and I Peter 2:2-3 in the NIV, a translation that actually gets it right).

I’m amazed at the number of churches today who claim to be “New Testament”, but have nothing at all in common with the churches described in the New Testament. On the other hand, it is equally amazing that I recently read of another church who described their search for identity and purpose this way, “In the absence of a clear model, we set out to create our own.” I couldn’t believe it, “In the absence of a clear model?” Give me a break! Why not just be honest and admit that you’re just another traditional church looking for new and innovative ways to attract more people, while trying to figure out how you can effectively entertain them while they’re there, so they’ll feel good about the whole deal and come back the next week. And at the same time, slip something religious into the mix, so they’ll think they had some gushy, sentimental encounter with God (you know, something they can deal with on their own terms, nothing heavy).

But there is a New Testament model. If Jesus and His 12 disciples were the first generation church, then those established by the disciples after Jesus’ ascension were the second generation churches. Now, it’s time to really pay attention again. Remember the principle illustrated by the first church wasliving with Jesus. He was there, physically with them, every day, every night, day after day, week after week, for almost 4 years. Then He was gone! Now these men, and others, began establishing churches all over the place (in Asia Minor, Europe and Africa). And the principle of these second generation churches comes through loud and clear. Are you ready for this? If you can remember what you’ve already read, you should be able to guess. Here it is:LIVING WITH JESUS IN A COMMUNITY OF OTHER BELIEVERS WHO ARE LIVING WITH HIM TOO!!!

Now I’ve said all this as an introduction to get to this place. I’m not writing a book on the subject; you’re not supposed to learn this stuff from books anyway (or from pastor’s sermons either, for that matter). You’re supposed to submit yourselves to God and let Him teach you. But, since there’s so much deception in the so-called church today, and in the absence of truth, it’s important to at least point those who are interested in the right direction.

Now I know what the problem is. I’ve heard the argument many, many times. “God doesn’t speak to believers any more. That’s why we have the Bible. He speaks to us through the written word. The Bible is our only source of faith and practice.” But now I have a real problem with that! THAT’S NOT WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS!!!

A look at Ephesians 4:17-24 might help. In verses 17-19, Paul is talking about living like Godless heathen in the futility of worldly reason, being ignorant of and estranged from God, and insensitive to any real spirituality (that is, being bound up in men’s thoughts, religion’s traditions and rituals, and experiencing no reality in God).

Then this is what we see in verses 20-24“But this is not what you learn from following Christ! If you have really heard Him and have been taught personally by Him, as all true reality is found in Him, you will get rid of your old way of life, your old self that was on its way to destruction because of deceitful lusts. And then you will continually be renewed in your mind, with a fresh spiritual attitude, a new self, being recreated in God’s image, in righteousness and true holiness.”

Thank you Paul for clearing that up for us! In my mind, the key to understanding what Paul is saying here is found in the word translated “truth” in verse 21 (“true reality” italicized in my translation above). The word is aletheia in the Greek text and means, “the reality of a thing, as opposed to the mere appearance of it” or maybe more to the point, “the truth as opposed to error”. What Paul is trying to express is the fact that the true reality of Jesus is found in hearing Him and being personally taught by Him. That’s the spiritual reality or spirituality that I talk about in some of the other articles. Again, true reality is never found in man’s religion. The traditions and rituals of man represent only the mere appearance of God, and that’s not what He wants us to have.

And when we receive glimpses of this true reality from Him, the result should be that we accept Who He is and at the same time reject who we are and change. The result, then, is as Paul says in the passage – we get rid of the old self that is on its way to destruction and embrace the new self that is being recreated in God’s image, reflecting His righteousness and holiness!

Now, what does this have to do with what the real church looks like? I’m glad you asked. The answer is found in the very next verse, Ephesians 4:25. This is what it says, “Therefore, rejecting outright everything that is false, let us all show forth this true reality to those who are likeminded with us, for we are all members of the same body.” This is what the real church should look like today: likeminded people (those with the courage to pursue Him on His terms, not theirs) who meet together to share with one another the true reality of Christ in their lives. What has He taught you and how have you changed? This is the real church: those who are being conformed to the image of Christ, sharing their experiences with one another, encouraging and supporting one another as they go.

I’ll end the blog with this, it tells us what God intended and what the Scriptures describe (this is a simple explanation of Colossians 2:5-7): believers standing together, drawing strength from one another (verse 5), determined to live with Him and be like Him (verse 6), and having the very foundation of their lives firmly established on the things He is teaching them and being thankful for His participation in their lives (verse 7). Now that’s what the real church looks like.

Empower A Felon
Empower A Felon